Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Farewell poem -“Each word bears its weight, so you have to read my poems quite slowly”. Anne Stevenson

My Dear Dear Friends!

Once in summer I wrote a plan
On how to teach and learn online
The good news then arrived so fast
And made me happy and relaxed.

They sent me on a long-long trip
I had to travel days and weeks
Without rest, and food and sleep
The answer's easy "Scholarship".

I really enjoyed the course
The tutor’s work and yours, of course
We read, and analyzed, and talked
Created, and discussed and lurked.

We had to give comments on blog
To mind deadlines and the clock
Once I forgot to make a post
As a result – one point lost

When we had our ‘profi’ guests
We worked twice hard to be the best
They made us search and learn ANVILL
And we were moving like windmill

The time to say Good bye has come
 It’s not so easy, we had much fun
We made new friends and learned new skills
Please do remember: the course still thrills.

My best wishes to our tutor Robert and all my classmates.
I will miss YOU ALL!


Week – 10: "Everyone who got where he is has had to begin where he was." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello My Dear Journal,

It is very sad to realize that we are going to say “Good-bye” to each other. The course was just SUPER!
It gave us so much that I think we need very much time to reflect on everything we have learned so far.
I think I will start from the very beginning.

Once upon a time (actually it was in September) I got very good news from the University of Oregon. They congratulated me on getting the scholarship which gave me a unique opportunity to study online and build my teaching skills through interactive Web.  Of course, the news made me very happy. I shared this happiness with everybody as I understood that I was going to learn the new tools of integrating technology into the classroom.

Now I can’t believe that the course is approaching its finishing point. The time flew so fast.  From being a digital” immigrant” I am taking my firm steps and moving towards growing into a mature “digital native”. I think  it’s high time we reflected on our online experience.

Before the course started I had a slight hesitation whether I would be able to accomplish all the tasks on time, before the deadline. I started very enthusiastically, created the blog, made the first posts. I must confess that at the beginning it was not difficult to do as I had already had some experience of studying online, but this course was different from those that I had taken before. The more we studied, the more challenging it became. To tell the truth, at the moment I feel very proud as I could manage the challenges and completed the course.
 I made a list (by the way it is very weighty’) of what I have learned:

·         How to create a Blog and Delicious page – the course gave me a chance and made me do it. Now I have a blog with weekly posts and delicious page with more than 40 useful links;

·         What Nicenet is and how to collaborate using this tool – We had to make our contributions, and at the same time to read and comment on our classmates’ posts;  it brought me more responsibility and time management skills;
My students discuss their topics and share their experiences using  Nicenet internet classroom.. They enjoy it very much.

·         Ground Rules and Netiquette – it was one more chance to revise them;
·          Writing objectives using ABCD model – I used to write the objectives in a totally different way. The course changed my style, though at the initial stage it was very hard to do, but I tried several times and at last succeeded in that;

·          How to define class issues and create a Technology enhanced lesson plan  -  I had difficulties and didn’t understand the task at first, but with the help of the tutor I managed it;
·         Webquest – it was a new world for me. I even didn’t have the slightest idea of what Web Quest was, but the course task led me even to create it;
·         Rubrics – as we started using new curriculum standards 3 years ago (only in primary school) we didn’t use the rubrics for assessing students’ achievements. With the help of Rubistar I created the ones  for Story Telling – Me and My World;

·         Interactive PowerPoint Slide show – I thought that I knew how to create a PowerPoint presentation. Actually I made them very often almost for all the topics that are in our syllabus. I just used this tool only for making the lessons more interesting and colorful. The slides could serve as a good substitution for paper flashcards and other materials. While in course I learned what a good power point presentation is, what it should contain and what mustn’t be included; what colors are appropriate for making it more readable and appealing to the audience. The course materials provided us with so many useful tips that using them all brought difference not only to the classroom but also to my personal teaching experience. Now I can create interactive slides, make tests  and add hyperlinks to the Web pages;

·         How to work in large one-computer classes – Think-Pair-Share strategy:  in one-computer large classroom it will be a good solution to the problems that a teacher can face; We created a lesson plan for one-computer classroom.

·         How to write a Project Plan using template – It was a very good idea to have participants write Project drafts and exchange them for peer-reading. Moreover, everybody could “see” one another’s papers. So, exchanging project ideas and peer-reading brought us more importance and confidence;
·         Learning styles Technology - Before the course I even didn't think about my students' learning styles. I just taught them the way that was appropriate for me to achieve the aims. Of course, from time to time I changed my style as there was demand for changes. I mean I altered it together with the "time". 

Now I am sure that for successful teaching and learning to take place we should know our students’ learning styles and adapt our teaching strategies to a new teaching context.

I decided to post some photos that I took when my students were writing their posts for the Nicenet discussion forum.

Keep up the good work!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week-9: "Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they're supposed to help you discover who you are." -- Bernice Johnson Reagon

Hello My Dear Journal,

The week that we are finishing now has probably been the most challenging one. We had to finish our Project Report and post it on Wiki page. I had it posted two days before the deadline. Thanks to my partner Avraham who read the updated version of the project and gave me his invaluable suggestions. I hope that it will be graded as “Pass”.
As soon as the Project work had been done there appeared so many articles to  read about Learning Styles. Before taking the course I had some knowledge about different learning styles, but I never thought about using technology to address a variety of learning styles in my classes. So, it was the right time for learning and the best place to start exploring.

 My situation proves John Morton Finney’s quotation:  “I never stop studying. There’s always lots to learn. When you stop learning, that's about  the end of you”.

Learning Styles Technology

Different people do things in different ways. They might see and acquire even the same things but differently.
So do the children. They go to the same school and have the same instructors but they learn in many different ways – "by seeing and hearing; reflecting and acting; reasoning logically and intuitively; memorizing and visualizing".

The teaching methods that we use may vary, too. Some instructors like to lecture, others prefer practicing. Some focus on rules, others on giving examples. In my opinion, the way of teaching very much depends on the instructor's personal learning style.
I think it is important to know what learning style you belong to. It can help to obtain more information about yourself and your personality type, about your likes and dislikes and preferences.
I decided to do the online test that we were offered and get the info about my learning style. I was a bit confused when I got the result. I am a mixture of learning styles. I have always thought that I was a kinesthetic learner.

How can the data about students' learning styles affect our teaching and their learning? How can we plan the lessons and activities if our students are mixed-learning styles personalities?

Some instructors may assume that effective learning will not take place in the classroom with students of different learning styles. "Teaching styles are made up of the methods and approaches with which the instructors feel most comfortable" (Richard M.Felder). The teachers might be puzzled by the situation on how to set the goals, plan, design, compile the activities and teach using different approaches for each style and moreover, be able to cover the syllabus.

The articles about learning and teaching styles and strategies by Richard M.Felder suggest some ideas and provide the list of instructions for teachers to use while teaching students with different learning styles. Besides, it explains how the learners can help themselves.

I added some ideas about using technology to each type of learners:
•   Active and Reflective Learners – are good at working in groups. So, use blogs and discussion forums, where the students can post their writing pieces, reflect on their learning and give comments on their peers posts;
•   Sensing and Intuitive Learners – good environment for implementing technology as they have patience, like variety of activities, are careful, quick but sometimes careless; use online quizzes, surveys and Web quests.
•   Visual and Verbal Learners – use PowerPoint presentations, video materials; make students do reading using Web resources and listen to the stories; use Voice thread and Voice boards; Live Chats.
•   Sequential and Global Learners – use case studies and problem solving activities while doing which the students will refer to their previous experience and knowledge.

Our main aim as teachers is to find the right balance between the teaching and learning styles. If there is a balance, all the students will have a chance to be taught in a manner they prefer, which can increase their motivation for learning. At the same time there is a chance for them to practice different ways of thinking and solving problems while experiencing a different style which may not be comfortable for the learners at the beginning, but which they will have to acquire in order to get the knowledge and new experience. I strongly believe that today’s education has two objectives “Education for living and educating for making a living”.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
John Dewey

Some people may doubt whether exposure to different styles can give students better skills for their future careers and lives.

In my opinion, awareness of different styles can do a lot of good, it can give the students opportunities of adapting different ways to their learning context.
If we recall to our personal experience of being students we'll probably remember the teachers and their lessons. Some of them we liked and understood, the others' lessons didn't appeal much. It doesn't mean that the first ones were more professional than the others. I think they just taught us the way we wanted to be taught.

So, if our students are exposed to different styles they will gain more experience and knowledge which they will definitely use in their career development and future lives.

I think if people have opportunities to study and learn, they must use these chances. At the same time they can have preferences. They will be motivated to learn as much as possible about their major, and in this way they will become a highly-qualified specialists. They will do their work well regardless of the career they will choose. We have to remember that we teach our students not only for taking and passing tests and exams, but for Real Life.

I remember Martin Luther King's quote:
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well." 

“Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”?

After reading and analyzing the article "Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits" by Benedict Carey I decided to reflect on my teaching experience and ask myself the questions that the author discusses. The first question that he raises is the matching of students' and new teacher's approaches. When there is no interrelation then the instructors find the fault with the students and assume that the child "isn't a good fit for school". But maybe we'll try to ask ourselves if we are doing everything right?

The author provides the research data about effectiveness of different approaches to learning and he points out the question that "matters most: how much a student learns from studying". Does it depend on their specific learning styles, that some are "visual learners" and others are auditory; some are" left-brain" students, others "right-brain"? Some psychologists didn't find any support for these ideas. They tend to speak not about the learning styles but about the teachers who "create a constructive learning atmosphere" and effective learning environment. Daniel T. Willingham discusses this issue in his book "Why Don't Students Like School?"

The research shows that students can study better when they feel comfortable with the tasks, and they can acquire the language much deeper "in a single sitting" (for example, learning vocabulary and developing reading and speaking skills) rather than concentrating only on one skill at a time.
At the same time we don't have to overload the students with too much information at a time. Most of the students quickly learn, they hold a new "load for a while" and then "most everything falls out". If we "pack" them carefully and gradually, they will hold everything for a long time. When students forget something, it can give them a chance to relearn the material and remember it till the next time they see it.

The cognitive scientists found practice tests and quizzes as "a powerful tool of learning". Dr.Roediger says: "Testing not only measures knowledge but changes it". His experiments show that when the students studied the same material twice they could do the test well, but after the test they started to forget what they had learned. What is the problem? Is it lack of intrinsic motivation? Or maybe it is high time WE changed our teaching approaches and make them "match" our students' needs and expectations? If we do so, then all the students will like school and do their best to succeed not only in their learning, but in their lives.

 And it would be great if we remember that there is a "difference between school and life. In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson”. (Tom Bodett).

My Dear Journal,
Here is all the news for today.
Next week we'll meet one more time.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week – 8: “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success”. John D. Rockefeller

Hello My Dear Journal,

Week – 8 was the busiest and the most challenging one. We had to use all the knowledge that we had gained before and at the same to practice something new.

“I've worked too hard and too long to let anything stand in the way of my goals. I will not let my teammates down and I will not let myself down” -
Mia Hamm

The most difficult task was to prepare a Draft Project Plan. I tried very hard, changed it several times. At first I was a bit confused: I didn’t know whether to write what I have already done or what I will do. The solution came itself. I decided to combine both. The first step was about the things that we have started doing with my students, the second – which we have never done before and hopefully will do when my students are back from their autumn holidays. I am not going to post the draft here. I will hopefully do it when I have the Final Version of it. My partner Avraham was one of the first to post the draft. So I didn’t want to let him down and posted mine by the deadline.
Teaching with Online Tools

The real adventures started right after I moved to another task to do: The Discussion Forum.
We had a guest moderator Jeff Magoto who seems to know everything about technology and is a real professional. I admire him. I have never met such a teacher. I wish I could be a student in his classroom. Ten weeks is not a very long period of time to learn everything. I am very lucky that I have a chance to be a part of this course. I know that I wouldn’t be able to learn so much and meet so many bright personalities as I met here.
The topic that we have for discussion is very interesting. I spent so much time on exploring all the tools that ANVILL offers. ANVILL activities are intended mostly for developing speaking and listening skills. It also offers the tool that would be applicable in my situation. I am speaking about Forums. Forums are still widely used. The users find this way of communication very easy and comfortable. The users post threads to start discussions, ask questions and expect their peers to comment on the posts. The teacher has to facilitate the discussion asking Socratic questions, weaving and involving the students in the writing process.

Another option is creating blogs. Nowadays they have become very popular and easy to create. We have already created ours and had our students do the same. Blog is the place where you can post your own thread or discussion topic. It is also the area where students can upload the videos, pictures and photos. At the same time each blog is unique, it gives students the feeling of possession and pride which can foster their interest in using technology and promote students’ independent learning.

Nicenet is a tool that can be easily created and used. At the same time it the space where students learn to interact, participate in the discussions, express their opinions and ideas in the target language. While participating in Nicenet they will practice and improve their writing and reading skills.  Besides, they will become more responsible while writing their posts as other group members will read and respond on their writing. Using the manual I will try to create a Nicenet Class as soon as my students are back to school from their autumn holidays.

As my project is focused on developing writing skills I would prefer Forums, Blogs and Nicenet.
At the same time some other tools (Voiceboars, LiveChat) also appeal to me as learning the language is impossible without developing speaking and listening skills.

Create an online course site or an exercise

"If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy". Dale Carnegie.
I looked through all the tools that we were offered. To tell the truth I got lost as I saw the things that I have never seen before. I just wanted to create everything! It took me very much time to get acquainted with all of them.
 First, I had an idea of creating my own website, but then I thought of creating something that will definitely be useful to do with my students as my main aim is to improve their writing skills and encourage them to write.
 I created my class in Nicenet. (It doesn’t mean that I won’t create my site, I have already started!)
If you follow the link you will find there the activities that I decided to use with my students as soon as they come back to school after their autumn holidays.

a)What tool you used (please list the website) and what you created?
I followed our Nicenet example and updated the topics. I thought that it would be good to link them with the Web Quest that I created before so that to have it as a whole topic together.
The first topic is: Welcome on Board!
The second is linked to the topic “Changing Lives”.

b) How you will use it in your teaching - please be specific?
When the students have learned the topic “A Good Life” from our textbooks, as follow up activities we’ll discuss and write our thoughts on the topic. In my opinion, the best way to do it is in Discussion Forum. The link sharing has the links that the students can follow to get the materials easily.
The other topic is ”Rainforest”. I have posted only links in Link Sharing, as we are going to take this topic only in two weeks.

c) The type of students who would use it?
My students are in the 6th grade. I thought of having something more colourful for them. As soon as I finish creating the site I will link Nicenet to it.

d) How you will encourage learner autonomy with this tool?
My students do not like writing using pen-and-paper. It seems challenging to them. When it comes to typing, everybody is ready.  I will you use the tool that we have practiced here. They will get grades for making posts and adding their comments.

(short for  Web-based seminar, a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web).

 I got so excited when I learned that we were going to have a webinar. I started my preparation long before it had to start. I checked everything, tried to get online, but it said that I could do only 10 minutes before it was scheduled. I couldn’t stand waiting and tried and tried and tried…. But nothing happened. I don’t know what went wrong. I just remembered Avraham’s “disappointed”.  Now it happened to me. As Robert mentioned the quote “We do not learn so much by our successes as we learn by failures—our own and others’.  It has continuation: “Especially if we see the failures properly corrected.” -- Frank Lloyd Wright. Hope next time I will be able to manage it and improve the situation.

The Course tasks have come to an end, but there is one more that, in my opinion, needs considering more. I am talking about Peer-reading and filling in the checklist. I am working on it. By the way, it is not an easy task to do. I have to read carefully, analyze and then give the feedback so that my peer (Avraham) could continue working on his project.

My Dear Journal,
Here is the last piece of news for today.

I wish Good Luck to All the Classmates!


See you next week. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week - 7: “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” -Carl Rogers

Hello My Dear Journal.
Again we are together.  One more week has passed and I cannot keep all my thoughts and impressions. I must share everything with you right away. So, let’s start.
                    Learner Autonomy – Myth or Reality?
I would like to start with the quote that I think is relevant to the topic that we discussed. “The secret of the man who is universally interesting is that he is universally interested”   (William Dean Howells).
As a teacher I always think of bringing up the generation of global citizens and preparing the students for real life. If we can raise their interest in all the aspects of human life they will grow as interesting personalities that will be able to cope with different life challenges. Learning process can also be considered as a challenge. Learning autonomously is a bigger challenge. How to make our students work autonomously?

Having read and analyzed the articles on Learner Autonomy by Dimitrios Thanasoulas and Samuel P-H Sheu I obtained a lot of interesting information and useful ideas which are valuable for my professional and personal development. When we speak about learner autonomy we assume “a more learner-centered kind of learning” where the learners take their own responsibility for making decisions, critical thinking activities and the learning process.
At the same time we cannot reduce the teacher’s role here. For effective learning to take place we as teachers have to create such learning environment where students can feel comfortable and confident, be aware that they are within the secure area where the settings of challenge and the taking of risks are actively encouraged. The teacher should also adapt the materials and resources for students needs and while stating the goals take into consideration learner’s needs, motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic), learning styles and strategies (cognitive or metacognitive). We have to consider autonomy not as a product, but as a process where “each learner brings their own experience and world knowledge “and can be thought as the “authors of their own worlds”.
The articles show a “good way of collecting information on how students go about a learning task and helping them become aware of their own strategies” by being assigned the task and reporting about their thoughts while performing it”. Self reports, semi-structured interview and structured questionnaires have much in common as they review the same information but differently, and at the same time they are not perfect tools as they do not bring the learners real awareness of their autonomy.

But how can we promote Learner Autonomy?  What does it depend on?  Where does the answer lie? In his article Samuel P-H Sheu says that “learning autonomy of learner or teacher depends more on the teaching system as a whole rather than on an individual teaching situation”. In my opinion, every teacher can create her own atmosphere at the lesson and make the learner autonomy happen and “develop in the classroom”.
 In traditional classroom we cannot step away from the syllabus and textbooks but we can adapt the activities and make them relevant to the topic.

For example, two years ago we started writing diaries with my students. Why and how did we do it? There was a great problem with the textbooks. The ones we had did not motivate students’ learning. The exercises in our textbooks were focused only on developing grammar skills:  filling in prepositions, opening the brackets, using the tenses and etc. tasks.  The students were able to read and translate, but there was lack of real communication (written or verbal). They also had problems with spelling and expressing their thoughts in the target language. So, we started the work.

 My main aim was to improve students’ writing skills. We began taking very small steps: describing their usual days and daily routines, then we made entries describing the weekends, we learned about different domains of writing, then using some tips made the stories narrative, afterwards we tried writing poetry. It took a long time but it worked; the students got involved and even wrote their poems in the diaries and prepared the posters.

 What is the next step now?  Using the previous experience we can go further and make posts in the students’ blogs.  In this way we’ll be able to use technology in improving students’ writing skills and at the same time the learners will see their own progress and gain more confidence and responsibility for their learning and its outcomes and raise their awareness of autonomous learning.

Our guest teacher Courtney Cunningham brought so many interesting ideas about promoting students’ autonomous learning and shared personal experience of the subject. We got acquainted with a very useful technique of assigning each week, 2-3 students who lead a discussion about the reading directly before the class begins the writing. I am going to practice it in my classes this term. Hope it work as successfully as in Courtney’s classes and I will be able to achieve my aims in making my students interesting personalities that are universally interested and learner autonomy won’t be a myth it will be a reality.

One-Computer Classroom

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation,
hard work, learning from failure”. - Colin Powell

The teachers are always optimists. We spend a lot of time on preparation, work hard, sometimes make mistakes and learn from them. These are the steps that we all take and in my opinion, the ones that will definitely lead to success. How to organize a successful lesson using technology if you have only one computer in the classroom?

My first experience of using the computer in the classroom started many years ago.  I just brought the computer to the classroom and wanted to have a more interesting lesson. You can imagine:  I placed the laptop on the table facing the class and started my slide show presentation (without overhead projector), after that we had some listening activities and even watched a short movie. At that time I felt very proud that I was one of the first teachers who used the computer in the classroom.  The time passed and now it demands changes that we have to bring into the classroom.

Here are some examples of using one-computer (and projector) classroom:
  •               PowerPoint slide show presentations -  teachers and students;
  • ·         Watching movies and discussing them (predicting the end of the film);
  • ·         Writing poems – I show the template on the screen and the students have to create in their copybooks. It is good if they do it in pairs or even in groups. The “poets” have a chance to type their poems  and share them with the whole class;
  • ·         For primary school students we use a lot of songs and games, watch cartoons and listen to the stories, do matching activities (students get handouts and do the task on the paper and after finishing the whole class checks the answers). If we do not have internet connection, I download the activities, cartoons and songs from or YouTube  and then bring them to the classroom;
  • ·         We are piloting the “Electronic school” project so we have a chance to work with e-registers. We check the students’ attendance, grade them, write reports; and all this we do online;
  • ·         We organized a video-conference with the neighboring school (also the participant of e-school project).
·       This term we have had some difficulties as we were disconnected from internet, so all the online activities the students have to do at home. As for me I download the materials and bring them to school. I believe that  hard work and preparation will definitely lead to success.

One-Computer Lesson Plan
“Practice Makes Perfect”
One of the tasks for this week was preparing a sample lesson for a one-computer classroom.
Here is what I created (first version)
  • Class: English language; Creative Writing; 6th grade students (age 11-12);
  • Duration: 1 lesson, 45 minutes;
  • Materials: computer, projector, handouts
  • Technology component downloaded from/accessed in class at:;
  • Objectives of the lesson:
After learning the vocabulary on topic "Environment" and practicing it orally (Condition) the students of the 6 grade (Audience) will watch the cartoon and listen to the song (, discuss its content and do matching activity ( based on the content of the story (Behaviour) which will encourage them to create its end, find the solution to the problem raised in the song, and write the story in the copybook as a home task (Degree).

I think the activity will bring a change into the classroom and I believe the students will enjoy it as it will involve them not only in watching the film but it will also give them a chance to become decision-makers.
The activity will be a good tool for giving the students "bird-in-the-hand" which will definitely help them to take "the responsibility for their own learning" and become more confident autonomous learners.

I made my post and was looking forward to the comments. The answer from Robert came very soon. It was encouraging and at the same our tutor gave constructive feedback which made me think more about writing objectives and setting realistic goals. 
Here is a new version.
  •  After revising the vocabulary on topic "Environment" and practicing it orally (Condition) the students of the 6 grade (Audience) will listen to the song and do matching activity based on the content of the story (Behaviour) which will encourage them to create its end and write it in the copybook as a home task (Degree).
As a follow-up activity at the next lesson the students will have a discussion through share-reading. 

This situation taught me a good lesson. Though I have never expected to become a perfect teacher overnight, but I am confident that practice makes perfect.

Project Task 6: Suggest a partner for peer review
“You need to surround yourself with quality human beings that are intelligent and have a vision”. - Vince McMahon

For the next stage of implementing our technology-related change this week we had to continue working on our project plan. Next week we will have to share draft Project or Plan Reports. For this to happen we need to have a partner for peer-review. I was a bit late and was afraid that everybody had already found the partners. I was mistaken.There were some classmates who were still looking for the “buddies”. 

My partner for the next step of the project is Avraham. He is a teacher who has a big experience in e-learning so I am sure that his professionalism and good vision will be an asset in our peer work.

Good luck to all of us!

My Dear Journal,
This is all my news for today.

See you next week.