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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Public speaking through integrated technologies

This semester I´m teaching a public speaking class to pre-service English language educators in Mexico and have signed up again to participate in a series of language exchange sessions with Marquette University. When approaching which technology to use for this class - in hopes of enhancing the learning experience - I opted out of using Moodle at one end (i.e., a CMS that tends to be a more closed off learning environment) and wikis, blogs, etc. at the other (i.e., totally open learning environment). In an effort to provide a quasi-open learning environment for learners, I decided to integrate technologies that mainly include the following: LearnCentral, BlipTV, VoiceThread, Skype, and Engrade.

I'm using LearnCentral as our main hub; that is, a place where most of our asynchronous interaction takes place. Students join an open group where other LearnCentral members can join and participate as well. So it ends up being open to other educators and learners but limited to the members within LearnCentral. The objective is to expose learners to a variety of experts on the subject of public speaking that serves as a complement of what they are doing in class.

Also, we record video presentations and upload to BlipTV so students can see and hear themselves speak. This gives them a chance to reflect on their linguistic and paralinguistic skills as well as to reflect on the performances of their classmates. The assessment aspect of public speaking thus becomes a distributed effort among the teacher, peers, and self.

Each week, Skype and VoiceThread are used to conduct weekly exchanges and reflections which both serve as an additional tool to help with the development of public speaking skills: last semester reflections and this semester reflections. See here to view a language exchange project we implemented last year.

Finally, Engrade is used to post attendance, assignments, and grades. This allows students to know at all times how they are being assessed for the class.

So, the integration of these technologies is a mixture of closed and open learning environments and is integrated in a way that helps students move in and out of each one. Learning resources are added to the LearnCentral group in order to link and embed relevant and meaningful web content and voicethreads and videos are embedded within LearnCentral as well so in effect, LearnCentral becomes a space where input and output come together.

How are others integrating technologies currently in their classrooms?