Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Survey: What is Your Favorite Virtual Classroom for Language Teaching?

A couple of weeks ago, I was seeing some lively discussions on a forum that I frequent about virtual classrooms (VCs) and the use of them by language teachers. Some had specific features they wanted to have and others just said they only use Skype. So, I thought it would be interesting to survey different people who teach languages on the internet and see what the preferred virtual classroom really is. When I set up the survey, there were three questions that I wanted answered, which were:

1) What VCs do live online language teachers actually use?
2) What VCs are live online language teachers familiar with?
3) Is using Skype alone effective language teaching?

Although I only received about 45 responses, I found the responses quite fascinating. I've decided to present the results in a series of blog postings instead of just one as I originally planned since I did get so much information. I thought I would start with a review of each of the virtual classrooms on the survey starting with the most popular to the least popular. In each posting I will discuss the tools and limitations of the particular VC. Later on, I will then discuss the open-ended responses about the effectiveness of using just Skype in language teaching. There were many differing opinions and it will be interesting to sort through and to share. So, come on back and give your opinion as I systematically report the results.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Why do you tweet? Isn't it another time waster like Facebook?

A few years ago, shortly after I started on facebook, a friend sent me an invitation to try out twitter. I signed up and immediately did not understand it. I set the privacy so high that only my friend could see my tweets and I faithfully tweeted what I was doing 'teaching an engineer today', 'going to the hospital, high school and paper company today to teach', etc. It wasn't until I saw a presentation at an online conference presented by someone (the details completely escape me) that I finally 'got' it and so I opened up my tweets and started following people, Retweeting (I'm the queen of that) and dialoguing with educators. My whole life just expanded and I have learned so much from the network of people I have met through twitter. When I had the good fortune of attending the BESIG conference in Poland last November, I even got to meet and talk with several of my favorite twitter friends, which was great! If you are an educator and are interested in networking with like-minded teachers and receiving links of blog postings you would never find, I would highly suggest joining twitter.

Now to answer the question above--is it a time waster like facebook? My answer is that is can be if you don't discipline yourself, but it is so full of information that it might actually save you time. One good thing about twitter is that you can ask a question and eventually someone will come up with an answer. So, if you want to know what a good tool is for podcasting and tweet the question, you will get several answers and places to turn to from real live people as opposed to googling everything, which is what I tended to do before twitter (and still do at times). So, I would call twitter another avenue towards professional development if you use it right. (BTW, I love Facebook and used in moderation is a great way to network with friends...) Below, you will see a mosaic of many of my twitter friends!