Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PGCTHE Semester 2 Final Project

I had a very hard time narrowing down what I wanted to do for this final project.  We have studied some very interesting ideas, and read some very interesting articles.  My main focus for this semester has been technology and metacognition.  I love the idea of flipping a classroom, but don't know how to implement that in a low level Foundations course.  Working on that.
So I needed a way to use technology and incorporate my ideas on metacognition.  I believe I have found a tool that will help on both fronts.  Socrative.  
If you aren't familiar with this, you should be.  Above all, it is very easy and user friendly.  There are just a couple of negatives.  The first is that you must set up an instructor account.  This allows you to make quizzes, grade them, etc.  The second is that you (as the instructor) must "open" the quiz to allow the students to take the quiz on their 'smart' device.  Most teachers forget to open the quiz and students get a bit frustrated while they are waiting for the teacher to open it.  There is an ipad app for both the student and the teacher.  I don't want to give too much away, so please know that most questions will be answered during the quiz.  I have already made a quiz based on my studies from semester two.  Please feel free to take the Quiz.  You will need to enter room 95041.  It is very self explanatory.  If you aren't able to access the quiz, please feel free to email me directly to 'open' it.  I look forward to your comments.  Thanks. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

While reading chapter 2 and chapter 13 of the assignment, I was struck by some thoughts.  The research mentioned no lack of funding for the initial implementation of technology, but sorely lacked in teacher follow through or follow up.  I sincerely hope we do not fall into this trap - as we implement ipads here.  It also mentioned the idea of design based research as their method of research.  I have since done a little research into this method.  I have to say I have been doing design-based research all along and didn't know it.  I adjust my methods and styles on the fly.  I do not wait until the end of the semester or until all the data has been collected to make adjustments in my teaching.
While I understand the arguments for and against this method, I would hope to find a good balance between being part of action research and design-based research.
I think I took from both the idea of reflection.  No matter what we do, we must think about the impact our teaching has on our students and how we can improve it.
For my project - using an online quiz web site - I want to do more reflection.  Yes, I will be collecting data on the use, engagement by students, etc., I also think I need to reflect on this at a deeper level as well.  The reasons I chose this, the impact of this choice on my students, will I use this next semester, etc.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thinking about thinking is very time consuming.  I am being consumed by writing exams at the moment.  Then I read an article about having computers mark writing essays.  What an idea.  I could sit back while the computer reads this pile for me.  Not only that, it would grade it too.  But then I continued to read....what a little bubble was burst even before I could get it in the air.....

But here’s another view: the fact that a machine can score your essays just as well as your human readers suggests that your human readers aren’t really doing a good job of reading the essays in the first place.  It suggests that having the essays you have on your test, and grading them in the way you do, is an utter waste of time, money, and effort.  The fact that you’re able to waste this time more cheaply by using a computer doesn’t transform it into a worthwhile activity.

So dear group, just to throw this out there, do we have to have real live people grade our essays?  Another thought was from a teacher who would have his students run their essays through a computer and he would only read those that scored a B or better.  He was using the computer for screening purposes only.  I am not sure where I am, I only know that I have a pile, and it isn't getting any smaller for all my talking.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Implementation of Technology in the classroom

This was a difficult assignment.  I literally have hundreds of programs and apps on my laptop, iphone, and ipad.

To pick a technology that I wan't very familiar with sounded almost impossible.  So I decided to go with something I hadn't already tried before.  For various reasons our college hasn't had success with SRS's (student response systems) [clickers, smart phones, laptops, etc.].  So, when I found out about a free web site I jumped at the chance to try it on my own.  
A bit of back ground first.  I teach Foundation students.  They come to us with only minimal skills.  I can work with that.  What has proven harder is attitude.  I try to make my lessons engaging and even entertaining - anyone tried to make the past simple fun?  Then you know what I mean.  I am teaching level 3 writing.  The nature of the course is to pass the CEPA exam at the end.  If you are familiar with CEPA then you know it has a lot of grammar - more than is completely necessary, but I digress.  I can't just turn on a youtube video and hope my students will understand the grammar.  I have to repeat and recycle everything.  I myself was getting bored from the lessons and worksheets.  Yes, there are some spectacular web sites, but since I don't have a lock down system to monitor the students web surfing, I can't be 100% sure they are on the correct web site and doing what I asked them to do.  
I had found a web site that allows a teacher (or anyone) to make a quiz - give it - get results - and the best part - to get a complete print out of who missed what question.  All without lengthy registration and up load.  

I literally spent 10 minutes or less making a short 10 question quiz.  I went to class - had students take it.  The best part is because I have a couple of new students - they don't have laptops yet.  They were able to access the quiz from their smart phones!  I had the entire class engaged - even those without a laptop (or charger, or whatever the excuse is today).  They never forget their phones!  
I could see immediately which question everyone had missed.  We could discuss the answers right then.  We could analyze why they hadn't answered correctly.  And hopefully through this engagement we could instill the correct answer.  

Did I mention that is also shows how much time the spent on the quiz.  I believe part of my job is to also give them study skills as well as writing skills.  By having this information, and showing the students that they aren't spending the correct amount of time on something, I can hope that this will make them more successful next time. I have used this only a couple of more times.  I plan on making many more 'spot check' quizzes.
The implications of this are enormous.  Because of the ease and speed - I can make one on my break - between classes - if I see that class later in the day.  It can be used for any subject.  I could even send the link to a student who is absent.  Although for my 'spot check' class that wouldn't be ideal.  If I wanted to I could even let the students make their own quizzes and then take each others quiz.  To me that is the ultimate use of this technology.  To have students fully engaged in their own learning.  
I wanted a technology I wasn't familiar with.  I wanted something to engage the students more - but not become the focus of the class.  This item had to be easy to use.  I wanted something useful for the students as well as useful for me.  I believe this is using technology and not just from technology.  

Pick a Technology for class use

I think this was one of the hardest assignments I have ever had.  To choose just one from the thousands out there, and from the hundreds on my laptop, iphone, and ipad.  To narrow down my search, I sought something that I wasn't using currently, but would find useful.  That was difficult as I am somewhat of a tech junkie.  I stumbled upon an idea.  My college has been trying for the past year to use SRS's (student response systems). But due to technical issues, cost, and management changes, we haven't formally implemented anything yet. I found a web site that fits my criteria - must be free/low cost, must be easy to use as a teacher, must be easy to use as a student, must work the first time.  You will need to read my next blog to find out what it is!  Thanks.   

Monday, March 26, 2012

Professional Development - PLN

   I have been very interested in technology since my first computer class back in the mid 80's.  I seem to have a knack for understanding and the patience to stick with programming.  I didn't, however, go into this field of work. I chose to become a teacher, or rather, teaching chose me.  I can remember the early days of list servers - send 'subscribe' to an email address.  I thought it was the greatest invention of all time.  Information on demand.  I have been on some lists for a very long time.  I would call myself an info junkie.  There is no such thing as information overload...
       Having said that it is hard sometimes to reconcile what I have in my head with the realities I am face with in my teaching.  I get invites to all these wonderful conferences that are focused on different aspects of teaching (CALL, TALL, theories of language acquisition) from all over the world - but I can't even attend a two day conference in Dubai.  Even if I am able to go - implementing these new ideas, techniques, etc. is far beyond ideal.  We are surrounded by technology - almost assaulted by it, and one of my best lessons lately was using pieces of colored paper.
        I may sound a bit discouraged, but I keep up my spirits with my daily infusion of free apps (for my newly aquired ipad + iphone) and my hero - Larry Ferlazzo.   Every day, like clock work, he sends out an email highlighting different aspects of ESL.  It could be an article  written in a newspaper, a new web site to help teach a certain subject, a new app, - just about anything.  But what I love most is his enthusiasm for teaching. His joy comes through his articles.  I can only hope to emulate such an attitude.  I am off to prepare for my presentation on my favorite to have faith!  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice Breaker Module 2

I am Adria Arafat.  The Adria part is my name given to me by my mother – Adrienne.  Her name was given to her by my grandfather – Adrian.  I, of course, named my daughter wait for it….Adrienna.  The Arafat part is from my wonderful husband of almost 30 years, Aiman.  Yes, I married a Palestinian named Arafat back when it was one of the most recognizable names in the world.  And no we aren’t related.  We have four lovely children and two grandchildren.  My two oldest live in the U.S. with their children, so I don’t get to see them much.  My two youngest are here – one at Sharjah University, and one at Raha International school. 

I was born and raised in a very small town in Utah, U.S.A.  I had never been east of Denver, and then moved to the Middle East.  I have taught ESL in the U.S., Palestine, Oman, Egypt, and most recently UAE. 

I was reminded while reading the other postings that I have always been curious.  I was always the one my family asked to ‘fix’ things.  My father would go for days not knowing what time it was because he could never figure out his digital watch and would wait for me to come home from college and reset it.  My parents were founding members of the flashing 12 club (think VCR’s a while back).  My father used to say he wasn’t on the information super highway, he was on the information cul-de-sac.  I am just the opposite.  I can’t get enough of the internet, gadgets, widgets, music, movies, etc.  I played with an Ipad at an educational conference, and had to get one the next day. 

Having said all that, I am pretty low tech in my class.  I try not to use any more than is necessary.  The key word is necessary. What do my students have, and what do they need. 
I teach foundation English.  The key word there is foundation.  My students aren’t ready for academic classes yet.  It is my job to get them ready.  You know the one about you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?  Well, I feel my students are a lot like that.  I can lead them down the road, but if they aren’t willing to do the work (I gave a homework assignment – only 1 out of 18 did it) then I must try something different.  I won’t give up, but reaching these students is proving very difficult.  I try to make my classes interesting, exciting, lively, but at the end of the day, my classes are still the basics.  We were supposed to be “reviewing” the present continuous and most of the class acted like they had never seen it before in their life!  I ended up ‘teaching’ it.  
I would love to “flip” my classroom, but fundamentally I know that this would a)not be practical, b)not be allowed by the powers that be, c)not be accepted by my peers, and mostly d)not be accepted by the students!  The students would never watch the videos.  Not because they aren’t interesting, but because they just don’t spend any time outside of class doing any school work.  I don’t want to become the ‘teacher that shows videos’ just so I don’t have to teach.  That isn’t my goal.  I want to show videos because they are entertaining, and educational – edutainment. 
I have a lot of ideas in my head, it’s the implementation of these that I have problems with.  I look forward to the module and reading all of your stories, ideas, and insights.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Students on thinking

I have come to appreciate “meta-cognitive’ thinking.  If we are a full participant in our own learning, we cannot but learn something. 
I took this idea to my class room.  Specifically, my reading classroom.  I haven’t taught reading for a long time, so I needed a refresher course.  I stumbled upon “clicking, and clunking.”  To some, this may be very old, but for me, it was new. 
I have a class of mixed – some coming from level 2 to level 3, and some repeating level 3.  For the new ones, the material will be new.  For the old ones, the material will have already been done, and done poorly.  I needed something that was interesting, but easy.  Something they could get their head around, but useful.
I put the students into groups after giving a brief explanation of what they were to do.  This was after a class in which I had explained clicking and clunking. 
To me, this was magic.  I had groups actually talking about the reading with understanding.  They were helping each other, but not in a bad way – just giving the answers.  They were helping their fellow student to understand! 
 This was a very small group, and they were higher level than before, but it was a 'teaching' moment.