Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Power to Share

"Blogging has the power to unleash learning, reflection, and communication.”
-Rusul Alrubail

In this age of 21st century technology, we are all given the potential means to allow our voices to be heard by an audience vastly larger than any time before.  With access to the internet, some keystrokes, and a few clicks of the mouse, we all have the opportunity to share our own thoughts and ideas.  This is a powerful tool, however, in education may unfortunately be overlooked.  Student blogging enables students to demonstrate and practice this significant communicative tool.  In this week's blog, I will reflect on the art of using student blogging in the classroom.  

I read Rusul Alrubail’s blog post “Blogging for English-Language Learners”, which was posted on the excellent and informative site, Edutopia.  While her focus in this blog emphasized utilization for EL students, it most certainly can be ascribed to all students at all age levels.  Along with the quote above, Alrubail also begins by stating “blogging for English-language learners (ELLs) can tap into students' and teachers' utmost communicative potential and help expand and widen learning opportunities.”  I think this, indeed, reflects on the true ideal of blogging as an essential communicative tool, one students can use to develop language in a more genuine way than merely repetitive classroom practice.  Blogs give students the chance to use their own voice to communicate with audiences beyond the classroom.  It gives them a relative and personal way to reflect and share.  She identifies many different benefits (as stated above), which can be seen in her infographic.

Along with the benefits and proper utilization of student blogging, she explains how a teacher might be able to start using blogging with their students in the classroom.  She identifies many different purposes for using blogging in the classroom:
  • Discussions
  • Responses
  • Reflections
  • Sharing images, links, and resources
  • Vocabulary and grammar activities
  • Paragraph writing
  • Commentary
  • Storytelling

All of these are great ways your students have the opportunity to use blogging for themselves.  As students of ESL-509, we can most certainly relate to the first three (discussion, response and reflection) purposes, as this is what I am doing currently !  We are opening ourselves up to the many different perspectives of others while contributing our own perspective.  Your students can do much the same thing with the content they are learning in the classroom.  Blogs also lend themselves to educating students in proper grammar, writing and paragraph development, because students are publishing something that potentially could be read by more than the classroom teacher.  This helps students self-reflect on their writing and put their best work forward.  

Blogs are a great way to share our stories, our learning and our beliefs, while reaching an audience far bigger than we could image.  If this is something you are interested in using in your classroom, I strongly encourage you to give Rusul Alrubail’s blog post “Blogging for English-Language Learners” a read. Now is the time to unleash the power of blogs in your classroom.  

Alrubail, R. (2015). Blogging for English-Language Learners. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Connecting Cultures

This weeks blog post is a reflection of a fantastic post I read from Edutopia called Pen Pals 2.0: Can Technology Foster Global Tolerance? by Holly Korbey.  The article reflects on using web 2.0 tools to connect a third grade classroom in Georgia, Vermont, with another class of third graders 6,000 miles away in Sejong City, South Korea.  As expected, students had a life changing experience.  It was more than merely a webcast, but a project that used the collaboration for a month-long event, where students used Google Docs to create a project about alternative energy.  Students were able to see (through this project) that people from across the world live lives similar to their own.  Students discovered people dealing with similar issues, not only in the realm of climate change, but also within their own cultures.

By having students work in these collaborative groups, they are forced to use their communicative skills to effectively engage with students from other countries.  Not only must they be effective communicators, but they are able to also share their own cultural experiences, and engage in experiences of the collaborating students’ cultures. These projects break down cultural barriers and make the world a much smaller place.

Organizations The Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities, Digital Promise, The International Education and Resource Network, and The Global Nomads Group offer opportunities for educators to connect with other educators around the global.  This is a profound method for thousands of teachers to connect their classrooms without having to spend eons of time trying to locate other collaborative educators.  Not only do they connect other educators, but they cultivate communities that collaborate to design strategies to utilize this partnership.

Utilizing web 2.0 tools, like Skype and Google Hangouts, teachers have the ability to collaborate through video conferencing, giving the students an opportunity to meet other students worlds away in the comfort of their own classrooms.  Students can expand their collaborative efforts further by using tools like Google Apps for Education, Wikispaces and other tools to create spaces where they conceivably work together to create multicultural collaborative projects.

Korbey, H. (2016). Pen Pals 2.0: Can Technology Foster Global Tolerance?. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Common Language of Games

"The glue that sticks many different kinds of ‘knowing’ together is language."

 -Vygotsky, 1978                   

My last blog post discussed the numerous benefits of utilizing game-based learning in the classroom and in the comment of our excellent instructor was recommended the article “Learning Technologies and Playful Ecologies” published by WIDA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After reading the article I feel compelled to write a blog post focusing on using games and tech tools as a way to “elicit the use of targeter language”.  I immediately related to the example presented.

It frequently happens when only one device is available and you have a group of children wanting to participate in the game.  They begin to work together as a team and taking turns to complete various parts of the game or activity.  My son did this the other day with his friend.  There was one iPad and two of them so they played together, took turns, discussed how to complete levels and why some things were more awesome than others.  It was genuine, engaging, deep conversation.  While Plants vs. Zombies might not have the most educational value when it comes to games, the conversation they were having was rich in language.

The example in the article presented the same idea, except her’s was built around a reading game with a lot more core educational value to it.  While any game can very much drive rich discussion, using educational games can prove even better.  We see that promoting informational literacy and diverse digital experiences, through games and other tech tools, engages ELLs in rich forms of problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, and production, the interactions through which language is built (Himmele & Himmele, 2009).  In the article it discusses how language is developed through it’s use and that using games and technology collaboratively, give students opportunity to use language in a setting that isn’t so much like instruction.  Games are a place where school and a student’s culture can interjected, because the vast majority of students have at least a favorite app giving them a common interest regardless of their different backgrounds.  Everyone loves games!

Any game, digital, physical, educational, entertaining, can provide students the opportunity to engage in conversation and utilize language.  Yet it is the well-selected games the teachers can pick that will give the students the ultimate chance to provide avenues for creation, expression, and the kinds of meaningful activities that facilitate academic language development, as well as frame various learner identities for ELLs (WIDA, 2014). In the importance of understanding what you should look for in a tech tool and games, this article provides an evaluation tool that will ask you some guiding questions and you can reflect on the challenges and opportunities each tool/game could provide.  It is a very detailed three page form broken up into five sections based in content, context, communication/language, the individual child and reflections.  It is a great resource to use in it guides you to look for these key elements and forces you to think of ways they connect to student’s learning.  If you are looking to implement any kind of new tech tool or game that is based around students collaboration, I would strongly recommend this article and the wonderful evaluation resource it provides.

Himmele, P., & Himmele, W. (2009). The language-rich classroom: A research-based
framework for teaching English language learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological
processes. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

WIDA Consortium. (2014). Learning Technologies and Playful Ecologies. Retrieved from