Sunday, May 30, 2010
Many scholars and researches have talked in depth about theories and techniques that are all useful to promote learning autonomy. We, as teachers, sometimes hesitate to make a choice of what to use. I think it is not important what theory or approach you are using, but the most important is what you are teaching. “Teaching” is not by its name, but by the effects it has on the learners. As Shakespeare says:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet. "Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Learning autonomy is defined as "the ability to take charge of one's learning" Holec (1981: 3, cited in Benson & Voller, 1997). Parents, educators and society should fost. er the students' autonomy. Language classes should promote it through using a variety of techniques. Possible activities are Diaries, self report, problem-solving tasks... Teaching could not be described as effective if it doesn't enhance autonomy. Learners need to know and reflect on their learning so as they can improve themselves.
As in my context, many schools in the world still luck full access to computers and laboratories. My school doesn't have a laboratory, but has some computers. In such conditions, technology is always possible. Creating one-computer class would bring change to our teaching and make it more effective. This depends on what we use it for and the way we display it. Deborah's tips are worth using. I have learned some useful techniques that would give another form to my teaching. I can now bring my laptop to the class and use it to teach in a better way.
Following tips the reading materials provide, I managed to create a sample lesson for one-computer class.
The work with the project is getting forward successfully. My partner Nilufar and I have exchanged the draft of the report and we shall give feedback to each other very soon.
Lesson focus: The present continuous
Timing: 55 minutes
Activities: video viewing – reading comprehension – grammar practice.
Materials: A computer, a video projector, loud speakers, textbooks, blackboard.
Objectives: (ABCD Format)
Using a PPT, a video and some pictures (C), elementary students (A) will discover, understand and learn the present continuous (affirmative and negative forms) (B) to talk about present actions or describe pictures in written and oral forms (D).
Setting the scene: Use a video about Jamaâ El Fna in Marrakech, Morocco and ask students what they see and about the type of the activities in the area.
Time: (6 min)
Reading: Students read the following text and do true/false comprehension exercise that follows.
The comprehension text: (10 min)
Dear Jim and Joyce,
Marrakech is fantastic! We are walking in Jamaâ El Fna. Many things are happening. We love Gnawa. They are dancing and playing good music. Some children are doing fascinating acrobatic exercises. They are standing on their friends shoulders. A man is playing with very big snakes. We are enjoying everything in Marrakech. It’s a pity you aren’t with us.
Paul and Laura.
__126, Pine Wood St.,_
___ _ Australia______
- Jim and Laura are walking in Jamaâ El Fna.
- Some children aren’t dancing.
- A clown is playing with snakes.
- Jim and Joyce aren’t enjoying the show.
Correction: Correction with the whole class. Projection of the answers on slides.
Grammar: (30 min)
- Encourage the students to observe the target structures in the text and come up with the form of the present continuous.
- Present the form on slides highlighting the target structures with colours.
- Use pictures on slides and ask students to describe them. (Oral practice)
- Students do exercises on a handout.
Correction: Correct with the whole class projecting the answers on slides and focusing on accuracy.
Students write a story on the light of projected pictures.
Language teaching should aim only at enabling learners to master the target language to communicate with it. It has also to foster their autonomy. Dependent learners cannot excel neither in learning nor in their living. Autonomy should be taught from cradle. If we keep feeding the baby with a spoon and never give him/her a chance to do, he/she will never learn it. Autonomy is a process of trials, failure, trails again and success.
Learning autonomy is defined by Holec (1981: 3, cited in Benson & Voller, 1997) as 'the ability to take charge of one's learning'. Benson & Voller ( 1997:2) see it as:
· The ability of “learners study entirely on their own.
· The skills which can be learned and applied in self-directed learning
· An inborn capacity which is suppressed by institutional education
· The exercise of learners' responsibility for their own learning
· The right of learners to determine the direction of their own learning”.
Thanasoulas (2000) states that the learners are not passive agents; a kind of piles that could be filled of knowledge, but they are rather active learners in the learning process. Little (1991:4) that learning involves the “capacity for detachment, critical reflection, decision making and independent action”. Learning autonomy is, then, seen as a constructive process which is based on the active involvement of the learner to explore meanings.
To foster learning autonomy, Thanasoulas suggests that learners should be aware of their learning strategies or styles. Identifying their needs and goals can help teachers promote autonomy through a variety of practical activities. It is also the responsibility of language teachers to produce autonomous learners. Effective language teaching should enhance independence in and outside the classroom. Developing learning autonomy does not only take place in class, but also outside the class through assigning tasks that engages learners in real experiences they have to go through successfully with the minimum interference of the teacher.
I have always been aware of the issue because most of the students in my context luck that sense of autonomy. Sometimes they rely on their peers, parents, teachers or relatives to do tasks. Other times they rely on the internet or other sources to copy answers to questions or do projects. I understand this as absence of responsibility and autonomy in them. But after all, it is our responsibility as parents, educators and the whole society. I see that the types of the learners we have are the product of the society and the educational system. I always get confused to answer the question: why do the majority of our students, excellent and poor ones, take extra courses in almost all the school subjects sometimes with the same teacher they have at school? Have the teachers more to say in evening classes rather? Whose responsibility is it? The teachers’, the parents’ or the system? I also know how dependent some students are when I find them copying homework answers from their peers in front of the classroom. Some others don’t bring their books because they know their partners would bring theirs. These are just some example that might exist somewhere else, but they show how dependent our students are.
To minimize the problem, I sometimes sensitize my students to the importance of paying attention in class and giving themselves the opportunity to practise in and outside the class. I want them to see that the more they practise the more they learn. Other times I give them different homework or mini-projects in small groups and I emphasize on the participation of all the members. I also make use of different types of tests for one class. A student should not have the same test as his/her partner has in order to reduce cheating…
I’ve learned other techniques this week that could be implemented to promote learners’ autonomy. Teachers should opt for activities that target language learning and learning autonomy at the same time. For instance, Self-report enables the students to reflect on their own ways of learning. Diaries is another example that makes people keep records of their ways of learning styles and helps learners reflect on their ways of learning. Other examples that could be used problem-solving, researches, group work, students giving presentations in class…
Sunday, May 23, 2010
This week has been full of work. I have to do some activities with my students before they go away. The school year is about to finish and I want to implement some of the new ideas I have learned in the course. Hopefully, I managed to get some feedback from them. I have created a blog and started some activities. There still many things to deal with, but I feel it’s a ggod start.
The course main focus this week is using technology to teach classes and interactive PowerPoint. Many documents and resources offered a good help in the discussions and carrying other tasks successfully. I couldn’t imagine how a teacher can teach a large size class, much larger than what we have in our context. I am convinced that our classes are not large as they are in many countries around the world. Technology can make the task simpler if used properly. There is a good number of tools and techniques that could be implemented and makes the whole process of teaching and learning simple, interesting and motivating for both teachers and students.
I used to use PowerPoint in my classes and in some lectures and workshops to my colleagues, but I have discovered that they needed a professional touch to be better. I have developed a lesson for my beginner students and upload it to the wiki. I have for sure developed my skills. Do please have a look at it and give me your opinion.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Let’s start with the first question that comes to my mind while thinking about large classes. In my context, a class of more than 40 students is a large one. This is annoying to most of the teachers. We are not used to teach a class of 56 students for example especially in classes designed for smaller numbers. I am more or less lucky in my school because we don’t have such large classes. 30 students is the normal class size. But, I have learned that there are places where people teach more than 200 students in a class. Wow! To be frank, I can’t even imagine how tough the work is. I wish I can see how things are done is such situations. So, what is a large class then? This differs from a context to another. But whatever what is supposed to be a large class, technology can bring to it a great change and make teaching and learning more effective.
The potential of technology may ensure better teaching/learning in such condition. I can understand the fear of Khang Nguyen in his experience with teaching 200 students. How can I make such a huge number learn English? I can’t even memorise their names and faces. How can I check they are learning? How can I check they have understood? How can I check they have done their homework? How can I assess them?... Technology can help solve the problem. It can ensure interactivity and the involvement of all the learners. Using some technological tools in class would be of great help. Interactive PowerPoint is a good example. Multimedia can attract the students’ attention especially the displayed material is well chosen. Course websites can function as an additional for students to get lessons and do tasks. The internet provides a good number of tools that could be exploited to raise interactivity in class and outside class. Class blog, listserv, online platforms, such as Moodle, Nicenet, yahoogroup… can bring the whole class into real interaction prompted by the teacher. Using virtual environment is also feasible to make students more exposed to English outside class. Second Life is for instance offers good facilities to the learners to study online and interact with each other synchronously or asynchronously. In virtual classes, the students don’t always need to teacher to be with them. They can interact with objects to learn and do activities. (If you have some time, drop to my platform in Muvenation region: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/MUVEnation/172/83/301
Teachers can use different techniques to guarantee their learners engagement in learning and interaction. One good way is to divide the class into collaborative groups to do projects, webquests, podcasts… I think each group could also work in a blog which could be called “group blog” where they can carry their tasks on collaboratively and may interact with their peers from other groups. Teachers should not get stuck to the textbooks. They should make their lessons more meaningful and comprehensible by making them stem from their real life world and cultural background. Interactive lectures and interactive PPT can ensure interactivity in class. Another technique that could be used to maximize engagement in activities and learning is rubrics which have been already tackled the previous week in the course.
Technology can offer alternative ways to assess, but this should not be the only type of assessment. Some examples of tools that would help do blended online assessment are Blackboard’s Assessment features, WiziQ, Moodle, Second Life, the Quiz Chair in Sloodle, rubrics… Some of these use synchronous interaction such as WiziQ and others don’t need synchronous interaction such as Sloodle and Moodle.
I am thinking of using two different tools in my classes. The first is Yahoogroup for for discussions, documents exchange and presentations (asynchronous) and the second is WiziQ (synchronous) to have more time for English outside the classroom. I have chosen these two tools because they can complement each other. Moderating Yahoogroup is not difficult and I can control the students’ posts and correct them before approving them. Wisiq give the possibility to interact using audio, video and written chat and to share interactive slides which the teacher controls and can give the students “tools” to with them online. It also displays a whiteboard which all the member can write on if the teachers wants them to. It is very simple to use and everyone can get a free trial of three classes. All we need is to invite students and fix time and the duration of the class/group with them and go for it.