Thursday, April 29, 2010

Assessment 2.0

I've just come across this paper on assesment and the need to change the way we assess, or rather, the way our learners assess their own learning. When will we go from a passive system in which students just show how much they've memorized to one they show how much they've learned? Couldn't we start by substitute one test by a project which could be multimedia in which students show how they've been achieving their learning goals?

Assessment 2.0

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Woices - Giving Choice and Voice

I´ve just found this fantastic web resource which has great potential in the classroom to let your students search for different voices around the globe and adding their own voices to the "ecosphere".

In Woices, learners can practice their listening skills and in a very simple way record their own voices to talk about a place they like, the city they live in, or a tourist place they´ve visited. They can not only learn about cultures, but also add their own cultural views in a very user-friendly platform.

Listen to the idea behing the ecosphere in Woices and why not giving it a try with your learners? I´m sure they would really enjoy it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Drive - Self-directedness, Mastery and Purpose

I've just reached Daniel's Pink book Drive toolkit, more like a catalyst to fuel our own drives.

To wrap up the idea of the book, I can't imagine a better way than relating it with my own context. I was thinking of my drive to exercise, for example. For many years, I've been exercising, on and off. Sometimes I feel more motivated, eager to get to they gym, sometimes less. Though I've always considered it important for my well-being, controlling weight, etc, these purposes haven't really been my true drive. First, I' say that I always liked the choice to decide which activity to do first, which I'd keep out of my training that day. This directly relates to autonomy. Even with some guidelines and a paper to let me know which equipments I should be using, I could decide the order, and even the variation. I think the trainers at the gym wouldn't agree with me, for I should follow a routine, but I confess it, I never did it that way! Another drive for me to exercise has always been for me to test my limits, to keep improving my performance, to understand how I can do things better and more efficiently, to be challenged by the next level. Mastery in its essence here. Then,  we get back to purpose. As I mentioned, the factors that might be the ones that could motivate to keep exercising were not the ones that apparently are the ones people talk about. Through this reading journey, I realized the my purposes were different at different moments of my life. For example, some years ago, the core purpose of going to the gym was the socialization part. I belonged to a group who was dear to me, who cared for one another, who had true fun together. Happiness and great laughs at their best.That was my drive,  being there with that group kept me alive, happy, and motivated to keep exercising.

And now? Not a group at all. I changed gyms, and don't interact much there. What keeps me going? Again, not the commonplace reasons. I've realized that my main drive, the purpose of all that is that I have some time for myself, to read whatever I want, to think through my life, to enjoy just being a bit by myself without paying attention to the tensions of our daily lives, it is an enjoyable moment of introspection.

So, we get back to what really drives us and our students. Are the apparent purposes that we insist on pointing out to our students, the ones that are the true drives for them? When we tell them that they should study because it is good for their future or their future work (that might mean a decade from now!), are we encouraging them to study or totally discouraging them? How can we tap into their inner drives and change our learning environment?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bazaar Type of Learning - A Directory to Get Started

Creative Commons License by langwitches

We're always in the search for effectiveness matched to an increase of learners' motivation. Without losing the pedagogical purpose perspective, we can find wonderful online tools that will make our classes more enticing to learning, fun, and highly motivational. These tools can be adapted to fit our educational settings and our students' interests and needs. They give to learners the chance to be manipulators, players within their learning process. They give choice and voice. If you try at least one of those giving, for example, one topic, but letting the students free to decide how they will go about it to present their final product, chances are you might be truly surprised by  their creativity, engagement, and learning outcomes.

One of the teachers I work with is working on a Glogster project with her students. She was simply shocked by how much language students produced by just changing the means to deliver the topic. So, why not giving choice and creativity a try in favor of a much more powerful classroom learning environment?

Here are some places you might want to get started: (great tools to get started)  (Ning is now paid and Flowgram is out of the market, but the other tools are just fantastic ones)  (focus on teaching phrasal verbs with wonderful digital tools) (I highly recommend Nik Peachey's Web2.0 free e-book) / (My cool tools Diigo Bookmarks. Tons of fantastic resources that would take us a lifetime to explore)

I could go on and share a thousand different resources, but just by accessing these links, you'll have at the tip of your fingers many ideas for engaging your students and making a difference in a more bazaar type of learning (just love this borrowed concept!).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Drive - From Pawns to Players

Funny thing is never have I been so motivated to exercise! As I press the next page button on Kindle (thanks, my dear friend Dennis) and keep moving my feet on the ellyptical, my eyes are glued to the many concepts and theories in Daniel Pink's Drive.

I'm in the part he explore in more details the concept behind the self-determination theory that considers human beings as having self-directedness, autonomy that lead to an inner motivation to create, innovate, to go beyond. Though lots of research have been carried out about the subject, most companies still have their management system in the belief that people have to be controlled and push forward. Otherwise, inertia is the rule. Daniel might be an optimist just like me. He states that he believes quite the contrary. People can move on, be creative and do things even when they are not required to. He exemplifies with companies that have been giving part of the working hours back to employees, generally 20%, for them to work on whatever they want, be it a personal project or an improvement to anything they're working on. 3-M has done that in the 40's and now we have that little square, timesaver called post-it. Google does that and many of their mainstream products came from the 20% autonomous period employees had, like Gmail, Google Translator, among others.

This is to say that when we give autonomy to people to work in a task as they wish at the time of the day they prefer with the team they want, unexpected, innovative outcomes are highly possible. I wouldn't say always at all, and it all depends on the drives of the people. First of all, these people must be ethical professionals with an inner willingness to move on and not those competitive ones who would sell their soul for recognition, status or money. No. Here's about that genuine good worker with respectful and ethical mind that Howard Gardner talks about in the five minds for the future.

Again, I can't stop connecting all that to our classrooms, our learners. In which ways giving more autonomy to learners and the possibility of choice enhance their educational performance and their willingness to do their best? How can we change our views of students as pawns - manipulating all their moves according to what we believen they should learn - into learners as players, as informed decision-makers on how they can best achieve their learning goals? Aren't the digital tools available nowadays one of the ways we can achieve that by guiding learners, but giving them the possibility of autonomously deciding how to get there? Aren't there so many ways, so many strategies - and not just one - to successfully reaching the finish line just to get back to a starting point again and continue the never ending cycle of learning?

I certainly have no fixed answers for that, but in the role of a teacher trainer, I like to think that one way to start sprinkling this idea of self-determination and autonomy might be to help educators achieve that first. Then, they might inspire the ones around them. I'm sure that many have done that throughout their teaching years. However, more than ever this digital, connected world can help our students even more in the direction of self-search, purpose seeking, lifelong learning, drive to create, to be a true citizen-player.

Am I too idealistic, utopic? Or does it make sense?

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Still on Drive

Daniel Pink states "Greatness and nearsightedeness are incompatible". He was making a point that in many cases, a carrots and sticks system leads to a short-sighted view of the world. People start focusing more on the rewards than in a broader sense of reality. You are into that addictive cycle of getting something back than seeing things in a longer-term perspective. He even argues that depending on the kind of reward, unethical behavior might happen just for the short-term benefits of getting whatever was promised. Coincidentally, I just read Stephen Krashen's argument against the Accelerated Readers in the US. My son was part of the program, and I can tell you that the rewards the kids get from reading certain books are not what tick them to read more and better. Stephen mentions McLoyd's study in 1979 that proved exactly that. The scientist had three groups of kids. One group would get a reward for reading and they knew what that would be, the other would get a smaller compensation for reading, and the third group was the no-reward one. Guess which group read more?

I see my kids reading more and more for sheer pleasure, they move forward because of their inner pleasure of reading, not because they will be paid, will get more candies or toys if they read three books a month. They do things at home not because of any allowance, but because they understand that this is to do good to the collective.

Daniel Pink's book is still in accordance to my own beliefs and it makes me understand better my own drives. I'm moved by this third drive, one of passion, of the feeling I'm doing the right thing, expanding my own horizons, seeking a life of meaning in a conceptual age. That's why the volunteer work I do is so pleasing, that's why I crave for every new learning opportunity. When I think of the job I do, that's why I've changed from a high-paying job to one that fulfills my need of moving forward, working on exciting projects, dealing with interesting people, different tribes who add to who I am.

What does it take for a business to enhance its professionals' motivation to perform better, to be more efficient, to be happy? What does all this motivation concepts tell us about our classes and learners?


Related post:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Education Futures Open Course

How many times have  I failed for lack of time, work overload, my eyes being bigger than what I could accomplish? How many times have I promised myself to go until the end when I join some online endeavour? How many times have I failed to keep my promises and my wishes of professional development taken to another level?

Many. Tons.

Once again, I'll try. If I fail, I'll keep moving and doing what I can. However, I won't regret not having tried.

I always read George Siemens newsletter, I've lurked in other of his Future of Education courses and seminars. On a Friday morning, holy one, by the way, I'll once again try it, but with a stronger will to move forward, to think about what the future holds for me and my profession, to search for new opportunities and possibilities in language teaching, to connect to like-minded educators, to network, share and learn.

I'm ready.

Anybody willing to join me?