Friday, November 29, 2013

Ceibal English blog posts

The Ceibal English (Ceibal en Inglés) is a project involving language teaching via video-conferencing in Primary schools throughout Uruguay. 

The British Council Uruguay is managing the Ceibal English (Ceibal en Inglés) project for Plan Ceibal and I am working as the project manager.

As it develops, expanding from 500 to 1,000 classes a week in 2013, and doubling again to 2,000 classes a week in March/April 2014, I am recording and relfecting on different aspects of the project. 

This page lists all of the blog posts I have written about the programme.






Saturday, November 23, 2013

Frameworks for effective technology use: SECTIONS

When adopting or adapting technology for effective teaching and learning, it often helps to use a framework. One such framework, produced by Dr. Tony Bates, Research Associate for Contact North, is SECTIONS, devised by the University of British Columbia, and mentioned in Planning for Effective Teaching with Technologypart two of the great series of articles Understanding the Building Blocks of Online Learning.

SECTONS stands for:-

S - Student needs

E - Ease of Use

C - Cost considerations

T - Teaching and learning (your  approach to)

I - Interaction for students (desired level of)

O - Organisational support needed

N - Novelty factor

S - Speed with which the technology or materials can be adopted/adapted

Rather than just designed to be used at a teacher or classroom level, this framework has been devised "facilitate decisions with regard to choice of technology at both the strategic and the tactical level".

How to use the framework:

1. Define what you are trying to accomplish by answering a series of questions about what you want to achieve.

  • I want the students to learn...
  • I think this I could be more effective in facilitating this learning if...
  • The learning activity I've chosen is...
  • The technology I've chosen to support this learning is...

2. Assess by using a checklist to evaluate the technology you have chosen to investigate or use.

  • Ask questions on the checklist based on what your specific requirements are
  • Answers to the questions should be in the form of Yes, No, N/A
  • Include a column for Importance (i.e. how important this feature is for you)
  • Include also another column for considerations (i.e. aspects that need to be taken into account)

3. Implement the technology (if it passes the assessment stage above) for the first time and observe and gather impressions to help in the evaluation process. Questions to ask yourself include:-
  • When observing the students using the technology, I notice...
  • The technology I chose is enabling the learning because...
  • The technology I chose is a barrier to the learning because...
  • Feedback from the students is...

4. Refine your approach based on reflection
  • What worked?
  • What didn't work and why?
  • I need to change...
  • My plan to make this change is...



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Use of L1 in Ceibal English Remote Teaching

One of the issues we have been discussing in the Ceibal English project is the use of L1 by the two teachers- the CT (classroom teacher) and the RT (remote teacher), and after observing a great number of classes, I can see this varies a lot.
Teachers attitudes to using L1 in the classroom varies a lot. I remember when I first started my teaching course, I was told that this was to be avoided at all cost, but when I started teaching young learners I realised that some use of L1 was necessary - mainly to save time and for classroom management reasons.

There are some very interesting posts about this. In particular, I encourage you to read what Scott Thornbury wrote on his blog about translation (and the comments!) and the response by Isabela Villa Boas.

In particular, I think the following points are most relevant to the Ceibal English situation:
  • Use of L1 interferes with the development of the L2 system
  • Dependence on L1, at the expense of the learner constructing an independent L2 system
  • Use of L1 is fine when it helps L2 acquisition, accelerates or prioritizes learning
I have heard from some of the RTs that they believe they need to use more Spanish than they would usually do in an English classroom because of the lack of English knowledge of most of the CTs. However, some of the teachers involved in the project, who are based in the Philippines, and who have limited ability to speak Spanish, are in general teaching their classes without speaking any Spanish (in most of the cases) and there have not been any complaints from CTs.

I decided to ask some RTs what they thought of this in the forum of the LMS we use to share ideas, thoughts, etc, This is what I posted:

I've now had the opportunity of observing a number of lessons, which has been fantastic. One of the things that I am interested in is how much Spanish the RT uses in lesson A and would like to ask you all your opinion about this as it varies a lot depending on the teacher.

For instance, I can see several different strategies at work when it comes to classroom instruction/classroom language:

1) RT uses English first then immediately afterwards speaks in Spanish
2) RT uses Spanish first then immediately afterwards speaks in English
3) RT only uses Spanish for classroom instruction / classroom language
4) RT only uses English (or 90% of the time)
5) RT uses English and the CT uses Spanish ("one teacher, one language")
6) RT started using mainly Spanish for the classes, but is moving towards more English as the CT and the children learn more.

Which of these do you think is best? Which do you use? Do you use different strategies depending on who you teach? Does the fact that this form of teaching is very different from normal classroom teaching affect your opinion on this?

Can't wait to hear what you have to say on the subject...

Here are a selection of the comments posted on the forum:

  • I personally have used strategy nº3 up until now, since I found it quite hard to explain activities or eliciting concepts purely in English. However, I have started using strategy nº1 with the more advanced groups, trying to gradually use more English in every class. That said, some groups -especially 4th graders- have a hard time with the contents of the class, so including too much English could be counter-productive. (Ramiro)
  • Actually, I think the use of Spanish mainly benefits the CTs. We know that children adapt very quickly and mine want to make me almost cry every week when I see how much they have advanced. I personally find it really hard to switch back and forth in the lesson so I end up using more Spanish (Spanglish?) than I ever would. (Christina)
  • I find strategy number 6 the most appropriate for me. Lately, I been trying to pay more attention to the amount of Spanish and English I use during each class and I'm doing my best to speak as much English as possible. (Viviana)
  • In order to lower affective filter, I wouldn't start using English right away, 100% in the class. You may scare them out and make students feel uneasy. I guess you'll move from Soanish to English as students feel comfortable and can follow the lessons. (Leo)
  • CTs tend to have a very low level of English, they're adult learners, and we all know adults have a harder time adapting to classes being delivered in English than children do. The way the CT feels towards the lesson greatly affects children's perception. Perhaps we could explain key concepts of second language acqusition to CTs in order to lower their affective filters as well. (Serrana)
We are now looking at producing guidelines and will be working with RTs to reduce the amount of Spanish used in class, but I'd be very interested in hearing what others think about this.