Sunday, November 21, 2010

TOEFL Poetics

Ryan Daley on Buffalo Poetics writes about Tests of English as a Foreign Language...

Back in May, and back when I was teaching a TOEFL test instruction class, I would spend so much time preparing and teaching per week that my writing was suffering. Then I came up with an idea. 

On the TOEFL test there is a 30-minute essay segment. Test takers have 30 minutes to write a 300 word essay in answer to an assigned question. These questions are usually somewhat mundane, i.e., one custom from your country you would share, etc. My goal was to write at least 75 essays and to repurpose them. While doing this, I also like I was sticking it to the powers observing us (Cameras were placed in each room, for "quality control").

To cut it short: I have roughly 60 TOEFL (poetic) essays up  at my blog, Check 'em out! And thanks for reading!

Sample essay

Q. If you could change one aspect of the public school/schools you attended, what would you change, how would you change it, and why? Use reasons and examples to support your response. 

A. Education is a tricky subject. As with figuring out anything, many variables involved in the deep process. Students emerge from schools at the end of the day and it's easy to forget that they belong to a community housed within several fortifications, cafes and playgrounds. I would change a few things about my school's construction and the administrative hierarchy. 

Schools are built much like prisons. We are interested in keeping children and their noises, their dramas as well as their affinities, inside and locked away. A brighter school with less restraints would improve matters for children. They would not feel the cold gray sky behind the gratings on the windows, would not lunch in the same linoleum room like those dentists use to calmly wash out patients' mouths, would not sing on a stage so lofty that the smallest squeak cannot be heard. We silence the children, and we assume they behave better this way. However, when children are unleashed they destroy property. This is because they hold their emotions so pent up. Generous little beings are not captivated by the dull school surroundings. Gym balls will bounce with resounding joy if only we update the facilities which school our children. 

School administrations refuge in lonely temperance behind desks which expose children early to alienation of processes. How many times will they see desk housing a person? Fresh new faces entice all guests to share the most important information with the desk's occupant, and in the quickest manner. Imagine what fresh faces enliven the office environs, while increasing productivity. To this end, all school admins and educators who are entrenched should be alternated every 5 years. A bargaining period is born of this, during which time admins would prove their worth. However, teachers are accustomed to unstable living situations already. Administrators and office dregs should share in this renewal.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Model of learning in a PLE

Plenk2010 is over but not the sharing. It's only just begun. Not just for teachers, learners are welcome too, so maybe next time some of you will join me.

Do you understand the distinction between PLN (network) and PLE (environment)? This model from Rita Kop's post at Observations about learning, knowledge and technology on modeling PLE based learning shows how complex and dynamic the process is. In other words, not to worry if you are still confused. I am and so are most of the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) participants.  

To quote Jerry Lee Lewis, "Great balls of fire" and "whole lotta shakin' goin' on"

The other PLENK news is that one of the facilitators started a focus group to research lurker learning, lurking as a learning strategy. If it's now an object of research, I guess I will need to be more patient with and tolerant of Blogging English's lurker. However, that doesn't mean I'll stop asking you to respond, post, comment ~ participate! Maybe the research focus group will come up with encouraging or at least useful results for us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PLN Competencies

All learning begins when our comfortable ideas turn out to be inadequate.” – John Dewey

from the blog Ponderances of Steve (Steve LeBlanc). PLN Competencies is not about language or writing but does clarify PLN vs PLE nicely, emphasis on the human connections, including potholes. Not a stretch I think to apply it to collaborative and other writing groups. 
Filed under: Coaching,MOOC — Steve LeBlanc @ 1:28 am 
You don’t have a strong PLN (Personal Learning Network) the moment you show up at the right group, even if it is the perfect fit for your particular interest. Admittedly, finding a group of folks who share your passions can offer support, guidance and quick tips for simple challenges. For example, finding the right quilting group for a lone quilter can be a dream come true...But what if your passions are not so neatly contained? What if your interests are broad and interdisciplinary? Specifically, what if you just can’t find a group that shares your varied interests? You could join different groups for your different interests or even create a new one. That works fine for discrete fields, that is, until you start to ask cross-cultural questions no one else in that group is interested in.
What is made of a network depends more on the user than the network. Skills and habits (and yes, related to using social media):
  1. Contribution
  2. Great Questions
  3. Feedback
  4. Evaluation
  5. Humble Boldness
  6. Basic Computer Skills
  7. Celebrating Aloud
  8. Remixing
  9. Leaving the Virtual
You'll have to read Steve LeBlanc's post to fill in the rest (including more about list items). The closing?

Extra Notes on Competencies and Literacies

Competencies and literacies are fairly new constructs in learning theory, and not yet well agreed upon, not even on Wikipedia. The Washington State Department of Personnel defines competencies as, “the measurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors (KSABs) critical to successful job performance.” I like acronyms.  And Microsoft offers a dizzying array of competencies here, with rubrics for measuring Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert Proficiency Level on each.  It seems that competencies have more to do with actions, and literacies have more to do with thinking and understanding. Rita Kop cites research that people might not necessarily have the critical literacies (thinking skills) required to learn and search independently, suggesting the need for some level of training or coaching. 
Here are Howard Rheingold‘s 5 Literacies: Attention, participation, evaluating credibility or critical consumption or “crap detection”, cooperation or collaboration and network awareness. He defines literacies as skills plus community (social media).... In a SlideShare called Digital Tribes and the Social Web, Steve Wheeler identifies what he calls the Digital Literacies: Social Networking, Transliteracy, Privacy Maintenance, Identity Management, Creating content, Organizing content, Reusing/Repurposing content, Filtering and selecting, Self presenting. Others include taxonomies, social tagging, and collaboration.
So what do they have to do with writing and  language learning? 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

About World Languages

Language Difficulty for English Speakers

How long will it take to become proficient in a foreign language?
People often ask: "How long will it take me to become proficient in language X?" This question is impossible to answer because a lot depends on a person's language learning ability, motivation, learning environment, intensity of instruction, and prior experience in learning foreign languages. Last, but not least, it depends on the level of proficiency the person wishes to attain.

Different language skills
There is no such thing as across-the-board proficiency in a particular language. Proficiency is usually measured in terms of four skills:

  • speaking
  • reading
  • listening
  • writing

Learners usually have different levels of proficiency in the four skills. Consequently, the four skills cannot be assessed by one test. Each one requires an independent evaluation.

Levels of proficiency
Two widely used guidelines identify stages of proficiency, as opposed to achievement. Both guidelines represent a hierarchy of global characterizations of integrated performance in speaking, listening, reading and writing. Each description is a representative sample of a particular range of ability, and each level subsumes all previous levels, moving from simple to complex.

It is important to understand that these guidelines are not intended to measure what an individual has achieved through specific classroom instruction but rather to allow assessment of what an individual can and cannot do, regardless of where, when, or how the language has been acquired.

ACTFL (American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages) has guidelines for speaking (1999) and preliminary guidelines for writing. The ILR (US Government Interagency Language Roundtable) has guidelines for speaking, reading, listening, writing and translation.

The two sets of guidelines for speaking only are given side-by-side below. Note that the ACTFL scale goes up only to the Superior level, while the ILR scale includes Advanced Professional Proficiency and Functionally Native Proficiency. ...moremore

World Languages is a commercial site but also a one-stop information website "dedicated to the world’s most important and populous languages... and language-related IT,"

OK so it's not about learning English, per se, but information about languages in general and learning languages does relate.

In particular, the chart for assessing different language skills and levels of proficiency seems adaptable to skills and levels in others languages.

Also a source about individual world languages, language families, fascinating language factoids (which always made language learning more interesting for me)

Posted via email from Meanderings

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Future of Work

this bit of research on the Gartner site; while it dates back to August has some interesting speculation about the Future of Work.

“People will swarm more often and work solo less. They’ll work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the organization,”

“In addition, simulation, visualization and unification technologies, working across yottabytes of data per second, will demand an emphasis on new perceptual skills.”

-       Tom Austin, Vice President and Gartner Fellow

Gartner points out that the world of work will probably witness ten major changes in the next ten years. Interesting in that it will change how learning happens in the workplace as well. The eLearning industry will need to account for the coming change and have a strategy in place to deal with the changes.

So much of this applies as much to teaching and learning possibilities.

"De-routinization" of work (or teaching) could return to autonomy to teachers, already implied in Downes. Work swarms and teaming fit in at PLENK 2010 but seem less likely candidates for the entrenched academic mind.

And on down the list. Just because it could happen doesn't mean it will though.

Posted via email from Meanderings

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Job Title: Social Media Slave

New writing genres for new jobs in new media/New Media: "Content Creation" involves writing, not 100% but can't leave home without it and involves computers too. How perfect for CLW can a recycled blog post be ... and not even about teaching unless perhaps implicitly as yet another genre to teach. And another interesting blog to subscribe to....

Social Media Jobs

"We all know how important it is for the social, real time web. No more corporate-ese please. We’ve had just enough of that blank, heartless, double speak for the time being. Press releases and official announcements that don’t tell you anything are as outdated as, well press releases and official announcements. The new client, the new sharer, wants authentic communication. We want bold headlines, crisp, alive copy and we want it to be presented to us married to great design that we can, and WANT to share with whoever we need to.

But what happens when businesses need content creation and aren’t willing to find the people, or pay the right rates, to get it down."

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