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.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Week 3 - Listen (in)to the web

I feel as if I begin to read a new book every week, but I never finish… Each Monday (sometimes earlier) Deborah bombards us with loads of references to go through. And although we may usually select one or two resources, it would be unwise not to read all! I would like to lock myself in some place (with enough food and drink of course) and start a never-ending search… it is so engaging that I need to force myself to stop… I sleep less, eat more and always look forward to the time when I can start my laptop…

This week was exceptional since I could finally organize my favourite sites with the use of a new tool – DELICIOUS. I recommend this site for anyone who uses more than three sites on a regular basis. See mine (http://delicious.com/joannazubel) and set up yours! You can use it anywhere and do not need to bother whether you have saved a bookmark on your own computer or the one at work.

My newest bookmarks on DELICIOUS are all connected with the second task this week – the examination of aural/oral skill building websites. Having refreshed the basic concepts regarding teaching listening and speaking, I went through several sites (like http://www.esl-lab.com, http://www.onestopenglish.com or http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org) to find out loads of useful and varied activities for learners at any age and at any level of English (starting with myself!). Until now, I have primarily been using listening as suggested in the course books I follow. The above-mentioned sites (and many more) offer a lot of activities to be used in class as well as for homework or self-study. The only thing you need is a good computer with Internet access and time… time… time…

I am scared to check next week’s assignments…

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Week 2 - Web Searching and Setting Objectives

The course is gathering momentum... This week my attention was divided between learning new tools for web searching and analyzing the classes I teach in order to prepare for the final project.

As far as the first one goes, I discovered that Google is not the only search engine and, most surprisingly, not the best one for all purposes. I can now strongly recommend NoodleTools, especially Clusty and AskKids. However, I still believe in Google, especially for finding information in my native language, i.e. Polish. The most important lesson I learnt is that to save time and effort in doing something, you first need to devote a lot of both in order to learn how to do it effectively! It may sound awkward, but it proves right when you try!

The other task we were assigned this week was to describe one (or two) classes that we currently teach. Although most of my great colleagues used the same class for two tasks (setting objectives with the ABCD model and preparing for the final project), I decided to present two of my classes. And the reason is not that I have too much time, but I feel we often miss this stage of planning our teaching, especially as regards more experienced teachers. It proved a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the state and condition of my classes and individual students, which obviously change with time. Something that was true at the beginning of a semester, may be completely invalid at the end! Continuous reflection and re-analysis of the teaching-learning environment constitute a key feature of effective teaching and learning.

I hope my enthusiasm will endure for the next eight weeks and I will end up with a challenging and apt project for my teaching.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Week 1- Learning by doing

This week I've decided to put theory into practice. And although there was not so much theoretical input, the output - as you will see in a moment - is pretty impressive.

During Week 1, I learned how to create a reflective blog ... and I did it:) But I also learned that using technology, especially the web, in the classroom is something invaluable. With my eyes and ears wide open, I was reading posts submitted by my colleagues on how they apply technology in their work. I knew I had to re-examine the tools I was using to keep up with the world!

Preparing for my Monday classes, I had lots of diffculties with the choice of material to be covered. There had to be a slight change in the plans due to the tragedy that had happened on April 10th and due to the national mourning announced. At the same time I realized that being a patriot in contemporary times is far different from what it meant in the past. My service to the nation is directly connected with the social roles I have been assigned. Therefore, being a patriot for me means being a good teacher!

After these relections, I made a decision: on the spur of the moment I developed three topics for presentations (The Lives Lost, Poland Pays Tribute and The World Pays Tribute). On Monday morning I took my students (2nd year students of political science) to the computer lab, let them choose a topic, assigned a time limit of 90 minutes (the total length of our class) and asked them to prepare a PowerPoint presentation on the given topic. Obviously, I monitored their work and supported them if they needed help, but it was their project that mattered! And what mattered to me was the process of preparing the presentation rather than the very product (although the output was pretty good). My main objective for this class was to make my students use the Internet in a different way from usual. Instead of searching for information on Polish websites, they started browsing English ones, reading the news, comments, opinions, something they never do in English! I can now admit that although their presentations contain mistakes, although they could be improved in terms of animation or images, they really met my objective and I am proud of them...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Week 1- My first steps into blogging

Although I am not a chicken-livered kind of person, I got really scared when I saw this assignment for Week 1. The reason is quite simple - I had never used blogs before. What's more, I had not even read other people's blogs. Why? Probably because I much prefer face-to-face contact. However, having read some materials on the subject and also having viewed some example blogs suggested by Deborah, I much changed my way of thinking about blogs.

Teachers in Poland - at least the ones I know and work with - do not use blogs for teaching purposes. Actually, they rarely even use the web for teaching, or it is limited only to using the materials offered by various publishing houses or institutions. Therefore, I feel absolutely amazed and intrigued by the opportunities that blogs offer for both teachers and students. Aware of the fact that anyone can read my own blog - even my students - I promise to use the web, and blogs in particular, for the good of my students, my fellow teachers and for my own as well.

Having discovered the various, though still basic, uses of blogs, let me share a few spontaneous reflections.

To start with, as a teacher I can choose the type of blog that would best suit my students' and my classes' needs. Whether it is going to be a tutor blog, a class blog, or a learner blog (or a combination of all three) depends on how I want to use it and what for. As an introduction to the adventure with the web, I would probably choose the first type bearing in mind mind that it is not an ESL, but an EFL class. However, with time I would try to move to the class blog as soon as possible to create the kind of environemnt to enable them to practise English outside the classroom which they they have very few opportunites to do. And apart from all the obstacles that all may and definitely will face on the way, blogging serves an invaluable source of communicative real-life tasks.

Furthermore, traditional (classroom) teaching suffers certain drawbacks, such as time limits; we do only have 90 mintes per week and at least 15 students in each group! With blogs I could extend this time according to my students needs. Obviously it requires more time time devoted to teaching from me - but can you imagine the results?! I already see my students eager to visit our class blog in the evening to check what others think about their piece of writing, or how Ms Zubel commented their group discussion. I also imagine those shy and quiet students (though there not many nowadays) who desperately want to have their share in the discussion on job prospects for the students of political science in Cracow.

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..."

See you on my blog next week.