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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Women and their shoes

Another week, another reflection in the Facilitating Online course. This week I have to think about:

What is an online community and an online network? What is the difference between the two?

An online community has a sense of belongings. You belong to an online community when you share values and interests with other members. It is why I have already seen members in a community being asked to leave the community as their views had shifted from the rest of the group.

An online network however, does not have such strong boundaries. You can use an online network because you have the same interests without sharing the same values.

In saying that, I think you learn from both online community and online network equally depending your commitment.

What online communities and networks have you been a member of? How did they work? Was there a facilitator? What was his/her role?

I use Twitter a lot, especially to learn from language teachers and teachers who use eLearning in their classroom. Is it an online community? Not really as different members have different rules and boundaries. Let’s say that if I upset some members I won’t be asked to leave Twitter as my behaviour might be acceptable for other members. As you know there is no facilitator on twitter.

I use Facebook but only to communicate with my friends and family, so it is not a learning network per se. (for me, but it can be for other teachers).

I use Google reader to learn from what people have written in their blog. This is not a community at all as I am the only one collecting what I want to read.

How would you utilise the Salmon model of facilitation in your own context?
What I need to do is to put myself in my students shoes first. They have never participated to online learning so I have to be careful by not assuming they know stuff they actually do not know. I need to scaffold each step in order to make them grow and embrace the technology. I would them to see realise that they do not need all the time to learn French. The internet is packed with good and bad resources and they need to learn how to make decisions to realise what is valuable and what is a waste of time.
I would like to see them collaborating online within their class but also with other French students

I think that the main role of an online facilitator would be then to work on Stage 2 - Socialisation. It is the “scaffolding” stage where a facilitator builds the bridges for each students as each students’ needs are different.
For me the Stage 3-Information Exchange represents the students’s collaboration during which each student brings their own knowledge and their own skills and share them with the rest of the group.
And at last the last Stage-Development symbolises when students are confident in their own skills they have acquire during the course and are now capable and willing to explore other horizons and why not create an online network or an online community of their own.

What facilitation "shoes" do you wear now? What shoes would you like to wear in the future? What do you need to do to have the skills that Hootstein talks about?

Right now I am barefoot !!!

I hope I am wearing the second pair of shoes as I have always tried as a teacher to create a collaborative environment in my class, but as my class has not started their online course yet, I am not wearing those shoes :-(
I also hope that I am usually wearing the fourth pair of shoes as I can help my students with technical issues. But once again as the course has not started yet I still can feel the grass between my toes :-)

I would like to wear the first, second and third pair of shoes:

-Instructor: consultant, guide, and resource provider
-Social director: creator of collaborative environments
-Technical assistant: model of proficiency

I actually think I have the skills required, however what I know is that I do not have the skills to wear the third pair of shoes which are “Program manager: director of the agenda” as I am very bad at admin stuff. I suppose it is where I will need to make a giant effort and start getting organised. But when I read a bit below in the paragraph, I think this is what a teacher does in her class especially when Hootsein writes “...can provide introductory information, describe learning activities and resource materials, and provide additional information about course components or procedures.” This what I do all the time in my class as my students need to know where they are going, they need to know what they are going to learn and what is needed in order to achieve.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

VLN French Year 11

Last week I took a decision, a very important one. I have decided to set up a French course for year 11 students who are learning French. I have never done that before and I have to admit that I feel a bit nervous.

My head is spinning with ideas going in every directions. Thus, it is going to be hard for me to write down my reflections as my head is going very fast.

First I need to explain why I have this picture as symbol of my course. This painting was actually in colour, not black and white, but I have played around a little bit with the colours.

The children dancing on the painting represent for me the collaboration between the students, and the collaboration between the teacher and the students. It is very important for me that during the course the students work together in a collaborative manner. I need also to always keep in mind as the teacher that I am part of the scene as an active member of the class. I need to be present for my students if they need any help and I need to keep in mind the needs and wants of my students when I plan each unit .

I kept the children coloured on the painting because for me people are the important part of a course, not the background, not the technology. Although the choice of technology is pivotal to create the right course, it is here to serve the only purpose to enable students to be successful in their learning, to engage them in their learning and to help them blossom their learning. As you have understood what is important is the learning not the technology.

I also liked very much this painting as there is no sign at all of technology, none...just the people.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

week Three in FO2011

Jeez !!!! it is already Week three in our Facilitating Online course (FO2011). I cannot believe how fast it is going and how much I have already learned.

This week has been quite busy. I have already wrote a post about a video from Salam Khan, from the Khan Academy. (see previous post).

This week we have been asked to answer the following questions:

What is online facilitation?

After watching the video from Jan Delmas, Seven key skills of workshop facilitation , I would say that an online facilitator is a support person who should guide the students enrolled in the course. This person should keep in mind at all times their audience, the purpose of the course and the needs of the audience.
How do these skills differ from face-to-face facilitation?

Well…..before watching the Jan Delmas’ video I would have been able to find a lot of differences between teaching F2F and teaching online, but looking at the 7 skills that Jan Delmas points out (listen/supports/summarizes/challenges/leads the process/create a safe environment/ trusts the group) I actually think that there is no difference at all then between the two types of teaching. I should actually add that I hope students in my class right now can find the all 7 skills in my F2F teaching :-)

What experiences do you have of online facilitation both as a facilitator, and as a participants in a community, network or event?

I have never been an online facilitator but I have participated to a few online meetings on different platforms like Twitter, Flashmeeting and Skype. I have also participated to Community activities like Ning, Facebook and Google Groups.

What have you seen work well, and what has worked less well?

I do not want to sound too PC but I think they all work very well. Each platform has its advantages and its purpose. They complement each other.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Videos in education

Last week someone has suggested to watch the TED video of Salam Khan, but I am sorry I cannot remember at all who suggested it and where. I have just been watching the video explaining how the whole adventure started and how does the Khan Academy works.

I am blown away.

I had heard about the Khan Academy but I had not understood a thing. Now it is very clear and I have to say it is very inspiring.

As I am doing this course on Facilitating Online with Wikieducator and that I am going to teach French via VLN, I need as many perspectives as I can in order to create a good course.

During Salam Khan’s talk, I was thinking how simple the concept of putting videos online actually is and I could not stop thinking about all the benefits it could have in our classes. I was especially thinking of the high achievers students in my class who could work faster and mentor other students. I was also thinking about the students who struggle more. If they had access to videos for all their subjects, they could watch them again and again and/or come back to previous videos and not be ashamed anymore by putting their hand up in class and ask the teacher for help. The videos could also benefit a lot the teachers. As Salam Khan said it would indeed free up a lot of teaching time to do some projects which could be more interesting. It could also help the teachers by giving them more time to spend with kids who need help.

I try to think about any negative aspects of those videos, but I actually cannot find any. The only one I could say is that putting those videos online could disadvantage the students who live in rural areas who cannot get broadband. As 2011 unfolds, I hope that we will count less and less places in New Zealand where people cannot get broadband.

As for my teaching via VLN, this presentation made me realise that I need to make a priority for my French course to include videos. I recommend that you watch the video if you haven’t done so already.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Facilitating Online

This is my first post regarding the Facilitating Online course I am attending this term on Wikieducator. This course is free unless you want to attend as a facilitated student. I have been very lucky (again!!) as I have been given a Mark Williams Award by the NZAFT (New Zealand Association of French Teachers). This award has allowed me to take on this course as a facilitated student.

So far we are in our second week, and I have to admit I very much enjoy it. Last Thursday night, I participated to an Elluminate session facilitated by Sarah Stewart. I had heard about Elluminate but I had never participated to any session. I am more familiar with Flashmeeting.

In this week’s activity we were asked to watch the video of Clive Shepherd called "Welcome to the virtual classroom" . This is a very well done video, easy to understand with a clear message backed up with nice and bright pictures. Among other things, it explains effectively the differences between Synchronous and Asynchronous communication. I knew those two terms, but if I had not known them the explanation given was so clear that I would know by now.

In this week’s activity I have also been asked to answer the following questions :

What do I want to learn to facilitate?

As this year I am going to teach for the first time Year 11 French (3 years into French/ the year of the first national exam) via Video Conferencing, I need to learn how to facilitate effectively a course. I can teach but I have always taught in a classroom with the students in the same room as me. The biggest problem for me I reckon is going to cater well for those students. I need to rethink the whole program and my whole teaching pedagogy. I cannot just do the same thing I do in class but online. I cannot rely anymore on my sense of humour and my funny faces to make the message go through.
Watching Clive Shepherd’s video and also taking this course online and looking at how the course has been set up, made me realise that the little ideas that I had so far on how I am going to set up my own course were not very good. So I need to read a bit more about how others are setting up their course, especially for teenagers.

What am I doing now in terms of online facilitation?

Nothing at all. Last Thursday during our first Elluminate event, Sarah told us that we will have to facilitate an event during our course. This is actually a brilliant news for me as it will give me some experience before starting with teenagers. I hope that adults would be more forgiven that 16 year olds.

What would I like to achieve ?

I would want that by the end of this course I am not only capable of facilitating an event successfully but that I will also have a clearer idea and maybe a proper plan on how to set up my Own French course.

What do I need to do to achieve this goal?

I need to follow the course consciously and I will need to read online articles and look at what other teachers have done before in order to learn from their successes and mistakes.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Grammar in Year 11 French class

My Year 11 French surprised me last week. No, they did not buy an Ipad although I made it clear to them that I would be very happy getting one :-)

Instead of an Ipad (or an Iphone!!) I got some revelations which I was not expecting at all.

My lovely class told me that they would like to spend 20 minutes in each lesson doing some grammar exercises and conjugate verbs.

I have to admit that I was very much gob smacked !

As I have been their teacher for the last 3 years, they have not been used to do grammar exercises. So they are not looking for some comfort in my class. The reason why they want to do grammar is not clear at all for me. When I asked them they said that if they take French is to do some serious work. “Doing fun stuff is not proper learning” were their own words. “If we take French it is because we don’t want to mack around”.

I have to add that they were not complaining about my teaching at all. The class likes me, and I know that because they told me during the same week that I was as cute as Dora the Explorer ( No, I do not have a backpack on !!!). So their request was not about revolting.

I took notes of what they were asking, and at the end of their suggestion I told them that the way they want me to teach is the opposite that we as language teachers are asked to do. I added that it is advised to teachers not to use the word “grammar” as “students find it scary and boring”. I also pointed out to them that the way they want me to teach is very much how languages were taught 40 years ago.

But the best comment came from Eden. When I told them that in all the conferences I go to we teachers are told not to teach like that, Eden said “ Maybe we should be invited to your conferences and teachers should listen and ask us the way we want to be taught”

I am very much gob smacked !!!!

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