Sunday, September 16, 2012

Perpetual Beta


As I begin teaching my online course called Technologies in Second Language Classrooms this semester, I want to take a moment to look back at how the course has changed over the years.  There  have been changes in both the content and the activities I ask the participants to do. However, I find that three guiding principles seem to be the basis for how I created the course and the changes that I have made.  The three general features which I felt were important then and still feel are  critical now are  learning by doing, staying connected, thinking globally.

The original 2004 course was called Computer Technology in L2 Learning.  In that first  f2f  course which I taught in a computer lab, the readings were a combination of a 1999 text on computer-assisted language learning, and many online articles about webquests and intercultural communication.  The students were required to create a website using MS Front Page, create a webquest lesson plan and teach a computer skill to the class from a list that included MS Publisher, tracking changes with MS Word, Yahoo groups, Tapped In, Inspiration, and Schmooze University. 

Let's jump ahead to 2008 to Using the Internet in the L2 Classroom.  The course is now online and we are using Will Richardson's text Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms but we are using the first (2006) edition.   Thankfully, students no longer need to learn how to create a website from scratch but they create their own blogs, Googledocs documents and podcasts.  They reflect on George Siemens' connectivist theory of learning and get connected through Nings, Delicious, and Twitter.  The Googledocs assignment is a group project with each student reviewing two tools (one synchronous and one asynchronous) from a suggested list of Internet tools.  To think globally, the students choose from a list of sites which allow for global collaboration and review one of them.

What changes have 4 more years brought?  Richardson's text, now in its 3rd edition, is still the basic reading material.   Students learn utilize blogs and VoiceThread for sharing their ideas and creations.  They practice story-telling by using tools such as Bookr, Bubblr and comic strip generators.   They explore gamification by exploring language games.  They complete a group project using Googledocs presentations in which they compare several Internet tools of their own choosing.

They stay connected with Nings or Yahoo groups, DIIGO and Twitter.  They explore ePals in depth to reflect on how to connect their own classrooms with the world.
I think the guiding principles of learning by doing, staying connected and thinking globally remain relevant in 2012.  What changes over time is the tools used to accomplish these ends.  For that reason, the course will remain in "perpetual beta."


Wen Guo said...

It's amazing to see the historical inventory of Technologies in L2 classrooms, which is like an evolution.. Hmm.. what would be the next strep? The future is unpredictable.. I am excited and can not wait to see it..

Maryanne said...

I too think each new development in "connectedness" is exciting and offers great creative possibilities to both teachers and learners.