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#30Goals: Me Manifesto drafted. Well, sort of.

Goal 1 or the first part of the first challenge within the 30 Goals Challenge for Educators 2012 (Thank you, Shelly & Lisa!) was to create our own Me Manifesto, about what makes us tick, our beliefs about learning and what kind of ideals we carry in our classroom.

It has certainly made me think. And then think again. Start drafting. Then reorganize, feel at a loss, start over, take some photos, and plunge into it.

Here is an overview of the manifesto (a trailer?), created using Animoto. It is called the Copycat Me Manifesto because it is organized around well-known mottos (white font used), which served as the basis for highlighting some key things (no copycatting here) that I genuinely care about in my classroom when it comes to my students.

Below is the longer version. It contains a lot of I shalls, as it has been created also so as to help me stay on track.

Typically, only after finalising the image, I realised that it can be only a draft, as it fails to communicate or hint all those things that make me tick. As a consolation, I might claim that some of these issues, such as going green and raising consumers’ awareness, are embedded in the ‘relevant and topical issues’. Then again, I have been around for too long a time to have but few things that make me tick.

I am a language teacher. We teach how to communicate, how to think, react and express ourselves using words, body language and more – how to interact with the world. No wonder that a greater part of my manifesto is not about language structures. And this is something I really like about my job, my profession, my calling.

Do the right thing

The time is always right to do the right thing.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the US observed on the the third Monday of January. (He was born on 15 January 1929.)

Even if we are pressed for time in our classrooms, the least we could do is to share some of his quotes.

A message so important for today’s fame-hungry teenagers: Not everybody could be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service.

Let us teachers never forget the following: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence.” – A must if we are to make the dream come true.

***

FYI.

Coincidentally, the following comic strip by Joe Schuster appeared on 16 January 1939.

(source: http://www.thespeedingbullet.com/daily/ep01_15/ep1.html)

Universal Children’s Day

Today, on 20 November, we observe Universal Children’s Day.

I like the fact that today it is a universal day, not an international day, not a world day. It’s universal.

This year  the Convention on the Rights of the Child turned 22. These rights include:

    • the right to develop to the fullest;
    • the right for protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation;
    • the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

There can be no rights without responsibility. And we teachers, no matter how tied our hands are, are responsible for both the education and the well-being of our students.  No ‘coasting schools’, no turning a blind eye to bullying, no indifference, no complacency. (And, of course, we would like our students and their parents to act responsibly themselves.)

What could we do to mark this day?

  • With our young learners, a simple exercise on dreaming up a bright and colourful future (I want …. )

  • Enjoy a playful afternoon outdoors or indoors with your own children and your friends’ children.

Online learning – the less talked-about other side of the coin

I admit that I am (and will remain) a huge fan of online and blended learning, that I fancy the idea of flipped classrooms. Not for technology’s sake, mind you, but for the vast opportunities it brings for the benefit of learners themselves.  Nevertheless, Lee Fang’s article How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools made me aware that the breakthroughs I would like to see attributed to IT-enhanced learning worldwide were not always quite that pure, open source and openhearted.

Below are some extracts from the article:

From Idaho to Indiana to Florida, recently passed laws will radically reshape the face of education in America, shifting the responsibility of teaching generations of Americans to online education businesses, many of which have poor or nonexistent track records. The rush to privatize education will also turn tens of thousands of students into guinea pigs in a national experiment in virtual learning—a relatively new idea that allows for-profit companies to administer public schools completely online, with no brick-and-mortar classrooms or traditional teachers.

The frenzy to privatize America’s K-12 education system, under the banner of high-tech progress and cost-saving efficiency, speaks to the stunning success of a public relations and lobbying campaign by industry, particularly tech companies.

It was just a year ago that News Corp. announced its intention to enter the for-profit K-12 education industry, which Rupert Murdoch called “a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

To be sure, some online programs have potential and are necessary in areas where traditional resources aren’t available. For instance, online AP classes serve rural communities without access to qualified teachers, and there are promising efforts to create programs that adapt to the needs of students with special learning requirements. But by and large, there is no evidence that these technological innovations merit the public resources flowing their way. Indeed, many such programs appear to be failing the students they serve.

And states like Florida are embracing tech-friendly education reform to require that students take online courses to graduate. In Idaho this November, the state board of education approved a controversial plan to require at least two online courses for graduation.

“We think that’s so important because every student, regardless of what they do after high school, they’ll be learning online,” said Tom Vander Ark, a prominent online education advocate, on a recently distributed video urging the adoption of online course requirements. Vander Ark, a former executive director of education at the influential Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, now lobbies all over the country for the online course requirement.

Keep an open mind. Keep going.

10 things I dislike about some online courses

Anti-Disclaimer: This post is based on true stories and true characters. Any resemblance to actual courses, past or ongoing, is entirely intentional and hopefully to the benefit of the online community of teachers.
 

1. Changes in course content and objectives after enrollment. 

I had a recent encounter with the biggest sin of all: the announced and advertised title of the course is not what the course is actually about.

A year ago: I also felt somewhat perplexed when the moderators decided to change the tools we were to get familiarized with halfway through the course.

And I felt cheated when some of the stated objectives were just touched upon in another course, without going in depth and without us participants actually learning something.

2. Unclear instructions.      

It is not just the usual unclear instructions that some inexperienced or careless teachers are prone to make. My recent experiences include gasping at different wording of what was supposed to be the same task, in the outline section and the task page itself: not nuances, but substantial differences in the components of the task.  

3. So not web 2.0, so methodologically unacceptable.

Ideally, an online course material should be easily eyeable and searchable. It is not a textbook with one- or two-page paragraphs of verbose text.

I admit wasting some time trying to figure it out where the relevant resource referred to in one course was; then I wasted some more time figuring out why the course designer did not use a HYPERLINK.

My genuine plea: Please try and apply more paragraphing, bolding of key concepts, hyperlinks, bulleted key points, illustrations, examples, stating the aims and objectives, key questions and graphic organizers for revision, [pls continue the reasonable wish list yourself].

But don’t go to extremes, because I don’t want to see dancing neon letters either. The way you organize your resources, their clear visual layout, and easy navigation is something I appreciate both consciously and subconsciously.

4. It is a question of time I: schedule

I see more often than not a lack of clear timeline of tasks provided at the beginning of the course or, even better, prior to enrollment. The participants need to know if they will physically be able to complete the tasks on time.

An awkward phenomenon I experienced was having to wait a couple of days for the course activities to start after the official beginning.

The participants need to know in advance the pace of the course; let them know if it is more intensive and may require completion of three time-consuming tasks in just a week.

I have a life. I got a real job to do. I am no superhero: I am willing to sacrifice my weekends and a couple of nights for the common good, but I can’t go without sleep for weeks.

5. It is a question of time II: overall number of hours

Occasionally I run into a somewhat painfully misjudged number of hours needed for a participant to finish the course. (A call for a rigorous ‘know thyself’ exercise both on the course designers’ and the participants’ side.)

6. Spells of illiteracy.

Not coment.

7. Unclear criteria. 

Not announcing up front the criteria for awarding points for tasks is another major no-no.

My alternative pet hate: changes in the criteria after the participants have completed the tasks.

8. Unknown technical requirements.

It is only after enrolling that I found out that I need to install a dozen of apps, many of which are similar to the ones I already have. Well, I like my computer and I am sort of picky who it befriends with.

9. Invisible moderators.

The only thing that is more demoralizing than an over-patronizing moderator that shovels uncritical “Great job!” remarks at every feeble attempt of a participant and never lets a forum thread come to its natural end is the one who is self-apologetically absent as a moderator.

We teachers have embraced the trend of development from a pedagogue (the old Greek word for a slave who escorted children to school) to facilitators, enablers and resource-centers-on-demand, but this should never mean leaving the students entirely to themselves.

10. Copyright.

Why is it that some course designers think that they are exempt from copyright law?

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What are your not so positive experiences with online courses? What is it that bothered you? Please let me know. If you want anonymity, why not take part in this questionnaire?