Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Know your Students before ...

Retrieved on Jan 29, 2013 from here
Here we are in the second week of Diffimooc. I still admire Twitter live chats and tweeting all what we do and share what we read. The task of this week is to explore tools that might provide me insight into the learners in my classrooms and how might I use this information. Lee Graham shared a lot of resources that can help us to get started our exploration journey. Among the tools that she shared is SurveyMonkey which is an online tool for creating surveys of 10 questions for free. I use it frequently with my students when creating new online classes to identify their needs and skills before they get involved. Ready-made questionnaires and tests of interests, personality or multiple intelligences are also great tools to know more about what students have so I can modify my teaching style and approach to match their expectations. As teachers, we don't know what is going on in our students' minds. These tools can help them express what they can't say to us directly. However, we shouldn't only rely on such inventories, surveys, questionnaires and tests because some students don't respond honestly or they don't have the ability to identify their goals, wants and needs. We can also use our eyes as Joshua emphasized in his post. Observing students while they are working on activities, working in groups, or presenting their products provides us a lot of spontaneous and honest information about them.

Microsoft! Are you ready for MOOCing?

Retrieved on Jan 29, 2013 from here
I never forget Microsoft Partners in Learning experience 2011. It was a hard way from a marginalized village in Upper Egypt called "Sohag" to the Global Forum held in Washington DC. 2011. Microsoft provides educators with a variety of free tools that can address their students' learning preferences, in addition to great opportunities for training and growing in the field of teaching using technology. The Egyptian Team of Microsoft Partners in Learning exerts huge efforts to encourage teachers to know more about this digital culture face-to-face or online. Microsoft Partners in Learning Network is another great space to connect educators to share tutorials and activities, and find opportunities for professional development. I completed some online courses and seminars offered in the "Professional Development" Tab like "Windows in Classroom". IT Academy Program also provides a series of courses that helps educators to build a theoretical background as well as finding some applications and solutions to the challenges they might face when integrating technology into their curricula. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Do you have Tonys in your Classes?

I started week 2 of the Neuroscience EVO 2013 session by watching the video of Tony. First, I would like to thank Mary Hillis for her narration to the story and Cleide Frazão for drawing these amazing images. This story is taken from a book by James E. Zull titled "The Art of Changing the Brain". Let's watch this video or read the excerpt below and then discuss what is behind Tony's problem.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tweeting, Sharing and Blogging ... 3 keywords for DiffiMOOC

Sharing is a fundamental part of the massively open online courses "MOOCs". It is not only sharing resources, but  experiences, recommendations, and attitudes as well. I have known about Differentiating Instruction through Technology "DiffiMOOC" from another MOOC called Educational Technology and Media "ETMOOC" started a week ago. These MOOCs are open spaces in the clouds where people can meet together in one place to share, research, connect, discuss, interact and reflect. By doing all these activities, they learn and build new knowledge merged with real personal experiences. It is the power of socialization that makes MOOCs unique and different kind of learning. Technology provides us with a variety of tools that help us to connect and create networks. Twitter, for example, is a great communicative tool that helps me a lot to meet a lot of people with the same interests. DiffiMOOC helped me to use it effectively for the first time. We use it to introduce ourselves (Here is my intro), share resources and products, ask questions, create PLNs, give feedback and many more things. Google Group is another tool that we used during the first week. It is a way to interact and discuss topics in detail as Twitter allows just 140 characters. This means that we start small by using Twitter and grow more via using Google Groups. This step of interaction via Twitter and Google Group is involved in all stages diagrammed below:

Retrieved on Jan 22, 2013 from here

Maybe I would like to meet new people before researching, curating and sharing. This is what we did on last Tuesday, the day before starting this awesome experience. Interaction can also happen during the output stage through reading posts and leaving comments. These comments are very valuable for each one of us; the writer of the post and the writer of the comments themselves. I think that commenting can be an outcome of our learning, understanding and digesting this huge flow of information. To sum up, we can go through these processes not as a sequential step model from input to interaction and then output. This is one of the outstanding features of MOOCs. You can start wherever you want and working on your pace. 

Once we got connected to each other, we were introduced to some tools for sharing and organizing resources, e.g., Diigo, Delicious, Pinterest ... etc. This could be a great way for finding rich and suitable input about the topics we are going to talk about. Lee Graham (Our Instructor) recommended to use Diigo. Really, it is a great tool for bookmarking, highlighting, creating lists and groups, taking notes and other features that can help us organize our new learning experience more easily. I have created a diigo list for the first week called "What is MOOC?" I shared some articles, posts and videos about what MOOC is and what we need to succeed in MOOCs. At the same time, I joined Sandy's diigo group for DiffiMOOC where we can collaborate with each other to create a resourceful space for us and for other people who follow us. 

Until now, we interacted via Twitter, Google Group and built a good background through sharing resources via Diigo. I think that it is time to transform all what we have done and learned in recognizable products. Blogging was one of the suggested tools for the output stage. I have been blogging since 2010. It is not an easy job to start a post, but you can't stop writing once your first post gets published. You don't only develop your reading and writing skills, but creative and reflective thinking skills as well. Blogging experience goes far from just writing some sentences.  It carries both cognition and emotion; what you learn and what you feel. We will use it here to respond to questions and reflect on our experiences. 

These are the 3 things we did in the first week and will continue to do throughout this course. The more you tweet, share and blog, the more you connect, gain and learn. This is my advice to novice people who want to participate in such MOOCs. I tried both xMOOCs and cMOOCs (Read Lori's post to know more about the difference between them) and found that there are some characteristics we need to succeed in such massive open online courses. I read some posts by my colleagues (e.g., Aktwin, ChancyzahrtLindsey, Lori, and Technology in Mathematics and Education) and found some common buzzwords such as openness, positive attitudes, organizing, setting goals ... and more. My list is not different from theirs, but l prefer to express my experience with MOOCs using a concept map (Click here to view it in a new window): 

I think that I completed all the tasks required in week 1. Here is a summary list of what I have done in points:
  1. I created an intro using Smore.
  2. I tweeted all the week sharing resources, asking questions, and following people to create my PLN. The hashtag of our course is "#diffimooc".
  3. I already have a Diigo account. I just created a diigo list for the first week sharing resources about what MOOCs are and how to succeed in them. I also joined Sandy's diigo group for the same purpose.
  4. I joined our Google group and interacted with people leaving some comments.
  5. I successfully managed to access our wiki to be ready for the coming weeks' collaborative projects.
  6. I already have a blog. I didn't need to set up  a new one.
  7. I posted my first week reflection answering an essential question that was about the characteristics we need to be successful in this MOOC.
  8. I created a concept map using Bubbl.us to sum up the characteristics of a successful MOOCer.
  9. I read some posts of my colleagues and left comments waiting for responding and interacting.
Thanks so much for reading my post. I'm waiting for your comments and questions.  I will be so happy to get connected and keep discussing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Neuromyths ... True/False

Retrieved Jan 20, 2013 from here
Educational neuroscience (also called Mind Brain and Education; MBE) is an emerging scientific field that brings together researchers in cognitive neurosciencedevelopmental cognitive neuroscienceeducational psychologyeducational technologyeducation theory and other related disciplines to explore the interactions between biological processes and education. A major goal of educational neuroscience is to bridge the gap between the two fields through a direct dialogue between researchers and educators, avoiding the "middlemen of the brain-based learning industry". These middlemen have a vested commercial interest in the selling of "neuromyths" and their supposed remedies (See more here). 

In the first week of Neuroscience in Education EVO 2013 session, I was surprised by the number of neuromyths that we consider facts. What shocked me was that some of these neuromyths were taught to us as facts. Suddenly, all we know has become just a myth. Maybe they are myths according to the scientific researches conducted by some neuroscientists in some areas of the globe. However, there are a lot of things go on in our classrooms and those researchers don't know anything about them. What they think of as myths, we try them in some situations and contexts and find them of a great importance. This is the inner voice of me as a teacher. Most of us don't accept things easily. It takes a lot of time to change views and attitudes. As a researcher, this is a young field that needs more research. We have to deeply think about these new facts and try to correct our misconceptions instead of sticking to old practices. 

A list of brain facts was provided to us to decide if they are correct or incorrect. It was a trap, I guess, because they are all neuromyths that most of teachers believe in as it was shown in one of the researches conducted by Dekker et al. (2012).

Reading these statements, you will find most of them are definitely neuromyths and your mind may not accept them at all. However, the statement that is related to the learning styles attracts my attention. Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic). I always hear this statement from my professors and read it in articles and researches. Why is it considered a myth? First, I rejected the whole idea and even sent a very angry contribution to our wiki as a response to my readings. My voice as a researcher appeared once again and encouraged me to read the research by Dekker et al. (2012) more deeply. I noticed that there are two statements addressed the learning styles; one of them is incorrect and the other is correct (See below):
  • Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic). Incorrect
  • Individual learners show preferences for the mode in which they receive information (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Correct
The first statement means that learners have their own learning styles (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic) and we as teachers have to find suitable ways to address these styles. Information should be provided to those who are visual through the use of visuals and through audio tools to those who are auditory and so forth. This is what we do believe in and try to vary our teaching styles to match these learning styles. 

The second statement means, as I understood, learners can receive information by any way; visual, auditory or  kinesthetic. There are no preferred learning styles in learners' brains. Learners' preference to one way and not to another is an outside process. Once information enters their brains, it passes through several processes to reach the stage of learning.

This was not the end of the story. Reading the Brain Basics summary, and watching the video of how neurons work in the human brain (See below), I recognized how complex our brain is and how amazing those neurons are when working together providing a great example of cooperation and collaboration to the humanity. A lot of things I discovered about my brain and the processes that happen when receiving and processing the information entered. If we make a connection between those facts and our practices in classrooms, we can create an optimal learning environment and atmosphere where students can learn better. 

Let' share some examples:
  • The communication between neurons is strengthened or weakened by an individualʼs activities, such as stress ... etc. This is very apparent when I ask students to do an exercise and they feel stressed or nervous. They feel stuck and can't complete it successfully. I think that the more students feel secure or the clearer the aim of the exercise is, the better they learn because their neurons will find it easy to communicate and talk to each other.
  • Continuously challenging the brain with physical and mental activity helps maintain its structure and function. I do practice this suggestion all the time with my students without recognizing it as a brain principle. I notice that students keep interacting, discussing and producing new ideas. The more they use their brain, the more they grow mentally. This means that we have to use it otherwise we can lose it.
  • Watching the video above, I found that knowing how our brain works can inspire theorists to create theories that are based on the structure and function of this human brain. The Connectivism Theory that is developed by Siemens and Downes carries a kind of similarity. Connectedness and networking are two features that can help billions of neurons work together harmoniously.
I feel that I'm a little bit confused reading all these new things. I spent a lot of time and efforts to say and apply things that are merely myths. I think that it is time to read more to correct these false views according to a scientific base.

Resources Used:
  1. Connectivism
  2. Educational neuroscience
  3. Neuromyths in education- Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions
  4. Test Your Brain Knowledge

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Twitter in a new dress!

As I said in an earlier post, I'm taking a massive open online course called "Educational Technology and Media MOOC "ETMOOC". At the same time, I'm taking two other online courses; EVO 2013 Neuroscience in Education session and DiffiMOOC offered by the University of Alaska Southeast's School of Education. However, ETMOOC attracted my attention. Those people to whom I connected via Google + community are so awesome. They are multi-expert educators with a huge experience in different fields. How can I catch up all this flow of information, resources, tools, ideas, .... ? I attended one of the Twitter Live Chats today and can't keep up with all these tweets. I created a Twitter account 3 years ago. I sometimes use it to share some of my blog's posts or some resources that I find valuable for other teachers. I always ask myself "What is the potential of Twitter for me as a teacher and for students? I think that this course will provide me with some ideas for making use of this tool to the fullest. The coming weeks will bring more surprises.

Week 1 Task ... 

In the first week, we were asked to introduce ourselves using a variety of tools such as YouTube, Windows Movie Maker, Screenr xtranormal ... etc. I selected Smore to create a flyer including words, pictures, videos and links to other websites. I hope it would be a good intro to help others know something about myself and my projects. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Digitizing Learning

Year 2013 seems so overwhelming and overcrowding. There is a variety of massive open online courses (MOOCs) that started at the same time. However, ETMOOC's topics attract my attention. This course includes not only some tools that can be a great potential in my EFL classrooms, but also sheds light on the theoretical background of a new theory that addresses the technological age. It is the Connectivism and connected learning. The 3 digital storytelling, literacy and citizenship are also of a great importance in this digital age. I need to know more about them and how to integrate such a new trend into my traditional teaching settings. The confusing side in this course lies in the use of a variety of tools at the same time to connect to thousands of people and to share my ideas and assignments with them. Among these tools are Twitter, Google+, Blog, BlackBoard Collaborate, and more in the coming weeks. I think that it needs time to be familiar with this new platform and then go a head participating, sharing and learning with this great team of members. 

Topics & Schedule
  1. Welcome (Jan 13-19): Welcome Event & Orientation to #etmooc
  2. Topic 1 (Jan 20-Feb. 2): Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy
  3. Topic 2 (Feb 3-16): Digital Storytelling – Multimedia, Remixes & Mashups
  4. Topic 3 (Feb 17-Mar 2): Digital Literacy – Information, Memes & Attention
  5. Topic 4 (Mar 3-16): The Open Movement – Open Access, OERs & Future of Ed.
  6. Topic 5 (Mar 17-30): Digital Citizenship – Identity, Footprint, & Social Activism
Links to this course tools:
  1. The blog of the course
  2. BlackBoard Collaborate
  3. Twitter hashtag #etmooc
  4. ETMOOC Google+ Community 
  5. ETMOOC Google Calendar ... To add it to your calendar, please follow this link 
I'm looking forward to learning more and more during this experience. It is time to read, write, reflect, share and connect. If you are interested in the same course, let me see you there!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Power Searching with Google

Google is always my first tool to search for information images, books, blogs, news, videos and more. I tried other search engines like bing, ask, altavista and others, but I don't like using them. Last summer on July 10-19, 2012, I attended one of Google online courses titled "Power Searching with Google". It was an amazing course in which thousands of people work together to watch videos, explore new tricks and solve challenges. I learned about many hidden features that I have never heard about them before. Using such features and tricks, search has become easier and quicker. At the end of these 10 days, we received an e- certificate of participation and completion. This short course was offered again in Sept. 2012 to help people be more efficient searchers and save their time.

Another chance to join Google online courses!

Google launches the Advanced Power Searching second course on January 23, 2013 to sharpen users' research skills and strengthen their use of advanced Google search techniques to answer complex questions. Throughout this course users will also:
  • Take their search strategies to a new level with sophisticated, independent search challenges.
  • Join a community of Advanced Searchers working together to solve search challenges.
  • Pose questions to Google search experts live in Hangouts and through a course forum.
  • Receive an Advanced Power Searching certificate upon completion.
I'm looking forward to learn more and more with Google!
If you are interested in improving your search skills, please join us and see the difference!

Starting a new chapter of my life with EVO 2013

Year 2012 was full of achievements, learning new things, gaining new skills, meeting new people and building new hopes and wishes that I will achieve in Year 2013. As usual, the Electronic Village Online (EVO) MOOC starts at the beginning of each year to equip ESL/EFL educators with new visions and perspectives to teaching. It provides 10 sessions for 5 weeks; including a variety of topics that each teacher needs to know to cope up with this so fast digital world. It is strongly recommended to sign up for no more than TWO sessions, however, teachers can go a head and participate in most of them if they can manage the whole process. By the end of this event, our skills of teaching, communication, creation and innovation will be improved and our relation to other people from all over the world will be extended. Really, I want to thank EVO for their great impact on those teachers who live far away from this updated corner of the globe. You give them the hope to learn, improve, develop and create their own world. 

Registrations are open from Jan 7-13, 2013

The sessions begin on January 14th but are held asynchronously; that is, you can log in, begin reading, and join the email discussion of the materials. However, your moderators will provide some synchronous activities where you gather for a live meeting on your topic of study.  See your session's syllabus of weekly activities for details.

My Choice this Year:

This year, I will try the Neuroscience in Education- Braining up your English lessons session moderated by Carla Arena, Cheryl Oakes, Denise De Felice, Nina Liyulkun, Jane Petring, Ana Maria Menezes, and Mary Hillis. The objectives of this session seem so attractive and valuable. I really want to know more about how my students' brains work and what potential the brain-based lessons, activities and tools can give me to enhance their language learning. Please, wait for my posts about this new experience in the coming days!

Stay Tuned!