Image courtesy of Steve
A number of years ago, I decided to convert an audio book on CD into MP3 files so I could listen to them on my iPod as I walked back and forth from work. This was a great idea, except that somewhere in the process, the files got shuffled around and the only way I could figure out what order to put them in was to listen to the start and end of each file. Through that labourious process, I got the idea that this might be helpful in the language classroom. I did a little test on my own to see how it might work in a lesson and then I located a file that lent itself to being played out of order. I wrote up some questions and ran it in class. To be honest, it didn’t work that well. I had chosen something that was too difficult for the group I was working with and from there, the lesson went downhill. Since then, I’ve tried it a few times in class using different listening material and with each attempt, things seemed to get better and better as I adapted and changed things for the next time.
Fast forward to last Friday and my latest attempt at a shuffle listening. For some reason I can’t comprehend, I decided to do it on a day when I was being observed as part of my work at the college. Usually I would play it safe, but instead I created a whole new lesson based on a listening I hadn’t used before. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have done that. Thankfully, it worked, or at least it seems to have; I’ll have to wait to hear the comments from my colleague who observed me. Continue reading Shuffling
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I’m sitting here staring at my screen, a blank screen, hoping that inspiration will come. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say, I have lots of things floating around in my head, it is that I am literally at a loss for words. Somehow, my creative juices have dried up. I want to write, but I am stuck. I have topics, ideas, thoughts, but no words. They are all jumbled up in my head and refuse to come out. I’m not sure why, but I felt I just needed to start writing, even if it doesn’t make sense. If you are reading this now, somehow I have managed to transform myself into Rumpelstiltskin and have spun gold out of the hayloft in my head.
Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case in my classroom as I transition once again into a different course with new objectives. Continue reading Spinning
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Welcome to week three of my #444ELT project! If you are interested in reading the summary from the first two weeks, here they are:
For week three, I focused on peer-review/assessment/commenting as my subject of study. I have found the use of a topic each week to be really helpful in comparing what is happening and getting a bigger picture on the subject. I think this week was even more so than in previous weeks. I hope it is helpful. Oh, and since we are on the subject of peer-commenting, feel free to leave your own. 🙂 Continue reading Commenting
Image courtesy of Sean Winters
This is week two of my #444ELT personal challenge. Here is a link to week one.
This week I spent time digging through articles on the use of portfolios in the classroom. This is something I already do and have done for a while, but I wanted to see what others were doing and to see if there was anything I could do better. I learned a great deal this week and I may keep on reading about portfolios as I feel there is some real value to it beyond what I am doing at the moment.
I invite all comments, suggestions, and even criticisms. Share below in the comments section or on Twitter.
Continue reading Collecting
Image courtesy of Steven Mileham
I hate shopping. If I was to describe my experience as a shopper, for clothes especially, it would best be summed up in one word: survival. I am not one to go from shop to shop to find the best deal. As a result, I’m not terribly picky. If the clothes generally fit and they don’t clash too badly, I’ll get them. Therefore, my closet is a terrible mishmash of things that don’t necessarily go together, but I try to make it work. This shirt is blue, these pants have blue in them, and this tie is greyish-blue so they must go together. I have gotten pretty good at finding combinations that ‘work’ and I just grab those ‘sets’ in the morning. No wasting time checking to see if something else might work better. It’s “good enough”.
I sometimes wonder if we are like that with words. We grab stock phrases and throw them together as collocation ‘sets’. They are “good enough” for what we need to accomplish. We rarely stop to think about what we are saying and how it may be interpreted. It often takes someone bold enough to speak up to help us better understand the consequences of our words. Continue reading Choosing
Image courtesy of Kate Mereand-Sinha
This post is in response to Anne Hendler’s blog post challenge to share one thing that happened today and post it with #OneThing on Twitter. I decided to write it as a short story instead, something I’ve never really done before. Thought it seemed appropriate. Don’t worry, I won’t give up my day job to become a writer any time soon!
With the sun straining to appear through the blanket of grey, I shoved my hands in my pockets and started my way towards the college. “At least it isn’t raining,” I muttered to myself. I’m not really a morning person, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to get used to the morning commute. I was careful to walk around a small snail creeping along on the sidewalk when I almost stepped into the line of car climbing out of the underground parkade. “Thanks for stopping!” I thought as he squealed his tires, launching himself over the curb and onto the road. The driver leans on his horn as he swerves around a truck backing into an a building parking lot. “Patience, please!” I growl. Oi. And I’ve hardly gone fifty paces. I begin to wonder what this day has in store for me. Continue reading Waiting
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I finally caved into all of the MOOC hype and signed up for a course, although my reasons are purely selfish. To be honest, I’m not doing it because it is ‘cool’ or I am interested in the inner workings of a more social style of learning. Nope. I am doing it for the information. Last night, I watched a great workshop on YouTube given by Zoltan Dornyei on designing and analyzing data from questionnaires. It got me interested again in statistics, even though I dreaded the course during my MA TESOL program, and I felt compelled to find out more. Why? Well, it is just plain interesting. I am not one for just taking things at face value very often. I want to know why and how things occur. I have been reading a lot of journal articles lately and I find my eyes starting to glaze over when reading the data charts and various terms used to explain them. As my dad would often say, I know enough to hurt myself, in this case when it comes to stats. On top of all of that, I want to know more about the use of statistics for when I start to get into research myself.
To make a long story a little less boring, I ended up looking at free MOOCs and decided on a data analysis course from Duke University through Coursera. Despite my lack of time and a little bit of apprehension, I signed up knowing that I wouldn’t lose any money in the deal and should end up learning at least SOMETHING in the process. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to sign up and get started when the sheer enormity of the task started to hit me. There are readings and videos, assignments and exams. When am I going to get this all done? Well, I might as well continue forward was my oh so enthusiastic cry. Continue reading Studying
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I don’t know when it started, but at some point in the last 5 or so years, people have really started to give up on fact checking. I mostly put the blame on the speed in which we receive our information. It used to be that we would read a newspaper or journal article, process it, discuss it, and then evaluate it on the merits of the content. Today, instead of newspapers, we have social media; instead of journal articles, we have infographics.
Ahhh, infographics. Those slick little data displaying, fun to share, fast-info representations of what used to be relevant data compressed into bite-sized chunks. Who cares where the material comes from, it looks AMAZING!
Of course I’m being a bit facetious and I have been known to use the odd infographic in my lesson, but I think I am pretty careful to weed out the visuals that blatantly misrepresent the truth. It isn’t always obvious, but with a little bit of sleuthing, anyone can separate the wheat from chafing (bad data use rubs me the wrong way). It was that very idea that started me on the journey to actually include MORE infographics in my classroom. Why not have the students critically analyze the data to see what has been carefully chosen, not added, or twisted in knots. Here is how I plan on going about this. Continue reading Representing
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It is funny how things change as you get older. When I was younger, I swore I would never be a teacher. Both of my parents were teachers and I actually thought they were good at their jobs, but the idea of teaching sounded boring to me. So what did I want to do when I grew up? I wanted to be an inventor. I had this box of old mechanical and electrical components I had scavenged from things I would find around the house and I would attempt to build things from them. My dad even went so far as to buy me a 6V lantern battery as a christmas present one year. It was only one of many unique gifts my parents gave me over the years. Funny thing was, I thought the presents were great.
One day, I decided to solder some random resistors and capacitors together to see what would happen when I plugged them in. Poof. A quick flame and lots of smoke. Oops. Well, at least I didn’t burn the house down. I had no idea that the little coloured bands on the side of the resistor held any relevant information. Nor did I grasp the concept of what a capacitor did. I just took what I thought were relevant parts and assembled them in a way that I thought would work.
For many of my English language students, writing works in the same way. They often piece together formulaic words and phrases that they feel should work in a given situation and PRESTO, you have a sentence that sounds like it was made up of stock words and phrases. Hmmm. Something isn’t working here. Grammatically it is good. Spelling is perfect. Meaning is mostly correct. So what’s wrong? Continue reading Hedging
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One of the teachers I had in university made heavy use of an overhead projector (OHP). He used the roller type of transparency and he had handwritten notes for each class on separate rolls. He would come into class, put the next ‘scroll’ on the OHP, turn off the lights, plop down beside the OHP, and roll the transparency to the first section. He proceeded to read over the densely packed section and then roll the ‘scroll’ to the next section. The first time this happened, I panicked. Being a novice notetaker, I was attempting to write out his notes word for word, but since he could read out the notes faster than I could write them, I could only get through about a quarter of the page before it scrolled off the screen. I learned very quickly to only jot down what I needed to remember and then expanded on those notes when I got home later that day.
That was me as a university student in my own language with a basic understanding of the topic. Imagine that you are an English language student taking courses in a language you are still learning to understand at a general level. Add technical language, a variance in speaking styles, and the pressure of marks and you have a situation which can cause no end of frustration and heartache for the student. Continue reading Lecturing