It was  2007 when I started to integrate educational technology into my teaching . At that time, many people around me looked at me in despair and I could see that they thought I was doing really weird things. I remember someone suggesting me to use powerpoint instead of a wiki. It might sound really strange to you but this post is a personal reflection of what I have experienced during my journey. Now in 2014, when I consider the recent innovations in technology, I realize that it was nothing. After listening to an inspiring talk by Dr. Thomas Frey at an ELT conference  last weekend, I became more aware of  the importance of technology and its fast pace. We are now talking about 3D printing which can have a great impact on our life. It is also obvious that everybody’s roles are changing and some tasks  even some jobs are becoming obsolete and losing their importance. We may have another job requiring us to carry out different tasks and have different skills for being able to do so.

However, not many teachers and institutions are aware of this situation. Therefore, the process of using new technological tools and mobile applications may not be as easy as it seems. In this post, I intend to make the teachers planning to make use of educational technology in their schools for the first time.Here are my tips:

1- Decide why you want to use new tools. Using technology just for the sake of doing it means nothing and may not produce good results. You can waste your energy if there is no purpose.

2-Focus on certain tools or apps. Do not bombard your students with too many tools. It may be confusing both for you and the students. It is also important to come up with alternative uses of these certain tools.

3- Reflect on their effectiveness by taking notes and asking students whether the tools are useful or not. If they are trained well,  they can give really effective feedback on the tools and activities. If possible, carry out research on their beliefs and use the data you have collected from them to improve your use of new tools and applications.

4-Sharing is caring. Do not avoid sharing your ideas and reflections with your colleagues and members of your personal learning network. You can write a reflective blog post. This may also be good for understanding new and effective uses of educational technology and broadening horizons. It can also make the other teachers, and administrators working at the same institution more aware that educational technology can aid students and teachers if it is used  with an appropriate purpose.

5- Do not expect that it will happen all at once. This is a process and at some institutions it can take longer than expected.

6-Do not feel demotivated when something goes wrong. The more you try, the better your implementation will be.

In short,  being a change maker is not an easy job. It can take time, and  considerable amount of energy. If you are brave enough, you will go through all these stages to achieve success while raising awareness and coming up with innovative uses of tools and applications to create richer learning experiences.

I would like to finish my post with the following question:

Do you have any advice to the educators using new web tools and applications for the first time in their schools?

 

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As you might have noticed from my tweets, I am getting addicted to a new tool named  blipfoto. I came across with it when I noticed Aybike Oğuz‘s tweet directing me to her blipfoto page. I would like to thank her for making me discover this tool. When I first started using it, I had not thought that it would be used for educational purposes. As I got more familiar to it, I realized that it can have some implications for classroom teaching, too.

As educators, we all know that our students are getting used to digital environments more and more and therefore we need to find ways to utilize such tools for educational purposes. It is also nice that these tools provide learners with more options for production. They are also getting obsessed with photo sharing and writing captions on instagram, facebook, and twitter. This made me think that it might be possible to use blipfoto with my students in the future.

 

What is it?

Blipfoto is a kind of photo journal, enabling users to share one photo everyday and share their opinions. It has a mobile application but if you do not have mobile devices, you can use computers for uploading your photos and describing them. It is  possible to follow other people and form networks  to people sharing similar interests on it. You can also comment on photos and interact with people commenting on your photos. The descriptions can be edited later.   Here is a screenshot of my latest entry:

 

Some Classroom Ideas

It is very nice that each student can come up with a different photo journal which means that the descriptions of photos will  not be identical which can make students more interested in the posts of their classmate which can be good for personalizing their learning process.

1-In lower levels, students can be asked to share one photo everyday and find captions for them. This can lead them to learn more words since they will need specific words for the captions. Alternatively,  they can write one sentence under every photo for describing them.

2-In higher levels, you can decide on a specific word limit and ask your students to upload a picture on blipfoto and write a descriptive paragraph.

3- You can ask your students to follow each other and leave comments under their posts. This can initiate some kind of interaction between students.

4- Your students can also find people having similar interests and subscribe to their journals.

Since today’s learners are obsessed with photo sharing I believe that it can be a good option for motivating them and showing them that they can use mobile devices for their learning.

Do you think that you can use blipfoto with your students?  I look very forward to sharing ideas.

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Jan
02

I think I am late for writing my reflections on 2013 but it is better late than never!  :)

Like 2012,  2013 was a good year so I feel extremely happy. It was a year of new experiences, interactions, and innovative ideas. I presented at two international conferences (IATEFL, and TESOL Greece)  along with some really nice conferences in Turkey and  had the chance to interact with like minded colleagues. The last nice achievement of 2013 was receiving the CERTICT certificate from Trinity College after attending a really long online course. In addition, I started delivering ICT workshops at my institution. I am going to continue delivering these sessions in 2014, too! ;)

To be honest, I was not able to keep my resolutions for 2013 but I still think that I succeeded in some of them. I am not a fluent speaker of a new language but I managed to learn some Greek and Persian from three of my colleagues (Ioannis, Eirini and Khosro). I even had the chance to practise my Greek in Greece with two of my dear Greek friends Sophia  and Vicky.  I wouId like to thank them all for their patience and their constructive feedback. I also had to chance to read really nice blog posts and articles and carry out a research project on lurking which is now being turned into an article to be published soon. I am sorry that I was not able to attend a photography course but I learned some nice tips from successful photographers.

Of course, I have  resolutions for 2014. Here are some of them.

1-  I would like to focus on mobile learning and  discover how apps can be incorporated into language teaching.  I had the chance to explore evernote,quizlet,  animoto, and todaysmeet with my students and benefited a great deal from them. I am hungry for new apps and their innovative uses!;)

2- I am planning to experience what is it like to be a learner in a MOOC. MOOCs have really been popular in 2013 but I was not able to experience any of them. I am sure that they have a great potential for learning since they provide flexibility.

3- I am planning to finish my unfinished articles on teacher development.

4-Learning another language and improving the ones I am learning are among my resolutions. In fact, I want to learn Spanish. Therefore, if I have time, I will definitely focus on it.

2013 was a a good year and I hope 2014 will be much better.

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notebookIn my previous post, I had introduced evernote and some ways of using it with students. Rather than keeping a  paper collocation notebook, my students used the evernote application on their mobile phones for remembering new words. They wrote the definition of the words, example sentences, collocations, other forms, as well as the visual representations. In the example below, you can find a word cloud we created in class as well .

 Click on this link for the example.

 

evernote It is also possible to keep it as a real notebook. Students can write their grammar notes, paragraphs or essays
on evernote. Your use of evenote can change depending on the needs of your students and insitutional   requirements. It is nice that they can share their notes with you if it is to be checked or assessed.  Another advantage is that they won’t be able to tell you that they have lost their tasks or notebooks.

Please feel free to share your ideas as comments if you use evernote with your students.

 

Stay mobile! :)


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Nov
02
Filed Under (mlearning, reflection) by on 02/11/2013 and tagged

ID-10082606Mobile learning is a trending topic in the field of elearning. It is a term referring to learning from anywhere by using mobile devices (tablets and mobile phones). Since more and more devices are available in the market, many educators are experimenting with this concept to make learning more appealing to their learners and ease learning process without losing data.

As I  mentioned earlier, I had always wondered what it is to be a mobile learner. While taking an online course, I experimented with it a little bit but I think it is time for me to test mobile applications with my learners to see its effectiveness and provide them with better opportunities.

There are lots of available applications but we as educators have challenges such as time and specific needs of students.  Therefore, the apps to be used vary from institution to institution sometimes from class to class. It is more convenient to begin with one or two apps in order not to confuse them. Taking their needs into consideration, I introduced evernote and they came up with ways of using it.

Last Friday while revising what we have learned so far, we talked about ways to practise and revise newly learned items.  Taking their needs into consideration, I introduced evernote to my students and they came up with ways to use it.

 Evernote is an online tool allowing users to take notes and add photos, videos, and other visuals or recordings into their posts. They can also organize their notes and use them as e-portfolios.It is possible to share the notes with other people and encourage collaboration. It is also nice that they can access their notes both from their laptops and mobile devices as long as they are connected.

We decided to use evernote for note taking, grammar revision, and as a collocation notebook. My students are also going to store their portfolios online by using it since it is possible to lose the feedback they receive to their tasks. I will share one example in my next post.

Have you used evernote with your students? I look forward to your comments and insights.

Stay connected & mobile!

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In this post, I would like to share what I have learned from being an online learner. As some of you might know, I am taking an online course from The Consultants E certified by Trinity College which is my first official online learning experience. After having completed the first module of the course, I can definitely say that it has given me an opportunity to reconsider the components of a successful online learning environment and the basics of online learning. The course has been really effective since it possesses all  key points in a good e-learning program which are  guidance, clarity, transparency, interaction, flexibility, diversity and design.

So, is it easy to be an online learner? In my personal opinion, it is not very easy to be able to catch up with a fully online program since it requires a lot of learner awareness and responsibility. On the other hand, it is up to the learner to make decisions about how to learn, what to study, and timing of  tasks which makes the process more flexible. It also helps the learners to be more active while trying to make decisions which is a quality desired by most of the educators.

While trying to complete my tasks, I used some strategies for being able to learn from them  as much as I could.  Here are the golden rules I found useful to make the most out of this learning opportunity:

1-Stay organized: It is possible for you to think that you are bombarded with a lot of information in an online course and this can scare you at first.  Print the syllabus of the course for being able to organize your time and resources. In addition, if you use some tools for writing what you have learned or your comments, it will be easier to look back what you have learned so far and keep them in mind.

I used evernote as an online notebook to write my reflections. It is a tool that can be used both online which requires a web sign in and its program which can be downloaded on a computer. It also has a mobile app which is easy to use. I opened a new notebook for the course and opened new pages for each week dividing them into tasks. Before replying to a forum discussion or writing an entry, I used the notebook for the week we were working on.
Since I could use it both on my phone and computer, I could access my notes easily.

2-Be careful with deadlines.

Although online learning allows learners to do their tasks flexibly, the reality is that there are some deadlines to submit these tasks on time. It is advisable to make a table including the deadlines of each task week by week and print them out to post them on somewhere close to you. It can even be saved on a mobile device for you to look at whenever possible. If you are a last minute person, things can get out of control at times especially when there are many other things to do. Having this possibility in mind, planning when and how to finish the assignments can be helpful since it can help you to see the bigger picture which can make you think about the timing of tasks and plan accordingly. However, there can be times when you stay behind and can not catch up with your tasks which is not bad. If you do your best, it can be possible to turn lurking into reflective practices.

3-Have self discipline.

Responsibility is another issue to be careful about in online learning. Teachers act as facilitators of learning process in such kind of learning which puts the responsibility on learners’ shoulders. This means that as an online learner you need to motivate yourself and make decisions on various issues such as time management and how to do the assignments. If there is lack of motivation, look back and try to see what you have achieved in the course so far which can give you the power to move on.

4-Interact with your coursemates and tutors as much as possible.

There can be times when you think that you are alone but if it is an online course, it means that there is a group of people having the same feeling of isolation. The key to destroy that feeling is interaction.  You can share your ideas with the others on various platforms. Exchanging ideas with colleagues using forums, chats, and virtual meeting software can also be good for receiving feedback on your progress from different people other than the tutors. The comments of the participants and tutors are invaluable since they make you question the aspects you haven’t considered before and be considered as a mirror. Going over the comments not only on your posts but your coursemates ideas can raise your awareness on your strengths and the areas you need to work on. You will even notice that your style of giving feedback has changed by analyzing the interaction.

5-Use mobile devices.

Taking an online course can require you to sit down for a long time which can bore you at times if you are a kinaesthetic learner like me . While doing my assignments, I sometimes realized that I needed to move to be able to carry on. Thanks to useful mobile apps, I now feel free since I can be flexible and do  my assignments anytime and anywhere since I don’t have to finish them only by using my laptop . (I will share these apps on another blog post.)

Having been an online learner for more than two months, I can definitely say that  it has given me the opportunity to be reflective, critical, and aware. I would like to thank my dear tutors Anne Fox and Robert Martinez and my coursemates for providing me with useful feedback which has made me realize many aspects of being an online learner.

I would like to finish writing by asking my dear readers the following question:

Have you ever taken or taught an online course? If yes, what is your advice to online learners?

 

 

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Feb
20

I would like to share Vicky Loras’ interview with me about my upcoming talk at TESOL Greece. Thanks to Vicky Loras for the wonderful interview.

Vicky: Beyza, many thanks for accepting to do this interview for our TESOL Greece blog, a little over a month before our Annual Conference.

Beyza: You are very welcome, dear Vicky. I am so glad to be interviewed by you and TESOL Greece Team.

Vicky: How did you decide to become involved in education?

Beyza: Actually I have always been involved in education. My father is a history teacher and I have always had educators around me. Their presence and my teachers at school really inspired me and I wanted to follow the same path.

Vicky: Can you share one of the highlights in your teaching career so far?

Beyza: One highlight of my teaching career is the age group I have worked with.I had the chance to work with various age levels in my teaching career which has enabled me to understand different aspects of teaching along with the key considerations.  Having experienced all these, it is now easier to tailor my teaching and materials to my students’ needs and interests and make my lessons more student centered.

Vicky: Now let’s talk about the conference. Could you give us a little insight into the talk you will give at TESOL Greece?

Beyza: In this talk we will look into some aspects of lurking described as staying behind in online communities. Considering the amount of information on the web, and the number of online teacher development opportunities and  communities, it is possible for teachers to stay behind which is described as “lurking”. Many of us think that it is a factor hindering learning but it can also be potentially beneficial. In this session I will introduce some strategies leading to learning from staying behind in online spaces by referring to the research I am carrying out and my lurking experience. The participants will have the chance to reflect on themselves as lurkers and come up with strategies to turn it into learning opportunities.

Vicky: What gave you the inspiration for this topic?

Beyza: The inspiration for this talk came from my own lurking experience. While struggling with my MA studies and working full time, I stayed behind in many online spaces which got me thinking. Then, I came to realize that this lurking experience made me more critical and enabled me to have some strategies to cope with staying behind. I also realized that the time I spent while lurking could make me more critical and able to cope with challenges.

Vicky: Let’s move on to your own online presence. You use various types of social media to connect with many teachers around the world. How did you start out? What are the advantages and the downsides, if any?

Beyza: Actually, it all started when I became a member of  Webheads in Action which was a wonderful coincidence. I discovered the importance of sharing and social relationships in online learning and learned a great deal from the interactions I had with other members. Then, I decided to get a Twitter ID and got a Twitter ID in 2007. I started following some educators like Shell Terrell and expanded my networks by engaging in interactions through hashtags and @ replies. Then, I became a member of other teacher development communities on Facebook and found other educators like me. It is so nice to see that we have a lot in common and experience the same difficulties. I see social media as  a bridge between educators to find solutions and come up with innovative ideas and projects. However, there are some disadvantages which are security and information overload. Educators utilizing social media should know what to share with the communities and where to share the right information. In addition, to be able to solve the problem of information overload, they need to know how to filter all this information and tag them for future use. In other words, managing the information shared online is a necessary skill to be possessed by the educators using social media.

Vicky: There are quite a few educators who are a bit wary of using social media. What would you like to tell them?

Beyza: I advise them to regard social media as an opportunity rather than a threat. They should find like minded educators and communities and follow them on Facebook and twitter while taking necessary precautions to protect their privacy.

Vicky: What are you looking forward to in Athens?

Beyza: I look very forward to meeting participants from Greece and all parts of the world, members of my PLN and exchanging ideas and discovering Athens.

Vicky: A huge thank you, Beyza! I look forward to seeing you again in March.

Beyza: Thank you, dear Vicky for the lovely interview. I look very forward to TESOL Greece Annual Convention and meeting with like-minded educators.

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Jan
03
Filed Under (reflection) by on 03/01/2013 and tagged

2012 has been such  a good year for me so I feel extremely lucky and happy. It was a year of beginnings, surprises, and opportunities. Here are the amazing things that happened in 2012:

1-Finishing my thesis with a focus on online communities of practice  and receiving an MA in ELT  from Middle East Technical University was definitely one of the hightlights of 2012. I struggled a lot for the MA degree for a long  time while working full time at private institutions and it took a long of time because  my university was at a different city. I would like to thank everyone for having supported me during my MA studies.

2- Having our article with Vance Stevens published was the second achievement of 2012. We worked on the article in 2011 for three months and waited a long time to have it published in a refereed journal.

3-Working as a teacher trainer at Pilgrims Teacher Training in summer and contributing to the development of educational technology courses was also an unforgettable experience. I learned so much from it and made a lot of new friends from different parts of the world. I am going to work there in August as a trainer again which really excites me alot.

4- Presenting at IATEFL and various ELT conferences and attending many talks of educators from all around the world was also very fantastic. I feel so lucky to have that opportunity to exchange ideas with like minded colleagues and benefiting from their insights. I am going to present at IATEFL  again  along with TESOL Greece Annual Convention in 2013.

5- Starting blogging after having quitted it for two years was also unforgettable. Although I didn’t write many posts, I feel that I am back to life and contribute to the blogosphere by my posts.

So, 2012 was a fabulous year and I hope 2013 brings better opportunuties and more interaction with my colleagues and PLN. There are a lot of projects, articles, and presentations I am working on right now . Stay tuned! ;)

Here are my new year’s resolutions:

1-I would like to read books, articles, and  blog posts.

2-I want to do more research, blog, and curate more.

3- Learning a new foreign language is among my plans.

4-If I have enough time, I want to attend a photography course.

l am not sure whether I can do them all at the same time but  I will do my best.

I hope 2013 brings my readers happiness, health, and inspiration.

Happy 2013! :)

 

 

 

 

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In this post, I would like to share two tools you might have come across before. Therefore, rather than just showing how to use them, I decided to share how I use it with my own students .

I have been using online sticky notes (padlet & linoit)  for a long time. I first came across with them two years ago when I was asked to post a message on a PLN member’s birthday wall. Then, they turned out to be such useful tools that I felt tempted to write a post on them.

What is padlet? What is linoit?

Linoit  and padlet are tools enabling users to create walls and post sticky notes on other people’s walls.  It is possible to change privacy settings of the posts and edit the posts made by your students.

How can they be used?

All you need to do is to sign up for an  account. You can also connect your facebook or gmail accounts with it  but I do not advise doing it because of security reasons.

Here are the steps to use it after signing up for an account:

1- Create a board.

2-Right click on the board and give your instruction.

3-Give the link to the board and share it with your students (or with the people you would like to collaborate with) .

4- After they write a response, if there are any grammatical or lexical errors, correct them. (You can do it with students in class as well.)

5-If you have a class blog or a wiki, get the embed code and embed your padlet board on it. If you are using a course management system like moodle or blackboard, share the link of the board there.

How I have used them

As I mentioned previously, I have used online sticky notes  with students having different proficiency levels. So far, I and my students have used  it for  three  main purposes:

1-Vocabulary Revision: I created boards for each unit we covered in the coursebook and assigned them to groups of students. They edited the boards with their group members and wrote  detailed descriptions for the  new words. They also added different sections like collocations, example sentences, and synonyms and antonyms. Some of them added photos. Here are some examples :

  • This one is created by my students in the elementary level. We used it before the exam.
  • This is another one created by my elementary students to revise vocabulary of a unit after its completion.
  • This one is created by my upper intermediate students. (We went over some of the mistakes there in class.)

2-Pre/Post Reading or Listening Activities: Before or after a reading or a listening activity, I asked the students a question related to the unit. They posted individual sticky notes answering the question posted. Then I shared the wall on twitter using a relevant hashtag (#). Then, people following the hashtag I used on twitter also wrote their ideas on the wall. This really motivated my students and exposed them to the views of other people. Here are some examples:

  • This wall was created as a post reading activity.  After reading a text on architecture, my students wrote their ideas about the things which make a building attractive. Then, other people (probably architects) joined the discussion by sharing their ideas.
3-Feedback/Data Collection: If you are doing a talk or conducting research, you can use it for gathering data about your research or session. Here is an example:
  • This one was created by me to gather data about the ideas of PLN members on the effect of PLNs on professional development.
In short, I see linoit and padlet as  very useful tools for classroom use and try using them as much as I can.  I have some questions for you. Please feel free to post your responses as comments.
  1. Do you use linoit or padlet with your students? If yes, what kind of activities do you do with your students using them?
  2. If you do not use them, do you think that it is possible to use them in your own context? If yes, how do you think you can use them in your own  teaching/ training context?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today I had the opportunity to think about the processes I went through in my teacher development process. What striked me while doing this is the impact of social media and power of connections.  When I first started following people and being involved in online activities, I didn’t think that it would make such an impact on my career. However, when I interacted with people like me, l discovered more about ways of using web 2.0 tools and networking which made me more willing to learn. In fact, l unlearned and relearned many aspects of learning and teaching in the twenty first century and this made me feel the need to keep myself up to date.  Then, I realized the power of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and wanted to write a post on that.

 

What is a PLN?

PLN stands for Personal Learning Networks and it stems from the theory of connectivism developed by Stephen Downes suggesting that people can learn by creating connections with people having the same interests. PLN is an informal learning network consisting of people you  communicate with and learn together in a personal leaning environment (PLE). It is believed that if you make connections with other people having a learning aim in mind, an informal type of learning will happen as a consequence of that connection. In fact,the people you connect with do not necessarily have to be the ones you know personally. You may even learn from them without ever meeting them in person.

 

How can you form a PLN?

There is not a single way of having a PLN. You may also do other actions to form your PLN. The steps below are just suggestions.

  • Set up a blog.
  • Choose some blogs and start reading them on your blogroll.
  • Subscribe to blogs in a blog reader.
  • Make comments.
  • Join a professional social network.
  • Use twitter.
  • Find people and topics to follow.
  • Connect, collaborate, contribute.
  • Use hashtags (#) and lists to get organized.

 

What are the benefits of having a PLN?
Having a  PLN can ease your life in a number of ways. We are all busy as educators and considering the increasing amount of information and its life span, it may not be easy to catch up with the new competencies of the twenty first century. Moreover, having different perspectives can broaden our horizons and provide us with motivation and inspiration. There is always somebody willing to help you in your PLN. You can also use your PLN to collect data easily in a short time.It can even be used in classroom to make your students connected and more motivated. I remember sharing my classroom wall including the ideas of my students on art on twitter using artchitecture and design hashtags (#) and asking the ideas of people on art which made them more willing to produce and interact with people from different parts of the world following  art hashtag (#).
When I asked the benefits of PLN to the members of my PLN, they came up with the responses below. Most of these responses  are related to the power of sharing and collaboration.

All in all, it can be regarded as a must for all the twenty first century educators. If you do not have a PLN, you will notice its impact in a very short time when you form it. What do you think about the impact of your PLN on your classroom teaching and professional development?

References

Siemens, G., Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2 (10), 2005.

 

 

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