Thursday, August 26, 2010

Week 10: Dear Passengers, Please Fasten Your Seatbelts

We Are About To …….




I can’t believe that this wonderful journey is about to finish. As Arbi said “All beautiful things have an end.” Unlike all my colleagues, I’m not sad as the course is about to end. Please, don’t think that I’m a little bit tough or without emotions. No, I’m so sensitive. But, the reason behind my happiness is that I have a strong belief and hope of another beginning with another course involving the same smart colleagues. Another reason for my happiness is that we will not stop communicating with each other, sharing our experiences and writing on our blogs, wiki and Nicenet class site. Everything is open. There is no an end. I will not say “Good Bye”, but I will say “Let’s go on”. I think that by the end of such precious course, I will start doing many things that I’ve learned during these precious 10 weeks. Of course, I can’t count all the skills that I’ve developed and the experiences that I’ve acquired. All what I feel about this course is that it makes me open for everything new even if it seems impossible or a little bit imaginary. 

Dear MY Colleagues,

Thank you for every moment I spent with you!
Thank you for every idea I discussed with you!
Thank you for every experience you shared with me!
Thank you for every piece of information I gained from you!
Thank You ….... Thank You ..….. Thank You .….. All of You!

I’m so happy to have all these wonderful and smart colleagues in this short time. I will remember all of you. But, don’t forget me and promise me when I need you, please don’t ignore me. Your support and encouragement throughout this course provided me with a light inside me that can enlighten my new way. Your ideas, thoughts and experiences opened new windows that were closed in front of me. At last, I want to say that you mean a lot for me. 

Dear My Instructor Deborah,

My fingers stop writing as they don’t find words that can describe you. Really, you exceeded all of my expectations. Whenever I needed a hand day or night, I found you beside me. Your way of guiding and orchestrating the symphony of this course surprised me and this makes me hope to be like you. Can you help me to be another Deborah Healey” or it will be just a hope within me?

Dear Staff of Oregon University AEI,

Thanks so much for letting me a part of this course. I want to say that I have benefitted a lot . I have developed many skills that I don’t even expect. My writing skills, higher order thinking skills, communication skills, learning and innovation skills are among what I have touched at the end of this wonderful chance. 

Many topics were discussed and I felt I need them a lot to be a ware of this age needs. Technology that I like was the prominent feature throughout our discussion and tasks. I admired its uses and benefits for me and my students. But, I feel afraid of being tech and forget about myself as a mankind. I promise I will not be like that. I will use it involving my touches as well. 


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Week 9: “Well Done”, Your Password Has Been Successfully Entered


Can Technology Be the Password for Addressing All Students’ Learning Styles & Intelligences?

Sometimes you find teachers do many things to make their students understand their subject matters. They sing, dance, play games, solve puzzles, show pictures, bring real materials, ask students to help each other, …etc. They think that by doing this, they use a variety of aids to make their explanation clearer and understandable. They have no any idea about learning styles or multiple intelligences. They just do this unconsciously. So, all what teachers need is a solid theoretical background about these two topics. I think that if they are aware of their students’ learning styles and intelligences, they can modify their methods of teaching in a way that leads to productive and enjoyable learning.

However, if a mismatch between students’ learning styles and teacher’s style occurs, many problems will appear. According to Felder & Henriques (1995: 21), the students tend to be bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the course, and may conclude that they are no good at the subject of the course and give up. Instructors, confronted by low test grades, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance, and dropouts, may become overly critical of their students (making things even worse) or begin to question their own competence as teachers.

Hence, teachers should know well their students’ learning styles and intelligences from the very beginning. Actually , there are many models that deal with these two terms. One of the most familiar learning styles models is the VAK model. This Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles model does not overlay Gardner's multiple intelligences; rather the VAK model provides a different perspective for understanding and explaining a person's preferred or dominant learning style, and strengths. Gardner's theory is one way of looking at thinking styles; VAK is another. Visual learning style involves the use of seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc. Auditory learning style involves the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises. Kinesthetic learning involves physical experience - touching, feeling, holding, doing, practical hands-on experiences.

Another theory that deals with diversity among students is the Multiple Intelligences by Gardner. Gardner challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of cognitive science and education. He proposed that every human being possesses eight different intelligences that reflect different ways of interacting with the world. The eight intelligences – Verbal-Linguistic, Logical- Mathematical, Intrapersonal, Visual-Spatial, Musical-Rhythmic, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal and naturalist -- are all used by individuals in varying degrees, but one MI is always particularly dominant. Gardner believed that by understanding a student’s strengths and weaknesses in each intelligence, we could help to improve student success. Integrating multiple intelligences into the classroom involves changing our idea about teaching and learning so that we address individual differences, providing a range of activities and experiences to facilitate learning (Fose).

The second step towards a complete understanding of these two models is that teachers should know how to identify their students’ learning styles and intelligences. One way to do this is to use questionnaires. They don’t need to create new ones as there are many of them on the web. Surfing the internet, I’ve found a very fantastic questionnaire that help teachers to discover their students’ learning styles. Students will like it very much as it is colorful and interesting. Here is the link: http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a3_aspects/pages/VAK_quest.htm


Here is another questionnaire for discovering the preferred learning styles: http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a2_learnstyles/pages/roughandready.htm. I think it is suitable for adults.

 
 
For identifying students’ multiple intelligences, here are two free printable tests,
free Multiple Intelligences test 1, free Multiple Intelligences test 2, .Teachers can print them and ask their students to complete them.

After knowing well and identifying students’ learning styles and intelligences, we need a variety of activities and tools that match each of them. Technology can provide teachers with such different tools. They are available at any time. All what they should do is to select a suitable tool for the suitable student's learning style and MI. Surfing the web and reading my colleagues’ posts, I’ve found some technological tools that match each learning style and MI:

1. For Verbal-Linguistic Learners, we can use online discussion forums, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, online crossword and word search puzzles, story creation software, podcasting, social networks, word processing, e-mail, multimedia authoring, and videodiscs to create presentations.

2. For Logical-Mathematical Learners, we can use math programs that allow drilling and practicing, database programs that help explore and organize data and information, spreadsheet programs, computer aided design programs, calculation tools, calendars, problem solving software and graphing calculators.

3. For Visual-Spatial Learners, we can use Macromedia Flash or SnapzPro software for creating visually rich media that illustrates a difficult concept, mindmapping software, CAD software for creating 3-D visual designs, Apple software products of iPhoto, iMovie, and QuickTime for assigning photography and video projects, PowerPoint presentations, spread programs which allow students to see charts, maps or diagrams, concept mapping tools, photo sharing, Draw/Paint programs, digital cameras, reading programs with visual clues, and image composing programs.

4. For Musical/Rhythmic Learners, we can use songs, jingles, or rhythmic beats, podcasting, music clips, music composition software, videodisc player, reading programs which relate letter/sound with music, CD-ROMS about music and instruments, and tape recorders.
5. For Bodily/Kinesthetic Learners, we can assign a project where your students build some sort of 3-D object and use a digital camera or camcorder to document its progress as it is being created. The final documentary can be facilitated with the implementation of Apple's iPhoto or iMovie software. We also can use WebQuests, keyboarding/mouse, video production, virtual field trips and animation programs.

6. For Interpersonal Learners, we can use online discussion boards, instant messenger to discuss ideas, social networks, computer games which require two or more persons, and programs that allow to create group presentations.

7. For Intrapersonal Learners, we can use blogs, internet research, developing multimedia portfolio, video editing, and games involving only one person.

8. For Naturalist Learners, we can use a sampling synthesizer asking students to compose a musical composition from sounds recorded from the environment and share as an online digital MP3 file that their classmates can download to their computers or iPods. We can also use digital cameras to document field projects, and microscopes or magnifiers to draw or photograph natural objects.

These suggestions can be helpful for teachers to work with their students putting in mind a variety of learning styles and multiple intelligences. But, I want every teacher not to forget that he/she is the basic element in the learning process. Using these tools are just aids for making the learning experience more enjoyable. The most important job that teachers should do is to help their students know what learning styles and intelligences they have. I think that this is more important than providing activities that suit them.

I want to end my post with Fose's words. He sums up all the main points of addressing a variety of students’ learning styles and multiple intelligences using technology:

In order to help your students reach their full potential, you must be fully aware of your students’ learning styles and the multiple intelligences that they tend to favor; then, you must also be cognizant of your own learning styles and your own tendencies to teach within a multiple intelligence that fits your comfort level. Force yourself to break out of your personal comfort level and strive to address other intelligences in your day-to-day teaching. If you attempt to implement different technological tools and provide your students with opportunities to be assessed in a variety of ways, you will find that they will be more motivated to learn. Remember, each one of your students possesses every single intelligence but the degree to which they use them is as individualized as their fingerprint. One of the best things that you can do to help your students reach their potential is to take the time at the beginning of each semester to reflect on the students in your class. Visualize them as unique individuals, who have fully realized and developed their intelligences, and then plan your lesson plans accordingly!

Resources Used:
  • Felder, R. & Henriques, E. (1995). Learning and Teaching Styles in Foreign and Second Language Education. Foreign Language Annals, 28, NO. 1, pp 21-31.
  • Fose, L. (Date Unknown). Exploring technology to address student multiple intelligences and learning styles. Available online at: http://www.calpoly.edu/~lfose/articles/Exploring_Technology.pdf.

Week 9: A New Experience Through Writing My Final Project Plan

Although this week seems a little bit quiet, we are asked to accomplish two difficult tasks. These tasks are related to our project plans. The first of them is to use our partners’ comments to improve our draft and then write the final version. To be frank, I’ve spent 3 days working on my plan. Actually, this is not the first time to do a research plan. But, what is new for me is reviewing my work by other peers. I’m lucky to have two wonderful partners “Juliet & Bostan” whose comments are of great value for me. Through this experience, I’ve found that my plan was seen from many perspectives with different eyes. This, of course, improves its quality.

Sometimes, you feel that your work is perfect and needs nothing. This is what happened with me this week. When I finished my plan, I thought that it doesn’t need more work. But, what surprises me after receiving my partners’ comments is that some words may change my way and open other windows that were blocked when working individually. These words were enough for me to rethink of my plan and making it more specific.

One more interesting thing is that my partners provided me not only some criticisms but also some praises that helped me keep polishing my plan to make it more perfect. This reminds me with the “Feedback Sandwich”. 
 

As teachers, we should put three stages in mind when giving feedback to students. First, we should praise their work, then introduce criticism . At the end, we should praise them again to urge them to keep improving their weaknesses. Thanks Juliet and Bostan for your valuable comments.

If you want to view my project plan, you can find it on our wiki page: https://sites.google.com/site/webskillssu2010/final-projectsproject-plans

The second task that is related to my project plan is to fill out a self-evaluation form and send it to Deborah. For me, it is a very difficult task. To evaluate your plan needs to forget that this plan is yours. As you know this is against our human nature. Most of us think highly of the work we are asked to do. However, I’m open for more comments. Now, I’m waiting for my instructor Deborah’s feedback and suggestions and I’m ready to modify my plan again according to them.

At last, I want to send a very Big Thank You to all my colleagues for their wonderful project plans and reports. I think that I have now a variety of technological ideas from which I can select what is suitable for my students and available resources in my school. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Week 8: How Amazing is Creating My Class Site By Google Sites?

This week is the most tiring in my life mentally and physically. Mentally, as I’m about to get crazy because of Deborah’s magical tools and physically as I suffer from a severe flu. To complete sufferings, I’ve decided to create a class site by Google Sites from scratch. As I always like challenges, I’ve chosen to start my class site form a Blank Template. Of course, this is not an easy job. To have a space and fill it needs more time, efforts and creativity. At first, I’ve faced many problems of how to begin, how to add, how to change, how to delete, …. how …. how … etc. As you know me whenever I start anything new related to technology, I turn to my friend YOUTUBE. It always helps me. I’ve downloaded two wonderful videos that explain how to create a website using Google Sites. Then, I’ve begun my exploration. Here are the videos:


Google Sites: Simple & secure group websites



video


Make a Web Site using Google's Sites Software 

video


The most important thing when creating your class site is not how to design it, but for which objective you design it. Knowing why creating this site is more important than knowing how. To have a tour in my site, please visit the following link: https://sites.google.com/site/missazharclassroom/. Here is the home page:



 I’ve tried other options for creating sites like Nicenet and Blogger. Both of them are very wonderful. Their utility is very obvious in our course. Also, I intend to use blogs with students to improve their writing and HOT skills. After exploring Google Sites, I’ve decided to use it to discuss what students have written in their blogs. I will make it a resource for both of us. I’m going to upload songs, videos, reading materials, puzzles, exercises, ..etc. I mean to be as a club for teaching English. Whenever students need something, they can find it there.

I think that students will like it as they have a role in building it. They can write, edit, comment, read, analyze, evaluate and create their own products. They can also add, upload, or delete files. I think they share me the same responsibility and of course this will lead to autonomy.
 

Week 8: My Project Plan ……. How to Identify My students’ Needs?

As I’m on holiday these days, I’ve prepared a project plan. This plan is not a result of one or two days, but the whole course. In Week 2, I described my students, setting of classroom and technology tools available. In Week 4, I described some issues that technology might help with. In week 5, I described a technology-inspired change that can be a solution for the issue I’ve selected. This issue was related to the difficulties that my students face when writing. Through reading a lot about web 2.0 tools that provide many opportunities for students to be heard all over the world, I found blogs as a very good tool that can improve my students’ writing skills, change their negative attitudes towards the writing experience and develop their HOT skills. In weeks 6 & 7, we were asked to find a partner for peer review. Fortunately, I found two wonderful partners (Bostan & Juliet) with the same interest.

In this week, we are asked to write our first draft of project plan or report. Frankly, I've spent more time to accomplish this task. The planning process is not an easy job. It needs careful thinking of every step expected to be applied. One of the questions that took a lot of time was “How to identify students’ needs”. To answer this question, I surfed the internet to know more about it. Let’s share these information with me.

What is needs analysis?

Needs analysis includes all the activities used to collect information about your students' learning needs, wants, wishes, desires, etc… The process also sometimes involves looking at the expectations and requirements of other interested parties such as the teacher/teacher's aid/ tutor (you), administrators, financial supporters, and other people who may be impacted by the program (such as students' family members ). A needs analysis can be very formal, extensive and time consuming, or it can be informal, narrowly focused and quick.

Why Needs Analysis?

The information gleaned from a needs analysis can be used to help you define program goals. These goals can then be stated as specific teaching objectives, which in turn will function as the foundation on which to develop lesson plans, materials, tests, assignments and activities. Basically, a needs analysis will help you to clarify the purposes of your language program.

Steps of Needs Analysis?

The needs analysis task includes three steps:

1) Design:

 
When designing the needs analysis, the aim is to:

  • Assess the current situation
  •  Define the problem - what gaps exist?
  • Determine if there is a need for training/learning
  • Determine what is driving this need for training/learning
  • Evaluate existing training
  • Assess the possible learning solutions
  • Ascertain information about logistical considerations/constraints

2) Conduct:

 
The following methods, or a combination of these methods, can be used:

  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires
  • Follow-up surveys from previous students
  • Observation
  • Action Research
3) Analyze:
 
Gather the information and sort it into categories that help you identify themes/topics that need to be addressed.
  • What topics/issues can be prioritised?
  • Which, if any, elements are common to all responses?
  • Are there any inconsistencies in the responses?

How to identify my students’ needs?

After getting an idea about needs analysis and the methods of measuring students’ needs, I’ve selected the questionnaire method. Actually, I’ve remembered the questionnaire that Deborah asked us to complete at the beginning of this course. I liked it very much as it helps me to know what I have and what I haven’t.

Then, Which Tool can do this task?

I’ve used a free website that is specialized in creating e-surveys: http://www.monkeysurveys.com. Reading two wonderful manuals: Smart Survey Design and SurveyMonkey User Manual, I’ve managed to create my own needs analysis survey. Its title is “Your Way To Write Using Technology”. Here is the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VGZ995D. Here are some of its pages:


Personal Information
 

Basic Internet Skills





Creating & Using Blogs
 

 

Resources Used:

1. Casper, A. (2003). Needs Analysis. Available online at: http://linguistics.byu.edu/resources/volunteers/TESOLBYU_NeedsAnalysis.htm

2. Monkeysurvey (1999/2010). Smart Survey Design. Available online at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/SurveyMonkeyFiles/SmartSurvey.pdf

3. MonkeySurvey (1999/2010). MonkeySurvey User Manual. Available online at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/SurveyMonkeyFiles/UserManual.pdf

4. Wynne, R. Learning Needs Analysis. Available online at: http://www.assetproject.info/learner_methodologies/before/learning_analysis.htm

Week 8: Hot Potatoes!

The most wonderful tool that I've used during this week is the "Hot Potatoes Program". Its name attracts me as I fond of potatoes, but when I tried it out, my fondness increases more and more. Surfing the web, I’ve found many manuals and ideas of using it efficiently in the classroom. I just want to share these ideas with you. Here is a detailed description of Hot Potatoes Program:

What is “Hot Potatoes”?

This is a popular set of educational software tools which have been developed by the University of Victoria Humanities Computing and Media Centre. The purpose of the Hot Potatoes is to enable you to create interactive Web-based teaching exercises which can be delivered to any Internet-connected computer equipped with a browser. The exercises use HTML and JavaScript to implement their interactivity, but you do NOT need to know anything about these languages in order to use the programs. All you need to do is to enter the data for your exercises (questions, answers, responses etc.), and press a button. The program will create the Web pages for you, and you can then upload them to your server.

What are the Applications of “Hot Potatoes”?

It includes six applications enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and fill-in the gap exercises. Here is a detailed description of these applications:

1. JQuiz:
It creates question-based quizzes. Questions can be of four different types, including multiple-choice and short-answer. Specific feedback can be provided both for right answers and predicted wrong answers or distractors. In short-answer questions, the student's guess is intelligently parsed and helpful feedback to show what part of a guess is right and what part is wrong. The student can ask for a hint in the form of a "free letter" from the answer.

2. JCloze:

It is used to create gap-filled exercises (or ‘Fill in the gaps’). The users can enter their answers into the gaps, and click on the Check button to check their answers. All the answers are checked at the same time, which could be undesirable in certain cases. (Use JQuiz for such cases.). The designer can customize this exercise in various ways. Each gap can be assigned multiple correct answers. Hints may be assigned for each gap, which either gives clues, or displays the letter after every click..

3. JCross:

It creates crossword puzzles which can be completed online. You can use a grid of virtually any size. As in JQuiz and JCloze, a hint button allows the student to request a free letter if help is needed.

4. JMix:

It creates jumbled-sentence exercises. You can specify as many different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base sentence, and a hint button prompts the student with the next correct word or segment of the sentence if needed.

5. JMatch:
It is used to create ordering or matching exercises. The ordered/matched objects may be either text or images or a combination. This application can produce either listing exercises, for example placing frequency adverbs in order, or matching exercises, such as linking countries and nationalities. You can specify as many different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base sentence, and a hint button prompts the student with the next correct word or segment of the sentence if needed.

6. The Masher:

In addition, there is a sixth application called the Masher. This is designed to create complete units of material in one simple operation. If you are creating sequences of exercises and other pages that should form a unit, you may find the Masher useful. The Masher can also be used to upload Web pages not created with Hot Potatoes to the www.hotpotatoes.net server.

How do these applications work?

There are three stages in creating exercises with these applications:

1. Enter your data:
You type in the questions, answers, feedback etc. which forms the basis of the exercise.

2. Adjust the configuration:
The "configuration" is a set of information used to compile the Web pages. It includes instructions for the student, captions for navigation buttons, and other information which is not likely to change much between exercises.

3. Create your Web pages:
This is simply a matter of pressing the "Export to Web" button on the toolbar, choosing a file name, and letting the program do the rest.

Strongest Advantage of Hot Potatoes:

The developers have consciously avoided the ‘one-click right or wrong’ feedback system, strongly criticized about most other systems. Progressive feedback is given to the student either as hints or allowing checking of their answers in phases. This allows the student to be involved in a more cognitive process and to figure out the correct answer in a constructive manner.

The Main Pitfalls of Hot Potatoes:

a. Tendency of the learners to operate a binary correction strategy (If X is wrong, then Y must be the answer).
b. Any reasonably computer literate student can easily gain access to the HTML source code and hence the answers.
c. This could only be used as a self-learning or a self-assessment tool, but does not have merit as a testing tool.

Ready-made Hot Potatoes Exercises:

Surfing the internet, I’ve found a very fantastic website that includes hundreds of exercises using Hot Potatoes program. If you have no time to create your own, you can use them. Here is the link:
http://iteslj.org/links/ESL/Quizzes/Hot_Potatoes/.

Resources Used:

For more information and manuals for using Hot Potatoes, you can visit the following links:

-
http://ited.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/ITinEd304/Hot%20Potatoes_rev_.pdf
- http://gregling.net/articles/hot_potatoes.pdf
- http://hotpot.uvic.ca/hotpot6_help.pdf
- http://umbc.uoregon.edu/eteacher/webskills/material/hotpotatoes6-howto.pdf
- http://www.ictcentre.wikispaces.net/file/view/Hot+Potatoes.pdf
- http://files.comeniuseb23sa.webnode.com/200000036-2fad330a73/WorkshopHotPotFx1GUIAO.pdf

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Week 8: Online Tools Make a Revolution in my Classrooms!

Wordle: vbh

Week 8 was the most exciting and valuable for me. We were introduced to many online tools by which I can create my own world. I spent more time and effort exploring these tools, trying them out, and creating some resources that can make a revolution in my classrooms. I think that my students are lucky to have such array of exercises. They can use them anytime and anywhere according to their pace of learning. They can also create their own exercises so that they can be more autonomous and creative. 

Through exploring these tools, I’ve found myself more able to manage everything in my job of teaching. I can provide students with all circumstances that lead to more enjoyable learning. I can create a new environment in which I and my students enjoy practicing our new roles as autonomous learners. 

During this week, I’ve created a collection of exercises using some of the tools provided by Deborah. You can share this collection with me on our wiki page: https://sites.google.com/site/webskillssu2010/hot-potatoes-and-other-exercises. Among tools I’ve used during this week are: Word Search Maker http://www.toolsforeducators.com/wordsearch/, Xword Puzzle Generator http://www.edict.com.hk/xword/generator/, Easy Test Maker http://www.easytestmaker.com/default.aspx, Certificate Maker http://www.printwithmypic.com/certificates/ and Hot Potatoes Program. I liked Hot Potatoes program very much as it includes many potentials in one place. 

All these tools will not just make a change but a revolution in my classrooms. I think, they will save my time and effort to accomplish all the loads of teaching. Also, they will add some pleasure and creativity inside students while learning. They worth a try. Even I have some problems in using them at the beginning, step by step I will be an expert teacher. To create materials that are available anytime and anywhere for me, other teachers and students is a very great victory. 

Thanks so much my dear instructor Deborah for providing me with such precious tools that can help me to be a creative teacher.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Week 7: What Can we Do with One Computer in our Classrooms?


Another important topic was also introduced in week 7. It was about having one computer in our classrooms. The task was to talk about what we can do with this kind of setup. At the beginning, I’ve found this idea far a way from reality as I teach 45 students. However, reading Deborah’s resources and my colleagues posts on Nicenet, I’ve recognized its potentials. Using one computer seems a little bit challenging, but as Rao (2003: 21) points out that with planning and some creativity, teachers can give students experiences that meet learning objectives even where there are few computers and many hands to share them. Rao thinks that by narrowly defining the purpose of each project, teachers can make strong pedagogical links between computer use and curricula. Whether the purpose is to learn basic computing skills, manipulate data, synthesize information, or make classroom presentations, objectives can be satisfied in ways that meet content standards.

This means that teachers can make use of one computer If they make a precise plan and use their creativity to find alternatives. Also, defining objectives is of a great value when using limited resources and machines. To take advantage of just one computer, teachers should divide their students into groups and assign the role of each group and its members. This viewpoint is also asserted by Rao (2003) stating that creatively grouping students is also the key to technology use in a one- or two- computer classroom or in a lab where there are far fewer machines than students. Grouping students for computer related projects is often a better instructional strategy than having one student on one computer. In groups, students communicate, collaborate, and support each other’s learning experiences.

Reading the one-computer classroom article: http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic84.htm#1, I've found many valuable ideas. For example, teachers can use MS Office Package to create e-gradebooks, students' attendance, database of students' information, lesson plans, tests, handouts, worksheets, interactive PowerPoint presentations, certificates, ... etc. Students can use it as a creation tool to produce some PowerPoint presentations, brochures, newsletters, … etc. and as a learning tool to use educational CDs provided by the Ministry of Education, dictionaries, internet resources, … etc. Moreover, both teachers and students can use this only computer for assessment, presentation, accessing information and communication.

My colleagues also suggested many applicable uses. For example, Stephen considered the computer as a “Technology Station”. He prepared many various computer-based language activities from which students select what suits their levels, needs and interests. I think it is a wonderful tool as students will enjoy using it.

Luiza suggested that her students can collaborate with each other to create a PowerPoint presentation or write a paragraph by Word Processing I think. I like her idea of assigning roles for each group. This will make all students involved in the lesson.

Victoria used the computer as a presentation and assessment tool. She tried to find various materials to show: films, cartoons and short videos, Presentations, pictures, songs, quizzes, tests, drills, gapped texts, a board for brainstorming, presenting grammar rules and tables, material for discussion, team games, … etc. She also used the computer as a component in a learning/research center, where students can access multimedia encyclopedias, the Internet, and application software. Actually, these ideas are very beneficial for me.

Liliya & Elsa also used the computer as a presentation tool to present lessons, movies, videos and cartoons. In addition, Elsa’s students will use the computer to show their projects and work.

For Arjana, she used Skype chat with school from Brazil and Spain, with her class of 24 freshmen. In my school, we do similar communication activities. We conduct some competitions among schools at the level of administration using one computer with an internet connection. Students consider these competitions a very beneficial and enjoyable experience.

Hanan suggested using the USB modem to search for some useful websites and show the material on the screen. If this doesn’t work well as such connections are a little bit expensive, she suggested to create an interactive PowerPoint presentation with pictures and sounds. She thinks this will help teaching vocabulary related to the lesson suiting different styles.

Wow …. ! How lucky I am to have all these ideas in just one week. Thanks so much my dear colleagues for your applicable suggestions and to my dear instructor Deborah for her valuable resources.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Week 7: Teacher Autonomy & Learner Autonomy!

We are introduced in week 7 to a very important topic either for teachers or students. Smith (2001), in his article: Interconnections: Learning Autonomy Teacher Autonomy, talked about the importance of having autonomy in teachers first and then their students. He wondered whether teachers have autonomy in the sense of having the basic capacity to decide on objectives, syllabus, materials, methods and means of assessment in a particular context. If that sort of control isn't in teachers’ hands in the first place, then they have little to “let go” of or let students “take control” of, at least in that particular institutional setting. Actually, I do agree with this viewpoint as the proverb says “One who has nothing can give nothing” or “A man can do no more than he can”. If teachers themselves are not autonomous learners, they can’t develop such autonomy in their students.

Our task in this week is to read about learner autonomy and think about what we can do to encourage greater autonomy in students, with or without technology. This task has taken more time and effort. I’ve read all the resources provided by my instructor Deborah and also I’ve surfed the internet for more information about this topic. Also, I’ve read all of my colleagues’ posts about what they can do to foster and encourage autonomy in their students. All these resources need more than a week to digest.

What I’ve perceived about learner autonomy is that both teachers and students share the same responsibility. Both of them play a vital role in the learning process. They are indispensable elements in any experience learned. Whenever, I think about the relation between teachers and students in the classroom, I remember the saying “You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. Even if teachers provide students with all information and resources they need and the students are not willing to contribute or lack motivation, there will not be any learning at all.

Thus, teachers take the responsibility for not just delivering information to students but providing them with all techniques, tools and opportunities that help them to be more autonomous. Reading posts on Nicenet about what could teachers do to encourage autonomy in students, I’ve found many wonderful suggestions by my colleagues. Among these suggestions are pair/group work, self-reflection, praising success, blogs, wikis, various student-centered approaches (e.g., problem or project-based learning, self-regulated learning, task-based learning, online-based learning, self-learning, cooperative learning, inquiry-based learning, strategic instruction, ...... etc), creating PP presentations by students, learning logs, self-reports, increasing motivation and self-esteem, peer feedback, debates, creating safe and friendly environment, WebQuests, learner strategies, … etc.

All these techniques can help me to make a large shift in students’ new roles from just passive listeners to planners, organizers, managers, and evaluators of their own learning as Duan (2005, 46) mentioned. Of course, all these new roles will be under the supervision of teachers’ new role as a guide and facilitator. These new roles are badly needed in the 21st century. So, teachers and students should step towards them as soon as possible to make them not something to do and then forget about it, but to make them as a habit that should be continued and nurtured to flourish.

Now, I’ll leave you with a fantastic video about the voice of learners in the 21st century, you can see how and what they like to learn. Have a nice watching!


video


Resources Used:
  • Duan, Li (Jul. 2005). How to Foster Learner Autonomy in English Teaching and Learning. Sino-US English Teaching, Vol. 2, No. 7 (Serial No. 19), pp. 45-47.
  • Smith, R. (2001). Interconnections: Learning Autonomy Teacher Autonomy. Available online at: http://coyote.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp/learnerdev/LLE/8.1/smithE.html.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week 6: How Tiring is the Task of Creating An Interactive PowerPoint Presentation? …. But … I will not stop ….. It is the Beginning!


Sometimes, we think that we know everything about something, but suddenly we realize that we have nothing about it. Sometimes, we look at a certain topic from one perspective although it is a multi-one. This is what happened to me this week. I thought that I’m good at creating PowerPoint presentations and know all its tricks and potentials. But, this week with its valuable resources provided by my dear instructor Deborah and delicious thoughts suggested by my colleagues provides me with many techniques and features that help me to create interactive PowerPoint presentations. I’m not going to repeat my self as I’ve talked about them in my previous post. I’m just going to share my new experience with my colleagues.

First, I’ve viewed Deborah’s interactive PowerPoint presentation and interactive PowerPoint Tutorial Video. Actually, they are very beneficial for me as they present all ways that can make me an interactive teacher. Also, my colleagues’ PP presentations were very helpful as I was creating mine. 

One more helpful and powerful aid that gave me a hand is my friend called the “Internet”, especially “YOUTUBE” website. It is marvelous. Whenever I need to create an application related to technology, I use “YOUTUBE”. It gives me a real and authentic experience. I’ve downloaded many videos to choose from. What surprised me is that I found a video with the similar idea in my mind. I used the same idea of this video and then I elaborated it to involve more than one technique of interactivity. Here is the link. I wish you happy watching:



video

Reaching a suitable idea is not the end, but it is the beginning of a long way. Selecting colors for example is not an easy job as they have a very deep effect on people. However, I managed to select suitable colors and backgrounds for the topic. Also, I managed to select simple and familiar words that suit my students’ levels. Choosing sounds also need some effort, because overuse of sounds will distract students’ attention and then they would be useless. The number of words in each slide is important if I want to create an effective PP show. I think I didn’t use a lot of information, but crucial. Of course, there are many other features that I don’t know, but I will discover them through using and creating other PP presentations. 
If you like to see my interactive PowerPoint presentation, you can visit our Wiki page or click the following link: http://sites.google.com/site/webskillssu2010/interactive-powerpoint?pli=1. My PP presentaion's title is "Azhar's Interactive PowerPoint Presentation". Any way, I liked this experience very much although I spent more time and effort creating it, however, I promise I will not stop … it is the beginning! 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Week 6: Steps Towards Framing My Project Plan

Through the previous five weeks, we discussed how to integrate technology in our classrooms. Everyone of us suggested one or two technology-inspired changes that c an work with 21st century students. I liked very much Deborah’s way to lead us to such change step by step. In this post, I’m going to remind myself and my colleagues with the three steps we have done to make our project appear to light: describing my students and setting of classroom, describing an issue that needs to technology-inspired change and finally describing such change.

Project Task 1: Describe a class

In this task, I described my students, setting of classroom and technology tools available to be ready for describing some issues that technology might help with.

For my students:

I teach both the 7th and 8th grades, but I’m going to make change with my 7th graders. The number of students in my class is between 40-45. It is a large class I think. They are between 13 to 14 years old. All of them are boys as I work at a school for boys. They are of different academic levels. Most of them have intermediate level. The rest of them are between high and low levels. Most of my students are good at using computers and some of them have an internet access at home.

For the class setting & Computer Lab:

If you look at the design of this class, you will find it just desks in 3 rows. Every row consists of 5 desks. Students work in groups of three. I mean 3 students sit on each desk. In front of these desks, you will find a blackboard. It is a little bit traditional. As I’m going to use technology, using computer lab will be beneficial. It involves 25 computers with internet access. Unfortunately, we haven't wireless or DSL access, just the phone line access. You know it is very slow. But, we expect a DSL access in the next school year. Also, we have a Resources Room from which we can borrow anything we need. This room includes: 3 laptops, 3 computers with internet access, TV., whiteboard, 3 datashows, a printer, photocopying machine, and a scanner.

Project Task 2: Describe some issues


In this task, I described some issues and problems that I face when teaching. Here, I’m going to focus on one of them that technology might help with.

Writing difficulties:

One of the main problems that students face in their academic study is how to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings easily and freely without apprehension or fear. When I ask my students to write a paragraph (Two types of writing are required – descriptive and narrative), I find them at a loss. Yes, writing is not an easy job not just for them, but for us as teachers. Its difficulty results from the various processes it requires. Among these processes are these strategies needed for planning, monitoring, evaluating, and revising; skills needed for producing text, e.g., handwriting, spelling, and sentence construction; and knowledge about specific genres, writing conventions, and so forth.

Thus, using paper and pencil method to teaching writing is not suitable for 21st century students. We also need more authentic audience to hear students' words, to share information, to comment and suggest new ideas for them. Moreover, students want to deal with the written task as fun not a burden. I can't forget my students' faces when they are asked to write. You find them very busy writing, rewriting, revising and editing. Also, I can't forget their words "Writing again ... It is enough to write it once ....". The question is “How can I make the written task more interesting for students?”

Project Task 3: Describe a change

In this task, I tried to answer the question I asked in the previous task. Through reading a lot about web 2.0 tools that provide many opportunities for students to be heard all over the world, I found a very good tool that can improve my students’ writing skills and change their negative attitudes towards the writing experience. It is blogging.

Can Blogs Be A Solution For Students’ Writing Difficulties?

Blogs allow students to write for authentic audience. They also help students to edit their work many times before and even after publishing. Moreover, one of the most important features of blogs is "giving instant feedback" through commenting. Commenting on students' work either by teacher or their peers will increase their writing quality.

According to Campbell (2003), there are three types of blogs. I’m going to use all of them. First, I’ll create a "Tutor's Blog" in which students can find many stories as I’ll focus on writing stories. They will also find some information about the story elements, setting, characters, plot, solutions, … etc. Then, I will ask students to work in pairs to create a "Learner Blog". They will use it to write stories. Every lesson, I’m going to focus on a certain element of stories, then I let them to write their own piece. Also as Campbell (2003) pointed out "Class Blogs could be used as a virtual space for an international classroom language exchange”. I will create a Class Blog to collect all stories of students, then they can share other schools or even countries with their stories. By doing this, the entire exchange would be transparent to all readers and could be followed and commented on by other learners, tutors, parents and friends.

Project Task 4: More Details

As a step towards implementing blogs to teach writing stories, I’ve created a rubric for writing stories by http://rubistar.4teachers.org/. Here is the link: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php?screen=ShowRubric&rubric_id=1929565. It is a rough draft. I will modify it to suit my students’ level. Also. I searched for some rubrics deal with creating and using blogs. I’ve found many rubrics. Here are the links: http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1282, http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1282, https://docs.google.com/View?docid=df8b89sj_324h7b58tgq, http://www.personal.psu.edu/cpl2/blogs/cplportfolio/Blogging%20Scoring%20Rubric.pdf, http://www.frenchteachers.org/technology/Grading.Rubric.pdf,%20BloggingEvaluationRubric.pdf, BloggingEvaluationRubric.pdf, & mame.pbworks.com/f/Class+Blog+Rubric.doc. Again, I’ll read them carefully and selected one suitable rubric for students or select suitable dimensions from these rubrics and create my own.

I’m still thinking about this technology-inspired change. May be I can discuss it with my partners that I hope to find sooner. This will provide me an excellent opportunity to know other experiences and ideas about the same interest. Also, I want to know how this change works in different settings with different students.

Resources Used:

Campbell, A., P. (2003). Weblogs for use with ESL classes. The Internet Journal, 9 (2). Available on line at: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Campbell-Weblogs.html.Retrieved on May 4, 2010. 

Week 6: Can Interactive PowerPoint Be a Solution for Large Classes Challenges?


In this week, we’re introduced to a very problematic issue that many teachers around the world face when teaching. It is how to teach large classes. I think it is not impossible job, but it is a little bit challenging. Teaching large classes needs a creative teacher that can vary his/her ways of teaching, treatment and even pitch of voice to address all students’ personalities, interests, intelligences and learning styles. Actually, my dear instructor Deborah provided us with a very valuable array of resources from which we can select any techniques that are suitable for our students, e.g., http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/teaching/largeclasses.html, http://www.thiagi.com/interactive-lectures.html, & http://www.linguist.org.cn/doc/su200605/su20060516.pdf. Among the solutions that I and my colleagues suggested to solve large classes’ problems and engage students are creating websites for courses, online-tests for assessment, online discussion boards, WebQuests, ConcepTest, Concept Maps, scripted cooperative learning, pair & group work, clicker technology, mobile learning (especially cell phones), and task personalization. Thanks my dear colleagues for these wonderful ideas. I can’t use all of them, but I’m going to select putting in mind my students needs, the setting of my classrooms, and technological tools available in my school.

Another task that we are asked to do through this week is to find ways to turn lectures or lessons into an interactive experience for students. I used to create attractive PowerPoint presentations either for my students or trainees. However, reading the article “Best Practices in Presenting with PowerPoint”: http://tep.uoregon.edu/technology/powerpoint/docs/presenting.pdf and the interactive PowerPoint sample: http://umbc.uoregon.edu/eteacher/webskills/material/interactive_powerpoint.ppt provided by my dear instructor Deborah, I’ve found many techniques and tools that can make my presentations more interactive. Among these techniques are Blank Slide, ConcepTest, Think-Pair-Share, Interpreted Lecture, Rapid Reflection, and QuickWrite. 

My colleagues also suggested many ideas for using interactive PowerPoint with their students. Liliya, for example, liked the idea of presenting a short quiz at the middle of the presentation. Sometimes, we want to check our students’ understanding, so it is a wonderful idea to give a short quiz. Victoria used crosswords in the PowerPoint presentation. She thinks that it is advantageous for students. Also, she suggested the use of games like Luiza as a way for creating interactivity during the lesson. Luiza thinks that her students may consider games as a waste of time. Yes, she is right, but if these games have a clear objective and reinforce the items learned, they will be interesting and valuable for students. Cami also suggested a very valuable way for interactivity. It is “Typing on a Slide during the Presentation”. I think it is the most interactive way for using PowerPoint. Again, thanks my dear colleagues for all these ideas and thoughts. They are of great value for me.

The question now is “Can Interactive PowerPoint be A Solution for the Large Classes Challenges?”


Through reading the resources provided by Deborah and the posts written by my colleagues on Nicenet, I think the Interactive PowerPoint presentation can be an impressive solution for the problems and challenges of large classes and engaging students. If the PP presentation has a clear objective and includes a variety of media, e.g., pictures, audio sounds, video clips, hyperlinks with some techniques of interactivity such as the Blank Slide, QuickWrite, ConcepTest, … etc, it will be beneficial as it uses more than one sense. This means that it deals with more than one learning style, intelligence and interest.

I think discussing both topics "Large Classes" and "Interactive PowerPoint" in one post will help me find a link between a problem and a possible solution introduced in this week.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Week 5: Project-based Learning with WebQuest


“I wish to be one of your students”

I begin my post with this quotation to assert how lucky I am with my wonderful students. They not only make me feel proud of their achievements using the PBL, but also they convey their attitudes and experiences to other students to the degree that they wish to be like them.

In fact, project -based learning is considered a solution for many problems related to students. Many researchers (cited in Guo, 2007) point out that it engages them in the investigation of real life problems and develop their creativity, problem-solving and lifelong learning. Gaer (1998) also asserts that using such approach gives meaning to learning. This is what we search for. Finding meaning to learn is our ultimate GOAL. If students find such meaning, they will involve in their learning process not only to accomplish the required tasks in such projects, but also to find a relationship between their academic studies and the reality beyond classroom where experience plays a vital role.

I can never forget my students involving in the project I asked them to carry out. Many skills were developed either expected or not. They have learned how to surf the internet and use its resources effectively, how cite printed or electronic materials, how to use MS programs (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Publisher) in a very good way, how to search for information in the library, how to search for information around them asking their teachers, parents and other members in their community and how to present their products. I’m so proud of them and they honestly deserved to win in the competition of INTEL on the Republic level.

When I read about WebQuest as a tool for using the project-based learning, I found it not different from what we have done in our project. It is designed to lead students through a web-based lesson that can range from one class period to one month in depth and duration. However, WebQuest is more than simply exploring information related to one’s content area on the internet (Woodard, 2008). According to March (2003), a true WebQuest requires more than students exploring the internet in relation to a class related topic. A WebQuest requires that students complete a thoughtful and thorough exploration of internet-based content in order to increase their understanding of a topic. This exploration can be used on multiple instructional levels, either allowing for students to work collaboratively or individually.

Thus, the instructional purpose for the WebQuest was to “use learner’s time, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners’ thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation” (Dodge, 1997).

This means that we should select more challenging and authentic tasks that require students explore more information using higher order skills like analyzing, synthesizing and creating.

Woodard (2008) in his article “WebQuest in the English Classroom”: http://cnx.org/content/m18040/latest/ suggested a very valuable list of tips for teachers using this tool in their classrooms. I wanted to share it with you:
  1. When designing your WebQuest, make sure to keep the six essential elements of the WebQuest in mind: 1) Introduction, 2) Task, 3) Information sources, 4) Process, 5) Guidance, and 6) Conclusion. By keeping these six ideas in mind, you will be able to create a more effective WebQuest than if you were to put together a worksheet with a list of website and questions. The true WebQuest allows for students to gain a deeper understanding of a topic by a thorough exploration and the opportunity to make conclusions!
  2. Make sure to select your resources carefully on the internet. It is easy to slip up and give your students an unreliable website to look at. In other words, be familiar with good education resources that are available on the internet.
  3. The best WebQuests that I have looked at gave students choice. When Students are given choice in the assignments you give them, they will be more highly motivated and engaged in the assignment.
  4. Give students your grading rubric at the beginning of the WebQuest, so that they know how they will be assessed on the assignment. Your expectations for you students should always be clear.
 
Resources Used: