Building Teaching Skills Through The Interactive Web

As a member of the English Advisory Group here in Taiwan, I am usually required to do presentations about innovative teaching at workshops for teachers from junior high schools. That’s why I have to constantly expose myself to original ideas and put them into practice in my class before I can share them with other teachers.  I’m also the one who officially blogs for the city government about all the important events regarding English teaching in Taichung City, which is the third largest city in Taiwan (http://eng-j.guidance.tc.edu.tw/). Therefore, not only I’m highly motivated to polish myself in teaching but I have the influence to promote what I have learned from this course to many English teachers in Taichung.

  From this course, I am hoping to learn all the theories and practices of the interactive web in terms of innovative teaching, and most important of all, I will surely apply what I have learn to my teaching in the real world so that my students can be motivated and learn English in a new way other than the memorization of vocabulary and structures.

I think there is no doubt that everybody will all come to an agreement with these rules because they're also helping create and protect a professional learning community. We are all professional English teachers here, and each one of us is suppose to embrace new ideas that can benefit our own teaching while giving positive and constructive feedback to dedications of others is also necessary.

   But, please also note the fact that we do come from various countries with distinct cultures. When judging others' ideas, please ask ourselves that maybe English is taught differently in other countries, and we don't want to jump to conclusions too fast when we are not fully aware of all facts. Therefore, if I should say anything offensive under the circumstances, please don't hesitate to let me know. Of course, this partnership should be based on mutual respect, trust and understanding.
The Needs Assessment Survey

  This website is mainly for all the English teachers in a total of eighty junior schools to participate in all the reverent activities regarding English teaching, such as English Speech Contest, English Singing Contest, professional development workshops, promotion for important policies from the MOE, to name just a few. And, I am exactly the one who officially blogs for the Education Bureau on this website.

  I also like to watch videos on youtube because I teach a special class using all kinds of intriguing and authentic videos to arouse students’ interest in learning English. Also, I already downloaded “Shaping the Way We Teach English” a few months ago and found so many inspirational ideas to help my own teaching.

   Other than English, I also have a variety of hobbies, including cars, photography, amplifiers and speakers, travel and so on, so I frequently check the information and discuss with other junkies about those topics.

  I think this online course will provide a great opportunity for all the participants to gain a better understanding of how to use computer technology, mainly the interactive webs, to enhance studetns’ learning. By building up a community, we can also reflect and share our ideas on this specific topic, so we can get to know how English is taught in different countries. Eventually, we have to apply what we have leraned from this course and put all the innovative teaching techniques into pratice in our own classrooms.
Describe the student population, setting, course goal, student needs (Week 2)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 12:30pm ·
 I’ve been teaching in a public junior high school for more than eight years and found it quite boring because I felt all I did every day was to get my students to keep their grades up, like giving them loads of homework and tests. So, when I was asked to teach a class for students’ extra curricular activity, I was thinking, “Why not combine two of my favorite interests, speaking English and watching English-speaking videos on Youbute?”

 In this class, I am totally free to choose what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. I especially demanded that those who were interested in this class must be also interested in learning English in an unconventional and fun way. Also, he or she should at least have an intermediate listening comprehension level because they won’t hear their teacher speaking Chinese in this class anymore.

There are about thirty students coming from different classes. Since this is a class for their extra curricular activity, I cannot just give them a placement test and decide whether I want to accept them or not. So, some of them do have a good English level, but for the others? Well, I guess they just thought this class was easy and they got to watch a lot of videos.

My goal for this class is to create an all English environment and expose them to lots of intriguing and authentic English speaking videos, using English as the medium of instruction. Then, I devise worksheets to help them get a better understanding of the videos we’re watching, put them in groups to discuss questions regarding to the topic and ask them to do Show and Tell, meaning they have to pick up a video and introduce it in English.

As for the students, there are several tasks they have to complete. First of all, they have to participate in this class by paying attention to my instructions and elaboration on the videos, answering my questions after watching the videos, discussing with their partners, finishing their worksheet and choosing a video to do the Show and Tell. Ideally, I would really like to accomplish all these that I mentioned above, but in reality, I am usually the one who does all the talking. If I could just only allow those with an excellent English level to sign up for this class, I think I can easily carry out all I’ve planned.
ABCD Objective (W2)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 2:51am ·
  The ABCD mode of how to write a proper and complete learning objective this week is truly inspirational, which makes me compare this idea with the Indicators of Stage Competence, or ISC, here in Taiwan. So, allow me to give you a brief introduction to how it guides English teachers here in teaching.

  The Ministry of Education established the National Curricular Guideline when we were experiencing a major educational overhaul in 2001, and the ISC is exactly the learning objectives that the MOE wanted every teacher to bear in mind when we evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching.

  The ISC is composed of three serial numbers. The first one, from 1 to 7, tells us which language skills, including Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing and Comprehensive, Interest and Learning Methods, and Culture and International Understanding. The second number, 1 and 2, means which stage that this learning objective is applied to. One is for students in primary school, while 2 is for those in junior high schools. The third number is the indicators which briefly describes the behavior that students are supposed to demonstrate.

  Now, let me try to explain it more vividly with one real index of the ISC, like 2-2-1. The first number implies that this concerns speaking ability. The second one means this is for students in junior high schools. The third one is described as “Can say and use major classroom expressions properly. In 2008, the MOE added the fourth number, giving a more detailed description of each indicator.

  So, let’s take a look at the ISC in a more analytical way with the ABCD mode one more time. The second number is similar to Audience, telling us at what stage are the students. The third number deals with Behavior only, and I found some of them are vague and not observable because they consist of verbs like, “understand” or “guess”. I guess those who write these learning objectives must come to realize this, so they decided to add the fourth number, which really gives a lot more observable descriptions of the behavior, also complete with more specific descriptions of “Condition”. As for Degree? None. Only there are so many adverbs like “correctly” or “properly”.

  Of course I still have so many questions about the comparison between the ISC and the ABCD mode. But, when the ISC was created at a national level like this, maybe they just cannot be too specific to limit teachers’ innovative ideas of teaching?
Search, second post (W2)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 3:36am ·
  Encyclopedia Britannica Online School Edition, is one of the most renowned and resourceful encyclopedia that can provide creditable and valid information organized by experts in different areas other than any other search engine. Britannica Project Starlight Taiwan has two major purposes. One is  to help teachers and students all around the world have a much easier access to the most accurate and pinpoint information classified according to subject and level. The other is to help all teachers incorporate computer technology in their authentic teaching without worrying about any plagiarism or violation of intellectual property rights.

  Please note that you do need the username and password for users to log in, while the Education Bureau of Taichung, in which is the city I live, has already signed the contract to allow teachers to surf the website using the Internet access within schools.
Reflective Journal (W2)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 5:00am ·
  We have two topics this week. One is about the best search, and the other is the ABCD mode. Just by coincidence, I happened to attend two workshops, “Britannica Project Starlight Taiwan” and “Assessment Symposium: English Remedial Teaching in Compulsory Education”, that share some similarities with our topics this week.

  Invited by the British Council, the speaker demonstrated how to search its resourceful learning materials effectively. Since teachers in Taichung are allowed to surf this website without signing in, we are encouraged to incorporate what we found into our classrooms. Also, they are planning to recruit innovative English teachers to team up and design lesson plans, learning activities and worksheets, to help other teachers make the most use of this encyclopedia.

  As for the Assessment Symposium, Dr. Tan Su Hwi mentioned questioning techniques by presenting Bloom’ taxonomy of questioning, which made me ponder over the ABCD method and the Indicators of Stage Competence in this regard. I’m especially impressed by the differences between “Assessment of Learning”, to improve learning and “Assessment for Learning”, to check status of learning. Does a proper learning objective achieve both?

  After the orientation week, we started to really expose ourselves to the inspirational topics of this week by completing all the assignments. Also, we got to move towards the final project step by step. By the way, I have a  presentation to prepare, and I’ll incorporate some of the assignments into my PowerPoint slides because I think I can share what I have learned so far with other teachers.
Oral / Aural Skill Building (W3)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 12:29pm ·
  Read one of the articles about CALL for listening, speaking, or pronunciation skills, and take a quick look at some of the lesson plans.

  Remember that technology can be used by the teacher in preparing as well as used with students in the class. Look at two or more of the skill-building websites with an eye to what would work for you in your context/class. Please share with the group:
  • a) which website you used, and which specific activity/web page. Please include the title of the page and the URL,
  • b) what English level/age of students could best use this site, and what skills it enhances,
  • c) your overall recommendation about the site.
  I’m really excited about this week’s topic because I’ve been telling my students that English is a tool for communication other than a subject that you only study for tests. The first step of learning any foreign languages always begins by exposing ourselves to abundant language input, in this case, of course, developing listening comprehension skills.

  Now, I would like to recommend a website, English Teachers Everywhere, and the URL is http://www.etseverywhere.com/ . This website specializes in improving learns’ listening skills with such a variety of reading materials, songs and games. For example, click on the tab “Action Listening Games”, and then look for “Who’s Got What?”. http://www.etseverywhere.com/category/action-listening-games. Students work in groups of four and follow the instructions in order to successfully perform the task. For example, For example, “Number 2, pick up the book.” “Number 1, hand the coin to Number 4.” “Number 3, don’t pass the pen to Number 1.”. What’s even better, this game has two levels, and each involves different speed and verbs so that the teacher can choose what works better. I’m going to do a three-hour long presentation at a workshop, and I’m intending to invite the teachers to play this game because it will be so much fun watching them busy passing and picking up objects.

  Because of the wide variety of its categories, like “Grammar Songs”, “Holidays”, “Jokes” and “Kids Songs”, I think they surely can be very helpful in motivating students’ interest of learning. Most of the activities there are all well-organized by topic and level, thus teachers and easily find something suitable to apply to his or her own classroom.

  As a result, I strongly recommend this resourceful and fun website, which is truly full of ideas and activities for teacher to use in the classroom. Furthermore, it’s totally free to download the scripts and audio files, so all you have to do is follow the procedures and have fun with your students while also boosting their English listening comprehension at the same time.
Delicious.com (W3)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 11:34am ·
  Delicious.com is a way for you to be able to see your saved weblinks (Favorites/Bookmarks) from any online computer and to share links with other people easily. Read:

to help you create your own Delicious page and start adding links. You can include links to other people's Delicious pages on your page, too. Create your own page on Delicious.com and save at least 3 bookmarks. Share the URL of your page here with the group and you may tell us your thoughts. The URL will look something like

  Please put the your URL for your Delicious page on our wiki as well, under Delicious Pages.

  First of all, I really have to say Delicious.com is just awesome because not only can it organize, categorize and annotate all the websites you like, but it can also put us together and share valuable information with each other.

  Now, here’s the page of my account: http://www.delicious.com/liguozhen

  So, I’m really looking forward to carefully going through each member’s collection at the end of this week, and of course, always learning something new from one another.
Project Step 2 (W3)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 12:48pm ·
Choose *one* of the PDF sample project reports from past Webskills classes (see assignments page week 3)
Read one final project report, and comment on that report in nicenet. In your post, briefly do the following:
  • name the author, country and quickly review the teaching context
  • summarize what the person did in his/her project, and
  • discuss what you liked about the project.
Remember you will be doing a class project and writing a report similar to one of these. The idea here is to skim the report and "get the big picture" about the projects. By reading what we post to each other on nicenet, you will get a sense of the variety of types of projects and their scope without having to read them all yourself.

I chose to read a wonderful final project by Aleyda Linares from Maxico, teaching 16 undergraduate students in the TEFL program (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). All of them speak Spanish as a mother tongue. As Aleyda described, they have very good oral skills but still had a lot to improve in terms of grammatical competence. Well, that is exactly the opposite that teachers in Taiwan would encounter here, so that’s why I was curious about her project in the first place.

Aleyda was in charge of a language lab, so she could often take students there and use computer technology to involve students’ interest in a fun way. Students were asked to keep a learning journal as a class, and she would constantly check the comments and give her positive feedback. Her idea was that students could use this class blog as an online resource to practice grammar topics and structures. Meanwhile, she can also develop students’ ability for independent learning and critical thinking.

After the students became familiar with blogging and working online, they were asked to search for grammar activities and resources to practice specific grammar structures and upload them to the blog, such as videos, interactive quizzes, games, e-books, etc. Following that, Aleyda added a series of links to interactive grammar games and activities, and they were quite motivating for those students based on students’ comments on the blog.

What I liked most about her project is that not only did she incorporate computer technology into her own classroom, but also the way she organized all the learning activities and actually built a learning community within the class. Students were no longer learning separately because they also learned the value of sharing information with each other. Sounds quite familiar because that’s exactly also what this online course is for, right? In addition to that, I also learned a lot from the way she organized her ideas effectively without using too many redundant words or difficult technical terms.

 “In addition, they have difficulties practicing their English outside because they are not disciplined enough to do it or they feel it is not necessary because it requires more effort, so they are always speaking Spanish among themselves. As a result, I thought of a technology-related change project that motivated students to learn grammar outside the regular classroom and at the same time developed the students’ ability to learn how to learn.”  

But, still, I found one inconsistency in the second part of her final project. My question is, what does students’ not willing to speak English with each other have to do with learning grammar outside the classroom? Besides, the main idea of this project is to improve students’ grammatical competence. Why did the author want her students to practice speaking English at this point, especially she already mentioned that they had very good oral skills in terms of language earlier in the Background part?
Reflective Jorrnal (W3)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 10:49am ·
  It has already been the third week since this online course began, and now I’m quite getting used to reading the required materials, sharing my reflections and doing the project task each week. For example, we had to read about how Call is going to help our teaching, create an account and edit our bookmarks on Delicious.com, share links regarding building aural/oral skills, review one of the previous projects, and of course, keep the reflective journal for this week.

  With all the links provided by every dedicated and resourceful teacher here, I surely will give it a try and see how they really work with my students. Undoubtedly, compared with the repetitive and mechanical drills in the textbook, those CALL resources will greatly help motivate the students with interesting games, videos and activities. But, other than arousing students’ motivation of learning, how do we know that our students are really improving their listening or speaking skills with the help of these websites?

  What we can do on Delicious.com is really great because we are also creating a learning community to share helpful information regarding websites of English teaching with each other. This social bookmarking site allows its users to edit, annotate and organize their bookmarks, and just like other social media, you can also “friend” or “follow” a resourceful user and gain the access to his or her amazing collections.

  As for the project steps, we had to choose one of the previous final projects and reflect on its strengths to get the big picture of what we’ll also have to accomplish at the end of this course. I read a wonderful final project by Aleyda Linares. It was about how she tried to improve her students’ grammar competence by creating a reflective blog to involve each student’s reflections. By finishing this assignment, I surely have a better understanding of what I need to do for my final project.
Building aural/oral skills, second post (W3)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 9:54pm ·
  I really have to say that I’ve learned a lot from this week’s topic because I just found I had bookmarked about 15 more resourceful websites recommended by you guys around the world. I carefully read through every post and tried most of the sites that have been introduced. Therefore, I guess it’ll take me quite some time to annotate them on my Delicious.com account.

  Now, I would like to recommend another helpful site, British Council Learn English (http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/). It offers a wide variety of podcasts, grammar and vocabulary, games, jokes, etc. Regarding building aural/oral skills, I would like to introduce briefly about a listening activity (http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/big-city-small-world/series-2-episode-7-alone-christmas). It is a skit about how some international students in the UK celebrated Christmas back in their hometowns and decided to have a Christmas party together this year. It provides a matching exercise and several tasks, including grammar, vocabulary and comprehension, to help learners pick up some useful expressions and learn more about the typical Christmas celebration at the same time.

  If I want to incorporate this unit into my teaching, I would say it’ll work better for those advanced learners with bigger vocabulary and better listening comprehension level. So, next time when I am assigned to teach the special class, where students were selected based on their English levels, I will surely give it a try and see how it would work.

  Anyway, British Council is a world renowned cultural and educational organization, especially specializing in the promotion of the English language. Thus, I would like to recommend this website, and hopefully you’ll find it helpful, too.
Reading, writing, vocabulary skills (W4)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 2:21pm ·
Read some of the articles about ways to use computers to enhance the teaching of reading, writing, and vocabulary. We have several multi-skill websites on our list this week. Find two or more specific web pages that would work for you in your class. Include the specific web address (URL) of the page, the title of the page, the target students, why you think it will work, and why you think it will be useful. What is an ABCD objective that you could create to go with this page.

I read the suggested article “Three Extensive Reading Activities” and gained many inspirational ideas. The author conducted a reading class and asked students to write a summary report and a final report in the class weblog. The students got to select three books they liked, and each member took turns sharing the book he or she read in groups of three. Then, to better organize their assignments, they also had to post their summaries and comments on the blog based on the questions prepared beforehand by the teacher.

What’s more, the author offered some sort of rubrics to evaluate students’ final group reports, such as the originality of insight, application of criteria, clarity of summary, strength of argument and use of language, which aimed to cultivate students’ higher-order thinking because students have to apply, synthesize and evaluate information from the online resources, as well as organize and present their thoughts convincingly.

Now, I would like to recommend a website, Starfall’s Learn to Read with Phonics (http://www.starfall.com/ ), because it specializes in teaching children to read with phonics by using interesting and interactive animated reading games and materials. I think this website can help me teach students with two different levels. For slow learners, they usually cannot associate pronunciation with spelling, so click on “Learn to Read” (http://www.starfall.com/n/level-a/learn-to-read/load.htm?f ) and have those students familiarize themselves with phonics by playing those games one by one on the page. For advanced learners, click on “I’m Reading” and select “Chinese Fables” (http://www.starfall.com/n/level-c/chinese-fables/load.htm?f) , and then have them read and do a summary report as Liang suggested.

Here are the ABCD objectives in terms of two different levels of students in my class, which is in a junior high school in Taiwan. For slow learners, “Given all the interactive phonics games on the page of Learn to Read, the students who are temporarily falling behind now can get all the answers right without any errors”; and for advanced learners, “Given one of the stories on the page of “Chinese Fables”, students can summarize the story clearly and informatively by Liang’s Points for each Criterion.
Technology enhanced lesson plans (W4)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 1:25pm ·
Read about technology enhanced lesson plans from e-how.com and look at a sample or two from the Baltimore County Public Schools Office of Instructional Technology. Both are linked on our course website. Please share with the group a technology-enhanced lesson plan, using the template that you downloaded from the website. Make sure that it is clear who the target students are and the skills being addressed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For Robert's class, I want us to experiment by trying out a google doc. That is, if you can make a google doc of your lesson, I can give feedback as "comments". I think the feedback process will be improved.
1) Here are some links to help. The template is here
2) Instructions for making sure your you "share" your google doc are here (you must "share" by make the settings so I can see it and edit):
3) post the link to your google doc in this forum on Nicenet.

This is what I've actually done for students' extra curricular activity, presenting English videos to arouse students' motivation of learning. I simply combined two of my hobbies, speaking English and watching English speaking videos on Youtube. I decided to use English as the medium of instruction in the hope that I can expose them to a lot of listening input. I also expect my students can get to know the importance of English listening comprehension and begin to use English to introduce their favorite videos at the end of the semester.

Your Name: Guozhen(Richard) Li
Lesson Plan with Technology

Class: Leaning English on Youbute, a class for the eighth graders’ extra curricular activity

 Duration: 45 minutes

The theme of this week is “Different English Accents”, so I downloaded the following videos from Youtube beforehand, and the students can learn more about English accents in a fun way.
The Ultimate Chinese Accent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYrT0JGWkHg)
Cultural Misderstandings (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_N1Cmt_QB0 

     Since this is for students’ extra curricular activity, I got to decide what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. So, why not combine two of my hobbies, speaking English and watching videos on Youtube? Also, other than all the tedious and mechanical drills, I want to show the students that learning English can be fun, and being able to comprehend English speaking videos can open another window for them.

Objectives of this lesson
1) Vocabulary related to accent, like pronunciation, stress, intonation
2) To learn English with interesting and authentic materials other than textbooks
2) To pick up some useful expressions while watching the videos
3) To get the students to try to work on their pronunciation
1. State the theme of the week.
2. Give a simple introduction before watching the video.
3. Present the video.
4. While watching the video, constantly pause and pick up some key words or phrases to    elaborate on.
5. Replay the video and encourage the students to use their listening comprehension to capture the main idea.
6. Get the students to speak English by asking questions, starting from easy yes/no to wh- questions.

Requirements for the teacher
   1. Decide on one topic because you don’t want to randomly pick up whatever you can find on Youtube.
   2. Download the videos in advance because you can’t always trust the connection.
   3. Devise the worksheet to help you guide your students to a better understanding of what they are going to watch.
   4. Carefully select what useful English expressions from the video that you want to teach.

Requirements for the students
   1. Students are willing to learn English by watching interesting English speaking videos.
   2. Students have to participate in group discussions
   3. Students have to complete their worksheets and assignments

Learning styles addressed:
Listening, writing and speaking

    Choose one of the videos that we watch for this class and carefully go through the comments. Copy three positive and three negative comments and share with the rest of the class next week.
Project Step 3: needs, issues or problems (W4)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:28am ·
 Thinking about the class and students that you described in Week 2, now write about some issues or problems this class is experiencing. These should be issues or problems that technology might help with. Very briefly describe the class and students so that readers will be reminded of the necessary context (you've already posted about this, just refresh our memory about your class). The issues could be student-oriented ones related to motivation, group work, class discussions, project development, etc. or teacher-related issues such as finding and organizing material, tracking student progress, time management, etc.

Eventually the issue should be leading to a NEW use of technology for you, not something that you are doing now. You don't need to think about solutions this week, just about issues or problems.

Our goal is to have a need-driven technology project. That is, you want the need to drive the solution or technology that you choose to use, and not the other way around. You really don't what the solution or the tool to be imposed upon the class simply because it is new, exciting or available. There should be a clear reason to use the technology you choose for your project. This week we focus on making the need clear. 

I have been teaching English in a junior high school here in Taiwan for eight years and found it’s getting more and more boring because every day I do is to get my students to memorize the vocabulary and grammar rules just in order to get good grades on paper-pencil tests. For the teachers, keeping up with the tight schedule can almost take up most of his or her time, leaving very little for innovative teaching strategies.

Therefore, when I was asked to teach a class for students’ extra curricular activity, I knew I could determine what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. I immediately decided to combine two of my interests, speaking English and watching videos on Youtube. So, for this class, I’ll decide on one theme and download relevant English speaking videos without Chinese subtitle in advance every week, devise proper worksheets to help them get a better understanding of what the videos are about and come up with interactive activities to engage all the students in this class.

I have taught this class for the second semester already and found I really encountered some unexpected problems. First of all, lack of motivation for interaction. I used to think that I wanted them to feel completely secured and try to have fun in this class, so I didn’t really force them to do the assignment or answer my questions in class because I thought the students were already overwhelmed by tests. As time went by, they kind of got used to just sitting there and listening to what I had to say. Now, it is really difficult to get them to talk or fully participate in the group discussions.

Following that, some of the students seemed not to be able to understand what I said, let alone the videos I chose for them. I guess it was because they were not aware of what this class was really about before signing up. There are about thirty students from different classes taking this class, and I assume four or five of them just couldn’t catch up. Should I insist on using English as the medium of instruction and impose No Chinese policy in this class?

Last, it’s really not easy for me to find suitable videos that won’t be too difficult for them. Students here only learn their English form textbooks, so their listening comprehension really has so much to improve. If the conversations or narrations are too fast, they’ll encounter great difficulty trying to get the main idea of the video they watch. Also, with such limited vocabulary, students usually come across too many new words to at least have a general idea of the video, which often makes them feel frustrated and less motivated.

Without a doubt, listening and speaking is always a big problem for students in an EFL environment like Taiwan. They actually don’t need to do anything about it because they just have to keep their grades up on paper-pencil tests, which only demonstrate students’ KNOWLEDGE of the language, not competence of real application. Therefore, being too afraid to speak English is a problem that has been around for decades already, and it is really difficult for teachers here to deal with.
Building Writing Skills, second post (W4)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 2:25pm ·
“Using the Internet in ESL Writing Instruction” by Jarek Krajka provides many thought-provoking ideas for us to think about. For example, the author mentioned that clarifying course goal is an important first step toward the successful use of the Internet. Also, Robert said that we should have a need-driven technology project. We don’t want to use the technology only because it’s new, exciting or available. So, every time we recommend websites, we should give consideration to what we really want to achieve and how this website can help me do that.

Now, I would like to recommend another website for this week, Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English (http://www.eslbee.com/index.htm). But, this link is for myself, not for the students. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Education, but I was never properly trained to write a thesis in English. To improve my writing skills academically, which also can help me a lot with this online course, I think I should carefully read though the guidelines, tips and model essays posted on this website. Moreover, it has quizzes about some fundamental knowledge of English composition, like transitions, connectors, punctuations, etc.

Here is the ABCD objective. Given the model essays and tips for how to write a proper academic essay, Richard can respond to writing assignments using appropriate style, structure, and voice so that an English speaking academic audience can approve of.

I know the objective is neither observable nor measurable, and maybe it’s because the objective is too vast. So, I’m really willing to take advice from you guys. Thank you.
Reflective Journal (W4)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 11:27am ·
Reading and writhing in English has become an important part of life since I took this online course, and I feel like I’m a student again. Each week, we’ll have a different topic and several assignments to do that really make time fly even faster. Not only will I gain lots of new ideas and web skills through this course, but I’ll also improve my writing skills by writing in English for all the discussions, tasks and journals, which also is related to this week’s topic, building reading and writing skills.

When I was doing my homework, my daughter was also very curious about the website, Starfll.com, that I surfed because it has vibrant colors and animated games to practice phonics and spelling. She was immediately attracted and wouldn’t let go of my laptop. Watching her getting everything right and laughing while playing those games let me think how lucky this generation is. When I began studying English in junior high school, my teacher just asked us to memorize all the facts and then gave us lots of tests, and many of my classmates have lost interest in learning since then.

Robert mentioned that our goal is to have a need-driven technology project, and we don't what to use technology in the classroom without knowing how the technology is going to satisfy our needs or solve the problems. I couldn’t agree with him more. Three or four years ago, English teachers here were asked to attend many workshops about the interactive whiteboard, telling us it was going to revolutionize the way we teach English in the classroom. But now, we still don’t have any whiteboards in my school. Moreover, a teacher who has used it for quite some time told me that he thought the whiteboards can be replaced by tablets. So, what’s the point of the wasted time when it is just a topic for the workshop, or it might be replaced some day?

Now, I want to talk about something which is irrelevant to this week’s course. I’m thinking that if it is possible some day technology can help all English learners to practice speaking at their computers, and I mean real and meaningful communication, just like you’re talking to a real person and exchanging ideas and thoughts with each other. Of the four language skills, you can always improve yourselves on your own by listening to English-speaking radios, reading English novels or keeping your diary in English. But, when it comes to speaking, you really have to talk to someone in person. With the technology of speech recognition and correction, learners of English can improve their pronunciation and intonation. Then, how about meaningful communication? Can technology like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPIbGnBQcJY ) really be happening in the future? If this is true, it’ll definitely revolutionize the way we, nonnative speakers, learn how to speak English in a much more fun way.
RE: Project Step 3: Issues or problems (W4)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 4:19pm ·
Hi Richard

Some classic problems, yes, ones that will not go away. If we go back to the original idea her, find a problem that technology might be able to help with, that might help you select the best problem for the final project.

If I can paraphrase your problems:

-passive students who don't have a real need to communicate or use their English
-students use Chinese in class
-videos that are suitable in level, yet interesting

To me it sounds like #1 and #2 might merge into a single problem that technology might be able to address. So perhaps you could look for a tool that would provide students a meaningful way to communicate in English. Maybe some kind of video interaction where students could connect with another student from a different country to talk about a movie and would need to do this in English? Maybe writing a review of the movie that others might see? Maybe making their own short movie in English based on a scene from the movie they have watched?

This could get interesting!!!

#3 could also work, but then as I see it appears to be about finding a database that screens movies for easier level somehow, which might be a bit simple for a project (if such a database even exists). Something like twurdy but for video.


Hello Robert,

I think this is a shared problem in some countries like China, Korea, Japan, etc. Students really study hard, but still they cannot use the language outside the classroom as a tool for communication. Teachers and students spend most of time memorizing facts that are going to help them get good grades on written tests. So, as a teacher, I have to be mentally prepared to deal with the frustration in advance before I try anything new.

Thank you for paraphrasing my problems and offering such wonderful advice, and I'll give it a try in the class. Once I used Readers' Theater as a teaching technique in my classroom, getting every one to read their parts out loud. Also, I found Show and Tell was quite effective as well because they got to bring their favorite comic books or albums to school to share with the whole class. I asked them to give me a script first, and then each member of the groups was assigned to do oral presentations about what they like most about the object they chose to introduce in English. Anyway, they can practice integrating different language skills and also have fun at the same time.
Assessment, Rubrics and PBL (W5)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 3:34pm ·
Read about rubrics, project-based learning (PBL) and WebQuests. The web offers new kinds of learning opportunities and new tools for assessment.
Many ideas come to mind when discussing PBL and assessment. Here are a few:
  • How can PBL be used to help motivate students more?
  • How can PBL best be incorporated with technology in your class?
  • What limitations are there to using PBL in your class?
  • How can we best assess projects?
  • What is the role of rubrics and/or alternative assessment within PBL?
  • How can PBL, rubrics and/or alternative assessment be used to promote independent learning?
Choose one of these questions to answer in a post to get the conversation started. Be sure to respond to and incorporate what others write about. You may raise your own related question(s) as well.

After reading the suggested articles about PBL, Webquests and Alternative Assessment, I suddenly realized that what we have done so far, including doing project steps, writing about class needs and problems, searching for resources, reading one of the final projects, creating rubrics, etc, are revolving around the webquest. Furthermore, most of the principles and techniques of PBL and alternative assessment can also apply to this online course itself, directing all the participants towards the construction of the final project each week.

Project-Based Learning and Alternative Assessment share many in common. First of all, they both focus on the quality products, performances or tasks, and learners are required to demonstrate what they can DO with the language, not just their knowledge of it on written tests. Second, learners should have a clear understanding of what they have to do in order to meet the evaluation standards or rubrics. Third, learners must be motivated in the beginning, getting to know that project they are about to do is for a real purpose related to their life, interests or strengths so that they will dedicate so much more to their work.

How can PBL be used to help motivate students more? When students get to decide the topic of the project, they will surely want to do more for the task because they know that they’re also doing this for a meaning purpose, not just for their grades on the report cards. Of course, this teaching approach places the students in the center of their learning, and teachers become facilitators offering their help only when it is necessary. In addition, with PBL, students will be divided into groups to work on the project together. Thus, they will develop a sense of community and learn each member has his or her part to accomplish. When all the members have a consensus on the goals of the project, they will encourage and help each other when they encounter obstacles.  

Last but not least, teachers should give consideration to students’ different learning styles. According one of the suggested articles about PBL, there are four different kinds of learning styles. If students can be assigned their work based on their preferred styles, without a doubt, they’ll be much more motivated because they’re given an opportunity to show what they are capable of, not their weaknesses.
Create a rubric/alternative assessment tool (W5)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 6:54pm ·
Create a rubric or alternative assessment tool that you might use in a class. Include information about the class and students so that we can understand the context. Share your rubric on our Wiki in the area Rubrics and tell people about it in this thread.
I’m teaching a special class for eighth graders’ extra curricular activity, which I got to decide what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. I decided to combine two of my interests, speaking English and watching videos on Youtube. This class is conducted by using English as the medium of instruction because I think I can also brush up on my speaking competence when introducing a variety of videos in English. Then, I will decide on one theme each week and download relevant videos. In order to help my students have a better understanding of the videos without any Chinese subtitles, I also devise worksheets and discussion questions beforehand.

I intend to divide them into groups, and then they’ll have to select one of their favorite videos and introduce it to the whole class in English. With the help of this rubric-creating website, we can easily develop quality rubrics to fit into our teaching and of course, let our students fully understand our standards before they engage in the project.
STEP #4: Describe a technology-related change (W5)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 10:01pm ·
So far, we have focused on describing your learners and context, reading sample projects, and exploring some problems. This week will will finally turn to the solution: brainstorming the right tool for your problem, class and students.
Step 4: Describe a technology-related change or potential "solution" that you will implement to help with one or more of the issues you mentioned last week. Explain why you think it will be useful in resolving the issue(s). This should be something that you are not doing now.
Thanks to Robert, he kindly paraphrased my problems last week as follows:
-passive students who don't have a real need to communicate or use their English
-students use Chinese in class
-videos that are suitable in level, yet interesting

Robert also suggested that maybe I could provide a meaningful way for students to communicate in English. For example, students could talk about a movie with someone from another country in English, write a review of the movie or make their own short movie based on a scene from a movie they watched.

For the first problem, I think there’s nothing special about it, especially for learners in Taiwan, Korea, Japan or China where English usually is only a subject students study inside the classroom for better grades on written tests. Thus, I found an interesting article, http://iteslj.org/Articles/Welker-Communication.html , which the author shared many ideas and techniques that I can resonate with a lot .

Then, I am considering looking for some worksheets or board games at http://www.esl-galaxy.com/speaking.html as a warm-up activity for the students to get ready to speak English in a fun and secured learning environment. Then, I think I’ll ask them to record themselves speaking simple English, like introducing themselves in English for a minimum of two minutes at http://vocaroo.com/ , in the hope that they can feel secure and realize speaking English is not as difficult as they used to think.

As for finding suitable videos for my students, maybe I’ll try some of the animated picture storybooks from Tumblebooks. Taichung City Government already signed a contract which allows teachers here to gain a full-scale access to its database, so I can choose a few ones for the students to act out, just like Readers’ Theater. Therefore, students’ reading and speaking competence can both be improved, and hopefully they can learn to appreciate the fun of being able to speak the language.
Reflective Journal (W5)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:45pm ·
I don’t think I am good at multi-tasking, so I was working much harder to finish all the assignments within two days. Why? Because I have a three-hour long presentation to do next Tuesday, and I also don’t think I’ve prepared well enough for it. And, there’s a whole-day workshop about speaking fluent English tomorrow. On top of that, I’ll have to go to Taipei and celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend. Finally, I can be fully concentrated on my presentation after this reflective journal.

Enough complaining now. Then, what have I learned this week? Well, first of all, I read the suggest articles about PBL, WebQuest, Alternative Assessment and rubrics, and I found not only do they have a much in common, but this online course itself is exactly based on PBL. All of the topics this week are talking about one thing, which is to have learners demonstrate what they can actually DO with the language, instead of showing their mere knowledge on traditional paper-pencil tests. In order to do that, teachers have to develop rubrics in advance, and students are supposed to know the criteria even before they work on the project.

As for practical web skills, I have learned how to develop rubrics through RubricStar at http://rubistar.4teachers.org/ . Rubrics play a curial role in evaluating students’ speaking and writing performances when a teacher decides to implement PBL in his or her classroom. With the help of the website, teachers can easily develop rubrics that suit their needs. The other skill I learned is to create a WebQuest through Zunal WebQuest Maker at http://www.zunal.com/ , which you can sign up and follow the instructions to create your own WebQuest step by step. To add some failover to your page, you are also allowed to upload pictures, music and videos to make it more appealing.

I finally spent quite some time organizing and stacking my links on Delicious.com, and I’m going to introduce my page to other teachers at a workshop next Tue. After that, I can finally concrete on this online course without worrying about failing to hand in my homework on time. After the final project, it’ll be drawing even closer to the end of this semester. Being subsidized by the MOE, I can’t wait to go to Australia to study for five weeks this summer. Anyway, all I want to say is learning makes me happy, and being able to study abroad in a English-speaking country and see whether my English is good enough to survive there makes me even happier.
Creating a WebQuest (W5)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:46pm ·
Knowing the theories and rationales behind WebQuest is one thing, but creating a quality one is totally another. I have to say this is a very immature first attempt to create a WebQuest, so I hope to see more coming and learn something from yours.

Teaching Large Classes (W6)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 2:39pm ·
You can use many of the same techniques to do a better job of teaching small classes as well as large classes. Look at "Teaching Large Classes" and "Using Technology in Teaching Large Classes." Think about project-based learning, WebQuests, and some of the ideas in "Enhancing Learning by Engaging Students" to help in your response.

What techniques and technology could you use to make your classes more interactive, and especially if you teach large classes? Make sure you mention not only what you do now, but what else you might do, based on the readings.

I wish I could have more time to read all the articles from Teaching Large Classes. The suggested web page contains so many useful links that all deal with how to teach interactively in large classes, which is just what I need to know because I always teach classes with more than thirty students here in Taiwan. In addition, I can’t agree with “The Problems with Large Lecture-Style Classes” more because all the mentioned problems actually have been happening here for decades. Therefore, I think I really should set aside some time to try all the techniques provided by the page.

I happened to give a presentation to a total of eighty teachers this Tuesday, and I found I’ve already implemented some of the techniques to engage all the audience before reading this week’s suggested articles.

First, I tried to make my PowerPoint slides interactive by adding hyperlinks, pictures and video clips. I utilized Action Buttons to give the audience a more vivid picture by showing them what I have actually done before, instead of lecturing on and on about theories. Videos are very effective because they provide visual aids and recapture their attention immediately.

Then, I used the Think-Pair-Share technique, which is also mentioned several times in our articles, to get them participate in the discussions and share their ideas with the rest of the teachers. Although they were shy at first, they eventually began to talk with their partners if I could wait patiently enough.

Finally, “From Attention to Comprehension to Integration” also gives me so much to think about when I give my next presentation. The article suggests both some familiar and creative techniques that are worth trying.

As for the potential techniques or technology I might use in the future? Well, overwhelmed by all the information provided this week, I still need more time to think about it, and I’ll share what I can come up with in my second post.
After reading the articles related to teaching large classes interactively, it seems to involve so many techniques as long as they can motivate as many students as possible. It’s not easy to be systematic because those suggested techniques are pretty separated from each other. So, if a technique works or helps engage students in a large class, it can surely be classified into this topic.

In general, those suggested techniques can be divided into three groups, which are innovative teaching strategies, technology and group work. Therefore, based on what I have read and understood so far, I might want to use interactive PowerPoint slides, with discussion questions or concept tests, to try to involve as many students as I can. Of course, I could also divide them into groups to work on a project collaboratively. Or, I could just do something new, and then students will be naturally attracted to it.
Reflective Journal (W6)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 1:52pm ·
I have learned two things this week. One is teaching large classes, and the other is interactive PowerPoint. I read the suggested articles about how to engage students in large classes and checked the given links that provide resources to help teachers get the job done. Also, I followed the instructions of how to make an interactive presentation step by step, implementing some techniques and adding Action Buttons as well.

Giving proper individual guidance in a large class is extremely challenging. Teachers can easily find excuses of not trying to create a student-centered class simply because lecturing is just a very effective teaching technique if you can ignore the fact that there is no interaction at all. Thus, how to give interactive lecture sounds more plausible for me under the circumstances, and I found Interactive Lecture Techniques,  http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/interactive/typesoftechniqu.html, provides many doable techniques that are worth trying.
Learner Autonomy (W7)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 4:21pm ·
Read about learner autonomy (Thanasoulas, Sheu, Interconnections). Effective self-directed learning starts with learner autonomy. What could you do to
encourage greater autonomy in students, with and without technology?

I have read two suggested articles about leaner autonomy by Sheu and Thanasoulas respectively. Well, first of all, I cannot agree more with Sheu about his reflections on the current setbacks that most English teachers in Taiwan usually experience for such a long time. Washback Effect plays a very powerful role in the teaching system as a whole, leaving teachers very little to develop or implement innovative teaching strategies. All I do every day is get my students underline this and memorize that in order to keep their grades up on pencil-paper tests, which can only show us their knowledge of the language. What’s more, English is only studied in the classroom, and there’s no need for students to work on their language skills, such as listening comprehension and speaking competence. Students are all aware of the importance of learning English, but they become less motivated as they learn along the way because English merely means loads of tests and homework to them.

Then, I have to admit that I encountered many big and descriptive words in the first article, and sometimes I wondered if I was reading a novel rather than a academic journal. However, I double-majored in Psychology in my college so that I could manage to use some of the “schemas” to help me grasp the main ideas. The author tried very hard to define learner autonomy and used three philosophies, Positivism, Constructivism and Critical Theory, to reveled different approaches to explaining knowledge and learning. Then, for learner autonomy to work, learning strategies, cognitive strategies, metacognitive strategies, etc, are essential. Finally, some techniques, like self-reports, diaries and persuasive communication are suggested.

So, what exactly can I do to foster learner autonomy? Well, I think I’ll just try to follow Sheu’s suggestions by having my students make their own vocabulary cards, and this can be done in a traditional way or with the help of technology. Quizlet.com is an online flashcards making website, allowing teachers to create visually heavy aids with only some simple steps to follow so that learners can pick up new words more effectively and naturally. With the ready-made templates, teachers can easily make flashcards, annotate definitions, and most important of all, add pictures to create a more durable and vivid image for learners to retain. What’s more, this is also a social platform that teachers can follow and share each other’s dedicated work by signing up for an account. It features six different modes, such as Flashcard Mode, Speller Mode, Learn Mode, etc, to meet the diverse needs of teachers. With a concise demonstration, the audiences should have gained a clear picture of how it can help with their teaching.
One Computer Classroom Lesson Plan (W7)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 4:23pm ·
Read about activities for the one-computer classroom and some strategies and applications. Create a sample activity for a one-computer classroom to share. Make sure you include who the students are, when in the lesson you're using the activity, the behavioral objective (ABCD format), and why technology will make the activity more effective.

After reading the suggested articles about one computer classroom, I realized that so many techniques can be used to create a learning environment where students can demonstrate what they can do with the language inside the classroom. Since my final project is to get my students to do Show and Tell activity, which they pick up one of their favorite videos on Youtube and introduce it in English, I’m going to focus mainly on one computer in the classroom as a presentation tool, which my students are required to show a English-speaking video and introduce it in English.

This is a class for the eighth graders extra curricular activity, so I can fully decide what to teach and how to teach it without so many constraints as we usually encounter in regular English classes. I use English as the medium of instruction and present interesting videos on Youtube in the hope that my students can be exposed to lots of listening input and eventually try to introduce their favorite videos in English as well. In this class, I can teach authentic and interesting English expressions that students will never learn from the carefully organized textbooks.

 So, here is what I plan to do by using one computer in the classroom. First, I showed them my WebQuest (http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=150989) to give them a clear idea of what they need to do for this project. They already watched me presenting videos in English many times, so I think each of them should get the big picture of how to arouse audiences’ interest first, devise flashcards with Quizelet.com and present the video in simpler English. Then, I asked them to find partners last week, so they can choose a leader and assign each member a role, such as the reporter, the recorder, the checker and the controller. Next, they’ll have to give me the list of their group members, along with the URL of the video and the draft of presentation, next Monday. Finally, I’m going to use the rubrics that I created (http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php?screen=ShowRubric&module=Rubistar&rubric_id=2192050&) to assess their performances.

Please note that though my students have learned English for at least eight years, this project probably will be their first time to speak English in public. My idea is mainly to get them to experience what it is like to stand in the front and introduce something they like in English. Well, suddenly I found this post could also be served as my draft final project. Of course I learned a lot from this online course, but when it comes to my final project, I really didn’t know where to start. Now, with this task, I finally came up with something more specific with it.

The ABCD Objective:
After participating in this class for over ten weeks (Condition), Students who sighed up for this class (Audience) will be divided into groups and introduce one video in English (Behavior) clearly enough for others to enjoy while also pick up at least three new words or phrases at the same time (Condition).
Reflective Journal (W7)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10:38pm ·
Well, it’s already the end of the seventh week, and that means we’re getting closer to our final project. Again, this week’s topics, learner autonomy and one computer classroom, are quite helpful. First of all, according to many studies, students in Taiwan become less motivated as they study inside the classroom along the way, and they usually sit quietly and listen to what the teacher has to say throughout the whole class. So, how to foster learner autonomy is a big challenge to most teachers in Taiwan.

Then, we do only have one computer in the classroom, and the required readings provide many useful techniques to engage as many students as possible, such as learning center, presentation tool, communication station, simulation center, etc. The idea is to make the most use of the only one computer, and teachers can make the classroom such a wonderful learning environment full of outside and interactive resources with the help of Internet connection.

As for the tasks, we need to find a peer reading partner and create a one computer classroom lesson plan. I was honored to be invited by Thin Peng to be his partner. What’s more, we talked in person through Skype on Thursday night. Not only did we exchange ideas and thoughts about this online course, I also introduced a little bit about Taipei, such as the good food, night markets and the MRT. Following that, I created a lesson plan based on the ideas and techniques of one computer classroom from the suggested articles. When I was in the middle of doing this task, I suddenly realized that I also gained many clues of what I should do for my draft final project.

Now I already have difficulty imagining life after this online course because I’m so used to reading articles, creating posts and doing the tasks every day. They gradually have become a part of my life, especially every time when I feel I learn something new and useful and just can’t wait to give it a try to see if it works in the classroom. Besides, talking to one of your classmates in English is really a good learning experience, and I was already quite impressed by the way he always effectively organizes his thoughts in his posts before talking to him. So, though the course itself is a little demanding and tiring, I do believe I’m also making myself become a more professional teacher.
Discussion, Second Post (W7)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 12:37am ·
In Taiwan, the Basic Competence Test, on which students have to work very hard to get good grades and consequently go to a better senior high school, has been playing a very powerful and dominant role not only in teaching but in learning. Teachers and students can’t care less about the test because the pressure of being successful in the test makes teachers do whatever they can to help students get everything right on tests. The rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules has become a very common practice here. Also known as the Washback Effect, it is also the biggest constraint on teacher autonomy.

Now, since the Ministry of Education has decided to abolish the BCT, teachers are supposed to enjoy their freedom to decide on what to teach, how to teach it and what to assess. But, as far as I know, this educational overhaul also caused so much panic among teachers. They no longer can rely on the textbook solely and of course, and innovative teaching techniques become essential to motivate students when there is no more BCT to worry about. Facing an unknown future, some choose to remain their old habits because that’s the best way they know how to teach English. No wonder Andy in “Interconnections: Learner Autonomy Teacher Autonomy” would ask, “Do they want that?”

So, I can only experiment with those unconventional teaching techniques in a class like extra curricular activity, where I am totally free to decide what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. Then, I imposed No-Chinese policy on myself in this class, hoping to brush up on my own speaking competence and expose my students to lots of language input. Then, I would choose some interesting English speaking videos for them so that they can pick up some authentic expressions that they’ll never learn in textbooks. Finally, at the end of this semester, I’m going to divide them into groups to introduce one video they like in English.

To foster learner autonomy, I kept telling them that keeping your grades up should not be the only concern of learning, and you can learn more effectively if you can do something to enjoy English. For example, listening to English songs and learn some vocabulary at the same time. Or, using your listening comprehension to fill in the blanks of lyrics. Passion is the best teacher. When students’ interest is aroused, it will be so much easier for teachers to make sure that the learning goals are achieved simply because students are willing to accomplish a task that can intrigue them in the first place. In contrast, if we overwhelm students with endless of homework and tests, they are pretty unlikely to become autonomous learners.

But, how can you expect students to become autonomous when they are forced to learn a language that they think they’ll never use in the future? Students in Taiwan tend to study the language inside the classroom, and the application of English in real-life situations cannot help them go to a better school because it is not on the test. Under such circumstances, I think even technology can do little about it when learning English merely means getting good grades.
Draft Final Project (W8)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 10:23pm ·
Building Teaching Skills Through the Interactive Web
Project Report

Name:   Richard Li                            Country:   Taiwan   

I. Background

There are about thirty eighth graders participate in this class as their extra curricular activity, and they come from different classes with mixed English levels. They are supposed to take into consideration that they should be interested in learning English and have an at least intermediate listening comprehension before signing up. This class is conducted only once a week, so they’ll have plenty of time to prepare for the tasks.

I decide to use English as the medium of instruction because I enjoy doing it. Every time I speak English in regular classes, I can see their typical facial expressions telling me they have trouble understanding what I said. In this class, I am totally free to decide how I teach without worrying about the curriculum or the Indicators of Competence. So, I think this is a great opportunity for me to try something new.

Also, I love watching English-speaking videos on Youtube, and they are authentic and fun to watch. In contrast, English textbooks are carefully designed to systematically introduce vocabulary and grammar rules in order to equip students with enough knowledge to get good grades on written tests, and they are usually not interesting enough to arouse students’ interest. As a result, I want to show them that there are many other ways to learn English other than textbooks, and watching these intriguing videos is a very good way to improve their vocabulary and listening ability.

The following are my teaching procedures:

1. State the theme of the week.
2. Give a simple introduction before watching the video.
3. Present the video.
4. While watching the video, constantly pause and pick up some useful expressions to elaborate.
5. Replay the video and encourage the students to capture the main idea.
6. Get students to talk by asking questions, starting from easy yes/no to wh- questions

My goals for this class can be divided into three categories. First, I want to create an all English environment where students are exposed to a lot of language input. English teachers in Taiwan don’t need to speak English to teach, and students mainly rely on Chinese translation of the content provided by their teachers. All they need to know for tests can be taught in their mother tongue.

Second, I want the students to pick up useful and interesting expressions that they’ll never learn from textbooks. For example, they can learn some basketball terms by watching Jeremy Lin’s highlights, or they can also learn some useful phrases about make-ups with a real demonstration.

Third, after several classes, I will ask simple yes/no questions to create a need to speak English after watching a video. Then, they can talk more by participate in group discussions. Eventually, at the end of the semester, they are going to introduce one video in English at a minimum of one minute.

In this class, students are required to do several hands-on task to keep their grades up. For example, they have to finish worksheets that can help them have a better understanding of what they learned from the videos. Also, class participation is important so that they need to answer questions and contribute to group discussions. Most important of all, they’ll divided into groups and choose an English-speaking video on Youtube as to introduce it in English in front of the class.

Please note that English is mostly studied in the classroom, not used in real life situations. The rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules are common practice here in Taiwan. Students are usually overwhelmed by loads of tests and homework prescribed by their teachers to ensure that don’t do too poorly on pencil-paper tests. So, after many years of learning, students only acquire a huge amount of language knowledge, not real application of it.

Thus, I feel it is my job to get them to know that learning a language is all about being able to communicate with that language, instead of getting good grades. In addition, I also want to show them there are other interesting or unconventional ways to learn English compared with the textbooks. I strongly believe that students will definitely learn much better and more effectively if they can also feel the joy of learning English by completing interesting tasks with what they can actually DO with the language.  

II. Issue or problem that started your project
Only after two or three weeks of teaching in this class, I immediately realized that there were two major difficulties. First of all, the lack of motivation for discussion. Though they seemed to quite enjoy watching the videos I presented, they just didn’t want to answer questions or have any forms of interaction. It seems that they’re so used to sitting quietly in class, and I had to wait a long time for a response. Gradually I found myself answering the questions for them, and sometimes I even just didn’t want to ask any questions.

Second, teaching a large class with mixed abilities is really not easy. Some of them are quite confident in their English listening comprehension because they’ll look forward to my introduction to the video and they’ll be happy when they can understand the videos totally depending on their own listening skills. But, there are also quite a few whose English level is too low to engage themselves in this class. This class is conducted totally in English, and I guess students will get bored if they can’t comprehend anything at all.

III. Initial solution and expected response
With two specific problems in mind, I decided to do something different with the help of technology. I used to open the class by stating the topic of the week and giving them a simple introduction to what they are about to watch. To foster students motivation and learner autonomy, I let them play some hands-on games instead, hoping they can feel more relaxed or confident. For example, we played action listening games like “Who’s got what?” from http://www.etseverywhere.com/category/action-listening-games. Since then, I tried to conduct similar activities from those online resources to motivate them before I began teaching.

To help those slow learners with their listening ability, I tried to get the whole class to do listening quizzes from http://www.esl-lab.com/ after an activity, starting from easier level. These quizzes are interesting and authentic, so most of the students can perform well and feel confident about themselves.

IV. Response and reflection
After a few weeks, students were used to these new changes before we actually began the class. For those who already have a good English level, they seemed to quite enjoy all the activities and quizzes. But when it came to expressing their ideas in English, most of them were still reluctant to do so. Meanwhile, for those who were falling behind, the listening quizzes seemed not to help a lot, and they even didn’t want to try to listen to the audio files at all. 

These changes made them more willing to participate in the listening tasks, but they still didn’t want to try speaking some simple English in this class. I tried to call on some of the students with better English level, but it usually took a very long time before they said anything. Then, I had to answer my questions again.

I didn’t or couldn’t blame them for being so passive at all. Students in Taiwan are so used to staying quiet in class. They always expect their teachers to prepare everything for they have to learn, and all they have to do is listen and take notes. Besides, this is not a regular English class, so they are under no pressure to make a change at all.

As for getting them to speak, well, it’s also a very difficult change to do. Though they have studied English for at least seven years, they don’t have to anything to work on their spoken English because it’s not on the tests. What’s more, they are too afraid of making mistakes and getting laughed at, the easiest way for them to get out of this awkward situation is to keep remaining silent or just say I don’t know. Therefore, I began to wonder if there’s anything I can do to make a change after all these failing attempts.

V. Changes made
Since it’s only a few weeks away from the end of this semester, I planed to divide them into groups and do a show and tell activity. The main idea is that they choose an English-speaking video they like and try to introduce it in English. So, in a “One Computer Classroom”, I told my students that the computer would be used as a presentational tool, and they had to prepare an oral presentation sharing what they like most about the video in English.

Based on the idea of Project-Based Learning, I hope I can arouse their interest by offering them an opportunity to do something they like in English. Then, this Monday, I demonstrated what they really have to do in about two weeks. I chose a topic, Superheroes, and introduced two videos about the Avengers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPoHPNeU9fc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0jBF912xYY.

With these two video clips, I told the students about a simple history of Marvel, Stan Lee, etc. Then, I picked up useful words like computer generated, hopelessly outgunned, persuade, volatile, self-possessed and so on. Finally, I shared why I chose this topic and what superpower I would like to have. In the end of the class, most of them were intrigued by my demonstration. So, I asked them to follow my example and start to think about what they want to introduce in two weeks.

I expect them to put their efforts into this project, and most important of all, they can feel what it’s like to be able to do something enjoyable and learn English as well. They may just read their scripts, their voice might not be loud enough or they could get their tongue tied, but I think that’s O.K. as long as they can finally realize that learning English can be fun. So, I think this class can be served as a start or a glimpse, and hopefully someday they’ll do a real and bigger project with their English learning 

VI. Conclusion
In regular English classes, my way of teaching is nothing different than other teachers, which I adopt the Grammar-Translation Approach and give authoritarian lectures to students. Through repetitive drills, students learn to master all the required grammatical structures required by the Ministry of Education. Thus, the only concern for me is how to help my students get good grades on the English Competence Test to have a better chance to go to a better senior high school. Under the circumstances, job satisfaction is becoming a luxury I won’t have.

So, I won’t hesitate to seize the chance to do something different. Compared with regular classes, I have to do so much more for this special class, like finding suitable videos, creating worksheets, using online resources, conducting interactive activities and so on. After all the hard work, these students are still not very willing to try to speak English.

But, when I read articles about Project-Based Learning a few weeks ago, I began to think about what else I can do. What if I can come up with something interesting enough, something they need to Do with what they have learned? Then, according to PBL, learners will have a much stronger motivation to learn because they feel they have the power do demonstrate their skills by doing a project like this. Though I won’t be able to see their performances until two weeks later, I feel a sense of achievement already.

If I can do this project all over again, there are several things to improve on. First, ( to be continued!)

VII. Resources
( to be continued )
Teaching with Online Tools (W8)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 10:39pm ·
After exploring some of the different tools and exercises for this week, share your ideas about how using these might change the way you teach and/or the way that your students learn. Please respond in particular to these questions:
  • how could using these tools promote learner autonomy,
  • what are the constraints that would make it difficult to use these tools, and
  • how will you overcome them?

This time, not as a teacher but a student, I would like to share how the online course can help a student with his or her spoken English. Five years ago, I began taking one on one online conversational English classes through Skype. Of the four language skills, speaking is the only one you cannot work on your own as you improve other three skills, so I started to look online for information about how to improve my speaking ability. I found a Taiwan-based online school, New Sky Online (http://www.newskyonline.com/newskyonline/), which offers manageable long term classes for an EFL environment like Taiwan. Since then, I have been speaking English for two hours a week, and I just gave my oral presentation at a three-hour long workshop totally in English not long ago.

I consider myself a very autonomous learner as a language learner of this kind of one on one online course because all my efforts to improve myself in terms of English proficiency revolves around speaking English. For example, I read English articles, newspapers and novels at school, and then I summarize them and discuss with the teacher at night. The teacher would ask so many questions that I have lots of opportunities to express my ideas and thoughts in English. Most important of all, when I have to do a presentation at workshops, I can rehearse my presentations with the teacher several times so that I can have confidence in public speaking, and indeed they always go very well. This might not sound like a big deal to you, but I do gain so much recognition from many English teachers here because you have to be confident and brave enough to do so in a society that making mistakes is regarded as losing face.

The biggest strength is also its weakness. I really don’t think you can teach a language learner how to speak a language in a large class. Learning to speak a language requires an environment that learners can actually express themselves and get enough feedback from native speakers. This can apply to any languages learning. For example, no matter how many books you have read, you just can’t learn how to speak Chinese, Japanese or French unless you have the chance to talk with a native speaker. Though technology today can recognize and identify your pronunciation and intonation, it can never help you speak a language fluently without interaction, and consequently the biggest constraint is that you cannot just create an online course to teach people how to speak that language.
Reflective Journal (W8)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 7:10pm ·
Without a doubt, the most demanding task this week was the draft project. Not only did we have to finish it in time by Wednesday, but we also had to read our partner’s work and give feedback. We were given a final project template, information about project plan and report, rubrics, peer reading checklist, etc, so I think all the members of this online course must have a clear picture of what to do. Then, there were discussion and task to do as usual, and this week’s topic was about online course sites.

While I was doing the draft project, I thought I could just copy and paste my previous task steps, but then I realized it was not that easy. I found most of them were not organized enough or looked not like a serious academic essay because oftentimes I was just reflecting on my own current teaching practice and wrote down whatever came to my mind. So, I almost had to start all over again to fix the problem, and still I wasn’t quite satisfied with my draft. I wish I could have more time.

It was a pity I didn’t catch up with the online face-to face discussion, but Robert has kindly recorded the whole webinar so that I can check it out later on. Actually, I myself have been practicing speaking English one on one via Skype for five years, and it has really helped me a lot, like giving presentations in English at workshops here in Taiwan. I wonder if there will be another chance for us to exchange ideas of this online course with the teacher and other course members.

With the help of modern technology, language learners have more access to different learning methods and motivating resources, which also makes it much more challenging to be a teacher. Since our students are so exposed to different formats of stimuli, traditional lecturing might not be sufficient just to grab their attention, and that’s why we teachers have to keep on learning and studying. Therefore, I am grateful that I get to know so many online resources because of this course and its tasks.
Learning Styles and Technology (W9)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 11:10pm ·
Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles provide we teachers with the possibility that each child can learn successfully if we can identify their unique strengths and come up with effective teaching strategies accordingly. Based on the suggested and articles, students learn better with technology because it can provide a variety of stimuli that deal with many of their intelligences at the same time. According to studies, anytime three or more intelligences are used to introduce new material to students, the greater their chances of long term retention.

Now, I would like to elaborate on three intelligences and use what I have learned from this online course to help students cultivate their language competencies. First of all, Verbal/Linguistic touches most of language learning, such as listening, speaking, reading, writing, etc. Teachers can create a class on Nicenet.com for students to practice writing and expressing their ideas and thoughts at the same time. Second, Intrapersonal learners are good at self-reflection, so teachers can encourage them to keep a diary in English online. Third, Bodily-Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn with hands-on work, so we can assign them to create a WebQuest as groups.

When each student’s unique learning styles can be addressed with the help of technology, we teachers are also creating a resourceful learning environment meeting different needs of students. What’s more, every student have his or her stronger intelligences to process and take in information in terms of language input, so teachers cannot just adopt a single teaching approach throughout the whole semester. Instead, we should keep on equipping ourselves with diverse innovative teaching strategies.
Reflective Journal (W9)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Monday, June 11, 2012 at 2:03pm ·
Thanks to my peer reading partner, Thin Peng, I have revised some of my draft and also added certain extra information based on his suggestions. The first draft was done in a hurry last week, I found a lot to improve after careful proof reading this week. In addition to some typos and grammatical errors, some paragraphs were also not well-organized enough, and others were wordy and not concise. I really hope I’ve done a better job this time.

Of course, I also quickly went through others’ wonderful works and really admired their great efforts. We have teachers around the world, and some of them are teaching in colleges. Not only are those projects diverse and interesting, but some of them are actually good models for me to follow because of the thought-provoking ideas and good English writing skills. It would be great if we still the access to Robert’s Wiki because I would definitely need to go back and check all the works from each dedicated members of this online course.

How to give proper individual guidance to every student in a large class has been a very hot topic here. For example, there were several workshops about “Differentiated Teaching” have been held to raise teachers’ awareness of its importance. Therefore, I think this week’s topic of discussion, “Multiple Intelligences, Learning Styles and Technology”, had much in common with it. As usual, we read suggested articles and learned more about it’s basic assumptions and practical resources we can use in the classroom in terms of technology. The most important thing for teachers is to identify each student’s unique learning styles and try to incorporate at least three intelligences when teaching new materials.

Where did the time go? It has been nine weeks already? Looking back on the past weeks, again, I would really like to say that I have learned so much more along the way week by week. With all the readings, tasks and final project each week, I really feel I’m a student again. So, I guess the next question would be how to apply what we have learned into our real classrooms and benefit our students. Also, when given an opportunity to do a presentation next time, I would also like to share this course with other English teachers in Taichung, Taiwan.
Advice for Future Participants (W10)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 11:38am ·
The most valuable I have learned form this online course is that teaching is far more professional than I used to think. In an EFL environment like Taiwan, English is studied in the classroom, not used in the real world. Getting good grades probable is the only priority for most students and even teachers here. Thus, as long as you know your vocabulary and grammar, you shouldn’t encounter any difficulty. After this course, I gained so many different ideas and practical web skills that can be used to help solve the current problems in the classroom. With the help of technology, I can design different learning activities, like WebQuest, for students to demonstrate what they can do with the language. Also, I have stored many useful links on my Delicious.com page so that I can provide more interesting hands-on tasks for my students to work on their language skills. As a result, I found there was still so much for me to learn, and I’m glad I have this opportunity to improve on myself.

The following is my humble advice. First, read the given articles and mark key points. When necessary, you’d better read the additional resources as well. You’re going to create at least two posts on Nicenet.com, so make sure your answers are directly relevant to the questions and most important of all, use what you learned form the articles to back up your ideas. Also, you want to keep your posts organized and easy to read because every one is required to give feedback to others’ posts.

Second, you’re asked to do some tasks every week. The best part about this online course is that those tasks are mainly designed to help you finish your final project, so you just have to “connect the dots” when the time comes. Therefore, read the given  instructions carefully and perform those tasks step by step, and you should find they are very helpful in the end. For example, you’ll be asked to sign up for useful websites like Delicious.com, WebQuest, Rubrics, etc. On top of that, you are also going to make your lesson plans incorporating technology in your teaching or create an interactive power point slides. 

Third, share your reflections on your blog. Usually this is the final assignment of the week, so you can share what you have learned form your readings and tasks. Since this is your own blog, you’re free to write whatever you like. You can pose an interesting question or share an link. Or, you can just express how you feel for the week. It’s always interesting to get to know your colleagues’ other ideas besides this course. Don’t forget to at least comment on one entry every week. It’s also a good way to get to know more participants around the world of this course.

Fourth, the final project. It may sound a little bit daunting at first, but as long as you do your tasks earnestly, you can finish it without too much difficulty. But first of all, you have to identify your current teaching problem and find suitable technology to deal with it accordingly. Then, apply what you have learned each week, including the discussions and tasks, to help you move towards your target. You’ll be given a template, so you’ll have clear and specific ideas of what you have to do. In addition, one interesting task is to find your peer reading partner. I talked to my partner in person through Skype and exchanged many ideas about this course with him. With your partner’s feedback, you can improve the quality of your final project.
LoTi (W10)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 11:40am ·
I read the LoTi Framework and took the survey as suggested, and not to my surprise, the result indicated that my current teaching practices in terms of using technology to assist students in learning still have a lot to improve. Four of the main categories reached priority level.

Traditional lecturing has been the dominant teaching approach for decades here in Taiwan. Several years ago, teachers were asked to attend workshops regarding using technology in the classroom. Only about two years ago, each classroom has been installed an overhead projector and every teacher was assigned a laptop. Now, I can see more and more teachers using the computers in their classrooms, so most teachers are willing to try something new when provided with the necessary equipments.

After taking the survey, LoTi also provides recommendations and weblinks for teachers to utilize and reach an higher level. I immediately checked some of them out and found they were all websites with abundant resources. Again, we don’t want to use the technology only because it is new or available. We should identify the problem we need to address first.
Reflective Journal (W10)
by Richard Guozhen Li on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:36pm ·
I can’t believe this online course finally comes to an end. I can’t remember how many times I said that I have learned so much form this program, either. What’s more, being able to learn and exchange ideas with so many wonderful teachers around the world is just amazing. Without a doubt, I’ll sign up for another course if there is any in the future.

It’s really difficult to say which topic or tool is the most successful because they were so connected to each other. To me, looking back on those past ten weeks, I just enjoyed every assignment I have done, including the readings, discussions, tasks, reflective blog and the final project. For me, this course itself is Project-Based Learning because we kept on leaning something new each week in order to finish the final project step by step along the way.

The way Robert organized this course and guide all the participants to the final project is the best thing I learned. Not only is he so resourceful to provide us many practical and insightful articles and links, but he also did the best he could to solve the problems we encountered and give us constructive feedback every week. As for the final project, all you had to do was connect the dots, combining everything that you learned and did in the past few weeks.

These past ten weeks has truly been hectic and fruitful. Although I have to admit that I didn’t do my best for very few of the assignments because I was busy doing something else, overall, I consider myself a dedicated student actively participating in everything this course demanded. Undoubtedly, I still need some time to fully take in all the abundant knowledge and skills from this course. And then, I will have to think about the real application of what I learned in the classroom.

I wish you all the best and hope all your dreams come true.
Richard Li 

3 則留言:

  1. Good information about English it is very useful for students

    English tests

  2. Thank you. Your blog is very informative. Assessing speaking is now the hottest topic here, so I hope we can also learn from you.

  3. thank you very much I took a lot of information from this site))))))