Thursday, June 10, 2010

Week 10 (7- 11 JUNE): Wrap-up

Like all my colleagues, I feel sad about the end of this course. However, we are happy with what we are taking with us: a plethora of rich knowledge and innovative ideas to imp[lemet in our EFL classes around the world.
In this short week, I was very impressed by learning about the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LoTi) Framework! My happiness to know about them reminds me of the minute I knew ABCD model. The fist helps in planning my objectives and the latter show me where I stand. As I wrote on my post,now I know the level of technology integration in my classroom, which is Level 4a (Integration: Mechanical) My students learned how to explore some, but not many, real-world issues and tried solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources. I did experience, internet delays, lack of support from colleagues due to ignorance of the know "how" issue. I do need assistance from other colleagues, professional development workshops that can help me in sustaining engaged student problem-solving.Lucky, I am not far behind, but still, I need to take my students further on the scale, especially after having a more clear vision about how to use technology and the web to enhance my teaching. In a year's time, I would like to be in Level 4b – Integration: Routine. To achieve this, I would use project-based and task-based activities to facilitate my students learning, collaboration and lifelong learning. I would also design a one-class computer tasks and activities to help in engaging my students in learning about the real world around them.
As I said on my Nicenet post, reaching the end of this journey of a rich course, I feel overwhelmed with all the knowledge and information waiting right in front of me for more exploration with my students and implementation in my class. I would have never found this opportunity if I was not nominated by the USA embassy in my country. Thanks to them!

All of the topics in this course were most successful. All the topics in my opinion were very well chosen to match our needs as teachers who are starting their career in teaching English with technology and the web. In my situation, the most useful ones were: Writing class objectives in the ABCD format , technology-enhanced lesson plans, WebQuests, learning styles, learner autonomy, creating class sites and making exercises with online tools, teaching large classes and the one-computer classroom.

For me, this course  was a great opportunity to share experiences, knowledge, thoughts or plans with teachers with the same interest from aroudn the globe.A big 'Thank you" goes to Deborah, for all she did with us during the course. Another big "thank you" note goes  for the USA embassy in my country for the nomination!
I hope I will meet all of you around in the cyperspace, or maybe, just a maybe, I will meet up with you f2f!!!
Wishing you all the best in the beginning of our journey: Teaching EFL/ESL through the Interactive Web.:-)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sharing my joy with you: My chapter in an International book

Dear colleagues,
Today, while I was working on completing my tasks for week 9, I received an email telling me that the book "CALL in Limited Technology Context" is being printed!!I have a chapter in this book which entitled "Bleeding edge challenges in Sudan: Limits on using CALL in EFL classrooms at the tertiary level".Yeees!
This is the link for the screencast sent to me.Or you can click here to see the title of the book of the sidebar.
Unfortunately, I can not access in Sudan. It's a problem with Sudan IPA address. Anyway, I hope  I will be reading a copy soon. It’s a book by authors from different parts of the world. The main focus of each chapter is helping teachers figure out what they can do despite all the barriers and problems they encounter when using technology in classrooms.It a book full of practical ideas and inspiring experiences. It a book which  is recommended for all teachers  who live in limited technology context and who are using/will use technology in their EFL classrooms.

Week 9 (31 May- 6 June): Teacher Resources Online

I am so tired :-) My energy is starting to go away! I've submitted my final exams and the attendance sheet yesterday. FINALLY! No teaching load. But, unfortunately,  I have to work laying on one side and the laptop on a table. Pregnancy and an aging woman! But, I WILL make it! I will for sure do!!I am almost there!
 This week was more practical than the previous ones. We completed the final course survey. I created a class site using Nicenet, a class blog , and, later, I will be using Google Docs, Rubristar, Snapagrades.I will start using the course site with my third-year students next October, inshaa Allah. I designed the first lesson about learning styles, as the first topic in the Study Skills course,  and applied the online tools above. I used proprofs to create the online exercises. I had troubles with HP before and I don't want to go over them again. Proprofs is great especially when I can see how many time the Ss have tried taking the quiz and how well they did.
I am working now on the final version of my  Project Plan report. The timeline is not finished yet. I just felt I want to reflect on this week first.
I was amazed with how easily; I could put my ideas for the site and the lesson. The minute I thought about an objective, the suitable tool pops up to my mind. This course has definitely helped me putting together all the "loose ends" that I had been struggling; with during the previous two years. I am also amazed by how I could write a lesson plan using the ABCD model.
After the course, the first thing is to add what I’ve learned here to my coming workshop sponsored by the British Council, Khartoum, planned in August to train teachers using ICT in teaching English. Teachers should be aware of the fact that, ALL students in Sudan are exposed to technology-even on a rudimentary scale. So, we can’t avoid using it anymore. THEY should be the change agent to their teaching styles, and not vice versa. I hope we will have Internet so I can invite all of you to say some words for teachers in Sudan.
The second clear thing that will take place after the course ends is that my continuity to using technology with my students. I will add what I’ve learned in this course and which I haven’t been doing before. I am thinking about many ideas and suggestions, but for now, some of which are:
-Designing my lesson plans using ABCD objectives.
-consider my students learning styles.
-All activities and tasks should be directed towards enhancing learner autonomy.
-Assess and send grades to students weekly, not after the course finishes.
I am already missing here!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week 8 (24-30 May): Learner Autonomy and the One-computer Classroom

The above picture is the winner of e-learning Africa conference photo competition:

We had four tasks this week to accomplish: a discussion about learner autonomy, a lesson plan to create for a one-computer classroom, a course task on Nicenet  and a reflective post on private blogs, with comments on others'. Our projects should be ready by Wednesday May 26, 2010.Each participant had a partner to review his/her project. ( I was late because I didn't find a partner soon).
This week we had a guest moderator, Jeff Magoto. He started excellent threads, with great innovative and practical issues to be discussed. Unfortunately, it seemed as if all are tired/busy, the threads were not "threaded" further. I am not sure what the reason was. I hope I can add the points I highlighted earlier.
Every week, I discover that, as Jeff puts it down, “our classroom experiences are not only familiar but perhaps eerily alike”. After going through the readings, I have learned that a creative teacher can come up with very practical ideas to handle the situation of a one computer classroom. Jeff focused on a very important point, which is, "When technology is not the focus of learning", more interesting and amazing things begin to emerge."At the end,  a computer is the teacher's tool.
I also knew that learner autonomy has a very important value in language teaching class. Group work and pair work, goals, activities, tasks, learning and teaching strategies or process, and the process of reflection are essential elements for promoting learner autonomy.

During the writing of my project plan, I found the recommended article” Improving Teacher-Student Interaction in the EFL Classroom: An Action Research Report very useful to help in putting up the different aspects of my project plan.

We are not only teaching a language, we are also teaching a culture”.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Project Time! We have to be very specific!!!‏

I am struggling with my project:-) Feet swollen, exams should be written and a baby in the womb is kicking!!! I've just felt that I would like to add this post just for fun!!
Hi...Here is an OFFICE MEMO:
May all members of staff please note that there will Only be one drink per person  at this year's Annual Party.
And please bring your own cup !

And what happened at the annual party !!!
The specifications were missing in the memo (size of cup). Moral of the story: Be very specific in your daily life including project work. Give specific specifications.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

Wonderfully enlightened  talk by Ken Robinson.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week 7 (17-23 May): Large Classes and Interactive PowerPoint - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I have learned a lot this week!
This week, we had a discussion on technology and large classes, a task to create an interactive PPP, and a course task to be done on Nicenet, together with our reflections on private and others’ blogs.I posted a call for a partner, but he didn't show up until now:-). Our projects should be ready before 28/5/2010.

I enjoyed the readings of this week, although time was not enough to read them all. From the readings, I've learned that, unfortunately, my PPP were not interactive as they should be! After all the reputation I had among my colleagues. Wait until they hear this!!! I realized how much talk I spent during presenting. Thank Allah I've not started yet using PPP in my classroom at the university. I don't use the bullets, too much wordings, sound, animations, etc. Yet, I was not used to link my presentation to online quizzes or to creating games.
I have created an interactive PowerPoint presentation and uploaded it to
Also, I learned about "How to give Interactive Lectures", "Interactive Teaching Methods"I think now to use an online free tool to pre-record a 8-12 minute mini lesson that would cover one simple point in the coming lecture. This will help a large class to come ready for the lecture, with additional comments or questions.I am thinking about VoiceThread or Ustream.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Week 6 (10 - 16 May): Rubrics, Alternative Assessment, and Learning Styles

Although I have spent little time on this week's readings and tasks(I'll get a big Zero, I know), but I am feeling really happy.I finally got my PhD on Saturday May 15, 2010. It was truly a SUCCESS!!!It was supposed to be three days earlier, but the external examiner's nephew had a car accident and passed away. It had to be postponed to Saturday, allhamdull-Allah. I will never forget this week in which my defended my 3 and a half years' journey.;-))))

I am trying to catch up very quickly on what I've missed. I managed to read about rubrics as part of alternative assessment tools and about learning styles. Although the Internet speed was slow, I manged to create a rubric for paragraph writing. In this task, I learned that if I want to use one of those online websites for creating rubrics, In have to finish it all as a Word document then copy/paste. It took me almost half a a day.
About leaning styles, I was very excited to learn how technology ca help, when properly integrated, in involving all students with different learning styles into engaging tasks.The readings for this week were perfectly chosen and covered this week's objectives thoroughly. Again, I bookmarked some for further readings.
Our work on the projects should start this week. I didn't. I will start on week 7, which is already NOW!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Week 5 (3-9 May): Project-based Learning and WebQuests

Below are our week 5 assignments, in addition to our weekly reflection on
our blogs:
1. Describe a potential change
2. Reading and discussion: Project-based learning and WebQuests
3. Create a technology-enhanced project or WebQuest. We were asked to  find one that will work and share the link, including why we think it will work for your students, or to give an outline of what  we would do in a WebQuest and why).
I started late in doing my tasks. My PhD defense day is on Wednesday 12/5/2010!! YES! I am afraid, confused, stressed, not confident, healthy unfit,  and uncomfortable. I have to prepare everything in advance, in addition to renting a car this time. I can't take the bus like the previous time. Aaaah! My husband will drive. I am not sure I can concentrate.I did my best to spend the whole day today to finish so I can concentrate on reading and studying for the coming three days.
Well here is what I've  learned this week:
-I've learned that it's better to write "WebQuest"instead of "webquest".
-Regarding the technology related changes I want to introduce in my class I posted that  I need to learn about  the use of audio podcasts (with Audacity and podmatic)  and creating  tutorials for my students (using  Camatasia or Jing).

-From the suggested readings and others reflections, I learned about the template and stages of webquests (introduction, task, process, evaluation and conclusion). I also got to know that project-based learning  help students become more autonomous learners when their teacher lead them all through the way of the project development stages above, which reflect the real-world practices. They experience the stage of exploration, expansion, evaluation and explanation to devise a response to an instructive problem with a technology-based teaching item. PBL involves the engagement of students in authentic tasks, exploration of open-ended professional situations while they are also experiencing collaborative work and valuing several foundations of production and assessment.Regarding the change in  teacher-student relationship in a class, webquests will help then to be engaged, collaboratively, in projects. Students will also receive additional instructional support from their teachers. The teacher’s old role will be transformed to a facilitator, from “a sage on the sage to guide by the side”.
- I was longing to create my won WebQuest. Unfortunately, I couldn't because of lack of time. I will for sure do it before the end of the course.  I would like to have Deborah and the others to comment on it. Now to studying!!!

Links Shared:
Lowry, Erin . (2008). Approaches to Learner Autonomy in Language Learning.

Below is the project created with my students. Check it out here. And here is the link to the International project.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Week 4 (26 April - 2 May): Skill-building Websites for Reading/Writing Skills and Technology-enhanced Lesson Plans

Silly me! When I looked at the assignments of week 4, I congratulated myself that this will be a non-reading week. I hate readings! It turned out that Deborah adds the readings and additional detailed assignments when the week begins. Another lesson to learn! Do put a framework in advance so your students will have an idea of what to expect. Details would be added at the beginning of each week. OK.
Another "silly me" was that I didn't comprehend the simple,clear instructions of Deborah which said, "Create a technology-enhanced lesson plan". I disappeared for one day, then I came back to find lesson plans posted. Aha! Now I have to get back and complete mine. Lesson two:Don't speed up things, ya Hala:-)

What I’ve learned this week is that there will never be a shortage of innovative activities to select from. The challenge is that which/how/when/with whom/what and, above all, how to blend them to create a web-enhanced lesson plan. I spent nearly 6 hours searching and looking for information about writing e-cards, lesson plans, wording, websites to use for send e-cards, etc. Wow! That was exhausting and fun at the same time. I love how I learn, unconsciously.
I will try to prepare a lesson plan for my third-year Computer Science students starting next October
This week’s assignments were: a) reviewing, sharing comments, reflections on at least two different reading and/or writing web site, b)preparing a technology-enhanced lesson plan, c)reflecting on this week and commenting on others blog, d)reflect on at least one course and describe the issues that technology might be able to help with in at least one post on Nicenet.
Also, this week I started to save all my posts in one folder divided into weeks. I will ask Deborah about how long will be have access to the course platform after the course ends.
Shared links:
-Assessment 2.0 (on Scribd)
- Lesson Planning, Lesson Plan Formats and Lesson Plan Ideas
Willis, Jane. (2008). “From grammar-based teaching to task-based teaching - making the shift”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cultural note-moving on spiral!

Ruslana wrote:
“In Ukraine we have the national curriculum where the topics for studying are presented. There are about ten topics, which are the same in each grade only with some differences in the level of English. Here are some topics: I, my family and my friend; Clothes, food and drinks, Pastime, Nature, Travelling, Holidays, School life, Ukraine, English-speaking country. We study like– every year review the known information and add some new vocabulary and grammar. At the end of each grade we have the explanation – what should our students able to do after the each grade. The Ministry of education also makes us to use certain books by the Ukrainian authors.”
I replied:

Ruslana-Do you that mean teachers are re-cycling the same topics from grade 1-11? Do you have any opportunity to add additional topics to what is already available?
In Sudan, we have a centralized system from pre-school -high school.  The Ministry of Education also makes us use one book by Sudanese educators and teachers and it’s a disaster, with lots of typing and spelling mistakes and without any previous teacher training to how to deal with a completely new approach of teaching. This only applies to state schools. In private schools (we have dozens), each school chooses its syllabus. They usually follow the British system, not the American one. Do you believe that a hell of money is paid to such schools? One day, this same syllabus was our national curriculum, but this was a long time ago. We used to be the only Arab country that graduates highly competent and qualified English language teachers. (Sigh!). Like the US (imaginatively stating) we do not have a unified national curriculum at the tertiary level. The objectives are set, but each university or college implements what’s suitable according to its students’ needs. English at the tertiary level is taught as one of the “University Requirements” subjects, together with Arabic and Islamic studies. Although we, teaches, have freedom in choosing/compiling material for our classrooms, it results in a complete failure to raise the standard. This is another story for another discussion thread.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Week 3 (19 - 25 April): Skill-building Websites for Oral/Aural Skills and

It was spending some time in further exploration of the setting on Delicious. I also spent extra time in deep exploration of Randall's listening lab, my favorite! I've seen how he keeps constant updates to his website. I enjoyed listening to his son in one the activities. Innovation! I wonder how "digital" his son will be when he grows up!
As I wrote on my post, my teaching philosophy when using technology with my students is   considering  tech as a tool only, to show them the path that will lead them, by their own, to go autonomously, forward for more exploration. Again, as  I wrote on my post,  After reading "The pedagogy-technology interface in Computer Assisted Pronunciation Training.", I reached a conclusion that all seems promising when it comes to treading the theory part. However, when it comes to the practice phase, this is where all what I've learned will "hit the floor", as we say in Arabic.

1. The Pedagogy-Technology Interface in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (academic article)
2. Best Practices in Technology and Language Teaching
Links shared:
Phonetics:The sounds of American English
Cambridge English Online

Week 3 Task: Create a Delicious page

This is my delicious account for the course:
I was surprised to see many participants who do not use delicious. I know their feeling of frustration before delicious. I can tell how happy they are discovering this magic tool. Actually, I can apply exactly how I felt in 2006, when I lost ALL my PhD documents in a second. The computer technician “thought” I wanted to format my computer “with” the other drives. I spend nearly a year before starting to think to do a PhD. I changed the topic.
Anyway, delicious is really my best tool, together with Google docs, with which I can travel anywhere without having to think about taking my laptop with me. Briefly, I love this tool because it allows me to:
Finding my saved links, whenever and wherever, with one click. I have the delicious buttons installed to both my Firefox/IE browsers.
Organizing my tags into bundles.
Exporting my saved links to/from different delicious accounts.
Searching for information and up-to-date Web 2.0 tools.
Organizing links with the settings’ feature.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week 2 (12 - 18 April): The ABCD Learning Objectives Framework and Effective Web Searches

This week, week 2, in addition to learning about the ABCD Learning Objectives Framework, which I reflected about below, I learned about the existence of different search engines, e.g. Virtual, SurfWax, 'intute' and 'INFOMINE'
Also, it was my first time to hear about NoodleTools' Finding the Best Search for Information Needs. All my life, I have been using Google only, as the most reliable and comprehensive web search engine tool. For me, using NoodleTools' for academic search could really save time, because of having different themes on one page, provides a complete tutorial section, promote autonomous and independent learning.
I also learned how to describe my class, in terms of population, setting, course goal, student needs.
In doing all the above, I used to refer back to the guidelines and discussion rubric.

Week 2 (12 - 18 April): The ABCD Learning Objectives Framework and Effective Web Searches

This week
was tough for me!
We had four tasks this week: a discussion, a task, and a course task that we did on Nicenet, and our reflective post on our blogs (plus a comment on someone else's blog).
This post is considered as the last task!

As I wrote in my post, I have always been aware of, and worried about,  my weak area; that is; writing a well, planned lesson plan in which the writing of clear objectives is the most difficult part.  This week, I've learned how to set my objectives using Audience (A), Behavior (B), Condition (C), and Degree of Mastery (D). Note: I believe that if Nicenet had a feature of adding colours to new postings, that would have made it easier to go back to old threads and continue reading the newest ones. Also, I wonder if we will be receiving a zipped file for all the links shared, the links to our blogs, etc. For how long we will continue have access to the course platforms after the course finishes?

Links I shared

: 1. Searching the Web:A vedio created by Camatasia

2.Digital Bloom's Visual

3.Classifying Objectives

4.Bloom et al.'s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Building Teaching Skills: Week 1 overview

From the email I received from Deborah: Week 1 overview, I have learned a very useful technique in online learning. I used to give my students rubrics, but I have ever evaluated them after week 1, neither provided weekly assessment. I was glad to know about how I did in my first week of the course.This helped, encouraged and motivated me to work harder to keep up the same good results. Or, it could have been the opposite. To work hard to improve my performance in order to do better next week if the grading was weak. It was also great to know about SnapGrades Gradbook. Excellent!
What a fun way to learn!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Week 1 (5 - 11 April): Creating an Academic Blog
Well, in terms of how to create a blog, this week added nothing to my blogging knowledge and skill, not like many who happened to be complete newbies in the blogging sphere.As for the discussion about blogging, It was an amazingly full of  "food for thought", in terms of the different opinions, perspectives and experiences on how blogs can/were/could be used. It is this fruitful interaction that leads to the intellectual feeding of my brain!

The topic raised by Ruslana which made me Google about is the one about gender and blogging. Unfortunately, I didn't much up-to-date information about it. This is makes me eager to know more. Maybe it could be my first project/paper after I get my PhD:-))

I would like to quote my final comments that I posted on t Nicenet, as I find them conclude what I took out with me from this week.

I believe that we, teachers, need to know the details about blogs, as well as the big picture, before we start using them with our students. This is also applies to any usage of any tech tools before the integrating process. Using blogs for different areas of language study/learning appears agreed by all of us. However, what is important, as Pete Sharma (2009) highlights, is "the pedagogical reasons for using it". "Whenever a new technology emerges ... it is important to go beyond the 'wow' factor and think about the pedagogical reasons for using it".

It's more important that we know why we are blogging, and make that clear to our students too. They have the right from the beginning to know why they are blogging and what to blog about. Too much focus on adding images, colors, widgets on the class blog will lead to loosing the objective targeted by the teacher.

Thus, what I've learned from all of you is that, in addition to blogs and their potentials to enhance students' engagement, they also encourage them to communicate beyond the classroom walls, encourage creativity and critical thinking.

To conclude, Pete Sharma said, about using Twitter, "if you wait for a case study to justify whether or not Twitter has value, you may be waiting a long time, and the technology will have moved on by the time the research has been done".

I recommend you to read the four key principles discussed by Sharma and his co-author which can help teachers implement technology.

Links shared:
Using Blogs in the Foreign Language Classroom: Encouraging Learner Independence

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Orientation Week

After being nominated by the American Embassy in Sudan, I have been accepted into the Spring 2010 online teacher training course with University of Oregon, Linguistics Department, American English Institute
Building Teaching Skills Through the Interactive Web. It a course part of The E-Teacher Scholarship Program which is funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. This blog is created as part of the course assignments. The aim, I believe, is to keep a record or a reflective log of the course assignments. So, this blog is to going to be an e-portfolio of my work during the course.
Oh, how I miss blogging!!Unfortunately, I have stopped blogging two months ago as a result of being a prisoner in my "journey of misery" (a nick name of my PhD journey).
Back to the course. It's a 10-week online training course for English Language Teachers around the globe.I am thrilled to see different participants from different parts of the world. The course uses Nicenet.I was amazed by how easy was it to log in and explore the platform. It is very user friendly, but I feel there is something that could be added to make the homepage more appealing.I have just been able to finish my assignments this week. I hope I was not too late. I posted my introduction, a post about rubrics and a third one about what makes a good discussion.
Phew! I made it at last! Finished week 1 assignments and I am making good use of the time available starting week 2 assignments.Good job me:-)
Learning is going to be FUN!