Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week 3 - The Delicious Week

violet valentine
Photo on Flickr by Distopiandreamgirl

I have really, really enjoyed Week 3. I have finally relaxed. I have stopped worrying and started having the time of my life. Only when I think about the final task...

I am between terms now. This is inconvenient since I will have no students to work with for the next three weeks. And once the students are back on February 20th, my intermediate group will lose at least three of its original members and there will be some new people there. Simple math: There were eight people in the group. Three are leaving. That leaves 5. Our groups are up to 12 students, which means I can have as many as 6 new students. Six students I need to get to know as quickly as possible so that I can analyse their needs and make a final project that suits them as well.

This too is very inconvenient. But that's the way things are.

This week we learnt how to bookmark using Delicious . Here is my account.

I opened this account back in 2008, but after a while switched to Diigo. Now I have imported all my Diigo bookmarks into Delicious and will be using both accounts from now on.

I feel great about the fact that I have started bookmarking the resources we are using in this course. I am learning so much, on a daily basis. I would like to keep this information somewhere where I can find it after the course is over. Which is why I have created a stack called Webskills Winter 2012 and I am sure this stack is going to be very "thick" by the end of the course.

Social bookmarking is collaboration in its best sense. I know something, others know something, together we know a lot. The fact that we are sharing links on Delicious has brought good mood to the whole group and we are eager to share even more. I was touched by what Orchidia did in her blog. She created a collection of songs from all the participants' countries. She used a tool called Mixpod. I am grateful to Orchidia for her beautiful gift. She is very supportive of other participants and her blog is beautiful.

This week we had a very lively discussion in the Oral/Aural Skills forum. I learnt a lot just by reading other participants' posts. I posted a lot too because there were so many interesting mini-discussions going on at the same time. We discussed virtual language labs, the role of teachers in the 21st century (see Marina's post). Luisa, Sinikka and Robert started a very interesting discussion on which variety of English we should use (have a look at Luisa's blog).

I posted so much this week that I ended up with excruciating back pain. But here I am, still typing. This course is so wonderful, I don't want to lose a moment. I am having the time of my life as long as I don't think about my final project.

Talking about final projects, I have learnt a few things this week. Here is my plan:

1. Don't try to do too many things at once. In Robert's words: " Usually the best projects are elegantly simple."

2. Focus on the problem you have to solve.

3. Focus on the students. Who are they? What do they need? What can they realistically do?

And this is where I am going to sign off this week.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week 2 - Ready, Steady, Go

#619 Annie Onishi Central Park Track Club New Balance CPTC 100B5983.JPG
Image on Flickr by Charles Smith

After introductions were exchanged in Week 1, serious work starts in Week 2. I expect it is going to be a steep learning curve from now on. A bit like marathon running. Though the work before us might seem overwhelming at times, we will get there eventually.

So, this is what my week looked like:


On Sunday I curl up on my couch, weekly readings in my hands. Three hours later, I feel that my brain has expanded. All that information about search engines! I can't wait to try them out. And the ABCD objectives are new to me.


Time for my first go at search engines. I pick the ones that help you choose a controversial topic - IDEA Portal and Glean Comparison. I end up with a solid lesson plan for my Advanced students.


Time for some serious work - writing the ABCD objective. Since I have never written objectives this way before, I am a little apprehensive. I decide that it is a good idea to post the first draft of the objective as early as possible and refine it by the end of the week. I start with:

Given the vocabulary for describing books and films provided in their textbook, adult intermediate students will be able to retel the plot of a book or a film and describe their reactions to it comprehensibly, with reasonable fluency and reasonable accuracy.

Luisa provides some really helpful feedback and reading through the forum discussions I learn a bit more and write my second draft. Then Yuliya jumps in to my rescue and I and end up with:

Given the vocabulary for describing books and films provided in their textbook, adult intermediate students will retel the plot of a book or a film and describe their reactions to it in 20 sentences using at least 10 words from the list. Although mistakes may occur, they will be of such nature that they do not hinder communication.

What has become obvious this week is that, as I have suspected, I will learn as much from my fellow-participants as I will from the weekly readings. Our forum is very lively and people are willing to help each other and provide feedback.


I write the first draft of my main task - the description of one of my groups. This makes me reflect on my teaching situation.

I love working in a language school and I love working with adults. I like the fact that all my students are in class because they chose to be there. Since I don't mark them, they are not afraid of me. They can leave at any time, but they choose to stay. They will choose to stay only if my teaching is good, if my lessons are interesting and if they are making progress. Their ideas about what they need and why they are there are often vague, but they are happy to be there. This is inspiring, but it is also limiting in so many ways. I can't rely on them to be where I want them to be and do what I tell them to do. I can never be sure that they will blog with me or edit a wiki with me. I can't be sure that they have got my back. This project is no exception. How do I know that they will participate? I have got to make sure that it is interesting and answers their needs. Then I just need to wait and hope for the best.


On Thursday I write the second draft of my class description and several more versions of my ABCD objective. I read through the forums and reflect.


I do a webquest using various search engines provided in our weekly readings and post my reflections to the forum. I explore a couple more for good measure. I will definitely go back to American Rhetoric, which provides American public speeches, lectures, debates and there is a section with famous movie speeches. I will also return to the Moving Image Archive to search for movies to share with my students or watch on my own.

And here I am. It is almost 3.30AM here in Belgrade. Tomorrow I will visit my fellow participants' blogs to see what they are posting.

This looks like a solid weekly plan. I will try to stick to it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Week 1 - Welcome to My New Blog

Rainy day...
Photo on Flickr by Kat

Hello everyone. Welcome to my new blog.

My name is Natasa and I am an EFL teacher from Belgrade, Serbia. Right now I am a participant of Building Teacher Skills Through the Interactive Web. Webskills for short. This blog will follow my journey through the course, which is why I have named it Natasa's Webskills Journey. I will post my reflections here at least once a week.

I am not new to blogging. My TEFL blog, which I call simply Natasa's Blog, is four years old. There I post my reflections on teaching, technology and different online courses I take. I am not a very regular blogger, but I really enjoy blogging. That's why I am glad one of the requirements for this course is a weekly post.

As I was creating this new blog, I tried not to get lost in templates and widgets. I love playing with templates and adding widgets, but there will be time for that later. Right now I need to focus on my weekly task.

I am really excited about this course and the scholarship I have won. I am honoured to have been selected, together with a group of highly motivated teachers from all over the world, to participate in Webskills. I am looking forward to learning with others.

So, why do I like blogging so much? I suppose it is because I love writing and telling stories in general. And because I like reflecting on what I do, whether it is teaching or cooking or playing with my child. I believe that reflecting on my teaching will gradually make me a better teacher. Reflecting on this course will help me learn more.

Another good thing about blogging are the connections you gradually form when you comment on other people's blogs and they comment on yours.

As for blogging with students, it could be a good way for them to improve their writing. There are, however, potential problems:

- The students might be shy about blogging online because their language is "not good enough" and they might worry about the mistakes they make.

- They might be worried about their privacy online and might actually feel uncomfortable if people they don't know comment on their writing.

- They might see blogging as 'homework' and try to avoid it.

A possible solution to this problem could be not expecting too much from your students at once. Maybe the teacher should first start with what Campbell calls the Tutor blog. The teacher writes the post and asks the students to comment on it. The teacher could, for example, share an interesting story from her life and ask the students to share similar stories. In order to make sure that the students participate, the teacher should find out what their interests are and post something that they would want to answer to.

Still, I have to say that with a class of reluctant adults, closed forums might be a better solution, at least at the beginning. There the students would feel less worried about their privacy and about 'making mistakes'.