Friday, 12 December 2014

Week 10: Farewell!
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This week has really been emotional for me! I have all these mixed feelings of great achievement and satisfaction for accomplishing this wonderful course, as well as sadness and emptiness for this great journey to be coming to an end.

I remember my excitement to find out that I was selected for this course. It was amazing! Yet, now I can say, I had no idea about how actually wonderful experience it would be. I was only wondering whether I would be able to do all the tasks and achieve desirable results; I didn't actually know how many wonderful new things I was going to learn and, above all, how many wonderful and different new people I was going to meet.
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I still remember the phrase Janja used in her first post on introducing herself. She said: "What a motley group of people we are!" I believe this is one of the most beneficial things of this course: connecting people from different parts of the world, different cultural and economical backgrounds, and giving them the opportunity to discuss topics of interest for all of them. And not only discuss the topics, but share ideas, experiences and give feedback to each other. This is actually where I've learnt the value of peer feedback.
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I really want to thank everyone, starting from the course designers and instructors to all my colleagues.

Yet, special thanks go to Courtney, one of the best instructors I've had throughout my education. Courtney, you have always been very resourceful, reliable, patient and helpful. Thank you for not only teaching us how to use technology in our classes, but also for setting a great role model of teaching!
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I would like to thank all my colleagues who have so willingly participated in all our discussions for the last ten weeks. Learning from you and with you has really been amazing! I have learnt to value collaborative work and peer feedback much more. Thank you all so much!

Week 10: Technology Integration

 It seems almost impossible that Week 10 has already arrived. I have a feeling I won't know what to do after this course finishes. But of course I will know what to do (at least in my classes): I have learnt so much!

This week we have been analysing our own technology integration level. I must say I am quite satisfied with what I've got so far. I've started integrating technology slowly but steadily. On one hand, I'm being very cautious not to overwhelm my students with new technology. On the other hand, technology has been very helpful and has opened numerous options that otherwise would not have been available. My classes are more interactive and the students seem more motivated. Even my communication with the students out of the classes has become more active and they are not reserved any more as they used to be.

I have to thank the University of Oregon, American English Institute and the USA Embassy in Serbia for giving me this great opportunity of attending such an informative and beneficial course. All the above mentioned positive changes are due to the information and inspiration I have received throughout this course.

Thank you!
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Friday, 5 December 2014

Week 9: Developing Stylistic Diversity
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Refreshing my memory on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory, I have come to realise that there are so many diverse learning styles that a teacher just cannot address all of them at a span of a single class. Nor should it be done! I believe students can learn much more by being provided diversity than by just being directed towards their own learning style.

Deciding on one's own learning style is not an easy task. Challenged by this week's Webskills guest moderator, Russel Moon, I have tried to define my own. What I realised is that I am "active sometimes and reflective sometimes", "sensing sometimes and intuitive sometimes" as Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman so nicely put it in their article.

Generally speaking, I believe I am reflective-sensing-visual-sequential, but these preferences are so mild (especially in the case of active-reflective styles) that they easily turn into their opposites in specific circumstances. For example, when it comes to literature classes, I switch from visual to verbal and from sequential to global. The same goes for my fitness course, while I was attending the course for fitness instructors my learning style was greatly active, visual, intuitive and global. Almost a complete opposite to the preferred general style!
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What does this indicate? Well, hopefully not a DID disorder :) Even though there certainly is a Dr Jekyll and a Mr Hyde in all of us.

I believe learning is a life-long process which brings so much development to the learner. Throughout your life you develop, change, upgrade and adapt to different occasions. Naturally, your learning style undergoes the same changes. I see this process as a constant professional development.
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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Week 8: Technology Tools to Enhance Learning
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After these 8 weeks of our Webskills course, I can nothing but state that technology has influenced both my teaching and my students' learning a lot. The influence has almost unanimously been positive.

Technology has provided both me, as a teacher, and my students with greater availability of teaching materials. Resources are available even if some f2f classes are skipped by students.

Additionally, my students autonomy in learning has increased. They have learnt to be more interested in research. They freely link to additional resources and make use of much more learning devices. They have also become aware of their own responsibility for their learning.
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One of the issues that has to be addressed with a lot of care in the process of incorporating technology into classes is quantity. One at a time, step by step...these are the golden rules! Teachers have to be very careful not to overwhelm the students with technology, which can cause frustration and negative attitude to the course. Students should be completely at ease and comfortable with one tool before a new one is introduced. In addition to that, there should be a choice of a few tools that will be used. There cannot be constant addition, as Jeff Magoto has stated in one of his posts as a guest instructor in Webskills Course Week8.

Finally, backup plan is a must! Just consider the photo below...
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Friday, 28 November 2014

Week 8: Project Reports - Learning from Peers
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Week 8 is, among other things, devoted to Project Report Peer Review sessions. Groups and partnerships were founded last week and this week triggered a lot of interaction.

I have a great pleasure to be cooperating with Sharmila and Zulyar in peer reviewing. Both their Project Reports fostered a lot of self-reflection and learning in me. It is by having the opportunity to give feedback to your peers that you actually become aware of what you are expected to do and how you are expected to perform. A lot of new ideas can come to you by just reading different approaches to one and the same task.
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The same goes for our classes. By engaging our students into assessing each other, we actually engage them into unconscious autonomous learning process. Critical approach to other people's performance actually raises the ability of critical thinking as well as self-reflection. The benefit is mutual.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Week 7: Project in full swing!
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This week my Technology Enhanced Project has reached its prime. The students were working on their oral presentations, rehearsing in pairs and finally they gave their presentations to the class on Thursday and Friday.

The quality of the presentations fluctuated. Some of the students were great, both fluent and accurate, exhibiting a high level of presentation skills. Some of them had certain issues with accuracy or fluency. However, it was obvious that all the students had invested time into getting ready for the presentations.

The influence of the WebQuest used last week was obvious: they all used new vocabulary from the resources provided in the WebQuest and all of them completed the WebQuest task. The speaking skills of all students were on a higher level than in regular classes, which actually is my primary goal for using the WebQuest.

I was delighted to see that all the students were actively participating in the evaluation process. They made comments on each other's presentations and suggested certain options for improvement. Most of the students tried to comment in English, but even those who couldn't find the right words wanted to contribute to the evaluation so they used Serbian from time to time.
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I have learnt a lot from this experience!

Looking forward to more technology enhanced classes.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Week 7: Autonomous learners - we are born that way

A PowerPoint presentation on Learner Autonomy uploaded to our Padlet wall by Virginia, a Webskills colleague-participant, provided real food for thought. Thank you Virginia for this great resource!

There is one thing in this presentation that really caught my eye. The author states that autonomy is considered to be a characteristic of adults. I have to say I strongly disagree. Even more if we talk about autonomy in learning!
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Children, especially very young children, exhibit an extremely high level of learner autonomy. It is obvious in every segment of their lives, from learning how to feed, sit, walk to learning how to speak. These early years of childhood are full of striking examples of learner autonomy. Children listen, watch, imitate, try, experiment, guess and are never afraid of making mistakes (or should I say errors?).

Unfortunately, later in their lives they are taught (by parents, teachers and the rest of the society) to be dependent on others, such as teachers, for learning. So it seems that being autonomous is a characteristic of adults because children have to de-learn this dependency and become independent and autonomous once again as they were when they were very young.

If we could all keep the autonomy we have as young children, and if the society help develop that autonomy and transfer it to other segments of life such as education, than learner autonomy would be much more easily achieved.

Not until I got my own children had I realized this. And now, looking at them and other children of their age, I am impressed by how inquisitive and autonomous in learning they are. I just hope we parents are able to be their life facilitators and to foster this obvious learner autonomy.
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