Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Railway Workshops in Remedios de Escalada (an interactive image)

On 26th October 1901 the Remedios de Escalada railway workshops opened. A year later the railway station was inaugurated and simply called “Villa Talleres” (Workshop Village). Much later, in 1923, Villa Talleres was renamed as “Remedios de Escalada” to pay homage to General José de San Martin’s wife.
Talleres Ferroviarios de Remedios de Escalada

Why did I choose this photo? Why did I pick out this historical building located in this particular city?

I’ve been working at two state secondary schools in this city for about 16 years. Most of these students have always lived in this city. Some of them come from families that have always worked for the railway company.

Yet none of them seem to know a thing about the history of this railway city. They don’t know how the history of the Argentinian railway network and the development of this city are closely related to British history.

I believe that a better understanding of your own historical background will enable you to make more informed decisions in your own life.

Click on The Railway Workshops in Remedios de Escalada and you'll see the interactive image on thinglink.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bionic Woman Remixed: Fembot Flashback (a pop-up video)

Well, here it is; my first pop-up video. It took me quite a while to add all the events, but in the end, I was able to sort out all the technicalities.


Video credit:

This is ‘Bionic Woman: Fembot Flashback’ created by Bionic Blonde.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Five Card Story: My Precious Gift

a #etmooc story created by Max Alvarez

flickr photo by cogdogblog

flickr photo by JudyArzt1

flickr photo by cogdogblog

flickr photo by mrsdkrebs

flickr photo by ncaramanico
It was my 18th birthday and my dad gave me this watch as a present. His dad had given it to him when he turned 18. It was a very special watch. It had been handed down from one generation to the next one since dear great-great-grandfather arrived in Buenos Aires.

The watch was assembled in Spain, my great-great-grandfather’s homeland, and the outer parts were replaced over the years. However, the clockwork – the heart and soul of the watch – was made in Switzerland and it remained untouched. So this birthday present was meant to mark a rite of passage on my dad’s side of the family.

My 18th birthday was on a sunny winter Saturday and I wanted it to be a special day. Instead of having a typical birthday party, I felt like going camping with my cousins and closest friends. No parents, no relatives and no other adults in the whereabouts; just us.

Despite the weather forecast saying there would be heavy showers and strong winds, it turned out that the weather was fine. We went sightseeing and trekking. We had a picnic and took a lot of photos of ourselves striking funny poses. I wouldn’t say we had the time of our lives, but we enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Yet great fun is never meant to last. On our way back home, we had a car accident. It was really dark and it started to rain heavily. There were strong winds. My eldest cousin, Paul, was driving along, at low speed, trying to make out the road.

Suddenly, a lorry flashed its lights straight at us, and hopefully in time, Paul managed to veer off the road. But he lost control of the car. It’s funny but time seemed to go by so slowly at that moment. We ended up into a roadside ditch.

Luckily enough, the ditch wasn’t full of water. I don’t quite remember how we managed to get out of the car. We were soaking wet and freezing cold. It was pitch-dark and pouring down with rain. The only thing we were able to make out was the lights of a farmhouse far away.

We walked towards the light. It was Mr and Mrs Baume’s dairy farm. They were a kind elderly couple whose children had already married, so they lived in this big farmhouse alone. They were delighted to have some young visitors and put us up for that night. I was so tired that I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed. I didn’t even notice that my watch was missing.

The following morning, I woke up early. Everybody was still fast asleep. I wanted to know the time. That’s when I realised my watch had gone. I jumped out of bed and started to search the whole place up and down. It was useless. I couldn’t find it. I must have left it in the car and the car was deep down the ditch.

I felt tired and a bit miserable. That watch had ticked the time away on my dad’s side of the family for years and now it was gone for ever! I lost it. I knew I would be ticked off. Feeling guilty, sad and hungry, I went into the kitchen.

Sweets! Tons of sweets in different colours and shapes… gummy bears and my favourite ones, M&Ms. I headed for the jars on the counter, and as the sweets slowly melted in my mouth, I started to think how to go down the ditch and recover my precious gift.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bionic DISrespect

Who did that?

I never threaten my students.

If you feel like watching the video, here it is: Jamie and her students.

My reflection

The animated gifs show an instance of classroom disruption and how this is handled by the teacher. Since we’re looking into the story retrospectively, we should take into account the narrow context of this particular classroom within the broader context of the culture it belongs in.

The classroom event is situated in the specific context of culture of the US in the late ‘70s. So we should ask ourselves; at that time, what was happening in the world? What was happening in the US? What was the education policy in that country? What theories of knowledge and learning were considered valid? What teaching methods were teachers supposed to use?

The contextualisation of this particular classroom event helps us understand the power relationships and the cultural values that are negotiated in the event. In very broad terms, it might help us spot similarities and differences to other classrooms across cultures. It could also help us see whether there have been any changes over time.

Power relationships and cultural values are classroom features that are usually left unsaid and hence taken for granted. It’s assumed that students must behave themselves. However, in the video, the student’s disruptive behaviour and the way the teacher deals with it bring the power relationships and cultural values to the forefront.

These features can be analysed in terms of the teacher’s role, the students’ role, how the rapport between the teacher and the students should be established, and the classroom proxemics (the arrangement and use of classroom objects in relation to the patterns of social interaction). Why are students seated individually and in rows facing the board?

The teacher tells the students that she doesn’t believe in issuing threats to her students as she tears the telephone directory in half. Please, excuse my digression, but I can’t help wondering what a teacher needs a phone book in the classroom for… Anyway, her actions speak louder than her words and students get the message squarely. She seems to think that if respect doesn’t develop naturally, it must be enforced. Yet can values be enforced?

In this story, we also have a glimpse at the technology available in the classroom – quite the same as in one of the schools where I work. There are two big blackboards, chalk, books, and… on second thoughts and on a lighter note, should we consider this very special teacher a technological device (a cyborg)?

Up to what extent did the use of these technological devices, together with the arrangement and use of other classroom objects, mirror the power relationships and cultural values circulating outside the classroom at that time?

Let’s go back to the present. I ask myself to what extent has the classroom scene in the video changed around the world? To what extent does the use of today’s technological devices affect the patterns of interaction (T-S, T-Ss, S-S, S-Ss) and the learning process in the classroom? What power relationships and cultural values does the use of this technology reflect?

From the very moment we step into the classroom, either consciously or subconsciously we’re teaching cultural values. We’re teaching what we believe in and essentially who we are.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When Venus Meets Mars & Bizarre Love Geometry

This is going to be a very unusual post to read because of the content and style. So get ready.

I wrote two six word stories from scratch. I just had a quick look at some examples posted on Six Word Stories as I was talking on the phone with a friend who had been cheated on.

Now, this is what you get when you try to write something meaningful as you're talking on the phone. Multitasking doesn't suit me. Sorry, Mr. Hemingway. He must be tossing and turning in his grave wanting to kill me off. :-)

Well, here they are, my two 'silly' 6 word stories (scroll down, pls):

She opens magic Worlds - B5

Dark Force Angel

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfightcc

Venus meets Mars; Star Wars starts.
Love Triangle
Photo Credit: louiscrusoe via Compfight cc
 Two men, a woman… love geometry.

On second thoughts, they look like worn-out clichés and so deprived...
Really, I hope my Language & Culture tutors won't ever read this post.
Hope to get more inspired for the following post.

Feel free to speak up your mind and post a comment ;)

Friday, February 1, 2013

How I improve my digital literacy skills

Since my last post, I’ve been quite busy. I’ve been reading, trying out new things, synthesising and integrating what I learnt. I’ve also been reflecting upon my learning process. Little by little, everything’s falling into place.

I thought I knew… but actually I didn’t!

There are so many things you need to consider when you write a post that you just can’t learn them all in just one reading session. As for tweeting, the same thing holds true. That’s why I decided that I’d deal with each issue as they crop up. I’m sure they will.

Screenshot 1: The red arrow shows where to find the button that lets you download the post as PDF

So I downloaded Sue Waters’ blog entries about how to tweet and blog effectively in PDF (See Screenshot 1 above) on my desktop for later reference and summarised what I think are the most important tips in Screenshot 2 below. After all, blogging and microblogging effectively are two digital literacy skills that develop over time. I suppose, as long as I write posts and tweets regularly, I’ll keep improving.

Screenshot 2: tips for writing blog posts 
A big THANK YOU to Sue Waters and Alison Seaman for their useful tips, timely help and endless patience! By interacting with them and the other ETMOOCers, I’m ‘re-learning’ how to ask for help when I need it, you see. Asking for help to a more knowledgeable and able peer is an empowering learning strategy that adults often underestimate.

Maybe, this is so because you openly acknowledge the fact that you don’t know and you might feel exposed and vulnerable. Nobody likes feeling that way. In any case, when you ask for help your peers provide you with the scaffolding you need to move ahead in your ZPD. Or, along the lines of connectivism, your peers act as nodes and help you create connexions and by so doing you elaborate the network in which knowledge resides.

So, asking for help, a simple strategy that boosts your learning experience and makes you a better individual. It seems to me that, sometimes, we forget the most important things in life. Hopefully, we come across somebody who reminds us about these little things…

Scooping my delicious learning

Yet my real goal was to explore connectivism and the underlying points of view, ideas and theories in order to check whether they fit my academic interests: linguistics, TEFL and teacher cognition in language teaching, “what teachers think, know, and believe and the relationships of these mental constructs to what teachers do in the language teaching classroom (Borg, 2003: 81).”

Basically, teacher cognition has to do with developing our self-reflective skills in order to improve as professionals. I think connectivism may have an important role to play here. Let’s analyse this quote:

“Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical Simens (2004).” (My emphasis)

The implication for teachers here seems to be that we should develop these digital literacy skills ourselves if we then want to help our students do so as well. So, from my Delicious, I picked out “PKM as pre-curation”, a blog entry by Harold Jarche, and “Content Curation for Education and Learning”, a mindmap by Robin Good, which got there from Twitter account.

In “PKM as pre-curation”, Harold Jarche states that “Personal Knowledge Management or PKM is a framework for individuals to take control of their professional development while working in organizations or across networks”. Through PKM, an individual makes sense of the information available by putting it into context through a process of filtering, validation, synthesis, presentation and customisation. He adds that PKM can be turned into content curation when the whole process is carried out for an intended audience.

If you want to learn more about PKM, watch this introduction to the concept:

Then, in “Content Curation for Education and Learning”, Robin Good claims that content curation has to do with picking out resources in an attempt to make sense of a topic, having a specific target audience in mind. That is, content curation involves a degree of customisation of the resources for other people.

Both resources are related to the field of teacher cognition in TEFL. The sole process of content selection involves reflection and shows what the curator thinks is relevant for her/him or others. By having a quick look at what the curator stores, the underlying selection and classification processes can be analysed by having a look at the labels or tags used and how they were grouped in bundles.

So over the weekend, I put Jarche and Good’s ideas into practice. I decided to use Delicious for PKM and Scoop.It for content curation. Thinking of other teachers (who like me) know very little about the topic and need to get information, I created two Scoop.It’s about connectivism and connected learning: one with supporting arguments; the other with the ongoing debate.

I chose this tool because it’s quite easy to use, flexible and visually appealing. Moreover, it makes your learning evident. Basically, it’s like a front page or the cover of a glossy magazine. By having a quick look, you can get the gist of what the Scoop.It is about. If it suits your needs, you’ll keep reading. If not, you move on to something else.

Yet my approach to both PKM and content curation involves and an ongoing spiral process of filtering, validation, synthesis, presentation and customisation. For instance, though I had to analyse each resource in order to determine whether they were reliable (data supported by current research, etc), I didn’t provide a descriptive comment for each comment.

I’ll be doing so as I revisit each Scoop.It to make adjustments. That is, it is open-ended continuous process that, as long as others (my intended audience) get involved with it and provide their own comments, will result in a feedback loop.

However, something doesn’t seem to be working with the Scoop.It with the ongoing debate. Compared to the one with supporting arguments; it’s received very few visitors. I wonder whether up to what extent what Caleb Kelly calls “The TEDification of ideas” is happening here. Maybe, it’s not groupthink but a failure to spread the word about the Scoo.It. So I´ll re-tweet it and see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll keep on working with the theory.


Borg, S. (2003). “Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do”. Language Teaching, 36 (2). pp. 81-109. ISSN 1475-3049 PDF (317Kb). Retrieved 28th January 2013 from:

Siemens, G. (2004). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”. (update 5th April 2005). Retrieved 28th January 2013 from: