Welcome to my blog!

The reason behind creating this blog is directly connected to the online course I am happy and proud to be part of now. I am honoured to be selected into the group of passionate and professional English language teachers who want to develop their skills and share their experiences. Building Teaching Skills through the Interactive Web offers a chance for me to go a huge step forward in my teaching journey.

Let this blog serve as a record of my attempts and efforts. Please feel free to comment on anything that is going to happen here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 10 - The End and the Beginning

For the past few days I have been trying to wrap up all the things I have gone through since the beginning of the course.

Ten weeks ago I did not have my own blog ... and did not want to have one! Now I am happy to share my experiences with anyone who cares about the quality of teaching languages.

Ten weeks ago I put down all the URLs somewhere in Word files or just in my diary in order not to forget them. Now I have my own Delicious for bookmarking.

Ten weeks ago I considered PowerPoint a tool for displaying teacher's notes with some catchy images or slogans. Now I use it interactively, engaging my students (or my colleagues at work) in the presentation unfolding.

Ten weeks ago used Google only for any kind of web search. Now I still like it and use it, though not exclusively. I grew fond of NoodleTools, Clusty in particular.

Ten weeks ago I began an adventure with technology. So many things emerged meanwhile, so many things changed, but I am still the same person, still a passionate teacher of English who wants to equip her students with the best skills for communication in real world. Now I have tools to use and to achieve my goals.

Thank you all once again for reflecting with me on the ways to make our teaching more effective. The end of this course means the beginning of our journey towards better teaching and learning perspectives in the modern world.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Week 9 - One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

I still remember the day I got an e-mail for the US Embassy in Cracow which passed the good news about me being accepted for the course. However, at that time I could not even imagine how things would develop... and I cannot imagine my life without this course!

Being busy with lots of everyday duties, we often forget about the need to continue professional development. Although we try new things, radical changes are still resisted. I must sincerely admit that this course allowed me to make a giant leap in my teaching technique. Encouraged through readings and practical assignments, I began to look at my profession from a new perspective. Even my colleagues noticed that something has changed. I strive for the new, experiment, play with the new tools. It has been such a long time since I had so much fun preparing for work. Obviously, it does not mean my teaching used to be boring, but I started to perceive it as a mission rather than job. And, what is even more important, I really feel that without my passion and my devotion, my students will never be able to learn to the most of their capacity.

The course aimed at familiarizing the teachers from all over the world with the possibilities that technology, and Internet in particular, offer. In just nine weeks I created my first blog, a delicious page for my bookmarks, attempted to develop a WebQuest (which is not finished yet), created a rubric for oral examination, made a Jeopardy game (actually even two! and tried both in class – the students loved them). I also worked on my first class wiki which will be used next semester.

The great advantage of this course was the participants who proved to be passionate and creative teachers with friendly and open attitude to the world. In the case of problems emerging (and there were lots of them!), there was always someone ready to help. The community which has been established, though diverse in terms of cultural background, shares similar strategies for fulfilling teacher’s duties in contemporary world. I would love to keep the contacts made for the future. And perhaps one day some of us will meet face-to-face somewhere on the globe?

The time and efforts cannot be wasted. And although the semester at my university has finished and there is only the exam session ahead, I have already began to think about my objectives for the next academic year. Technology will definitely be present in my course programmes and will become a vehicle for passing knowledge as well as teaching life skills.

Finally, I am hungry for more knowledge and skills concerning the use of the interactive web so I will look out for further opportunities to develop these. Self-development is one option, however I would love to be given another chance to become part of a similar enterprise. Shall I use Google of NoodleTools to find something interesting???

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week 8 - Self ... Autonomy

Although this week started with sharing and working for others (the students), it ended with thinking about myself. How strange?

The hardest thing for me to do this week was to wrap up all my endeavours concerning implementing the use of technology (or the new uses rather) into my teaching. I have tried many things, at least this is what I thought. However, when I started to translate it into the project report template, I felt disappointed… Actually, I thought I have done more and more effectively. Nonetheless, second thoughts came and I realized the importance of the very attempts made. I know now that being part of this programme raised awareness in me as to the potential offered by the outside world. Obviously, I do not mean I did not know anything about the Internet, but I learnt it from other perspectives. Also, being able to share the experiences with people from so many different spots on the globe proved invaluable. Finally, I guess I convinced myself that nothing is impossible, we just need to find the way through, even though it leads through thorns.

As concerns the issues connected with learner autonomy, I obviously pondered a lot over my students’ perception of their own learning, but even more over my own learning which is a never-ending process! Finding your own place on the teaching-learning continuum makes a good start. Where is my place then? Everywhere, I claim...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week 7 - Old Tools New

This week turned out to be great fun. Discovering new aspects of tools which are familiar to you is like learning to drive a car with automatic transmission, or … to be more like a teacher … learning the new meanings of the word book, room, or hand. You thought you knew how to use something and it suddenly turns out you become a complete beginner. But what immense satisfaction you get when you master this new skill!

For the last couple of days I have been learning to play with PowerPoint, to exploit it for the benefit of myself and my students. Preparing a Jeopardy game for the first time and from scratch was similar to operating a brand new mobile with a manual at hand. Even my husband, whose English is much worse than my students’ (unfortunately), expressed his admiration for the idea of using this game in class. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time (the end of the semester is approaching at my university), I had no chance to attempt to develop a PPP interactive lesson. However, I am hopefully going to do it next week for the students of political science. Getting them engaged and stimulating motivation on their part are my two main goals for the short period of time left this semester.

The focus on interaction is directly linked to the second subject area this week, namely teaching large classes. Luckily, I have never had to face this problem and/or challenge. My classes were never bigger than 25 and now they are not more than 20 students at a time. However, many teachers have had to learn to deal with this situation. Personally, I notice two main difficulties: establishing contact with the students and assessment. The first one concerns the typical teacher-student and student-student relations in and out of class. Many students remain anonymous in such large classes, the teacher finds out about them only from written assignments or index books to sign. I cannot imagine not knowing my students by their names and not knowing what kind of people they generally are. How can you overcome this in a class with 300 students? And assessment poses an even greater obstacle. How many times can set written assignment not tog et lost in piles of essays to read? How many times can you do vocabulary tests to see what new lexical items they have acquired? How many times do you have a chance to talk to an individual student for than two minutes? I am truly lucky… but my colleagues who manage to handle at least some of the obstacles I enumerated deserve highest marks!

To finish up in an interactive way:

What makes a good PPP?:

a) the number of slides
b) the number of images
c) the number of questions asked by the students

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week 6 - Finding the Best Way

We spend most of our lives making decisions, choosing the best options, considering the pros and cons. This continuous struggle for finding the best way to follow fills all spheres of our lives. Each and every moment requires personal judgment, whether we think about clothes to wear, lunch to eat, or methods to apply in our classroom.

This week I have learnt about a very important aspect of my profession, i.e. assessment. The first lesson made me think about my own learning style and then analyze the learning styles of my students. How surprised I was to find out that I am NOT a verbal learner though I teach a foreign language! Perhaps my assumptions referring to my students are also based on some overgeneralizations and I should immediately revise them?

I have always believed in the power of assessment. Poor results of my students make me think and analyze my own teaching. Maybe it is my fault? Maybe the requirements were set to high? Maybe I have not explained everything clearly? Creating rubrics appears to clarify at least some of these queries. Comprehensible yet challenging requirements underlie all adequate assessment. This week I managed to create my own rubrics for assessing the final oral exam in English. And although they simply reflect what I have always being using, their unambiguous structure and simple layout seem to address all of my students questions about this particular exam. Sometimes simple solutions are the best!

The further we move on with this course, the more I realize the quality of my teaching and the significance of my endeavours. Working with people, we are not only responsible for their knowledge, but also for their formation as human beings. We teach them structures and vocabulary, pronunciation and writing strategies, but do we teach them how to be good people? Are we models for them? What kind of communities our classes are? Finally, how can our assessment influence their future decisions? It can, for sure…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Week 5 - First things first...

This week has been unique for my family and especially for my daughter. It is today that she has received the sacrament of the Holy Communion for the first time in her life. Recent days have been full of preparations, both spiritual and those down-to-earth. Therefore, my mind and my soul have been preoccupied with things much higher than technology…

However, I did manage to complete all the basic tasks assigned for week 4. Having gone through the readings concerning project-based learning and webquests, I shared some instant reflections on the issue, some related to the problems other teachers described in their posts on Nicenet. Personally, I had been familiar with the idea of using projects for teaching and learning, though I rarely implement them in my teaching practice since they take up a lot of time. When designing my own, I decided to concentrate on something universal for my university, something I could introduce next year, possibly for new groups of students. My project involved preparing an introduction programme for potential Erasmus students coming to study at Ignatianum. I believe it will prove useful in the future.

As far as webquests are concerned, I had never used them before, but I have to admit they are an almost unlimited tool for teachers (of anything!). Although developing one requires time (I will be able to finish my own next week), the advantage is that you can use them as often as you need, they are adaptable and can also be widely used by other people for teaching purposes. Since I was also educated to become a nurse, I selected the topic of first aid to become the starting point for my own webquest. Teaching predominantly students of pedagogy, I am well aware of the fact that this kind of knowledge is absolutely indispensable in their future work, yet it is not part of their curriculum. Taking responsibility for other people’s lives demands thorough preparation on the part of pedagogues and it also applies to dealing with potential dangerous situations which might and do happen in life…

Finally, I cannot resist expressing genuine admiration for the authors of webquests developed this week. Dear All, you are real professionals and passionate teachers; I do envy your students…

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Week 4 - Reading to Read and Writing to Write

This week has been a great trial for me... Apart from the challenging tasks connected with our course, I had some urgent problems to solve both at work and at home. Luckily, most of them are under control now, though I am still expecting several things to clear up in the near future.

What I mostly appreciate this course for is the fact that each day brings something new and I do not mean knowledge or skills only. Every day I reflect on certain issues referred to my present job, every day from a different perspective. Reflection is so powerful! This week there were two main areas of focus: supporting reading/writing skills with the use of the web and gathering data for our course project. This time I decided to begin with the latter.

Once again I presented my focus group, this time selecting the problem areas that might be dealt with with the help of the Internet. I believe it still needs further examination and more detailed analysis, though I am becoming more and more aware of the background I am working on. Realizing the actual situation with its strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) constitutes the key to future success. So having the key which door shall I open first???

For many a student reading and writing pose a great problem when they are to be done in a foreign language. And the most common obstacle here is not the difficulty of the text but its length! Helping our students find their (individual) way of mastering the two skills is a long and gradual process. We usually have two little time in class to make them feel a sense of achievement in this respect. Therefore, supporting in-class activities with additional assignments often proves a good and reasonable solution. Taking advantage of the tools found in the web can greatly facilitate this. During this week we were suggested lots of useful websites to explore as well as techniques of applying them in the classroom. For me, this second point is very important since it is not always enough to have a tool at your disposal, but peer (and instructor of course) guidance frequently turns invaluable.

Therefore, finishing my post I would like to thank all those who passionately contribute to the great value and high level of this course. Thank you all!