Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One Last Reflection

“Building Teaching Skills through the Interactive Web” is a course that calls for change. It would have been great if all of my colleagues had the chance to take such a course, but then for the sake of a wider dissemination, it is my duty now to “spread the benefit” whenever it is possible. If I were to tell any of my colleagues what I have learned during the course, I would start by sharing with them how lucky we are to have technological tools at our disposal and how far yet close we are from making proper use of them. It is true that we haven't been using these tools to their full extent, but doing so is not that difficult. It is very much a matter of training.

In that context, I would also share with them that underlying any change is one essential and preliminary fact about our role as teachers. We teachers should always go through a learning process; we need to train ourselves to be autonomous, risk takers, up to date, and most of all reflect on our experiences. It is a willful process that is the result of personal effort and outside assistance. It is useful and fun to be learners!! Obviously, our choices affect our students: if we equip ourselves not only with the "what" but also with the "how" and the "why", we could make their learning process run more smoothly, and we could provide them with better opportunities to stand on their own, work to improve their skills, take risks, and reflect on their effort. One such excellent opportunity that has a comprehensive range of benefits is integrating digital tools in their learning process. It is about time we face that challenge and give our students such an overdue chance.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summary Reflection - Beginning of the Journey

Now that the course is almost over, and that it has managed to open wide windows for us participants, it is time to reflect on the benefits and the difficulties and set a plan of action before we embark on the web 2.0 journey.

1) An overview of what I tried

I have had high expectations for this course since the minute I read the syllabus, and I am not disappointed though the kind of benefit I received is something I had not visualized. Above all, taking part in this course proved to me firsthand how helpful it is to create technology enhanced lesson plans. By implementing technology – when it brings in a real addition to the lesson – issues such as creating authentic contexts, motivating and involving the biggest number of students, catering to a variety of learning styles, fostering learner autonomy, and facilitating formative and alternative assessment are more easily addressed. These issues that are daily for every teacher seem to fall right into place. It has also become clearer to me how meticulously and extensively the teacher has to prepare beforehand. I know it should always be the case, but often relying on the textbook makes preparation easier; the risk is that it might lead to a one-sided lecture rather than an interactive class. Finally, I have come to understand more than ever that it is imperative that we teachers have faith in our students; in fact, this is as important as evolving professionally to be fully equipped to cater to their needs.

a. What was most useful:

- Creating an online discussion class using www.nicenet.org: There, I have learned how important it is for a teacher to formulate a clear prompt with an indicative title and how essential it is for a participant to follow guidelines and detect keywords. In any case, a teacher / moderator has to be patient, flexible, and tolerant in guiding learners / participants but clear all throughout and non-compromising when it comes to certain standards. Finally, in that context, I learned the importance of creating a learning community of teachers who communicate about challenges and success stories and discuss the best ways to deal with one and benefit from the other. Along this line, I understood how valuable it is to have “intellectual generosity” instead of competition (here I am quoting a friend of mine with whom I was discussing this issue few weeks ago).

- Writing behavioral objectives: Although I have spent the past year experimenting with behavioral verbs in Bloom’s taxonomy and how to relate them to specific activities, now I feel I have a starting point – the ABCD model – that makes the task of writing an objective way easier. I am also surer than ever about the importance of sharing the objectives with students at the beginning of any lesson.

- Creating a blog and posting reflections have been a fascinating experience. The reflections were time consuming but helpful. I wonder if I can keep up such a habit, but knowing me, there has to be a purpose, an audience. Blogging is a very easy way to stay in touch and share, but one needs to have a group of people who rally around the same area of interest. I guess I still have to learn about the horizons that the web creates in terms of bookmarking and feeds and how people who do not necessarily know each other are connected. I will most probably create a different blog and consistently post in it about my various experiences in the coming year.

- Exploring new search engines: I was introduced to many search engines I had no knowledge of. Now I purposefully use one or the other from time to time instead of using Google. I also realized the importance of bookmarking the sites that proved to be useful. I imported them to http://www.delcicious.com/ and I still have quite some to sort out once and for all.

- Taking learning styles into consideration: I was reminded of the importance of getting to know my students’ learning styles and offer them the opportunities that would help them learn more effectively and easily.

- Providing opportunities for formative assessment: I think I gained a much better understanding of what formative assessment is than I did when I first read about it in the Shaping course or was introduced to it sporadically in the previous years. It seems one is readier to learn once the need arises for a certain gap to be bridged.

b. What was most interesting:

Creating WebQuests: I utterly fell in love with webquests. They offer a guided project-based space for students to create a variety of ways that prove they have understood the material and therefore a chance for alternative assessment. It is one component of the course I am sure was worth the time and effort. Although I haven’t tested it with students yet, I can’t wait to do so.

c. What was most challenging:

- Referring to skill-building websites: I still have difficulty in finding a website that I can rely on in teaching one skill or another. I think the main reason is that I need to find material that matches the objectives and the expectations. Whatever a website has to offer has to complement the textbook. Therefore, most of the time, a teacher has to modify, so the effort and time spent have to be justified. I prefer looking for separate activities and put them together. At this point, doing that makes more sense because these exercises can be posted on a wiki or combined in a sheet using the web poster wizard on http://wizard.4teachers.org/. I could also use the software (CD-ROMs & DVD-ROMs) provided with the textbook. Along the same line, referring to a website to prepare a class activity proved to be difficult again for the same reason. I needed a context to be able to prepare a certain sheet. I still have to explore that further as the templates offered are worth checking out once the content is ready. They promise to be a time saver.

- Creating rubrics has been a challenge and still is for they don’t stand on their own. They reflect the objectives and the instruction, and they are important tools to both learners and teachers.

2) How I will integrate what I have learned in this class into my teaching

a. The techniques and tools that I will try to use
- I will definitely use the WebQuest I have created or any other as needed.
- I have many options to integrate technology in my classes especially now that I know how to and that I can anticipate the benefit. Besides, I have suggested and worked on few ideas during our discussions that I would like to try out. I am referring in addition to the WebQuest to: the process writing lesson using http://teacher.scholastic.com/writeit/essay/ or any other website; the project-based lesson on Lebanese musicians and innovators; creating a blog where students can post their reflections; more reliance on the software provided with the textbook with its interactive exercises and easily customized PPT presentations.
- I will make sure formative assessment is maintained along with a renewed reliance on rubrics.
- I will evaluate lesson plans and class instructions against the focus on learning styles and learner autonomy.

b. With whom I’ll use them

I will use them first in the classes I teach - grades 7, 8, & 9

c. How I will use them
I will make use of the technological facilities offered at school; I will explore the use of the e-room; I will discuss with the administration the possibility of equipping the division with more LCD projectors; I will also train my students to view the computer as a learning tool and to get used to access the web to view a blog or a class site for discussion, reflection, or assignment.

d. When I will try to use them

I will be working on implementing the above starting the coming scholastic year 2009-2010

3) How I will continue to learn about technology after this course is over
- I am already working on a dissemination plan to share what I have learned in this course with my colleagues. I will also, as mentioned above, test whatever I have worked on with my students. This process, I am sure, will necessitate that I modify, fix, and thus understand better the workings of wikis, sites, blogs, WebQuests, etc. It will be a period of experimentation.
- I plan to read more about the one-computer classroom to find learning tools that could be benefited from offline. I am also very much interested in learner autonomy. Already I can’t stop reading, and I find myself creating accounts everywhere!!!
- Finally, I am also very keen on becoming a member of any community of teachers who believe in the values of communicating and sharing, and definitely in the use of innovative tools in the classroom.

I will see which horizons or possibilities for improvement will present themselves along the way! Watch for my new blog!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Learner Autonomy, One-Computer Classroom, & Outing

This week was an unusual one: it seemed to me as a step backward yet a needed one; I was away from my screen yet very much thinking about my colleagues.

Learner autonomy is a most interesting topic which, I feel, should be at the basis of our work; it’s the underlying objective. Wondering about the difference between learner-centered class and learner-directed class, I had, a couple of weeks ago, come across a compilation of resources prepared by the U of Oregon http://tep.uoregon.edu/workshops/teachertraining/learnercentered/overview/textdocs/lc_overview.pdfworkshops/teachertraining/learnercentered/overview/textdocs/lc_overview.pdf It is an excellent overview, and it proved to be very helpful. The first two readings with links posted in the prompt of week 8's discusion were insightful, but it is the additional piece on learner and teacher autonomy that made me really think. I was urged to write a review of it only to see more clearly, and then I posted it in the discussion forum http://sites.google.com/site/eltsummer09/files-to-share/AReviewofInterconnectionsLearnerAutonomyTeacherAutonomy.doc?attredirects=0. Maybe this piece, being in fact a conversation, is the most dialectical reference we’ve had on this course, and the conflict presented is so true! I personally wouldn’t want to uphold it as an excuse, but many teachers do and wouldn’t be in the wrong. I believe that any approach or strategy can be adopted and adapted according to the context as long as the teacher is aware of whatever is being modified, for what purpose, and is always ready to reshape and seek better application. If we cannot have a learner-directed class, our attitudes as teachers should at least be directed towards learner autonomy at all times. I think I could pride myself of having that kind of thinking. I’ve always thought that students learn better when their hands are dirty and when they know what made them do the task well and where they failed. For a long time, I was the one to provide them with such info. Gradually, they started to take over, and their feedback shaped my methods. I learnt to model for them: I would use fix-up reading strategies and brainstorm and edit with them. I would show them my confusion and how I would face it and where I fail – because I do – and where I succeed. This worked with so many students though gradually. Others still don’t see why it’s so important to know how we came to do something as long as we do it right.

I thought I was on the right track, and as I moved to reading about the one-computer classroom, I was thinking that nothing much could be done if you only have one computer. It is odd to worry about the one-computer classroom after having explored the interactive use of PPT, webquests, and PBL. Gradually, it became clear to me that, no matter how interested I am in promoting autonomy, still more awareness is needed: I have to be more alert to every opening or opportunity that can lead to more involvement on behalf of the students and more collaboration among them. Using one computer could be such an opportunity. It took me some time to understand how one computer could be helpful other than in presenting the material in an attractive and interactive way. I had read about the activities in the first two links, and I couldn’t relate to them. I was also confused with the number of unfamiliar terms such as “Global Shared Folder” and “ClarisWorks”. I wanted to understand more because I could see the possibility of creating a database of students’ work offline and that they could access. I didn’t have the time to delve further because I had to leave town for a couple of days. When I came back, I read some more and could see the potential especially that in our setting, there are many instances when we have to make do. Jeff Magoto’s straight-to-the-point post was quite helpful. Still, I felt I had left behind a part which is not clear to me.

I spent my weekend exploring the Chouf area with my friends – I live in a tiny country, yet there are many places I haven’t seen yet. We first paid the head of the Brevet Official Exams committee an informal visit. We found him gardening, and he spent more than one hour introducing us to his fruits and vegetables, the seeds of which were mostly brought from Eastern Europe. He also showed us his tiny winery and the language school he has established for villagers! It is nice to get to see the serene peaceful side of people whom, in other contexts, you see as a bundle of nerves! That was an instructive visit on so many levels. Then in the evening, we attended Kazem Al Saher’s concert. Kazem is Iraqi and all the Arab world should be proud of such a talented and committed artist. I had all of my colleagues in mind. I wished they were all with me especially when he sang about Baghdad. I wanted to post a clip on youtube, but my camera’s battery went completely dead, so I used the mobile phone which has a terrible resolution. I might post it anyway just to share the moment and perhaps experience uploading on youtube!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Personal Learning Process

The purpose of this post is to share the background of how grateful I am for the “learning opportunities” I’ve had lately. Since I got in connection with UO back in March, 2008, for the “Shaping” course, the way I view teaching has tremendously changed. I have to admit that a big part of my excitement back then was that I had access to the library, and I did my best to benefit. However, in the process, the benefit extended to “re-shape” an attitude I had kept for years.

I am a literature student, and I like to view myself as a “reader”. When people around me advised me to major in education or linguistics instead of literature, my response was that being an educator would be a natural result. I started teaching in 1997, and for many years after, I viewed teaching methodology as an innate gift that is shaped by personal effort – by the gift I meant how a teacher interacts with and relates to the students and by the effort I meant the time and commitment put in helping them. I got involved in many workshops and a couple of teacher training courses, one of them in Oxford, UK, but I always valued what is practical, and I assessed everything I would learn in relation to my classroom experience. Much of that experience was the result of intuition and commitment. I had never read an article on any educational issue, never thought theory was worth looking into. It wasn’t until the “Shaping” course that I realized that theory is not a separate component, that I am not on my own, and that many of the problems and challenges I face in my classes are in fact shared by educators around the world. Many experts have written about the same challenges and suggested valid and practical solutions. It sounds matter of fact, but to me at that time it was a major discovery. That discovery had an immediate impact on my teaching style and put most of my earlier methods in their right framework. Not only could I tell which method is better, but at this point I could explain why, and I could more accurately anticipate the results. I also realized how accessible information is, and I haven’t stopped reading since then. I realized I could find online a helpful article on whatever difficulty I could face in class or in the department: lesson planning, assessment, cooperative learning, coordination, learner-centered approaches, etc. Education has turned into a science for me. It’s never too late!

The “Technology” course came right on time to confirm the shift in my attitude. It was no longer just an attitude; it has become an ongoing learning process by itself, and its pillars are self-development and classroom application – that is where it all becomes meaningful for me. Despite the many limitations to the use of technology in the classroom – one of them being the hesitation of fellow teachers to venture in that dimension – I am determined to try and to prove the validity by showing.

I am still a “reader”, no doubt about that, but I have also a “narrative” in the making, and I’d like to believe that there would be other “constructive shifts” that would ensure that the process remains ongoing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Formative Assessment + Rubrics + Learning Styles

I have been working in the past few days along more than one line. I need to 1) find an interesting, clear – not overwhelming – way to share whatever I am learning with my colleagues, 2) find practical ways to implement the most important pressing strategies into my teaching/learning context, and 3) study the feasibility of integrating / making use of technological tools as often as needed.

In “channel 2”, I find that formative assessment is essential for better instruction and better results. We should in fact make it at the basis of our lesson plans and not keep it a matter of oral feedback given by teachers to students. Rubrics are a must in this context so that gradually both teacher and student are aware of the latter’s learning strengths and weaknesses. It follows that these weaknesses have to be addressed and students have to be given the right contexts and guidance to work on them. That’s one place where getting to know students’ learning styles and helping them get to know what kind of learners they are is important. A variety of instructional strategies should be employed in class to cater to the various styles. However, having a learner-centered class that calls more for students’ engagement in lessons – which could be technology-enhanced – and focusing on enquiry, creativity, and problem solving in authentic situations does help teachers track their students’ performance and detect their learning style better than teacher-centered lessons that end in summative tests.
Last but not least, encouraging students’ reflections is an asset to the above. It helps them be more involved and aware and gives teachers an insight about their needs and how to account for them.

All of the above corrects one misconception I had concerning learning styles. My focus was solely on pace and on providing extra activities when needed. Now I am aware that these are integrated in the main lesson plans and that gives me a means of assessing these lesson plans.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Talking of Technology in the Classroom: Web 2.0

I am kind of overwhelmed this week. To be honest, if I had posted in my blog a few days ago, I would have mentioned that I was starting to feel the topics to be repetitive. I don’t mind reading more and more on learning styles, rubrics, and assessment. There is always some new insight or even reminder to get or some new idea to implement. However, the reference to technology everytime was getting redundant for me, especially that topics are interrelated and many times I find myself jumping to one issue and reflecting on it only to discover it is the topic for the following week. It does bring me satisfaction that I am putting issues in the correct framework and finding the right links, but I guess I was tired as the pressure of the whole year was starting to have its toll on me.

Then again it would not be me not to benefit from any opportunity for improvement, so I made a rough list of the new issues I have learned so far and highlighted what I needed to learn more about. One recurrent term was assessment as I wanted to implement it at school. Another was the creation of a wiki and the term web 2.0. which were totally new to me. So I embarked on a discovery journey. Gradually, my usual energy was regained as I started to discover how much of it all is so close at hand yet not explored. I started taking notes about the best way to implement formative assessment and turning them into suggestions to share with fellow teachers in the coming year. I emailed Leslie and Deborah seeking their feedback. Then I decided that the best way to start using a blog or a wiki or any site as a learning tool is to try it myself as a space for teachers first. Our interaction would give us a hands-on experience of what it would be like for students.

In the process, I understood more the concept of social bookmarking on http://delicious.com/ and I created an account in http://slideshare.net/ where I viewed ppt presentations on web 2.0. and teaching English. I then created my own wiki, designed as a space for me and my colleagues to exchange ideas http://msenglishdept.wikispaces.com/

I suggest the following links on youtube introducing wikis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY&NR=1 and social bookmarking http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x66lV7GOcNU&feature=channel.

At the end of it all – it is barely the beginning in fact – I am definitely overwhelmed with excitement at the prospects. I shouldn’t have mistaken exhaustion for redundancy. It always takes a fresh perspective!!! After all, learning is a trial and error process, and in this case it is a well-guided process.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alternative Assessment: PBL & WebQuests

This week held so many prospects for me. It gave me answers or rather solutions to many pending issues:
-Our students are overwhelmed by written tests and quizzes, and many times their grades come as a shock in comparison with their class performance.
-Our lesson plans often disregard different learning styles, and it is only up to the teacher’s personal effort to cater to one student’s needs or the other. However, such efforts remain personal and are not standardized.
-The opportunities for learning while having fun seem to become minimal.

These have been major concerns for me and my fellow teachers. Now, I believe that PBL and WebQuests provide some answers to our concerns.
1st- They answer the need for alternative assessment as students will have a variety of opportunities to demonstrate what they know and how they have improved.
2nd- Again, both PBL and WebQuests offer teachers the chance to get to know their students’ styles, interests, what they’re good at, and what they find difficult. This one-to-one interaction will make the need to include differentiated learning into our lesson plans more tangible.
3rd- Last but definitely not least, both, but especially WebQuests, would be enjoyable for students. I find that the guidance and the structure that WebQuests offer are appealing to students.

The challenge remains to try as much as possible to prepare projects that fit with the curricular objectives, enhance students’ thinking skills, and call for their creativity.
Moreover, first steps into anything new are usually the most difficult. We need to make that first step into initiating ourselves and our students into a more effective use of the web. Most of our students are connected to the internet, and their parents seek guidance as to how to channel their kids’ exposure to the web. Besides, the administration would be highly supportive of any proposal / method that is well-prepared and that is based on an acclaimed approach. The challenge is ours as teachers who need to make that first step and be as prepared as possible.
Finally, monitoring students’ group work step by step is another challenge. Then again, with the proper planning and checklist or rubric, both the teacher’s job and that of students will become more manageable.

One thing I know for sure is that I am going to be working on the preparation of a WebQuest that would target students’ summer work book!!! I know bringing in that change this year might be difficult, but a proposal needs a sample to back it up :-)!

This week, I have attached a picture of students as they were voting for Jeita Grotto as a candidate for the new 7 natural wonders of the world along with a picture of the grotto. Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Technology-Enhanced Lessons

I am so late in posting reflections on the topics of week 4 mainly because my posts on Nicenet included many of my reflections. They extended to how a technology-enhanced lesson applies to my teaching context. Still, I would like to summarize them into the following points:

1. Whenever I plan to use technology in class, I have to be well-prepared and sure that such an inclusion serves the objectives of the lesson.

2. I have to involve the students and move away from a teacher-centered class to benefit maximum from the tools used.

3. I have to make sure my students are comfortable so that I don’t confuse them with extra requirements. Technology is used to create a more motivating lesson and to make the learning process more enjoyable not to overload the students.

4. I have to offer variety so that all learning styles are served.

On an even more personal note, the topic made me rethink my commitment to improvement. I feel bad that I could have made better use of the tools available but I haven’t. The issue, in my case, is not only about motivating students but also encouraging other teachers on the team to face the challenge. However, I am resolved to start the “wheel” and keep it turning :-)!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Skill-Building Websites

Using certain websites in the learning process, mainly in the classroom, is just excellent. Often we teachers view certain sites, and we wish our students could be exposed to them. While preparing my post, I had to take into consideration several points:

1st – Since I mostly checked websites that assist students in writing, I could see that a teacher has to be careful about the level of the learners targeted and the topics suggested.

2nd – The writing activities suggested are linked to each other to get to the final product which is writing an essay or creative writing etc. It is a lengthy process, and the teacher has to decide at which point he/she should resort to the website. It has to be the part that coincides or parallels his/her way of instruction. Students shouldn’t be confused about multiple inputs especially at the Middle School level.

3rd – There are websites that are interactive wherein the students can submit their work and expect feedback. It is better for teachers to try them before. Others offer valid and attractive resources. In that case and when it comes to writing, teachers can collect these resources and share them with students on handouts or prepare a PowerPoint presentation that can be very helpful for visual learners. In other words, a teacher has to consider necessity: Can he/she have the same objective acquired by a variety of learners and at the same degree without the assistance of the website? What could a website offer the class that was previously lacking? Putting this in mind would help the teacher decide and choose the right website.

4th – A teacher has to also consider feasibility. There are always logistic problems: in my case, thank God, there is an e-room, but
· it is a recent addition, so we are not used yet to integrating its use in our lesson plans
· it is just one for a huge school, so each teacher has to make reservations beforehand and justify the need
· it is far from the Middle School building so that time is taken out from the teaching period for students to get there

As I was coming up with a learning objective, I was thinking about all the above to see the possibility of using such a method in my classrooms. I am lucky to have the means, so I think it would be a waste if I don't pick up the challenge, do the necessary preparations, and use them. That is mainly why I am taking this course after all.

I added a picture of one of my grade 9 classes wherein students were working in groups, and they could use my laptop to look for pictures and check some words. They would even look for more information if anything in their articles is not clear or incomplete -they were lucky to be in the only classroom that benefited from the wireless connection in the administrative floor right above them!!!!

Effective Web Searching: Google & Beyond

It’s been quite a challenging week in terms of assignments for me. At the end of every post, I’d feel there is more to be done; there is something missing, but then again, that is what makes teaching so captivating.

I did make a list of personal notes which I’m sure will shape my performance from now on. I can call some of them personal strategies:

To begin with, the search engines suggested by the NoodleTools were all new to me. I reminded myself that, like in the “Shaping” course, I should be thinking outside the box, and should be giving most of them a try. Searching the net is already time consuming let alone if you are using a new search engine that has its own specificities and interface. Google has already become familiar and kind of safe. After having gone through most of them, I have to admit I couldn’t evaluate accurately which would be of more use than others. I think I need several trials and authentic situations where the need is real and the objective specific. For that reason, I made sure that most of these search engines are added to my favorites so that I would make it a point to use them on daily basis. That way, I would be more likely to favor one over the other. Already it was obvious to me that some are much more scholarly and helpful than Google.

Moreover, the subject of useful websites was already ongoing in the Discussion Posts. Though there is a number of websites I use often, it was not easy to remember them because I had never thought of making a list of them and jotting down how they are useful. Again, I decided to keep such a record as it is an important skill that any learner/teacher should have.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Reflections on the CALL course

I was extremely grateful to have the chance to benefit from another online course offered by the UO AEI. However, towards the end of the week, I realized that it was going to be somehow a different experience. We were around 15 participants in the "Shaping" course at a time I believe we are around 30 in this course. It takes me quite some time to keep track of all the posts and comments, and I can't bring myself to skip any. The variety of interventions and backgrounds make each idea and each style quite interesting.

Besides, the topics chosen for the first week have paved the way for a professional interaction with well-set rules to guide the discussion. I also felt that introducing the rubric at this point to assess our work, instead of our students' for a change, was quite a "notable" move.

I am a visual learner who takes in everything, works all material into a "personal" lot within the set frame, before producing my own contribution. Being that way, I am more and more involved into the workings of this course. I can't but be involved in a course that starts in rubrics and self-reflection!! Can't wait for more.

Creating a Blog

I kept postponing creating my own blog because everytime I'd sign in, I'd feel that there were too many instructions and that "posting reflections" is required. I would refrain and postpone mainly because I still have some important deadlines to meet at school.

Then when I decided I shouldn't delay anymore, I put aside all my school work and followed the instructions to the letter only to discover it was quite easy at least to start. Not only was it manageable but interesting. I am attracted to this private/public space, which is close to utilities such as Facebook, but which could be more formal and more controlled.

Then it dawned on me that I have been here before. I just didn't know it. I do have a blog! It is my Hotmail Space, and I did use it for teaching purposes quite unknowingly. For the final action plan in the "Shaping" course, I posted files there with links in the action plan. I once also posted a grading sheet for my students to view and grade their own essays so that we could later compare the grades and discuss the criteria. I also posted descriptive articles for them from travel websites and newspapers to read and improve their writing. I was excited to realize that and eager to know more how I can make better use of this blog for educational purposes.
I attached a picture of myself with my students in an end-of-the-year outing. They look happy to be outside class context. To me, this picture is a reminder that the process is as enjoyable as the end if not more.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Choosing a Title

I so enjoyed choosing a title for my blog. It has been quite some time since I did something so "personal." I would like to share with you how I came to decide on "ONLY CONNECT: Turn Mirrors into Windows."

Teaching and the internet are main focuses in this course, and they're both about being connected to other teachers, students, and latest approaches. Also, "Only connect" is one of the most famous quotations by E.M. Forster, the subject of my ongoing MA thesis. As I was moving from one thought to another with the idea of "connecting" always in the background, my mind drifted to the tragic death of Michael Jackson and his famous, quite meaningful song, "The Man in the Mirror." The idea of the mirror and connecting sounded so paradoxical that I went to Google and typed "education mirror quotes" and clicked on search. I found the following quotation by a journalist called Sydney J. Harris, "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." I loved the idea. I thought it was just what I wanted my blog to be: a shift from a mirror to a window.

Hope you'll like it!