Monday, November 21, 2011

Pointless exam

A few days ago Year 11 sat the French NCEA which is the end of year exam here in New Zealand. As you might be aware the exam was of a poor quality. Some questions were of a level 3 instead of level 1. French teachers have complained and you can listen to a podcast of teachers expressing their feelings.

Of course like all the other teachers I am shocked and disappointed that my students were assessed to a higher level than they are expected to work at. But I am more asking myself about the idea of exams itself.

I actually do not know why students have to sit an exam at the end of the year. What is the point ?

So you work all year around, you learn everyday more French and at the end of the year you sit an exam and then what ?? 2 possibilities here : first you carry on with French or it was your last test ever in French. Either way you haven’t learnt anything at all from this exam.

In 2011, we have seen in NZ students using more and more ePortfolios in order to not only gather evidences but also to reflect on their own progress. To me, it seems it is pointless then to ask our students to sit an exam at the end of the year. I think it would be a much better idea to ask our pupils to sit an exam during the year, give them a feedback and ask them to sit the same exam (or another one of same difficulty) and see what the progress have been.

It is common practice in other subjects to pre-test student and then retest them later on using the same test (when the learning has taken place). By doing so students can see their progress and are given the opportunity to actually reflect on their learning.

What do the students do with their NCEA results ??

Yes I am outraged that the exam was of a very poor quality, full of errors and of a higher level, but for me the biggest complain is that there is no point at all to assess the students the way it is done now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back to the old times

In my previous post I spoke about how a cartoon can change your teaching life. However in this post I am going to mown a bit and look at how things unfortunately never change -If you do not want to read a moaner, don’t read this post.

As I was saying in my previous post I have been attending a conference in Auckland about Task Based Language Teaching. Although the food was great something got stuck in my throat.

As I arrived at the venue I had to register, so far very normal. While I was registering, the lady behind the counter gave me a bag which I thought was full of chocolates. Unfortunately it wasn’t !!

I was very disappointed to see that in the bag with a bottle of water I was given a block notes and a pen. And my disappointment did not stop there. I was very sad during a good session to be given paper handouts.

Why was I disappointed ?

First because if we take notes or if we are given paper handouts we cannot share them with the rest of the world. Why should knowledge be restricted by distances? I am sure that a language teacher in Europe would have loved looking at the presenter’s research. By sharing paper with an audience you do not promote collaboration.

It is now 2011, it is time that teachers collaborate and share. How can we expect our students to do so if we cannot even show them that we are doing it?

Another thing was quite disappointing. On the program the word elearning did not appear once. I saw the word internet but I did not see the words elearning or ePortfolios.

I went to this conference to become an effective teacher and for my students to learn better, I did not go to become a better teacher in 1985, I want my students to learn better in 2011 in order to succeed in the world in 2020.

From those points of views, it was a bit sad to be stuck in the 20th century -which has seen Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli, let’s not forget it- instead of being shown how we can use a great language method in the 21st century.

Crossing Boundaries

I have been lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship by the NZAFT to go to a conference on Task Based Language Teaching in Auckland.

First I would like to thank the NZAFT for this great opportunity.

When I arrived at Auckland University I was very pleased to see that there were language teachers from around the world. It is encouraging to see that teachers from each corner of the globe is dedicated enough to come so far for a conference and also it is encouraging for our students to see that their teachers are thinking about teaching and learning.

Sometimes you go to a conference and among great stuff there is something exceptional which is going to change the way you teach. On the first day of the conference there was a moment like that. While I was listening to a teacher from Japan, he showed us a cartoon. This cartoon changed my life (as a teacher).

This teacher has asked his class at the beginning of the year to draw their German class. I could not believe what I saw.

The students are drawn in what I believed to be a typical 1960’s class. The teacher was at the front of the class with a giant frown sitting at her desk. The rest of the class was sitting behind their desks facing the teacher. Some students were even drawn sleeping.

Then at the end of the year -using TBL as a learning method- he asked the same students to draw their language class. This was a different story- or should I stay cartoon.

The teacher on the second cartoon was nowhere to be found. Students were sitting facing each other and were actually drawn having conversations. The desks were put every where in the room instead of being aligned like on an army camp.

Like Bridget Jones when she realises that she has to change, that point of the conference is when I realised I HAD to change learning in our French class.

I do not want to be the frowny teacher at the front of the class, I want instead the students to have conversations in French and enjoy the ride.

Now the big question is how to manage this shift ?

Reforme en français

This year in my French class, I have been asking myself some questions. These questions were ranging from “Why am I the one working the most in the class while I already know French?”, “How come my students cannot speak any French?” to “Why do I teach what I teach?”

I had to find a solution in order to make my lessons more students centered. As I have also been teaching Social Studies, I could see that students could be more independent in their learning and that they could be in charge of their learning. As much as I am egocentric and that I love that “ it is all about me”, school is not for teachers but it is for students. So it was time that I find solutions to put the kids at the front instead of ME the teacher.

As I was looking at a solution or solutionS, I have been reading a bit about Task Based Learning and asked advice to our wonderful National Advisor Ruth. Of what I read TBL seems to be quite structured which could be restrictive for me as I like going in every directions.

So instead I came to my class and I showed my students a simple Powerpoint that I had made in the morning about my school. I told them in French that they had to produce a Powerpoint as well about their school in pairs and that they could not speak any English at all, if not they will be punished. After a few moans they started to work. I hadn’t given them any vocabulary at all or any structures. They didn’t even know how to speak about school subjects. I wanted that the learning comes from them instead of me telling them what to learn.

Using phrases like “ Comment dit-on biology room en français?” they managed to produce great writing (this was obviously a writing assignment) but the best for me as a teacher was that they chose what they wanted to learn, and actually if we compare what I was going to teach them initially and what they learned there was not a huge difference.

I had to be a bit vigilant though when the students were talking among each other though. They were discussing in English so I had to punish them. Their name appeared on the board and after 3 ticks they will be dramatically punished. Nobody got punished as they started to speak French among them and using sentences like “mon portable à la maison, demain photos du collège”. I think because I did not give them the choice that they had to speak in French at all times, they felt in danger and they had then to speak French. I think that in conventional lessons they were not using the French they already knew because they were in their comfort zone that English was acceptable and possible. If one goes to France one will learn French not because French is spoken there, but because one HAS to in order to get understood.

I was indeed very pleased with this try, and I will do it again.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A contructivist cocktail please !!!

My Year 9 Social Studies have embraced not only the use of myPortfolio but also our new constructivist approach.

We are currently studying Maori culture. First I need to point out that I did not pick this topic at all. When I asked the kids what they wanted to learn now, they said they wanted to learn about Maori culture. I was selfishly very pleased with this choice as I know very little about the

topic and I am eager to learn.

The kids were then put into groups and had to chose into their group an aspect about the culture they wanted to study. Once again they all came up with great ideas. For instance, a group is looking at weaving, another one Tattoo and another one at war between Pakehas and Maoris. The only requirement is to use your brain. They have to think and use the SOLO Taxonomy in order to increase their thinking skills.

I was very happy to see that each group discussed their topic (they all had to agree and make compromises) and they delegated the work to each member. What surprised me the most is their maturity as they can be very silly at times =) But what pleased me the most was to see that a boy who is usually very timid and does not participate at all in class, was actually very active within his group.

Thanks to myPortfolio this shy boy will be able to show his classwork to his parents, will be able to reflect on his work and progress and especially see for himself the progress he has made.

As for the SOLO Taxonomy, I am still happy that we are using it to scaffold our thinking skills. The kids always make reference to our poster of the Taxonomy in class. The use of the SOLO has not only increased their thinking ability but it has also pushed them upwards. What I mean is that now they are no longer happy with the bare minimum, they push themselves to always think of a better way, a better question and are capable of seeing if they are underworking and how to get better. The SOLO taxonomy supports reflecting as much as myPortfolio.

One thing is very funny now in class, is that my role has dramatically (and for the best)changed =) the students are SO engaged and so independent that I feel very obsolete.

I think that I as a teacher am now obsolete but my role as a facilitator is primordial and very active. Because the students are now in charge of their own learning, I am no longer at the front of the class. Instead I am sitting among them and I can go around and help them. I actually now have more time to spend with the kids to enhance their learning.

It is now the end of Term 3 and all is well in our Social Studies class.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My visit to Albany Senior High School

On Friday I went to visit Albany Senior High School (ASHS) with my friend Tara. Mark Osborne, DP at the school had generously offered to show us his school around.

I was very excited by this visit as I wanted to see if such school could exist or if it was like

communism, it only looks good on paper but it actually does not work at all. Thus, I went

there with my critical eye switched on. French are very talented at critiquing so I knew it will easy for me to find faults in this school- arrogance is a French gift =)

Well, how wrong was I !!!! It was very hard for me to find anything wrong with the school. I was especially impressed with the politeness and behaviour from the kids.

What have I found the best ?

I liked the fact that each teaching space has a mini staffroom made up from one teacher from each department (e.g. one teacher from science, one from maths, one from English). Indeed, in other schools every department are very insular and nobody has any idea of what is going on in other departments. It is a dream for me to be able to work collaboratively with others. It is essential that teachers work together if we want each student to have their own personalised learning. I

know that nothing prevents me now to work with other teachers, but to be honest the teaching spaces are not helping us to work together - French are also very good at making excuses =)

I liked the 100 minutes period. It is my dream to have my senior classes for 100 minutes. Who would not want to have short period with the juniors and longer ones with the seniors. When I teach Years 9 and 10, the first 40 minutes are idyllic, but then everything goes down hill. The kids start to misbehave and I become this horrible police officer who asks them to have their shoulders parallel to the board and stop swinging on their chairs. Why not letting them go. I

would rather to have the pupils more often for shorter period than a long period during which 20 minutes are a waste !!! Can you also imagine what you could do with your senior classes if you had them for 100 minutes ???!!

I loved the fact that students have 6 hours on Wednesdays to work on a project of their choice. This is amazing !!! This is what the NZ Curriculum and the Key Competencies are all about. Students work collaboratively and independently with a teacher’s supervision. They have to keep logs and tracks of what they are doing. During our visit, we met 2 students who have been on a project with tropical fish. They were enthusiastic and happy to talk to us about their project. I can see how easy and authentic literacy strategies could be in such a school.

I liked the fact that nothing online is blocked. I am trusted in my class with 30 kids but I am not trusted online !!! Why ?

I liked the QR Code to enable visitors, staff and students to log on the internet easily. Instead of having passwords and usernames given, Mark has put QR Codes in the corridors. Easy, effective and cheap...what more do you want ??!!!

What have I found ok?

As I love putting colourful displays and photos of France everywhere in my classroom, it is a pity that teachers don’t have their own classroom in order to make them look pretty =) But I say that because I am a girl and I like creating new displays every year =)


If the school was in the Waikato I would apply, this should tell you how much I liked it

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It does not have to be about Commerce

As I was drinking my coffee in the staffroom I came to my page. It is by pure chance I found this page as I was following one link, which lead to another wich lead to another one.

The page has for title "Five C for Commerce teaching" but it actually applies to any class I reckon. It is not a life changing discovery but sometimes you need to read again something you know about in order to keep it fresh in your mind.

My favorite word of this page is "Connectedness" as I think it is pivotal in our learning.

Have a wonderful day =)

image source :

Monday, August 15, 2011

Those who can teach Jiu Jitsu...

Sometimes you go to conferences or PD and although you have learned something new it has not changed your life (as a teacher), and sometimes you do that has got nothing to do with school and you realise that what you are doing should be part of your weekly PD.

I explain what I mean.

As you know it is always easy to tell people what to do and how to do it well, but it is another story to actually tell people and do it yourself. I keep hearing messages from people who tell me how to teach but I don’t see anything in action. And then I learn Jiu Jitsu and I learn not only the movements which could give me another coloured belt but also I learn how to be a better teacher.

As you know last week was my second lesson of Jiu Jitsu. The fact that I went back after my first lesson already shows that I am enjoying myself as it is a very late class. Because I was complaining (surprise !!!!) that I could not do a particular movement- maybe because I am vertically challenged- the teacher told me that he would love to have a video camera and film me, so in 2 months time I will be able to see how much progress I have made. While I was struggling to get out of a strangle, I was thinking that this guy (call me how you want; a facilitator, a teacher, an instructor, a master!!!) had understood the power of a portfolio (with an E or no E). Because I go to a community class, the teacher has a paying job during the day (he is actually a farmer). Although teaching is not his job, he has more understanding of learning than a lot of teachers !!

My learning did not stop there !! For the next activities, the teacher paired us up and asked us to work on our moves by ourselves. First we were put with someone more experienced and then when we were put into groups of same ability. It was very interesting to see that while we were struggling (the other guy I was working with is a beginner as well) the teacher kept an eye on us and could stop us every now and then and show us how to improve.

OMG !!!! This is constructivism in action !!!! I do not need to go to another PD, I only need to go to my Jiu Jitsu class on Monday nights.

Image source:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Constructivism: I am jumping of joy !!!!!

Yesterday was our first lesson during which the social studies students have been presented with Myportfolio. It went quite well for most of the students. Our main objective of the lesson was to familiarise ourselves with Myportfolio and create a new page.

Of course there were some students (boys !!! ) who were more interested to see who was online and who they could become friend with (typical!!!!) but 90% of the class was quite engaged and asked relevant questions. I wanted them to try to figure out by themselves how to use Myportfolio’s features which they did well and independently. I mean independently of me, as they were actually asking each other for help. YES !!!! they were working collaboratively

I gave out simple rules of online

behaviour, like “do not change your name and/or username, do not bully people and do not put inappropriate picture for your profile”. The boys thought it was quite cool they could put a picture of a motocross for their profile =) and some girls put pictures of koalas and squirrels (typical !!!!)

I was quite impressed when a boy who is not the most academic boy in the class, asked me if he could start doing his homework on Myportfolio as he said he would rather do it online than writing on a piece of paper. He even added that it was quite exciting for him and that he could not wait to start. I am not sure if he said that just to make me happy or if he really speaks the truth, only time will tell. Anyhow, even if he just wanted to please me it is still very sweet of him =)

What was even more surprising was this little lovely girl who is also in my French class (2 periods after the social studies class). As she was writing her French project about her family, she asked me the permission instead of doing it on a poster if she could do it on Myportfolio. I was so happy that she could not only see the potential of Myportfolio but also that she took responsibility of her own learning.

My next move with the Social Studies class is to ask them to start on their project itself and reflect at then of each period using the “journal” feature of Myportfolio.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Constructivism: I am jumping in......SCARY !!!!!!

Thanks to all the comments and feedbacks I received in my last post , I have decided to jump in and face my social studies class with another learning approach.

After asking them what they would be interested in to learn, I have picked a subject. As it is my first jump and I am extremely scared of height, I made the decision of giving the class only one topic. I told them today why and they were quite understanding. Although my reasons might not be the good ones, they are very simple. I want to model to the class how to find resources, how to ask questions and how to reflect on their learning.

I have looked at a topic on Music as several kids in the class had said that they were very interested in Music. As we looked at human rights in Term 2, this is the question I am going to ask the students "Evaluate the influence of protest songs on the American society in the 1960s". I have watched the video about "planning backward" that Hazel Owen suggested me in the last post (brilliant video BTW!!!!) and this is what I think the kids should aim for. As I am keen on SOLO Taxonomy, I have used the taxonomy's questions to model the inquiry.

My objective would be that the kids would pick their next topic, so that the whole class will work on different topics. I am hoping we will be able to take on the Minimally Invasive Education approach that my friend Tara Taylor-Jorgensen has been sharing with me. My wildest dreams would be to see that at the end of the topics chosen by the students, they teach the rest of the class what they have learned and create their own resources to make others' s learning a success. What I mean is that I usually created resources (e.g. dominos, card games) but this time I want the kids to be fully in charge, do everything from the planning, the delivery and the activities.

For them to be able to reflect I am hoping to see them use Mypotyfolio, an eportfolio supported by the MOE. Because I have never been taught how to reflect I had a look a bit online and I have found some questions I should ask students to answer. Your comments on these questions would be extremely appreciated as I feel walking in the dark

What did you learn?
How do you know you learned it?
What got in the way of your learning?
What helped your learning?
How did you feel?
So voilà

Your help and comments are appreciated (again!!!)

Merci de me lire


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Constructivism in a secondary school

During the holidays I have been reading a bit about constructivisme.

At the same time in the complexe word of education, a giant dilemma appeared about Khan's academy videos. The controversy stood in the fact that by watching videos, students do not get to experience what constructivisme is really all about.

Although I agree partially with that, in the sense that even if I keep watching hours of videos of someone teaching me how to sail, I will only know how to sail the day I go on a boat, on a sea and that I can make the boat moves (and not die !!). So of course while watching a video the learning is not happening.

or is it ?

We learn mainly my mimicking and in a social environment. So I need someone to show me how to do something first. Last night I had my first session of Jiu Jitsu (Youpiiii!!!), the instructor showed me first how to break my fall, and then asked me to do it myself. Without his showing I would not have any idea how to break my fall. My instructor was in front of me, but that would have been the same if he had been in Congo, I could have watched a video of an instructor showing some movements.

I have actually learned how to break my fall when I did try myself.....actually no. I have embraced my learning (I owned my learning) when I was able to fall without crying, as I think I started to learn while I was watching the instructor. I could thus look at perfect moves and analyze where I should put my arms before hitting the mat.

If we think that watching a Khan video (or any other media e.g. books, blogs, TV, phone, networks) it is admitting that lurkers do not learn. I am often a lurker as I think I don't have a lot to offer to others, and every single time (or almost every single time) that I participate to a conference or an online vent, I learn heaps.

Another question I have about contructivism is that during my readings I have seen a lot of examples of implementation of constructivism in small schools (primary and intermediate) but I have not managed to find anything about secondary school. Is it then possible to implement constructivism theory in a secondary class knowing that at the end we have an exam?

I can see it would be possible to implement such a theory in my class, especially using an eportfolio to gather evidence of work/ progress but with external assessment which are set nationally, I dont see how it would work.

As much as I don't want to sound like a whinging teacher (too late !!!) I also wonder how it would be possible to implement it in a class of 30.

I explain.

Everything that I have read points out that it is necessary to present the students with work/ ideas that is relevant to them, that they are interested in. This morning I have asked my social studies class what they would like to study in my class if they had the choice. The kids came up with topics ranging from evolution, agriculture change throughout history, Music history to NZ sports. Knowing that, it would be easy to interest them into learning. As a few want to learn about NZ sports they should work in a group, while the kids who are interested in music history can work in a different group. So far so good. But how as a teacher who works full time (plus duty, plus Group Class, plus meeting etc..) can I cater for so many groups ?

As I am very keen in implementing this in my class, I would be grateful for any help and comments

Monday, July 25, 2011

Facilitating Online- Last assessment

It is the end of the online facilitating course I have been doing for teh last two terms. It is the end of a journey I have very much enjoyed. Last week I hosted a mini event online. Here are my reflections about it following the question/ criteria asked from my course.

What went well, and what did not go so well
I thought it actually went quite well overall. I was quite relaxed and I was very happy that my mentor Rachel was here to support me if needed. I actually needed to have Rachel stepping in at one point when I asked the participants to click on a link in order to watch a Common Craft video about RSS Feed. I didn’t know that the audience could not see exactly what I could see as a host. Rachel dragged the Weblinks Box where everybody could see it. I was also quite happy that I was able to switch between boxes quite fast and that I could use the full screen option in such a way that it did not slow down the event.
How the event was organised and promoted
The event for promoted within our small community of Virtual Professional and Leadership Development. This was done by Rachel Roberts during our last online meeting, our last F2F meeting and in a virtual newsletter. So a lot of people knew this session was on. Participants had to RSVP their participation to the event in the Ning used by this community.
All the information needed to access the event was done perfectly. Each participant knew the phone number to dial in order to get the audio for the event.
support (technical and access)
One of the first participant entering the room was not sure which number to dial in order to get the audio. Using the chat box I pointed out to this person where to find all the information needed. After my explanation s/he managed to have the audio and was able to participate to the event.
relevant for the audience
I actually think that the session was relevant for the participants because each one of them asked question during the event which shows that they were involved and engaged.
Whether the event was managed and conducted smoothly - particularly noting how you handled any disruptions.
As I said earlier, I am happy with my speed going from one box to the other and using efficiently the full screen option. Unfortunately I needed help to show the audience the Weblinks box.
What efforts you made to ensure that all participants knew where they were supposed to be and when, and arrange technical support for people?
I used the chat box constantly to see if each participant knew what we were doing and I also asked them on the phone (audio) if what we were doing made sense. I had also prepared the room during the day to have everything set up in order to run the event smoothly.
How you set the stage, made introductions, explained the aims, and whether you managed to remain neutral and facilitatory
Rachel and I have set up the room during the day to have all the boxes we needed at hand and we also have spent some time to check that the video we wanted the participants to see was working well. We decided to send the audience directly on the internet and ask them to mute their phone as the internet connection was way too slow. In all this little trick worked perfectly and everybody enjoyed the video. This is something I could do next time.
As I was very prepared and that I had notes next to me it seems to me that I gave clear instructions.
How you did a round up, drew closure and indicated where recordings and other follow up materials would be made available.
As I was co hosting, Rachel took it over for the round up. She asked the participants to think about who could take next session. She also made the recording of the session and said that the next day it will be in our community ning.
Feedback from audience?
The participants seemed happy as they thanked us and asked a lot of question.
How you would do things in the future?
I think that next time, I will take time preparing the room as we did this time. It was quite good to have already everything handy. I also feel more confident as I have learned a lot of tips. I would be quite happy next time to do the recording myself as another challenge.
General comments and additions
I was very lucky to have Rachel with me as it was like being an acrobat with a safety net. I felt very secure as Rachel was here to catch me in case I needed help. For my first time as an online facilitator it was a very good idea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Have you seen Learning? I am looking for it

I have just typed in Goole search “what is learning?” and a post from G Siemens came up on the first page. Although the post is quite old, 2005, I quite like the definition given of “learning”.

But my reflection today is where is the learning happening.

I am a teacher and I love my job but when I ask students why they come to school and that they answer “to learn” I disagree strongly. Students do not need to be at school to learn at all.
I think that technology can bring the learning anywhere, for example right now in my lounge with my laptop looking at my husband in the kitchen preparing dinner -Yummy tonight it is lamb from the garden=)

Yes technology can play an important role in bringing learning where I want but it is not the technology which is important, it is the networking of people. I am learning right now not thanks to technology but thanks to people who have used technology to put their thoughts and their own learning online. If they had not, my computer in itself would be useless. People are making my learning possible, even if it is by distance or virtually as I have not met the people I am learning from. This is formidable for me as I live far away from anything and I can learn anything from the comfort of my little house in the prairie.

So in other words, Learning has no border. So I do not need to be in a particular place to do great learning, but what I need is to know how and where to get my learning and most of all I need to have the will of learning. If I do not want to learn, wherever I am or what ever great technology I have I will not be learning.

I am the seeker of my own learning. I decide what ever I want to learn. For example, my husband and I have learned how to look after a small farm (animals, plants, gardens etc..) without prior knowledge. The only thing we knew and had was the will of learning (making it work) and the knowledge on where and how to find knowledge. As I have a degree one could think that I got those skills from school but as my husband has not had a good school experience it is definitely not behind the walls of a classroom that he has acquired those skills.

The question I have now , as a teacher is how to pass the love of learning to my students. I think teaching how/where finding knowledge is quite easy (tutorials in class on how to do a good web search is easily achievable) but how can I give my love of learning to my students ?

I need now to reflect a bit longer, I need to digest my own thoughts and in one of my next post I will think about “what is the point of school then?”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Planning my mini event

I already have written a post about planning my mini event but I needed to write a bit more. Here are my other thoughts about facilitating an event online

how online communication tools can be used to facilitate online;

During one of the illuminate session we had during this course, I have learned that the word facilitate come from the French word “facile” which means easy. I know I should be ashamed of myself not realising it earlier, but better late than ever. So Facilitating means making things easy. When you speak about online facilitating you obviously want to use online tools to make things easy. In order to help the majority of participants I will need to use different tools as varied as possible in order to cater for the different learning types.

You can use Youtube for example as it is a great source of fantastic videos which can support the message you want to pass. For my mini event I intend to show a video from Common Craft which explains without jargon what is a RSS Feed as I will host a hot session about RSS Feed and Diigo.

You can use online surveys before, during ad after a mini event to see what are the needs of your audience and check their feedback. You can use the chat backchannel of Twitter or the one which comes within your virtual room ( as I will be using Adobe Connect Pro I intend to use the chat box to check on the participants at all times). Thus, the host can answer any questions raised or can include/ make feel valued any participants.

Other tools could range from nings, social networks, youtube, emails, social bookmarks.

the process of facilitating an online event.

For my mini event I had two roles. The one of a host and the one of a presenter. Rachel Roberts, my mentor was kind enough to give me a lot of help before the mini event. She spent one hour on the day prior the event, to go through all tips and tricks about Adobe and the virtual room and reminded me to check constantly the chat box. She also looked at my presentation and we checked the video I wanted to show was working well.

We decided to not only use Adobe Connect Pro but also use phones for audio as a lot of schools have a very slow internet connection. This is something that it is vital to keep in mind as in NZ and around the world there are still a lot of people with low internet connection.

I need to point out here that as the mini event was taking place in the closed community I did not need to advertise it in the wide world.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Online facilitating :mini event

As I had to facilitate a mini online event for my Online Facilitating Course, I had to think about what I could present to an audience.

I have noticed that some people find it hard to keep stay in touch with what is new due to their lack of method in gathering infos. The Internet is a huge space full of good information (or not so good) and how can you know what is new? You obviously cannot look for info everywhere as it will waste a lot of time. Reading blogs is a good way to be kept in the loop but it is time consuming if you have to check them all online in order to see what has been written recently. I have even seen people keeping blog address in their browser’s bookmark and then go through them all one by one in a weekly basis.

I use RSS feed to stay in touch with the rest of the world, therefore I thought I could speak about it with the online community I am belonging to, which is the VPLD Community. (Virtual Professional and Leadership Development).

I spoke about it with my mentor, Rachel Roberts and asked her if it would be possible for me to facilitate a hot seat session during our next meeting which take place once a term. She kindly accepted and the date of 13th of July came up.

So now I have to plan my session per se.

Rachel has sent me a wonderful Common Craft video which would be a great start to the event. It is a very quick video in plain English (no jargon in it , therefore everybody can understand it ) which explains clearly what is a RSS feed. I think this video should be the start point of my presentation.

As I use Google Reader, I would like to show how I use it. I would like to point out how to subscribe to a blog and how to use the shortcut in Google Reader. As my main objective is for people to see how easy and practical a RSS Feed is, I want to keep everything short and sweet. I do not want people to feel intimidated.

I also would like to show the idea of a social bookmarking system. I use Diigo and I LOVE IT !!!! I will thus show to the group how powerful such a tool can be.

As I have to present from school and that the internet is not very reliable I would need to think of a plan B. I will make videos of everything I am planning to do just in case the internet is slow.

Because I am presenting a session to an inclose community I don;t need to advertise the event. If I were trying to attract more people I would need to think about how to advertise. It is actually quite useful that for my first time the event will happen in a define community and that Rachel has announced and advertised the presentation.

My next post will be after the mini event......until then, I will keep my fingers crossed :-)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Facilitating Online Reflections...

Another week, another reflection about online facilitating. This week, the questions I have to answer are the following:

How will you get feedback from participants?

When I teach I always ask my students to grade me, to evaluate my lessons. I always do orally as we are always running after time in secondary school. I know that for some people it does not seem very professional not to keep in paper track about what the kids think.
Asking them helps me planning ahead. For example, if the students tell me that an activity is rubbish I will not do it again. At the end of the day they are the clients in my shop, and if I want the clients to come back I should do what they want. I obviously cannot change the content but I can change the context or the delivery of what I teach.
In our online course this year, I have asked the students to give me feedback using a googleform. I ask them to fill it in Week 6 -we are now only Week four in our course, so I do not have the results yet. Most of them tell me while we are teaching if something is not right and at the end of each online session I ask all the participants to tell how it was, to grade the lesson and to tell me what they didn’t like.

How will you deal with criticism?

I have never had bad criticism from my students. I do not mean that they say that what I do is good, what I mean is that whatever they want to say they say it very nicely. So they might give me a 4/10 but they do it with a smile and give me a lot of encouragement.
I suppose if the participants give you constructive criticism it is always good to know how/where to progress. I like people criticising what I do because it helps me to get better.

How will you make sure people feel safe when they give you their feedback?

Using anonymous form is a good way for people to feel they can tell you what they really want.

How will you ensure you continue to improve your online facilitation skills?

By using the feedbacks received, carrying on reading (blogs, divers communities, twitter feeds etc...) and by attending other people’s online event, I will be sure improving my own skills.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Online Facilitating

It is time again for me to answer a few questions from Sarah Stewart for the Online Facilitating Course. This week the questions are:

How do I make my event as inclusive as possible?

I think I will prioritise the same things if I was facilitating a course for students than if I was for anybody else. I think that one of the most important thing is not to assume that everybody knows about technology. I would need to take time prior the first event to go through the technology with the participants, or even provide them with videos on how to use the technology. I should keep in mind at nobody knows all aspects of technology and I should never use sarcasm while interacting with participants. I myself have already experienced when participants within a community were very condescending when I asked questions, and it made me feel very bad. When I am in front of my class I try not to make my students feel awkward and I try to create a relaxed environment in which kids can ask any questions. I should create the same environment online.

There is also the idea that some participants do not come from the same background; same economical, geographical and cultural background. I will need to think at what time the event should take place in order to allow more people to participate. It seems to me it would be wiser to use sound only and no video as a lot of people still have dial up.

How will I market my event?

As I said in a previous post I would advertise in every community I am already a member of. e.g. twitter, blogs, facebook, nings

How will I engage "lurkers"?

The question is why some people are lurking?

Some people do not feel confident enough to participate either because of the technology itself or because of the content.
I should then provide a lot of technical support and I should direct the participants towards great readings.

How do I serve people with minimal Internet coverage or lack of hardware?

support and use of voice only as discussed above.

How do I manage financial costs?

I have never thought about that. It would depend who I work for I suppose...

First Adobe Connect Session

On Wednesday I have been given a grade by my Year 11 French for our first synchronous lesson using Adobe Connect. My grade was not very good but the kids were very encouraging. So here we are!!! they gave me a 4 out of 10.

To be honest I thought that 4 was very good as I would not have given myself a 4, I would have given me a 0 or a 1. So 4 is quite good, and as I see it next week I only can be better :-) In 6 weeks I will be a 10/10 !!!!

So what happened?

I set up my class in groups of 2 or 3. I know it would have been better teaching practice if I had asked the students to put themselves into groups instead of me being bossy and group them. Why have I been bossy? I was afraid that kids would go with their mates, I thought it was better to pair them up with someone who knew how to use a computer. Thus they could collaborate and help each other. None of the kids complained about me creating those groups anyway.

Then I left the kids with notebooks (with webcam and microphone) and the URL they needed to access the meeting. I went into a conference room while the students stayed into our French room. When I saw them entering the meeting room, I started to feel relieved. At least they could use the URL.

So we started the lesson. The students complained about the delay between my voice and what I was showing on my screen. I think (I am only assuming here!) that the speed of the school connection could have been responsible for the delay. They also complained about the echo with the microphones.
I was very proud that they took the initiative of splitting the class. Some stayed in the room, some went in the classroom next door, some in an empty office while others went outside sitting in front of the Wharenui. As soon as they all went their ways, the problem of the echoing was resolved :-)

Twice I have been disconnected and so wasted time reconnecting. Although I had planned a full hour lesson, we only managed to do ⅓ of it.

At the end of the lesson I felt quite embarrassed but the kids were smiling and they said that for our first lesson it was fine. One student even offered me to meet again during the week-end in order for me to practice more using Adobe connect. This was very touching :-)

RECAP: I was bad, but next time I will be better !!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wiki study

As I was writing earlier this week, collaboration goes a long way.

In my last post I had to answer a few questions about online facilitating for a course I am doing this year. As I was unable to find any ideas about one particular question, I asked on Twitter if someone could help him. Among several leads, Marielle Lange, @widged sent me a very interesting link to a Wiki study she did a few years ago.

Although it is a few years old, this study is well worth a read - as we know in technology age, each year equals 7 human years!!! Marielle pointed out to me that some of the hyperlinks could be broken.

Happy read !!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Facilitating online- New Week

The Easter holidays are well over and it is time for me now to go back thinking about communities for the Facilitating Online Course. This week I have some questions to answer

How do you collaborate online currently? What works well, and what does not work so well?

I think here it is not the point for me to repeat myself as earlier this week I have written a post about collaboration. Follow this link.

How will you facilitate online collaboration with people and organisations who are not used to this form of working?

I think if you want people to see a new way of working/thinking you need to take a soft approach. If you come on people a bit too strong they do not seem to respond well. I say this by thinking about teachers in the back of my head. I have noticed that although some teachers are willing to try new ways of teaching/learning some unfortunately are way too comfortable in their old ways and do not want to try new things. For those people I think a very very soft approach is necessary. You want to show them collaborating with others can be very easy and beneficial. They need to be shown that it is not extra work and that they will gain from this. It can be hard for people to change especially if they cannot see it could actually help them.
In a more practical way I think I would show people tools that are easy to use, free and flexible. Tutorials/videos are a good way to start as you can watch them when it suits you. I would start by little steps, taking them from email to Twitter for example, and wait that they are comfy until adding a new tool.

What are the issues you may face with online collaboration, especially in an open environment such as a blog and wiki?

As I have never faced any issues with blogs and wikis, I do not know what to answer to tis question !!!!

I will need help here to think about any issues :-(

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Collaboation in education

Collaboration is key.

In any sector it is vital to collaborate in order to create work of a better quality. Who would not want to produce better work?

It is thus essential as educators that we show the right example, that we model good practice for our students to ameliorate their achievement and help them enter a world where collaboration is now common practice.

One of the tool I use for collaboration, among others, is Twitter, like a lot of teachers nowadays. I will not explain here how Twitter works as others have done it before me and have done it perfectly. I would like to point out here what was the process of collaboration I followed.

Let’s go back maybe 2 years ago. On Twitter I started to follow Marielle Lange, aka @widged, a francophone (someone who speaks French like me) Flex Developer who is extremely interested in education in general. We met once in true life :-) in Auckland during the Educamp2010 organised by Fiona grant. (wonderful event which will be held again this year again in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga). During our non-virtual meeting, we shared our views on education and what we are capable of doing.

Here is I think an important step. Around a cup of coffee, or tea if you prefer, it is pivotal to discuss what each person is bringing to the collaboration. I am a teacher of French, so I know the students (or at least I think I know- another post needs to follow this one I reckon), what they want, how they learn and of course what they should learn (as in content- e.g. to prepare them for NCEA). As for Marielle, she brings in her knowledge of encoding (e.g. CSS, HTML etc…) which is a foreign language for me and she also brings an extensive understanding of how one learns and of education in general.

During numerous times, Marielle has helped me during the last two years, so many times that there is not enough space on the web to cite them all !!! But she has particularly helped me this year. Let me explain why and especially how.

I have always wanted to create an online course for a Year 11 French class. In this course I wanted the students to be able to find resources which could help them to gain good grades at NCEA independently and activities monitored, or not, by a teacher. This year I have decided to take the big step and put my fear aside and start the course.

Once again Marielle has been of a wonderful help. She has helped by creating activities well suited to the needs of my students. Marielle has kindly shared the codes in her wiki that teachers (or any educators) can reuse and use on their platform of choice. However, you need to keep in mind that her Wiki is only at a early stage and more activities will be added regularly. I have also chosen a Wikispace for platform and you can see Marielle’s activities in action within a language environment. The course I have created is far away to be finished and once again you need a bit of patience as I work full time, so I create the course at night :-) What is funny anyway is that our job as a teacher is never finished. Since the beginning of my career I have never known a moment where I could think “ah I have finished, my product is as good as it could be”. When one is a teacher there is always room for improvement.

So here you have it true collaboration in true context !

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Year 11 French survey

Before teaching my Year 11 French class online I asked them a few questions. I have used Google Forms and I made the survey anonymous in order for the kids to answer as honestly as possible.

In the past few years I have seen plenty of similar surveys but I have always wondered if my students were comparable. Now I know :-) or at least I know for some of them as I only asked one class with 13 students.

Below are the results of this survey. What is the most surprising for me is the students’s use of their mobile phone, what they do most is still texting. This is very interesting as we hear a lot that teenagers use their phone for the internet. Of course as I only asked 13 students in a small rural school in NZ, it does not represent all teenagers in NZ but it is at least a small start.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Facilitating Online Assignment

This is my first assignment for the course on Online Facilitating. I have some feelings in my tummy that I have not had in a long time: the exam feelings.

When I was a student I always wanted to succeed and the fear of failing my exams was extreme for me. And funny enough I am having those feelings again. I thought they were dead, buried inside me, but no !!! These feelings are well alive and I am scared of failing this course.

In this assignment I need to answer 2 questions:

1- the features of online communities and networks

When does a community start? Can I start a community ? How many participants do we need in order to call a group a community ? Can 2 participants make up a community?

If you want to create a group (which could become later a community) you need to think about an action plan. What is the purpose of your group? If you want to create a knitting group you need to think through why would people want to join your group.

When the action plan has been put in place, you need to find participants for your community, you need to advertise your group and show how valuable becoming a member could be for people. The question is how and where to advertise. Twitter would be for me the first place to start, but in order to advertise on Twitter you already need to be a member of a network/community. It is when you need maybe someone who already knows people and can “show you” around and ask their “friends” to look into your group.

One other way to start advertising would be to start blogging about your ideas. But in order to have people reading your blog you need to advertise your blog :-) (come back maybe to Twitter here!!!). You can also start emailing people that you think could share the same values and interests than you and let them know you want to create a group. This used to work (prior digital age) using words to mouth. Funny enough it still works the same way but this time using a keyboard. As a digital involved person you can recommend a blog, a person, an article to somebody you know by simply click on a button.

But to do that you already need to know people. It is why it is very important I think to be engaged online prior the creation of your won community and/or be engaged within your field. As a teacher it is important for me to meet other teachers. It is why I go to regional and national conferences to see what others are doing and I am involved in online networking.

Let’s speed up a bit our process. Let’s imagine that we have successfully managed to advertise our group and now we became a community as we have 10 members. The hardest bit now is to keep this community alive. How many times have you seen a community dying? within your own school? within your own subject ?
A lot of great projects die prematurely due to the lack of participation. The key would be then to ensure that people are constantly engaged and active. Here is the role of a facilitator. If nobody is doing anything within the community it is the role of the facilitator to create engaging activities, meetings, reminders, postings etc. For a community to work of course you need to have involved participants but sometimes people need to supported in some ways. Thus, an email, a private message or an inspiring video can sometimes revive a dying community. You do not need to look further than examples of dying villages which are thriving communities due to giant efforts from their inhabitants and a leader.

A community or a network is indeed active and reflective in which people feel safe and secure to express their opinions. Members also need to be respectful of a chart of conduct (here netiquette). If you want the members to feel safe of expressing themselves, you need to be sure that people respect each other. Communication is essential and cannot be interrupted. It is why it is pivotal for the facilitator to be “present” and available within the community.

2- the elements of skillful online facilitation.

As I said earlier it is essential for a facilitator to be present within the community. What does that mean? It means s/he needs to answer questions,emails and posts comments to the members’s blogs in order to make them valued.

A facilitator needs to be patient, knows what the community is about (you cannot be the facilitator of a knitting community of you do hate knitting and/or do not know how to knit a jumper) and makes things easy for each participant. I also think that humour and showing that you are human is indispensable.

A facilitator needs to plan regularly engaging activities which meet the members’s needs.

A good online facilitator also needs to know how to deal with the technology, the technical side of it. In saying that, it is always reassuring to realise that someone does not know everything. As a member it is good to see that the facilitator is not a God who has understood everything (c.f. showing you are human)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Does technology make me better ?

Does technology help educators to be great teachers?

I do not think so as I think that if a teacher is a good one s/he could teach in the middle of the Sahara under a tree and still engage students. I do not believe that technology can help students' engagement per se.

So why do I use technology in my class?

For me technology is a great mean of bringing people together. If I were teaching French in NZ in the 1950s it would be harder to do what we do now in our French classes, and engagement has nothing to do with that. Indeed it would be harder to bring people together, it would be harder to work collaboratively (teachers-teachers/ students-students/ teachers-students) within greater distances, it would harder to participate in activities with the rest of the world etc.

This is what technology represents for me as a teacher and as a learner.

I got reminded that tonight when I checked my tweeter feeds. @ICTmagic put on a great website which I find wonderful. I only had a quick look at the site but I like the idea behind. Kids put videos of themselves speaking their mother tongue and presenting festivals in their country. Unfortunately there isn't anything yet in French. But it is not important as I think it is a wonderful evidence of what technology can achieve. It does not matter where you are in the world and it helps collaboration.

Maybe because I am a French teacher, I also love the title of the site :-) "celebrating language"



Monday, April 4, 2011

What students want

My students are unique. I do not say that because I like them or that because WE are all unique. I am saying that because they do not want what the other students want.

Last week I was speaking with a French teacher from another school. She said that she has to do only fun stuff, if not her kids wag her class. In opposite my Year 11 told me that they have not taken French to have fun, that they are here to learn. They added that it is not the point to pretend having fun in class as it will never ben fun anyway. They would rather go on with the work and do something really fun like going to a restaurant after school with me.

What is even funnier is that the other teacher could not believe how my class had set up our classroom. The classroom has been refurbished during the summer. Nothing very flash as the school does not have any money, but everything smells like chemical which is lovely.

When the room was finally completed I asked my students to set up the room as they wanted. I was blown away when the kids put all the chairs into rows and admitted that they do not like when teachers put the tables into groups, that they like when the tables are in rows. The kids also want me to put posters in the class with conjugated verbs on it. I do not think that this is what we thought as teachers.

My year 11 would like to participate to an online event during which they could tell what they really want from teachers and from school. This could be very interesting. Stay tuned

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Which platform for online course

This year I am creating an online course for my Year 11 French class and I am hoping to see the course happen in the whole New Zealand.

The course itself is on its way, so I am very happy :-)

But I have a huge concern and I need your help to solve it.

I would love to see the students taking part in this course to use a platform to discuss and/or solve their problems/questions. I know there are zillion of great platforms and I have a giant choice, but my concern is about accessibility.

Let’s say that I create a Facebook group for the course. The platform is free and user friendly and most of the kids in NZ have access to Facebook. The issue is that most of the school block the access to Facebook to their students. So if I chose Facebook, the students will not be able to access it when they are at school. They will be able to access it only when they are at home if their parents let them access Facebook (some of my students are not allowed by their parents to have a Facebook account). One other good point about Facebook is that if the students have a NZ Telecom Mobile phone they can access it for free, but most of the schools do not let their pupils use their mobile phone during school hours.

So I would like to use a platform that it is free, most likely not blocked by schools and user friendly !!!!

I need your help !!!!! Can you give me any suggestions ??? What do you use and why??

Thanks heaps

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Planning an online course....

This week for the facilitating online course, I need to answer a few questions

1-How does a facilitator build an online community or network?

I would say that first you need to think who the online course would be for. You need to know your audience in order to create something that would meet their needs. Indeed a course for adults would not be the same than one for teenagers, a course followed for pleasure would not be the same than one with a mark at the end.

After having thought about who the course is for, a facilitator needs to think about the course itself. Questions about which technology to use should now raise. Which platform would suit best the course?

I think that it is also important to think about the course’s nuts and bolts. How often people would meet? How many activities should students each week? etc

At last the facilitator needs to advertise the course to find some students.

2-What are the key things to remember when facilitating an event, meeting or education course, especially when working with people who are new to online technology?

A facilitator should know what are the abilities of the participants. Hence s/he should start the course using a survey. If the facilitator knows what each participant already knows s/he could create some videos (tutorials) to show how to use each piece of new technology. He should also provide good readings/videos for the course.

The facilitator should also make himself available for the participants e.g. by email to answer any questions they could have.

Time should be thought about. At what time the participants should meet is quite important. If the participants are in the same time zone or not is pivotal when planning an event.

3-What is the difference between teaching and facilitation?

Facilitation is more a guidance than teaching per se. A facilitator should help students finding knowledge and be there just in case. Whereas a teacher is more at the center of the students’ learning.

4- What is netiquette?

Netiquette is the way that a responsible person should behave online. There are some rules that one should follow. Some of those rules are learned a long the way online and some of those rules are the same than in the “not-online” community.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011


This year the languages department of Matamata College has decided to start using Myportfolio for an eportfolio. So far we love our experience with Myportfolio.

Why did we chose Myportfolio ?

We decided to go with Myportfolio because it is supported by the Ministry, it is going to be free until at least the year 2013, it is packed with great features and it has secondary school's needs in mind. Above all what was important for me and my students was the fact that it is very user friendly.

Why chosing an eportfolio?

We think it is very important for students to reflect on their work while the work is getting created, especially for second language learners who need to see and be reminded how much they have actually learned so far instead of concentrating on the things they do not know. Thus they will gain confidence in their own capabilities.
Also using an eportfolio allows them to redraft their work in order to progress. This is something we, as language teachers, want our students to learn. In real life, when we create a piece of writing we take time, we redraft it or we even ask experts to have a look at it before publishing it. It is exactly what we want our students to do. From this year, language students are allowed to redraft their written work until they are satisfied with it. Thus using an eportfolio makes perfect sense.
Another reason for us to use an eportfolio is that it helps collaboration among our students. They can comment on their peer's work, they can create work together and publish it on a Group's page. They can as well subscribe to Topics and discuss with other students who are studying the same project.
We like as well the idea of continuity. It is crucial that students start to use an eportfolio in primary school and take their eportfolio with them when they go to College or even Tertiary Education. It is a reflection of all their work, their progress, almost like a CV.

Myportfolio and my class

I'd rather do one thing but do it well. So this year being our first year using Myportfolio, we decided to implement it to only one class. So only my Year 11 French and my colleague's Year 11 Japanese class are using Myportfolio. I was very happy to see that it took only one hour for my students to understand how Myportfolio works. They have embraced the idea of using an eportfolio very quickly and it is now part of our course. One of my student has even asked me that we start using our group's forum to communicate.
The only thing that went wrong is that some of my students have changed their username or last name, and then could not remember their "new" name :-) Now I know (thanks to Ronja Skandera) that there is a feature which does not allow students to change their name. So I will definitely use it next year with my next class :-)

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