Thursday, 10 June 2010

Reflections: whole course

Dear All

Where to begin from? How to begin with? What to describe? I wonder how fast a 10-week time is already finished. I am speechless at this moment. I do not know how I can say good bye to my teacher and colleagues.

Every week was a new week, I feel. I learned many things in the course. Following introduction and discussion on the ground rules, I started the course by creating my own academic blog on the blogger (which was new for me) in the first week. In this week, I learned that blog can be used for developing reading, and writing skills of students through reflective practices. Going through various classroom and teacher blogs, I learned to design blogs for language learning. The most important thing was I development an understanding of how important are blogs for ELT.

In week 2, I learned to set course objectives following ABCD model. This was again a new thing for me. I realised how clear and specific objectives can be framed using this model. The project task began in this week. I described the learners and context where I planned to introduce technology. The most important tool, I went through in this week was www.noodletools.com which helped myself and my students to find out specific materials on different issues. Likewise, week 3 and 4 were more practical in nature. I went through various websites dealing with teaching listening, speaking and pronunciation (week 3), and reading and writing (week 4). I can download a variety of authentic texts which can be used in our online or offline classes. Delicious.com social bookmarking (http://www.uoregon.edu/~dhealey/techtips/sept2009.html) is a wonderful tool to store different digital tools with our own title on each site which makes easy to identify specific materials in future. I have already bookmarked so many useful links and I will be doing the same in future.

I have never realised before that simple technological tools like e-mail can be used to develop writing and reading skills of students. Through simple project - ‘email project’ – students develop writing skills with correct grammar, vocabulary, mechanics and organisation. Moreover, e-mailing among the students from different cultures and countries also fosters intercultural communication. The designing of lesson plans with technology to teach listening, speaking, reading, writing and pronunciation provided me an important insight to use technology for teaching language skills and aspects. I week 4, we shared issues of teaching learning in our context with friends.

Week 5 was exciting and much focused on technology integration in practice. For the first time, I designed technology integrated projects and webquests for teaching academic writing and critical thinking skills respectively. But I had to struggle a lot in designing a complete webquest. However, when I finished doing the task, I was amazed to see a well-structured lesson with technology in it. We also discussed some technology related changes we planned to introduce to address our issues in teaching.

In week 6, we discussed about rubrics, alternative assessment and learning styles. I prepared rubrics for academic writing skills and shared with friends in this class. Rubrics are important part of any course which determines expected outcomes of a course. It also guides students on what they have to perform. Various digital tools provided in the course can be used to prepare rubrics easily for any course.

Likewise, discussion on learning styles was so profound. Going through various readings in the course and posts from the friends, I learned that our students have different learning styles. Some students learn better with visuals, some with audios, some with experiments and so on. Likewise, some love interaction whereas some love to work individually. The readings on the sites like http://www.nclrc.org/sailing/ have mentioned various ways of identifying learning strategies and addressing them. Since technology provides a variety of materials (e.g. visuals, readings, pictures, games, exercise), we can use them in the classroom for the benefit of all learners having different learning styles. However, we discussed that it is always a difficult job to address diverse learning styles of students. Sometimes, only one learning style dominates over others. Should we address learning styles on one-by-one basis or in an integrated way? This issue was the main issue of discussion in week 6. Technology helps to address diverse learning styles integratively. The most important point in this week for me was that I started implementing technology with my students.

Week 7 was about using technology for teaching large classes and designing interactive PowerPoint. The discussion on these topics was so relevant for me. Going through readings at
http://www.uoregon.edu/~tep/workshops/teachertraining/largeclasses/usingtechnology/usingtechnology.html,http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/teaching/largeclasses.html and http://iteslj.org/Articles/Lin-Personalizing.html and reading posts from friends, I learned so many ideas that I can use to make my large classes interactive. So many wonderful ideas like Minute Paper, Think-Pair-Share, Concept Maps, and Collaborative Learning are helping me to make classroom more interactive. I will be using these techniques in future too. I cannot forget techniques of hyperlinking, using insert key, inserting multimedia, blanking slides, 7-7 rule for designing interactive power point. I have already started using these techniques.

Moreover, I worked with a partner, Evelin Ojeda Naveda from Venezuela, on my project report in week 7. We exchanged our draft reports and commented for further improvement. I learned a lot from constructive comments provided by my partner. I realise that this process helps to develop collaborative professional atmosphere which every academician and professional should have throughout their life. What a wonderful week it was!

We discussed how learner autonomy can be fostered through technology on week 8. Thanasoulas (2000, http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html) opines that "Learner autonomy consists in becoming aware of, and identifying, one's strategies, needs, and goals as a learner, and having the opportunity to reconsider and refashion approaches and procedures for optimal learning." Autonomous learners engage themselves in exploring, reading, analysing, evaluating and sharing o views. To this end, technology provides various tools like webquests, projects, games, and blogs for writing where students engage themselves to be an autonomous learner.

It is also true that learner autonomy has a correlation with teacher autonomy i.e. teachers should themselves be critical, reflective, engage themselves to explore materials and be well informed with new developments and keep on experimenting good practices. To this end, again, technology provides a large cumber of tools and resources for teachers which they can use in the classroom and reflect what works well and what does not.

One-computer classroom was also the topic of discussion in week 8. One-computer classroom is useful in the context where there is no computer lab. A well designed lesson and activity with one-computer in the classroom is beginning of the presence of technology in the classroom.

Week 9 was the most practical week. In fact the tasks and discussion in this week like summary of the whole course. In this week, I designed online courses for our students using Nicenet, Blogger and Google Wiki. While designing the online course, I learned how to select appropriate technology to fulfil the purpose of courses. I had to be cautious about the learning styles of my students and complexities of digital devices. This process has helped me reflect the importance of technology in practice. I also learned how to integrate different tools to address learning styles of students.

Moreover, designing various exercises, games, quizzes, crosswords, and bingos was the most exciting task in week 9. All the exercises were useful for my students. I will be using these tools in future for teacher training and classroom teaching. I also submitted the final report of my project in week 9.

In week 10, we shared our reflections on the whole course. All of us agreed that the course provided many resources and ideas to integrated technology in our teaching. We also evaluated the level of technology integration in our teaching. I realised that I have to integrate multiple digital tools in my course so that my students generate questions/issues themselves and discuss to generate more ideas.

In addition to our views on the content of the course, we shared each other’s ELT contexts. The posts and comments from the friends have helped me to become a critical reader and writer.

At this moment, I would like to thank Deborah Healey, my teacher, who moderated the discussions in the course. Without her proper guidance I would not be able to do all tasks and understand the topics given in the course.

I would also like to thank US Embassy, Nepal who provided me with this opportunity to participate in the course Building Teaching Skills Through Interactive Web.

Thank you to all lovely friends for providing constructive comments on my posts.

I think the journey has not ended, it has just begun. We should do further technology integrated projects in collaboration.

Cheers
Prem Phyak
Nepal

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Reflection: Week 9 (two more points)

Dear All

Let me add two more things on my previous reflection on week 9. I found project templates (both report and plan for future) useful for my future projects. The checklist to evaluate report is so comprehensive which guides us to prepare a good report of our projects in future.

The concept of peer review is the process I like most. My partner, Eve, provided remarkable feedback on my draft which has helped me to write a final report. I can also do this with my students. Before they submit the final thesis or assignment, I will ask them to review each other’s work and prepare a final draft based on the feedback from their partners. This will enhance my students’ academic writing skill.

Cheers
Prem