RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Using wikis and Google Documents for online collaboration

A week for the CALL course has ended again; and I should admit the course was much better this week. Last week, I had many problems about controlling the students because of the number of students and their different skills for using the technology. This week, I changed the procedure and, firstly, I introduced the tools of the week – PBworks and Google Documents. Then, I demonstrated how these tools can be used in language classes. After that they all worked on a Google document. This was also a bit confusing for the students as they all started to write at the same time; however, I managed to show what they can do using this tool.

I discovered PBworks (PBwiki in those times) almost six years ago when I was in a dormitory room at METU. In those times, I really admired to see how I can use this tool for educational and personal purposes. I presented this tool in many conferences and I used it in almost all classes I taught. Both my students and the audience at the conferences liked it, too. After six years, I found that the only change about PBworks is just the name; the other features are still very useful for language classes, especially for reading and writing classes.

In the second hour of the course, I also showed Google Documents which is another great tool for collaboration.  There are some differences between Google Documents and PBworks; however, both tools have some advantages according to your purpose. If you would like create a webpage and publish it on the internet with a great design, it would be better to use PBworks. In this page, the visitors can also make comments and wiki pages can also include some widgets, Google gadgets, guest book, etc. However, if you just want your students work in collaboration and do it without publishing their work online, Google Documents is much better. In addition to this, you should wait for your turn in PBworks, only one user could edit at the same time; but in Google Documents, many users can edit at the same time. However, this sometimes cause a chaos on the document. For example, 30 students started to edit at the same time and on the same document yesterday and some students deleted the others’ sentences and this was a bit chaotic.

Despite their disadvantages, both tools are great tools for online collaboration. Working on a sheet of paper with your friends, students or colleagues is great not only for educational purposes but also for personal purposes. The students can see their friends’ writings, they can edit and at the end they create a common project, which is motivating for the students. They can share their projects on the Internet and they can also edit them. In addition to this, when a teacher assign the students in groups, some students complete the project and the teacher usually doesn’t know to what extent each student contributed to the project. If teachers use wikis in their classes, they can follow their students’ tracks and can evaluate the students more objectively although the students work in a group.

In order to better understand the wikis, I suggest you to watch the following video. Actually, I tried to embed the video but it was not allowed by the owner of the video. Wikis in Plain English.

As for the tasks of the week;

1. You will have a reflection paper about the topic of the week (online collaboration, wikis, Google Documents, etc.)

2. Go to page https://my.pbworks.com/?p=create and get a PBworks account.

3. Then, visit the following page (http://elt430.pbworks.com) and click on “request access” on the right side of the page. Here, you will wait until your request is approved.

4. Once it is approved, visit http:/elt430.pbworks.com again and edit the page filling in the table with the required information.

5. Finally, do not forget to save the page.

That’s all!…

Just a reminder: There must be at least 4 blog posts at the end of this week.

1. What do you think about the CALL course, what are your expectations?

2. Reflection paper for the 2nd week (blogging).

3. Task for the 2nd week (adding a TED Talks video and commenting on the video).

4. Reflection paper for the 3rd week (Wikis and Google Documents).

See you next week!

Dr. Sedat Akayoğlu

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Chaos in my CALL Class and my proposal for this…

The second week of the Spring Term has nearly ended and I completed the CALL course for this week. At the beginning of the term, I was quite enthusiastic about the course. Furthermore, when I first heard that I would teach the CALL course this semester, I was away for the military service and it made me feel really happy. However, I was disappointed when I saw the physical conditions of the computer lab and the number of students taking this course.

First of all, the students had different computer skills, which is quite normal. Some of them could change IP and DNS in order to overcome the problem with the blocked webpages; but some of them could not get an e-mail address. Some of the students would keep blogs in previous years, some of them do not like and do not use even Facebook, twitter, etc. In fact, this is not a problematic situation on its own. However, when the number of students taken into consideration, this diversity about the student profiles made the course quite difficult for me.

In addition to this, the number of students for the CALL course is 120 and they are divided into two groups. 60 of them attend as the day group, and the other 60 students attend as the evening group. For example, when I asked the students to log in Google Reader in order to follow their friends’ blogs through an RSS Reader, some of them signed in using their Gmail accounts while some of them did not have even a Gmail account. While I was busy with the ones without a Gmail account, the others got lost; when I tried to help the ones with Gmail account, the others could not follow. This kind of problems occurred in the classroom.

In addition to this, the physical condition of the computer lab was really bad. There are only 25 computers and 4 or 5 of them did not have any Internet connection. The students have to bring their laptops; however, there are not enough plug sockets in order to charge their laptops. The Internet constantly disconnect throughout the course without any reason. I couldn’t find someone responsible for this situation.

These problems turned the class into a chaos and finally, one of mys students objected this situation. He stated that many of the students could not follow the course, the content was too loaded and I was having the class in a hurry. He was right in some parts, except the course content; and I started to think how I can modify this course. I tried to divide these classes into groups but the students did not have free time or computer lab was not always available for us.

Then, I found a way to improve the quality of the course. I remembered the talks I gave even with 500 people. All of the participants did not have the Internet connection or a computer in those talks; but they enjoyed and liked the talks. Some of them could take notes using their smartphones or pen&paper; some of them could use their own laptops and the Internet connection; and some of them just listened the talk. I decided to have my classes in this format. This is a two-hour class and I will give a talk at least one hour on the topic of the week and then I will leave the students alone and they will practice in the computer lab or at home. Throughout the week, I will also help the students via the Internet.

Actually, I believe that this course in this way will be much more helpful for the students. They will be able to follow the course more easily. I hope; and now, it’s time to modify the course schedule once more.

Dr. Sedat Akayoğlu

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Uncategorized