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"Uncovering the Possibilities of Virtual Schooling for EFL"


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Talk given at the LTSig forum on Online Teaching and Learning at IATEFL 2019 Liverpool

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"Uncovering the Possibilities of Virtual Schooling for EFL"

  1. 1. Uncovering the Possibilities of Virtual Schooling for EFL Susana Galante MA in Educational Technologies Digital Pedagogy Lecturer & Advisor Online Learning & Teaching Forum, LTSig IATEFL Liverpool, 2019
  2. 2. Change is the only constant. “To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and learn to feel at home with the unknown. You cannot learn resilience by reading a book or listening to a lecture.”
  3. 3. 1. Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - Design EFL Course at VHS from CET (Centre of Educational Technologies, Israel)
  4. 4. Distance Formal Education Cavanaugh & Clark (2007); Moore & Kearsley (2005) Industrialized countries a solution to educational problems 1. crowded schools 2. a shortage of remedial/accelerated courses 3. a lack of access to qualified teachers in local schools 4. accommodating Ss who need to learn a different pace/place Less industrialized countries a social & economic development strategy
  5. 5. The Virtual High School (VHS) from CET, Israel  a solution to periphery schools from all sectors - advanced Matriculation classes - access to master teachers  a flexible learning environment in formal studies - student choice
  6. 6. A routine week at CET’s VHS 2 synchronous online 90’ lessons in a virtual classroom 1 synchronous online practice session: 3-4 students w/ tutor interactive online learning material/activities
  7. 7. My class Diversity Teacher: at home in the North Students: 15-16 year old, female and...shy! 6 Democratic School home train/cafeteria in the centre of the country 4 an all girl religious boarding school computer room at school in the South 1 an all girl religious school her room in the South
  8. 8. Mission impossible? 1. How to promote active learning 2. How to foster collaboration 3. Teaching English as a language for communication *in a VLE which seemingly lacks flexibility and human touch!
  9. 9. Online learning challenges 1. No EFL models for inspiration 2. Not enough research 3. Lack of human touch/F2F contact 4. Getting weak/shy students to participate 5. Limited use of body language & eye contact
  10. 10. Action Plan continuous exploration, experimentation, reflection & fine-tuning Teaching Action Research Design (CSCL environment)
  11. 11. Design Platforms MOODLE: accompanying site ZOOM: video-conference Whatsapp group management accessibility to learning material: recorded sessions ppt’s/links/etc. mic, camera & Internet fast communication authentic learning in LC
  12. 12. Fostering Active Learning & Collaboration Screen sharing ZOOM FEATURES Annotate Chat box Participation checks Break- Out Rooms
  13. 13. A balanced and clear structure  Relevance  Collaboration  Autonomous learning  multimodality
  14. 14. Break-Out Rooms 1. collaborative research 2. synthesizing 3. sharing (orally) 4. reflection o student-led learning o peer-learning
  15. 15. Mind mapping in an LC Reading Comprehension 1. vocabulary & reading 2. collaboration in break-out rooms & Padlet: arguments for/against 3. class discussion
  16. 16. “What’s going on in the picture?” Writing tasks in ONE Google Doc 1. oral brainstorming/ vocabulary 2. writing & real time feedback Formative assessment & SRS New York Learning Network
  17. 17. “Our Pool of Words” Knowledge -Building
  18. 18. Authentic Learning on Whatsapp Real-life situations illustrating Grammar structures relevance social presence “I stepped straight into a paddle just after I had cleaned my boots.”
  19. 19. A Global Classroom Israel (VHS) Netherlands- (Rijnlands Lyceum) Norway (Kongsbakken, Tromsø) USA (Avonsworth, Pittsburgh)
  20. 20. Learning with the World 1. Intros in collaborative presentation writing, vocabulary, comparing & contrasting Google Slides 2. Video conference student-led Q&A’s- speaking 2. “World Read Aloud Day” recorded videos - peer feedback
  21. 21. Learning with the World 3. World Read Aloud Day – Flipgrid
  22. 22. Active Listening Oral Work  relevance  ownership of learning  peer learning
  23. 23. 2. Action Research Findings & Conclusions
  24. 24. Research Goals To understand/describe what happened to EFL HS students in a VLE designed to promote active learning and collaboration- measured as cultures of learning and teaching (Sagy et al., 2011) Focus on:  Students’ engagement in active learning and collaboration in the VLE  Students’ preferences in the VLE Active learning and collaboration Passive learning and individualism Internal Values External Values
  25. 25. Method & Data Sources  Qualitative research (Straus & Corbin, 1990)  Data Sources: surveys, video recordings of sessions, research journal, group summative reflective discussion, students’ letters to T at the end  Participants: 4 from DS (fully), 4 from RBS and 1 from RS (partly)  CLT Rubric (Sagy et al., 2011)
  26. 26. I  No close supervision from school coordinator  Absence of required equipment  Inadequate physical conditions  No support system through tutoring sessions II  Difficulty to recruit/retain new students - Easy to drop out! * Drop-out rate: 60 %  Threat to shut down program at once Observed Difficulties
  27. 27. Student readiness, retention issues and the high start-up costs are well-known major challenges for VHS’s in general, which makes the recruitment of suitable schools crucial. (Barbour and Reeves, 2009)
  28. 28. What helped learn best?  easy access to information/help  multiple modalities  relevance  personal class assignments  breakout rooms  oral work - questions  a relaxed learning atmosphere  a small group  high quality of teaching
  29. 29. Conclusions The VLE was found beneficial for:  Interaction - a larger exposure allows for active participation and growth  Focus- visual stimulation & reduction of distractions  Self-paced learning and promotion of SRS - accessibility to materials- flexibility (timing & possibility to iterate) Emerging outcomes: increased confidence, engagement, feeling supported and more connected to other students
  30. 30. Successful Students SRS, high motivation & LD “The virtual space itself helps me concentrate and learn better.” “It was hard and confusing, but I'm happy I didn't give up.” Students who had independent orientations towards learning, were intrinsically motivated, had strong time management, literacy, and technology skills. (Cavanaugh, 2007)
  31. 31. Conclusions Financing & sustainability need special attention with focus in: 1. Recruitment of suitable students 2. Recruitment of suitable schools- supervision for support & basic requirements 3. Support system in place at VHS- for absorption & retention 4. Social presence- more F2F meetings 5. Careful design of VLE- clear structure & multimodality 6. Small groups 7. High quality of teaching
  32. 32. “I was able to focus better, and it was an interesting experience. I remember the first lesson. We all sat in our school and we had brought candies. There were some technical problems and I was so stressed out. I was thinking: “How do I look?” “What if there will be noise around me?” “How the hell is this site supposed to work?” “Is this really my ID?” Now I have found the things that help me learn in the best way. I learnt a lot about myself and it was great to know that our lessons were helpful for my matriculation exam, but they were also helpful for life. You gave me the tools to express myself in another voice. In the middle of the year, Yam told me that I’m so me in our lessons. She was right. I think the four of us are acting like ourselves in the lessons; mainly because we feel comfortable and have fun.” (Norah) Students’ final thoughts:
  33. 33. “I joined the virtual program from pure curiosity. I wanted to observe and experience a different kind of learning than the one I am used to. Those lessons presented me with much more than “a different kind of learning”. The virtual lesson with you provided me with a safe and unique space where I can experiment freely and express myself within the lines of the English national program. I am generally a quiet shy person and does not usually participate in my normal classes. Somehow, you managed to keep the lessons interesting and encouraging and this allowed me to express myself, improve my English and break out of my shell.” (Sarit) Students’ final thoughts:
  34. 34. Thanks! Susana Galante Twitter: @SusanaGalante5