2/11/2005

Having fun with weblogging...

A summary of Teresa Almeida d'Eça ‘s Presentation at Learning Times

“Have Fun with English!”

Last Tuesday Teresa presented her EFL teacher – student writing project at LT. She addressed it as her 1rst experiment in blogging, adding that as she wasn’t sure if it was a web page or a blog, she started calling it a Plog

Have fun with English is a beginner EFL blog for 5th grade absolute beginners aimed at generating a two-way communication in English outside of class. It’s purpose is to stimulate practice of the language learned in class 'anytime, anywhere', giving students a voice of their own.
Teresa’s objective has been creating an open door to an authentic and broad audience that can comment and suggest on her students’ interest and writing experience.

She faced many challenges when starting to develop this project, among them were:
- How to spark motivation in absolute EFL beginners?
- How to keep the flame lit?

First decisions were related to:

Internet providers: She chose custom-made blog because it meant more layout flexibility, more control over content and less hassle

Sort of layout: She applied a simple, colorful, 3-column layout, with icons and images, specially attractive for children.

Type of content: Teresa thought it could be anything that interests her students, as far as they follow a RULE: Always in English. “…the only 'obvious' imposition on my part…” she quoted. (However there appear some translations in students native language on the page)

First page was released in 28 November 2003, it included the announcement about the blog project, an invitation to send messages and some interactive exercises created in (Hot Potatoes), but first message didn’t arrive till 6 December 2003.

The presentation continued with the explanation of some add-ons at blogging project. Theresa recalled them as “unexpected but welcome”, and they truly are…

Add-ons chart

In this matter, the group experienced with Voice Mail, Photos, E-Cards and Photo Stories, among other things. They had the opportunity of an exchange with a group of Polish EFL students through HandyBits, which allowed voice emails accompanied by the corresponding text, just perfect for young learners…

The potential of this tool broadened when Student " Teacher " Student, and Colleague " Students exchanges took place. In case students hadn’t direct access to Internet, or couldn’t send a voice message by themselves, handouts of an email template were given at class, so Teresa compromised to allow all students the chance to send messages and see them answered online. (Low Tech – High Tech Flexibility, as she calls it.)

The blog also included pictures, photos and drawings were posted or uploaded to the web; e-cards for special occasions, happy birthday songs into the e-card and, the latest trend: Photo Stories.

Conclusions lead to the following reflection:

Have fun with English is a simple experiment in writing to practice the target language that has taken on different dimensions contributing to add motivation and new learning horizons to students and teachers….
Here the unexpected has become reality and has gone beyond any 'wildest dreams'!!!

Congratulations! Teresa for such a success and thanks for sharing all your knowledge and expertise with this international weblogging learning community of EFL teachers. Your experience teaches us that we need to be well prepared for a new generation of kids that is not afraid to take risks… accept challenges…. and prove right!

You can see the complete PowerPoint presentation.
And also have a look at “Have fun with English” actual page.
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