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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

HAPPINESS

I read Edutopia's HAPPINESS post and thought I'd offer one as well...

Hope and keeping a positive attitude

Appreciation for the good and bad

Perspective other than one's own

Persistence to the bitter end

Identity that is in constant flux

Never-ending love of the pursuit

Empathy for one's ego network

Self-knowledge

Sharing successes and failures with others

Why not create your own acrostic from H A P P I N E S S.

Finnish Educators Are Made Of This ... So What?

I was reading Teacher Education in Finland: What are Finnish Teachers Made Of? which was the featured post in CU Daily for November 27, 2013, and I immediately thought of Miles Davis.  Several PhDs contributed to the edutopia post (Merja PaksuniemiSatu Uusiautti, and Kaarina Määttä), which provides a brief but informative historical account of teacher training in Finland, along with current challenges that educators face.  But how does this synopsis relate to educators in the United States (or some other country)?

The authors posit that educators in Finland have a history of being well respected professionals (even though this is not necessarily reflected in their salaries compared to other countries).  Although not as strict as today, teachers still must maintain a proper code of conduct that extends to behaviors outside the school system. Training is demanding and educators are expected to obtain a Master's degree before completing their teacher preparation.  They also claim,
We ... credit the Finnish educational system for supporting the idea that K-12 students have the right to learn, regardless of location, economic or social background, gender, age or abilities.

But what's the relevance of this to the educational system in the US?  I'll assume that the educational system in the US also supports the idea that K-12 students have the right to learn, regardless of location, economic or social background, gender, age, or abilities.  And like their Finland counterparts, US educators also face challenges with multiculturalism and tolerance, do they not?

What's the takeaway from this blog post?  What should educational stakeholders learn from Finland's example?  What impact does culture have in working towards a viable solution? Is it even worth comparing educational systems between different countries, cultures, or societies?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Show And Tell

I read two short (Kindle) books last week: Show or Tell?  A Powerful Lesson on a Crucial Writing Skill and Tell, Don't Show! I've concluded that it's really about showing and telling!

Show or Tell ... is about distinguishing the difference between revealing and explaining (loc.107).  Indeed, Thayer (2013) suggests it's distinguishing between a strong and weak writer.

Examples of telling (or explaining):

  • She speaks English well.

  • He knew he would never make it to second base.

  • We took a boat ride to Niagara Falls that hot, summer day.


Examples of showing (or revealing):

  • The words rolled off her tongue as if each knew precisely when to act.

  • As he rounded first base, he knew his aging knees would fail him if pushed too far.

  • The tickling sensation of moister lightly coated our sweaty body as the ripple moved us through the panorama.


Janet Evanovich states that revealing allows the reader to discover by "bringing the characters to life" (loc. 124).

For creative writing, this book provides a concise overview of how to distinguish between telling and showing, and how one's writing can vastly improve just by being able to distinguish between the two.

Tell, Don't Show complements this idea quite well by focusing on the process of writing.  Although the end goal is to show, when writing the first draft, telling can be used to keep the writing flow going.  Lofquist (2013) claims that when drafting, writers tend to get bogged down in rich description (showing), while at the same time losing focus of the overall plot. The author suggests that when drafting a novel or story, it's recommended to describe certain scenes by telling, so that one does not lose sight of the general flow of the storyline.  Then, when working on the second, third, etc. draft, go back and add the rich description to those scenes by showing.  The author admits that perhaps this approach does not work well for those who write novels "in one take", but for most, writing is a process that would benefit well from taking a tell, then show approach.

I recommend reading both books together (as opposed to reading one or the other) as they complement each other, helping the creative writer get the most out of the writing process.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

You Can (And Do) Have A PLN Of One

I just read You Can't Have a PLN of One, an oxymoron, which concludes that a PLN is "a journey that shouldn’t be taken alone".  Well, it is impossible to cultivate a PLN alone: my thoughts on a PLN.

Some view a PLN as more ideational...

http://youtu.be/KVsapdwo50M

Others discuss a PLN in terms of tools and individuals...

http://youtu.be/q6WVEFE-oZA

So, a PLN is a relationship between ideas, materials (technologies), and human relationships.  To understand any one idea, material, or individual (relationship) is to understand the other two and how trace associations aggregate to each individual node.  A node is any idea, material, or individual who connects to some other network node.  There's one network, but many nodes: ideas, materials, and individual relationships. So, perhaps you can have a PLN of one ... as in one personal learning network.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Have I Flipped?

I read Flipping Professional Development/Professional Learning, and thought how does flipping a classroom relate to flipping professional learning (in education).

On Nov. 18, 2013, I left a comment on how I currently feel about the "flipped classroom", and am equally hesitant in using the term to describe professional development/learning.
I truly enjoy Flipping Professional Development because I think it provides a great avenue for learning.
Hernandez goes on to associate flipped professional development (FPD) with the following questions: Do the participants have what they need to make it successful? Will they have time to do things on their own? Are they savvy enough?  Since FPD has not been defined explicitly, I find myself still trying to connect the dots:  what does it mean to view professional development as being "successful"?  And what's the point in deciding whether one is "savvy enough"?  Professional learning is not dichotomous, so best to frame questions that reveal the process in terms of degree.
Be Prepared for any and everything...When I am planning I [am] always [thinking] with the end in mind.
Perhaps just a hyperbole, but I think we all would agree that it is impossible to plan for everything.  Professional learning is emergent, dynamic, and unpredictable.  Preparation may be a part of it, but a lot has to do with being able to adapt to an ever-changing situation or context.  Instructional leaders need to be able to adjust to constantly changing (learning) environments, and accept (and embrace) incidental learning where ends (i.e., goals and objectives) emerge unexpectedly.
What do I want my participants to walk away with?
Where are they going? In fact, your "participants", educators, should not be going anywhere.  Professional learning should be an extension to current teaching practice.  Instead of isolated events (i.e., conferences, workshops, and in-services), interaction among educators should be an open, ongoing trajectory towards building relationships by cultivating a personal learning network.
The three components that I use when planning are explore, flip, and apply.
Ok, I'm still not sure about what's being "flipped", but let's explore.  Hernandez seems to mean that educators search online for tools, determine which are effective in the classroom, and then figure out how to use them.  I guess my question is, When and how is all of this supposed to happen?

Does this happen at a conference, workshop, or in-service?  Does this happen in absence of any classroom context?  Are teachers expected to plan how to use a new tool without first sharing with others how other tools have already been used (successfully or otherwise)?  I'm not sure how to interpret explore, flip, and apply.

Professional learning is constant.  We learn while we are teaching, we learn when we share an idea or experience with a colleague, we learn when we read a book, we learn when we fail ... Have I flipped?  Does anything I say have anything to do with "flipping professional development"?

Friday, November 22, 2013

12 Books That I Recommend All Educators Have In Their Personal Library

I was reading over 12 Books About Learning Every Teacher Should Read which lists the following:

12 Books About Learning

My list, in no particular order...



1. Understanding by Design (before Essential Questions) lays out how to best (IMHO) align curriculum, assessment, and instruction in schools.  It explains backward design and is a precursor to all subsequent books written by the two authors.



2. Transformative assessment outlines the various levels of formative assessment: instructional adjustments, learning tactic adjustments, classroom climate shift, and schoolwide implementation...a must read!



3. This book along with the reader Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education, distinguishes between philosophy, ideology, and theory, and how they relate to education.



4. Linked provides a good overview of how we all are connected.  This is not directed towards education per se, but is nonetheless relevant since the trend is to view education from a connectivist lens.



5. A must for the instructional leader in all of us!



6. This often cited book, offers contrast to connective learning in the workplace (e.g., schools).  Those who think in terms of missions, visions, values, and objectives will enjoy how this book frames these within an educational context.



7. A must read chapter is Leadership as Entitlement, which links to other parts of the book, supporting an overall notion that all can lead, regardless of title, rank, or position.



8. Provides a good historical perspective of roles teachers can play in the classroom.  The Socratic Method (i.e., Socratic Seminar) is discussed at length.



9. Anyone who has English language learners in class will benefit from a general overview of language, meaning, interpretation, and inference.  This book reminds me to reflect on how other learners (native speakers or not) might interpret what I say and vice versa.



10. You don't have to be an administrator to see how what happens within schools can impact the community at large.  This book addresses the "big picture" in how schools can be perceived.



11. There are many books on the subject, but Downey and others (2004) describe it best...walkthroughs allow for reflective and sharing of experiences, opinions, and ideas in a low-risk, professional learning environment.



12. This classic book (over 100 years old), How We Think, is still a personal favorite.  We still have reasons for unpacking how thought and logic come together in schools, both from a learning and pedagogical standpoint.

There you have...my top 12 books that I recommend at this particular point in time.  What books make up your top 12, and why?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Like Learning To Play An Instrument

"...teaching the core curriculum through the arts" (Nolan, 2013, para 1). Now there's a concept!  How about we apply something similar to learning additional languages?

Language learning as a means for learning something else just might provide the motivation needed to drive language learners to achieve more than they might if the objective were solely linguistic.

I remember well my early college days as a music major.  In addition to the core educational classes we all had to take, we also took music theory for two years, concert band, jazz band, choir, among others.  I would take my acoustic bass and find a tiny practice room where I barely had enough space for my instrument, music stand, and me.  I would spend hours practicing scales, changes, exercises, pieces of music, and just improvising over chord progressions.  Each semester we knew we were expected to perform various public events, so it always put practicing into perspective.

Practice wasn't always fun, but I knew there were always consequences.  If I didn't practice that jazz band piece enough, I knew I would look foolish the next day in class, or ultimately the upcoming performance.  In a sense, even group practice became a performance for my peers as well.  Putting in the hours meant that I would perform better for band mates, which in-and-of-itself was gratifying.  I also was performing for myself.  Practicing scales and exercises meant that I would perform a song better, causing me to feel good about myself having achieved something...even as minute as being able to play a difficult passage that I was not able to play before.

Imagine all of the possible (implicit) objectives that one might have taking a jazz band class.  Self expression, connecting with others (both musically and personally), networking with other musicians from other schools, relieving stress, etc.  The joy of learning an instrument (learning the notes on the instrument, learning how to read music, learning scales, learning exercise, and learning songs) comes from the public performance. It's realizing at all times that all of the mundane elements of learning an instrument was to enable the musician to connect in some way with the community.  So personal objectives might range from being very personal (learning a particular scale) to being more global (performing in front of a public audience).

The grading system in jazz band rarely was based entirely on whether musicians could only play scales with no expected public performance.  Expressive objectives might be assessed instead by evaluating the progress of the musician, willingness to take solos, etc.

Becoming a speaker of an additional language (SAL) is like becoming a musician.  The act of becoming a SAL is about always working towards a public performance.  Interacting with others based on personal interests, needs, and learning preferences is ultimately what is assessed and not the linguistic particulars (i.e., reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary).  That is, the public performance is an effect of one's capacity in reading, writing, etc.  Language becomes a means and an end simultaneously.  Content courses (e.g., learning math in the target language), English for academic purposes (e.g., taking a history course for college credit in the target language), and English for specific purposes (e.g., taking a course in the target language at work in order to do one's job more effectively) are three examples of how learning the target language is more about the means than language as an end.  But can this idea be adopted to any general English course?

Language educator challenge: How can you adopt a general English course (or any other language course) where language is viewed as a means for something else?  What would be that something else?  What challenges might you face?  What successes have you had?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Prepositional Because" or "Prepositional Ellipsis"?

There's been a bit of buzz around because being the new prepositionSentence first addressed it as well.  I thought I might offer yet another.

There are many types of ellipses in English:

  • I like apples and [I like] oranges.

  • I went home last night and [I] called my cousin.

  • Dad will help and Mom will [help] too.


So an ellipsis can be an omission of a noun (subject), verb, or noun and a verb when restating them is not necessary.  But can we do the same with prepositions?

Because usually functions as either...

  • Subordinating conjunction that introduces a subordinating clause: I eat vegetables because I want to stay healthy.

  • Before a prepositional phrase: Because of your tardiness, you have been removed from class.


Is it possible to have a "prepositional ellipsis"?

  •  I'm late because [of] YouTube.

  • You're reading this because [of my] procrastination.

  • But Iowa still wants to sell eggs to California, because [of] money.

  • ...because [of] logic.


What do you think?  Do we have a prepositional because or a prepositional ellipsis ... or something else?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A PLN...We All Already Have One

I've spoken about PLNs before (Five points about PLNs, A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner, Is it a PLN..., and PLNs aren’t built, but cultivated)  but again feel compelled to add to my current "definition"...

Whitby's (2013) How do I get a PLN? characterizes the notion of a personal learning network (PLN) as if the individual constructs one out of nothing.  I don't see it this way.

I do agree with Whitby, sort of, when he states (buzzwords emphasized):
We must remember that lifelong learning requires effort. We expect this commitment from students. We should accept no less from ourselves. Fortunately, with a little information (see the linked resources at the end of this post) and an openness to learn, anyone can begin to expand his or her knowledge by using a PLN.

Few would argue with buzzwords like lifelong learning, student commitment, openness to learn, expanding one's knowledge, and PLN, but what do these terms really mean?  I'll try to unpack what I mean by PLN by accepting the fact that how one defines the term will depend greatly on how one defines the aforementioned buzzwords (i.e., lifelong learning, etc.).
Each individual educator becomes a potential source of information.

In a PLN, ideas, materials (e.g., technologies), and social interactions collectively become a potential source of opportunity.  A PLN is not just about the individual and some potentiality of information.
PLNs develop thought leaders.

No, individuals (including leaders) impact PLNs (their own as well as others), the PLNs impact the individual(s), and the PLN itself can take on a life of its own.
Barriers to mass adoption

...mass adoption...buzzword alert.  Their are no barriers to a PLN because there is no starting point when it comes to a concept that already exists for each person.  As a result, PLNs have already reached "mass adoption".  If there are any barriers, its how a PLN currently hinders achieving one's goals, objectives, etc...; this is different than thinking of technology separate from specific ideas and human relationships, as Whitby suggests when listing a PLN as a mindset, overwhelming others with techno-babble (?), and digital literacy.
...all these articles and ballyhoo about connectedness have manifested limited adoption by educators.

Again, connectiveness is inescapable.  "Connective adoption" does little to describe the potentiality of an individual´s PLN unless described as a matter of degree, relationships between human and non-human devices, and value in achieving goals.
PLNs are collaboration.

I would say, "PLNs are cooperation."
What Can PLNs Do for You?

I get the impression that this means that once one has something (a PLN defined as being nonrelational), that it will enable one to do something else (access materials, etc.).  Having a Twitter account in and of itself does very little.  Having a Twitter account, following others, having followers, and interacting with ideas around some mutual relationship may (or may not) provide a degree of potential for impacting one's professional/personal learning.
How to Build a PLN

Let's shift metaphors ... Individuals cultivate, grow, maintain, trim, and augment a PLN based on situational goals and objectives, both intentional and incidental.  There are no x amount of steps that each person can follow for achieving a PLN based on situational goals.  There is no magic number of technologies that one should use, no set number of minutes they should adhere to, etc.
You determine your needs and goals, and then acquire the sources that you need in order to attain them.

Again, a very deterministic point of view here.  It's not difficult to image that goals and objectives might emerge as an effect of one's PLN.  In others words, situational goals and PLNs are iterative, reciprocal, and mutual as both continue to morph and transition to something new.

Let's share how PLNs help (or do not help) to achieve situational goals and objectives, both intentionally and incidentally (i.e., self-define a PLN) instead of depending on others (including me) to define the term as some abstract (and simplified) truth.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Asking School Principals The Right Question

How have you changed your communications strategy in the digital age?

Sheninger's question, if addressed to the instructional leader or administrator, is a reactionary response to a cultural movement that begins with the educator.  If the question is directed to the educator, then the question is incomplete.

I'm not sure how much utility there is to catapult leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, etc. to the educational field.  As great leaders they certainly had a message and could communicate it well to others.  And yes, school principals need to be able to do this to a degree, but I think it's more important that principals are able to promote relationships within the local context of the school.  The level of detail and locality in relationship building required in schools is hardly achievable between a country's president and its citizens.

Changing a communications strategy is a cultural change involving all educational stakeholders.  It's not enough to ask the question to one stakeholder without understanding the relationship (and implications) the answer has in terms of others.  Purposeful change comes from understanding how a change in one educator affects change in someone else.  Principals who understand their local complexity, understand how to rally relationships together in order to problem set and solve.

If I were asking school principals the question, I would ask...

How can interactive environments bring the necessary people together in order to problem set and solve around a school's mission and vision statements, cultural values, and current objectives?

What questions would you ask school principals?  Educators?  Instructional leaders?  Civic leaders?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Educator As Decision Maker

I was reading Ditch the Plan! #30GoalsEdu today and it got me thinking ... always a good thing.

If we ditch a plan, are we really planning to begin with?

Finding those teaching moments requires one to reflect-in-action.  Instead of ditching a plan before the fact (i.e., class), reflect on those times when you were reflecting in action, and during the class itself, you realized that you must ditch the plan.  Reflect on those classes when you deviated from the syllabus in order to take advantage of a teachable moment.

Hunter (1979) claims that teachers make decisions before, during, and after lessons primarily around three distinct categories: content, style of the learner, and the behavior of the teacher.

(Language) Educator Challenge: What decisions have you had to make during a class that deviated from the syllabus?  Formulate your answer in terms of forms of evidence: content, style of the learner, and/or your own behavior.  Provide a rationale as to why you had to make these decisions.

Essential Question Discourse Analysis

I was reading Alber's (2013) 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students and I began to think about how discourse emerges behind asking essential questions in the classroom.  Alber (2013) suggests that teachers ask the following types of questions:

  1. What do you think?

  2. Why do you think that?

  3. How do you know this?

  4. Can you tell me more?

  5. What questions do you still have?


When applying the Socratic Method, pace becomes important.  The suggested question types provided above avoid the easier "yes/no" questions that allow for lower order thinking, but what happens when students 1) are not used to answering essential questions (or used to the teacher simply giving the answer), 2) lack the content knowledge to adequately address such questions, or 3) lack the language skills - in the case of English language learners - to provide an adequate response.  Alber (2013) suggests a type of think, pair, share activity to allow for deeper group discussions, but this too affects the overall pace of classroom discourse and an interruption of the Socratic Method.

(Language) Educator Challenge: Record yourself during a class and analyze the way you form questions and how your students reply.  For example, how do you lead up to any one of the five questions above?  Are there lower-thinking questions that occur first, or are you able to jump right to these questions in order to generate thought-provoking discussion?  Conduct a discourse analysis to see how you present questions in a way that maintains good pacing and thought-provoking discussions around big ideas.

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Guest Blogging at Edudemic

[caption id="attachment_355" align="alignright" width="300"]Recent blog post featured Recent blog post featured[/caption]

I was pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning to see a blog post I wrote for Edudemic appear on the home page (How to Choose the Best Edtech for your School).  For those who are interested in education and technology, I highly recommend checking out the website.  For those who have something to say about education and technology, you're encouraged to post a guest blog entry.  Current guidelines are as follows:

  • Posts should be at least 500 words long and unique to Edudemic.

  • The post can only include links to your personal blog or social media accounts. We reserve the right to remove any links.

  • Submitted posts are unpaid.

  • You’ll have to create an Edudemic account (using WordPress) in order to submit a post. It’s so we can attribute the post to you.

  • You cannot submit your content by uploading a word processing document (like .docx or .pages). You must type your content into the post, or we will be unable to see and review it.

  • By submitting a post for review, you give Edudemic the right to edit, publish, and share this post and claim that you are the owner.


Once you have posted to Edudemic, a page is created that lists all of your posts. It's yet another way of cultivating one's digital identity.

Switched to WordPress



Today is day 2...yesterday I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress.com.  I chose Blogger initially because of its ease of use.  And although it is a bit more user friendly than WordPress.com, I just had problems that never got resolved.

For weeks, I reached out to my personal learning network to try to get this blogger error resolved.  I posted several times to Blogger Help, but again, to no avail.

So I turned to YouTube and searched Blogger vs. WordPress.com and modified the search to include only videos within the last year.  Probably the most helpful video I came across was the following:

http://youtu.be/xHO_2OMSTP0

I was sold.  I set up an account, easily followed the step-by-step process for importing blog posts and comments from Blogger to WordPress.com, and well, here I am.  I'm good to go.

Where do you blog and which blogging service works best for you?

Note to self: Blog redirect

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Educational Philosophies of English Language Educators


Today in Applied Linguistics class, we will create an educational philosophy.  An educational philosophy is a "living credo" about who you currently are as a (language) educator.  An educational philosophy develops over time just as you develop as a teaching practitioner; thus, keeping it up-to-date is vital.  Reflecting on your educational philosophy over time also serves as a reminder of where you've been, where you are today, and where you would like to be in the future.  Maintaining an educational philosophy is an intregal part of one's ongoing professional learning trajectory.
Some suggestions when writing an educational philosophy can be viewed by reflecting on the following questions:
  • Why do you teach?
  • Whom do you teach?
  • How and what you teach?
  • Where you teach?
When applying for a teaching job, it's likely that the school or institution doing the hiring will ask about your educational philosophy in one form or another.  It's always a good idea to not only keep your educational philosophy current, but also be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly.  Try practice saying your educational philosophy in all of the languages you are able to speak, or likely have to speak when doing an interview.
Here is my example of my current educational philosophy...
His educational philosophy is to facilitate learners in becoming more apt to form valid, reliable, and unbiased arguments, provide innovative solutions to real-life problems, make decisions that resolve cognitive conflict by developing understandings through a difference of opinion or perspective, and create innovative ways of communicating with others. His 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. Benjamin's goal is to help others become more daring, sharing, and caring individuals.
Share your educational philosophy by replying to this post!
 
Photo attribution

Creative Writing: Poetry Reading

This Friday, my students (pre-service English language educators) who are taking a Creative/Academic Writing course will conduct a live poetry reading that will include examples of limericks, tankas, and cinquains.  If you would like to view this live reading, register below...



When the event begins, you may login below...





Educational Philosophies of English Language Educators


Today in Applied Linguistics class, we will create an educational philosophy.  An educational philosophy is a "living credo" about who you currently are as a (language) educator.  An educational philosophy develops over time just as you develop as a teaching practitioner; thus, keeping it up-to-date is vital.  Reflecting on your educational philosophy over time also serves as a reminder of where you've been, where you are today, and where you would like to be in the future.  Maintaining an educational philosophy is an intregal part of one's ongoing professional learning trajectory.
Some suggestions when writing an educational philosophy can be viewed by reflecting on the following questions:
  • Why do you teach?
  • Whom do you teach?
  • How and what you teach?
  • Where you teach?
When applying for a teaching job, it's likely that the school or institution doing the hiring will ask about your educational philosophy in one form or another.  It's always a good idea to not only keep your educational philosophy current, but also be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly.  Try practice saying your educational philosophy in all of the languages you are able to speak, or likely have to speak when doing an interview.
Here is my example of my current educational philosophy...
His educational philosophy is to facilitate learners in becoming more apt to form valid, reliable, and unbiased arguments, provide innovative solutions to real-life problems, make decisions that resolve cognitive conflict by developing understandings through a difference of opinion or perspective, and create innovative ways of communicating with others. His 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. Benjamin's goal is to help others become more daring, sharing, and caring individuals.
Share your educational philosophy by replying to this post!
 
Photo attribution

Creative Writing: Poetry Reading

This Friday, my students (pre-service English language educators) who are taking a Creative/Academic Writing course will conduct a live poetry reading that will include examples of limericks, tankas, and cinquains.  If you would like to view this live reading, register below...



When the event begins, you may login below...










Monday, November 11, 2013

Writing Limericks for English Language Learning Writers: Registration and Sign In

English language learners wishing to learn how to improve English proficiency by learning how to write Limericks (poetry), join us this Sunday by registering below.


When the event begins, you may sign in below...



Here is an example Limerick that we will discuss during this session...

Writing Limericks for English Language Learning Writers: Registration and Sign In

English language learners wishing to learn how to improve English proficiency by learning how to write Limericks (poetry), join us this Sunday by registering below.

When the event begins, you may sign in below...

Here is an example Limerick that we will discuss during this session...





Thursday, October 31, 2013

Microblog exchange: A philosophical analysis

On October 28, I posted the following to Google+, which was a direct quote originating from Harrison's post, An ELT publisher's survival plan.
It’s crunch time for ELT publishers. There are a few more years left for the traditional ELT publishing business to stagger on, possibly even quite profitably for some. But we all know it’s on the way out, as evidenced by the attempts – with varying degrees of conviction – of the existing players to turn their businesses into ones capable of surviving and thriving in a world populated by rapidly changing student expectations and super-ambitious and rapacious EdTech start-ups who will very happily destroy the cosy world of ELT.
 The following thread resulted...

Stevenson:  Benjamin, could you please not assume that ALL Google+ folks know what your acronyms mean? Like ELT? Education Light Tech? You make me have to Google it, when that's really not my job at this point reading your posts for the first time. Thanks.

Benjamin:  Sharon, I assume that people who follow me already know something about me: my profession, interests, etc.  Those who follow me (and know something about me) already know what ELT means.  And if you want to get technical, the author of this article "forced you" to Google the term "ELT" since these aren't my words, they are a direct quote.  Finally, why on earth would anyone follow someone online who is "forcing" them to do something they do not want to do.  Message to all of my followers: If I am forcing you to do something that you do not want to do, please don't follow me!  Simple.

Stevenson:  +Benjamin L. Stewart So sorry to have offended you, but I am a journalist and our training has always been that you spell out an acronym the first time you use it. I found a reference to you and simply was interested. Obviously some people will see your posts without already being a follower, no? But you're right in that I should never have even bothered to try to help you get more followers. I'm NOT a follower, I only happened on you by happenstance. I can see that you are very resistant to criticism of any type, and of course, now I won't follow you.

Philosophical Analysis

The passage above - It’s crunch time for ELT publishers... - was taken directly from the eltjam.com blog website (as a direct quote) which I shared with my PLN via Google+.  The eltjam.com blog can best be described as follows (emphasis added):
Quite simply, eltjam is the ongoing promotion of innovation and experimentation in and across ELT publishing.

We created the eltjam.com blog to champion the free exchange of expertise, skills and innovative ideas between ELT teachers, ELT publishers, EdTech startups and developers. Alongside this objective we have endeavoured to seek out and promote instances of aspirational practices across the ELT industry. The blog is where we share ELT-relevant news, reviews and opinions on EdTech, gaming, mobile and online learning, publishing and learning. We invite blog contributions from publishers, teachers, game developers, EdTech entrepreneurs and anyone else who is driven to identify how things can be done better.
Let's dig a bit deeper in the analysis of this exchange in terms of having two turns: the initial post (direct quote) and Stevenson's first reply as being turn #1, and my reply and Stevenson's second reply as turn #2.

Turn #1

Sentence 1: Benjamin, could you please not assume that ALL Google+ folks know what your acronyms mean?

The writer is making an appeal to the use of abbreviations.  The argument goes that when using abbreviations, first state the term, then use the abbreviation.  This is to avoid the use of jardon that the audience may or may not be familiar with.

Sentences 2 & 3: Like ELT? Education Light Tech? 

Asking Like ELT? insinuates there are further examples of acronym misuse but that this one example is what the writer would like to focus on.  The writer then provides an example of how ELT might be interpreted: Education Light Tech.

Checking the Corpus of Contemporary American English provides the following count when searching different phrases (the count appears in parentheses): Education Light Tech (0); English Language Teaching (34); English Language Training (10).

When doing a Google searching, we get the following: Education Light Tech (7); English Language Teaching (9,390,000); English Language Training (864,000); ELT (31,500,000).

Given how eltjam.com describes itself (see above), Stevenson's Google search could have also included the following key words:

ELT teachers (74,000); ELT publishers (9,750) or education light tech teachers (0) / education light tech publishers (0)

Wikipedia helps in distinguishing between alternatives to the acronym ELT: extremely large telescope, emergency locator transmitter, among others.  But still, no mention of education light tech.  This leads me to believe that the example Stevenson is providing, Education Light Tech, is in fact not based on a logical alternative but is instead an attempt at being facetious

Sentence 4 & 5: You make me have to Google it, when that's really not my job at this point reading your posts for the first time. Thanks.

My interpretation here is that the reader has really been inconvenienced.  "Making" her do a Google search and saying that it is not really her job to even do a search is a hyperbole used to show frustration.  No one actually forced the reader against her will to do something that she did not want to do.  This phrase is being used to show how she has been inconvenienced.

Turn #2

My response (Sentences 1&2): Sharon, I assume that people who follow me already know something about me: my profession, interests, etc.  Those who follow me (and know something about me) already know what ELT means. 

In others words, those who take to time to respond to something I post will probably already know that teach in an ELT program or have seen enough posts to understand acronyms like ELT, EFL, ESL, etc.  I am also saying that even though I am posting publically, that my intended audience are those who are familiar with jargon related to the topic of modern languages, learning English as an additional language, etc.

My response (Sentences 3-6):  And if you want to get technical, the author of this article "forced you" to Google the term "ELT" since these aren't my words, they are a direct quote.  Finally, why on earth would anyone follow someone online who is "forcing" them to do something they do not want to do.  Message to all of my followers: If I am forcing you to do something that you do not want to do, please don't follow me!  Simple.

Here I am being facetious.  I'm trying to see the clear disconnect between me providing a direct quote and having that direct quote actually force someone to do something against their will.  Also, I'm attempting to compare the mere seconds it took me to share this quote with however many minutes it took to read my post, feel forced to do something against one's will, actually conduct a Google search, then put together a reply.  Perhaps Stevenson is not following me, but certainly spent enough time to warrant having followed a (my) post.

Stevenson's final response (Sentence 1):+Benjamin L. Stewart So sorry to have offended you, but I am a journalist and our training has always been that you spell out an acronym the first time you use it.

Hypertexting my name assures that I get the message right away. It also allows readers to find out more about me (whether they are for or against my argument, I would suspect the latter if Stevenson has anything to do with it).  Perhaps my reply was seen as being sarcastic, which then could be inferred as being offensive.  Although not true, this certainly is a possible interpretation.  The rest of her sentence is to provide her "resume", or level of expertise, in explaining how one should properly introduce acronyms (regardless of writing genre or rhetoric).  With regard to formal writing, no argument here.

Sentences 2-3:  I found a reference to you and simply was interested. Obviously some people will see your posts without already being a follower, no? 

Confirming that she is not a follower of mine and that she came across my post and was interested in something (still not clear).  Since her response was what she probably views as a form of constructive criticism, it still in not clear what exactly did she find interesting.  It certainly was not interesting enough for her to comment on.  The next sentence has something to do with confirming that those who follow me will see the initial post and subsequent replies, but honestly, her train of thought is not clear to me here...not sure exactly what she is saying in the third sentence.  Perhaps reminding me that public posts are just that ... public.  Got it.

Sentences (4-5): But you're right in that I should never have even bothered to try to help you get more followers. I'm NOT a follower, I only happened on you by happenstance.

Sentence four seems a bit ironic.  The tone that she has chosen to take in her responses would seem to suggest that she is in fact not really concerned with me getting more followers at all.  She is using repetition and the negative in all uppercase (to show that she means to shout) to remind me that although she is concerned about me getting more followers (which I didn't get from her initial reply), that she is not one of them.

She is also assuming that by introducing acronyms correctly will equate to additional followers and that this is the reason why sharing posts to begin with.  The reality is, I share posts in order to potentially interact with others who have opinions related to topics that I find interesting.  I am less interested in how many people follow me or have me in their circles. Quality over quantity.

 Sentence 6: I can see that you are very resistant to criticism of any type, and of course, now I won't follow you.

Taking a person shot at my character seems like a good way to close this reply, followed by declaring that she now will not follow me in the future (when she already said that she wasn't following me to begin with).

Summary

When this exchange transpired, I immediately saw a teaching/learning moment for me and my students (not just now but for future classes as well).  Language carries ideas, perspectives, interpretations, and even emotion.  The initial tone taken in the initial response influenced how I subsequently responded.  Had the tone been a bit more constructive, I certainly would have responded differently.  The fact is, Stevenson is correct when saying that acronyms should be articulated first and that jargon can confuse if one does not consider the audience.  I'll admit that I use acronyms and jargon at times but usually related to my profession.  I figure that blogging and microblogging are a bit different than formal writing (e.g., an article for a journal) in that the formal is a bit more relational; that is, people tend to follow blogs and microblogging posts a bit more than they would a particular journal article, for instance.  Also, if I use poor judgment and not consider my audience, I figure they can just stop following me...a chance I'm willing to take. (Note: At the time of this writing I have 1,477 people have me in their circles (a number I hardly ever refer to).  I'll let others determine what effect this exchange and blog post will have on those who follow me.

Based on our only prior exchange, I accept (and appreciate) that Stevenson enjoys a level of clarity and structure when it comes to microblogging, and will admit that I take a less formal approach that given her formal background, she will likely ever accept.

Activity

For those studying discourse analysis and/or sociolinguistics (speech acts), identity any illocutionary and perlocutionary forces at play in this short exchange as well as forces presented in my philosophical analysis.  Explain any other possible forces that could have resulted as well.  For example, assume the initial reply as assuming a slightly different tone:

Benjamin, I realize that you are direct quoting here, but when using so many acronyms, some of your readers may not know what they mean (e.g., ELT).  You might consider stating what the term is before providing the acronym.  Regarding the blog post, I find it interesting that...


Sunday, October 20, 2013

L1 interference...how do you handle it?

When teaching English to native Spanish speakers, the preposition in can become quite difficult.  Mother tongue (L1) influence can interfere producing the following non-standard English example (notated with an *):

*John put the silverware in the table. (John puso los cubiertos en la mesa.).

Another problem area for Spanish speakers learning English as an additional language is translating the personal a to English.  For instance, the following non-standard utterance is common in English whereas the Spanish equivalent is standard:

*Give to your mother your car keys.  (Dele a su madre las llaves del coche.)
*I’m professor. (Soy professor.)


In these examples, it is common for Spanish speakers learning English to use the preposition in instead of on when indicating location; similarly, how to translate the personal a in Spanish and when and when not) to use articles is difficult for learners as well.  These are some examples of L1 influence (i.e., negative transfer) that educators can consider when giving feedback to English language learners (ELLs) who are native Spanish speakers.

Here are some additional examples of L1 influence when producing non-standard English utterances:

I go to school the monday. (Voy a la escuela el lunes.) – Days of the week are not capitalized in Spanish and the article is used instead of a preposition.

All the fridays I get paid. (Todos los viernes me pagan.) – Article usage with days of the week in lowercase.

The tuesdays are good for me. (Los martes son buenos para mí.) – Article usage with days of the week in lowercase.

In Spanish, the days of the week are not capitalized, and articles are placed before the noun: El lunes, los viernes, los martes, etc.  But when translating this to English, we use different parts of speech that are not articles (i.e., determiners). 

For instance, instead of saying I go to school the monday, we use the preposition on and capitalize the days of the week, like Monday: I go to school on Monday.

Instead of saying All the fridays I get paid, we again use the preposition on and capitalize Friday, but we also use the qualifier every to begin the sentence:  Every Friday I get paid.

Instead of saying The tuesdays are good for me, we refrain from using anything before the head noun, Tuesday, making sure that it is capitalized: Tuesdays are good for me.  This is also the case when the day of the week comes later in the sentence as well: I get paid on Fridays. Notice how this is the same as saying, Every Friday I get paid.

Activity prompts for addressing L1 influence in the English language classroom:

Activity #1: The students ask their peers (or classmates) what the three most important dates of their lives are and each provides an explanation as to why these three dates are important, including the year these events first happened.  Students take copious notes while listening to their respective partners provide information.  The events chosen have to begin at least five years prior to the present year.

Activity #2:  Students review their notes in order to determine from each of the respondents, which day of the week the event occurred for the first time and the day the event will occur during the present year.  Each student writes out this information on a piece of paper or on a computer device.

Activity # 3: Students then find their peers and provide the two days of the week (the original day the event took place and the day of the week for the present year), also mentioning the days of the week in between.  For example, if a classmate mentions a birthday as a special event, the goal is to find the original day of the week the student was born and the day of the week the student will celebrate his or her birthday this year.  Let’s say the student was born on Monday and this year her birthday will be on Thursday, have the students repeat the days of the week, Monday through Thursday in order to reinforce the days of the week.  An alternative would be to only include events that begin 8-10 years prior, then have the student recall the day of the week for each year.

What L1 influence scenarios do you encounter as an (English) language educator?  What type of activities have you implemented to address linguistic negative influence?


Saturday, October 12, 2013

How are you using Canvas?

Tomorrow, I'll be discussing Canvas (Instructure.com).

In August of this year, I began using Canvas as my learning management system.  I've tried Moodle, wikis, and even spending money on my own website, but my free teacher's account in Canvas is really getting the job done.  And no, I do not work for Canvas, simply endorsing them.

I appreciate the ease of getting content populated into each of my classes, and I particularly like the options students have in interacting with content.  This is what I will discuss in greater detail tomorrow.

This semester I'm teaching three courses as part of a four-year degree program in English language teaching at the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes: Writing I, Academic/Creative Writing, and Applied Linguistics.  In tomorrow's hangout on air (a live event) I will begin discussing the specifics of my first-semester Writing I class and will also provide a rationale, showing how students and I interact within the platform.

If others wish to participate in the hangout on air itself, please leave a comment in the event, and I will see that you receive an invite via Google+ (you will need a Google+ account).  Otherwise, you are encouraged to just view the live broadcast either within the event or via the YouTube landing page.  I will be taking questions from comments left in the event and YouTube, so feel free to engage in conversation.  How are you using Canvas?