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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