Posts tagged Kathryn Stockett

Administering a “Practice” Quiz over Moodle

The trials and tribulations of getting used to yet another platform such as Moodle. Ah…today was that kind of day!  Moodle has many of the same quirks as I experienced with WebCT but back then I had someone help me at every turn.  Today, all on my own, I was able to upload vocabulary words in multiple choice questions, T/F questions, one short answer and a longer essay question.  I had prepared my students ahead of time for what the 18 vocabulary words would be for this trial quiz.  The item out of 11 questions I was MOST interested in was how my experienced teachers (and inexperienced as well) would use what they learned about blogging with their own students in class. This was an answer that I would have hoped to have gotten with their having read a journal article about two people in India who had tried this out with their classes.  Some of the same problems existed there that exist here in Kazakhstan.

What I didn’t expect to have happen to me was when I opened up the quiz to be taken at precisely at 2:50 this afternoon, nothing seemed to work! Even when I changed the time to 3:00 p.m.  So then I thought I’ll change the time to 2:00 and sure enough that is what opened it up in the narrow window of time that I allowed them to take the quiz. (Maybe my computer in the lab was on Daylight’s Savings time)  Some students really labored over the essay question and it would be good to read them...if only I could access the quizzes that were self-graded because I had given the correct answers for the computer to do the grading.  I even gave 25% to those answers which were partly right, some students were pleased to see even partial credit for a wrong answer.

However, trying to see anything that the students had written in the long essay answer just wasn’t in the cards for me.  I showed one of my students and she helped me get to her activity report.  I was able to see the right and wrong answers she had given.  However, I was not able to see anyone elses.

So, back to the drawing board.  Either I have to learn something else, like Hot Potatoes, or I have to scratch the idea of giving vocabulary and comprehension quizzes on Moodle.  I do like the feature where it scrambles up the questions so that if the person sitting next to them looks over to their computer screen, it would be a different number, different answer.  I can even scramble up the order of the answers for each question.  Pretty slick, but apparently too slick for me.

Anyway, this muddled Moodle problem will soon be solved.  I want it to be because it will certainly save on paper if the teachers themselves are able to use Moodle and then in turn get their students to experiment with doing on-line quizzes.

We shall see, I’ll report tomorrow or the next day what I find out when I had planned to give a REAL quiz on Moodle.  In the meantime, I’m going to turn to the book we are reading for the Book Club, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.  I read it a year ago but I will speed read it now before Thursday.  Maybe the old fashioned way of reading books will stay with us.  Maybe if I don’t get this Moodle quiz figured out before Thursday, I may have to go back to giving a paper version of the REAL quiz to my students.

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Re-reading “Apples are from KZ” a third time

Christopher Robbins certainly knew how to write a good book. I am re-reading his book which is also titled “The Land that Disappeared” but I prefer the one in my blog title above.  I rarely re-read books unless they are very good.  I don’t often watch the same movie more than once or twice. I just believe there are far too many books to read and movies to watch to double up and do it all again. 

Several days ago I just finished reading the New York Times bestseller book “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett which was recommended to me by a friend here in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  I need to discuss this book with her, there are many different layers that need to be sorted out.  For me, it was an emotional book, my friend had termed it “brain candy.” 

Back to Robbins book which makes me laugh because even though it was written several years ago, he nailed so much of what I see and experience every day.  He has a wry, candid way of getting his point across that I can totally agree with him page after page.  The following are examples of what I like about Robbins’ writing:

p. 34 Quote from a middle-aged Kazakh philosopher: “One of the things you have to credit the Soviet system with is education. It was very good, and if you were bright it helped you go all the way, even to Moscow University.  And even the small towns had good libraries.  I began to read the Russian classics, and grew to love and be greatly influenced by Chekhov.”

Over a week ago, the president of this great country of Kazakhstan after giving a speech aimed at KZ students, was asked by a student at another university in Almaty, what he read.  She was a journalist and curious about how she could improve herself.  He answered, Chekhov and Tolstoy.  He also went on to say what else he read but I was struck with how much the Russian authors had informed him in his leadership role of this country.

p. 37 “We Kazakhs have always been clear that it was not the Russians who were to blame for our plight – it was the State. Under the Soviets many Russians were sent here forcibly to work as slave labor in the Gulag.  They were victims, not oppressors.  And we Kazakhs knew that the same applied to all the other nationalities deported here – Chechens, Turks, Germans, Koreans. It was very hard for them – they had nothing and they faced terrible privation.  Perhaps that’s why the Kazakhs became the most tolerant people in the Soviet Union.”

I like the above quote made by the Kazakh philosopher in Robbins’ book.  That is why I love my job here in Almaty as a TEFL teacher and why I love my Kazakh, Korean, Russian and Ukrainian and all the other students in my classrooms.  I don’t see them as separate cultures, I see them as people.

This philosopher went on to say the following as quoted by Robbins:

p. 40 “And there has been a disastrous decline in the education system.  It began in the 1970s when 40 percent of students started failing their exams.  That was considered too many by Moscow so an order came from the top to make the students look good.  The quality of the teaching dropped off.”

Need I write any more about what I am witnessing today in our “westernized” university classroom?  Many of the good English teachers from the villages or towns throughout KZ have fortunately found better paying jobs outside of teaching.  The oil industry that keep Kazakhstan economically viable compared to all the other Central Asian nations, pays heftier salaries than in education.  The best paying teacher jobs for Kazakh citizens are found at my university compared to those other universities that are state run in our oil rich city of Almaty. 

Back to reading “Apples are from Kazakhstan.”

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