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!