Saturday, December 8, 2012

How often would you like to have TILL meetings via Google+ Hangouts? #tillben

[googleapps domain="docs" dir="spreadsheet/embeddedform" query="formkey=dFRtelFXc00tZVUtc0VaVy1wSDl4OFE6MQ" width="760" height="200" /]

Join Teachers for Interactive Language Learning Moodle and Community today!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seeking English Culture Exchange

Next semester (Jan. - June of 2013) I'll be teaching an English culture class for 6th semester, pre-service English teachers, ages ranging from 18-22.  I'm looking for either a synchronous and/or asynchronous exchange with any English speaking country that would also be interested in learning more about Mexican culture.  It would not have to last the entire semester as there are many possible arrangements that could be made.  I am anticipating approximately 15 - 20 students in my group.

If you are interested in discussing this matter further, please contact me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

#Udemy and Removing Courses...Not!

I created an account at Udemy several years ago because I immediately liked how easy it was to set up a class.  I wasn't interested at the time in actually giving classes online, but rather providing an online space for students I teach face to face - I guess I'm still looking for that "perfect" space.  Anyway, I've seen Udemy grow and have watched their platform mature and become more intuitive over the years, but have really never found a need to use it in any real way.  Since I really am not interested in teaching online (at this point), I guess I always thought that I might seriously use it as a blended learning solution...but again, that never happened.  Currently, I have eight open and free courses set up in Udemy, and all but two classes have less than 20 students.  I set up a course in Philosophy and a "course" in IELTS which each have about 200 students.

When I set up all of these courses well over two years ago, they were all considered an experiment and I really was not sure what I wanted to do with them.  In the case of the Philosophy course, I actually have no background in the subject but wanted to create a repository of sorts of videos that I would like to see in a single place.  And it looks like I may not be the only one because I have others who have signed up for the course with more members than any other course I've published in Udemy.  All of the courses that I have in Udemy are just there...I do not interact with any of the students, nor have I added any content to any class for well over a year now, and as far as I know, no one interacts with each either.

Now, Udemy has always been responsive to inquiries when I've had questions and they seem to still have quite a good support team.  But this week I received for the first time, a direct email about one of my classes. To my surprise, on October 25, 2012 I received the following email:

Hey Benjamin,

How are you?

I'm writing to you because I looked over your course called "[The name of the class.]" and found there's still some stuff missing, yet the course is published!

Did you click publish on purpose?

Maybe you didn't, and you're still working on it, or maybe you just missed something small and it can be fixed pretty easily (which is usually the case!).

Here's a few things you'll want to make sure that you've done:

  1. Publish all of your lectures: Click the publish button on every lecture so that they turn from yellow to green!

  2. Add Sections: Divide your course content with sections to help students easily understand the structure of your course. And, make sure your titles are clear and descriptive!

  3. Add Course Details: Once your course is published, the first thing students will see on your course's landing page are the details - make them super descriptive!

  4. Add a nice Course Image: To make it look good, the right resolution is 480x270.

  5. Add an instructor picture and complete a bio: Let your students know who you are!

If you have everything done above and are still not sure what is missing, take a look at our full Course Creation Checklist!

If you can't find any of those things missing from your course, let me know so I can give you some exact guidance. I want to help you have an amazing course so please don't hesitate to contact me!Looking forward to seeing your final product!



Pedro was certainly kind enough to offer great feedback about what my "course" lacked and he also included an attachment of a detailed checklist of what every online course should include, which I appreciate.  But as I began to give it more thought, I quickly realized that what I had published as a course I would never really use.  Pedro was also right, if I am going to publish something, do it right or don't do it at all.  I've decided to choose the latter.

So I began searching for a way to delete a course in Udemy.  I wasn't able to find a way to delete the course myself, but I did find this message published on the Udemy website which still remains at the time this post was published:

Remove Your Course

As there are some students taking your course, if you remove your course they are going to be unhappy!

If you still want to remove your course, please contact us via

There advice was certainly valid; removing courses when students are enrolled can be a drag.  But since the course that I wanted to remove obviously had serious issues and I had no intention of ever adding or interacting with any of the students in the course, why not just remove it.  Sure, I might give the students a month or so to download any content they wanted, but it's time just to remove the class.  Besides, the message they post on your website is misleading since it gives the impression that removing a class is possible.  Essentially what they are saying is that if you want your course removed, email them and they still won't remove it.

So, the same day that Pedro sent me his email, I sent Udemy a request to remove the course (as instructed by their message on their website) which led to the following email discourse - my thoughts are in blue italics:

Kyle: You can't remove a course if students are in it. You can only make it private. At this point I was still thinking that if I could contact the students or have them drop the class that I could still have the course removed. Kyle should have simply said, "You can't remove any course from Udemy." Period. But he didn't.

Me: So the course will just reside out there forever?  A teacher may not delete any course after it has been published?  Granted, I'll think twice before every publishing another class on Udemy, but now I just want to get rid of this class.

By the way, this is what appears on the Ubemy website:

As there are some students taking your course, if you remove your course they are going to be unhappy!

If you still want to remove your course, please contact us via

My response is that I still want to remove this course.  This message now does not apply, then you might consider changing the message. I'm trying to show that this message is a bit misleading.  I would like to know upfront that courses cannot be remove from Udemy.

Kyle: Try to imagine you're a student and your class is removed all of a sudden (not fun!!!). I get it, but if you did an analysis of the activity in this class, I'd be surprised if anyone really got too bent out of shape.  If you contacted them beforehand, say one month or so, I don't think many if any would be offended. I'd probably be doing them a favor. :)

Me: I just need to know if it is possible to delete a course in Udemy.  Apparently you are saying that it is not possible, correct?

Kyle: It's not possible.

So there you have it...lesson learned.  Don't make the same mistake that I did.  I think Udemy is great for those educators who want to teach online, and it's great for learners, to a degree.  But if you are going to publish a course with them, realize that it's out there forever.  In fact, keeping my course out there in Udemy actually looks bad for them (and me).  It's better to have no content at all than poorly organized content, so that's what I did - a course with no content. Yeah, it's kind of silly.

If I get any followup from Udemy, I will provide an update.




Monday, October 22, 2012

'Small Talk': A Comprehensive Approach to Accuracy and Fluency in OralProduction

One of the main problems that language teachers face is how to develop both accuracy and fluency in students' speaking since one oftentimes seems to come at the expense of the other (Hunter, 2012).  This article review frames a few essential questions around the article, 'Small Talk': developing fluency, accuracy, and complexity in speaking.

Hunter (2012) researched the struggle teachers have to develop both accuracy and fluency with language learners as well as the challenge of persuading learners to step out of their comfort zones when using more complex and spontaneous language by studying the following:

  • Do students get more speaking practice during 'Small Talk' than during a traditional, teacher-fronted class?  Do they make more errors?

  • What percentage of students' errors receives CF (corrective feedback), and what percentage of uptake is there?

  • Do some students receive more CF than others, and if so, why?

Hunter researched 12 adult intermediate students in the US with varying languages spoken as a mother tongue over a period of 10 weeks.  Each week, 'Small Talk' sessions were videotaped which were later analyzed by six different teachers (one being the class teacher).  The findings show that language learning speakers do speak more than more traditionally-lead classes, and they tend to make slightly fewer errors than those in teacher-controlled activities.

With regard to the second research question, the average of six different teachers were taken into account, giving an overall average of 40% (high of 57% and low of 24%).  This average compares to an average of 17% found in Lyster and Ranta (1997), who researched more extensively the types of teacher-driven feedback provided to the language learner.

To answer the final research question, the findings confirmed that CF closely reflected the needs of the individual students.

As this study makes a connection between 'Small Talk' as a method and the accuracy, fluency, and complexity of the language learning speaker at the intermediate level, how might this same study be duplicated or adapted to adult learners at a more basic level?  Moreover, how might this method be adapted to children, both at a basic and intermediate level? And finally, how might this method be implemented so that the focus becomes more on self and peer CF versus teacher-driven CF?

How have you implemented activities that address accuracy, fluency, and complexity when it comes to the oral production of language learners?  What are some strategies that have worked well and what challenges have you faced?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards

Developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the English Language Proficiency

Development Framework Committee in collaboration with the Council of Great City Schools, the

Understanding Language Initiative at Stanford University, and World-Class Instructional Design

and Assessment, with funding support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (Source)

ELPD Framework Booklet-Final

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Can Teacher and Student Both Win?

I was inspired by a recent comment made by Stephen Downes:

a course is either teacher-directed or student-directed.  It can't be both, because in case of conflict, only one wins (and guess which one?).
So can a class be both teacher-directed and student-directed?

In formal learning circles, a teacher and respective learners who share a classroom typically follow a curriculum and work towards some desired results that must be reached within a given time frame (i.e., a semester).  Oftentimes, this experience is viewed as teachers ultimately possessing most of the power.  Whatever the teacher says, goes.  If there is a conflict between student and teacher such as what students are to do in class, how they are to do it, and how they will be evaluated on their efforts, the teacher dictates what is to happen.

Or a class can go to the other extreme.  A teacher can give students many different choices as to what they are to do in class, how they may do it, and how they are to be evaluated for their efforts.  Students choose what they want to learn; if they want to work individually, in pairs, or in groups; when assignments are to be completed; and whether they want to self-assess their own work or have their work assessed by someone else (e.g., peer-assessment or assessment from some other expert).  So classes (i.e., formal education where learning takes place within a school) are either teacher-directed or student-directed and can't be both?

Consider the following questions:

  • Is it possible for teachers to take on different roles or activities that at times are didactic, controlling, and directive and at other times more facilitative, guiding, and flexible depending on the educational circumstances?
  • Is it possible for teachers to take on different roles or activities depending on the individual learner?  Can a teacher be more didactic towards one learner and more facilitative towards another?  Can this occur even within the same class, lesson, etc.?
  • In the case of teacher-student conflict, is it possible for a teacher and student to negotiate and resolve conflict in a way that both "win"?
  • Does a teacher ever "win" when a student "loses"?
  • Is a complete course ever either teacher or student-directed?  Or are there moments within a course when actions are directed by the teacher and other moments when students drive the learning process in such a way that both teacher and student "win"?
  • Is the dynamic and emergent nature of a teacher and student-directed course too complex to even represent as falling along a continuum or as being a dichotomy?
What do you think?  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Education should not be a popularity contest

My smallest spinach plantThe thesis of Academic Rock Stars and Curriculum DJs is that rock stars are being created and nurtured by the breakthroughs in massively open online courses (MOOCs) I would like to offer a slightly different perspective.

1. When drawing comparisons between "music rock stars" and well-connected educators, Microsoft Research's Daniel Reed poses a "culturally simple" question:  
As a student, would you rather take a required general education or specialty elective course from one of several internationally rated instructors and/or lauded scholars, or be constrained to the pedagogical skill and intellectual acumen of the professors at a single university?"

Albeit a simple question to ask, answering it is quite complex.  Many assumptions are embedded in the original question that can lead to misconceptions.  (i) Students who choose a professor at the attending university are choosing a professor who is not connected to the outside world, fails to offer classes that connect students to the outside world, and fails to use blended learning or online blended learning as part of their teaching and learning methodology.  (ii) Choosing an "internationally rated instructor" inherently correlates to an academic's "rock start" (i.e., popularity) status.  (iii) An internationally rating system for instructors is valid, reliable, and unbiased.  And (iv) popular academics are inherently better than unpopular academics.  

2. What Salman Khan of Khan Academy did was fundamentally flip not only the classroom, but also the economic model of higher education.

Salman Khan does not flip a classroom by simply delivering small chunks of information online.  Educators flip their classrooms if their synchronous learning experiences become more dynamic and authentic as a result of their respective learners spending more time outside of class learning new information asynchronously.  This alone does not answer additional questions that relate to the complexity of successfully flipping a classroom.  

  • How much information learners access asynchronously is new and how much acts as a review of something they have already seen? 
  •  How do understandings from information accessed asynchronously enable learners to perform in authentic performance tasks in the presence of the educator, classmates, and other involved actors? And how much of this process is dependent on the course, teacher preference, and student profiles?
  •  How do learning outcomes differ between taking the exact same context and comparing a traditional class with a flipped class? As if...
Final point.  To understand the concept of a flipped classroom is to understand the relationship between the asynchronous and the synchronous forms of communication, the way content is being delivered, and the learning theories that apply to any particular educational context.

3. The business possibilities are endless...

Why discuss business opportunities when the point seems to be about how abstract concepts like MOOCs and the flipped classroom are changing how learning will occur in higher education.  Any business solution is as complex as any solution related to learning.  Ok, so there are more choices for informal learning for educators...y que?

4. The immediate future of MOOCs may be uncertain...

This is where trying to define a MOOC becomes problematic.  Just try defining massive, open, and online, and one begins to see whyWhile we're at it, try defining terms like course, class, syllabus, lesson, lesson plan, etc.  Defining abstract concepts can sometimes overshadow the complexity of understanding these terms in any practical sense.  But realizing the infinite number of possible meanings of these terms, my guess is that "open, online courses" will become more ubiquitous as they become less "massive".  That is, the size and popularity of the MOOC alone will say little about how formative assessment promotes learning.

5. thing is clear – the world of higher education is changing in ways that we never could have imagined.

Is this really that clear?  I think what's clear is that institutions in higher education will embrace or be forced to take advantage of the opportunities that informal learning has to offer.

6. By 2020, we could be on the way to embracing continuous, lifetime learning for everyone in society taught by the world's greatest academic rock stars. 

Gee, I certainly hope not - I prefer jazz over rock any day.  Seriously, lifelong learning exists due to the number of choices that are currently available for informal learning.  These choices will continue to grow, but academic "jazz stars" will be defined by the learner and will not simply be based on a popularity contest.  Learners will search for educators that serve them best and may not be based solely on the educator's number of followers. 

7. New curriculum DJs - who are able to mix-and-match course offerings for specialized degrees - may emerge, selling their digital wares on iTunes.

The future business model of education will be those frameworks that lead to the most engaging, effective, and efficient educative experience for the largest number of learners possible - a claim that warrants a separate post so to cover some of the many variables involved.

The whole point here is not that teaching in many cases is (or could be) free (as in free beer); it is not about the amount learners should or should not pay for an education.  Free education deals more with perception, accreditation, future educational and professional goals of each learner, etc.  Instead, what is more relevant is  how open teaching and learning emerge - understanding the infinite number of ways ideas, materials, and people relate to each other regardless as to when and where these interactions might take place.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Professional development defined

Professional development, more accurately termed as professional learning, is simple but complex, chaotic, non-linear, and emergent. Professional learning is the dynamic relationship between (a) abstract ideas, conceptualizations, & diverse perspectives; (b) materials such as learning objects, technology, and artifacts; and (c) human interaction. To understand any one of these three is to understand the other two to the degree they are associated with each other, how they change over time, and how they are rooted in a particular situation or context.

 Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is asking "What makes a good teacher" the right question?

Today's post was inspired by Mailbag: Readers define what's a good teacher.

Here are a few responses that came from this post:
A good teacher gives students the skills to think, create, explore, question and practice so that they can become productive members of society.
Probably the most important traits are compassion and patience.
A good teacher is one that enlightens a student to new areas of knowledge of which the student had no, or little, prior learning experience. 
The public schoolteachers’ role is to help all students achieve their potential.
...a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom can be directly related to a parent’s effectiveness in the home; a partnership between parent and teacher for the benefit of the student. 
 ...I can sum up what makes a good teacher in one word: support. 
 A good teacher knows when to put aside teaching the curriculum and teaches students how to relate to one another.
After reading this article, I felt compelled to interpret these definitions and explanations in terms of comparing US teachers with teachers working in Finland, albeit a debatable comparison by some. But Darling-Hammond (2010) argues that although no system from afar can be transported wholesale into another context, there is much to learn from the experiences of those who have addressed problems we also encounter.  The author points out two key points that I feel lead to greater, more specific differences between the two countries' educational systems:

Over the past 40 years, Finland has shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around the very lean national standards.
In Finland each teacher receives three years of high-quality graduate level preparation completely at state expense - plus a major overhaul of the curriculum and assessment system designed to ensure access to a "thinking curriculum" for all students. 
This is big: Finland teachers have the flexibility in deciding how national standards are met by being able to decide at the local level how the written, taught, and tested curriculum is to be implemented.  And they are prepared to do so because each teacher receives training (i.e., Master's degree plus ongoing professional development) that ultimately creates a greater demand for professionals that exceed those in other well-respected fields such as medicine and law.

So what questions should we be asking?  I would argue that instead of asking What makes a good teacher?, we might ask,

What responsibility does each educational stakeholder have when cooperating towards higher student achievement?

A more complex question leads to a more networked solution to higher student achievement.  Defining a "good" or "bad" teacher is simply articulating the direct result of prior socio-technical relationships; let's ask questions that relate to contextual, holistic, learning trajectories that enable educators to become better over time.

What's your question?

Related articles:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Does a Shift From Numbers as Grades to Letter Grades Really Matter?

A colleague of mine sent me this article today (Calificaciones con letras, de vuelta).  Starting in August of this year, 27.6 million children in primary and secondary schools in Mexico will begin receiving letter grades (i.e., A, B, C, & D) instead of number grades (e.g., 10, 9, 8, 7, etc.).

As an American university educator working in Mexico, I admit that giving a grade as a number took awhile to get used to.  But reflecting back, I suppose I just automatically assessed student work and related number grades back to the letter grade descriptors that I've grown accustomed to: A=excellent, B=above average, C=average, etc. But if my understanding of the new grading system is correct, there still is a slight difference between what Mexico plans to implement later this year and what I've been used to growing up in the United States school system.

Mexico plans to convert letter grades as follows: "Excellent" work would be equivalent to a 10, and would receive an A; "satisfactory" work would be the equivalent to a 9 and 8, and would receive a B; "sufficient" work would be equivalent to a 7 and 6, and would receive a C; and "failing" would be equivalent to anything less than a 6, and would receive a D.

If grades (percentages) are rounded off, one possible interpretation for Mexico's new grading system might look like this:

A = 95% (9.5) - 100%
B = 75% - 94%
C = 60% - 74%
D = less than 59%

If grades are not rounded off, which seems unlikely, then the scale might look like this:

A = 100%
B = 80% - 99%
C = 60% - 79%
D = less than 59%

Contrast either scenario above with the grading scale I used as a child (oh so many years ago):

A = 90% - 100%
B = 80% - 89%
C = 70% - 79%
D = 60% - 69%
F =  less than 60%

or (if memory serves)

A+ = 96% - 100%
A- = 90% - 95%
B+ = 86% - 89%
B- = 80% - 85%
C+ = 76% - 79%
C- = 70% - 75%
D+ = 66% - 69%
D- = 60% - 65%
F =  less than 60%

Certainly, grading systems vary with each country (see here), but it's interesting to compare such systems and reflect on the impact each has on the learning process.

Do you think that shifting from a grading system of numbers to a grading system of letters will impact how students learn?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shifting to EduQuiki

I've made some decisions these last few weeks with regard to where I'll be making my contributions to open courseware, OERs, and my blog.  I left blogger about a year ago and went to WordPress, but now have decided to move back to blogger.  My WordPress site, called Collaborative Understandings, started to accumulate too many plugins which were required to have the website that I thought I wanted.  It got to a point that my website started to bog down along with generating memory errors due to issues with my host provider,  I was really trying to establish one website where I could house all of my work and reflections and still be able to share and potentially collaborate with others.  But it just became too much work.

So I've since made two changes in the way that I share and reflect on my teaching practice and research.  First, I moved back to Blogger and will discontinue my Collaborative Understandings WordPress website at the end of this semester.  Blogger has a simpler interface and I don't have to worry about SEO or making sure that there is no conflict with the rich-text edit bar, etc.  I can just post and be done with it.  Second, since I find myself working more and more in a wiki - WordPress has an average wiki plugin but is limited in its functionality - I decided to continue building the Wikispaces site which I started several years ago (formerly called Collaborative Understandings, but now is called EduQuiki).  Like Blogger, Wikispaces is extremely user-friendly and it just works.  I don't have to worry about my students complaining about losing information after having worked in the wiki for 30 minutes only to find out that the information didn't save or that the information is not accessible.  I'm done trying to configure stuff in order to get that "perfect" look, feel, and functionality.  I want something that has already been tested and will get the job done.  I don't mean that WordPress won't do it for you, but as I'm far from a technology guru, I've finally reached the decision that I need an easier work environment so that I can focus less on the technology and more on the message.

EduQuiki is the new website.  It's a wiki that anyone can join and will contain open courseware and open educational resources that stem from what I do every day.  It's an invitation into what and how I learn, and will forever be a work in progress.  I look forward to becoming more productive and having to worry less about technology working, and will continue to share my thoughts, experiences, and artifacts so that others are either encouraged to do the same or so that perhaps others might find some use in reusing, remixing, redistributing, or recopying what I've shared for their own purposes (attribution is required).  Goodbye Collaborative Understandings, hello EduQuiki!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Contextual learning sequences become obsolete, not things

I'm not sure I agree with the logic behind TeachPaperless: Schools are Full of Obsolete Things.  Discussing whether objects are obsolete or not does little to disclose whether curriculum, assessment, and instruction are relevant.  The article mentions that desktop computers and standardized tests are somewhat obsolete, and that cassette players; Soviet-era political maps; curricula that treat technology as auxiliary to content; and the idea that technology will save education (as opposed to the idea that relevance will) are completely obsolete.  The argument is that the only way to shift to an "emergence of participatory, user-driven technologies and social media as viable communicative and collaborative tools" approach is to accept the fact that technological use is inherent to any change process.  According to the article, this shift "presents an opportunity to teachers".  I would argue that if such a shift took place, that it hardly presents an opportunity to teachers.

For the most part, the same teachers who feel that certain objects alone become obsolete which then lead to an irrelevant education will continue to struggle connecting new technologies to some relevant educative experience.  Why?  We need a new narrative that discusses objects in terms of how they are being used.  Let's describe how Soviet-era political maps, for example, are being used before deciding on their relevance.  In fact, it is not the relevance of the object itself, it is the relevance in how the educator, students, and any other stakeholders are using (i.e., interacting with) the object (i.e., Soviet-era political map) to achieve some goal, objective, or outcome.  If we define objects to mean anything that causes a change in some other object, we can also view objects as being embedded within other objects as well.  An ANT stance is useful here so that any object is considered in terms of its relations with other objects (e.g., objects can be small or big, physical or non-physical,  or real and unreal).  Let's start talking about the relevance of contextual learning sequences instead of the relevance of a desk or cassette player.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thesis Seminar Recap

For those taking Thesis Seminar, this week's recap includes APA references and aligning level II and level III headings with your thesis statement.  This week we need to begin working on your literature review, making sure headings align to the thesis statement and topic sentences (of paragraphs) align with each respective level III heading.  Remember, our deadline for completing our literature review is March 2, 2012.

APA References:


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Headings that align with thesis statement:

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Writing II: Computer Lab Activity

For those students taking Writing II this semester, your task is to complete the following:

  1. This week we spent time listening to Don Cornelius and Soul Train. Watch this video about how to create a blog post in the Collaborative Understandings website, and post your two paragraphs that you worked on in pairs this week.  Although each of you worked on one paragraph individually, you are encouraged to make any final changes to either paragraph before posting to the blog.

  2. Once you have posted your two paragraphs to the blog, find two other blog posts from your classmates and provide a comment of at least 100 words.  Based on what your classmates wrote, compare this story with some personal experience.  It might be something related to Soul Train and/or Don Cornelius or anything else that was mentioned in the original blog post. 

  3. Watch this video and create a word list of 10 new words at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Activity Wall

For those credit-seeking students taking Thesis Seminar and Writing II, take a look at the following video on how to use Activity Wall:

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For more videos related to the Collaboratve Understandings website, click the video tab above.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thesis Seminar: Introduction, Thesis Statement, & Research Questions

Group: Thesis Seminar

Wiki: Thesis Seminar Wiki

Note: You should be finished with your introduction and research questions by now and should be working on finishing your literature review.

In your introduction (approximately 250 words), include two paragraphs that introduce your thesis statement. The first paragraph will begin with a hook or some quote that grabs the attention of your audience. The rest of the paragraph will provide a background or context of your essay. The second paragraph will address the problem and purpose of your essay. In both paragraphs, use citations to link your ideas to outside sources. Your second paragraph will conclude with a thesis statement (one sentence) that includes your topic and your opinion – the main idea of your entire essay. This is the “blueprint” of your essay. The main headings of your thesis (level II headings) will provide the three main points that relate directly to your thesis statement. See the video below for more details pertaining to how to develop a good thesis statement.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Educational Philosophy

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Today's post - Leverage Learning Not Teaching–A Reflection on Sugata Mitra’s Emergent Pedagogy « Cooperative Catalyst. - made me reflect on my own educational philosophy:

My educational philosophy is to facilitate learners in becoming more apt to form logical arguments, solve problems, resolve conflict (understanding and resolving differences of opinion), and create innovative ways of communicating with others.  My role is to move learners from being dependent, to independent, to interdependent individuals who are not afraid to take chances, share their successes and failures with others, and are concerned for the well-being of not only themselves, but for others as well.  I want to help others become more daring, sharing, and caring individuals.

What's your educational philosophy?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writing II: Respond to a Narrative Essay

For those who are taking Writing II and who are writing narrative essays:

Today you are to respond to one of the narrative essays by including a comment.  Your comment might include some of the following:

  • What you found interesting about the story

  • Any experiences that you had that relate to the story

  • What you learned from having read the story

After you read the story and you have provided a 200-250 word comment, ask a -wh question (how, why, when, where, or with whom) that relates to the story.  Once you have completed your comment, go to your wiki and respond to any comments and questions others have posted to your narrative essay. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekly Reflections for Thesis Seminar

For those who are taking Thesis Seminar (group) this semester, remember to upload your reflections/log (approximately 250 words) to your own personal wiki between Thursday and Saturday of each week.  You should include the following:

  • What you accomplished for the week

  • What difficulties you had

  • What you plan to accomplish for the following week, and

  • What you would like us to discuss during our next face-to-face tutoring sessions.
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Obviousness of Open Policy

A webinar with Cable Green on "The Obviousness of Open Policy."- The Internet, increasingly affordable computing, open licensing, open access journals and open educational resources provide the foundation for a world, Cable says, in which a quality education can be a basic human right. Yet before we break the "iron triangle" of access, cost and quality with new models, he argues that we need to educate policy makers about the obviousness of open policy: public access to publicly funded resources.



Live Interview Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - Cable Green on "The Obviousness of Open Policy"

​Future of Education


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thesis Seminar Recap

For those who are writing a thesis for Thesis Seminar, I've included a weekly recap below: 


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Writing II: Narrative Essays

For those who are writing a narrative essay in Writing II, your final drafts are due on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.  If you have questions about how to edit wikis or any other aspects of the Collaborative Understandings website, click the Videos tab and refer to the links under the CU website tutorials.  

Your narrative essay should include the following:

  • Introduction: quotation, background, main topic, and linking sentence to your first subtopic.

  • Subtopic 1 (MEAL plan): main idea, evidence, analyze, and link

  • Subtopic 2 (MEAL plan): main idea, evidence, analyze, and link

  • Subtopic 3 (MEAL plan): main idea, evidence, analyze, and link

  • Conclusion: Opener, restate your main topic, how you changed as a person, and concluding sentence

Also, include five new words or phrases that you've learned over the last two weeks and include these words or phrases in blue and bold.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Online Reputation Management

Great video on online reputation management, a topic all college students should be aware of.  Matt Ivester's book: lol...OMG!


Have you done an online personal inventory lately?  Google (and Yahoo and Bing) yourself!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Academic writing classes (OCW) for this semester

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I'd like to welcome two groups that I'll be facilitating this semester to the Collaborative Understandings website: English Composition II and Thesis Seminar.  Those taking English Composition II are first year, pre-service English language teachers and those taking Thesis Seminar are in their final semester of study (a BA in English language teaching).  Although these courses are designed for credit-seeking students, much of the content and work will be done through open courseware, available to learners and educators alike.  To get started, refer to the instructions below.



English Composition II


Thesis Seminar


If any educators interested in doing a virtual writing exchange, feel free to contact me!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Becoming a more connected educator

The following question was posed at 49:23 from the recording Steve Hargadon: Live Interview Tuesday, January 17th - Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on "The Connected Educator".

Question: How do you know if you are a connected educator?

Reply: ...starting to connect with other people, sharing ideas, put the students first, open-minded kind of people who enjoy learning, who get excited about inquiry, want relationships, self-directed, drawn towards collaboration, together we are more than we are as individuals, enjoy the negotiation of meaning and ideas with other people, 

I would response differently to this question.

It's not about knowing if you are connected or not, because we are all connected.  I'll rephrase a bit: You know the benefit of becoming connected if you are looking at relationships with other people; conceptualizations, educational philosophy, ideologies, theories, ideas, and other cognitive aspects; and materials used to interact with others (i.e., technologies, artifacts, etc.) in order to form the meta-cognitive insight into the affect others have on your own behavior and beliefs as well as the affect you have on others.  It's not always putting others first.  It's about realizing that helping others can have a personal benefit, which is a slightly different, yet important distinction.  It's not about wanting relationships just for the sake of it, but rather recognizing the relationships that promote learning.  A "connected" educator is drawn to making connections, not necessarily just collaborating or cooperating with others.  And although together we are more than we are as individuals, that's not the motive for becoming "connected".  It's more local than that.  It's more at the personal level and those boundary nodes that link directly back to the individual.  In a connected world, there is no "negotiation of meaning".  Businesses negotiate with each other because that's how the world works, so to speak.  Learners and teachers negotiate because there is a curriculum.  Basketball teams negotiate in order to win games.  And yes, we can learn through negotiation.  But when it comes to (professional) learning - which in education means educators who interact with whomever they choose, whenever and wherever they choose, there is no (or at least less) negotiation, only the growing and pruning of connections that aid some future benefit (i.e., connecting ideas, people, and artifacts as dynamic assemblages).  Meaning is also a sticky word.  I'd rather say associations or patterns that people recognize that stimulate inferences.  

When it comes to learning, it's not about the practice or program, but rather it's about the person.  As an educator, I put myself first when it comes to my own professional learning.  

So, I'll restate the question: How to you become a more connected educator in ways that benefit your own professional learning?





Sunday, January 22, 2012

Open content licensing for educators (#OCL4Ed)

Open content licensing for educators is a free online workshop that kicks off tomorrow, designed for educators and students who want to learn more about open education resources, copyright, and creative commons licenses.


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Monday, January 16, 2012

CU Live: Creative Ways to Design a Teacher Education Program

Join us Wednesday for a Google+ Hangout to discuss Creative Ways to Design a Teacher Education Program.  We're using the Twitter hashtag #TESOLOER for those who do not wish to participate in the hangout.  The session will be recorded and will be uploaded to this post and website.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Formative Assessment that Transforms the Individual

Points to consider from yesterday's Google+ post...

What's the argument for capturing formative assessment?

Summative assessment attempts to measure learning and formative assessment improves learning.  Improving how teachers learn should be a larger part of the evaluative (judgmental) process.  Too often, a teacher's evaluation is limited to a numeric representation used to form judgments on the knowledge, skill, and disposition of an individual.  Instead, teacher evaluations should rely on iterative and reciprocal interactions (among all stakeholders) based on qualitative and quantitative data where assessment and instruction and support cycle through more fluidly.  We need more than a single snapshot of evidence of one's competence, we need an entire photo album.    

If we look at USA educational history, which has employed mostly summative evaluation systems, we see great success in the past. 

Is the USA successful because they relied on mostly summative evaluation systems?  Can we claim great success when there has been virtually no increase in college entrance exam scores yet great advancement in the way we communicate using recent technologies developed over the last 40 years?


Business and other institutions seek entrants with "21-century skills" such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, etc.?

I question whether relying on summative assessments (as an end measurement) properly allows one to make the accurate inferences on the level of "21-century skills" a learner has.

What proof do we have that formative-heavy evaluation is the right direction.  Pedagogy isn't an exact field of study.  Are we sure?  Are we taking educated guesses based on environmental situations and observations?

Since pedagogy and learning are not exact fields of study, we're better off referring to the current literature on formative assessment and the notion that individuals learn in different's out there.  Formative assessment does not rely on direct cause-and-effect relationships to teaching and learning, but rather provides the means for greater interaction around the learning process.  Sometimes it looks not only at the act of learning (via a myriad of evidence), but the act of becoming as well.  If properly aligned, formative assessment can impact standardized reporting (Transformative assessment).    

What is the right mix? How do we back it up as sound?

Asking what's the right mix is like asking what's the best way to do it.  It's not about practices or programs, it's about people.  There is no magic formula.  It's about having honest, open, and ongoing discussions where the learner links content, context, and conduits together in a meaningful and relevant way.

Gates is one of the biggest innovators of all time ... could his foundation be wrong? 

I'm questioning the relevance of the report.  And I would question anyone who claimed they knew how others learn best.  Research-based learning principals are fine as long as they are being discussed within a local context. 

...isn't most summative evaluation really just an end result or snapshot of mostly an ongoing formative process which leads to the numerical grading process?

No.  Evaluating one's learning requires the collection of qualitative, quantitative, and relational data in parallel (not serial) that provides a cycle of planning, implementing, and reflecting on and in practice.  This needs to be done at the classroom, school, school-district, state, and federal levels simultaneously where reports like those generated by the Gates Foundation become just one small piece of the puzzle.

For example, at ITESM, teachers are heavily evaluated on the numerical advancement of students between their beginning TOEFL scores and their ending TOEFL scores for the period. While this indeed is summative evaluation .... it really doesn't explicitly highlight the formative assessment that took place between the periods .. it isn't captured by the system at all like summative evaluation is (numbers are number after all, nice and concrete). But, that doesn't mean that formative assessment and learning hasn't happened. It has. Most formative record-keeping is done informally by the teacher, some of which really can't be documented.

Why not evaluate English language teachers by collecting a mass of evidence: TOEFL scores, eportfolios, OER projects, openly shared experiences in online communities, workshops, conferences, most significant change stories, etc.  We should make formative assessment explicit and then judge it along with summative forms of assessment as well.  I would personally place more emphasis on formative than summative assessments, making formative assessment more formal.  Ideally, it's entirely about formative assessment - if quantitative reporting were done in a more timely fashion, it too could be treated as formal assessment (i.e., dynamic assessment).  When quantitative reports are issued months, perhaps years after the actual event, one has to question it's relevancy.  It's like trying to get over a cold by performing an autopsy.  I'd prefer to take care of one's health by taking preventative measures and take one's temperature periodically. 

So even though the Gates Foundation is focusing on the numerical end point, isn't it really an indication of how well the teachers formative evaluation skills are in getting to that point?

​No.  It could mean that formative assessment is working extremely well but is not being reflected in the report, or it could mean that formative assessment has no impact on the change process.  Thinking in terms of order, produce the quantitative information first, then immediately follow it up with a lot of formative assessment.  Then continue formative assessments with period quantitative reporting (take the temperature).  Formative assessment needs to be based on past experience (problems) and should be included in the evaluation process.  What's important is that there is not a lot of lag time between the quantitative and qualitative reporting - should be like days or weeks instead of months or years. 

We spend a lot of teacher training time on formative stuff. Either a teacher gets it or does not get it (this has been my observation experience as a teacher trainer). And, I think that mostly gets reflected in the end result ... which should also include some formative project work too. So even though something looks and smells like summative, my feeling is that, to a great extent, the summative is a leading indicator of a teachers formative learning and evaluation skills.

My experience has been different.  I see that teachers understand things by degree - I hardly ever classified it as teachers get it or they don't.  Same goes for students, come to think about it.  Teachers come from different perspectives, have different experiences applying their knowledge, have different levels of empathy or feelings about their craft, etc.  So the learning process is taking them from where they are currently to a new "place".   To measure the degree of understanding teachers have, different types of timely data are required: quantitative, qualitative, and relational.  I would argue that the longer it takes to produce a quantitative report and then act on it, the less formative it becomes.  Another risk quantitative reports have in terms of their formativeness is that the results can be too general.  I have a hard time accepting the report from the Gate Foundation as being formative.  But certainly a school-generated quantitative report has the potential to be formative.

I kind of want to believe that Dan Pink got it RIGHT. Which teachers do you think will do better with students nowadays? Those with left-brained or right-brained predominances? Perhaps this is key to the end measurable result? How does a teacher's cognitive processes lend to productive formative assessment and ultimately summative assessment?

​I don't view people as being left or right brained...they're all "full-brained" to mesmiley.  I don't consider learning styles or other personal attributes in isolation.  I watch to see how teachers adapt to their environment by trying to  facilitate particular networked topologies that link information, context, delivery.  Adapting to one's environment not only is cognitive, but physical/material, and affective.  Reporting procedures needs to add value to the process of adaptation.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Assessment that Transforms the Learner

How Do We Include Students In The Formative Assessment Process? - Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo - Education Week Teacher.

I was asked to elaborate on a tweet related to how we can include students in the formative assessment process.  But since I had to sign into Educational Week (EW), I opted to post here instead - I don't enter into EW enough to remember my password.

We include students in the formative assessment process by listening to them.  We listen by taking part in informal discussions, instructional conversations, Socratic Method, academic prompts, performance tasks, quizzes and exams, eportfolios, etc.  We listen to them not relying only on a limited number of forms of assessment, but rather through the collection of many different types of evidence that allow us to make better inferences on student achievement.

In one sense, instruction and assessment are separate in that formative assessment should make instruction better (Popham, 2008).  Formative assessment should inform and transform.  How might that happen?  First, after having collected enough evidence from the students, teachers should determine when instructional adjustments are necessary.  This might include spending more time on a particular unit, given students more time to complete a task, or reviewing concepts that students seems to still be missing.  Second, teachers oftentimes need to guide students in making adjustments to learning tactics.  This might mean advising them to better organize their study habits or providing them reading strategies that help them read more effectively and efficiently.  Formative assessment through instructional and learning tactical adjustments then emerge at the classroom level and at the school level; that is, it's oftentimes a top-down and bottom-up change initiative.

In other sense, the line between instruction and assessment becomes harder to define.  As we are constantly assessing learners for understanding, slight instructional or tactical adjustments might be less noticeable or less defined.  An example might be simply checking homework only to find out that students might need a quick review before continuing on to the next unit.  Or perhaps a student was unaware of a change in personal learning tactics that transformed over three or four months.   

Besides relying on the different forms of assessment, we listen to our students by simply talking to them; asking them, perhaps on a weekly basis, the following:

What did you find easy this week?

What was difficult for your this week?

What did you enjoy doing?

What did you not enjoy doing?

How would you prefer to interact this?

What type of additional help do you need?

If these questions are asked frequently enough, there will be time to make minor adjustments throughout the course so that learners receive the support they need.