Friday, December 28, 2012

ATDOP Spring 2012: Improve Your Listening and Speaking





Introduction:


Access Teacher Development Online Program (ATDOP) is another 10-week online course offered by the University of Oregon taken from April 9 - June, 15, 2012. The primary goal of this course was to enhance teachers' listening and speaking skills in English and their ability to teach listening and speaking to their students.


Objectives:

  • Enhance speaking skills of participants in small group sessions and with a weekly audio journal.
  • Enhance listening skills of participants in small group sessions and with self-study activities.
  • Enhance teaching skills of participants in listening, speaking, and pronunciation through readings and online discussion, self-study activities, and their participation in model lessons.
  • Enhance teaching networks by encouraging collaboration among participants on weekly discussions, in small group sessions, and with ongoing interaction through the course social networking site (Ning).

Expectations

  • Read the weekly reading and then post at least two times each week in the related discussion, once by Thursday midnight and again by midnight Sunday, Oregon time. 
  • Participate actively but respectfully in the small group discussions; arrive on time and be prepared to finish on time.
  • Post a reflection about your activities during the week in an audio journal.
  • Do self-study exercises (30 minutes) or activities each week, and note what you did in your self-study log. 
  • By the end of the course, you will have created a detailed final project, using new methods and activities that you have learned during the course. More information will be available as the course progresses.

Techniques Used:


During this course, three techniques were used to achieve its objectives:

1. Group Discussion: A Google Group was created to complete this activity. It was a closed one involving 20 educators from all over the world. Each week, some readings were assigned to read and then share our thoughts and reactions to them in the course discussion group. Here are some of the topics we discussed together:
2. Skype Meetings: Two Skype meetings were assigned for each participant. In the first teacher-led meeting, a group of four participants met together on Skype with their instructor (Prof. Donna Shaw). This meeting lasted about 30 minutes practicing listening and speaking activities face-to-face. Here are some examples:
Each week, we also participated in a conversion group. Our conversation group leader was Wanda Walker. That meeting was also synchronous (face-to-face) and done on Skype. During these meetings, we discussed a lot of open topics and provided with a variety of resources, e.g., written, audio and video. Here are some examples of the topics we discussed:
  • Self introductions (name, school, town, country, family, favorite thing to do for fun. etc.)
  • Language/culture and/or a travel adventure
  • Social media in your life and your students’ lives
  • Listening to a story from This I Believe series and discussing the idea behind it.
  • Listening to a recording and talking about the importance of Role Models
  • Talking about Food
3. Audio Journal: It was a series of recordings that we made about what we did and learned during each week. We recorded ourselves speaking for two to five minutes. These recordings were about our reflections and thoughts concerning the teacher-led or conversation group synchronous (real-time) meetings. We talked about the techniques or activities we did in the two sessions. How could they be applied to our classroom or with our students? What problems might we have? We also reflected on the week’s activities, tasks, and materials. There were several ways to record our audio journal:
  • Using Vocaroo by downloading the recording as an Ogg (or mp3) file: Using Vocaroo for your Audio Journal.
  • Using a mobile phone (if it has that capability), then downloading the file in amr or wma format.
  • Using Sound Recorder on a Windows computer (in Accessories, usually). This creates a wav format file, which is quite large: Directions.
  • Downloading Audacity, recording the audio file and then exporting it to mp3 file.These directions were helpful to install and use this program. 
4. Self-Study Log: The last technique was to keep a self-study log in which we explored two tools or websites each week for at least 30 minutes. Interacting with them, we were asked to think about how to enhance our listening and speaking skills and how to use them to improve our students' skills. Once we finished the exploration process, we sent this log to our Dropbox shared folder that was used as a store for our work. Here are some examples of the tools and websites our instructor provided us:
In the following posts, I will share with you some of my self-study log activities. 


This course was so fruitful from many perspectives. First, I connected to a variety of educators form all over the world with different accents. This helped my ears to be more flexible and allowed my voice to be heard. Meeting native speakers and talking with them was also a great privilege as it was considered an authentic and rich input for me as an EFL teacher. Second, recording my voice and transcribing it was another great activity that helped me a lot to know what pronunciation problems I had and what I could do to eliminate them. Third, I explored and created a lot of products using the assigned websites and tools. I also looked at them from my students' angle thinking about the ways to involve these tools in my teaching. Fourth, the project we were asked to do integrating some of the activities we did during the course was another super chance for consolidation and reinforcement. The last thing that I liked the most was evaluating each other's projects, sending and receiving feedback to improve the final products before submission. Thanks so much Oregon University for making a difference in my professional teaching life.

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