Sunday, 22 February 2009

Too little too late?

A thousand apologies for being so tardy with this: I've been running around trying to get to grips with my new job, but I'm now in a position to start if it is not too late.

Below are a few points that have occurred to me. They relate to my context of teaching 'English as a Foreign Language' to international students on a Foundation programme.

First of all, because one of our aims is to improve the level of language knowledge and skills, with written assignments we usually show some of the main erros we find as well as comment on the content. This is not correction, but an indication of the types of error, so that the students have to think for themselves in order to correct their own work. This would be far too tedious to attempt in a spoken format, as it would be so difficult indicating which line of which paragraph the problem was in and so on. So we will continue to need to give a form of written annotation as well as audio. On the face of it, this might suggest duplication, although in reality adio feedback will be additional feedback such that we don't normally give - perhaps a sentence or two only is the norm. However, the potential benefits are great, so I'm keen to give it a go.

The second issue is that our students are doing a wide range of assignments, from group presentations, webquests, online listening to the more traditional grammar tests and written essays (the latter mostly not very long). Typically, they have two or three short assignments each week, as well as longer pieces for the end of semester. Feedback is therefore regular and quite varied. I did a trial run with MP3 files after a recent speaking test, and needed help to sort out the technical issues. Once I'd got the hang of it though, it was relatively straightforward. We'll see if I remember what to do next time. But with so many pieces of work coming in all the time, I'm concerned about the implications for time of doing additional recordings.

Finally, for now, there is the question of how much some of the students understand spoken rather than written feedback. I can imagine certain students thinking 'what did she say?' With no written word there is not the same option to check in the dictionary, especially when you have no idea how to spell a spoken word. This suggests the need for regular dialogue with the students as to how they are finding oral feedback, with further impications for time ... aaaaggghhh!

Anyway, as I said, I'm still keen to give it a go, so let me know if I'm too late or not.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Simon (York)

Finally managed to get back in to the Blog. The trouble is if you use three computers, three email addresses and forty seven and three quarters passwords you make mistakes. However, with the help of my pet whippet I now have an ENTIRELY MEMORABLE blog password!!!!!!!!
OK, Sounds Good!!!???
This has been - as Bob said it would be - an exciting journey (although frustrating at times). I will be putting a full report together...but talk about a learning curve!!! I found that wherever there was a choice to make I made the wrong choice, so everything took hugely longer than I anticipated. The worst thing has been getting the feedback to the students and getting an acknowledgement from them and getting the questionnaires back. This has been marked by a truly gargantuan level of difficulty.
A friend who runs an educational support organisation for creative writing told me last year his network (NAWE) had 1000 members and usually about 100 manage to attend the annual conference. 1 in 10 struck me as very good. Likewise with a survey, 1 in 10 response isn't too bad (though that means to get a response from 50 needs 500 surveys posting out which is a lot of work. Anyway, on Sounds Good I am indeed running at about 1 in 10. Actually I think this is low, and feel sure Bob will be disappointed. The worst thing though is I cannot be sure that the students have even got the Audio feedback at all because I am not receiving acknowledgements!!

So what went wrong? It seems to me that unless you set up the Assignment delivery electronically inside the VLE you are pretty well unable to post out the feedback through the VLE - and in any case once the module is to all intents and purposes over, the students never go near the VLE for that module again anyway!!!

Mark and I set about sending files through the VLE but it was HUGELY timeconsuming for Mark (and he's a VLE expert). So instead I sent the files out using my private email and the students' private emails if I had them, if not University email accounts. Here there's always the problem of file size and not knowing whether they have opened their email account - even once in recent times!!! Or ever!!!?? IN ADDITION - and Mark will be surprised by this - it took hours to do this and therefore probably didn't save (me) time over the 'attaching to the VLE approach'....
So... and that....has been ONLY SOME of the problems....
So do I have anything positive to say??? YES. Both my colleague Bev Geesin and I have been delighted with the Audio Feedback in terms of what it can bring to the process and the students who HAVE responded have all been very positive (except one who wanted written feedback AS WELL!) yes, I think Audio Feedback is the future. I would always want to use it (even though I think with all the technical problems resolved it WILL NOT SAVE TIME. It is though a much more sophisticated, detailed and personal feedback service. OK...full report at the end.

For the moment I am still stuck in a quandary. What should I do for those students who have not responded at all? I may have to go through the laborious process of attaching the files into the VLE...but even then, will they visit Blackboard weeks after they handed in their work???

OK...that's it. More detail will be provided later....Happy Blogging!
Simon signing off (and taking the whippet for a walk).