Saturday, April 20, 2013

It's all about SCHOOL!

After so many discussions attempting to define what a MOOC is or isn't, I felt compelled to come up with a term that encompasses all learning environments: SCHOOL. I never really accepted MOOC, xMOOC, cMOOC, SOLE, etc. as meaningful terms to relate to something so complex as learning. And perhaps SCHOOL doesn't get there either. But I do think the acronym provides a more accurate way of framing an educative experience by describing what it ought to look like. Until I find a better term (i.e., acronym), SCHOOL it is.


Sustainable: I debated over scalable and sustainable and decided on the latter. Although both are not mutually exclusive, what's more important is that the learning which grows from the educative experience (e.g., course) continues over time to the degree that it enables the individual to continually do more over time. Just because an experience is scalable (a network property) doesn't necessarily make it more or less sustainable or educative (an individual attribute).

Cooperative: Cooperation won over collaboration (The difference). Learning should be like building an airplane. Learning is a connective diversity of strengths among individuals: who's best at making the airplane seats, motor, electronics, food service, etc.? Learning is an opportunity to harness the strengths of each individual via co-operation.

Hybrid: A hybrid or blending learning refers to the appropriate mix of materials, personal interactions, and ideas (concepts) that each individual is drawn to that leads to the most relevant and meaningful educative experience possible. Hybrid also speaks to the uniqueness of material (technical and non-technical) and non-material nodes (human relationships and ideational nodes) that make up one's personal learning network (PLN). Finally, a hybrid includes emergent feedback loops that underpin how individuals adapt and adopt to new learning frames.

Open: Openness, in a practical sense is a matter of degree; in an ideal sense it's typically seen as being all or nothing. Probably the easiest way to currently view openness is to classify it in terms of a Creative Commons license or being in the public domain. Openness refers to not only the content used as part of curriculum, assessment, and instruction, but also products and processes that learners themselves co-create. The openness of the entire learning process exhibits degrees of transparency.

Online: The SCHOOL experience is based on online delivery. Access to the web and mobile technologies affords all educational stakeholders to associate learning as being connected. In order to be connected, access to the Internet offers more effective, efficient, and engaging ways to communicate when compared to those learning experiences with limited-to-no access to the Internet. When learners (an all other educational stakeholders) do not have access to the Internet, the learning experience simply falls short.

Learning: It's the learning that matters. Educational stakeholders need to rally around curriculum (i.e., desired results for the individual), assessment (formative and summative), and instruction (differentiation, "flipped" instruction, Socratic method, etc.) so to conjoin all resources towards higher levels of student achievement.

So, no MOOCs, cMOOCs, xMOOCs, MOLEs, SOLEs, etc., and nothing about accreditation standards, nor accountability - instead, a desire to change the narrative to one that views contextually-based learning experiences (course, mentoring program, teacher training, etc.) as degrees of SCHOOL. By establishing a single term and relating it to local educational situations, educational stakeholders can begin discussing more important aspects of education in terms of the interdependencies that exist between sustainability, cooperation, hybrid PLNs, openness, online connectivity, and learning (i.e., improved student achievement).

Photo Attribution

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Article Review: The Dark Side of Motivation

This is a review of the article The dark side of motivation: teachers' perspectives on 'unmotivation'.


For the purpose of this study, the authors differentiate between amotivation, demotivation, and unmotivation.  Amotivation refers to people who "see no relation between their actions and consequences of those actions...In such a situation, people have no reason, intrinsic or extrinsic, for performing the activity, and they would be expected to quit the activity as soon as possible (Noels, Pelletier, ClĂ©ment, and Vallerand, 2000, p. 40).  Demotivation describes a situation in which learners lose motivation for various reasons (Dornyei, 2001).  For the purpose of their study, the authors use the term more general term, unmotivation to include both amotivation and demotivation.

The Study

An open-ended survey was sent out to 100 university EFL teachers in Japan, asking the following four questions:
  1. How do you, as a classroom English teacher, understand learner motivation?
  2. Do you, as a teacher, think that you can influence learner motivation?  Why/why not?
  3. What motivational strategies do you use?
  4. When do you think your strategies are limited in influencing learner motivation?
The fourth question was the focus of this study.  Thirty-two teachers responded and the results indicated three areas in which teachers feel limited when motivating learners: institutional systems, student attitudes and personalities, and teacher-student relationships.  The results can be best summarized as being a three-way responsibility between administrators and policy makers (institutional systems), learners (student attitudes and personalities), and teachers (teacher-student relationship).


This article might be helpful for those in English language teaching programs who want to research unmotivated learning environments.  Perhaps a look at the differences between student, educator, and/or administrator perspectives might shed more light on possible actions that reduce unmotivation.  Another related research topic might be to compare amotivation and demotivation (or study them in independently), again including the various perspectives of the educational stakeholders.


Sakui, K. & Cowie, N. (2012). The dark side of motivation: teachers' perspectives on 'unmotivation'. ELT Journal 66(2), pp. 205-213. doi 10.1093/elt/ccro45

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flipping a classroom is not like flipping a coin

I'll be honest, my understanding of a flipped classroom is nebulous at best.  Is it really that black and white?  Traditional vs. flipped?  My biggest concern is how I've seen it be described and how others may subsequently interpret these descriptions.  My intent is to hash out some of my concerns in hopes that I can reach some alternative definition that works for me.

What is a flipped class?

In my brief quest for understanding what a flipped class is, I was happy to read that there is no such thing as the flipped classroom (2012).  This quickly put my mind at ease since I had previously watched Why I Flipped My Classroom and was confused by the relevance of a "90/10" flip and that flipping the classroom automatically led to other educational benefits such as "reaching the needs of all students".  More on that later.

One definition that I did find but was not necessarily helpful was the following: The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods, delivering instruction online outside of class and moving "homework" into the classroom.  I actually agree with the "delivery of online instruction outside of class bit (as opposed to referring to it as "preloading information"), but I'm hesitant on the moving of "homework" into the classroom.  Again, my main concern is how others will interpret these explanations that ultimately spread throughout the online community.  Besides the term homework, I've also heard it referred to as activities, exercises, projects, etc.

Another bit of confusion comes from what a flipped classroom does. Students watch lectures at home at their own pace, communicating with peers and teachers via online discussions; concept engagement takes place in the classroom with the help of the instructor.  Are learners who study at an educational institution really able to go at their own pace?  And wouldn't concept engagement also include those online (outside of class) interactions students have with peers and teachers?  And what about other potential experts that students might learn from that extend beyond the classroom/institutional environment?

My own definition of a flipped classroom goes something like this.  A flipped classroom allows learners to accomplish outside the classroom what they can already do on their own so that educators can design more interactive learning environments inside the classroom that require learners to exercise more higher order thinking skills.  A flipped classroom then is what it allows learners to accomplish more than it is a specific concept.  These affordances speak little of differentiated instruction mentioned in Why I Flipped my Classroom video although both differentiated instruction and the flipped classroom are interdependent.

This Sunday I look forward to discussing the flipped classroom at WizIQ.  The description reads...

What is a flipped class? In a flipped class the teacher prepares the students, their parents, and other stakeholders for the lesson in advance. Teachers create assignments that motivate students to watch a video or connect with the content and try to learn on their own at the comfort of their homes. After the students are introduced to the material, they come to class ready to engage with the teacher and the other students on the content and beyond. Being introduced to the content in advance prepares the students for the class. The students and their parents (K-12) know what each lesson will be about. 

I've parsed the above description with my comments:

  • What is a flipped class? I've included my take on this above.
  • In a flipped class the teacher prepares the students, their parents, and other stakeholders for the lesson in advance.  My concern is how one interprets the teacher preparing the students before the lesson since the act of becoming (the learning trajectory) many times extends beyond lectures, for example.
  • Teachers create assignments that motivate students to watch a video or connect with the content and try to learn on their own at the comfort of their homes. Not sure what it means to create assignments that motivate students to watch a video...
  •  After the students are introduced to the material, they come to class ready to engage with the teacher and the other students on the content and beyond. Being introduced to the content in advance prepares the students for the class. Is this really a given?  Students are introduced to the material and they automatically are ready to engage in class?
  • The students and their parents (K-12) know what each lesson will be about. (Flip your class.)  Just like when I used to be instructed to read the assigned text before coming the class, reviewing concepts, videos, readings, etc. before the class helps learners know what the lesson will be about.  I'm not sure if this is specific enough though to argue for it in terms of a flipped classroom. 

Flipping a classroom is not like flipping a coin.  The flipped classroom should allow for a more value-added, educative experience between learners, educators, and other experts.  The value comes with learners interacting with new content, using technology to find more effective, efficient, and engaging ways to communicate with others.  To reach this point, educators must help learners to move from being dependent, to independent, to interdependent individuals who decreasingly rely on educators over time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Writing II: Paragraph development

The following paragraph is design for those taking Writing II.  The 153-word paragraph includes at least one example of each of the following: MEAL plan, prepositional phrases, an appositive, restrictive relative clause, non-restrictive relative clause, cohesive devices (i.e., rheme-theme pattern, same theme-new rheme pattern, and sentence connectors), simple sentence, complex sentence, and compound sentence.

The English language profession offers educators, life-long learners, opportunities to grow when they recognize that such growth depends to a certain degree on technology.  For instance, English language educators who happen to work at the university level may develop a personal learning network (PLN) that allows them to extend their social network or personal connections beyond the institution where they teach.  A PLN also depends on the type of technology one uses to communicate with others.  Twitter, which is becoming more ubiquitous among educators around the world, has helped establish many PLNs across the Internet.  As a PLN grows and becomes stronger, so too do the individuals who interact within that network.  Indeed, the English language profession is one that is in a constant state of change, and in order for appropriate changes to take place, administrators and language educators must work closely together so that improvements to higher student achievement may be realized.  

On a separate piece of paper (or in Word), write your name and number one through six and explain each of the six sentences in terms of the concepts listed above: MEAL plan, appositives, etc.  Your explanation of each concept should include an example from the text above (in quotation marks) and should define each concept as well. If needed, click on the links above to review each of the concepts first before analyzing the text.  Once you have completed this task, upload your analysis to this blog by submitting a comment. 

For those who were absent today, here are additional instructions: