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.

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