These days, I am back in Tucson and it is around 100F here; however, thanks to monsoon, heat becomes more tolerable, if not humid, though.
Of course, after a considerable length of time of not being able to post on my blog, I will not be allocating all of my post to weather and my summer holiday back in Turkey; instead, I would like to introduce a very tech-friendly journal supported by the University Libraries at the University of Arizona. I thought it would be a good idea to briefly mention this new journal since I know there are a lot of students and researchers at every level out there who wish to publish their research and spread their word.
Issues and Trends in Educational Technology is a peer-reviewed open access journal that covers the theory, design, development and assessment of educational technology. It is supported by the University Libraries and uses the Open Journal Systems platform.
Issues and Trends in Educational Technology(ITET) covers design, development, use and assessment of educational technology in innovative ways, and features articles about research and theory as well as book, serious game and article reviews. The journal takes full advantage of its nature as an online publication, and authors are encouraged to submit material that would be unsuited for traditional print publication, such as video, high-resolution color images, software, and interactive data visualizations.
What I like most about this journal and what makes it more tech-friendly in addition to the things above is the fact that ITET publishes articles as they are ready, twice a year. That means there is no need to wait for a specific day for the journal to come out in print or to be published online, which makes it really flexible.
One of the missions of ITET is to provide access to exemplary graduate student work. We highly encourage submission of distinguished student papers (course projects, papers written as part of a graduate coursework, grants, etc.). Graduate student work is presented in a separate section of the journal, with a distinct and clearly-articulated review process.
Then, if you are a student or a researcher who is looking for a peer-reviewed journal that covers design, development, use and assessment of educational technology in innovative ways, and features articles about research and theory as well as book, serious game and article reviews, I am sure ITET must be the right place for you. You can still visit ITET’s website or write to the editors for further information.
Thank you for reading this post.
PLEASE share this post with your friends or reblog it for the people who might be interested.
Adam Simpson started the Chain reaction blog challenge as a way of marking this year’s IATEFL conference at Harrogate. See his first post here with Lizzie Pinard who tagged me in the reaction here. As all of the people I know from social media were already tagged it gave me the opportunity to get to know some new (to me) bloggers. Paula Lyra and Mustafa Polat kindly agreed. Thanks guys.
1. Please introduce yourself.
I am 58 years old and I have been teaching English at International schools, Language Courses and now I only tutor students at home. That´s why I have the blog- to help people develop their language skills and enjoy in their studies.
2. What areas of the conference are you interested in? This is going to be the first time that I take part in…
Today in one of my technology classes, we were just discussing about the videos and how much real-life they were. Lack of interactivity was one of the aspects that make videos less real-life and maybe less authentic.
At that moment, I was thinking of the future of videos and the possibility of adding interactivity component where you can interact with the video by changing plot, or deciding what will happen next or how it will happen.
Then, I came across this feed on Mashable tonight which immediately made me create a second blog post within 24 hours since it amazed me very much pertaining to the possibilities not only now but also more importantly in the future.I recommend you to try it for yourself and see how you can change the plot of a video by even writing something on the video and see it there immediately. Below is the link for this news and the ad of Pepsi. Believe it or not, Sergio Ramos asks your name in the video, then you write it there and he signs it for you.
Afterwards, I visited the website of the company producing Interlude Videos, Treehouse, now taken over by Eko, behind this project and found even more amazing stuff I just want to share here. Compared to the Pepsi ad, the interlude videos there seem even more amazing and seamless. You can explore the website and sign up even to create your own interactive videos!
Just try it for yourself and think about the future of videos and how it is applicable in education, specifically language teaching…
“I would like to extend warm welcome to Harrogate, to everybody who is here with over 2.500 delegates here, and thousands of people around the world watching. I am sure it is going to be a great conference.”
These are the words by Zeynep Urkun during her welcome speech and introduction of David Graddol who later gave his plenary talk on the extraordinary growth in the learning of English around the world in relation with economic development.
Urkun’s introduction was really enjoyable and creative since she listed some significant world events having happened and highlights at the same time with Graddol’s birth. This really warmed the atmosphere. It also made me think how quickly everything was changing, and also a person might have a long journey from birth to the present where the beginning seems really distinct from the end point. Below you can find the whole session and my comments afterwards.
Before writing about Graddol’s talk, which is among a few most impressive ones I was looking forward to at IATEFL 2014, Harrogate, I would like to mention his well-known book English Next, which is luckily available for free on British Council’s website and which was published in 2006. The book, as also mentioned by Urkun in her introductory speech, is about the growing importance of English from a fresh perspective, and Graddol in his book reminded us that native speakers of English would be outnumbered by speakers of English as a second or foreign language. For similar studies, you can also refer to research by David Crystal and Braj Kachru. Thanks to these studies, we already know that the considerable number of non-native speakers have a very huge effect on the very nature of English creating different varieties of this world language and leading to concepts like World Englishes.
Within the constraints of this post, I also would like to shortly mention Graddol’s plenary. Instead of talking about the already stated role and status of English, Graddol, in his talk, mainly focused on the idea that English brings economic benefits. He also questioned whether the economic rationale is just disguising a new kind of linguistic imperialism, or whether it genuinely brings benefits to those investing in English. One of the most effective aspects of his presentation were the animated graphics illustrating the waves or ripples of baby booms and how it progresses from early ages till these babies become old, and so being dependents. These booms are really important to balance economy, GDP, education, workforce and so on. For a careful and effective planning of language teaching or learning processes, we also need to consider these waves as part of our academic policy. Currently, there is a very serious investment in learning English and people’s attitudes toward this trend is also very vital. At this point, it is also good to mention whether all these people learning English will have a Return on their investment (RoI) meaning whether they will profit more than their have invested. Without going into much detail, there is one more thing I would like mention regarding people’s attitudes toward the role of English.
According to a pie chart shown by Graddol, only 1% of participants of Pearson’s Business English Index survey think that the role of English is not important in job promotion, which leaves the rest of
people equal to 99% who think English is required (72%), important (22%), and helpful (4%) in job promotion. As a result of this, the business of learning, teaching and assessing is really a huge industry and it is not difficult to project how it is going to be even more immense in the future.
Finally, there are some fruits for thought and conclusions drawn by Graddol, which might be really provoking your thought. You can find them below and, prior to finalizing my post, I strongly recommend you to watch the whole session if you are interested in thi
s topic and if you are one of the stakeholders in this industry by also thinking about all these following points.
Before finishing up, I would like you all to use this opportunity for following everything online and catching up with all others who are physically participating the event. You can do so by visiting Harrogate Online, or exploring twitter with hashtags such as mainly #IATEFL, #iatefl2014, or #iatefl14. In fact, I recommend you to tweet with the 1st hashtag since it is the one used all the time by @iateflonline and @iatefl.
IATEFL conference is one of the most popular events in ELT world, and it is a great opportunity for all stakeholders from educators to publishers to come together in order to meet one another and create networks to communicate and share ideas. I have not been able to find a chance to participate in this conference this year which is between April 2-5 in Harrogate, but I was happy to learn that several important sessions and much more are available online via Harrogate Online. You can access several interviews at the moment with conference participants and presenters through the link. I also recommend you to watch the introductory video and welcome message by IATEFL president, Carol Read.
What’s more, this year there has been a call for all ELT bloggers to get registered and post their ideas and impressions by watching live sessions. Luckily, since I am really into sharing my ideas and experience with other colleagues, I have also registered my blog and will struggle to post my ideas by watching all possible sessions among all other assignments and things as a PhD candidate here in University of Arizona, Tucson. The opening will be made with David Graddol‘s plenary between 09:00 – 10:15 (UK Time) and I am already looking forward to it since I am closely interested in his views about English as a world language similar to David Crystal. You can also check tweets synchronously by first following @iateflonline, or with hashtags #iatefl2014, #iatefl14#IATEFL or some others pertaining to special interest groups (SIG). All the sessions that you can watch online are provided at this link and I strongly recommend you not to miss them. If you miss, you can also watch them later on through the same link. You can also find the conference program in pdf format here and check tweets accordingly.
All in all, there are so many opportunities for the people who cannot personally participate in this years IATEFL and technology makes it really possible to actively participate even though you might not be physically there. Therefore, I think we love technology and would like to thank IATEFL committee and British Council for making it possible thanks to their effort and determination to make this event open to viewers worldwide.
A few decades ago, when the Internet was not as popular as today, creating your own website and building on it could be a far-fetched activity or it was even a dream especially when you did not have the knowledge and skills to do so. Today, thanks to especially social networking websites, people can easily create their own pages and organize them within the possibilities of those environments or platforms. If you want to be more independent, and create your own page in mostly in your own way, you can still do so by taking URLs on some hosting webservers. Although most people think that this requires a lot of skills and knowledge of codes, HTML, CSS and so on, it is not the case most of the time thanks to these hosts where you can publish your own page or blog. Services like WordPress, Blogspot, Edublogs and so on are really popular to create your own page or blog. Recently, there is another popular service provided by Weebly with which you can easily create your own page/blog or even your class as a teacher with the ease of some clicks, and drag-drop. I will describe Weebly more below by also elaborating on its intended audience, how it works and how it could be utilized in an instructional context.
As also described in Wikipedia.com, Weebly is a web-hosting service that allows the user to “drag-and-drop” while using their website builder. As of August 2013, Weebly hosts over 20 million sites, with a monthly rate of over 1 million unique visitors. The startup competes with Wix.com, Webs, Yola, SnapPages, and other web-hosting and creation websites.
The intended audience of this tool is simply everyone who wishes to exist online with an individual webpage, blog or also a store. Furthermore, this tool has a specific focus on education and teachers can launch classes on Weebly and create websites or blogs for their students with simply their names when students do not have their own emails because of age problems. Students are also the intended audience of Weebly education and they can create their own pages or portfolios where they upload their assignments or else. As a result, although general public is the intended audience of this tool, specifically educators and students are aimed with Weebly education.
How does it work?
In fact, one of the claims of this web-hosting tool is that building a website has never been easier, and it is possible to say that it has a point since it is really easy to create webpages on Weebly. First, you need to sign up, or you can even sign in using your Facebook and Google accounts. Afterwards, you take a URL under weebly.com for free or take your own domain by paying a certain fee. Later on, you can go pro and get some additional features like changing favicons, opening an ecommerce/store site or connecting your own domain. Actually, even for free users, there are so many features like uploading photos, files with the ease of drag-drop; uploading videos, changing themes, appearance, fonts with a full customization of your page. Furthermore, the page you have created will also be tablet or mobile device friendly without an extra effort. You can also check your page stats and do many other things by using Weebly mobile apps.
Further suggestions on how the tool might be used & Limitations
Weebly seems to be a tool, which makes your job really easy by several practical and convenient features. You can do many things based on your aims, or creativity when you can easily create a page/blog or class of your own online. The things you can do with your own page and blog are clear and will not be elaborated further. However, as teacher, when you use Weebly education, it serves like a course management system as well. It is also an option that you can set your students free and create their own pages, but Weebly education gives an instructor full control by assigning pages to each student, or group of students and you can easily keep track of their progress on the same page. Blogs are strongly recommended for educational purposes, and I really like using them in my class as a student diary since it makes students confident since they are able to share their ideas with public.
You can do the same thing with Weebly education where a maximum of 40 students can enroll in your class for free, and you can keep track of their progress, view their pages and give feedback. Students create different pages on their own site, and submit their work and assignment create portfolios so that you can easily check and grade them. In fact, for hands-on projects and activities, guiding students to create some work online since they are already motivated for it; they actually like showing off their work; check productions of each other and give peer feedback; complete their assignment and access to them whenever they want and so many other benefits. Therefore, Weebly, especially Weebly education could be really useful both for teachers and students especially in language learning classes where students mostly enjoy doing projects on different topics such as travel, business, entrepreneurship, music, art and so on.
As it is widely known, online classrooms have gained popularity although there are still people who believe that the luxury of meeting in a physical classroom by having a face-to-face communication outweighs the effectiveness of having a fully online course. Regarding online course like MOOCs, it is not possible to conclude that fully online courses can replace traditional classes; however, considering college courses in which the total number of participants do not exceed 30s, we may assume that they can be effective as well. Moreover, tools or websites such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or more specialized ones like Blackboard Collaborate can enhance the effectiveness of fully online courses.
On the other hand, when we consider using this kind of tools to support face-to-face classes for various purposes such as giving feedback and/or supporting our students outside classrooms, we might increase their effectiveness more and more. At this point, tools like Blackboard Collaborate or Google Hangouts with which a teacher can display his screen to all, remote-help his/her students, and communicate with them visually or auditorily might be a little difficult to set up since they might not be free, or require a sophisticated set-up process. Therefore, Stoodle is a tool to fill in this gap in a very easy and free way so that one, as a teacher, can instantly collaborate with students on a virtual whiteboard with as many pages as needed. Throughout the rest of this review, you will be introduced to this tool followed by further ideas and suggestions on how to make use of it effectively in addition to its limitations to illustrate how it could be developed more.
Name : Stoodle: Ultimate Online Learning Experience
Use : As cited from its website, Stoodle aims “to help bridge the national achievement gap with a free and comprehensive online learning experience.” Moreover, the features of the tool are as follows:
Real-time collaboration on a virtual whiteboard with infinite pages
Real-time communication through voice conferencing and text chat
Permanent storage of all classrooms for later access
Support for image uploading
Access to basic drawing tools and colors
2. Intended Audience
Stoodle, as can be seen in the previous section, is intended for mainly instructional or educational purposes. Teachers and tutors are the main target group to use it to hold online office hours, review sessions, provide flexible or individual feedback, and organize illustrated review notes. On the other hand, students can also benefit from this tool by working on homework with their peers, illustrating problems and inviting teachers for help, and finally by creating group study guides.
3. How does it work?
Explaining how this tool works might be the easiest part since it is one of the strongest claims or promises of Stoodle. One, either as a teacher or a student, needs to visit the website, and simply hit ‘launch a classroom’. Then, it is all set with a whiteboard in front of you with so many options. Whenever you launch a classroom, you can save it and share the link in the address bar with anyone you would like to collaborate with. It is a big advantage for virtual classrooms on Stoodle to be stored for later access, too. After you have started a virtual classroom and share the link with others both as a teacher and student, these are the things you can do on a whiteboard:
joining the session by writing your nick/name,
instant chat with other participants,
uploading images from your computer or any cloud service,
taking your pictures and recording videos,
sharing links or other videos on the Internet,
drawing lines, shapes in different colors,
typing and inserting texts,
undoing/redoing your actions,
creating as many pages as needed on the same whiteboard,
sharing what you do on Twitter, Facebook, or via email.
As it is mentioned above, there are several tools and possibilities that you can have using Stoodle in spite of its being free, and not requiring any complex set-up process. Within the following section, I will present more information regarding how this tool can be used for instructional purposes; and then further explain what limitations it has and how it might be developed more.
4. Further suggestions on how the tool might be used & Limitations
First of all, as repeatedly mentioned so far, Stoodle is a very effective tool to create instant virtual classrooms for teachers and their students to interact. Therefore, it is best to use it for an improvised tutoring session or class reviews. Exceeding the boundaries of a classroom or an office, a teacher can hold sessions to provide additional support for his/her students. Say you would like to give feedback for a student’s writing and you do not have enough time at school. With the ease of a click and launching a virtual classroom on Stoodle, you might upload the whole essay on the whiteboard as an image or simply text. Then, you can set a certain link for each student all through a year and share it with him or her. When both you and your students are online at a certain time, you can explain things and give feedback by drawing on the board, through instant chat or voice conferencing. It is really efficient to be able to store all essays or those feedback sessions so that you can easily monitor your students’ progress. There are so many other ways that you can use Stoodle, but it seems that is best to use it to support your actual class to hold office hours, give feedback, and monitor students’ progress. It is actually possible to appeal more to productive skills like speaking and writing which most students lack while learning a language.
Secondly, a teacher can motivate and guide his/her students to use Stoodle in many different ways. There are so many telecollaboration studies in which students who speak two different languages, and who are from different departments or countries help each other to teach what they are good at. Stoodle could be a great tool for them to connect with one another. Furthermore, students can use Stoodle simply to work on their homework or assignments outside the school. For instance, for assignments requiring a process work such as brainstorming, developing an idea, creating concept maps, or solving a problem, Stoodle can certainly offer various options for the task to be completed effectively. Besides, they can always store their activity for later access and keep track of their performance.
What is really convenient about Stoodle is that it can be used on any browsers and tablets as well. Today when almost everybody owns either of them, Stoodle can offer lots of opportunities for presenters or educators leading professional development or having sessions at conferences.
On the other hand, although it is a really great and effective tool to launch instant virtual classrooms, this does not necessarily mean that Stoodle is a complete tool in itself with nothing to improve further. One of the biggest limitations of the tool, especially from a teacher’s perspective, is that nobody is leading the session. It is not possible for a teacher to manage a session. Everybody with the link can join, do modifications on the whiteboard or talk. Regarding tools like Blackboard Collaborate, it is possible for a teacher to administer a session by allowing students to participate, say something or simply join the sessions. However, on Stoodle nobody has the control, which might cause a confusion or a chaotic situation since what you store there might be deleted by anyone with the link.
Moreover, although Stoodle is iPad or tablet-friendly, it seems that it has problems regarding voice conferencing when accessed with an iPad. I personally tested it on two different computers and had no problem regarding voice conferencing. However, when accessed on an iPad, I could not hear the person accessing with a computer, or the person with the computer did not receive my voice from an iPad. Therefore, despite being convenient, it seems that there are still issues with tablets and mobile devices.
Finally, regarding all the features offered by Stoodle, it seems a really effective tool. However, it might be improved more if following features are also added with its future versions:
remote desktop and remote control,
typing texts live (normally you type it in a pop-up window and it is inserted somewhere on the whiteboard),
better bandwidth, voice quality and echo cancellation,
All in all, Stoodle is certainly a very effective tool for instant virtual classes with the ease of a click, and it certainly serves its objectives well with several great features. However, in order to improve it more and offer as many features as other similar free tools like Google Hangouts, or paid tools like Blackboard Collaborate, it seems that we need wait for newer versions. Regarding the objectives and mission of its developer team, Stoodle is surely going to meet all and even more of these expectations in the near future.
IMPORTANT: This time, you can send me your feedback following this Stoodle link:) You can explore the page and then leave your comments.
Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information,data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.
Above is the definition of infographics from Wikipedia, and although it is possible to quickly and clearly present complex information via infographics, it is really time-consuming to create them, at least for the first time. With this blog post of mine, I would like to share an infographic that I created to experience this as a person who is fond of design. I created this infographic thinking of ESL methods and approaches that every teacher, or student teacher is familiar with. I thought it might be a good guide to overview those methods in light of the most important components, pros, and cons of all those methods and approaches across a timeline. I used Piktochart to create my infographic, but below you can find some other free/paid tools to create infographics.
For the first time in my academic life, I am taking a fully-online course in this spring semester, and I should state that it is so good so far with all the projects with strict deadlines, meticulous organization/ design and also online conferences using Blackboard. At this point prior to my actual post, I firstly want to shortly mention a simple award system applied by our instructor, Christopher Johnson. As an instructor who used Moodle and similar OLE tools, I know that it is really open to lots of goofs and little mistakes related to deadlines, days, or else. Dr. Johnson, at the beginning of this course, informed us that he would give extra credits provided that we spot some goofs anywhere possible. At that point, I thought this is really effective since (1) students might read everything in detail to spot some mistakes and (2) enjoy extra credits while learning about this course in detail. This is really effective considering the fact that participants of online course might not be as motivated as students in face-to-face classrooms to keep track of everything.
In fact, there are so many other things I (will) have about these courses here and below is my response to a task to introduce a source of insightful talks and briefly reflect on them. As a keen supporter of Ken Robinson, I would happily like to share this assignment, some other videos and my response as well. All the videos are really awesome and they are striking in the sense that they provoke real thought and give a very radical perspective to the self about today’s education system. I hope you will enjoy watching them and reading my response. Thank you for reading
Steps to Completion
The following videos spark ideas and make me think. Watch the videos and then post an answer to the question below in the On Creativity discussion forum. The videos above come from the TED talks. If you are not familiar with the TED talks, I highly recommend them.
Simple question, but I am looking for depth in your answer. I expect something beyond “I liked the videos.”
Let us know what ideas, thoughts, or feelings each talk sparked for you. Do you agree or disagree with everyone or agree with some but not others. How do their ideas play out in your own teaching experience. While there are no wrong answers, they should demonstrate that you have watched and thought about what was said.
Finally, which of the videos impacted you the most – either positively or negatively?
The second part of this assignment is also fairly simple, but again I am looking for depth of thought.
Based on ideas from the videos or your other research, think about an existing instructional activity. How might you modify the activity to allow students to learn how to be creative and/or express creativity. I am looking for a brief couple of paragraphs. The first should discuss the existing activity and the next how you would change it. I am not looking for a formal lesson plan, just a discussion.
Also, if you are in K-12 [with the emphasis on standardized testing] or teaching a class bound where the instructional activity is pre-programed for you, I know that changing the actual activity may be difficult. However, I believe we can, and must, increase the chances that students learn how to be creative. So don’t limit yourself.
After watching the video, write a short reflection on what you will do to keep your self creative and innovative.
All three videos are really thought provoking and also striking in the sense that, in our current education system, we seem to be so much focused on standardizing our learners with all those tests and information load that we ignore the need for divergent thinking or being ‘childish’. In the first video, Ken Robinson, who is actually a person of admiration in terms of his radical ideas and talks, emphasized the extraordinary capacities of children that are squandered through education. I totally agree with him at that point and the proof toward this is the talk by Adora Svitak who very competently expresses what adults can learn from kids and very well justifies why the former should try harder and admit to the fact that kids will be smarter and more able so that progress happens in our world. Back to the first video by Robinson, it is also striking to note that we do not grow into creativity but grow out of it or educate out of it. One best support for this fact is another video, about which I published a post on my personal blog. This video tells that the current education system was created in 19th century to serve to industrialization and manpower of various sectors. Therefore, the students at every phase of education seems to be batched like 2012, 2013 graduates with certain capabilities and knowledge which have been highly standardized, and out of which creativity has been mostly trimmed. Ken Robinson in another talk mentions how such an important talent as ‘divergent thinking’ which is a little different from creativity dies through ages and the biggest factor for this is how we have been standardized through education. Even ADHD, which is regarded as a problem of not being able concentrate well, might be one of the possible consequences of such an education system where learners are forced to concentrate on the blackboard while they have some many other attractive things around. In this respect, integrating what they might enjoy or benefit more into our lessons could be an effective step toward attracting our students, but it might be a sort of reform activity which is in fact, as Robinson tells us in his other video, not desirable since it is aimed to improve a broken model.
There are some more striking facts mentioned and emphasized in these videos, but I am just going to list a few more of them within the limitations of this writing. Ken Robinson tells us the students who started school in the year of 2006 will be retiring in 2065. While it is even difficult to project what might happen in a 5-year period, it is ridiculous to expect our schools established a few hundred years ago to empower learners with the knowledge and skills that will help them create and innovate things of the far future. In this respect, although the examples might sound exceptional, a few of the biggest innovators in our age such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates or else do not have really bright educational or academic background. Reading Job’s biography, I know that he had a personality similar to the kid depiction of Adora Svitak who tells us that we kids aren’t hampered as much when it comes to thinking about reasons why not to do things and kids can be full of inspiring aspirations and hopeful thinking.
From all these sentences, it should not be understood that we need to eradicate all academic institutions and seize the day. What I aim to emphasize in light of all these inspiring videos is that we need to give enough thought to the big picture of education and reflect much on what we are already doing with the power in our hands as educators or simply adults. We should not be struggling to standardize them through tests and other stuff. For this situation, the Finnish case can give some ideas to reflect more. Through this Finnish case link, you can access to 3 more videos showing a BBC report on the success of Finland in education. In fact, there is no need to be pessimistic; I am sure and I know there are also creativity, innovation, divergent thinking, art, literature, real-life things going on in our classes around the world. As Robinson states, KIPP is a good example for this. What we should do might be to think, which we need a lot in teaching in this technologic era. As far as I have seen on TED’s website, there are so many reviews under Robinson’s videos saying that how one could be optimistic while teachers are really low-paid and so many other problems exist. On the other hand, I believe that there are so many other success stories like a teacher in Turkey who spent most of his salary to establish a divergent classroom environment to promote quality education. One might think it is ‘childish’, but, as stated by Adora Svitak, ‘the traits the word childish addresses are seen so often in adults that we should abolish this age-discriminatory word when it comes to criticizing behavior associated with irresponsibility and irrational thinking’ and ‘who is to say that certain types of irrational thinking aren’t exactly what the world needs?’
There are so many activities out there or in textbooks and learning materials that could actually be done in a different way so that they are more constructive, reflective, cooperative, authentic, goal-directed, and so more meaningful. For example, in an existing activity about ‘travel’ in of the textbooks I used for my language classes, students are expected to choose one of a total of 4 options of text giving information about different holiday resorts. Afterwards, students are expected to come up with some reasons why they have chosen that specific place and suggest it to their friends by using ‘modal’ verbs. Regarding this activity it does not seem that meaningful since it is not first of all authentic, giving some set of options that may not appeal to students. It has a bit of being cooperative, but students are not expected to work in groups at first, and later they may not listen to each other while their friends are stating their reasons. What’s more, it is not that reflective at all since there is only a total of 4 options with some set budgets and so. Finally, there is not a successful and effective integration of various learning styles and tools appealing to different senses and individual differences.
In order to make this activity more meaningful and even foster creativity, I think it could be done in the form of a webquest which guides students to use unlimited sources on the Internet, reflect on advantages and disadvantages of all of them, reach authentic information on the web just like other people do in real-life situations, collaborate with their groups and create some kind of presentations using a variety of multimedia tools. The webquest I am proposing to use can be accessed through this link: http://www.u.arizona.edu/~mpolat/webquest/wqindex.html
First, students are introduced to the task and visit different real ‘travel’ websites to come up with an itinerary by reflecting on different options of their choice. Later on they are expected to present it in front of their friends and try to sell this package by also enriching it with multimedia tools like videos. By re-designing the activity in this way, students would learn and practice the same grammar forms and travel-related vocabulary items, but totally in a different way which provides students with more freedom, authenticity, reflection, action, meaning and creativity. In order to achieve this in my classrooms, what I do is to put myself into my students’ shoes and think how they could learn the things they are supposed to do in a real-life situation and more fun way.
All these videos I have watched for this task have been an eye-opener for me and this last one is no exception. At first, I was amazed by the bank example which implies that we continue to do our mistakes without paying enough attention to reason, logic, and meaningfulness. We know that there are problems and they are going to exist in the future as well, but it does not seem that we do our best to prevent these problems. There are reasons for this. One of the first reasons might be the fact that even educators today take their professions as others by forgetting the fact that we deal with human beings, little humans that will replace us in the future and take over what we are assigned to do today. Then, being an educator is a job in which we need to be well aware of the fact that ownership and dedication are really important things. For instance, instead of complaining about the weaknesses of an activity that we will do in class, and thinking about our salary in our bank accounts, we need to spend the whole night, if possible, to redesign that specific activity so that it could be more meaningful and engaging for our students. Especially, in language learning, tasks which are not meaningful, which do not reflect real-life situations, or which do not foster creativity exist a lot in textbooks and everywhere. These tasks are really superficial, call for rote-memorization, are mechanic and etc. Instead of taking all these and using them as they are, I personally, for the sake of creativity, put myself into my students’ shoes as best as I can; think about what they might like, enjoy and how they learn things. Then, I try to redesign activities and a whole class accordingly as much as I can of course because there are sometimes so much for a teacher to do that one needs to manage time carefully. Therefore, I have this idea that changing something really tiny, creating one single activity that really fosters creative and meaningful learning, and that could give me an idea about what I could do to appeal my students might be sometimes more than enough since this change we have to do is not an overnight thing. However, we should always be aware of this need and the fact that we need to compensate for the mistakes and, as Geoffrey Canada says, failures that have been existing for a considerable length of time.