Learning online has been a great experience to me. At the beginning of 2005, I didn’t know anything about Internet, just sending and receiving emails and Web searching once in a while. After taking a six-week, hands-on workshop called Becoming a Webhead, from January 15 to February 28, everything changed. It had been the best experience as a learner that I’ve ever had. The workshop was based on how to use Web tools and how to incorporate them into the language classrooms. We had a Yahoo Group where all of us sent our introductions and started communicating with people from all over the world. It was fascinating, but at the same time it was overwhelming. I didn’t know how to deal with such a bunch of emails every single day. When I opened my inbox I had more than 105 new messages!!!! Oh, Gosh!!!! Fortunately, our e-tutors taught us how to use the daily-digest email option and how to find the information in the Yahoo group. We learned about several topics: blogs, wikis, blended learning, Flickr, etc. It was amazing how we could create and cooperate altogether. We explored every new tool by ourselves and created different new accounts. At the beginning we felt like babies, but today I realized how much I’ve learned. For example, three years ago I didn’t know what a Wiki was, and now you can even see what my own students have learned. Have a look me here.
By using Web tools I’ve understood that success depends on the purpose and objectives of our project. Technologies are not good or bad by themselves, we make them effective or not. We need to choose the ones that are appropriate to our context, to our students’ needs and to the tech facilities available. I discovered that Wikis are excellent tools for cooperative learning.
They have a great potential for students to engage in activities outside the classroom. Wikis promote creativity, are easy to use and can be edited. Widgets, images, videos, podcasts and photos can be uploaded and messages can be posted. Wikis are excellent for large classes; and, you can work with them from inside or outside the university classrooms.
Do I see myself as a pioneer? Do I think I am more innovative than others at the UCV? Do I think the UCV is lagging behind?
Yes, I consider myself as a pioneer. I am the only language teacher in my department who uses Web 2.0 tools to teach English (Yahoo Groups, Google docs, Moodle, Blogs, Wikis, WiZiQ, Skype, etc) at the Education School of the UCV -the largest and oldest university of my country. At least, and as far as I know, I'm the only one who shares her work. There are other teachers who also work with technology but are working in other areas.
I'm not going to blame my co-workers if they don't work with technologies, it wouldn’t be fair. We have very strong tech limitations, especially in our department where we only have one computer for 18 teachers. Our school has about 4,700 students delivered in 5 regions and we don't have more than 50 computers available for them. So, if students are required to do online activities they have to work from home (if they have Internet access) or from cyber-cafes. I do almost all my online work from home.
I’ve been working with ICT since 2005 after joining Webheads in Action. Since then, I haven’t stopped incorporating the new technologies into my English classes and now all of them are blended. They are now a great success! I’m currently doing research in blended learning and recently won an international contest to attend the WorldCALL 2008, held in Fukuoka - Japan.
I don’t think I am more innovative than others, perhaps more persistent than others, I don't know really. There are many teachers in my school working in the ICT area; in fact, many of them have done an excellent job by their own effort. However, I think my university is lagging behind because the university policies go too slow in comparison with the teachers’ will and the society’s needs. Most ICT projects developed are carried out more as individual initiatives than institutional policies. The university as an institution is currently outlining the legal framework to design the distance education programs that involve the use of the new information and communication technologies. Meanwhile, teachers are organizing ourselves in our schools, training ourselves and our students with the few tech facilities we have available. But, we definitively need a stronger support from our authorities.
It's all for now.