Saturday, May 29, 2010

Week 8: Learner Autonomy

Dear all,

This week's topic made me reflect on my current teaching and my teaching experience in schools back in England before getting my Masters Degree. The educational system plays a big role in promoting teachers' autonomy, hence, learners' autonomy as the relationship between both is reciprocal. In England, teachers follow a curriculm with learning outcomes and the choice is left to them on the which and how to teach. This allows for creation and innovation on the part of the teacher, and a sense of responsibility to take charge of learning on the part of the student. When students start their learning journey in such a culture, they stand a better chance of becoming successful independent learners in the future.
My students in my current job come from public schools where they follow traditional methods in teaching. It's hard to try and change the trend at this stage, but we have to start somewhere and gradually despite the constraints imposed on us.

Another important issue is the learners' belifes about learning. Students learn to pass the exam, they don't learn for the sake of learning, it's a reality every teacher has to face. If we can change students' attitudes towards learnings, we have a better chance of developing autonomous learners.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Week 7: Interactive PowerPoints and Teaching Large Classes

Hello everyone,

What a hectic week I had, I thought I wasn't going to be able to finish my assignments for this week.
I have to say the topic "Interactive PowerPoints"this week was the most interesting for me, and I have to admit I'm not that good with creating PowerPoints. I am only familiar with the plain traditional ones. I've learned many great ideas this week from the reading and from colleagues and created a jeopardy game to review vocabulary with my students. I'm not sure of what I've done because I haven't received feedback yet. It's only a sample, I am thinking of ways to change a few things to enhance it and use it in class. I had a hard time creating this game because the tutorial was with Microsoft Office 2003 and I have the 2007 version, and I wanted to use action buttons but I couldn't for the same reason. I also looked at other PowerPoints on our website, they are all interesting with different ideas.
What I came up with this week is that I Definitely need a lot of practice to create a good interactive PPT and I am going to suggest to have training sessions for teachers in my institute as part of our in-house professional development.

Teaching large classes is a real challenge I've never experienced. However, I was a student in a large class during my university study. The teachers back then did not care whether we learned or not, paid attention or not,at the end of the day it was our future, our responsibility and their job was to put what they know in our hands leave us to deal with it.
Those days are behind and things have changed. Students nowadays are much luckier to have all this technology at their disposal to help them learn better and make a future. The ideas in the articles I read about teaching large classes can be applied to small classes as well. What I really think is difficult in teaching a large class is monitoring and observing students, getting to know them individually in order to provide for their needs. I know each student in my class, their likes and dislikes, habits, interests, etc. this is something hard to achieve in a large class.
What do you think out there?

Have a good week everyone


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week 6: Learning Styles, Alternative Assessment and Rubrics

Dear all,

This week discussion on learning styles and alternative assessment was very fruitful and the topic seems to be a little problemetic for teachers. The idea of multiple inteligences and learning styles is not new to me. I've learned and studied them when I did my M.ED back on 2003. However the new classification of Gardner is more specific and new to me.

It is important to know our students' learning styles. I try to learn about my students' learning styles at the beginning of each semester through a questionnaire, but what happens is that sometimes a student can't figure out his/her preferences. In such a situation a questionnaire is not enough, I observe my students for the first 2-3 weeks to determine how do they learn best and then try to cater for their needs. However, I think this doesn't work in large classes and teachers just have to use different techniques that suits a range of liearng styles.

Alternative assessment is important to monitor our students' progress. Because alternative assessment is performance based, it helps teachers emphasize that language learning is communication for meaningful purposes , and it gives our students the opportunity to reflect on their learning processes. We use different techniques for alternative assessment and technology provides us with a range of possibilities to make our jobes easier. I learned some new ideas from the reading I did this week and also from our colleagues discussion on Nicenet, and I will try them in my classes.

Aeesment becomes more accurate when using rubrics for specific tasks. Rubrics can improve student's end products and when they are discussed with the students beforehand, students understand how they are being evaluated and can prepare accordingly. I found the the website RubiStar very helpful and created my rubric there, it saves a lot of time and energy.

I did not try to implement the technological change in my class this week as we have 2 weeks only till the end of the semester and at such a time students are not wiling to try anything new. Therefore, I'm going to try it next semester at the beginning of the year and I believe I will get a more valid result when I try it for a full semester.



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Week 5: Project-based Learning and WebQuests

Hello Everyone,

It's amazing how time flies. We are half way through our course, week 5 is almost finished and Ididn't feel it. I guess we don't feel the time when we are busy.

I've heard about WebQuests from colleagues at work but didn't exactly know what they are until I learned about them this week on the course. I've tried project-based learning in my classes and it's definitely effective in promoting learners autonomy. Students are motivated because they learn for a purpose to come up with a final product which they will share with the rest of the class. WebQuests are similsar but planned more carefully. The students turn to the Wide Web to collect information, the focus here is on using and organizing the information rather than looking for it. it combines students with different ability levels and brings up creativity.

I've managed to finish my tasks for this week although I had a short weekend because I had to work on Saturday. However, I didn't create a webquest, I only provided a plan for one that I intend to do with my students next semester. I need to spend some more time on it in order to come up with a well planned webquest. I don't have that much freedom to do what I want with my students because we follow a structured syllubus, therefore, I have to manage my time carefully to teach what's required and do my project.
I also searched the net for a webquest that could work for me and found one I believe would be interesting for my students.

I've looked at the webquests created by some of the colleagues on the course and I loved what they did. I hope to do something similar soon.

That's all for now



Sunday, May 2, 2010

week 4 Reading/writing with Technology

Hi all,

Sorry for posting on my blog this late, it's been a very hectic week for me. Sometimes I wish there is more than 24 hours a day. I managed to read the recommended articles which were full of bright ideas to use technology for promoting students' learning and enhancing their performance. Using the Internet in my teaching was limited to searching for recources to use in class with my students. Now I will try to use it more widely and involve the students more effectively in using the Internet resources.
Today was the first day of the week here in Qatar. I started my teaching at 8.00 am, the students were sleepy and yawning all the time. When I asked about the reasons, most of them said they had a long night in front of the computer watching a movie, playing games or chating with friends. Here I desided to give them a weekly task to do over the weekend using the Internet. Everyone in the class agreed and they seemed enthusiastic. I'll see how it goes and let you know next week.

Planning my lessons is something I do weekly, but I have to admit that I do not put them down in details as I did for our task this week as I find it time consuming. I keep my lesson plans simple just to keep track of what I do in class, especially when I teach more than one group.
I add details to my plans as the need arises.

I haven't had the chance to read all the discussion of this week and I feel terrible about it. Reading our colleagues posts is the most interesting activity for me, because learning from each other experiences is much more better than learning from books or articles. I also wanted to enhance my blog and try new things, maybe change the appearance, add pictures and links. I don't know how to do it but I'll learn by trying. It will take me sometime, so maybe next week.

Have a good week everyone