Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Collaborative English Language Learning

image retrieved from

Collaborative learning has become an important issue that concern to all the educational environments because it is a powerful principle to engage learners in a process of production of knowledge. Due to this fact, collaborative habits are being increased around the world (and this can be observed in the most web sites, if not they should be developed) where a wide variety of educational approaches allow learners and teachers to be exposed to a high level of intellectual efforts and thinking processes. Now a days the importance of collaboration have increased because in that way it is possible to facilitate the development of a learning community and the achievement of the goals of a course. Besides, students become able to move from absolute independence to“general” group interdependence (Pallof et al. 2007).

The networked world, where we are living now, has a big intervention of new technologies that have increased the level of communication in terms of quantity, quality and, of course, velocity. Those technological advances facilitates access to any kind or quantity of resources and people can find those resources just with a “click”, besides people can also modify or contribute arguments for an specific topic by signing up in a blog or a wiki. This helps to any educational environment given that students are involved in a collaborative environment where they are responsible of their own learning and also of others’ learning, then they are members of a group where mutually they can search for understanding, solutions, meanings, and create something relevant and productive together, applicable to their own learning process.

Collaborative English language learning should be promoted in all the courses and classrooms. In order to promote it, it should be considered different projects or activities that engage learners and also challenge them to participate, those activities vary widely, but not all of them are centered on students’ exploration or application of the language. Teachers must consider that collaboration in the classroom involves fostering critical thinking, participation and discussion and not only the presentation and explanation of a topic by the teacher (Pallof et al, 2007). In that way, teacher – centered or reading – centered lessons are deleted of the lesson planning; and then, lecturing, listening and note taking process are replaced for students’ discussions and active participation where they explore and produce outcomes according to what themselves discover and share with others, which is a characteristic of collaboration.

Collaboration is a skill that can be developed by giving the learners the opportunities to interact in activities in which they are required to share their thoughts. Some of those activities are too useful for a language learning classroom; the first thing to consider is to let students to formulate ad share their learning goals, then generate discussions about students’ personal experiences, interests and motivating problems (Pallof et al, 2007). Those are ways to connect students’ ideas and feelings, promoting interdependence which is related to the process of learning that is an active and constructive process. Collaboration in the classroom, favor the acquisition of knowledge due to the students are continuously exposed to new information or new ideas, besides it also favor acquisition of language skills because students are sharing ideas using the target language, for doing so learners need to be engaged to work actively with other classmates. Collaborative learning situations in a language classroom, promote challenges for students to go beyond others’ explanations and reading for information. Students develop the ability to enhance their thinking processes and they change their roles being active contributors, more than passive receptors (LaBonte, Randy et al. 2003). Hence that students are not waiting for taking new information or ideas from others, because they are creating new conclusions (if not theories) with that information and ideas which is an intellectual process of constructing meanings that strengthen the language learning process.

The idea of a collaborative English language learning environment is interesting since encourage all the participants of an educational community to discuss and assume roles. Group talk activities benefit all learners while they are providing scaffolding for learning English; they are collaborative activities that favor all the students’ learning process because they develop shared thinking and retention of information, besides they give the students the opportunity to interact with all their classmates. For doing so, students need to assume different roles (even in online or face to face classes) such as facilitator of the discussion, process observer, content commentator, team leader or presenter of a particular topic (Pallof et al, 2007). On the other hand, teachers have the responsibility to find the strategies to promote collaboration. Those strategies should be developed considering the variability that has the amount of time that is taken in a group work. The group work can be focused on classroom discussion about a short reading or a new from the newspaper or simply a short story; it can be also focused on the creation of teams of study for language classes or carry out cross-curricular projects.

Finally, for a collaborative environment in the English language learning process it is necessary to implement technological tools that allow fostering participation beyond the classroom. “When people work together they can learn from one another” (Tapscott, 2008) and the level of interaction is extended beyond the gathering of information which is something that can be gotten by using technological tools such as blogs, wikis, webs, etc. Because of that, technology (properly applied) is the best way to foster collaboration given that eliminates barriers and provides comfortable settings for students’ collaboration and cooperation (Pallof et al, 2007) while they contribute to build meanings and concepts about the language and its forms and use due to they are using English to write their thoughts. As a conclusion, it is possible to say that collaborative English language learning can be developed if teachers and students are ready to apply new and different strategies where they have to assume roles that support the learning process to define the final work or the products under construction.

• LaBonte, Randy et al (2003). Moderating Tips for Synchronous Learning Using Virtual Classroom Technologies. Odyssey Learning Systems Inc. Retrieved from [Available as an E-resource]
• Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith (2007). Building Online Learning Communities,Wiley.
• Tapscott, Don and Williams, Anthony (2008). Wikinomics, Portfolio.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blogs and Wikis

What is a Blog?

A blog is a kind of e-folio or a web site where texts or articles are collected periodically. The texts are updated by different authors that are interested on the topic of the blog. Blog are useful to create journals about a research or an activity that are in continuo changing, and it is collaborative because it has the possibility to allow users to write their comments and relevant information useful for the development of the topic that is being developed in the blog.

Benefits of blogs

• Blogs are easy to create.
• Expensive software are not required.
• Learners can be users only by signing up to blog providers (Blogger, wordpress, typepad , and others.).
• The steps to follow in order to create and update blogs are understandable for the whole population.
• Blogs are easy to maintain even online.
• Instructions are clear to create a post, edit post, change blog template, customize your blog and change blog settings.
• Blogs automatically move your newer posts at the top and the organization is easier.
• Blogs allow teachers to interact with their students and give them feedback.
• Blogs are for free.

What is a wiki?

A wiki is a web site that offers much information about different topics for different navigators and interests. The pages of a wiki can be updated and edited by multiple voluntaries through the web navigator. Participants of a wiki can create, modify or delete content of a shared text or article. Besides wikis offer the possibility to collaborate with members of a community to write clear and complete information about a specific issue and also to create link to useful webpages that can provide relevant information.

Benefits of wikis

• Any number of users can post, edit and sort ideas and tangents for a project.
• Learners and teachers can organize information online.
• Learners as well as teachers have access to all the information from anywhere just with a computer and internet connection.
• Wikis are good for project where collaboration is a key aspect to develop it.
• Wikis are useful to archive information and put it to the disposition of several learners that need access to the same information.
• Wikis can connect learners of a specific educational institution that work in different departments but that are interested in the information provided in the wiki.


- Downes, S. (2004) Educational Blogging, Educause Review. Retrieved from or
[Available as an E-resource]
- Lamb, B. (2004) Wide Open Spaces. Wikis Ready or Not, Educause Review.
Retrieved from [Available
as an E-resource]

Collaborative and transformative learning

Collaborative learning

- Learn together
- Knowledge can be created
- Members actively interact sharing
experiences and assuming roles
- Engage Learners in a common task
- Work together searching for
understanding, meanings or solutions.

Transformative Learning

- Learning is a process that generates changes: psychological, convictional, behavioral.
- Critical awareness is developed.
- Expansion of conciousness and critical analysis take place.

Collaborative learning is a method that should be implemented by all the teachers since it allows enhancing of students’ performance given that they are working together in small groups toward a common goal/objective. Then students are independent and responsible of their own learning process and become interdependent and responsible of other’s learning by giving relevant ideas. The process of collaborative learning helps to develop a high level of thinking skills, and foster interaction and familiarity among students and teachers, besides students can remember easily what they discuss, which is part of a training that helps them to realize about what they are learning and feel satisfaction with their learning experience increasing their self – esteem too.
Transformative learning, on the other hand, is a kind of education that involves experiences, thoughts and feelings that are the results of learners’ actions. Transformative learning is the way to help learners to realize that they can live meaningfully by contributing ideas and actions to foster social transformation.

Pallof, R. & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities, Wiley, Chapter 9.
Succes. gif. Image retrieved from
logo.gif. Image Retrieved from

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wikinomics: Mass Collaboration

"Wikinomics" is the art and science of peer production. That means that through collaboration it is possible to find new things. Mass collaboration is used to change everything, finding the best method to work in order to look for soluctions for a specific problem or for improving undesrtanding and development of a specific issue using wikis.

The term wikinomiks initially refers to the effects of extensive collaboration and on the marketplace and corporate world. As wikinomics is based on the cooperation to improve a given operation or solve a problem it is necessary to be connected and also to develop a social networking where there is a circulation of knowledge, power, and capital (Tapscott & Williams, 2008) by using a "computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity".


Openness: includes not only open standards and content but also financial transparency and an open attitude towards external ideas and resources.

Peering: This aspect replaces hierarchical models with a more collaborative forum where everybody can contribute with their thoughts and ideas about what they have learnt.

Sharing: Give to other the opportunity to learn form our own knowledge, which is a less proprietary approach to products, intellectual property, bandwidth, scientific knowledge.

Acting Globally: this aspect involves embracing globalization and ignoring physical and geographical boundaries at both the corporate and individual level.


One of the principal features of wikinomics is mass collaboration, in that way students and teachers can be involved in a constant "giving and taking" information task that require a permanent connection among different members of a community. Some other educational implications to be considered are:

1. Connect students in a networked society.
2. Wide input into strategies and operations.
3. Harness collective intelligence of a nation or a community.
4. Foster social networks.
5. Allow online brainstorming to better understanding of an issue and also to find the best method to solve a problem.


Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. (2008). Wikinomics, Portofolio.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Effective use of presentations

One of the most used tools to present a new topic in an online course are the Power Point Presentation (PPT) instructors, teachers and students like to use this tool to show a topic with pictures, images, sounds, etc. Besides PPT's are easily embed into a virtual platform.
Power point help them to be creative when exposing an important issue, however it is important to be able to prepare good, appropriate and effective presentation taking into account specific aspects that enhance its use. LaBonte (2003) proposes some tips for using PowerPoint, they are:
1. Slide Transitions do not function in virtual classroom presentations.
2. Number of Slides is best kept to fewer than 20 – or save your presentation in parts.
3. Font Size for best display online is 18 - 24 pt (be consistent except for effect).
4. Font Style choices should be simple and clean (Arial or Comic Sans) – avoid decorative, hard-to-read fonts.
5. Layout choices are best kept to the three highlighted: Moderating
The next power point presentations are useful to develop an effective PPT and give as some tips to create them in the best way:


Rusen, C. (N.D.) Ideas on how to create powerful presentations. Retrieved from

Chew, K.S. (N.D.) Improving Power Point Presentations. School of Medical Sciences. Universiti Sains Malaysia. Retrieved from

LaBonte, R. et al (2003) Moderating Tips for synchronous learning using virtual classroom technologies. Odyssey learning systems Inc. Retrieved from

Managing and moderating the online learning environment

Managing and moderating the online learning environment

The 30 most important factors in managing and moderating the online learning environment in order of priority (the most important first) and differentiated according to the categories that LaBonte, et al (2003) proposed:


1. Contribute one own special knowledge in a collaborative fashion – don’t lecture.
2. Build relevancy into the materials.
3. Encourage participation through use of questions and probing
4. Facilitate discussion – present conflicting opinions, or ask open-ended questions
5. Focus discussions on critical concepts, principles and skills.
6. Build confidence by stating expectations clearly, and don’t expect too much at first.
7. Enable students to experience the moderator role for themselves.
8. Model online intellectual discourse.

Social & Emotional

1. Create opportunities to sustain discussions and interactions.
2. Promote healthy and respectful social interactions.
3. Maintain a non-authoritarian style.
4. Be objective.
5. Model appropriate online behaviour.
6. Create a friendly, social environment.
7. Encourage participants to introduce themselves.
8. Provide opportunities for establishment of independent groups.

1. Set clear objectives for the session.
2. Be prepared, well in advance.
3. Be flexible in schedule to accommodate student direction, need and interest.
4. Manage the flow and direction of discussion without stifling creative opportunity – watch for balance in contribution, particularly the instructor’s!
5. Don’t rely on offline materials – bring them into the online environment for discussion.
6. Provide an overview of timetable, procedures, expectations and decision-making norms where appropriate
7. Be responsive – remedy issues as they arise, help participants with information overload.


1. Become familiar and proficient at the use of the technology – practice in advance.
2. Make sure participants are comfortable with the system – hold practice sessions.
3. Value participation.
4. Create a policy on communications.
5. Try different communication styles.
6. Encourage active use of peer messaging.
7. Be prepared for technology failure – have a backup option (email, fax or telephone).


LaBonte, Randy et al (2003) Moderating Tips for Synchronous Learning Using Virtual Classroom Technologies. Odyssey Learning Systems Inc. Retrieved from [Available as an Eresource]

Towards an E-pedagogy: Changing roles

LaBonte, Randy et al (2003)argue that instructors as well as learners need to change their roles to a better development of a E-learning process. The next charts provide ifnormation about the roles that they have now and the roles they should have:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Issues and Strategies

Click on the chart to see it bigger.

Synchronous and Asynchronous communication

Synchronous and Asynchronous

The difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is the time in which the answer for determined issue can be given. Haefner (2000) defines Synchronous communication as a simple communication that happens at the same time, and immediate answers are provided in give-and-take discussion sessions, a synonym of synchronous is simultaneous.

Some of the pedagogical interventions that synchronous communication may have are:
It allows immediate communication with interchange of much more information. It allows also the participant’s verbal development through discussions, where they have to find immediate answers by doing brain activities in which learners need to use their background, and relate it with the information they are discussing at the moment. Besides it allows better interaction increasing students’ fluency when exposing their ideas and social skills because, even if the communication is online, students are challenged to be attentive to the conversation with others.

On the other hand Asynchronous communication according to Haefner (2000) refers to the communication that can wait because does not require reply at the moment. Learners have a flexible schedule, however it can be difficult for them to have answers immediately in case they have doubts.

Some of the pedagogical interventions that asynchronous communication may have are:
Sometimes students need guidance for doing specific tasks and using this kind of communication answers can take hours, even days (Haefner, 2000). However, it allows more flexibility to work and reflect on the work and the comments or ideas that students are going o share. It also helps to give more specific feedbacks from the tutors because they have the time to consider many different aspects of the Information that is going to be given.
This video shows more details about synchronous and asynchronous communication: