Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When can speaking English result in death?

Although this is generally not a place where I discuss politics, it is a place to think about the use of English in the world. On Sunday night's '60 Minutes' program, I had to consider that sometimes speaking English (in this case, working as a translator in Iraq for American soldiers) can be lethal. Not only have Iraqi translators risked their lives for Americans in combat situations (it's well-known that there are few American soldiers who have gotten training in Iraqi Arabic), but even after they've left their jobs with us, they and their families are targeted by the 'insurgents' and anti-American elements. These English speakers have nowhere to go. What a turning point in their lives! Imagine their initial excitement at getting a paying job from the U.S. government because they were bilingual in English and Arabic.

Here's the '60 Minutes' link for your own contemplation.

June 2007 - Some Brilliant CAE Students!

Above, co-teacher Amy with our class. To the left, having practiced making origami cranes for good luck on the CAE exam, students are receiving small farewell gift bags. The other photo shows us on this last day of school before the week of the 'real' CAE exam. Congratulations on passing, Tabea! and many thanks for sending me these pictures!

Now I can see you all (Tabea, Jeannine, Rahel, Melanie, Lilly, Diego, Michaela, Lukas and Roman) any day of the week and remember our good times together. Please visit my blog from time to time and try out some of the links. So, what's up?

Getting connected!

Ah hah! What a surprise to find that linking people to my blog got them to come to mine! (I'm curious - did the server tell you that you just got linked up to someone's blog, and then did it give you the place to go?) What a great feeling to know that this 'vacation' time invested on the internet has already paid off. Out of the virtual world that I've inserted myself into came some voices from fellow educators. Thank you very much, Larry and Claudia, for dropping by! And thank you to the several former students who have come by to say 'hello'! I'm encouraged that this can be a great tool for my fall classes.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Adding Links and the Power of Photos

Today I added several links to this blog for teachers and for students (several of these blogs were listed by OTAN, but I checked each one out myself). Of course, you can spend several additional hours following all the links to those links, some of which also looked very informative. I rarely buy an ESL book anymore because there are so many free lesson plans and online materials available. The options are endless.

I've got four weeks to go before I get back to full-time teaching at the International Center for American English in La Jolla, CA. I am so glad that I used some of this summer to learn more about this great technology. My next job is to contact former students (since I don't have classes right now to make assignments to) and see if I can get them to comment about what they're up to and how they're using their English now - if at all!

So far, I've only had a few comments - more like e-mail transactions in a public forum - from a few students who I saw recently. They all posted comments at 'Newspaper class 2007' which is simply a standard class photo with no commentary. Now that I've invested in a digital camera, I can see that a class photograph is also an important tool for opening up online communication with ESL students.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Building up an ESL blog community

To my delight, this month I received a hard copy of the summer edition of the OTAN (Outreach and Technical Assistance Network) Online Connection (www.otan.us), and guess what was inside the issue? A full two pages by Marian Thacher of "Blogging as an Instructional Tool." Because of that, I've spent another 20 hours looking at other people's blogs, accidentally going to Lorelle's blog (see my links for educators and bloggers) and subsequently watching a video of her July presentation in San Francisco which was all about blogging (it is an investment of an hour, but worth it to see this animated speaker in action - lots of ideas about how to keep your class awake after watching her!).

What have I learned about blogging as an educational tool? First, you've got to invest some time to start one and then more time keeping it alive. Second, it's better to write short posts rather than long ones. Get the idea out there. Third, if you want anyone to read your blog, you've got to do your part and visit other people's blogs, leaving your blog as a calling card. Finally, when teaching, give your students the opportunity to be read and heard either by building their own blogs or posting writings on yours. However, the shy Asian ones may not ever do it in English.

P.S. If you go to my other blog (Mbote from San Diego), you'll see that in July after the return from Alberta, I was continuing to work on developing my blogging skills. I've got the 'hammer,' and now I can show you how to overload a blog with photos. Next job, figure out how to link photos to my posts, so you don't have to look at all the pictures if you don't want to!