Angela Maria Guzman Torres

Hi, my name is Angela, I'm an international student from Colombia. I decided to pursue a career in education here in Australia. Last year I completed a Graduate diploma in secondary education at Monash university which was a very challenging experience for me since I don't have a formal education background, but at the same time it was an important achievement for me to do it successfully.
I have a bachelor degree in Industrial design, just worked in that field for two years and then I had the opportunity to teach English to adults, adolescents and children at language centres in my home country for more than five years and I just loved it. I don't have experience in schools but I worked as a Spanish teacher at a language centre and also as part of a school holiday program for kids in Melbourne.
I'm very interested in using the skills from my design background (even if I haven't worked as a designer many years ago!) into the field of education in order to engage students in the classroom and explore the use of ICT in more depth.
Cheers,
Angela.

ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS AND SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION.

It is of my professional interest as a future foreign language teacher, to explore to what extent online social networks or SNSs (Social Network Sites) can be used as effective tools for language teaching and learning and for professional development among teachers.
Taking into account the latest SLA (Second Language Acquisition) theories (Garrett, 2009), there is a clear emphasis on the aspects that contribute to encourage communicative competence of learners in authentic social contexts. Appropriate language acquisition takes place when meaningful and authentic social interaction occurs among individuals within a specific culture in which languages are framed.

These concepts of sociability and intercultural awareness have not only been researched in language learning but also in SNSs. They combine to engage and motivate students, resulting into an interesting perspective to explore. The main reflexions addressing the topic would focus on how to use such a popular technological tool among students and teachers for more structured educational purposes (Reid, 2011). I consider relevant to take advantage of the familiarity when using these tools by a large population of adolescents and adults, their frequent interaction with them, the easy access through different devices such as laptops, mobile phones, ipads and the possibility to access authentic information presented in variety of formats.

SNSs supporters claim that they provide an informal setting for learning, encourage learners to share their ideas and thoughts, enhance collaboration and communication with peers and teachers, give opportunities to students to build an online learning community and offer immersion in a foreign language environment (Mills, 2011).

The future of social media will benefit even more widely not only learners but also teachers’ professional development and peer support. Students are becoming lifelong language learners through a wide range of engaging resources accessible anytime and with possibilities of interactions with target language users. All these previous considerations enhance collaborative construction of knowledge, which is the more emphasized feature of future education.
Finally, It is relevant to mention the challenges that these changes represent in the sense of using informal learning tools for professional and educational purposes, however it is worth to explore them due to their easy accessibility and usage. These characteristics facilitate and motivate enormously language learning as a process that never ends.

PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE

The professional resource is a Prezi presentation about SNSs (Social Network Sites) and second language teaching and learning. The main purpose of the presentation was to provide second language educators with an overview of factors to reflect on when using these technologies in real settings and at the same time to encourage teachers to consider SNSs benefitial for their own professional development. Additionally, when creating the resource it was considered important to raise awareness of the challenges and implications for the teaching practice. The presentation ideally provided a starting point for teachers to discuss and complement ideas drawing on their own experiences, opinions and knowledge.

The presentation starts with a YouTube video that illustrates the strong influence of SNSs worldwide, supported by facts that exemplify their influence as massive medium of communication and data of the increasing number of users. Then, it presents both sides of the use of SNSs; their benefits and issues for second language teaching and learning followed by questions to reflect on the challenges in the implementation of those technologies in the language classroom. Also, three of the most popular SNSs created for language learning are presented (Livemocha, lang-8 and Mylo). Finally, the use of SNSs for teachers’ professional development is complemented with links of two contributors’ websites in this area. The last part of the presentation includes quotes of two authors, the first one shows ideas about how SNSs enhance learning and the second what the future of education is.

The professional resource and consequently the further discussion among teachers were shared through a Facebook page called “Teachers’ social lab” created for that purpose. The objective was to present SNSs as the main topic of discussion and at the same time as a medium for sharing contents and communicate. The presentation was intended to be shown to a group of 67-second language teachers from Australia and overseas.