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!