Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Will it Blend? Blended Learning.Language Classrooms Today and Tomorrow - Report on Eftichis Kantarakis's Session

Eftichis Kantarakis has been in the ELT field for more years than he can count as he never mastered the numbers after 20. He has worked as a teacher, an ELT consultant for OUP, New Editions and National Geographic Learning, an editor for OUP and New Editions and a free-lance Teacher Trainer. He has also been involved in a number of ELT publications. He was TESOL GREECE Newsletter editor and the vice chair for one.

The term blended learning has been around for about 25 years, but is still not very well-known in Greece. Eftichis succeeded with his talk in giving the audience an overview of the trend together with many suggestions for those who would like to try it with their students.
Eftichis started his talk with a video that would give every techno geek the chills! The man in the video was trying to blend new iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 3. With this video he certainly drew our attention as to what blended means. A combination of face to face instruction, online learning and digital instruction is what it actually means.

                                                                                                                               Photo by Maria Vlachopoulou

Although there is not a consensus on a definition, the term “blended learning” refers to “a formal education program in which a student learns, at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path and or pace. While still attending a “brick and mortar” school structure, face to face classroom methods are combined with computer mediated activities” (based on Wikipedia-blended learning).

Eftichis went on to give us the 6 models of blended learning, that is:
a) face to face, where the teacher drives in class with the help of digital tools
b) rotation model, in which students cycle through online study and classroom time
c) flex model, where most of the material is delivered online but the teacher is available for support
 d) labs, in which the material is delivered in a digital platform but the learning takes place in a lab
e) self-blend, where the students choose to enhance their traditional learning with online learning and
f) online driver, which takes place completely online through an online platform with possible teacher check-ins.

Then he illustrated the 10 drivers of blended learning, namely what the advantages of opting for it are. In particular, what was mentioned was the opportunity for personalized learning, the potential for individual progress, students’ engagement and motivation, the shift to online testing, the need to extend time and stretch resources, the potential to extend the reach of effective teachers, the ability to improve working conditions, the decrease of device costs, the adoption of learning apps by parents and students and last but not least the interest in narrowing the digital divide. In relation to this the 5 advantages of blended learning is that the learner is more engaged and uses a variety of content types, blended learning  caters for different learning styles, the instructor can assess the individual needs and act accordingly, the feedback is improved and it can make learning fun!

                                                                                                                   Photo by Maria Vlachopoulou

Next, Eftichis gave the audience a list of what one needs to look up if they decide to adopt blended learning. First, there has to be an LMS (Learning Management System), that is the learning environment for one’s students. PbWorks, Wikispaces, Google Sites and WikiDots were some of his suggestions. Then, one can choose from a variety of free Presentation tools such as Prezi, SlideRocket and Slideshare to deliver their material. Also, free recording tools to share audios. Vocaroo, Chirbit, Voxopop, Voicethread, Podomatic are some of them. Furthermore, besides the PrintScreen(PrtSc) button option on computers there is a number of free Screen Capture Tools with FastStone, ScreenHunter, ScreenCapturer and Jing being some of them. Last, for creating Online Playlist of Videos he suggested MyCloudPlayers, MentorMob and ProjectPlaylist.

                                                                                                                           Photos by Efi Tzouri

Additionally, he presented us with some great applications for ELT to make one’s classroom more interactive. FutureMe (letters to a future self), Penzu (personal journals), Storybird ( digital storytelling), Animoto (creating videos), VoiceThread (digital storytelling), GoAnimate (for animations), Little Bird Tales (record your students telling a story), Vocaroo (voice recording service), Soundcloud (for sharing sounds).

According to a case study presented during the talk, however, many students would not like to have an online component in their conventional learning. It seems that, although students are technology oriented nowadays, they prefer more traditional ways in their studying. Thus, we should be very careful about the use of technology in our classrooms. As for Greek ELT technology is considered a possible substitute.  IWBs (Interactive White Boards), Online Platforms, Skype Lessons, Power Point may be used in many cases, but usually Apps are used ad hoc and there is a limited rationale or link to syllabi. In other words, the tool is its own reward! Nevertheless, this should not be the case and the tools should enhance the language not only promote creativity.

Eftichis closed his talk with some advice to both experienced and new blenders. To always stick to a linguistic - not merely an entertaining goal, to stay up-to-date, because new tools are coming out all the time, to look up and experiment and try what works for our students. And always keep in mind that tools are here to supplement not replace. He ended with the conclusion: “Computers will never replace teachers. But teachers who use computers will replace teachers who don’t.”

List of References:

Report by Maria Vlachopoulou

No comments:

Post a Comment