"Teaching English: emotion in motion"
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Córdoba
April 25-27 2003
Community of Practice for
Language Teachers Professional Development in CMC
I would like to welcome you all, those physically present in this
lovely Cordoba, and those who are following the presentation online from
different places in the world.
It is a great pleasure to be here in Cordoba for the first time.
Cordoba has been in travel plans for many years, but it is now when I
can make my wish come true, and it has been possible due to my meeting
Maria Jordano in the Community of Practice which will be the topic of my
presentation. I have to thank Maria for introducing me to CETA, bringing
me to Cordoba, and for being my helping hand today.
The theme of this event is “Teaching English, emotion in
motion”, a very expressive phrase that sums up most of the content
I will be focusing on today. Emotion is a feeling, and all feelings
denote emotional engagement; and motion means movement, action, and that
is what teachers need, a deep engagement expressed in actions
to keep themselves updated and offer the best kind of learning
opportunities to their students.
around the world are, little by little, incorporating online components to their face to
face classes to offer students
the opportunity to communicate with
speakers of the language, at the same time that they are getting
them prepared in the use of web tools, which is an added value for their
future, our future. To take this challenge, teachers need to be computer
literate, or e-literate, and learn to take the best from the web tools
available and apply this knowledge to their educational settings.
This may seem like an
impossible or log term task to achieve. Most teachers do not have time
to go back to a university to study, or the courses offered in the field
are too expensive, or simply, we feel we got late to the Computer
Mediated Communication era. These
were also my thoughts in January 2002. You can see what were my feelings
and concerns before
When I was asking myself all these questions, and with so
many others flying around my head, I read a post to the ESP list
about the EVOnline 2002 sessions, and after pondering which of the
sessions I should take. I do not know why I decided on Webheads
in Action. Maybe the word "action" set the trigger.
Or perhaps the description of the session, which promised to engage
participants in "forming and maintaining robust online communities",
and exploring synchronous and asynchronous tools, so this was my lucky
Today, I will try my best to explain Who are Webheads, where we
are located, why joining Webheads is a great alternative for language
teachers professional development, what we do to be “in action”; and
finally, we will have the opportunity to virtually meet some Webheads
who will be online, from different places in the world, to chat with us,
and answer our questions.
born as a group of language
teachers and students who started to get together online 5 years ago,
the former to help students with their language learning, and the latter
to practice their L2 language, coordinated by Vance
Stevens. With time, Webheads has diversified in two groups, one with
language learners and teachers Writing
for Webheads (W4W), and more recently, since January 2002, Webheads
in Action, which started as one of the TESOL Electronic Village Online (EVOnline)
sessions. I will be talking about Webheads in Action (WiA).
Webheads in Action,
as stated in the description of the session that brought us together, in
Group, comprises a group of language teachers who
“help each other learn about forming and maintaining robust
online communities through hands-on practice with synchronous and
non-synchronous text and multimedia CMC (computer mediated
As a result of the 8 intensive and gratifying weeks
devoted to this session, the learning we felt we had acquired, and how
it had influenced in our teaching, we decided to continue working and
learning together, and now, one and a half year after we met for the
first time, we consider ourselves a Community of Practice (CoP). An
ubiquitous place in cyberspace where we learn from and share with
colleagues, reflect in the practice and on the practice, and all this
under a friendly atmosphere, where friendship bonds have also developed.
Webheads in Action is a real multicultural community, people from different countries, different languages, different religions, but what is important here is our desire to learn, and to share our knowledge for the benefit of our community and their own zones of influences, which could be our colleagues, or our students, in search of a better educated world.
For this presentation, and wanting to show you how we are spread worldwide, I created
an interactive map and asked webheads to get themselves on the it. Our Webheads from China
have not been able to open the page, because some servers are forbidden there. Which shows us
that we need to take advantage of our freedom, and use it to help those who still live under oppression.
We really look forward to having more members from Africa. Regarding the map, Arif, a Webheads
from Turkey said, at our last Sunday meeting at Tapped In:
"I think Daf's map w'll be very valuable for us to see how the community develops
and scatters around the world"
When I first started reading about the use of technology in the classroom, I found the following
comment in a booklet published by TESOL, it was made by Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, citing Claire Brading,
(both Webheads) which has remained in my mind since.
“Computers will not replace teachers,
but teachers who use computers will –inevitably-
replace teachers who do not”. Claire Bradin
(Cited by Elizabeth Hanson-Smith (Technology in the Classroom, 1997).
And recently, Arnold, another Webhead from Holland, while discussing about how being
in WiA has influenced the teaching practices of most of us, said the following:
“Teacher development is an exciting thing nowadays
with unprecedented possibilities” Arnold Mühren
I personally share Claire’s opinion, and I have found that what Arnold said is also true, there
is a world without borders awaiting for us, with the possibilities expanding day by day, we need to get
started. I should point out here, that I have also found the first quote as being said by Ray Clifford
of the Defense Language Institute.
By now, you may be wondering what is it so special in Webheads, that we have so many members,
and that we feel the need to share it with other language teachers. Regarding my own experience, the first
aspect that kept me motivated and working was the way the e-moderator handled the group. This is what
I said during our 2002 WiA EVOnline session:
think Natalie brought up 2 crucial issues in creating communities: topic
relevance and the role of the coordinator…(…)… I can talk about my
own experience. I am completely new to this field, but I am highly
motivated to learn because of personal and professional reasons, so I
get involved and try to absorb as much as I can. But at the same time,
what has kept my initial motivation has been the responsiveness of the
coordinator (in this case, Vance). Vance has taken care of all of us, he
has been there to answer individual and group questions, he has taken
the time to organize all the contributions made by the members in a
structured syllabus, he has shown us the way to get in touch with other
members, and, at the same time, we have not felt that he is the
"owner" of the group. He has shown us the road and we have
followed his lead”.
Teresa, another Webhead from Portugal, added the value of collaborative work:
that you have a community of colleagues to exchange ideas with is also
great. Or just reading some of their postings and finding out they are
going through the same problems you are can be comforting. You don't
most fundamental assets I have found in WIA are:
Interaction with experts and non-experts
from all over the world. This is one of the most amazing aspects of WiA,
the possibility to interact with colleagues from all over the world. The
exposure to different cultures, to different educational systems, but,
as I said before, a goal in common, learning and sharing.
· Learning from and with others. The fact of having together different levels of expertise, makes the teaching-learning process a horizontal and rotating experience. The mentor at one time becomes the student at another.
· Practice with tools, with social scaffolding :Zone of Proximal Development. The way we learn in WiA is with the help of others, daring to explore what we would or could probably not do on our own.
· Construction of knowledge with reflection in and on action. Reflection is undoubtedly, a core step in the learning process. We reflect in the action while exploring new tools, making use of our previous knowledge or of our colleague’s knowledge. Then, we reflect on the action, when we analyze and evaluate these tools regarding our context, our practices. We usually report the product of both kinds of reflections to contribute with the community knowledge.
· Collaborative and friendly atmosphere. The affective factor is what makes our bonds stronger. Our Sunday meetings at Tapped In are the right space to share not only academic matters, we share personal concerns, learn about each others’ families, hobbies, and interests. Many of our joint projects having born during these friendly meetings.
How are these factors expressed in the praxis? Reporting what Webheads have done since January 2002 would be a non-ending task. The number of messages in the Yahoo Group list is 3.823 at the moment I am writing this document, and I am almost sure that Vance has done some house cleaning at some point in the way. Web pages, blogs, Power Point Presentations, chatlogs, and many other documents abound in our files. Some attempts have been done to keep track of them all, with relative success, we might in the near future have a data base to incorporate all this knowledge reported in these documents.
Today, I will show only some examples of how we learn with some of the tools we use: chats, web pages, discussion boards, Yahoo Group distribution list. Different activities ask for different tools since each one has its advantages for some and its disadvantages for others, and this we learn while trying and exploring them. Many active members have reported their reflections about their learning in WiA.
Webheads meet synchronously and asynchronously, depending on the purpose of the meeting. Our live regular meetings are at Tapped In, every Sunday at noon GMT, while chatting there we usually engage in multitasking, which might involve “webcaming” and/or voice chat through Yahoo Messenger, and lately in Wimba Voice Direct, in a beta version. There are individual or group contacts through different instant message services for academic as well as for socializing purposes. However, the contact with all the members is done through our Yahoo Group distribution list.
My first intention was to have voice and webcams incorporated to this
event, as we do in most of our hybrid presentations, but I was informed
that it was not possible, and we will only be text chatting from Tapped
In, where some of our Webheads are following this presentation.
As we see who are present today, I will show you their pictures,
if available at our photo
They will be
delighted to answer your questions, and to give any information that I
have not covered here today.
I will let you all make your own conclusions about this talk. It has
been a real pleasure sharing with you all, and finally, I would like to
invite you to join the get in motion with us, in Webheads in Action. If
you have comments about this talk, you can post them to my Discussion
Board, and we will answer them.
Thanks all for making me feel welcome and many thanks to Maria for all
the help she has provided, another
proof of Webheads collaborative spirit!
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Dafne Gonzalez, April 21, 2003.