Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Love Stories Around the World

Some years ago, I was working on a Unit about Love.

First, my students read about how I met my husband to give the lesson a personal touch.

They listened to a story of how a teacher met her husband.

Then, they wrote about their own love stories.

I realized the lesson plan could be even richer if there were other stories from around the globe.
Once again, I invited my network to collaborate with me so that my students could hear love stories from different parts of the world. Here's this multicultural stories mosaic:

How about inviting your students to tell their own love stories or asking them to interview a member of their family to report to the group about their love stories?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stereotypes - Controversial Topic to Raise Cultural Awareness

Much has been said about the dangers of generalization and stereotypying a certain group of people. Now, how do we approach it in the classroom?

Here's a lesson plan I've used it in the past with my groups. The first part is adapted from http://the_english_dept.tripod.com/stereo1.html

  1. Choose two adjectives that you think describe different nationalities.
    • punctual
    • tolerant
    • romantic
    • respectful
    • hard-working
    • emotional
    • aloof
    • mean
    • honest
    • ardent
    • organized

    • outgoing
    • nationalistic
    • well-dressed
    • humorous
    • lazy
    • sophisticated
    • friendly
    • tedious
    • systematic
    • chaotic
    • unpleasant

    • aggressive
    • polite
    • rude
    • arrogant
    • ignorant
    • casual
    • refined
    • reliable
    • careless
    • unstable
    • dull
    • disciplined

    • hospitable
    • talkative
    • sociable
    • serious
    • quiet
    • formal
    • passionate
    • tender
    • uninsterested
    • cold
    • negligent
    • untidy/disorganized
    • messy

A- Warm -up 
  1. I show them photos of people that seem to come from a certain country and ask them to speculate where they are from and why they think they are from that nationality. 
  2. They share their ideas with the group. 
  3. Students group the adjectives above under categories (taste, attitude, feelings, organization, etc) and indicate which are positive or negative traits. Ask them to use the dictionary for unknown words

B - Vocabulary Practice
In groups, students complete the sentences with the adjectives listed above.

The British are regarded as being...
The French are portrayed as being...
The Germans are considered as being...
Italian men have a reputation of being...
The Swiss are said to be...
Brazilians are considered to be...

C - Discuss

1) Students regroup and compare their answers to see if they have come to the same conclusion. Share with the class.
2) Brainstorm common stereotypes that they have heard people use.
3) Questions to students: 
  • Was it easy to complete the sentences? Did your answers come naturally? Why? Why not?
  • Did the completed statements make you feel uncomfortable? Why? Why not?
  • In general, were your responses positive or negative?
  • List the stereotypes under positive, negative or neutral. What does this tell us about stereotypes?
D - Expansion
Fill in the following questionnaire on your own and later discuss it with your teacher and colleagues. You may use :
A= I agree B= I'm not sure C= I disagree
  • National stereotypes are dangerous because they may provoke racial prejudice.
  • Stereotypes contain a certain amount of truth.
  • There is no such thing as national character and therefore the idea of national stereotypes is rubbish.
  • The reason stereotypes exist is because people are afraid of diversity, change, and what is unknown. They prefer to cling to simple classifications, which maintain an old, familiar and established order.
  • Stereotypes are simply harmless sorts of jokes we tell about other nationalities or groups of people.
E - Further Discussion
  • What is, in your opinion, the best way to challenge a stereotype.
  • What you have seen here are national stereotypes. Can you think of other kinds of stereotypes?
  • What are the stereotypes about your own culture, nation, or people? Are they true? How are these stereotypes different from your own reality? What are your impressions about the Brazilians?
F - Global Voices 
Students listen to people discussing about stereotypes about their countries. 

Then, they might join a Voicethread discussion:

Or they can create posts trying to demystify common stereotypes about their countries, ilke this example from my students:

Finally, tell students the true nationalities of the people portrayed in the photos they guessed in the beginning of the class. 


Check the international project that was the kick off for the original lesson plan, created by Barbara Dieu

Monday, May 7, 2012

Surfing the Waves of Change in Education: No Action is not a Possibility

Serendipity is one of the strengths of a hyperlinked world in which the network is always providing us with learning moments and reflective checkpoints. As I was browsing my wonderful Pinterest network, I came across, by chance, this clean, unpretentious blog http://thingsigrab.wordpress.com/, and I couldn't help but start browsing it, scrolling down, with my eyes glued in interest for the variety of topics and simple interestingness. Powerful.

All of a sudden, a click on the video Surfing Waves of Change, which is mainly about socio-economic change. However, the message is totally applicable to our changing roles as educators and the daily challenges and stages of change we face every single day.

Brianna by E Karim

The video zooms in to the need of our being resilient to become catalysts of change. It evokes the power of communities and networks to overcome the hurdles we are challenged with. All with the surfer's metaphor that learns by doing, by getting into action, learning to go with the flow and understanding the waves movements, all relying on how own guts and other surfers for information, support and learning. The main message: a surfer cannot learn how to surf if it isn't by doing, falling, and standing on the surfboard again. It is not about being taught how to be resilient, how to change and become an active player, but getting there and doing it, connecting, collaborating, experimenting...Then, we can become catalysts of change. No action is not a possibility.

This is a video worth sharing, watching together and deciding for ways in which we can catalyze change in our own communities of learning.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On Online Social Bookmarking, Tagging and Connections

Technology Use
Diigo. The heart of social bookmarking is its power of a group making available their resources that were once saved on our computers for a very individual use. Now, in online spaces like Diigo, the information out there can be retrieved, mixed and remixed in the ways we need it when we need it. David Weinberger, the author of "Everything is Miscellaneous", says that with folksonomies (people categorizing links), we can filter information, resources in the way out, not on the way in. As we bookmark and tag stuff, the links are there. As we need them, we manipulate information to make meaning, to construct knowledge. Thus, social bookmarking adds value to the information everybody is gathering in the digital world. It's not just the links I have, but tons of collective resources available at a click.
Issues that are the main concern of educators are  related to lack of time and information overload. There are two facets for lack of time. One is educators' busy lives and schedules, and the other relates to the syllabus that they HAVE TO "COVER" within a time frame. My point is that if we use social bookmarking frequently, it becomes a mechanic process. Every time you see something interesting, we press the "share button", add as many tags, keywords as we can think of, and that's it. We'll filter the information later on, no need to deal with it right now. Even if this process doesn't save time right now. In the future, when you need to retrieve information for any kind of project, and if you have bookmarked it before, the whole process could be a time saver. As for the syllabus, I envision Diigo bookmarks as part of a classroom adding a mix of flavors that students' findings could promote. We could have, for example, learners responsible to feed the class bookmarks on a specific topic, learners finding and sharing videos, podcasts, texts based on what they are studying with little notes. How meaningful this could be? I know, I know...time to set it up! Diigo has a Diigo Educator account that you can ask for. A friendly environment for a group of learners where the system to have the class altogether is different. The educator adds all learners to the group and it's a safe environment. 
Innovation in Social Spaces

As for information overload, I consider bookmarking a way to dribble information overload. Why? If you have tons of bookmarks together with tons of people's bookmarks being tagged, you can use those bookmarks to create meaning whenever needed. You save them for later. One day, you can retrieve them and use them as you wish. This is exactly what David Weinberger says about the infrastructure of meaning, "We are building this connected miscellany link by link and tag by tag. Its value is in the implicit relationships that turn it into an infrastructure of meaning". It's an open-ended context in which we're creating streams of information. We can slice up our online resources as we wish according to our needs in a specific moment. A clear example:  to design this online course, I've been collecting lots of resources for the past years, but have not done anything with them. The only immediate action has been to create a specific tag for later retrieval. So, I just used teacher_project. when I actually started putting all together, I got back to all I have tagged with teacher_project to make sense of it and see where I'd head to. Interesting results as I could mix and remix what I was considering for the course and my bookmarks gave me invaluable insights of what was worth keeping in or out. Besides, as I used many other labels (tags) together with the unique tag I created, I could intertwine information. So, I could see what I had for specific topics, like teacher_project + blogs, for example.
On the bookmarking platforms available nowadays, we can really create very enriching networks of information, sharing and knowledge. Diigo is a great example! We've been exploring just the bookmarking part of it, but I must say I also love the highlighting, annotating features, plus the comment area in the bookmarked links. They take learning to where I think it should be, to the collective, social sphere. Just by being social, one might say that we're spending much more time there than we can afford it. I agree it's messy, non-linear. We tend to hop from one place to the other eager to keep learning, and then we get lost. Oh, I've wandered in the richnesses of my friends' bookmarks and lost myself in thoughts, possibilities, accounts sign ups even when I knew time was an issue...There's no easy solution for that. Some possibilities?
  • Timing how long you'll spend browsing (even setting an alarm might help!)
  • Setting specific goals: "I'll find two useful resources in this specific area"
  • Deciding for a specific tag you want to focus on
  • Defining a feature in Diigo you want to master
  • Changing your email settings to receive only daily or weekly notifications of new resources added to the group
The burning question is how can we better share in the group?
Certainly tagging is a useful way. There are two aspects to it. First, add tags that are meaningful for you, for your private retrieval, and also tags that have been suggested by the group that will help others browse through the treasures you find online. Tag for your private use and for the public good.
Some tips:
  • the use of words all together (professionaldevelopment, socialbookmarking)
  • the use of webtools4educators unique tag
  • the use of as many tags as you can think of 
Check some educators' discussion about educational uses for Diigo
The trick of online social bookmarking is to keep sharing and tagging, as well as joining groups of interest to you.
Any other aspects we should consider?
So, why should any educator embrace the idea of social bookmarking and Diigo and why it is an essential tool for every educator?

- It helps us filter information
- It is about community sharing
- It helps us find interesting resources
- It connects us to the community
- It is portable
- It is an extension of our memory
 Parts of this post are cross posted at http://webtoolsforeducators.posterous.com/our-get-together-its-all-about-connection-con 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Social Wild Web in 2 Minutes and Teachers' Learning Brains

I've produced this quick video as a Wrap up for the online course I am teaching, Web Tools for Educators at Casa Thomas Jefferson.

In the beginning of our online session, teachers are generally in a state of lethargy and disorientation. They are never sure if they should endure in the digital experience or quit. They sometimes have a feeling of being overwhelmed, at other times, at loss... I try to show them that this a common state when we face the new, when we leave our comfort zones, when we are learning, when we are challenged.

In neuroscience there's a common term to express the exact moment when our amygdala sense danger:
We generally react in these three ways: we can just run away from the new experience as we feel threatened, we might decide to persist and move on against the initial moment of fear and helplessness, or we can just be in a lethargic state of no-action. 

My role as an online facilitator is to give participants the support they need for them to build up their self-confidence and move forward, fighting against their initial disorienting feeling of the non-linear digital world. Isn't that what we all try to do with our students, anyway? In this case, though, it is an even more important mission, for if they see the power of the Social Web in transforming their classrooms and beyond in truly student-centered learning hubs where interaction, collaboration, problem solving, creative thinking, fun-based learning is part of class routine, then my special assignment as an online facilitator is accomplished, and the impact of teachers' newly acquired digital skills is long-lasting and amplified in their local educational communities. 

That's why when they overcome the initial stage of getting their feet wet into learning how to participate in an online community, enhanced by numerous digital tools, they get into the experimentation level, evolving to many WOW moments throughout our 10-week online session and way beyond. 

Of course, there are those who always fly, and those who get stuck, freezing, no matter what you try to do  to give them the support they need. Educators must first re-learn to unlearn. Educators must be open to learning if they want to be part of education. However, what really makes a difference is letting our brains work in our favor, when we fight against the initial fear and sense of being in danger, for endangered professionals are the ones who are not open to movement, change and action.

by Fabrício Freire_WebTools4Educators

The Social Web is full of encounters, learning and networking. And every educator should be part of it in very meaningful ways, and that's why it is part of my job to introduce the educators who start the Web Tools for Educators course to get there in the SOCIAL WILD WEB!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Three Ideas to Foster Self-Directedness through Learning Playlists

Good teachers don't teach or preach. Good teachers guide learners into becoming more independent in their learning process. Though we've heard it a thousand times, we still find it hard to put into practice what we call autonomous learning. Sometimes it is just easier to tell our learners what to do or to do it for them rather than guide them through self-discovery, a bit of chaos and autonomy. We are generally too busy, too tired and on a tight schedule, so excuses abound for taking shortcuts, but shortcuts don't make the citizens we are so much in need, the problem solvers who creatively find their way out when challenged. We need to be diligent in trying to find ways in which our learners have choice, a voice and many possibilities.

Mentormob is an effective starting point towards learners' choice and independence. Students can be guided through creating their learning playlists, giving them time to think about the many pathways they can take and the different perspectives in relation to a certain topic. Of course, there are many digital tools that do the trick, but I just loved the clean layout of Mentormob, as well as its collaborative-enhanced platform.

So, here are three ideas for you to use Mentormob to its best use and most powerful use for learning.
  1. Students find their favorite resources on a certain topic and create their learning lists to share with the classroom;
  2. If they are practicing a certain Grammar topic, they can find examples to create their playlists;
  3. Encourage students to create learning playlists related to The best videos of ..., The most exciting places to..., The top 10 sites to..., What is..., 10 things you should know about..., 

By letting our students create, share and learn about others' playlists, we are on the right pathway for digital citizenship, self-directedness, and learning autonomy.

But, before they start, what would be your first learning playlist?