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?
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.
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.
I have been using padlet for a long time. I first came across with it two years ago when I was asked to post a message on a PLN member’s birthday wall. Then, it turned out to be such a useful tool that I felt tempted to write a post on it.
What is padlet?
Linoit is a tool 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 it be used?
All you need to do is to sign up for a padlet 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 it
As I mentioned previously, I have used padlet 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 :
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:
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.
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?
Six months ago, I started preparatory school from elementary level and I am now in upper intermediate level. During this time, I tried to do various activities to have a better command of English. My aim was to do something different from the other students. I think it was because of my understanding of learning English. I am eager to learn and I always wonder everything about English since I love this language. In my point of view, this is the most significant aspect of learning.
What did I do outside to have a better command of English?
My learning English process continues apart from doing homework. Frankly speaking, I don’t like that like most of the students because I see it as something which is compulsory. Although I am aware of its benefits, I can’t accept doing homework just because of my teacher. That made me think about different methods of learning and doing research to find websites which include interesting and meaningful content.
I am now going to explain what I did to improve different language skills in more detail.
Reading: I found many resources to read as I couldn’t like reading English books. In the beginning of the process, I started to read some magazines which are written for kids such as National Geographic Kids and Time for Kids. I could read about many subjects that I was interested in. Due to the fact that I got bored easily, I forgot them. I am using a different strategy these days. When references are written under the articles which we read them in the classroom, I search the references on the Internet and I continue to read the writers’ other articles on other subjects. It is good to be informed about not only themes of the units but also different ones. Nowadays, Wikipedia also helps me to learn the things I am interested in. I continue to read in English with the help of blogs written by businessmen/women and instructors who teach English as a foreign language. I can learn some tips about methods of learning English and business life. Besides all these, I found a website (http://spreeder.com/ ) that helps me to improve my reading speed and comprehension. In these days, I am spending my time with this website and I am choosing reading texts among the blogs( http://www.twingly.com/top100?lang=en ), news site (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ ) and magazines in English. In short, I try to read more informative and attractive texts which are about my areas of interest.
Listening: I really needed to improve my listening skill. At first I wasn’t good at listening so I tried to find some websites. I benefit from a news site (http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/ ). I can read and listen to the news at the same time. This is the most useful practice to improve my listening skill. Another thing I like is songs. I listen to songs and tried to understand their lyrics. Apart from these, I listen to some people who have made speeches in conferences about their business experiences ( http://www.ted.com/speakers ). Even though I can’t understand meaning of all sentences, I don’t give up. Finally, I listen to the news and other programs which give information on various subjects (http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ ) instead of watching movies/series with English subtitles. When I do these activities, I am happy and I can enjoy all of them except for the podcasts we listen in class.
Writing: That was the most problematic area for me because of my way of thinking. From the beginning, I tried to use different things in spite of my instructors’ feedback but they couldn’t prevent me using different words and sentence patterns which I didn’t learn in my writings. I was eager to write better. I insisted on using them and while my instructor was giving writing feedback, I always said that “How can I write the new words or patterns in the correct way?” I am happy now to do that because it has opened new doors to me. I have a learning diary in a website (https://penzu.com/p ) due to instructor Beyza’s great idea and I benefited from this in all levels. There is no doubt that it has been the most significant and effective thing in my learning process.
My recommendation to other students who learn a foreign language is that to be eager to learn a language is the most crucial thing in the learning process. If a language learner regards learning something as unnecessary, s/he won’t learn better. Learning language is a long process and during this time learners shouldn’t give up and lose their hopes. They should be aware of their skills which they are good at or bad at and they should improve imperfections of their learning skills. Another noteworthy advice is that they shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes and they should be risk takers to learn better.
I can recommend some internet resources for meaningful practice.
-for reading practice
-for listening practice
-for grammar practice
-for speaking practice
-for writing practice
I should say that until started preparatory school, I hadn’t read, written or spoken anything in English for a long time as I hated English owing to my ex teachers who have tried to teach English. These six months have changed everything in terms of learning English. I believe that I made progress with the help of my instructors’ ideas and these activities.
In my next blog post, a guest blogger who is a student of mine is going to share her ideas on learning English and using Web 2.0 tools. Therefore, she will post it on the blog herself. She is now polishing her post and while she is doing that, I want to give some information about her and the reasons why I am going to have a guest student blogger.
I decided to have a guest student blogger because I believe that it is usually teachers who blog about using Web 2.0 and also that we tend to repeat the same things over and over again. Ideas of a student making effective use of these tools and reflecting on her progress can broaden our horizons.
I have known Gözde for more than six months. She was in my elementary class and she has made an incredible progress. She is now an upper intermediate student. I didn’t decide to have her as a guest blogger just because she is successful. She is very reflective and process oriented. Although she is not in my class now, we usually have the chance talk about how she studies and her progress. She has a learning diary in penzu and she has just decided to have her own blog.
She is going to share her reflections very soon. Stay tuned
Two weeks ago, I had the chance to attend and present at the 46th Annual International IATEFL Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Although it wasn’t my first time at IATEFL, this one was quite different. Because of my work duties, I had to go there two days late. At first, this made me feel a little bit nervous as I knew that I would miss great sessions by ELT professionals. However, I could follow the plenary sessions online and watch some interviews with the presenters. Moreover, I followed people using IATEFL hashtag (#) on twitter to share reflections and take notes and the discussions on Glasgow Online website along with the posts of conference bloggers.
When I went to Glasgow, I realized that I hadn’t missed anything at all except for the evening events. I could discuss the plenaries and the other sessions with friends as I could follow most of them online. Sharing ideas and support of my PLN members were the highlights of the conference.
The sessions I attended were really to the point. I attended a session on using low cost mobile phones in India and listened to the presenters’ suggestions for working with mobile phones in class. Their enthusiasm and problem solving strategies really inspired me.
Another session I attended was dear Jennifer Verschoor‘s session on using skype to teach business English. Jenniffer explained the difficulties she faced when she wanted to use Web 2.0 tools in her previous instutition and changes in her career. She explained her current context before giving us some practical ideas on how to work with skype.
The final session was by Kristina Smith entitled ” Digital Literacies Through Virtual Fieldtrips”. In the beginning of her session she underlined that learning is incidental and there have been many shifts in learning. For this reason, Kristina stated that digital literacies should compromise learning shifts. She showed us some examples of a digital fieldtrip to Shakespeare’s world and we came up with many activities such as creating a fake Facebook profile for Shakespeare, creating a webquest, and asking students to plan their class trip. I really liked this session as it was interesting, creative, and inspiring.
On Friday I did my session with my dear friend Işıl. Although it was on the last day of the conference there were many participants. We talked about the necessity to keep up to date, how teachers can develop themselves using the wonders of Web 2.0 and points to consider while designing educational courseware.
The participants participated in the discussions actively and shared their own perspectives on professional development and courseware design. We had a long question and answer session in the end. I really enjoyed doing the talk and involvement of the audience. It was a pleasure to be there .
Unfortunately, I had to leave early right after the session. Although I missed the beginning and the end of the conference, I could fill in the gaps by reading posts on the conference, following IATEFL hashtag (#) and the live streamed pleanaries. It was truly a “Blended” experience.
These are my reflections. What do you think about IATEFL 2012? How was it?
It was not very long time ago. I was given a class full of students who were about to repeat elementary level for the third time. In addition, I did not have anything to use as the other materials were used in the previous elementary modules. How do you think I felt?
I have to admit that it was not a good feeling at first. As a teacher utilizing coursebooks (not being the slave of them) for a very long time, it was a challenge for me. I did not know any single thing about the students and their proficiency levels. The only thing I could do was to check the objectives and come up with a rescue plan after borrowing all of the elementary books from the library.
The first week was the most difficult one. Getting to know the students, understanding their proficiency level and also motivating them to continue learning English was not very easy. Having analyzed their needs and interests, I created a class wiki.Each student had a page on the wiki. I told them that their pages could only be edited by themselves. They received feedback from me or the other students and edited their feedback after that. We used this wiki for productive tasks and as learning portfolio.
The next step was to create tasks for the students to work on. I used our school Moodle for such tasks. The students had a recording task every week. They were eager to carry out these. The students were also asked to find links for learning or practising English. They shared these links with me and their classmates.
In the last weeks of this course, I asked some of them to prepare vocabulary quizzes. Most of them took this seriously and produced great quizzes. In other words, they contributed to the materials development process
We also made use of the following websites in our course:
Now, it is the last week of the course and looking at the feedback sessions I had with them I can say that they are really happy to learn in this way. They also came up with alternative uses of these tools and language learning tips. I am going to share them in another post.
As a teacher, I can state that I also learned a great deal from this experience since it was a dynamic process and students were really involved. It also boosted my and my students’ motivation and turned a real challenge into an opportunity.
Have you ever had that kind of experience? If yes, how did you survive?
Hello after a very long time,
Welcome to my new blog, I am sure that after having a look at my old blog, you realized that why I neglected blogging for a very long time. There were many reasons why I have not blogged since 2010.
Reason 1: Blogger deleted my old blogger account and I could not have any permission to write blog posts again.
Reason 2: Although I got a new blog from edublogs, I could not find enough time because of my MA studies and my workload. (I teach 23 hours and have other reponsibilities. )
Reason 3: I had to write other articles and carry out action research at the same time.
Reason 4: I got demotivated and suffered from teacher burnout.
Reason 5: I tended to procrastinate blogging.
Lessons Learned From This Experience
Lesson 1: Blogging keeps teachers engaged and makes them more reflective. Therefore, if you want to reflect upon certain issues, you should definitely blog regularly.
Lesson 2: Blogging can give people to get feedback on their ideas and have different perspectives.
Lesson 3: A blog is a personal portfolio. If it does not get updated regularly, this may not have a good impression on people. It is a good way for your ideas to be understood well. You blog therefore you are.
Lesson 4: If you blog regularly, this can give you the chance to feel motivated. It can foster intrinsic motivation. You feel proud of what you have written and the comments you receive. It pushes you to move forward and set personal and professional goals.
I missed all these opportunities because of the reasons mentioned above and I wanted to share the lessons I learned from not blogging for a very long time. I am happy that the blogosphere wanted me back and I have a brand new blog.
Have you ever had similar experiences? What did you do to overcome this problem? What caused you to move on?