Are you excited about the fall 2012 term? I am! One of my resolutions is to make more use of technology to support my students’ learning. That’s not necessarily easy for those of us in the, ahem, nondigital generation. You’re talking to someone who, after five years of teaching at LETC, still has difficulty operating the portable CD players. Even so, last summer I set up an e-mail listserv for our Advanced Plus conversation class, including students and teachers, and it worked well. The teachers sent out links to articles for the students to read, and the students posted material they found interesting and chatted about it (in English, of course!).
Anyway, after orientation last Saturday I went to the technology workshop in the Language Lab. The facilitator was DeAnna Coon of the University of Maryland. She has set up a teaching wiki for Language ETC with charts of websites for language teaching and learning. She’s done an amazing job of sorting through the vast assortment of sites, picking out the ones that have the potential to be really useful to us, and presenting them in an organized, user-friendly way.
The wiki is divided into pages: Assessment, Create Your Own, Dictionaries, Grammar, Organizing and Collaborating, Other Vocabulary Resources, Reading Comprehension Tools, Reading Content, and Writing Tools. Each page lists recommended websites, with a hotlink to each site and notes on what the site offers and whether it’s free (most are). Some of the sites contain interactive exercises for students to do online, in Language Lab, for example. Others offer downloadable and printable resources for teachers, such as worksheets, quizzes, and flashcards. Still others allow students to collaborate in creating an online journal, scrapbook, website, blog, or newspaper.
For example, the Reading Content page offers websites like Discovery Education, TV411, Breaking News English, The Times in Plain English, and one of my personal favorites, BBC Learning English (my students liked using the interactive quizzes in Language Lab).
Even with these well-crafted lists, the sheer quantity of what’s floating around in cyberspace is still somewhat intimidating. As DeAnna told us, “It can be a daunting task to get started digging through the sites and finding what works for you and your students. I’ve started the task with the charts and descriptions of resources, but you’ll still have to explore and find your magical sites.”
My strategy this term will be to pick out just two or three of the recommended sites and try them out. Once I’ve used a site and liked it, I bookmark it on my computer so I can go back to it, and it becomes part of my teaching repertoire.
Our LETC wiki is currently set up as read-only, but it has the potential to become an interactive platform. If, once we become familiar with it, any LETC teachers or staff are interested in contributing, DeAnna can set their access level to permit edits. Thanks to DeAnna and to the LETC staff for this very useful resource and workshop!