Twitter, anyone?

Feb 14, 2011

Recently I've become an associate partner in a newly launched European project called APLaNet (Autonomous "Personal Learning Networks" for Language Teachers). The aim of the project is to introduce language teachers to social networking sites and help them build their personal learning networks. You can read more about this exemplary project in the post by Burcu Akyol, one of the coordinators of the project.

I'm a strong supporter of social networks, especially Twitter, and I've already tried to introduce Twitter to newbies many times before - with a disastrous result! I failed every time but once. Now, I don't want to lament about that, but I've been thinking about what I've done wrong.

And I think I might know the reason why my mentees haven't made it further than a couple of introductory tweets. What they needed was a constant, gentle push, which I didn't give, simply because I didn't want to be a bore. I used to tell them that Twitter is what you make it and so I actually let them sail through the twitterverse on their own.

But it's more than obvious that Twitter newbies need someone to hold their hand, someone who will help them cross this huge gap between a beginner's keen interest in Twitter and the world of the PLNs that lies at the other end.

Despite my futile attempts so far, I'm on my mission again and hopefully my mentees will manage to build their PLNs. I'll nudge them to log in to Twitter more often, even if several weeks have passed since their last tweet. I'll help them learn by doing - by tweeting. I'll introduce them to my PLN more frequently and more forcefully. I'll be more than willing to dedicate an hour or two of a lazy Sunday morning to teaching them the basics of Twitter and PLNs. And I'll keep you posted on how we're doing.

In the meantime, you can read more about Personal Learning Networks in this excellent post by Shelly Terrell.

E-safety in my classroom

Feb 9, 2011

In support of Safer Internet Day, my students and I did some of the actitivies I wrote about in my last post.

After seeing the video clip about parental protection and online dangers, my students took part in a walking debate. The idea for this activity came from the Debating the issues activity, which I downloaded from the excellent Think B4U Click Click website. However, unlike the suggested procedure, I decided to go paperless, so I created a short Power Point with five issues to be discussed. After reading out loud each of the statements, they took a stand and explained why they agree or disagree with it.

What really surprised me was the fact that most of the students feel safe on the Internet. Some of them supported their feeling of safety with the fact that teachers and parents constantly talk about it. Others explained that they are very careful about the stuff they publish on their blogs or on Facebook. Only some of them think that adjusting Facebook privacy settings keeps them protected.

I was taken aback when I heard that most of them think that cyberbullying is not as big an issue as bullying, mostly because one can switch off their computer or mobile phone and thus not be cyberbullied. It's obvious that we need to delve deeper into the topic of cyberbullying.

Finally, I asked them to think about advice that they would give to their peers and share it on the Wallwisher which you can see below.

(Click here to see our wallwisher Safer Internet Day by msblazic)

This one is my favourite, although I'm a strong supporter of social networking sites:

Talking to a friend
and reading a good book
is better than Facebook.

(by Norma)

E-Safety in the EFL classroom

Feb 6, 2011

My students spend a lot of time on the Internet and even though they say they know absolutely everything about the perils of the virtual world, I strongly believe that every now and then this topic should be brought into discussion.

The most suitable occasion is of course Safer Internet Day, which will be celebrated on February 8. I think that teachers around the globe have the responsibility to dedicate at least part of their lesson to e-safety and help their students to acquire essential skills about the efficient, safe and more responsible use of the Internet.

Last week I held a webinar for Croatian teachers on how Safer Internet Day is celebrated around the world and I found some fabulous resources. So here are some that you might use in your classroom on Tuesday, or, as a matter of fact, on any other day of the year.

These two pages helped me find my way around the www resources:
Insafe, which is a network of national Awareness Centres in 27 countries in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Russia and Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day. Larry is an outstanding English teacher and blogger from California.

There you will find excellent links, brochures, lesson plans, worksheets etc. which you can use with your students.

What I'm going to do on Tuesday will be the video clip "Wo ist Klaus" that I found on the activity-heavy German website KlickSafe about how parents protect their children in real and virtual life. The clip is in German, but on the KlickSafe website there is also the English version, as well as versions in many other languages.

Another powerful video by Klicksafe "Wo lebst du?" is about the addiction to the Internet. (Unfortunately, I found myself in it..... and I really must give some serious thought to my Internet addiction)

Think B4U Click is an Irish website where I found the most interesting lesson ideas about the matters of privacy, online rights, mobile phones etc. I highly recommend this site.

The Australian website Cybersmart is a fantastic resource with educational games, quizzes and activities for kids and teens. It provides excellent materials addressing different safety issues that teachers can download and use in the class.
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