Sunday, November 19, 2017

Digital natives? Not really

First of all, I am little bit disagree with the concept of digital natives proposed by Marc Pensky, where teenagers are in general seen as digital natives as they are "native speakers" of the "digital language". In Pensky's opinion, "digital language" is just like a language that changes the way students behave and even how their brains work. However, I believe that such analogy gives too much credit to technology and Pensky fails to see the crucial difference between the language and digital language. The major difference here that distinguishes language and digital language is that language is symbolic, organized and systematic representation. This fundamental trait has a lot to do with the higher psychological function of learners, while technology lacks. This makes technology only an amazing tool to build on that vital function, but not the one that builds the function. Therefore, I believe that both teenagers and those who have late access to technology are both immigrants, the only difference is the extent of exposure, internalization, and application of technology, which means I am also a digital immigrant!

As a learner, I was not frustrated at the time being, like when I was in high school because I was unaware of what technology could do or what technology really is. But in retrospect, I am now frustrated for the reason that the hardware of the technology was provided and presented in the classroom, but there was no actual utilization of it. Materials were taught in the most traditional way but only with the help of the technology. Therefore, I believe that the digital mindset, the mindset to organically integrate technology into teaching and not to use technology for using technology's sake, is equally important as the physical presence of the technology.


As a digital immigrant, there is a certain fear of not knowing how to use technology. But as technology is being more elaborately designed and made, the soundness of the application or the helpfulness of the tool is not the only criterion to make a good technology a good technology. The level of ease to use the technology is also another significant trait that a good digital tool should have, especially if the application is designed for a huge user group. So when I run into trouble and don't know how to use a new technology, I would try to figure it out myself, by which I mean with the instruction booklet or just Google it. If I still have trouble, I might approach people I know and see if they have the same issue or not. If they have some complaints about it, I would know that there are some design flaws so that I won't blame myself for not knowing how to use it. I think luckily, for now, most of the digital tools that I come across are super user-friendly, and I think this is the reason why it is so popular. In this sense and with all due respect, I think it is easy to catch up with the "popular" new technology and it might be a little bit more difficult to learn the "less popular" ones.

To sum up, in the video "Do digital natives exist?", the author believes that the digital natives does not exist by arguing how inappropriate wo use the generation line to distinguish natives and immigrants. Since I have different definiton of digitl natives, I cannot really agree or disagree with his idea. But this video makes me rethink who the digital natives in my definition are. I came to my conclusion that programmers or code writiers are more native to digital language from a linguistic standpoint, becasue they use literally the digital language that essential changes how they perceive and analyze the external world.  So from my perspective, it may sound a little bit weird, but digital natives are the minority of the digital citizens who use the digital language to construct the digital world.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Podcast- Immersed in culture

The Podcast channel I visited this week is the ESLpod, and I have to be honest that it really surprised me and gave a great impression about how useful is the Podcast function and more importantly, how it could be beneficial in ESL classroom settings. Before I experienced Podcast, I saw it as something similar to Youtube video and students could even learn more in those prerecorded videos on Youtube channel. 

But as I dived more into the ESLpod channel, I began to realize that podcast has something special and this very trait I believe make it one the best candidates in the TechEd universe. The very difference I would like to talk about is the periodicity of Podcast compared to the prerecorded videos. In simple words, the podcast is an ongoing and dynamic platform where students learn as the podcast goes on. Therefore, students are actively engaging in the learning process in order to catch up because Podcast is constantly being updated.  This continuity of learning helps students foster a lifelong learning process, making learning as a part of life as the show goes on.

One learning objective I think Podcast can achieve is that " Performance indicator- ESL.I.5.1.1" Students demonstrate an understanding of  language and cultural patterns and norms in American English, including different regional and social varieties of English." Specifically, the lesson I join is the Cultural English 460, where the lecturer demonstrates the movie Grease and Workers' Compensation Laws. In this episode, the speaker shares the plot of the movie and introduces the difference of the laws amongst different states in an extremely personal and engaging manner. With some of the challenging and important vocabularies
repeated and spelled out slowly, ESL learners have the opportunity to acquire new words as they are receiving this culture-immersed information. In all, the impression that the lesson gives me is that I am having an actual conversation with an American and I am looking forward to next one because I don't realize I am actually learning in this process! Therefore, Podcast is really a nice change of pace of the traditional classroom learning and gives us a chance to relax in this cultural learning hot spring.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Ted-Ed--Achieving the learning objective

Ted-Ed is such a phenomenal tool to organize and summarize the vital point in the videos, turning videos with scattered information into the teachable material, which eventually can fulfill our learning objective designed within a specific lesson. My TED-ED lesson has a straightforward topic and objective. It is designed to help intermediate English learners distinguish the difference between formal and informal writing and when to use them. The lesson is essentially tailored to meet the performance indicator-ESL.I.5-8.4.1.9- Students use appropriate vocabulary, expression, language, routines and interaction styles for various audiences and formal and informal social or school situations, noticing how intention is realized through language. 

This lesson is aimed to foster the social interaction skills of the students and the communicative competence that allow students to interact in a culturally appropriate manner. In other words, it accentuates more than the linguistic level of a new language to English learners but also a sociocultural way to understand a language. Therefore, with intermediate English proficiency, learners are guided by this Ted-Ed lesson to explore the different characteristic of formal and informal writing and what they need to take into consideration before applying one of them. Additionally, relating articles are provided to make sure students can gain a comprehensive perspective of different writing style. Critical thinking is also encouraged and learners are presented with elicited discussion question where they can even think beyond the mere surface of the format of language.

Besides from introducing and explaining the concept, the Ted-Ed itself is a decent assessment tool as well. The open-ended questions within the lesson can be utilized to evaluate learners' internal thinking. However, these questions are not able to assess the application of using formal and informal writing. For this reason, I will take these questions as a way of informal assessing. To evaluate more formally, written assignment including short role-play scenarios could be of great help to test learners' application of different writing style. For example, the assignment might include writing a question like: Imagine you are sending an email to your colleague from Accounting department to require a cash flow statement, how would you write your email?  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Flipping your Classroom but with great caution

Flipped classroom is definitely a new concept for our teaching philosophy and a novel alternative to help bring English learners to higher proficiency level. What it advocates is to swap the position of delivering instruction in class and the position of learners doing their homework at home. The main rationale behind this theory could be concluded as: by doing so, teachers are more accessible to learners when they encounter difficulty doing homework in class. While the instructional learning can be placed at home in the form of instructional video provided by teachers.

Frankly, I see more risk than opportunity in applying Flipped classroom. The reason I believe this is that the concept of "Flipped classroom" is only feasible under certain circumstance or to a certain group of students. More importantly, I believe Flipped classroom doesn't go against traditional classroom, which I find astonishing that neither two articles manage to clarify this possible misconception.


For younger English learners, especially ESLs, formal instruction is crucial in building fundamental perception towards a new language. As much as Flipped classroom is trying to utilize videos as a mediator to play the instructional part, the video can't replace a teacher that physically presents and can flexibly adjust current teaching to current students. Furthermore, videos are unable to provide in-time feedback to confused students. It is possible for teachers to respond to the questions students have when learning from the video, but the very learning moment at the point of confusion occurs could be lost for good. 

Despite the fact that the concept of Flipped classroom can be detrimental to students' learning if not handled carefully, I still believe it would be valuable in the classroom if organically integrated into the traditional classroom. This reminded me of the classes I have taken in my middle school and high school in China. Though we are not exposed to this concept before, Chinese teachers seem to apply it, at least some of it unconsciously and unanimously. Every now and then, teachers will devote the whole class to review the homework and assign some extra exercise in class. Even though the point is not to free students from homework after class, teachers do tend to dispel any confusion students might have. I am amazed to find such similarity!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Twitter- Booster for your professional development

I have always had the thoughts about how Twitter can be beneficial for professional development, which I did mention in my last post a little bit, but two articles I read this week crystalized my thought a lot for me. Not only did they bolster my unshared assertions with real-life examples, but also provided detailed steps about how to utilize Twitter in teaching. I am glad that we can see Twitter as a multifunctional tool and how it boosts teaching and professional development in a novel way.

The main takeaway for me from this article " How Twitter can be used as a Powerful Educational tool" is that Twitter can be a great tool to connect learning to real life, which traditional classroom teaching has failed to achieve. One example of this article that really inspires is about relating math to real life question. Mrs. Caviness tweeted her cup from a baseball game and invited her students to come up with questions about it. Surprisingly, students were more than motivated to take on this task and came up with numerous amazing examples. Without question, with this tweeted cup students will have a blast solving question designed by their classmates.

The second article " Using Twitter for professional development" brings up that thanks to Twitter, we are just a password away from the experts. Compared to going to a conference, using Twitter to build personal networks and gather educational information is definitely more cost-effective. Instead of going to the conference and quoted "pay a conference fee to be inspired for an hour", using Twitter is definitely the convenient and relaxing way to gain educational insights. 

Twitter Chat- tweeting while chatting

This is my first time using Twitter, and I feel like my experience would be a totally different one from your guys'. I am fully aware that Twitter is a common social media for most people and most people use it to retain news and socialize with friends. Before this, the most relating news about Twitter is Trump posting a new tweet and making a typo again. For me on the contrary, I acquainted Twitter in the form of Twitter chat, in many cases, used as a professional communicating channel. Therefore,  I see it as a fantastic way for professional development.

Active users are the key point or the premise for a social media to be a tool for professional development. Compared with some of the personal network website we learned last class, Twitter has such an inherent advantage for developing professional groups. It is never appealing for anyone to open their browser and enter into a deserted community. Such universal sentiment implies one of the most important roles of social media is to connect people all around the world and integrate all different sort of information that affords us chances to enhance mutual understanding. Twitter succeeded in this.

The Twitter chat I participated in is #games4ed, this week's topic is what mysteries do in game and learning. I appreciated how organized the chat is so that even for a new user like me found absolutely no difficulty joining it. Questions are labeled and everyone can answer accordingly. Thanks to hashtag, we are exposed to more perspective without actually befriending or knowing each other. This is awesome but on the other hand, as different users start joining in, the whole page became a little bit chaotic inevitably. I really hope that they will add group chat that would make it better. If Twitter does not want to do that, moderator of the channel collecting all the relating tweets about the questions and having them filed into a certain category would be so much more convenient for anyone to reference later on. Of course, it takes time and efforts.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Filter Bubbles: Who is your gatekeeper? The algorithm or your friends?

The concept of filter bubbles is not something new to me in this internet dominant era. The first time I noticed our information being utilized into some sort of coding system is through the advertisement feed in different websites. It is not hard to observe that all the ads that shown to you are by no means random. You can easily tell they are the products of your browser history, the links you click on and the words you put in the searching bar. This phenomenon made me come to the realization that our personal information is actually public and it made me feel like the virtual me is almost like walking naked in the digital world. However, the Ted talk by Eli Pariser sheds light on a different perspective on how filter bubbles can alter our viewpoint by filtering and offering information tailored to our personality. In this speech, Eli accentuated the role of the algorithm in manipulating the final presentation of information we directly receive. He illustrated his point with the example of different people getting different results from Google even though both of them input the exact same thing in the bar. In this sense, the algorithm seems to act as the new gatekeeper of our information feed, which is perfectly fine and won't be problematic if the people who write these codes are fully aware of their civil responsibility and work actively to engage users into the process of information selection.  

The article " Facebook: If your feed is an echo chamber, you need more friends", on the other hand, suggests that the friend networks exert a more significant impact on the feed you get. Mariella Moon, the author, also links one of Eli's blog where he explained and illustrated this conclusion made by Facebook's data science team. It is statistically proven that the effect of friend networks outweigh the effect of the algorithm, but it does not mean the bubbles don't exist anymore. Eli continued to argue how the algorithm is still relevant regardless the result of the science team, while I started to contemplate on the concept of filter bubbles. I think this concept should not only be restricted to the bubbles created by the algorithm, but also by friends! In other words, I believe that your friend networks are more like a social code compared to the algorithm as a digital code. We form these networks according to personal preference in real life and bring it to the digital world, where the bond of friend networks are intensified and solidified. Essentially, the feed from friends, though being diversified and containing different perspectives, is still narrow and limited just like the feed that algorithm provides. 

Therefore, the algorithm or your friends, no matter who is your gatekeeper, won't free you from the filter bubbles unless you are the decision maker for what you are going to see.