Baby Steps to bridge a technology gap?

This post is written in response to a conversation on Twitter #ft_eie

Baby steps to shorten the gap…well it’s a wee step in the right direction.

I live in Mexico.
Imagine a whole set of different circumstances, such as
-limited availability of computers and Internet (except among a very few elite) in the home,
-most teachers resistant to technology,
-a low level use of Internet tools and applications,
-a fear of the unknown with avoidance behaviors,
-and a long history of passive learning methodology.

Ouch! you say. As an outsider living in Mexico (an American ex-pat married to a Mexican), I saw technology and the information gap widen and widen. So over the past year I started to do something to close the gap by baby steps.

I -set up blogging in teacher training classes and writing workshops (http:// & in a university setting (among 60 English teachers only 5 use blogs or even technology).
-create interlinked e-portfolios among teacher-trainees (a beginning local PLN) and
-created reflective, interactive classrooms to stimulate a more active learning situation among student-teachers and teachers accustomed to passive learning environments.

The result: resistance to change, avoidance behaviors, reprimands by the administration…I was only trying to create an active learning environment! Eventually, each semester, the trainees settle down and face their computer screens..and take a baby step.

This wee bitty baby step of blogging where I live in Mexico needs to continue and become established before stepping it up.

I had hoped that after promoting blogging platforms in teacher training classrooms that teachers would continue blogging and accessing their ready-made local PLN. However, the reality is that after course completion, most new bloggers stop blogging completely.

Although teachers see the worth of blogging while in class, they revert to the passive learning framework so well entrenched in the Mexican educational system. However, they have learned the value of technology, another little bitty baby step,and they have learned to turn on the computer. Most adults do not understand their students’ penchant for fbing. Few graduates of my course have used the free web tools we explored together during their courses, but so far they have been battling with thinking about breaking out of the passive mold. They havent’ done it yet, but their students need them to…

I believe that most bloggers worldwide come from cultures which have a firm continuous history of written tradition. In Mexico, the written tradition was wiped out more than 500 years ago with the Spanish conquest. Look at any busy site’s cluster map and you will see little participation from countries in which an oral tradition instead of a written tradition prevailed, providing corroborating evidence of imbalance.

The few of us in traditionally taught communities who do step it up are looked upon as gurus, although I know I ain’t no guru!

Some of us must advance by baby steps in order to foment wider participation among our colleagues before we are ready to step it up. There’s a lot to learn, and the gap keeps growing.

Ellen in Mexico

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Meet Up! Conversation Clubs

What a great way to maintain your English level all summer while you cool out from a heavy semester. Twice a week, fun, fascinating topics, different conversation coaches to work with, and it’s affordable!

Meet Up is a series of conversation clubs designed to help you maintain and improve your English level while you learn strategies which will help you speak in every situation.

Meet Ups are available in Centro Eva, and have started for the summer. Our first Meet Up meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 – 7:30. Join us, spend some time with your English, and keep active.

Centro Eva is located on Calzada Juarez one block south of the Oxxo, right across from the water buffaloes in the zoo. If you would like more information about our prices and times, just leave a message in a comment to this post. We will get back to you.

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Who is the learner anyway?

Among the uses of a blog is to reflect upon the process of teaching and learning. As we hear the catch words of the day: teacher centered classes, students centered classes, shifting the learning, taking control, and any other catch phrase that has found its way into our teaching vernacular, we might question what is really happening here. Kathy Fagan shares a reflection that we as teachers might all need to think about in our world of changing paradigms. in her blog Free Range ELT.

Read and keep thinking…and learning.

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10 Things you can do this summer to be a better teacher

1. Visit the art galleries in your city. You’ve been meaning to do that anyway….

2. Read a book in English. This is a great way to keep your English level up.

3. Become a connected educator. You can finally polish the things you have been meaning to on your own blog. Publish some new posts.

4. Take some time off to look at the clouds, walk through nature, people-watch, laugh with the clowns, and enjoy life.

5. Smile. This semester has been a long haul, so smile, you are almost finished.

6. Clean out your schoolbag. You know you have been putting THAT off for a long while.

7. Take a course.

8. Share your wonderful experience.

9. Tell someone the news in number 10.

10. “TKT Course with Active Learning Strategies” is being offered this summer through CEDEPROM. This course is for SEP teachers who need points “escalafonarios,” for teachers interested in improving their teaching, keeping up to date with the latest methodologies, and for improving their English level. More specific information is below.TKT.posterIf you have any questions, just call 443 102 4808.

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Looking for a job teaching children?

Hello TKTers and ex-candidates,

If you are looking for a job as an English teacher with children, here are two possibilities:

1. As a kindergarten teacher, contact for more information.

2. A first grade teacher is needed in a bilingual primary school.

Contact Miss Alice at 315 8033.

Good luck in everything you do.

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Would you like to be in your classroom?

As we begin the home stretch in our last module on classroom management, think about what your classroom looks like, or think of how you felt as a student in your last EFL class. What do you most remember and why? Are your most memorable moments positive, or negative? As teachers and soon-to-be teachers, you might ask yourself, “Would you want to be in your class?”

In her blog Edna Sackson posted 10 questions which every one who pretends to call themselves a good teacher, now or in the future, might ask themselves. Reflecting about these teaching practices made me stop…drop…and analyze!

Now that we are in Module 3, we will delve into classroom management. Have you ever heard a song sung by Billie Holiday called, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” What teachers say and do will affect student learning outcomes more than any other factor in our passive students who are accustomed to traditional classrooms.

Read this article as a synopsis of the book Tools for Teaching by Dr. Fred Jones, often coined the King of Classroom Management, on how educators can use body language, calmness and silence to reduce back talking and other attitude interruptions. Remember that discipline management has to happen before academics can be learned.

While you read, think about the word discipline. What is its true definition? Who has or exercises discipline? Why would there be breaches of discipline?
Assignment: On your blog talk about a time you saw a student back talking in the classroom. What did the teacher do? What did the students do? What could have happened? Write about your experience and how it could have been avoided on your blog. Read three other people’s stories and comment on their experiences.

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Student engagement…not such an easy thing.

As we are studying the third module in our TKT course, we have been seeking ways to help students become engaged in the classroom.  This article shares how it is much more than just appearing to be involved in school projects, showing up for class and participating. It is also how students feel and think about what they are learning that help to make a difference in how they learn.

I came across this article from the University of Pittsburgh that I’d like to share with you”

Student Engagement More Complex, Changeable Than Thought

Getting students involved also means getting to know how they think and feel…and helping them to access how they think and feel. Having students get in touch with their feelings and thoughts is the first step to helping them change their mental representations to help them become better learners as independent learners.

Enjoy the article!

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What my students really think of school

Since in my EFL classes we are studying a unit called “Education” I decided to ask my advanced students what words they associated with their lives as students. I gave them markers, cut papers and asked them to post words they associated with Student Life.
I was flabbergasted by the results. I asked them to classify the words they had posted into positive or negative categories. This is what they came up with:

Positive words:
party, intelligence, learning, party, having friends, conferences, really caring about learning (I love this student), vacation, fun.

Negative words:
responsibilities, books, junk food, projects, hunger, headaches, hard work, exams, more exams, studying, homework, tests, reading, writing, paying attention, studying, more homework, stress, questions, reading and not understanding, homework, no social life, sacrifice, tests, no sleeping.

putting the cards up

the cards on the wall
As I read their cards, my students noticed that I became more and more interested in their point of view. They quickly reassured me that they were referring to their life in general and that their class with me was the first time they had ever been able to express themselves with the truth.

My students have mostly been schooled in traditional settings in which the teachers own the knowledge and “transmit” this to the students in little controlled chunks.

Many traditional teachers (the majority) believe that our students in Mexico are accustomed to the traditional passive receptive learning model and that we should not change. What my students expressed voices just the opposite. I have been making baby steps towards change in classrooms in my area through this teacher training course, but we definitely need to spread the student’s point of view. We are no longer teaching them effectively. It is time to change.

student centered learning

Be active. Stand up. Create a real life context which begs answers.

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Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy

As one of my mentors, Shelley Wright has a lot to say and has done even more. Besides writing several books and organizing and promoting Connected Educators Month (August, 2013) and maintaining a Powerful Learning Practices site, she constantly is formulating ideas that make me think.

Since our foray into Bloom’s Taxonomy and your responses on your own blogs, I have felt that we had left Bloom with a lot more to investigate. During 2012, Shelley wrote a blog post that I would like to share with you here, so you can savor the flavor of new ways of thinking, of teaching and of learning.

Please note that Shelley’s post fomented 98 comments. Have a good read with less teacher, more student, Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy.

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HOTS and LOTS and learning to learn

Here in Mexico, traditional teaching methods are still commonly found in most classrooms from kindergarten to university level. Student-centered classes are few and far between, and teachers who guide on the side are often called out by their principals to make less noise.

With teacher-centered classrooms still prevalent, students are given few opportunities to develop critical thinking skills. Many teacher trainees in Mexico know that they would like to help change the status quo, but have not had the experience to know how to make changes.

By relying on the HOTS of Bloom’s Taxonomy, teachers help students go beyond simple repetition to using target language and vocabulary in complex tasks which promote the use of critical thinking. The addition of reflection activities also provides many meta-cognitive experiences for learners. Find out more about Bloom’s Taxonomy in these Scoop it pages:

His life
A description of the taxonomy
learning outcomes and assessments

Teacher trainees in the Universidad Michoacana were given the task to design learning outcomes for the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. A great example of their work can be found on Yesy’s Blog, and and on Malena’s blog . Please have a look to see what we are doing.

Another blogging educator from Melbourne, Australia just published an interesting post on her blog. I invite you to read Edna’s post at Please read and share what you feel about the development of critical thinking skills today in Mexico. We welcome your comments.

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