Monday, February 9, 2009

Using Technology - My Experiences (Writing)

Dear "Doubly Smashing Good Time"

It's been a while since I wrote to you and so many things have happened - me completing my first assignment for my last masters module, me seeing my grandma, me visiting my auntie on the other side of the island, me cycling with the kids and playing with them at the playground. It has been a tiring weekend but oh, so fulfilling! Oh, but that's beside the point - I'm digressing.

Today I want to share with you what I did when I was in NAS - those were good times and I got to know some very good friends and we still keep in touch even though we have all gone our separate ways and experienced parenthood (or would-be parenthood :) Oh, I'm digressing AGAIN ;p

Anyway, my focus today will be on teaching writing. I am sharing with you my experiences because I hope through this exercise, I would be clearer of what I have done then and would seek to do better in SST. Writing was usually "taught" in an integrated fashion - this means we would usually deconstruct the structure, teach the required language features, give students the questions or topics to attempt and then provide them with curriculum time to complete the tasks. Essentially the organisation of the lesson remained like this and it culminated into an error analysis lesson where we went through students' common errors. Did it bring about the required results? Yes, to a large extent, as students would get their distinctions eventually but did we enjoy the learning process?

I recall trying to inject some excitement in learning writing and one such way was my creation of a WebQuest for a classroom observation by my Head of Department (HOD). You could say I was quite daring then, conducting a computer lesson using a WebQuest and doing something I have not done before for an actual observation. But it went well and students enjoyed themselves. Even I enjoyed the lesson and the follow-up activities that arose out of that lesson!

That's when I realised that students are really into technology and other than the fact that computer lessons take place in an air-conditioned laboratory, the fact they are surfing the Internet and typing away on the keyboard, somehow rings very well with them. Does it bring about noise? You bet it does but I suppose that's why we have to set clear guidelines and adhere strictly to them.

It's perhaps this realisation that brought me to set up my website then. But as I review it now, I realise I was just preparing students for the examinations - tips on writing well and models! Did I essentially teach students writing or did I provide them with the time to practise? One would argue that teaching can arise out of the work students provide but producing texts without an authentic purpose renders this entire writing experience merely into an assessment task!

Students are now into digital writing and it is something we have to explore. Digital literacy (or critical digital literacy) is now all the more important in this day and age.

I must therefore innovate students' writing experiences in SST and make use of the technology tools they are familiar with!

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