Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ongoing project with one-computer lessons and learner autonomy in week 7

Here I am again, ready to reflect my learning experience during this week. Frankly, I was awed by a variety of technology tools I learned from this course every week. I had a great chance to discuss the valuable facts about pedagogical matters as well as innovative technology tools throughout the course. This week, I was struggled a bit to finish all the tasks with my project and work. However, my hope and passion towards learning gives me strong energy to accomplish any challenging tasks. Thanks to my family and friends who always encourage and help me. I would like to thank my tutor Janine here for giving us sincere complimentary and we can see how she is willing to help us out in every situations. Well, I know this is not our final week yet I feel so grateful for everything that happens to me that I can’t hold my genuine feelings. Frankly, taking an online distance course was a huge change of learning situations for me. There are times when I want to see my tutor and colleagues and talk about everyday learning experience during the course. Maybe this is the reason I like blogging where I can express my feelings and share ideas. 

“I never teach my students. I simply provide the situations in which they can learn.” Einstein

In week 7, we discussed about learner autonomy which is one of the teachers’ favorite topics. We all agree that learners’ awareness of their own learning plays the important role in learning language effectively.  I think any learning process will be successful if learners are really interested in their own learning. It is very important for teachers to help learners aware of their own learning. Janine highlighted the reality of teacher and learner autonomy that ‘The challenge lies in making it happen. There are various reasons for this: students are unused to this role, teachers don't have the autonomy they need, teachers may not know how to train their students to be more autonomous, etc.’ All these facts are essential to consider seriously for the development of learner autonomy. In my country, it is a huge challenge for teachers to create autonomy in the learning environment. Most of the students used to depend on teachers a lot. They are trying to get the answers from teachers instead of solving out the problem on their own. Teachers mostly provide the answer to the students and there are many reasons for doing so as they may not know about learner autonomy and they do not have their autonomy. I think we should do a big change in our education system to promote learner autonomy. For doing this, teachers also need to have their autonomy out of the limited rules of curriculum and school administrators to have more flexible teaching practices. This week reading article provides a good example with Samuel P-HSheu who tries to develop learner autonomy within these set constraints. He also suggests that it is better to leave the learner autonomy until students reach the freer atmosphere of a university or college, and the increased maturity. To nurture good learner autonomy, teachers and learners should have it in the early stage of the learning. 
What is more, I really like reading What is Learner Autonomy and HowCan It Be Fostered?’ by Dimitrios Thanasoulas. The author stated that ‘It is noteworthy that autonomy can be thought of in terms of a departure from education as a social process, as well as in terms of redistribution of power attending the construction of knowledge and the roles of the participants in the learning process.’ Therefore, we should consider seriously about the roles of learner to be aware of their own learning process. And also don't forget that teachers can be good role models for students so tell them the experience of your own learning. 

 No computer lab needed. Just one is super!

Another discussion thread for this week is promoting technology in the classroom that is creating one-computer lesson. The topic is well suited with my project in which I am teaching one-computer lesson for language practices using Internet resources. It helps me to have better lessons by showing how I can manage the one-computer class. This whole week, students absolutely enjoy learning in a new learning style. We had lessons in the class with one computer, in the video room where there is a computer and display unit of LCD screen and in the computer room. Fortunately, there wasn’t any problem of technology or Internet connection except for the last day. On Friday, the connection was down so I had to use my backup plan. Anyway, it is very useful to know the advantages of using one-computer classroom. In fact, using technology in the class can benefit for both teacher and students. I can use computer as an administrative tool for doing word processing, researching, lesson preparation, communicating, presentation, saving data etc. The thing I particularly like about is that using computer as stations for students. I absolutely like the idea of communication and information station. Earlier in the course, I am fascinated to create keypals communication system in my class. Thus, students can get a real communication with the real world as well as practicing the language. I found this wonderful blog about ‘6 Ways to TurnYour 1-Computer Classroom Into a Global Communication Center’. It is definitely worth reading this one if you are interested in transforming into global learning style in your classroom. Besides, computer can be used as a resource tool for getting all kinds of information. Students can be used CD-ROM encyclopedia for research, pictures, video and sound clips, etc. and of course using Internet to access libraries, projects, databases, addresses, etc. All these ideas are amazing! I found some of the great websites about one-computer classroom and I invite you to check them out in my Delicious

I am genuinely grateful for all the things that happened right now in my life. Thanks to my lovely tutor Janine, my dear colleagues and my beloved family and friends. I know this is not the final week yet... let’s continue our learning and sharing in the future, shall we?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lots of engaging in Week 6

Another week greeted me with lots of interactive tools for engaging students in the class especially for large classes. In my country, the class size between the public schools and private schools are much different. Say, a typical class in public school has 70 or 75 students, whereas there are only maximum 24 students in the class of private school. I attended the public high school where I was familiar with the lecturing style learning environment. Mostly teacher lectures the whole class period and a little amount of learning takes place. According to the article ‘Enhancing Learning by Engaging Students’, students learning can be hindered by the following facts; 

  • Lack of student’s interaction with teacher
  • Lack of structure in lectures
  • Lack of or poor discussion
  • Inadequate contact with teaching assistants
  • Inadequacy of classroom facilities and environment
  • Lack of frequent testing or graded assignments

It clearly stated that lack of students’ interaction with teacher and poor discussion are important issues to be considered in creating learner-centered large classes. So, let’s avoid giving long lectures in the class and involve students in their own learning. Actually, they are the ones who need to participate, discuss and do all the learning stuffs. We, teachers are just acting as guides showing a good way for their learning and we should create a better learning environment where all the students are actively involved.

There are a number of great ways to enhance students’ learning. One of the essential ways is to involve them in the learning. How to involve? It’s simple and easy, just gives them a task to finish within both in and out of class. Make sure that the task should be suitable for your students’ level and interesting. For instance, try PBL (Project-based Learning) approach with your students. PBL includes lots of students’ discussion, co-operation, critical thinking and peer evaluation skills which are great for enhancing learning in a collaborative way. By reading lots of good articles about engaging students, I have learned more great ways to use in my class such as Think-Pair-Share, ConcepTest, Quick-thinks, Minute Paper, Concept Maps etc. You can read how each activity can be used for in ‘Enhancing Learning by Engaging Students’ and more activities in ‘Interactive Lectures’ and ‘How to give interactive lecture’.  

My favorite way of engaging students is using Interactive PowerPoint in class. Not the usual PPT presentation, but it’s interactive. It sounds interesting, doesn't it? The usual way of using PPT is showing presentation where the presenter talks the whole time, showing slides after slides without pausing, providing the answers to all the questions and just letting students click on the slide show. However, PPT can be used interactively by letting students to be involved in their learning. It is really great to see Deborah’s presentation which includes examples of interactive elements. So, next time when I think about engaging students with technology, PowerPoint will be another interesting alternative way to use in the class.

After all, no one can deny that week 6 is another amazing week with marvelous tools and ideas.

As the technology-enhanced project goes by in week 6…..

For the past five years, teaching language with technology like Internet is a fantasy dream for me. I have never thought of the useful way of Internet beyond finding information, communicating with friends, networking, reading news, e-books, and articles and using other entertainment programs. Besides that, Internet is a huge resources bank for me as I always download various kinds of worksheets and activities. Did I mention teaching using Internet? Neither had I done that in my life nor had any idea of my students learning language directly from Internet. For me, the only means of technology using in the class are CD player, projector and computers with some learning software.

No one knows what will happen in the future but one should seek to achieve their dream despite all the barriers. It is my dream of teaching students to use international language fluently in their lives. Taking this Webskills course is a rare chance for me and I enjoy learning new things every week. When I knew about doing a final project with innovative tools from the course, teaching using Internet was the first thing that came up in my mind. Thanks to many effective language practice websites, I could be able to teach my first technology-enhanced lesson as my project this week. When I first created the technology-enhanced lesson plan in week 4, I thought using suitable language practice websites can enhance students’ motivation and learning. I included one of the lessons with a different approach in my lesson plan in this week. The lesson is for practicing listening, grammar and vocabulary skills based on the context of ‘food and drinks’ with the use of Internet in the class. My lesson stages are :
Warming-up, Pre-teach vocabulary game, Pre listening, While listening, Vocabulary exercises and Post listening

Students practiced listening and vocabulary exercises about ‘Food’ from Randall’s Cyber Listening Lab.
Then, they played ‘Hangman’ game about ‘Food and Drinks’ on

Actually, I wanted to use projector to do all these activities in the class. Unfortunately, the projector was not available as it was used for another program. Here I want to tell you about some difficulties to use projector at my school. We have only one projector for the whole school and we need to share it among the teachers.It is quite difficult to set up the laptop and projector in the class too. We need to inform to the principal for before we use it and most teachers do not know how to set it up by themselves except computer and music subject teachers. They have their own classes to teach and cannot always assist to do all the setting. There is also no professional IT technician in my school. Therefore, most teachers prefer to use video room instead of using projector. The first part of the lessons which are warming up and pre-teach vocabulary game was taught in the class. Then we went to the computer room to practice listening using Internet. When I talked about learning with Internet, students felt excited and they wanted to learn eagerly with this new way.  It surprised me that nobody asked me any doubtful questions about learning in this way even though this was their first time taking the language class in the computer room. They were totally engaged in the lesson and it was marvelous to see the way all the students enjoy learning using technology. The students had one computer each but we did not have headphones. So, I played the listening conversation with one speaker in front of the room. They did really well for all the activities and they were talking excitedly about their scores after they submitted. They enjoyed playing ‘Hangman’ game on and there were a lot of conversations going on during this activity.

I found that technology helps students’ learning in an effective and motivated way and on the other hand, I experienced some unexpected moments during the lesson at the same time. For instance, some students at the back of the room sometimes could not hear the listening conversation very well, one student played the game unrelated with the lesson, some students did not listen to the instructions once they started using computer, two computers were not working properly so that two students had to share with other students. Although I had prepared and checked the condition of all the computers and made restrictions of using other unrelated software in advance, the lesson did have some slight flaws. However, I am totally satisfied with my technology-enhanced lesson as I think a lot of students’ learning happening in that time. This is one of the best times I see my students highly motivated for learning language.

It is no doubt that technology is a great tool to enhance students’ motivation in their learning. I am certain that technology will always be a part of my lessons in the future when my students asked, “When shall we do like this again?” after coming back from the computer room.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amazing Week 5 with PBL, Assessment, Rubric and WebQuest

Project Based Learning : Look how they are engaging!!

The atmosphere of week 5 was filled with marvelous ideas, great discussions, amazing methods and lots of hope for the future. This whole week I was busy teaching and learning as usual. I think that learning is a lifelong process for people especially for teachers. Everyday I am learning something from my students or by myself. One of my goals is to encourage students’ aware of their learning objectives and happy with their language learning process so that they could accept the value of education and lead a successful life. After all, it is a good habit that every student should nurture, isn’t it? The thing is if you enjoy learning, you will never want to stop it and that’s what I’m doing now. Enjoying learning and teaching at the same time.  

 This course is special for me as this is the first time online course where I meet with experienced teachers from around the world. I had a great discussion on Nicenet this week. We discussed about Assessment, rubrics and PBL (Project-based Learning). Do you know TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test)? Yes, a knowledge test for language teachers I took it in 2008 and that’s when I first heard about PBL. I have known about PBL as a student-centered teaching approach with projects, but I do not have a chance to use it in the class because of some circumstances like time limit, resources and the work place situations. Actually I really do like an idea of students’ learning while doing projects which enhance learning skills in a collaborative way. I could see the benefits of PBL vividly from reading an article “Less Teaching and More Learning” by Susan Gaer. She said, “Students develop language and literacy skills by working on a product that will exist beyond the classroom walls. This creates excitement and motivation that I have not seen in a traditional, text-based only class. In project-based learning, I do a lot less teaching and see a lot more learning in the classroom.” Just by simply read about it and I can see how PBL is such a strong and effective method for learning. Students really like doing things by themselves if they have given a responsibility to accomplish the tasks. They enjoy exploring and discussing in groups and they always do with enthusiasm. I could see their eyes sparkle with happiness and enthusiasm every time they are participating in group works in the class. PBL will be definitely worked well with my students and I am thinking of starting with some fascinating mini-projects. As Janine said “there is no set amount of time that a project has to last; "mini-projects" can be just as successful and may work better in some settings. This means they can last a day or two, a week, etc. They can be worked on in and out of class.” which show us clearly how PBL can be done successfully within a set curriculum. 

So far, I know a great way to motivate students’ learning with PBL and the thing is, in which way shall I assess students’ progress for their projects? Here comes another related discussion topic about using “Alternative Assessment” to evaluate students’ projects. This is also a new way of assessment for me which is different from traditional assessment usually use in the class. My way of assessment is limit to the traditional type. Frankly, I feel that we shouldn’t judge a student’s performance by testing one test and decide everything. We should implement some kind of continual assessment for student’s works the whole academic year. This week, I come across how alternative assessment can give concrete feedback on students’ performance. 

Traditional vs. Alternative Assessment

 Traditional Assessment (TA): assesses basic knowledge & skills separate from real-world tasks.

Alternative assessment (AA) : usually includes a task for students to perform and a rubric by which their performance on the task will be evaluated. Many of the alternative assessment tasks are performance based. Let’s look at the attributes of traditional and alternative assessment where TA's fall more towards the left end of each continuum and AA's fall more towards the right end.

Traditional --------------------------------------------- Authentic

Selecting a Response ------------------------------------ Performing a Task
Contrived --------------------------------------------------------------- Real-life
Recall/Recognition ------------------------------- Construction/Application
Teacher-structured ------------------------------------- Student-structured
Indirect Evidence -------------------------------------------- Direct Evidence

You can read the detail clarification of these attributes on the website AuthenticAssessment Toolbox by Jon Mueller.

 Another interesting fact that Jon Mueller stated is that a teacher does not have to choose between AA and TA and it is likely to use them both for different purposes and needs. Moreover, I enjoy reading the article of NCLRC “AssessingLearning: Alternative Assessment”. I could clearly see the usefulness of effective assessment tools such as checklists and rubrics. I have already created my rubric to evaluate students’ oral presentations in class. You can check this out at "Oral Presentation rubric" by RUBISTAR.  I think this new assessment method is the best way to give concrete feedback for some kind of oral and written production. According to NCLRC, “ Learners who are used to traditional teacher-centered classrooms have not been expected to take responsibility for assessment before and may need time to adjust to this new role. They also may be skeptical that peers can provide them with feedback that will enhance their learning.”

 It is true for my student’s current situation and visions for alternative assessment. They will definitely need some time to familiar with the use of checklists and rubrics and in this way they can gradually begin to assess their own learning and provide feedback to their peers.

Last but not least, I was introduced with the innovative online tool called WebQuest in this week. When I first saw the word, there was a big question mark sign on my forehead. According to the, “A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.”  You can see this short video of how WebQuest can enhance students’ motivation and enjoy their learning.

I have seen thousands of WebQuests created by teachers around the world at and they are really amazing! I can give assignments to students for all the language skills practices using WebQuests. Now I am in the process of creating my own WebQuest and I am going to share with all of you (hopefully before the end of this week).

Wow! I can’t believe we have finished half way of our course. I will absolutely enjoy teaching and learning in this Webskills journey in the coming week too. 

After all, learning is a lifelong journey….isn't it?