Creating Group Interaction in a Blended Learning Environment Reply

As a new kid on the CyberBlog, I would like to thank you for dropping in! This site is under construction, and constantly changing (definitely a work in progress!) so you’ll have to check back in later for more content. This blog is being written in conjunction with my ESL Web Site (http://debseslexercises.yolasite.com) where you will find many interactive esl exercises linked to some of the video and audio files located here.

This Blog is devoted to teachers and students alike. It will help us keep in touch, inspire one another, and direct us towards some of the most useful and interesting sites for the study of English.  Teacher resources will be updated frequently and students will be able to find links to audio and video files, exercises to help them with their comprehension, and useful tips for improving their linguistic skills and study habits.I’m hoping that this blog will allow us to stay in touch and connect with other people who pass  through these web pages. So click on some of the buttons on your right and stay for awhile!

entering mojave desert

BACK TO SCHOOL…

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November

Building a web site and constructing a blog for students (and teachers) who have little time to devote to their language training is an ongoing challenge. My priority has been to work on my students’ oral communication skills and offer them ways to practice their listening skills online and use in class time on speaking and group work—a goal not always reached as a minimum of preparation is required for a successful discussion. But no mind…we persevere nevertheless and I am always amazed at how much my students “absorb”. My Masters I and II students have already finished 4 online chapters of work, 1 to IV, displayed on the “Masters I and II” page dealing with subjects related to the internet and the media. For the end of the semester we will be working from the “Graduate Work” page where I will be putting more audio, video, and written documents to challenge them. My adult professional students have found numerous links among the many pages on my blog to continue their study of English. The major challenge is to keep everyone stimulated, interested, and enthusiastic about working on English and learning up-to-date expressions which will help them survive in the “real” world. Onward linguistic soldiers…marching off to another destination!

Summer days…

September is a time when summer comes to an end, when my 2 months break in California culminates and of course when a new school year begins. My new assignment this year will take me back to the University where I will be teaching Masters Level students majoring in Instructional Technology and Library Science. They are very motivated and of course well versed in new technologies. Many English instructors avoid teaching students who expect digital media to be used in the classroom in lieu of more traditional textbook based medium. Some professors feel intimidated by the internet and the tools which link us with digital media whether it be text, audio, video, animation, twitter forums, etc. For me however this represents a challenge to keep abreast of this media and to transform it into a means of connecting with my own linguistic universe and bringing it into the classroom. I will therefore be experimenting in creating a Blended Learning Environment mixing online learning with classroom interaction in which work groups will provide opportunities for students to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and practice their linguistic skills which they will need when they get out into society and into their professional worlds. Learning is a social activity (Bandura, 1977; Vygotsky, 1962; Wenger, 1998)  which can be developed in face-to-face interaction in the real world classroom or subsequently in the virtual online world. Developing interpersonal relationships and interacting with your peers become a necessary part of learning (McDonald and Gibson , 1998). This becomes obvious if we take into consideration that communication is more than just words but also gestures, facial expressions, and social cues which can also be learned according to the linguistic culture that a learner is immersed in. Using Interactive Smart Boards in the classroom is one way to bring the outside world in and offer the instructor the opportunity to take advantage of the new media which enables him/her to transport the class into other worlds and environments. SmartBoardPres2Work can be continued online if the work groups bond and feel comfortable with one another, enabling them to hone even further their linguistic competences. Stahl (2002, 2003a, 2003b) contends that learning is not a knowledge-transmission process but rather a knowledge-creation process in which knowledge is created in conversation with others. This theory lends special credence to the language classroom where students create meaning as they interact with one another and this new found meaning builds up the knowledge they require for communicating in a more general context (social and/or professional).

Using a MS Powerpoint presentation, I began my first class by “teaching” my students how to introduce themselves in formal and familiar contexts incorporating a song “Getting To Know You” and an interview of a California entrepreneur, Craig Newmark (Craigslist). I enlisted their spontaneous participation, getting them to repeat, sing, and answer questions about what they understood from the interview– very pleased to discover that most of them understood practically everything attesting to the fact that their level of oral comprehension is good but oral expression very hesitant. I got them immediately into workgroups to start the bonding process and was pleased to observe that they needed no prodding and were convinced by my lecture that they needed to speak as much as possible and learn real “street” English if they were to survive in the real world. Hopefully they will be able to continue this interaction in the virtual world (this blog or a university forum). I think we’re off to a good start! Check in next week for an update.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s