by Christina Chorianopoulou
Educators are constantly presented with the unique opportunity to build communities; vibrant hubs where knowledge is explored and minds and futures are shaped. A language educator has the additional advantage of building such hubs using an extremely powerful tool: language itself. The question is, what tools can we use to really build a learning community?
As a freelance teacher, one of my favourite activities for building communities, is collaborative reading and writing projects. Even though everything begins, and might return to, a mere paper and pencil, technology makes the spectacular actually possible. From creating an e-book, to online journaling and social reading, learners discover language and how to use it in order to be effective communicators, while practicing and perfecting their digital skills.
Among the numerous web tools available, here are a few that help collaboration and community shine. Particularly when it comes to reading and writing, collaborative projects can spark creativity and bring forward individual talents while fostering the culture of learning together as a whole.
Invite them into a world where everything is possible. From a writing prompt, to the first idea, to that idea taken on a journey where more ideas are added and a new story unfolds along the way. Getting learners to extend upon and visualize a story as it is being written sets the foundations of understanding how language works and why context is a key element.
SimpleBooklet works fantastically well for projects like this, as it is very simple to use, allows various media types on each page and can be either embedded or linked to for future reference and use.
Encourage teen students to keep a learning journal and make each individual journal part of the learning environment. It not only helps learners take control and responsibility for their learning, it also gradually gives them confidence in expressing themselves in the second language and provides the educator with a comprehensive qualitative assessment tool. My teen learners prefer FlipSnack for their adventures in writing, for its simplicity and easy-to-use peer assessment tools. The projects that involve the use of their journals and their contributions to an extended project journal lead them to practice their critical thinking skills and to produce language that expresses their thoughts and needs. Here is a sample of the “Book and Beyond” project with fifteen-year-old learners: http://mymathima.flipsnackedu.com/browse/fumyze03
Give them time and choice and make it social. Interactivity and the ability to contribute at their own pace maintains their interest and the rewards from the exchange of thoughts and practices are innumerable. ReadUps, which is a web-based reading system where you can invite people to read with you and share your thoughts on what you read, has made social reading a favoured activity among my adult learners and has led to in-depth discussions about language structure and purpose, as well as practice of reading and writing strategies.
*E-Reading Shakespeare – ReadUps Community
Through projects like the ones suggested above, learners at all levels can understand their needs and talents, they learn how to implement the various strategies they have been taught and above all they discover how working together benefits both the individual and the group. What ultimately brings us all together is the common effort to understand and express ourselves; the commonality of exploration.
Christina Chorianopoulou is a freelance EFL teacher from Greece, working for over fifteen years with students of all ages in a variety of contexts. As a lifelong learner, her efforts are focused on creating a safe and productive environment for all her students, while passing on to them her own love for learning.
SimpleBooklet – https://simplebooklet.com/index-sb.php
FlipSnack – http://flipsnackedu.com/
ReadUps – http://www.readups.com/