My name is Mex Butler.
I live in MOOnee Ponds, which is in the north western suburbs of Melbourne, Austrralia's second biggest city. Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria, down in the bottom right hand corner of the Australian mainland. Melbourne is about 37 degrees south of the equator, about the same distance south as Richmonmd, Virginia is north of the equator.
I work in the Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE) division of the Victorian Department of Education. The ACFE Board is a statutory body established to ensure that the learning needs of adults are identified and met outside of the university and college (TAFE) systems. It develops policies, gives advice to ministers and provides funding for general adult education courses, most of which are free.
The Adult Migrant English Service (part of ACFE) provides 510 hours of English language programs for migrants with resident status during the first three years of their residence. People outside of those parameters come to the community providers in neighbourhood houses and community centres. This means people who don't have resident status and people who have been here longer than 3 years.
I teach 23 hours per week face to face, split between two community providers - Flemington Reading and Writing Program, and Carlton Adult Reading and Writing Program. Flemington and Carlton are both inner suburbs of Melbourne. The two programs both have their bases in neighbourhood houses, but don't have much physical space, so classes are often run in other community venues located as close as possible to the places where our students actually live.
Flemington has a large Asian community, especially Vietnamese, and a growing African community, particularly people from the Horn of Africa: Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somlia. Many of the students we see from these countries are, or were, refugees. Often they are awaiting immigration department decisions about their resident status. Some have been here for more than three years and may have either missed out on their 510 hours of AMES classes, not benefited greatly from them for some reason, or simply need a whole lot more than 510 hours to achieve the level of English competence that they need.
Flemington also runs some classes to cater for the growing numbers of people here on visitor's visas. They may have a spouse working or studying in Australia, or they may be working or studying here temporarily themselves. These people are not regarded as having the same priority in our provision as do our clients with serious literacy needs, since they are relatively advantaged, usually middle class, well educated in their country of origin and fairly affluent.
Carlton is the centre of Melbourne's Italian community. The students from this area are predominantly Italian, Greek and Turkish. Many of them came to Australia in the '50s and '60s, went straight to work in factories and never received any formal language training at all. About 10 years ago, most of Australia's import tarrifs were lifted on clothing, footwear and textiles. These industries underwent major restructuring as cheap inports flooded the market and many companies closed down. Unions negotiated retraining agreements and many of these workers began learning English formally for the first time.
The rates of first language illiteracy are quite high. Many migrants who arrived during the post-war period had little or no schooling in their mother tongue. Going straight into factory work, most of them had little or no opportunity and not a great deal of motivation to study, getting by on the "factory English" which was the lingua franca of the workplace, a mish-mash of bits of many different languages that worked very well for parctical communication and the development of industrial strength friendships.
Typically the Carlton students are in their 50s and 60s. Most
of them have less than 6 years of education in their country
of origin. Most of them have no real expectation of returning
to paid work but are obligated to undertake language courses
The students respond very differently to computers. Some of them are very keen and curiou, some of them have a downright aversion to them. I've had two students leave because their Greek Orthodox leader told them that computers were the work of the devil.
Fairly predicatbly, the general trends are that the older and less educated people are generally more resistent to using computers than the younger and more educated people. However initial resistance is no real indicator of how the person will progress in the long term, in my experience.
Here are ten main ways in which I use the internet in my classes. I've arranged them in more or less the order that I would introduce thge internet into a classroom, assuming that we don't have a whole lab to use and a bunch of wildly enthusiastic students. This works well in community settings where there is limited access to computers and the internet and the students are a bit nervous about the whole thing.
I want to describe to you how I approached one group at Carlton who showed signs of being very hard to get involved.
In that venue U only ever have one internet access computer. There's one fax/phone line that I'm allowed to use some of the time (but I might have to disconnect at a moment's notice if a fax is coming).
I ran a phone extension cord from the office out to the classroom and taped it to the floor so no one would fall over it. I would wheel one Macintosh around on a trolley and set it up in the classroom off to one side.I would get Netscape running, then log into schMOOze University, the ESL "chat" MOO that I use. With the softwre that I use on the Macintosh for MOO access, you can set voice triggers, so that if someone in the MOO was trying to talk to me, the computer would say out loud, "Mex, someone's paging you."
So in the middle of my teaching, if someone paged, I'd stop and say, "Oh excuse me for a moment" just as though I had a phone call. I never told them that they had to do this stuff themselves. But each break time, some of them would come over to see what I was doing and began to get the idea that aI was talking to real people, not jut talking to the computer.
I'd get some schMOOze people to say hello to my students, so they would suddenly see something like, "Lesley waves to Maria and Ioanna and says, "Hi!"" They would be utterly amazed to see their own names appearing on the screen without my having typed them there myself. I would ask them what they would like to say to Lesley and type it in for them. They would sit beside me and I would become their keyboard scribe in a conversation. With the other person's permission, I would sometimes print out the 'log' of their conversation and give it to them to read.
This is a very successful strategy for getting some of the most reluctant and nervous students to have a try. Some of them went on and took over the keyboard and began to develop their proficiency in online communication from this beginning. Others never really wanted to take that much risk, but at least had some fun and meaningful experiences using text based communication and developed at least a small idea of the things the internet can offer.
In places wehre we have a whole laboratory to use, students are able to really make more headway by developing their keyboarding and general computer skills as well as specific internet related ones.
In our real time session in the MOO, you can ask me more about what we've done and you can see some of the possiblities of using MOO for a teaching/learning environment, for yourself as well as for your students.
It's great talking to you and I wish you an enjoyable and
stimulating conference. Good luck and see you in cyberspace!
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