The first day of school is always stressful for me. I believe this is true for most teachers. During the school year, we try to adapt to our students' needs and expectations and to fine-tune our teaching to help each individual student make progress. We find out about their hobbies and interests and try to provide materials that will keep them motivated. We lack all this vital information about them on the first day. We don't even know their names. In return, they know nothing about us.
So, we use icebreakers. Icebreakers serve multiple purposes - they can help you learn their names or assess their English in an informal way. They also relax the students and create that group spirit which is so important.
The book is divided into three sections: Getting to Know Them, Assessing and Evaluating and Setting the Tone. The first section is devoted to activities aimed at helping the teacher learn more about the students and helping the students learn more about each other and the teacher. The first few activities help with learning the names, such as Name Chain and Memory Chain for example. I like Going on a Picnic, which combines name learning with a nice vocabulary revision. Like most other activities in the book, this one can be modified to suit your current teaching needs and I believe it can be used later on in the course too, with the accent on vocabulary recycling, rather than on learning the names. There are activites which help the learners find out more about their teacher, such as Ask the Teacher or the more unusual Tell Me about Me. There are some activities which promise to be madly fun, such as Snowball Fight or Snowball Texting, those that focus on their hobbies and areas of interest, such as Expert Game, old classics like Desert Island Choices and Simon Says. I love Walton's version of Time Capsule, which focuses a lot on the language.
Assessing and Evaluating, as its name says, is there to help you assess their English in an informal way. Label the Classroom is a simple activity that is great for learning or recycling vocabulary. Classroom Scavenger Hunt requires a little more preparation on the side of the teacher, but is very much worth it. You will again meet some old friends here, such as Sentence Auction Assessment, or Needs Association Survey, but they will always come with a new idea for using them. There are a lot of suggestions for how these activities can be modified to suit each teacher's individual situation. Complete the Sentence and Goal Setting are also very useful and adaptable.
The final section is Setting the Tone. It is there to set and negotiate classroom rules, give advice on how to learn and introduce them to the book and the syllabus. My favourite is the Rule-Breaking Role Play, which will definitely generate a lot of laughter in the classroom. Two other activities I recomment are Study Habit Myths and Syllabus Scavenger Hunt, which are both interactive and fun, while at the same time they introduce the students to the course and teach them how to study.
I give this book five stars. I feel privileged for the opportunity to review it on my blog. The book is inexpensive and affordable. You can buy it in paperback or as an ebook. Go to this page if you would like to buy it or just take a closer look at it. On the book page you will also find some sample activities, advice for the first day of school, as well as a collection of resources and a great Pinterest board to follow.
And if you try some of the activities from the book, please feel free to write about how it went in the Comments area.
This is my "moderator post" for Week 3 in eTextbook Teachers (#ebookevo). This is where I will offer some advice and support. I will try to be useful, I know you have a lot of work to do. Week 3 is going to be the week in which you map out your ebook chapter and make a final choice of the publishing option for your ebook.
And, if you are wondering which publishing option I will choose, it will be FLIPHTML5. I used it last year and I was happy with the result. It looks like a digital book and you can embed videos, links and images. There is also the option of enabling PDF download, which is perfect if the students want to print your book or read it offline. FLIPHTML5 can be used online, or downloaded to your computer. And it is free.
So, mind mapping. Why should you do it? I can think of three reasons:
1. Mind mapping will help you think and brainstorm. I literally brainstormed my ebook chapter into my mind map this year. I started with two separate ideas. Idea 1 was that I wanted this chapter to be about learning vocabulary. I wanted my upper-intermediate students to learn some new vocabulary and I wanted them to become more effective vocabulary learners. Idea 2 was that I wanted to use a poem and create some activities connected to it. This second idea came to me thanks to one of the #ebookevo participants, Mary Hillis, who suggested it to me in the first week of our workshop. The poem is called When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple. So how do I connect a poem about old age and learning vocabulary? Here's what I came up with:
2. The second reason is that mapping it out will help you organise yourself better once you start writing your chapter, by providing a visual reminder about what your chapter should contain. Of course it is not final, you can keep adding to it. And, by creating it, you are not committing yourself to everything that you have included. You are still in the brainstorming stage and you are allowed to change your mind.
3. Last but not least, a mind map is a beautiful visual. You can use it at the beginning of your chapter to let your students know what it is going to be about. You can use it at the end of the chapter to remind them what they have learnt, or as a benchmark. You can even invite them to add their own comments and visuals to the map.
There are many mind mapping tools and they are mostly easy to use. It all depends on your preferences and the device you are using. If you want to create it on your phone, you will want a phone app. I have used my Windows tablet and Nova Mind was my app of choice. It is relatively easy to use and the Lite (free) version is quite decent. You can save the map in a variety of formats and they even provide a free cloud for your maps. Here's what mine looks like online, in the cloud. And here's the one I created for my last year's chapter.
I would love to hear about other ways you use mind mapping in TEFL, as well as your experience with other mind mapping tools you have tried. Please post the comments here in the blog, or in our Google+ group.
It's the busiest time of the year. EVO sessions have started. I am one of the eTextbook Teachers (#ebookevo) moderators, but I wasn't too busy last week. I am moderating Week 3, which means that I am warming up right now (expect another blog post really soon). In Week 1 I re-introduced myself to the community, caught up with some old friends and met a few new ones. We have 100 new members! This promises to be another great year for #ebookevo.
I have joined three other sessions: Media Resources and Emotions (a fascinating topic), Teachers as Designers and Class-Based Research. I have also signed up for ICT4ELT. I take this course every year simply because I like to be a part of the community, but I don't always participate. Last year I decided to take a refresher and to devote my time to doing the exercises. I collected the badges and received the certificate. Which means that I will not be participating so regularly in ICT4ELT this year. I did sign up and I'll check in from time to time. One of the reasons I want to do this is to support my BFF Sneza, who is a first-time moderator this year. I am so proud of her.
In most courses this was the intro week, but we also learnt a lot. In Class-Based Research we watched this video and read this text about action research. Some of you may remember that I did action research in 2012 as a part of my Oregon Webskills course. It was really useful and it helped me grow as a teacher. Reflective practice does that. It was also very useful for my students to participate in this project, which lead to this presentation later on. I would really like to do action research one more time. I have a vague idea that I would like it to be about how my students learn vocabulary, but I am still not very clear about what I want to do.
I always attend four or five EVO sessions and people often ask me how I manage. Now, here's my secret: I focus on a single thing that I would like to do (for example a question or a problem I would like answers to) and do it from different perspectives in different courses. Or I focus on a single group of students and their needs. It works, believe me. This year my question is: How do my students learn vocabulary? To make things easier, I will focuse on my B2 students. I have two B2 groups - one is doing a general English upper-intermediate course and the other one is preparing for the Cambridge First exams.
In Teachers as Designers Week 1, we did something called The Dream Bazaar. Here's mine:
Now, this was what I came up in Week 1. In the meantime, I have had other ideas. Why limit the project to just one type of vocabulary-learning activities? Why not give the students a taste of various activities to choose from? And why not ask them which ones they like best? And why not put all of these activities into an ebook chapter, which is my Week 4 #ebookevo homework?
My blog was born on January 22nd, eight years ago. There have been ups and downs and I don't update it as often as I used to, but it has been an incredible tool for personal and professional growth. It has provided reflective practice and served as a learning eportfolio. It has helped me connect to other bloggers from my niche and grow, both as a teacher and as a writer.
First of all, Happy New Year. I hope it is a great one for all of us.
2015 was a really good year for me, professionally. I know I didn't update this blog much, but I was super busy elswere.
The highlight of my year was the British Council Trainer Development Course, which took place last spring and which I completed successfully. So, I am now a teacher trainer and I have got a shiny new certificate to prove this.
It was a great course, though very hard physically. We all learnt a lot and we formed lasting friendships. The best thing of all was that we had a fantastic teacher. She supported us every step of the way.
I will never think of this course without thinking about my teacher, Danijela Serafijanovic. And I will never think about this course without a sadness in my heart. For, we lost her. The illness was sudden and it took her away quickly.
I don't know how to talk about this, or deal with my feelings. And, when I get stuck on something, I tend to write poetry. So, here's a poem I wrote for Danijela.
You are standing on the corner, in your best clothes, holding a piece of paper. It is pink and crisp. You are careful not to bend it. You turn around, but you are all alone. Suddenly you have forgotten how to cross the street. It is your first day at school, but no one came to pick you up. You don’t know the way home and there is no adult to take your hand. Then you remember that you are the adult now. She left, but not before she passed it all on to you.
It is hard to lose a teacher. I hope I can pay her a tribute every time I give a workshop, or present in public. Maybe even through blog posts.
There is one other thing that kept me busy last year (and will keep me busy in the year to come as well), and that's SEETA. SEETA is short for South Eastern Europe Teachers' Association. We are an NGO now. I first got involved with SEETA through courses and workshops they organised, then there was a webinar on blogging, which was followed by a blogging forum I moderated. Last year our Chair Anna Parisi was kind enough to offer me a place in the SEETA Board. I am a Volunteers Manager now, which basically means that I coordinate volunteers and deal with any issues that might arise connected to SEETA volunteers. I am also a member of the advertising team and I post to Facebook on new SEETA activities.
SEETA community is very supportive and I am grateful for the opportunity to give something back to it. If you have never attended a workshop or a webinar on the SEETA Moodle, I suggest you give it a try and I am sure you will come back for more.
And then, there are EVO sessions. Last year I was an EVO moderator for the first time. I moderated EbookEVO and it was a great experience. Guess what - I am doing it again this year and it starts on Monday. Please join. You will learn a lot about creating and curating your own e-textbooks, and this will empower you in the classroom, by giving you more control over the materials you use with your students.
There are a few other EVO sessions that I would like to attend, but more about that in my next blog posts. If you are a reader of this blog, then you know there is always more activity here during EVO then during the rest of the year. This year, I am hoping to change that.
I miss this blog. It is the place where I used to come in order to clear my mind and make sense of things. The writing process was never easy here, but it was so useful. I feel that I have grown as a teacher just by writing occasionally in this blog during the last eight years. Since I started my poetry blog some two years ago, I started coming here less and less. I have always loved writing and my poetry blog gave me instant gratification - I would spend up to an hour on a poem and that was it. Nothing like the laborious process that went into creating posts on my teaching blog.
I am not big on resolutions, especially the unrealistic ones that most people create at the beginning of each year, only to abandon them a couple of weeks later. I believe in seizing the moment and playing it by ear. And doing it all year round. Or, if you must write down your resolutions, keep the bar low and the goals achievable. Still, there is one resolution I made for 2016 which concerns this blog. I am going to write at least one blog post every month. Yes, I am keeping the bar low. And the goal is achievable. Let's see if I can find the discipline to do it.
I have got other plans for 2016. I would like to present at a conference or two. And a longer teacher training workshop would be a nice thing.
Besides that, we will see. I will just play it by ear, as usual.
Another EVO is over. It was my eight and all I can say is that I still have a lot to learn. I was very lucky this year with the sessions I chose. They were all great. I managed to finish five and I moderated one of them. I learnt new skills - how to make videos, how to help students with pronunciation, how to create lesson plans for a flipped classroom. I took a refresher course in ICT4ELT and I managed to collect all five badges. Above you can see the badge to Week 5. And here's my ICT4ELT certificate:
In Flipped Learning, we said goodbye to the session and migrated to this Ning for more flipping.
In #ebookevo, we published our final chapters. One of the weekly tasks was to create a cover for our ebook. I used PicMonkey to create mine.
Then I played around with this tool and created a 3D version of my cover.
After trying out multiple tools and platforms for my chapter, two stood out for me. One is FLIPHTML5. I really like the way my ebook looks on their platform:
I know I am being a traditionalist here, but my second favourite is Microsoft Word:
It is downloadable and editable. It is easy to navigate through the document and it has a clean, simple look. I had originally embedded the videos, which is possible to do in the offline version of Word 2013, but then I replaced them with hyperlinked snapshots, because the videos wouldn't work in Word Online.
I experimented with several other formats and you can see all versions of my ebook in this wiki page. I created the wiki to record my progress through this year's EVO and it contains all my EVO 2015 artifacts.
Once again, moderating #ebookevo was a great experience. I hope to do this again next year. Which is why I am a very proud owner of this certificate of appreciation:
I am grateful to Shelly Terrell and the moderator team. Special thanks go to the EVO Moderator group, especially to Nina Liakos and Elizabeth Anne for supporting us.
And, of course, I am grateful to EVO for being there for us. See you next year, EVO.
Week 4 in EVO is over and we are well into Week 5 by now. It was, in many ways, an exciting week for me professionally.
First of all, it was the week I moderated #ebookevo. It was my first time as a moderator. I was nervous to start with. I shouldn't have been, because I was moderating a group of enthusiastic, creative teachers. I had the privilege to look at some chapters in making. I learnt a lot about new tools and resources. We discussed ways to engage learners and have them contribute to our ebooks, as well as technology elements that support learners. I will be forever grateful for this learning opportunity. I am officially an EVO moderator now.
In the meantime, my trainer development course started on Saturday. I am really excited about it and, hopefully, it marks a new beginning in my professional career. Of course, I will have to work very hard to get the certificate.
In Teaching Pronunciation Differently, we explored sounds. What left the strongest impression on me this week, however, was this short video. In the video Roslyn Young teaches French sounds to a group of English-speaking teachers. Around 2' 37" she starts talking about "the subordination of teaching to learning" and something she calls "post-paration" (as opposed to preparation). Great stuff, don't miss it.
In Blended Learning we did Moodle workshops and the pedagogical focus was on peer-reviewing. We were asked to pretend we were B2 students, marking our peers' essays. The rubric we were given focused on the content and on how well the student completed the task. The first thing I noticed as I was "peer-reviewing" the papers was how difficult is was for me to ignore the language problems of one of the students and to focus only on the rubric. The student had done the task quite well, but there were numerous language mistakes. I believe it is important for us to teach our students to focus only on that one thing that we want them to review and leave everything else to the teacher. As teachers, we too can learn a lesson here. There are several different categories for grading writing, the student might do quite well in one, while having problems in another. We focus on the language too much sometimes, to the point that we ignore everything else.
Peer evaluation was something we did in EVO Fipped Learning as well. Our task this week was to view and comment on at least 1 or 2 other participants’ lesson plans, referring to these 11 indicators of flipped learning. I looked at the lesson plans of Jose Antonio Silva and Yu Jung Han and I was impressed by both. Then I went back and reflected on my own lesson plan. I started thinking about what we all have in common and, instead of analysing all activities one by one, I believe I started seeing the bigger picture. What our lesson plans had in common was that, once the students came back to class after watching the videos, they went straight to complex tasks where they were independent of the teacher. I know it is probably obvious to seasoned flippers, but to me this is a revelation. No scaffolding in class from easy reproductive tasks to the complex creative ones. That part happens at home. If you are not sure what I mean, you can watch classroom videos of a seasoned flipper and a truly great teacher, Khalid Fethi. Here's the first one, and then you can proceed to Part 2 and Part 3.
I would like to finish this weekly journey by saying a couple of words about ICT4ELT. This was my favourite week, because I got to play with various interactive quizzes and exercises. I discovered new ones, such as Learning Apps and Educaplay and rediscovered some old friends, such as Hot Potatoes, Quandary and Survey Monkey. You can see the quizzes and polls I created this week in this wiki page and, who knows, maybe you can find some use for them in your teaching.
OK, I'll sign off now. Next week, you can expect one more "official" EVO update from me. After that, I am planning to go back to the session wikis and explore some tasks I missed. I'll keep you posted.
Week 3 in EVO is over. It was a very busy week and I ended up with two new lesson plans, a new wiki, three new videos, a mind map and a couple of Hot Potatoes exercises. I am going to share all of them here and I hope you find them useful.
Week 3 in #ebookevo was a mind-mapping week. I played with NovaMind, which is free. In fact, I liked it so much that I created a mind map for this blog post to let you know what you are going to read about.You can see a larger version here. NovaMind comes in various shapes and sizes (depending on your device and platform) and it even provides cloud storage for your maps.
In #ebookevo we mapped out our chapters, which helped us plan them better. Here's the map of my chapter:
I am not going to go into various ways you can use mind maps in EFL (this deserves a separate post and I am planning to write it), but one immediate idea I had was to include the map of my ebook at the beginning of the book (thus giving the students the idea about what they were going to find inside) and then again at the end (as a kind of can-do checklist). And there is no reason why we couldn't start and end our classes at school like that, so that the students could keep track of what they are learning. Mind maps are easy to use and they are a powerfu visual tool.
This was a very busy week in #evoflippedlearning. We looked at a lot of great examples of flipped lessons and we created our own lesson plans. Here's mine:
Or you can read about the lesson procedure here. By the way, I made the videos myself.
I created a new wiki, where I am planning to showcase everything I create during this EVO.
In Blended Learning we learnt about Moodle lessons and created our own lesson plan. We were supposed to draw our lesson on a piece of paper, then upload the drawing. I am terrible at drawing, so I bent the rules a little and used Hot Potatoes and Quandary. I also made another video (yes, I am addicted now). The final result is this.
I probably missed the point of the exercise, but I created something that I and my students can use more or less immediately. By the way, if the video doesn't work in the online version, you can download the doc, or follow the link under the video.
In Teaching Pronunciation Differently we learnt about articulatory settings in English. We watches two very useful videos showing how the lip and the tongue positions differ in English. I still practice saying Sing a Song of Sixpence every day, focusing on different aspects of what we are learning in the worksop.
As I was writing this post, I got notified by Sanja Božinović that my ICT4ELT badge has arrived.
These badges are so motivating. I have now decided I want the ICT4ELT certificate. I retake this course every year, but this time I have worked on the tasks more seriously that I usually do. I have discovered new tools and rediscovered old ones and found new use for them.
I will sign off now. It is Week 4 already and I have moderator duties in #ebookevo. You'll hear from me really soon.
This is my "moderator post" for Week 4 in #etextbookevo . This is where I give advice and support for the participants, pretending that I am an expert in publishing ebooks and not just someone who published her first chapter last year. I will try to be useful, I know you have a lot of work to do. Week 4 is going to be "that" week, you will be expected to publish your ebook chapter and show it to the world. OK, so here's the first piece of advice:
I mean it - don't panic. You don't have to finish your chapter next week, you don't have to write 100 pages and, moreover, you don't have to make it all up. The internet is like a global supermarket, with CC-licenced images, lectures and worksheets. You can write content that is completely new and original, but you can also curate some of the existing content created by diligent and creative teachers like you. Or you can do a combination of both.
(And remember that, even if something is not CC-licenced, you can always link to it.)
Think of what you do every week as you prepare for classes. You think about your previous class, you look at what's planned for the next lesson, you think about your students and their needs, then you go and search for something on the internet. Or maybe you sit down and write some tailor-made worksheets.
My point is that we all do it all the time. We are all material developers. So you have never published an ebook, so what?
Maybe you are lost when you look at all these publishing options. This Google Doc contains a list of publishing tools with advantages and disadvantages. If you are willing to dig through the posts in Listly, you will find some tools that are not listed in the Doc. What you choose should depend on your students and their needs. It will also depend on the kind of ebook you are writing and the way you are planning to use it. Do you want something very interactive? Which devices and platforms will your students use to access the ebook? Do they need to be online all the time? Which formats are they used to? If they want epub, then you should probably forget about adding videos and quizzes.
If possible, maybe it is a good idea to publish the ebook on multiple platforms. Last year I published my chapter in Glossi, which is beautiful but sadly no longer available, but I also created a Storify story. Finally I backed everything up on a wiki. I am trying to create content that will resemble Lego bricks - I can move elements of my chapter from platform to platform, I can add or remove parts of my chapter or rearrange them in a different order. This year I am experimenting with Widbook, but I have no idea what the final result will be like. I am also planning to create a Word document because I can embed videos into Word 2013. And, of course, there will be a wiki.
Whatever you do, remember to have fun. And remember the first two rules of writing:
It is the end of Week 2 in EVO. I signed up for too many sessions again this year and last week was crazy at work. So I found myself in front of my computer at the end of the week, having no idea where to start. Could I even hope to do all my assignments in two days? And interact with other participants?
A sane answer to these questions would have been "No". The right thing to do on a Saturday morning would have been to go out and enjoy life. Luckily, the weather was awful all weekend, with dark gloomy skies and rain. And, luckily, I am a nerd.
It took me six hours on Saturday and four on Sunday, but I managed. And I loved every moment of it.
So here's what I did. I first attacked the Flipped Learning homework. I experimented with PowerPoint and created this video for my advanced class:
There are blunders and mistakes and things I could have done better, but this is my first instructional video and I am proud of it. I am really enthusiastic about my flipped learning class, I can't wait to learn more and create more videos.
Working with PowerPoint on my Windows tablet was a great experience. I have become a Windows 8 fan by now and I want to explore the use of PowerPoint for flipped learning. I also created a Jing video, but I made so many blunders in that one that I am leaving it out. Still, Jing videos are great when you need to share your screen with others, or teach them how to use a tool. Or take a screenshot, the way I am doing it here:
This is a picture of my Blended Learning homework. You might notice that I have recycled my Idioms with Paint video. Our task was to create two different forum-based activities, to explain what the previous task was and what the objective of the forum was going to be. I have some experience with online forums and I have used Yahoo Groups with my students. I haven't got much experience with Moodle, except as a student. I am quite impressed by what Moodle forums can do. You can find out more about Moodle forums here.
Next, I created an audio recording for ICT4ELT, listing some ways how audio can be used with students. I used a Windows 8 application called Sound Recorder. It is great and the sound is very clear, but there was a slight problem with it - afterwards, the file was nowhere to be found. It wasn't stored anywhere in My Documents, or in Downloads. I searched and searched. Finally, I asked Google and this post helped me find it. After I had finally located my file, I uploaded it to several podcasting platforms (probably in fear of losing it again) Anyway, here are my thoughts on how you can use audio with your students:
Next, Teaching Pronunciation Differently. Did I already tell you how much I love that class? This week we watched a series of interesting videos (for example, this one) and did some practical exercises. I recorded myself again, and this time I was saying Sing a Song of Sixpence in a normal voice, stage whisper and ordinary whisper. I deleted the recording afterwards, it was for my own personal use.
This week in EVO eTextbooks we were thinking about the visual design and layout of our etextbooks. What do we want our books to look like? And which visual elements are important to our students specifically? If I think about my (adult) learners and the visual elements that are important to them, I believe we need to start with the basics, and that's the font. It needs to be easy on the eyes and large. Of course they can always enlarge it on their device, but it will help if the page is not cluttered with text. Instead, there should also be images, bulletpoints, arrows... I speak from personal experience. I can't see a thing without my reading glasses. The only reading app I like is FBReader. You can enlarge the letters as much as you want and, what's equally important, you can increase the space between the lines. That way even I can read without my glasses. Unfortunately FBReader only works on Android devices.
Of course we can't be sure, but in the future most textbooks will probably be read on people's devices. They will be interactive, with videos, interactive quizzes and exercises and lots of images. Students will probably be able to "write on the margins" and post comments and feedback for the textbook author. Digital textbooks should be designed in such a way that they can be quickly edited, so that the content can be changed and updated regularly.
I made a Prezi for last year's #etextbook course. I believe it still neatly sums up what I want future textbooks to be like.
In Educators and Copyright we had interesting readings and listenings this week. For example, in this post you can find more search tools which help you locate CC-licenced images. Quite a few of them are new to me. Sadly, I was mostly lurking in Educators and Copyright last week, otherwise I would probably have needed a Time-Turner.
My blog is seven years old. I can't believe it's been so long since I started blogging. It seems like yesterday.
I write a post on this day every year and I lead my readers through all the posts that I wrote the year before. However, I was a lazy blogger last year (as I have already explained here) and there wouldn't be much to share. So, instead, I have decided to celebrate my blog's seventh birthday by sharing seven random blog posts. I am not looking for the best posts, or even my personal favourites. I am not sure what criteria I am using here, but I hope you like the result.
My number one, Publishing My First Ebook Chapter, was written last year and it will lead you through the 2014 Ebook EVO session (or, at least, my experience of it). Since I am moderating #ebookevo this year, I thought it would be useful both for me and for my readers to go through the process of creating an ebook this early in the 2015 session.
How I Became a Teacher is a personal story about how the profession chose me. If you don't understand what I am talking about, you should read the post.
7 Reasons Why Educators Should Blog was originally written as an assignment for a writing MOOC I attended on Coursera. You will notice that a lot of effort went into this post. I also had more personal reasons for writing it - I was trying to convince a group of reluctant bloggers to just do it. If you are not a blogger yet, but want to start blogging, or if like me you have recently gone through a stage when you felt like giving up, read this post.
It is Week 1 of EVO, so it's time to get this blog active again. As always, I have signed up for multiple sessions. And I am moderating one of them - Crafting the ePerfect Textbook, or #ebookevo. The session has 18 moderators, so it is a collaborative endeavour. We are a true MOOC, with a lot of participants, so we are very busy responding to the threads in our Google+ group. I will be moderating Week 4, but until then I am trying to be as active in the group as I can. Congratulations to the Week 1 moderators, Shelly Terrell, Özge Karaoğlu, Janet Bianchini, Debbie Tebovich, Michelle Worgan, André J. Spang, Jennifer Verschoor, for doing a great job during this busy week. You can read Janet's Week 1 post here. It contains lots of tips and tricks to help you write your own ebook.
I first attended #ebookevo as a participant last year and I wrote about it here. So, I was honoured when Shelly Terrell invited me to help moderate the session. This year I am planning to add one more chapter to the collaborative ebook I wrote last year with two colleagues from my school, Snezana Filipovic and Milica Svrzic. It is aimed at intermediate adult students.
Another session I am very excited about is EVO 2015 Flipped Learning, or #evoflippedlearning. In week 1 we were trying to decide whether flipped learning was applicable to our teaching situation. I find the topic both relevant and interesting. I teach busy adults who spend only two 90-minute periods a week in class. Flipping could free some classroom time for activating new vocabulary and grammar. I first need to learn how to create instructional videos. My YouTube channel has been mostly inactive, maybe that is going to change now.
Week 1 in #evoflippedlearning contained some great resources. Here is a series of short videos by John Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who are considered to be pioneers of flipped learning. The main question they try to answer is What is the best use of my face-to-face time with students? Here are two articles by John Graney and Laine Marshall, our moderators. Laine Marshall provides further links to Katie Gambar's videos and this treasure trove. I can't wait to find out more.
I have to admit that I find the difference between flipped and blended learning a little hazy. The terms overlap and in an effective use of online tools there might be both methods present. Blended learning is another topic I find very relevant, so I am attending Using Moodle as a Bridge to Blended Learning. It is on the Moodle4Teachers website and you can read a short description of the course here. This video differentiates the blurry line between blended learning and technology integration. This video gives further examples of blended learning in the classroom.
I am also attending Educators and Copyright: Do the Right Thing. In Week 1, among other things, I read this blog post about using images legally. I find it very relevant to bloggers, especially since it also contains links to places where you can find CC-licenced photos you can legally use. More on places to find CC-licenced photos here.
I wouldn't feel I was in EVO if I didn't sign up for ICT4ELT. I sign up every year, and this time I earned myself a badge for Week 1.
Finally (don't count my sessions, please) there is Teaching Pronunciation Differently. This session has transported me back to my student days when phonetics was one of my favourite subjects. That was a long time ago and I have forgotten a lot, so I am struggling a little at this stage. Luckily, the moderators are very helpful and I am looking forward to the following weeks because I feel that here I will learn something new. Hopefully this course will help me help my students with pronunciation.
I hope you have enjoyed my report from various EVO sessions and that you will find the readings and the videos I have shared useful. See you again really soon.
I am a lazy blogger. There are times when I post regularly (usually when I attend courses and workshops) and there are times when I don't post anything for a month or two. I stopped apologising for my silences long ago. Blogging takes time and I don't always have time. Still, this year I feel I owe you all an explanation, if not an apology.
I started the year well. I wrote a couple of posts which I believe were quite good. Then, since March, nothing. Silence.
Has this blog been on hiatus? If so, why?
I never planned to take a break from blogging, but, as you'll see, things happened. One of the "things" that happened was my other blog. I believe people with multiple blogs often have this problem, but in my case it was drastic.
Summer Blues is my poetry blog. I started it in August 2011, when I finally plucked up the courage to start sharing my hobby with the world. Not much was happening there until April 2013, when I participated in my first NaPoWriMo poetic challenge. NaPoWriMo is held every April and you post a poem a day. Despite its name, it is international. I started the challenge tentatively, but like a good nerd, I posted a poem (sometimes even two) every day. I met great people who encouraged me to persevere.
I have to say that in 2013 the challenge didn't really do any harm to my teaching blog, except that it kept me from posting here for a month. We could argue that I took the challenge more seriously in 2014 (I once again managed to post every day), but this time other things happened as well.
OK, the culprit is my kidney. For the past four months I have been trying to get rid of kidney stones. This hasn't happened to me for the first time, but this time it has been much, much worse than usual. As anyone who has had them will tell you, kidney stones are nasty. Believe me, the last thing on your mind when you have kidney colics is blogging.
If you have just been to my other blog and if you are observant, you will notice that I managed to post there every day during November, the month I was supposedly incapacitated by kidney stones. In fact, I succeeded in completing another poetry challenge.
When you are in pain, poetry helps. You can vent and complain. I don't normally complain in my TEFL blog, and I rarely vent. Besides, to write about TEFL, I need the classroom. I need to be teaching in order to get new blogging ideas. This autumn I was on sick leave for six weeks.
However, I am back now and I am eager to start blogging. Natasa's Blog will be seven years old in January and in November it was 25 years since I had started teaching. These are important milestones and I have so much I want to share with you in 2015.
I am incorrigible. The five weeks of EVO finished a long time ago and here I am writing about Week 3. If you go through my last year's posts (for example, here), you will notice that this is not unusual. For me, real learning starts after the sessions are over. I go through the tasks I skipped, finish the readings and try to stay in touch with the community. And, from time to time, I even post something to my blog.
This year I chose to organise my weekly reflections around #rhizo14 challenges. #Rhiso14 is not even an EVO session, but I did sign up initially because it was my #MultiMOOC "homework" to sign up for a really massive online course and then observe what was happening. I only ever heard about #rhizo14 through #MultiMOOC.
#Rhizo14 was organised around weekly challenges. The challenge in Week 3 was to embrace uncertainty.
We've spent two weeks talking about power - first from the student's perspective and then from the facilitators perspective. Come down the rabbit hole with me my friends. At the heart of the rhizome is a very messy network, one where not all the dots connect to all the lines. No centre. Multiple paths. Where we have beliefs and facts that contradict each other. Where our decisions are founded on an ever shifting knowledge base. Our challenge this week... how do we make our learning experience reflect (and celebrate) this uncertainty?
Dave goes on to ask:
How do we make embrace uncertainty in learning? How do we keep people encouraged about learning if there is no finite achievable goal? How do we teach when there are no answers, but only more questions?
During this same week in #Multimooc, Vance Stevens talked about chaos in learning and its resolution through networking. Here's the link to the audio. And here are Vance's slides:
As you will see, the slides contain additional resources on chaos in learning. In the words of George Siemens: "...but if an instructor makes sense and gives you all the readings and sets the full path in place for you then you are eviscerating the learner's experience."
"When I try to navigate and respond to the Internet by only using the meta-lanuages of speech, writing, math and scientific method, I find that often my expectations do not align with what I am experiencing. If I take a fairly linear approach, thinking that I can comprehensively absorb or connect dots with what I already know I quickly find that there are too many choices, possible directions, and things to be taken into consideration. Being methodical and trying to deal thoroughly with one aspect before moving onto the next does not work particularly well – it is a reflection of my trying to use old methods with new technology. There is a mismatch – neither one works well and I become overwhelmed. The Internet is liquid not solid. To navigate I need to swim, to take flow into consideration – or as Marshal McLuhan would say, “to use my wit“. Internet Lingo demands navigation by improvisation. When I begin to feel that too much is happening I need to let go. Giving myself permission play, to let go, or to press pause is appropriate and results in the creation of a personal, healthy Internet ecology!!"
In his webinar, Vance talks about serendipitous learning. If you need to know something, it will find its way to you. If you miss it the first time, it will come back. Trying to absorb it all at once is impossible. It is also unnecessary. Letting go is the first step.
This was the week when History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education started on Coursera. I have really enjoyed this course and I am going to share a couple of things that fit nicely with the topic of this post. First of all, let me remind you of this video:
Did you see it? I did. But then, I wasn't very good at counting those balls. Maybe because the activity was boring (and I am terrible at boring repetitive tasks). Maybe I am good at multitasking. Or maybe I have an attention deficiency, which is why you wouldn't want me to count your money for you or be a basketball referee when your favourite team is playing.
In the first chapter of her book Now You See it (titled "I'll Count, You Take Care of the Gorilla"), professor Davidson talks about why collaboration has become a necessity in the modern world full of distracting stimuli. She uses the term "collaboration by difference" - we need people who can count and we need people who can spot the gorilla. We also need teachers who can bring together different personalities and teach them how to cooperate. Or maybe the kids will find ways to learn how to cooperate on their own. Isn't that what rhizomatic learning is all about?
EVO sessions finished last week. So far I have been giving you weekly updates and, as far as those go, I am still stuck in Week 3, but today I would like to do something different. I am going to put together my EbookEVO artifacts, because it makes more sense to do this in a single blog post. EbookEVO was one of the best EVO sessions I have ever attended. The course taught us, step by step, how to write a chapter of an interactive e-book. What I'll try to do in this post is show you just how brilliant the whole idea was. This is my way of saying "Thank you" to the moderators.
The goal of the workshop was for us to complete our chapter. I finished mine and a lot of other people got there as well. I have to admit that I was worried at the beginning of the workshop. I thought it would be much harder than it was and that I might not get to the end. Now all I want is to write more chapters.
My two collaborators, Sneza and Milica, finished their chapters too. The three of us are planning to finish the whole book. Here's Sneza's chapter and here's Milica's.
And this is how the course was organised:
Week 1 was devoted to introductions. 3-2-1 was a popular introduction format in this year's EVO. It is a nice way to introduce yourself and (if you are an old EVO participant like me) maybe reveal something that others haven't heard yet. What was refreshing about the 3-2-1 introduction in #EbookEVO was that we were given a choice of tools and told to use one of them and create a 3-2-1 digital story about ourselves. Here's mine:
Kudos to the moderators for the inspiring questions. I swear that my saying I wanted to be a travel writer had something to do with the topic I chose for my chapter. I didn't plan this, it just happened.
Here's what was in store for us in Week 2:
During the second week, you will:
evaluate the current content in your textbooks
evaluate various ebook designs to determine how you want to design your e-textbook
decide what you would like to include in your e-textbooks
map out the content you have to cover in your curriculum
outline your e-textbooks
evaluate your peers' outlines and provide feedback
discover basic design elements and tips from experienced authors
attend a live online session with moderators
While I was outlining my e-textbook, I started daydreaming. What would the perfect textbook for the new age be like? Surely not something static or linear that you had to read from cover to cover? Here's my dream e-textbook(with apologies because I have already shared it in this post):
Week 3 was the mind-mapping week. We got into more detail with what we wanted to include in our chapter and then we mapped the chapter out. I was surprised to find out that I had a very clear idea about what I wanted to include in my chapter. Here's the mind map. A really bad side of Popplet is that it is not embeddable (even though the website claims it is). Here's the Jing capture, hope it does the trick:
In Week 4 our goal was to complete a part of Chapter 1 and post it for peer feedback. I used Storify:
Yes, I know that Storify doesn't really look like a book. I wonder if that matters. We don't read on the Internet the way we used to. Isn't a wiki really a book? Doesn't the same go for a blog? Maybe the Storify isn't as appealing visually as some other tools, but doesn't its functionality make up for that?
And I would like your honest opinion on this because in Week 5 I remixed my chapter and created a Glossi.. I am leaving the Glossi for the end of this post because Blogger refuses to publish any text after my Glossi ebook. Is this Glossi's fault, or Blogger's? I don't know, but here I am trying to republish this post for the third time.
Glossi does improve the visual design of my ebook, but it lacks the functionality of Storify. And, speaking of functionality, my own personal favourite is still a wiki.
Here you are - the same materials, three different tools. Which do you like best? And why?
I feel empowered. Internet is full of open educational resources and authentic materials that can be adapted to every student's needs. The OERs can be put together like Lego bricks. Each one of them can be taken out when it is no longer needed, or reused and remixed on another occasion. Ebooks can be offered in different formats, depending on the teacher's personal taste, the students' computer skills, or the ways the materials are going to be seen (in a computer lab, at home computers, or on mobile devices). I still have so much to learn. My ebook writing journey has only begun.
As Week 4 begins in my various MOOCs, I am still still catching up on Week 3, while trying to blog about Week 2. We were busier than usual at work during "week 2". It was the end of the term and we had exams. I was tempted to jump straight to Week 3, but then this story that I am telling in installments would have been missing a chapter. Even though I didn't manage to do much homework that week, interesting things were still happening.
Learning rhizomatically is the goal, but how do we get there? The position of teachers is based on whole set of power structures that create a reliance on the teacher for setting objectives, assessing progress and giving direction. How can we take people who've spent their whole lives believing that this is 'learning' and MAKE them independent? As I have said, I didn't do much work during week 2 week, so I didn't post my answer to this question. However, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. Can you enforce independence? Isn't it a paradox?
I keep meeting the same people over and over again in my various MOOCs. They move across platforms effortlessly and they are constantly participating in new MOOCs and communities of practice. These people somehow manage to navigate multiple platforms and cope with information overload. They have obviously reached the level of independence that is required for online learning. They share resources, post their reflections, notes and mind-maps and often create a course-within-the-course. With Coursera courses you learn most intensively not from the lectures, not in the forums, but in student-created Facebook groups. Some of these students have their own blogs, others Tweet or bookmark. When a MOOC doesn't meet their expectation, they simply walk out. Once the MOOC finishes, they continue to share in their Facebook group.
After 6 years online, I think I can safely say that I am one of them. I don't remember how I reached this level of independence. I am not sure it can be taught. Self-taught perhaps. Can it be enforced? Well, you know the joke involving a lightbulb and a psychiatrist.
The lightbulb has got to really WANT to change.
Still, there are some things that good teachers do that can be applied to a MOOC:
Good teachers model the behaviour they want to see. Al Filreis recorded his ModPo videos as round table discussions because that was the behaviour he wanted to see in the forums. Denise Comer used a pseudonim to write and submit essays in her writing MOOC, exposing herself to the infamous Coursera peer reviews. She then reflected on the activity and showed us how we could benefit from any kind of review we got.
Good teachers create an environment in which it is safe for you to experiment and make mistakes. As one students said in Al's webcast when he put her on the spot: " The worst thing I can do is be wrong."
Good teachers leave you some autonomy. If I want to do my homework in my blog or in a Facebook group, that should be acceptable.
Good teachers don't spoon-feed you information, they let you find some of it on your own.
Good teachers are humble. They will let you teach them what you know and they will give you the credit for that.
Good teachers plan carefully, so that they give you the best possible course. Despite this, or because of this
Good teachers are willing to improvise and make on-the-spot changes of curriculum, platforms, or any other element of the course.
I could go on and on. I have seen a lot of great teachers during these six years online. I have seen quite a few that were not so great, but I learnt as much from them as I did from the first group. The online world changes so quickly. What worked yesterday might not be suitable tomorrow. Which is why I have created the Relearner badge I started this post with.
We learnt about badges in MultiMOOC, thanks to Jim Buckingham who gave this inspiring lecture:
The whole topic of open online badges is new to me. One of the reasons why I am fascinated by them is that they give you credit for studying what you want, even if it is just a single unit in a course. Instead of getting a certificate for the whole MOOC, you can get a badge for the unit you studied. Badges are transferable, so that you can share them in your eportfolio, on your website or on any one of your profiles.
I would like to learn more about badges and this is something I am leaving for after EVO is over. There are a few online courses that teach you how to use badges. I intend to go through one or two of them (there is a great one on P2PU). In the meantime I have joined Credly and created the "Relearner" badge I started this post with. Relearning is one of the topics of my next blog post.
Relearning is something I am practicing in EVO. One important lesson I learnt in Mobile Assisted Language Learning in Week 2 is that what's really mobile in MALL are not the devices, but the learners and the resources. I was one of the first teachers in Serbia who got hooked on CALL, but I am late with mobile learning. I only got my first Android device in November. Since then I have had to relearn a couple of things.
In Ebookevo we worked on the visual design of our ebooks. We got to daydream a little and create our dream ebooks. Here's mine:
Two weeks later, as I am struggling with real ebook tools, I have realised that there is no tool that could create such an ebook at the moment. Still, one can always dream. And I know that one day they will create a perfectly interactive ebook. When that time comes, we will have to relearn the way we read.
My blog and I happen to share the same birthday. Although the day has officially finished, the early morning hours find me still at my computer. Until an hour ago Google was still displaying the Happy Birthday, Natasa doodle:
Awfully nice of Google if you ask me.
Traditionally on this day I look back at the year behind me and create a "sneeze post" where I list everything I wrote the year before. I didn't write that much last year, but I somehow managed to create 12 posts. Here they are:
As always, the beginning of the year is devoted to EVO sessions. Like this year, in 2013 I also attended five. In Time to Fess Up I tried to explain how I was planning to "juggle five balls" and why I thought this was a good way to learn. This blog was what kept it all together. It helped me see connections between courses. I am doing the same thing again and I am going to blog about my experience.
By providing the link to My Blog is Five Years Old I am trying to cheat you into reading last year's retrospective of my 2012 posts.
Week 2 - Declare, Where is (you guessed) about Week 2 of 2013 EVO sessions. In the meantime I had thrown into the mix a couple of very interesting MOOCs and I had made my mind where I wanted to participate actively and where I just wanted to sample.
In Tales of the Unexpected I had already started to synthetise my various learning experiences. One course that got most of my attention was E-learning and Digital Cultures. If you go to my post, you will be able to get a glimpse of what this course was like. I also shared this Prezi that was to serve as my mini portfolio:
On Metaphors, the Future and the Way We Are Wired is a fun post to read (even if I am saying so) because it contains a couple of digital stories I created that week, a great SF short video (from E-learning and Digital Cultures), Gardner Campbell's inspiring keynote and a Slideshare on edupunk that I found in the MultiMOOC wiki archives. I somehow mixed it all together.
What Makes Us Human is the last installment of my exciting five week learning journey. Again there are digital stories I created that week - several images and an Animoto SF story that I am very proud of.
Then interesting things started happening to me. In March I was sent to Slovenia as one of the two official representatives of ELTA Serbia. There I met two of my online friends face to face for the first time - Shelly Terrell and Sasa Sirk. Here's my account of the conference. I tried to go into as much detail as possible to give the people who were not present an idea about what it was like.
Seven Reasons Why Educators Should Blog is a post I wrote as homework for a writing MOOC I participated in. I worked very hard on this post to make it as presentable as possible and I did a lot of research. I also put my heart into it.
How I Became a Teacher is (of course) a story about how I became a teacher. It was an answer to a blogging challenge.
In October I presented at the Reform Symposium and I announced it here. Here's the link to my Reform Symposium profile.
Probably the most important post I wrote last year is this one. It announces the beginning of a blogging project that a couple of us started on SEETA. At the moment we have a small but active community of bloggers there and the seeds of an ebook that should, if all goes as planned, be of some help to new and wannabe bloggers.
As you can see, a lot of things have been happening outside this blog - the online conferences, various MOOCs, the seeds of my SEETA project. However, I believe that this blog, this six-year-old child of mine has made a lot of this possible. Not only did it hold everything together by helping me think and reflect, but it provided new opportunities and new connections.
It is that time of the year again - the time I have come to associate with multitasking, long hours at my desktop and loads of homework. Yes, it is time for EVO sessions.
Ever since I joined my first EVO sessions in 2008, I have had a bad habit of signing up for too many. I mean, could you resist this choice? And how do you choose which ones to give up on? So, this year I am taking five.
No, don't get too worried about me. This is not my first time with five (though I usually attend four). Besides, I have done two of the sessions several times before. One is ICT4ELT (formerly known as BaW) and I am really only lurking there. Though, when I looked at the list of this year's tools and saw how many new ones there were... I don't know, I might just jump in and get out of the lurking mode.
The second course I have taken before is MultiMOOC 2014 (#evomlt , #evomlt14). I have spoken about this course in multiple blog posts. The reason why I keep returning to it is that it helps me get organised and manage everything else, by taking me each year through five weekly steps - orient, declare, network, cluster, focus. MulitMOOC is run on multiple platforms and the participants are encouraged to sign up for additional MOOCs and apply what they have learnt. Which is why I have also signed up for Rhizomatic Learning (#rhizo14), but more about that later. Another thing we are encouraged to do in MultiMOOC is write about our experience in multiple learning environments and compare, contrast, summarise and synthetise. Which is what I will be doing in this blog during the next five weeks.
I mentioned Rhizomatic Learning. It is not an EVO session, but a cMOOC. In Week 1 we talked about cheating as learning. I believe that in the online learning environment cheating should be redefined:
The third EVO course I am taking is The Use of Mobile Applications in Language Classes. I know nothing about mobile learning and I only bought my first smartphone a month ago. It has quickly become indispensable, together with my ipod and my desktop computer. I am looking forward to learning about a topic that is completely new to me.
EVO course Number 4 is Wonderful Words: Vocabulary Matters. I have always loved vocabulary and I am looking forward to brushing up my theory in this area and learning new fun ways to present and recycle vocabulary. Even though this is the week when we are only introducing ourselves, a couple of interesting discussions have been started. One is about using journaling for students to improve their language skills. One of the many good sides of free journaling is that it helps students choose which vocabulary they need, by choosing the topics they want to investigate. Another very interesting discussion has sprung around this blog post. I am going to try this technique out, it sounds great.
Last, but by no means least - Crafting the ePerfect eTextbook (#ebookevo). It is a very ambitious course and the number of participants qualifies it as a MOOC. The course is run by a great team of moderators. My dear friends Shelly Terrell and Janet Bianchini are in the team and I am really happy to be learning from them. What makes me even more happy is that I will be participating in a collaborative project. Four other teachers from my school (Sneza, Milica, Darko and Vlada) will be writing the ebook with me and you can find our project under the tag #kolaracebookevo. Some of the teachers in my group are novices in this type of learning, so my task this year is to provide the scaffolding as well. The concept of interactive ebooks is new to me too, so this is going to be a steep learning curve.
I would like to finish this week's blog post with the 3,2,1 Introduction Animoto I created for #ebookevo:
Last spring I participated in a SEETA Webchat. The topic I chose to talk about was blogging for reflection and the way it can help in teacher development. SEETA webchats are just what they say they are - chats. The people who join the chat can ask questions and contribute to the discussion any way they want.
Participating in the webchat was a fun thing to do, but it also gave me food for thought. I was under the impression that there were people out there who wanted to start blogging, but were not quite sure how to do it. Others have tried blogging, found it solitary, time-consuming and unrewarding and given up. I went to my summer holiday thinking about what I could do to help them.
Anna Parisi (the founder of SEETA) was kind enough to help and that was the beginning of our little blogging forum. A fellow blogger, Merve Oflaz, joined and soon we had a forum bustling with activity. Still, all the teachers who joined us were experienced bloggers. There were no new or wannabe bloggers in the forum and those were the teachers we were trying to reach. That's when Anna suggested that we write a booklet for new bloggers and post it on SEETA. This booklet would lead new bloggers through the initial stages of blogging and help them connect with other educators who blog.
I loved the idea of a booklet. I thought how cool it would be if I could reach out to the wider blogging community and people in my PLN. What if every chapter was written by a different blogger?
This is where you come in. For, I need your help. Would any of you good people reading this post like to contribute a booklet chapter? If you are wondering what to write about, then think about what you wish you had known when you started blogging. Or something others shared with you and you found very useful. How did you find blogging ideas? What should a blog post look like? And a comment? How did you find readers and build your PLN? How do you use Twitter and Facebook to connect to other bloggers? Also, we need technical help. How do you set up a blog? Which widgets do you find useful? Or none of the above, but something else you would like to share with new bloggers.
Choose a topic, or I will suggest a topic for you.
If you are interested, please get in touch with me via email, or leave a comment under this post. Or, you can go straight to this Google Doc and choose a topic for yourself.
Click to go to my RSCON4 page This is just to let you know that I will be presenting at the 2013 Reform Symposium. Here's the information from their website:
Teachers now have access to free quality professional development via current online technologies. Experience this live with thousands of educators from around the globe by attending the 4th annual Reform Symposium Online Conference, RSCON, which takes place October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. Attend this free online conference from anywhere that has Internet access.
3 Panel discussions featuring Dr. Alec Couros, Ozge Karaoglu, Nicholas Provenzano, Jackie Gerstein, Steven Anderson, Silvia Tolisano, Joe Dale, Tom Whitby, Pam Moran, Lisa Dabbs, Erin Klein, and Tom Murray.
100+ sessions. Topics include genius hour, the flipped classroom, global projects, mobile learning, game based learning, web 2.0 tools, integrating iPads, e-portfolios, and more. The activities meet Common Core objectives and cover all subjects and age groups.
Keynotes include Angela Maiers (US), Mark Moran (US), Steve Wheeler (UK), Chuck Sandy (Japan), Rafael Parente (Brazil), John Spencer (US), Chris Lehmann (US), Sue Waters (Australia), Jose Vilson (US), Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto (Japan), Mark Barnes (US), Josh Stumpenhorst (US), Nicky Hockly (Sp), German Doin (Argentina), and 13 year-old humanitarian Mallory Fundora (founder of Project Yesu)
As you can see, the program is too good to miss. The symposium is free of charge and all it takes to join is a bit of free time and a working Internet connection. Here's the link to my profile on The Future of Education. You will find all relevant information there, including my presentation slides and the links to all sites and tools mentioned in the presentation.
I am really excited about this (and quite nervous at the same time). I am grateful to Shelly Terrell for the invitation and for believing in me. My presentation is on Saturday 12th October 11.00 - 12.00 CST, or 17.00 - 18.00. GMT. (If you are like me and time zones confuse you, then go here and choose your time zone to see the times for all presentations.) Hope to see you there.
I didn't plan for this to happen. When I was a child, I didn't dream about becoming a teacher one day. My mother was a teacher, my two uncles were teachers and I was going to be something else. Anything else. Period.
So, how come that I have spent twenty-four years in the classroom and enjoyed every moment of it?
Well, it is very simple. Remember - my two uncles were teachers, my mother was a teacher... I am not sure whether it is genetics or destiny or something different altogether. I like to believe that, although I didn't choose teaching, teaching chose me.
I am probably lying to you, the way I was lying to myself back when I decided to study languages, just like my mother. I knew then that most language students end up as teachers (at least here in Serbia they do). I told myself that I was studying languages because it was a fun thing to do and I was good at English. Because I liked talking to people and because I liked reading. Nowadays I find it hard to believe that I never thought about what I was going to do one day I graduated.
True, though I kept resisting to teaching children in state schools, I made one small exception: I was willing to try teaching adults in a language school. And not just any school - I had my eye on the school where I now work. Because it was excellent and because I myself had been a student there and loved every moment of it.
After I graduated, I accepted the job of a substitute teacher in a state grammar school. I didn't like it there and I was glad when my colleague returned from her sick leave. I was now positive that I wanted to do something else, anything else. When the call from my dream school came, I was not too happy. It seemed to me that Destiny had its claws all around me again. Still, I was flattered. Not anyone could get into the Kolarac School of Foreign Languages. I decided to give it a try. One class, one week, or one month (if I could last that long) and then I would start looking for something else.
I would love to tell you more about my first two classes, about how one of my students (a total beginner) brought her two children to class because she had nowhere to leave them, about how the children sat silently in the corner drawing. I would love to tell you more about the discussions we had that evening in the upper-intermediate class and about all the clever, funny, deep things my students said. I would love to talk about the freedom my new boss gave me when he refused to give me any detailed instructions, but instead said: "Just show us what you can do."
Well, maybe another time.
I will just say that it was love at first sight. Destiny was laughing at me, but the laughter wasn't mean or ironic. I laughed back.
I have recently participated in one of the Seeta monthly webchats. You can listen to the chat here:
When they asked me to suggest a topic for the chat, it didn't take me long to suggest blogging for reflection. As you might know, I have been blogging for five years now. Preparing for the webchat gave me some time to reflect on why I blog. I have to say that I failed to come up with a rational answer to this question.
I blog because I like blogging.
I know, this doesn't lead anywhere. Especially since, in the chat, quite a few teachers expressed their concerns related to blogging. A few have tried this activity, only to stop after a while, disappointed. Nobody left comments in their blogs and they seemed to be talking to themselves. Blogging was time-consuming and left them with less time for classroom preparation. Teachers are too busy already. Why should they add blogging to their list of duties?
Although for me blogging is a passion, I have decided to try and look at some rational reasons why blogging for reflection might be something educators should do. I will also try to address the concerns that were expressed during the chat.
1.Blogging helps you reflect on what you do in class.
This one is rather obvious, since I am advocating blogging for reflection. Steve Wheeler says that teachers naturally think back on what has happened in their classroom, and often wonder what they could have done better. Blogging can help with this process, enabling teachers to keep an ongoing personal record of their actions, decisions, though processes, successes and failures, and issues they have to deal with. Wheeler also observes that “Blogging can crystalise your thinking.”
Yet, blogging shouldn't be the same as sharing your teaching journal with the world. If you are one of those teachers who reflect on their practices through a journal, then you are probably not ready to share those thoughts with the world. Nor should you. A journal has to be the place where you can be completely honest with yourself, without worrying about what others might think. It is also not the right place to worry about punctuation, spelling and style. Just keep writing and keep your thoughts private. However, every now and then, there will be a journal entry that will make you stop and reflect. If you sit down and work hard on it until it is presentable, you can share it with the world and make other teachers benefit from your experience.
The teachers in the chat were worried about revealing too much about themselves in their blog and sharing something that wasn't appropriate. Now, remember the golden rule - you should never share anything you wouldn't want your mom, your boss or your child to see. Amy Dominello quotes blogger Renee Moore who says teachers should be careful about what they say on their blogs. She also quotes Anthony Cody: “Make sure your boss is aware of your blogging.”
2. Writing helps you generate ideas
Richard E. Ferdig says: "Drawing on Vygotsky's educational theory (1978), educators highlight the "knowledge construction" processes of the learner and suggest that "meaning making" develops through the social process of language use over time. As such, knowledge construction is discursive, relational and conversational in nature." What I have discovered since I started blogging is that just thinking about what I might post and freewriting for a while will give me an idea for a lesson plan. These ideas might come from anywhere - I might take a walk in the park or see an image on Flickr and words will start forming in my head. What starts as a blog post idea will end up as a set of activities that I can try on Monday.
One of the biggest concerns of the teachers I talked to was that they might have nothing new or original to say, that they might end up regurgitating something others have said. And why not? By all means, read other blogs and join the conversation. But don't regurgitate. Instead, you can summarise, question, expand and share. That's what I am trying to do in this post. The conversation among bloggers has been on for a very long time. A new voice is more than welcome. Sometimes people who know how to ask questions are invaluable because they make us think and re-evaluate our opinions. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Care to share There are hundreds of busy teachers out there. They are troubled by the same self-doubts as you. Some of them are rookies, others might be suffering from teacher burnout. Reading your post might help them get through the working week. And if you share lesson ideas, you are genuinely helping. So, if you have nothing to say, say it anyway. Maybe it is new to me, or I just might be glad that you are doing or seeing things the same way I do. Teaching is a lonely job and you are never quite sure you are getting it right, are you? But, if you start blogging, you will never be lonely again because you will interact with other bloggers. Which brings me to my next point and that is
4.The virtual staffroom Gabrielle Deschamps says: "In a really weird way, I no longer feel like my staffroom is limited to the four walls around me at school. My horizons have widened, and now I feel like the music teacher in Iceland I spoke with yesterday is just over there by the window.” You will connect with the teachers who share your interests, be it project work or CALL or material development. I suppose the main difference between blogging and sharing in a forum is that you will interact with these people through their work, rather than share on a common, pre-assigned topic. Blogging gives you more freedom than forums and bulletin boards. As Sam Patterson says: "I blog for myself, but with a clear sense of my audience, I hope. So I try to 'be useful' ...". Which brings me to
5. Your own space on the web I see my blog as a home. I can close the door behind me and let my hair down. I can be who I am. Maybe no one is reading this right now, but that is OK. Because, by the time I am done with this post, I will be the one who understands better my own reasons for blogging. And if no one leaves a comment, that's fine too. Don't do it for others, do it to please yourself. Write about what interests you. Ask questions, then come back a week later and answer them. Come back a year later and give different answers. Whatever you do, don't take yourself or your blog too seriously. Blogging should be fun.
6. Your e-portfolio
Blogging will help you keep track of what you are doing online and in the classroom. This is, again, something I feel you should be doing for yourself rather than for others (your boss, your future employer, etc.). All your thoughts and discussions, all your links and ideas, all your digital artifacts will remain there for you to reread and reflect upon. Blogging about conferences and online workshops you attend will challenge you to try out the new approaches you have heard about. George Couros shares the example of a teacher called Kendra, who "shared what she was learning not only with her students and parents, but with the entire world." He adds: "She didn’t even wait until she returned before she started implementing the practice and starting asking questions of her students, while sharing her own learning." You can read Kendra's post here.
7. Because you can I am not going to lie to you - blogging takes time. Yet, if you treat it as a hobby rather than a chore, you will feel free to post as often (or as rarely) as you wish. Says Ray Salazar: "“There are bloggers who post something every day (some post a few times a day). But I’ve learned that posting once a month is good—considering our workload. Setting aside 20-30 minutes a week to draft some ideas will help craft meaningful posts.“
And it is easy to set up your own blog. Blogging platforms are very user-friendly and require no prior technical skills. Follow this tutorial by Sue Waters.
I am sure I could go on and find more reasons why blogging is good for you. However, I am going to stop here. Seven is such a nice number and, besides, no amount of reading why you should blog will convince you unless you try it yourself. And don't give up too soon. Because, as Dean Shareski says: "The only people allowed to criticize or challenge this idea are people who have blogged for at least one year and written at least 50 posts. The rest of you can ask questions but you can't dismiss it."
I challenge you - if you still have second thoughts about blogging, write a blog post in which you will list 7 reasons why you feel blogging is not right for you. Post the link in the comments area and I'll be happy to respond.
So, what are you waiting for? Join the conversation.
I am writing this very short blog post to invite you to my first ever webinar. This year I am participating in the Virtual Round Table Conference, which is taking place this weekend. Conference programme is here. As you can see, there are loads of great presentations, so join any time you can. And even if you miss something, the sessions will be recorded and archived, so that you can listen later.
My presentation is on Sunday and I am sharing the 11.00 am GMT slot with Janet Bianchini, Merve Oflaz and Marisa Constantinides. This will be a short version of the presentation I gave in Slovenia. I am excited, but also a bit nervous.
Then, on May 31st, I will be participating in a SEETA Webchat. The topic will be something that is very dear to my heart - self-reflection through blogging.
It's been a while since I came back from Slovenia, but if you have visited this blog before, you will know that sometimes I write about events long after they have happened. In this particular case I have a great story to tell and I feel that, like all stories, it deserves to be told from the beginning.
The story begins on the day I received the letter from ELTA Serbia telling me that I was elected to be one of their two official representatives at the annual IATEFL conference in Slovenia. That also meant that I was going to present at a conference for the first time. You might be surprised by this, knowing that I blog about TEFL, but before Slovenia I always managed to come up with different excuses for not presenting. Now was the right time for me to face my fears.
Two months later I was on my way. I arrived in Ljubljana a day before the conference, so I had a chance to go sightseeing. Ljubljana is beautiful. In the following Animoto, I tried to capture the spirit of the city:
The next day I met a group of Serbian teachers who were also going to the conference and we boarded the van that was going to take us to Topolšica. As I was getting onto the van, I saw Shelly Terell's smiling face and she gave me a hug.
I am so glad that I have managed to meet Shelly face to face. She is every bit as wonderful as I thought she would be. A great thing about being a blogger is that you end up having a large PLN and that, from time to time, you actually get to meet the people in it.
Another person I met face to face was Saša Sirk. Saša has been in my PLN from the very beginning. I met her in my first BaW, where she was one of the moderators.
And don't you dare tell me that my online friends are not my real friends, because they are.
The only session we had on Thursday was Shelly's Motivating our Learners to Write with Webtools. She shared a bunch of free online resources with us, together with great ready-made lesson plans. Her presentation is here.
Friday started with Having Fun with English, a plenary by Vanessa Reis Esteves. She greeted us at the door, thus modelling what she was going to teach us later (get students into the English mode by greeting them at the door, build relationships on the way out, set the tone for the next lesson, always provide some positive feedback). She talked about the similarities between children and teenagers (impatient, distracted, demanding), as well as the differences (children are eager and energetic, teenagers are demotivated and apathetic). Finally, she shared some fun activities that can be used with both age groups.
Bojana Nikic Vujic had a workshop on Critical Thinking in EFL Curriculum. Step by step, she led us through the creation of a lesson plan which included critical thinking skills according to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy. The process included the creation of a first draft of the lesson plan and its revision after the introduction of the Taxonomy. We learnt how to include critical thinking activities into the textbooks we were using.
My presentation was next and, yes, I survived. There were some technical issues, which reminds me: If you are new to presenting, take your own laptop with you whenever possible. And don't use fancy fonts you downloaded from the internet, as they might turn into something else on somebody else's computer. And don't apologise for the technical difficulties you are experiencing. And don't walk in front of the slides while you are presenting.
Having said that, I think (hope) that everything went well. Quite a lot of people turned up, which was a pleasant surprise. It was almost the same as teaching a class, in fact. Now, here are my slides:
And, if you would like to hear me giving this presentation again, I will be doing it at the Virtual Round Table in May.
Ok, let's move on.
Willy Cardoso's workshop Open Space: Becoming the Best Teacher You Can Bewas for me one of the highlights of the conference. You can read more about Open Space Principles here. Willy gave us little post-it notes and we wrote onto them a topic connected to teacher development that we wanted to discuss. Then we voted and three topics were selected. I am happy to say that mine was one of the three ("I want to keep improving as a teacher"). Three groups were formed based on the topics, but we were free to roam about the room and change groups. Finally, a summary was created for each group, as you can see in Willy's post (I linked to it above). It is easy to see how Open Space Principles can be used in the classroom and adapted to various levels and age groups.
Shelly's plenary Wings and Webs was about the social networks that educators create in order to share resources and collaborate. Shelly looked at reasons why teachers connect and she also shared places where someone who doesn't have a PLN could go to in order to start connecting. Her talk was something that resonated with me deeply. I have been a part of the large international family of educators since 2008 and I have a hard time remembering what my life was like before that.
Jean McCollister and her border collie Bamm Bamm taught us about Animal-assisted Language Teaching. Dogs are used in therapy, as well as in teaching. In a language classroom, a dog is a strong motivator and the presence of a dog also has cognitive benefits. It provides mental stimulation and improves concentration and attention. This is true, since I have to admit that I remember everything from this workshop vividly. My attention was on the dog all the time and I remember everything he did.
Here's more about what Jean and Bamm Bamm do. It's in Slovene, but I am sure you will be able to understand the gist.
Our first plenary on Saturday was Peter Dyer's Getting Them to Speak. It was very interactive and lively, full of practical and fun activities. For one hour, we improvised, we passed around imaginary gifts, we invented stories and we lived in the fantasy world. These activities are easy to prepare and materials light (in fact, there was no PowerPoint).
The next workshop I attended was Danny Singh's The Power of Laughter Exercises in Learning. To find out more about the application of laughter yoga in language teaching, visit Danny's website. All I can say is that I have enjoyed this workshop tremendously and that I felt more alert after it. I can see how these exercises can lower inhibitions and boost learning.
Willy Cardoso's plenary A Philosophy of Teacher Development was another treat. He defined teacher development as trying to decrease the gap between what you believe you should do and what you can do in your teaching situation. Teachers should ask themselves to what extent they can influence, shape and create their own knowledge. Classroom observation helps here (recording yourself, asking a colleague to sit in your class, co-teaching with a colleague, or even giving your learners an observation task). Rather than wait for someone to give them the knowledge, the teachers should legitimise what they already know and share it bottom-up. They should create portfolios, start blogging or give a workshop at a conference.
Marija Lukač spoke about Your Next Step on the Professional Development Ladder. Presenting to fellow colleagues is a way for teachers to grow and develop. Nobody is going to promote you into a conference presenter, you need to make that step yourself.
The last presentation I visited on Saturday was Shelly's Teaching with YouTube. Once again, she shared an abundance of links, resources, lesson plans, ideas...
So far I haven't talked much about evening entertainment, which was great. And the beer was more than great. I grabbed this image off Shelly's Facebook timeline, hope she won't mind:
Yes, it's a beer barrel. In fact, there were three, each one with a different kind of beer.
And let's not forget that Topolšica is a spa. That meant that, when we got tired after sitting in workshops all day, we could always grab an hour to swim in the pool or relax in the sauna park. And we even had a discount on massages.
And kudos to the organising committee. They really went out of their way to make us all comfortable and everything was perfectly organised. Thank you, guys.
And, of course, big thanks to ELTA Serbia for sending me there in the first place.
Conferences are not only about presentations and workshops. They are about networking and meeting new people. And going to an international conference means meeting a lot of great new people. For me this was even more valuable than the presentations themselves. In fact I am looking forward to seeing some of those people again in Belgrade on 11th ELTA Conference in May.
I was doing fine, writing about my MOOCs and EVO workshops, then I suddenly stopped. In the meantime I got very busy. I attended a conference and I am planning to blog about it soon (though my idea of "soon" is quite flexible, especially when it comes to this blog).
Last time I was here, I promised to write about what makes us human, which was the topic of Weeks 3 and 4 of EDCMOOC (E-learning and Digital Cultures on Coursera). In the meantime, the course has finished, but I would still like to do as I promised. There are several reasons for this:
1. A promise is a promise 2. This is an E-portfolio and I have created some EDCMOOC artifacts that I would like to share here 3. It was a great course and it deserves positive feedback 4. It is time we stopped seeing online courses as something linear, something that has a beginning and an end. As Vance Stevens has said in a comment on this blog "these courses never, or should never, end".
Back to #EDCMOOC. Weeks 3 and 4 were about what makes us human. This text by Neil Badmington is the editor's introduction to a collection of essays on posthumanism. What it did for me is made me want to read the whole book. If we are not defined by humanism, what are we defined by then? Could it be transhumanism? This text by Nick Bostrom really got me thinking and it was the main inspiration for my final project.
My favourite video in Week 3 was this one. And this clip we watched in Week 4 almost made me cry and again influenced my final project.
In Week 3 we were asked to create an image that would somehow show our understanding of the course. There was a competition and the winners were decided automatically using Flickr "interestingness" ranking through Flickriver. Flickriver calculates an image's "interestingness" based on the number of comments and "favourites" it receives. I shared four images (those are the images I have been using in this post), but the one that got most votes is this one:
By the way, that's my son in our holiday house in the country. And what made me put "Both Worlds" onto the picture is my reaction to this text.
You can look at images created by other participants in the course here.
What final feedback can I offer? The course was yet another example of how the rigid Coursera format could be bent to enable a more connective experience. No "talking heads" here, no lectures in the traditional sense. Watching the videos was like going to the cinema and enjoying good movies (which just happened to be much shorter than ordinary movies). We wrote no essays. Instead, we created artifacts.
Speaking of artifacts, I would like to sign off with my final project. But, before I do, if you want to see more final projects, here's where you can do that. And here's one of the three final projects that I reviewed. This Scoop.it by Geri Ellner left a very strong impression on me, not only because it contains five digital stories, but also because I had never before seen Scoop.it used as a digital storytelling tool.
Finally, my project. Before you watch, ask yourselves what it would be like if you could upload your memory onto a computer? Would that memory be you, or someone else? And if you were to go away one day (as we all must, eventually), what would happen to your memory?