No Quill in TEFL! #TEFL307 #technologiesineducation

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Was I using technologies in teaching English? No!
Will I implement technologies in my future practice? Definitely yes!
Before taking the course of technologies in TEFL, I little knew how to implement technologies in my teaching process. But now after 15 weeks, not only I got introduced to many interesting software programs, but also I’ve started to use some in my classes. Blogs, chatbots, MALL, and podcasts are among the introduced technologies that now I strive to use in my teaching, and LMS/VLE, the virtual world of Second life and open education courses are among technologies that I will definitely use later in my teaching practice.
Couple of weeks ago, Scott Thornbury, a well-known educator, asked the audience Neil Postman’s question “What is the problem to which this technology is a solution?”, trying to raise awareness about the use of technologies in the classroom. Last year, I wouldn’t be able to give a thoughtful answer to this question, but now, after taking this course, I would say that technologies should be used in teaching processes judiciously. We learned that before introducing the students to any technological educational tool, the teacher first needs to clarify why and how the use of the tool would be effective and beneficial for the learners. Only after having an answer to those questions, the technologies should be used in the classrooms.
During the last 15 weeks, we learned about different types of technologies that can be used in education, and as the last post for this course, I will review my most favorite three technologies that I am deeply into them, and I will briefly mention how to use them in English teaching.

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Blogging: My first favorite one is blogs and blogging. As a student-teacher, I enjoyed the experience of having my personal blog, where I can write and share activities in it, as well as, follow other bloggers! The idea of becoming a blogger can be exciting for many students, especially teenagers and young adults. English teachers can easily make blogs a part of their curriculum. Instead of asking students to bring their writings in papers, teachers can ask them to post the writings on their blogs, and design the same page to make it more visually appealing. Blogging may improve students’ motivation and participation, can positively affect the process of language learning and can engage students in an authentic, informal written language production. Hence, I will definitely make blogging part of my teaching.
Game-based learning: what if from time to time bring digital games to the classes for educational purposes?! I am sure that all the students, especially young learners will welcome the idea to learn English through games! Just google “games for learning English,” thousands of website will pop on your screen! as blogging, game-based learning will enhance students’ engagement and motivation and will create a stress-free learning environment for the students. So, that is the reason that I will use games in my classrooms!

Podcasts: Maybe the idea of podcasts is not new, but now thanks to the smartphones, tablets, and i-tunes using them have become more widespread and popular. The philosophy behind the podcasts is “learning every day and everywhere.” By encouraging our students to listen to English podcasts, we can help them to improve their listening skills, as well as, vocabulary knowledge.  So, worth trying as a supplementary material!

To wrap up, I need to say that among all the taken courses, this  was the only course, which content was completely new for me and every time I learned something new!

Thanks to this course I have  broadened my teaching perspectives and are ready to use more technologies in my classrooms to create a different learning environment for my students.

Letter to a New Teacher from Her Self

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Dear Self,

You successfully finished your teaching internship and are ready to start your career as an English teacher more confidently.

Teaching was your passion. As a school girl, you were always teaching and supporting your struggling classmates with their homework; you were encouraging them to study more and were always ready to help them. With having the same passion, you entered the teaching filed.  You were completely clueless about the real teaching, you barely had an idea how to teach a language, how to design level-appropriate activities, how to control a differentiated classroom and how to plan lessons. Thanks to the taken courses, your instructors, and micro-teachings, you gain most of the teaching skills within a year and broadened your teaching perspectives. Yet, you didn’t have the experience of teaching a real classroom.  Practicum helped you to feel the real classroom environment with full of sweet, energetic children having different background knowledge and learning styles. Practicum made you realized that teaching is amazing, fun and rewarding! The feelings that you experienced were so unique. Most of the time you were amazed at the cleverness of the students, and you were proud to have them in your class, however, sometimes you were praying all the day that a few of them be at least calm and quit for ten minutes in the class.

For the internship, you were trusted to teach adult women at Women Support Center, a local organization which supports women who experienced domestic violence or any other brutality in their marital lives. If the main worry in the practicum was how to keep students quiet and motivated, for the internship you had to think how to teach English to the students of a differentiated class, who want to communicate in English as soon as possible without doing any homework or extra studying. Later, you were informed that many of the students are single mothers and may bring their kids with them to the class; therefore, you had to always have your magic bag with you, which was full of chocolates, colorful pencils, and papers. Then, you found out that you should not discuss topics like marriage, love, family relationships, which may recall the unpleasant days these women experienced before. Therefore, before teaching any class, it is so important to find the basic information about the students to be able to make more appropriate lesson plans.

To have fruitful results at the end, you set certain goals and outcomes. You were determined to teach them more vocabulary and help them to improve their speaking skills. Dear self, please always remember to set certain goals before starting to teach, as it will keep you on the right path. To reach the goals you decided to practice communicative approach concentrating more on speaking skills and vocabulary.

Do you remember the expression of your face, when on the first day, the center gave you a very small whiteboard half of which was covered with permanent marker?  You were confused and stressed, as most of your activities were whiteboard based and you had to come up with new activities on the spot. Remember that you will not always end up teaching at perfect schools or language centers. Always find a time before starting your class and check the facilities of the place.

I am sure that you still remember the very first day. Though you were told that you would have a differentiated classroom, you didn’t expect to have four different levels. Teaching to a differentiated class alone was not easy at all. For all the classes you had to spend more than four hours to make four different levels activates on the same topic, and while teaching you had to change the methods constantly from the communicative approach to grammar-translation method. During the very first two weeks, it seemed like everything that you had learned about the differentiated instructions didn’t fit in the classes. You could make differentiated activities, but you were facing difficulties while practicing them.  The activities for struggling students were always full of new words and the high-level activities were too difficult to be understood.      Hence, you decided to use more open-ended tasks to solve the problem. One of the most engaging open-ended activities was dialogue journal. To make your classes adventurous, you introduced students with dialogue journal activity and asked them to write weekly letters to someone that they don’t know. You were giving the letters to your classmates for responding them. After two weeks, you noticed how this activity helped these women to write English more fluently and freely, and sometimes, they were even writing about their personal life with their unknown friends. So, dear self, never be afraid of trying new activities, go beyond the classroom and give your students the chance to experience new things.

During the eight weeks of teaching, there were days that you were extremely thrilled with the topic and the activities; however, on the same days, not long after the beginning of the class, you could see that the topic of the day was not engaging at all, and you were starting to panic. Remember that not having an interesting topic doesn’t mean that you are a bad teacher.  As one of your instructors told once, if you see that the topic is not engaging it all, and you cannot come up with better topic-based activities on the spot, simply change the topic or play a language game with the students. Also, keep in mind that asking students about their interest at the beginning of the course will be a great idea, which will help you to choose more engaging topics for the discussions and writings.

Team-building games went amazingly well at your classes. The learners were enjoying group works and trying to speak English with each other. Mixing all the levels in the group was a great idea, as it was encouraging lower level students to try harder to make simple English sentences and higher level students were motivated to help their friends.  Dear self, remember always to have at least one group activity in each class, as learners learn more from each other than from the teacher. Your students’ another favorite activity was role plays. In every class, they had a short conversation that they had to read by roles, then tell it by heart. They told you that these conversations helped them to improve their speaking skills. You can always keep the same type of activities if your students are interested in it.

Dear self, you always wanted to be an extraordinary teacher who makes a difference in the lives of students, but you never thought that students may change yours. During you internship, you had the most lovely, brave, strong, inspiring women as students.  Most of them were younger than you but had already faced the darker side of the life. Despite all the hardships of the life, your students wanted to start a new chapter in their lives and learning English could help them to find a better career with higher income. Having them as your students, you learned to be braver and appreciate what you have. When you started your internship, you were their English teacher, but after the eight weeks, you were their friend, whom they could trust and share the details of their life. You learned to change your role constantly; sometimes you had just to be an English teacher, another time you were their friend, sometimes you had to be just a listener or a consulter who encourage them not to give up and continue the good work.

Dear self, you are going to have both good and bad days in your teaching career, sometimes you will be filled with the positive energy of your students, sometimes you will have those gloomy days that you will decide to change your job. Just remember that teaching is not easy! It is such a hard work and many challenging and tiresome days are waiting for you. I am sure that there will be a period in your life, that the burdens of the life will make you teach for money, but never forget about you teaching beliefs. Always bear in mind that as a teacher you may always change someone’s life for the better.

Sincerely,

Adena

Winter 2016

Horizon Reports: Trends and challenges in the education

 

The proliferation of technology has affected all the spheres of the life and has become an inseparable part of our lives. In the recent years, the effect of high technology and the internet is noticeable in the education.  Traditional classes and teaching methods are disappearing in many countries, schools are getting adapted to the new situation, changing the design of the schools and adding new technological stuff.  To have more interactive lessons, the teachers are also trying to change their mode of thinking, perspective, and teaching methods by implementing technology in their classes.

Adoption of Educational Technology has become trendy and at the same time challenging for most of the educational centers. The two reports by Horizon Higher Ed and K-12 ( article-1 & article-2) touch upon the topic of recent technological trends and challenges in the schools (K-12) and higher education. According to the reports, the trends of technology adoption in the education are three types:

1-long-term trends are the ones that have been impacting decision-making and will continue to be important for more than five years.

2-mid-term trends are trends that will likely continue to be an important factor in decision-making for the next three to five years.

3-short-term trends are the ones that are in the process of adoption now and maybe remain important for only one to two years.

The adoption of above-mentioned trends is mostly followed by some challenges that most of the educational complexes meet.  Today in the blog post I will discuss some of the trends and challenges mentioned by the reports of Horizon in Armenian schools.

I have not received my primary and secondary education in Armenia and neither of siblings, but after living here for several years,  I have a general idea about the common educational system that most of the schools follow. Here, in Armenia, only a few schools implement technology in the teaching and learning process and practice learner-centered and competency-based approaches. The other schools either still apply traditional methods or are on the phase of technological trends adoption. Nowadays, in Armenia, most of the schools and teachers embrace the idea of learner-centered education and collaborative learning and tend to practice student-centric pedagogies to foster more positive learning outcomes.maxresdefault

Moreover, to improve students learning, redesign of the learning environment is needed.  Classrooms which contain movable furniture and technology are likely to affect positively on the learning.  EFL teachers can enhance their students’ knowledge by adopting the learner-centered approach, and changing their role as a facilitator.   Opportunity for more authentic learning is another challenge that K-12 education in Armenia needs to meet.  Hence, the schools need to change their curriculum and schedules and make them more flexible, enable students for authentic learning.

As far as higher education is concerned, a few universities like American and French university in Armenia have joint consortia to share and combine the resources. In Armenia, more universities need to achieve cross-institution collaboration which will improve the educational standards and will enable the instructors, learners, and alumni work toward common goals concerning technology, research, or shared values.

The educational system in Armenia needs a real transformation, which needs a shift from traditional methods to technological education. However, it will take years to achieve the ultimate educational transformation, as it needs huge investments.