Sunday, 23 January 2011

Facebook in the classroom?

Quite a controversial topic these days. I had my qualms about using Facebook with my EFL students, mainly because of the privacy issues the network has been involved in. However, since one of my main objectives is to have my students use the language in a way that is meaningful to them so that they can continue learning outside the classroom walls, I had to give the issue a second thought. After all, is there such a thing as "online privacy"? I don't think so. The moment you click "send" anywhere on the web, the information is no longer yours alone and can, in most cases, be easily retrieved by any search engine. Try googling your name and you'll see what I mean.

So why am I using Facebook with my students?
  • Most of my students already have a Facebook account and use it on a daily basis as the main means of communication with their friends.
  • I've found that, while I have to coax them to interact in their blogs, wikis and other social platforms, they seem to feel at home on Facebook and communicate there naturally and spontaneously.   
  • Since they are already there, this is a good opportunity to model approriate and safe internet behaviour. Although in my opinion "online privacy" is a contradiction in terms, I do believe "internet safety" is quite a different matter, and something we must endeavour to train our students in.
How am I using it?
  • I created a Facebook Group instead of a Page since that gives you greater control over who joins the group and what others can see.
  • Parents were consulted and the topic was discussed in a meeting (most of them gave us a dismissive nod - here in Argentina the use of Facebook is incredibly pervasive)
  • We post discussions on different platforms so those students who do not have a Facebook account do not feel left out or under pressure to create one, and are still able to communicate and interact with their peers.
What am I using it for?
All the activities mentioned below are optional. Students are not forced to do them or marked on them. I somehow feel this would take away much of the fun.
  • Writing: students post short reviews of the songs they would like to work with in their f2f video classes.
  • Deciding what material they want to work with: polls are created with the students' suggestions and they have the opportunity to vote and have their say.
  • Extra practice: I post links to external sites which provide practice for listening, reading, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, international exams.
  • Crosscultural experiences: again, I post links to safe pages that foster interaction with peers from all over the globe.
  • Responding to visual and oral stimuli: I post what I consider interesting articles and videos to trigger discussion. Sometimes I get lucky and can see exchanges like the one below (these are screen captures since it is not possible to see them in the group if you are not a member)

These are just a few of the uses you can put Facebook to. And another good thing is that I don't even do half of the work. Most of what happens there is geared by the students themselves. They upload material and interact of their own accord most of the time.

Note: this group is promoted only among teens and adults. In the case of kids, we work with blogs and wikis.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Flickr's Advanced Search Feature

I have become quite aware of the importance of not infringing copyright laws. For example, when looking for images, I browse for those whose owners have chosen to share under a Creative Commons license, and try to return the favour when I upload images of my own.

I knew about Google's advanced search feature, which allows you to filter images by license. What I didn't know is that Flickr lets you carry out this type of search too. This came as quite a big surprise. Has it been there all along and I didn't pay attention to the small print?

For my previous post, I was looking for an image of a berry bush. I was painstakingly going through the properties of each image when it dawned on me that there must be an easier way. And there it was, Flickr's advanced search (Yes!)

I scrolled the Advanced Search page all the way down and ticked the box for Creative Commons:

So easy to be a law-abiding cyber citizen!

Back to the Berry Bush

Here’s my long overdue first post for evomlit11 - Multiliteracies. In fact, I’d told myself that I wouldn’t join this session this year. Not that I didn’t feel attracted to it (quite the opposite!) but, being in the middle of a Moodle workshop, I  have quite a full plate at the moment. Besides, I’m going away on holiday the day after tomorrow and do not expect to have internet access during that time.

Anyway, here I am. Having joined last year’s session, I’ve been following the pursuits and findings of this community through the different environments multiliterates move around. Little by little, members’ introductions started to make it to my email inbox from the Yahoo Group: new people, new questions, new paths to tread. It was getting more and more difficult to just lurk. And then enters Vance’s post reminding members that this is not your normal course but more like a berry bush of choices, thus triggering associations of something rich and untamed, something that invites you to delve into, disentangle, pick, share, taste and  savour as you choose. Impossible to resist!