Thursday, April 25, 2013

LTMOOC - week 2

This week we read some interesting articles about Content-Based Instruction by Stoller (2002), Input by Szynalski, and Inputs/Outputs activities.  Below, you will find my reflections about these topics.

In regards to CBI, I would say my teaching is pretty much based on content because I teach advanced classes. This semester I am teaching a Spanish composition class and our writing practice is framed within topics or themes. So for example, we were discussing a unit on Children in Latinoamerica and their challlenges. Students had to read articles about children and labor work in some Hispanic countries. Students also watched some videos about issues related with being a kid in a hispanic country. One of the videos was a TED talk about "El Sistema", a social program of children orchestras in Venezuela. Students were very interested about this topic so I decided to invite one of the young directors in El Sistema to talk and be interviewed by the class via Skype. Students prepared questions and were really motivated to be able to use Spanish to get more information about El Sistema. Some students chose to write their final projects about this topic with their own perspectives (e.g., trata de los niños en latinoamerica, adopciones en Guatemala). Therefore, I would say the content is the meat of my class and technology definitely help students access the content and use it to write about different topics using the L2.

I really believe input -oral or written, especially in the form of reading for my Writing class, is key when learning a second language. However, I have to disagree with the Szynalski in several points. He points out the input hypothesis as the only way to learn a language when different SLA scholars have pointed out the just input is not enough. There are multiple variables such as motivation (see studies by Dornyei, quality of the input, opportunities for interactions (see studies by Long) or to produce the language, that could affect the second language acquisition process.  He also diminishes the role of output  in the SLA equation when we know that it's only when students are asked to produce when they realize what they can or can't do with the language (see studies by Swain). When students produce the language (output), they get the opportunity to get feedback about their language and thus get more input. Feedback and how it is given and received is crucial. I have learned as an English learner that receiving technical explanations about language forms as feedback does not work for me.  The most valuable feedback for me is the one directed to the message/content and how effective the language I am using is to make it comprehensible for the reader or listener.     

For the inputs/outputs activity, I believe the relevance of specific kinds of inputs or outputs can only be determined taking into account the specific language learning goals of the learner. So if I have a student who wants to learn how to write academic papers, maybe listening to a song on the bus is not that relevant for his learning purposes. But that same oral input (the song) can be motivating for a beginner student that just want to learn about the culture and how to use the language in real life situations.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

LTMOOC 2013 Introduction

I have heard so much about MOOCs this last year and even know that there is a MOOC for learning Spanish that I was intrigued to learn that there will be MOOC for language teachers using a platform known as Instreamia. Administrators at my university talked about the possibility of having open courses and the reactions were divided among the faculty. I have also followed some other faculty that are using MOOCs to teach language (see for example, Fernando Rubio's post on his Spanish MOOC), but nothing like experience this new trend in education yourself. So here I am, participating in the MOOC for language teachers. My first assignment is introducing myself:

  • Where are you from? I am from Caracas, Venezuela, but currently living and working in Flagstaff, AZ.

  • What’s your background? I have been teaching for almost 24 years. I have taught English in Venezuela at different educational levels and Spanish in the U.S.  I also teach linguistic courses and graduate classes in the MAT in Spanish at NAU.

  • What is your native language? My L1 is Spanish What others do you speak? English 

  • What language(s) do you teach? I teach Spanish

  • Where do you teach? I teach at Northern Arizona University

  • What do you hope to get out of LTMOOC? I hope to learn how new technologies and open education can serve different kind of students in their achievement of specific language learning goals.

  • What hobbies or activities do you like to do? I love hiking, trail running, scrapbooking and traveling.