Saturday, 5 June 2010

Reflection: Week 9

Dear All

Last week was enlightening as well as overwhelming. I have been going through various readings and doing tasks separately in the previous weeks. For example, I was reading many articles on how to create a one-computer classroom. I was trying to incorporate theory from the readings into practice by creating a one-computer classroom for my students. But last week (week 9), I found, was more integrative in nature. While designing online classes, I had to go back to what I did from the first week. For example, I had to think who are my students, what I am supposed to do, what activities and tasks are suitable for them, what tools and sites are useful to fulfil the objectives of the course, and how I can provide students as many resources as possible so that they can be an autonomous learner. Now, I can make sense of how important technology is to address multiple learning styles and enhance leaner autonomy.
The first thing is while designing online classes, (is does not matter whether it is Nicenet or Google Wiki or Blogger) teachers themselves know about the links among the various tools. What I learned last week, by reading friends’ posts, was that Nicenet, Wiki and Blogger could be associated to each other to make our online class more effective and enable learners to be critical and autonomous. We cannot replace one with another.

I also got chance to go through the exercises and online classes designed by friends. The websites are as mentioned bellow:
http://sites.google.com/site/sites/system/app/pages/meta/dashboard/create-new-site
http://sites.google.com/site/zulymar2010/,
https://sites.google.com/site/upstreamsupperintermediate/
http://sites.google.com/site/bulentsdo/
http://www.edict.com.hk/xword/generator/
http://www.edict.com.hk/xwordData/XWord19831.htm
http://www.educationalpress.org/index.asp#PickWorksheetType
http://www.toolsforeducators.com/bingo/valentines.php
http://uk1.hotpotatoes.net/ex/58548/VJYLRZBJ.php
http://hotpot.uvic.ca/more6.php,
http://esl.about.com/library/lessons/blphrasalbuild.htm
http://sites.google.com/site/pphyak/home,
http://www.edict.com.hk/xwordData/XWord10589.htm,
http://www.edict.com.hk/xwordData/XWord12767.htm,
https://sites.google.com/site/ruslanaclass/,
http://www.123certificates.com/,
http://uk1.hotpotatoes.net/ex/59394/HCEUDZWJ.php,
https://sites.google.com/site/internshipprojectplace/,
https://sites.google.com/site/webskillssp2010/teacher-tools,
http://sites.google.com/site/zulymar2010,
www.manythings.org
http://www.123listening.com/dailyroutines1.php,
http://www.edict.com.hk/xwordData/XWord29663.htm,
http://sites.google.com/site/enhancereadingskills/crosswords,
http://www.learning-styles-

After going through these websites, I build a confidence in creating various teaching materials for my teaching. For example, while teaching ELT methodology course and training teachers, I feel very difficult to draw pictures and prepare crossword puzzles myself. But the tools like http://www.edict.com.hk/xword/generator/ and http://www.toolsforeducators.com/ are useful for designing different kinds of activities and games. Now, I feel confident in creating various materials for my students. I think this sort of confidence in teacher will also help learners to be more autonomous. But since some tools like Tools for Educators do not have ‘save’ option, in the context where there is no facility of printing, it is difficult to design exercises in the classroom. However, where there is a will there is a way. We can print them in the market and take printed copies in the classroom. Exercises like hot potato, word search, mazes are marvellous as they actively engage students in doing work.

However, it is always true that a teacher has to work hard to explore the possibility of integrating relevant resources in online courses. There is a need of critical scrutiny of websites and tools to be used in the classroom. Otherwise, students may keep on searching the materials which will kill most of their time but do not find time to read and write. If the exercises and tools are not selected according to the level and objectives of the lesson, technology may only spoil valuable time of students.

To sum up: Last week was accelerating, overwhelming and practical week which reflected the importance of readings and tasks we have been doing until now.

Cheers
Prem

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Reflection: Week 8

Dear All

Last week, I read three articles on learner autonomy by Dimitrios Thanasoulas (2000), Samuel P-H Sheu and Ricahrd Smith (conversation with Andy Barfield). The articles deal with different aspects of learner autonomy. Dimitrios Thanasoulas discusses the correlation between learner autonomy and learning strategies, activities for promoting learner autonomy and factors affecting learner autonomy. Learner autonomy is based on the philosophy of constructivism in learning in which students take an active role. At the same time, teachers also should play a constructive role to facilitate the learning process. The whole idea as discussed by Thanasoulas is based on the theory of learning strategies. An autonomous leaner makes an effective use of their learning strategies. They are provided many alternatives in order to allow them to work with their own learning strategies. Although meta-cognitive and cognitive learning strategies have been discussed in the article, there is no any discussion about socio-affective strategies which implies that learner autonomy is more concerned with individual phenomenon rather than social one. Is learner autonomy individual or social?

Self-report, diaries and evaluation sheets are major activities suggested to promote learner autonomy. I would also like to add one more activity or technique, project-based language learning, which promotes learner autonomy through collaboration. I am always confused with whether learner autonomy is process or product. I believe that learner autonomy is more a matter of process than a product. All learners are to some extent autonomous. Only the difference is the degree.

Learner autonomy is always affected by beliefs of both learners and teachers towards teaching and learning. If learners do not have positive beliefs towards self-learning and teachers also do not believe in learning through students’ active participation, there is no point in arguing for learner autonomy. Moreover, as discussed by Samuel P-H Sheu and Ricahrd Smith (conversation with Andy Barfield), other factors like teacher autonomy, and academic system (examination system, teaching style, expectation of authority and learners) also seem to affect leaner autonomy. Of course, there is no doubt that if teacher is not autonomous to decide what techniques of teaching and textbooks are relevant for their students, learners cannot be autonomous. In a structured and closed type of syllabus, learner autonomy does not make any sense.

Moreover, curriculum should itself be a guide to promote learner autonomy. For this, it should involve goals, strategies, text, methods, learners’ and teachers’ role etc. which guide learners to be more active in the learning process. Thus, the whole process of learning autonomy depends on the curriculum designing process. Likewise, socio-cultural factors cannot be forgotten. They are crucial to shape the learning process.

I also went through various websites on one-computer classroom. I learned that even a use of one computer in the classroom help learners to be more autonomous and independent.

Cheers
Prem