Webinar on Web 2.0 for Language & Cultural Exchange

When I was preparing a few slides for this presentation, I came across with this picture that inspired me a lot. Here you can see two boys playing football. One is from Senegal, and the other is from Lithuania. Their parents are sitting in benches watching them and are separated by their language. Many questions came up to my mind at that time, is this a metaphor of globalization or a sign of connections for new generations. This is physically connected, what about virtually connected? I also thought about the book “the world is flat” by Thomas Friedman and asked myself: Is the world really flat? That led to my decision of the topic for this talk. Cross Boundaries: Web 2.0 for Language and Cultural Exchange. The purpose of this talk wass to share with the participants my story about how physical barriers are not the matter. But people now are connected strongly with the help of technology and free tools in the paradigm of Web 2.0.

I  divided my talk into 3 stages. First, I  updated the participants on the trends and directions of ICT and ICT in ELT. Then I was going to provide two cases I had been involved with. Finally, I shared a few lessons from what I have been done in terms of “learning by doing”

Speaking of the World Wide Web, it just emerged in the 1990s with its first stage known as 1.0; We could say that this is a passive web because we, as viewers just read or watch what the providers published on their site. It is one-way communication. Users couldn’t reply or comment on the contents of the web. The concept of Web 2.0 is different. They use a common platform so that people can share information and connect to one another. Examples of Web 2.0 are the social network and interactive webpages where users can generate contents and publish themselves. Facebook, Wikis, Blogs are developed in this framework. The Semantic Web or Web 3.0 provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries. The main purpose of the Semantic Web is driving the evolution of the current Web by enabling users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Today, webpages created for people to read, but with web 3.0 machines can understand each other. In doing so, they can help us do tedious tasks, saving a lot of time and energy.

Another trend of ICT is that many applications are now being developed on mobile, a portable device that allows people to learn at anytime, anyplace and promotes personalization. Different from applications in hardware as in the past, cloud computing facilitates users to access information and data from a supercomputer with internet connection. It is inappropriate to install a software into a personal computer, people learn from the web-based program instead.

Apart from commercial programs offered on the internet, we are entering a new trend where  information  is OPEN ACCESS. With Creative Commons, people now have many opportunities to access to free resources online. Let’s look at some of them. Khan Academy provides a variety of courses in different disciplines, and there are subtitles in many languages for learners to understand the courses. TED offers great talks around the world with inspiring speakers on really important topics, their videos are of high quality, also with subtitles translated by collaborators over the world . Even the White House in Washington adopted Creative Commons to allow their contents and pictures to be reused. As you can see, most photos in my presentation are from flickr.com (through compfight.com) with some rights reserved. I do show attribution, so that I can use the photos for educational purposes.

With the development of technology and open access to information. Can we have a knowmad society 3.0 like Dr. John Moravec initiated. A knowmad is a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. This is word play! To be a knowmad, I think first people should be mad/crazy about LEARNING.

That’s why it is time to think about the way we teach and learn. Traditionally, we pay much attention to the quality of teaching to improve the quality of learning, but teaching is not enough, learning should take place itself.  Most of our teaching take splace in the formal mode of learning. What about non-formal and informal modes? These two modes occupy larger percentage of the whole learning process. Today, educators are talking much about personal learning network. How can we help our students to leverage from this network?

Here in Thai Nguyen, a rather mountainous area of Vietnam. We do not have many English speakers working or living here. But this is what a group of students at my school are doing. They set up a Community English Club, they meet every week to practice English, playing games, learning English songs, and sometimes, they take part in social events like organizing a contest, or visit the museum. The good thing is that they all use what we have on the internet to make plans, to share information and make decision. Here are a few things they are doing:

First, they created a forum to booster language exchange at http://www.cectn.net where they can use it as a common platform to keep in touch with others in the club. They also use Facebook to form a close group so that they can share and update information. Many students don’t know how to use word processing program, but they can post and share things on Facebook smoothly. One more thing is that they sign in facebook everyday, even many students admit that they are addicted to it.

WordPress is also a good destination for them to write blogs. When their writing are read and commented by others, they have more motivation to continue. I found this tool so amazing that I have used it for my class in Primary English Language Teaching.

Another case I shared is what GCE Vietnam is doing, and I am one of the coordinator. This is program sponsored by the Department of State and implemented by Thai Nguyen Learning Resources Center jointly with IREX. Participants are trained with some tools and then they take part in the online projects. This kind of program can be easily found on the internet like http://www.globalschoolnet.org/ or iearn.org where they have competitions in the project-based learning to connect student around the world.

There are a lot to share, but the most important thing is that we, educators need to change the way of teaching and learning. Students should do a lot of learning, they should be tired. What we can do is to change the mindset, and be their leader and trainer.

If you are interested in please watch the conference here:


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