Posts tagged Moodle

Semester is FINISHED!

Rejoicing in the fact that I survived another semester of grading papers of my students…they are also thrilled to be done. However, they would not dare show that kind of glee in front of me, that I’m sure of.  I had an interesting group in my one class, one student was from India, another from Japan, a girl from China and finally, one other from Mongolia.  The rest of the class were first year Americans and they were a great group.

The one from India was my top international student, he was wonderful…always a smile on his face, a very pleasant personality. The second one from Japan always wore a scarf around his neck with his parka. I wondered if he was hiding something around his throat.  The one thing I LOVED about him was his deep laugh.  I guess I’m not used to Japanese laughing and he is a fourth-year student so perhaps he picked up other deep throated laughs from his American peers. Anyway, it was always fun to hear his laugh, he too was a very good student

The second one from Japan always wore a scarf around his neck while wearing his winter parka. It kept me wondering if he was hiding something around his throat.  The one thing I LOVED about him was his deep laugh.  I guess I’m not used to Japanese laughing and he is a fourth-year student so perhaps he picked up other deep throated laughs from his American peers. Anyway, it was always fun to hear his laugh, he too was a very good student and giving me multiple copies of papers he kept improving.

My student from China I had failed last semester and she had me again this spring. Maybe that was her mistake but I don’t think there were many other options for her. Apparently, she has some family issues back home to deal with, maybe something that happened to her in her childhood.  She is a mystery, in any case, I was sad that she did not finish the course with pulling out of all her other classes too.

Finally, my one student from Mongolia was a special case all her own.  By all outward appearances, she is very demure, soft spoken and sweet looking.  However, there is something very ugly inside of her.  She may be very smart in math but her idea of writing was to copy from sources and claim as her own.  We have the Turnitin feature for our research papers.  The first paper, she had 51% that was copied.  Generally, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe let go papers that are 10% or lower.  I asked her to re-write the paper in her own words. She did not.

By the time the final, research paper was due, she had only 200 words out of the required 2,000 words.  I had helped her find sources with using better keywords for her topic on outsourcing.  I helped her with an outline that she could work with to show claim and counterclaim for this persuasive paper.  She did not hand in by Moodle her paper and so I called her into my office.  I told her she was failing the class.

She acted surprised at this information of her failing my class. (At mid-semester I had given her a C- which should have been a clue) I said that it would not be fair to pass her if she was not understanding how to do APA formatting style or even not completing assignments.  She had not even alphabetized her bibliography which is a basic thing for any kind of formatting of resources.  She asked how my other international students did in my class.  I told her that some excelled over and above my American students, some were average and some, like her, had to take the class again.

Imagine my surprise, after I had given her the option of DROPPING my class that she sent me a very disrespectful e-mail.  She had told me that she would not be able to handle the extra course financially if she had to take Composition I over again.  I told her that after 12 credits, she doesn’t have to pay any extra money.  I don’t think she felt ashamed with failing, I really think she did NOT care about writing. It perhaps is not part of her culture to read and write and she happens to be very good in her math skills.

Her e-mail directed to me was that I should NOT fail students and that I was a bad teacher. She was going to take this case to the top level…the president of our university. Then she ended it with the “firetruck” word in describing me.  I thought at first that someone else had written this inflammatory and accusatory e-mail.  Come to find out that she took full responsibility for the wording of this message, she said she was angry.

I talked about this case with my department head and he, in turn, talked with her. He told her that she should apologize to me for her negative e-mail which he also found offensive.  I got a second e-mail from her soon afterward that I also have not responded to. She more or less wrote that she was sorry that she worded her first e-mail that way but I have to understand her culture that they get very emotional. Therefore, she was just emoting and that I should allow for that.  Again, I didn’t see her being remorseful for her action of disrespect but I’ll let it go.  I pity the writing teacher who will get her next fall.  They will have to hold her to the deadlines and not allow for her to stream in late to class.  Seems she is on her own time schedule.

Okay, I got that all written out about what has transpired over the last week.  That seems to negate the other GREAT students that I had in this particular class.  It ended well for others with As and Bs and one C.  Two other Americans either dropped or got an F grade.  So, I will have two more classes next semester and that is about right for me. I have much work to do right now with writing MNopedia articles for the Minnesota Historical Society.

Actually, that is what I should be doing right now but this has been a convenient distraction!

 

 

 

 

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Good Friday, Good Day so Far

Thankfully I went through two classes of composition and none of my students pulled any tricks on me on April 1st, at least that I know of.  One student wanted his grade so far for the semester and we just finished week 12, but I don’t think that was an April Fools prank. He sincerely wanted to know his grades for each of his classes, mine included.  Seems strange because we still have four weeks left but I guess that is needed for this one class he is taking.  THAT’s what I should be doing right now in my quiet office today, while no one is around this day off, Good Friday is GOOD! Yes, I should be putting my students’ papers together in their respective folders and figuring out what the first 3/4s of the semester has been for each of my students, grade wise.

This particular student was very helpful and compliant at first and then he turned nasty and disrespectful about a month ago. Enough so that I talked to my supervisor about him…at length in my office.  Now he is all sweet and kind again, back to his old self from the beginning. It seems each student has been taking turns in their small fits of rebellion. Then next, over spring break, I had a very capable student argue with me by e-mail about using the research databases that our university provides. The main objective of this comp class is for students to discover the benefits of academic, peer reviewed journals and NOT to click the google button for everything.  They need to know there is a scholarly approach to some subjects…that is what the university prides itself in.  However, these young 19 year old students have grown up with the click of a mouse to find out info.  They don’t even know what it was like to look up things in stacks of libraries or to open up a 15 pound dictionary or encyclopedia. So, that spat was over but I had blind copied the head librarian to say that this student didn’t think there was anything up to date about precision agriculture.

Then, this past week, I had to write up an academic dishonesty report on one student who handed in his third required paper on human trafficking. It went to the Chancellor of Academic Affairs, to my supervisor, his advisor, etc. As Comp teachers, we have the “turnitin” feature with our Moodle assignments, the closer to 0% you have, the more likely it is the students’ own words.  However, we can allow for up to 10% on the Originality Assessment reports.  Sadly, my one student who I had in TWO classes last semester, who should have known better, came up with 81% of copying someone else’s paper.  He took from ONE paper and not patchwork from other papers all put together…flagrant copying on his part!  I told him he had to do this paper over or he would NOT get his potential 150 points.  THEN, I got an e-mail from his father who lives in southern U.S., copied to all his son’s other instructors, asking how his son was doing.  I didn’t tell him anything because legally, I am not supposed to unless a certain form has been filled out electronically and I’ve gotten the okay from the student.  Whew, I think I got cleared of that…again I notified my supervisor about that.

Well, that is three male students all taking their turns with not behaving right…who will be next in these last four weeks?  I have to be on my toes and make sure that I have all the assignments done right and turned back to them when they hand there next rough draft for Paper #4 to me next Monday.  For now, I am glad that we had Good Friday off today and I’m looking ahead to a good Easter service on Sunday. I’ll play my violin for the first time and hopefully that will go well.  I haven’t played publicly for about 35-40 years so this is a stretch for me…I bought a new violin to be in the university’s orchestra so I might as well use it.

Good Friday…good things are on the way!!!

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Too much of too many people

Yesterday I met with five of my six classes. I just have ONE class today and I need to fill one hour and 15 minutes with activities to keep the time moving. Their Tuesday and Thursday schedule covers the same thing I do in my three 50 minutes classes on Mon. Wed. and Friday. Oy, there is much to learn and DO with kids who don’t want to be taking this class in the first place. That is especially true in my Comp LAB class which is a catch-all place for those students who did not do well in their writing classes in high school. The problem is that I have to have new material for them because I have some of my same students in that LAB that I have in my Comp I class. They don’t want to have things repeated but the repetition would do them some good.

I have one small class of eight students at the very end of my Monday and Wednesday classes. That is where I have one student who from Day One made it clear that she thought she was too good for this lab class. Yesterday she made a “suggestion” that I should NOT say my motto of “everyone to class early, we start early and end early.” She had her reasons and then I told her to talk to those few students who always show up right on time to tell them to get to class earlier. She told me that would be like bullying which is a bad thing to do to other students. I told her that there is a nice and polite way to encourage them to be early or at least on time to class. Here this little 18 year old is letting me know what I should or shouldn’t do and letting me know what is wrong with my teaching while at the same time she rolls her eyes about what I teach and does her passive aggressive act.

Well, the way I can fix that is to keep giving her and the rest of this particular class grammar quizzes. I also suspect that she lifted her first paper and she clearly did not follow instructions. So, I will also give this class a quiz on the syllabus that I put together, clearly she and a few others in this small class have not read it. She has also not gone on Moodle for about a week so that means she has either printed out the syllabus or she doesn’t care to know about it.

I figured out that I have been around too many people with Sunday being filled with my standing behind the booth at the museum. That was our Pioneer Day and I was selling my two history books and one booklet. People mostly came to listen to the old time music but I talked to many people then. So the way I figure it, I have seen and talked to too many people. I need to chill out at home and be away from all this. Maybe it is better to write and not make much money than to teach and make a bit more money as an adjunct teacher. I am invisible to most everyone on campus when they make faculty assembly lists anyway. I guess I am getting the catch-all classes that other comp teachers who are permanent don’t want to teach.

Yes, I am feeling sorry for myself right now. I need to read the revisions of my 85 papers and maybe I will feel better, especially if there are some improvements to what they wrote earlier.

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Kazakh Teachers’ Views about Education in Kazakhstan

I am using the astute writings from my former Kazakh students who are teachers in Kazakhstan’s educational system. They, of anyone, should know what is needed for changes to happen (and quickly). During our Professional Development classes, I had them respond on Moodle to a slideshow I had gotten from a friend of mine who worked at Chevron. Her position was that of facilitating change in different countries by “change management.” She was quite persuasive that things could not continue in “this is the way we have always done it.”  She had been a guest speaker to my MBA classes when I taught in Almaty.  I still had her ppt presentation which is what my ten teachers watched and responded to in the context of thinking about changing management in education. Here are their views:

Student #1 – When I saw the ppt about Change Management, for the first time I thought about the possible “business plan” for the future. I have never thought that the management system in companies like Chevron are so alike the ones we have at schools and there could be any resemblance between schools and companies.

Change Agents? Wow, that sounds very intriguing. Like spies. I think what I’ve learned for these 20 weeks can be very useful not only for me and my colleagues, but also for the school where I will work in future. I know that at first it will be hard to “force” our ideas onto the management and the older teachers with many years of experience; and they won’t listen to us and take our words so easily. We have to show in practice what we have learned and gain respect, and then take some actions in the way changes.

I remember what one of PDP classmates said to me about what her advisor said to her once: “I know that you have better scores in IELTS than the others teachers do, and you are currently having courses about new teaching technologies and can work with computer tools; but this doesn’t mean that you can teach better than they do. They have a HUGE bag of teaching experience and worked methods. That’s why it is better to learn from them how to successfully get the main goals of teaching and teach THEM what you’ve learned at Nazarbayev University at PDP classes”. These were the words of her advisor.

Nevertheless, I think that if a person has something in mind and desire to make it happen, he will do it anyway. But this may need some time and great efforts. I wish good luck to all my group-mates in the “battle” for changes!

Student #2 – During all these months I learned many things that I had never heard before. I used to think that teaching was mostly boring. Actually, it was boring for me when I studied at the institute and had practice at schools.

What I like about the course is I was taught by a professional Western teacher. The first advantage is we had a foreign atmosphere in our lessons. And the second one is we learned about the disadvantages of our Kazakh schools. If we had a professional Kazakh teacher, I doubt if we could deal with that.

Now, it is our turn to show what we were taught, to make change in classroom atmosphere. WE know so many things and can apply any of them at school. We can use surveys (Survey Monkey), WordPress.com for writing, guest invitations for speaking and many other things. The most important is that we should stay in the way even after completion, because there would be no one to help us. And we should learn for ourselves and self-develop. I don’t want years later to meet my group mates, who didn’t use what we learned in PDP with her students. On my part, I will try to do my best to teach what I know to my environment. The majority of the teachers at NIS have been in a foreign country and also know about the modern ways of teaching. Sharing the experiences, we will be able to build a new society at school.”

(to be continued)

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My Main Goals for Teaching in KZ (Part IV)

“What AM I doing in Kazakhstan?” My husband and I think aloud on that question often, but we continue to prevail when the doubts assail.  We survived when we lived and taught in Kyiv, Ukraine for a total of about seven or eight years.  That former Soviet country was good training ground for what we hope to accomplish while living in Astana, Kazakhstan.  The following is more of the report that I worked on last week that has been translated into Russian for the benefit of those working for the Ministry of Education. Perhaps my future goals seem a bit outlandish, even for my American or British friends.  I realize not everyone is enamored by computers or modern technology, they prefer old school methods and sticking to the textbooks.  However, I think that Kazakhstan was created for such a time as this Information Explosion and to capitalize on it because it can join the global competition electronically. Well, read on, I get carried away on this and I think should go out and cross country ski.  The down side of technology is that it can mean a LOT of sitting at the computer and not as much exercise.

“One last note after looking at the Global Competitiveness Report which is relevant to the goal of achieving the 2030 mandate of being in the top 50 of nations in the world.  There are 130 indicators when measuring whether a country is actually in the upper percentiles with the following nine pillars:

  1. institutions
  2. infrastructures
  3. macroeconomics
  4. health and primary education
  5. higher education and training
  6. market efficiency
  7. technological readiness
  8. business sophistication
  9. innovation

As a teacher and designer of the PDP classes, I am concerned with at least four of these indicators: institutions, primary education, higher education and training, technological readiness and innovation.  I know the President of Kazakhstan wants the future students of his university to be using nanotechnologies.  This can only happen if computer technology is brought to all parts of Kazakhstan even to the rural areas.  I can envision teachers using Kindle readers or Nook readers that have “ginormous” libraries to support them.  This avoids the transportation costs of bringing expensive books and textbooks to the farthest reaches of Kazakhstan.

I also can see distance learning being used from the center of Astana to where students have access to video conferencing and using Moodle where they are living in Kazakhstan. The teachers or guest speakers are viewed on screens and these videotapings can be used over again. Communication is handled through forums or chatrooms between teacher and students on the Moodle platform. I can also predict that something like Edusoft with its pre-packaged instructional programs will help teachers who are computer savvy enough to use the lessons and the quizzes. There are custom made tests that are standardized so that the different levels can be accomplished from beginner to advanced.  Fortunately, there is IT support in Russian for all these lessons in English. Also this Edusoft can be modified where the Kazakh language can be used and learned simultaneously alongside the English lessons.”

(to be continued)

 

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Blog Tired and Dog Tired

Today was an eventful day for my students and for me. Earlier I had listened to an American teacher talk to the whole student body about ethics. Very good examples and food for thought.  A kind of challenge to think about what the Kazakh students are learning now, impacts what kind of engineer or doctor they will be in the future.  If they cheat on tests now, what will they be like once they are “professionals?”  Reminded me of the movie we watched several weeks ago “Emperor’s Club.”

I got my adult learning students started on Web Survey Master which has a LOT of GREAT features. Namely that you can ask your respondents more than 10 questions and then when you gather and analyze your data, you can have the choices of pie charts, column or bar graphs or doughnuts.  The best is that all this data can automatically go into a powerpoint. However, you have to manually extract the comments from each question but still, that is quite amazing. Of course this is all on a 30 day trial period.

When I was prepping my 10 students yesterday for our 2 1/2 hours in the computer lab today, poor things, these overworked and underpaid teachers were getting hungry. All this talk of doughnuts, bars and pie (Botakoz reminded me that she likes pumpkin pie) and column charts. Yes, these desperate teachers (not “desperate housewives”) had heard enough talk about food.  So, fortunately I had some extra pumpkin cookies that I had intended to give them once they settled down to writing out their questions for this new survey.  Who says bribes don’t happen from teacher to students?  Works for me.

Were my 10 students ever squirrelly yesterday, I couldn’t shut them up.  But today was the direct opposite, they had work to do and they knew it. But entering the university, they had trouble getting past security because I hadn’t done the proper paperwork.  How could I? The guards needed their names in Russian and I only know their names but NOT in Cyrillic. Today, the students had many assignments waiting for them on Moodle and once past security, they got down to business with creating a second survey.  One was on love, another music, but most stayed with their same research topic.  Some impressed me with embedding YouTube clips or photo images into their questionnaire.  What they won’t experiment with, it is really humbling.  I should be as adventurous as they are.  I guess I am staying one blog step ahead of them, one day at a time.

So, I almost didn’t write this blog tonight because I am sooooo dog tired.  But then I had to write what a commenter mentioned to me about where a lot of blog traffic is here in Kazakhstan.  Check out Your Vision in Kazakhstan. Which reminds me, I sent a survey to my expat friends in Almaty and Astana to find out their impressions about Kazakhstan.  I’ll share that info with you maybe tomorrow when I have more energy.

Tomorrow we will enjoy hearing from a guest lecturer representing the U.S. embassy. I certainly hope the guards let him in along with my six teachers. Never a dull moment with moodles, monkeys and a dog video (check this out, again hat tip to Botakoz). My students make me smile.

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Persuasive Reasons for Kazakhs to Blog (Part II)

Here is a continuation from yesterday’s blog about blogging.  My PDP students had read several articles on reflection and one on blogging.  I am taking their comments from the forum section of Moodle so you can see their thoughts on this topic of blogging.  Helpful to see the different Kazakh perspectives.

Student D – Having read the article offered by our teacher “Augmenting Learner Autonomy through Blogging” and basing on my own experience I can make the following conclusion:

First, blogging is really very educational. When you know that not only your teacher will read what you have written but also your friends and even total strangers, you understand how important and responsible your work is. you choose the theme carefully, check your spelling, vocabulary and grammar lest be ashamed of the mistakes you have made. In this way you improve your language.

Second, blogging develop your cognitive skills (i.e. purpose setting and generating ideas). Once you created a blog, you are to set your purpose: “What are you going to write about?”. Then you must think about your ideas and not spread about all the ideas that come to your mind.

Third, you improve your writing skills as you write for the whole world to see. As a result, you learn how to write a good article and use an appropriate style and appropriate words.

The fourth and one of the most important benefits is increase of motivation. When a student write and know that some people are going to read it and sonebody will approve of his/her ideas and he really wants to share his ideas he becomes motivated and involved. Especially when some of the readers leave a comment and you get feedback you really enjoy doing it.

But there are some (as we see from the article) problems that student have to face when creating and using blogs. First is lack of computers and not everybody has one at home. Second is limited access to internet. I myself face this problem because Ihave no computer at home and at school I have much work to do except blogging. But I hope that by and by the problems will be overcome and everything is going to be excellent.

To sum up what I have written I can say that even though we lack computers and not always have access to internet, all the same we should use the opportunities that blogging can offer us.

Student E – I really liked this article as it describes the major reasons of using the blogs. Blogging is getting more and more important in our modern world. And I am glad that I also have started blogging and can express my ideas and thoughts through it and of course as it was mentioned in the article I will be able to improve my writing skills. It is also interesting for me that in the article it was written that blogs were used as someone’s personal diary online and then it became as one of the meaning of writing. Nowadays blogging is of the most important part of autonomy learning. Talking about autonomy learning, it is assumed as a centre stage of language learning in recent times. It also helps learners to become more independent by making decisions, critical reflection and independent actions, and I totally agree with as now I decide myself what to write in there about. And of course I know that blogging is a big challenge for some reasons especially in the beginning when you are not confident enough of what to write about and how to write. Students in fact are learning to work on their own and some of them are sharing with their experiences, as some students don’t really have computer proficiency and they fail to work on their own, while other have some experience in working with computers, then they can help their peers to get along. As for me I also was a little nervous when I opened my blog and the teacher said “now, you can write” and it was a shock for me as I asked her what I should write about…

Some of our students as I noticed felt confident enough as they started writing so good as it seemed for me that they have been blogging for ages. I know that it always takes time to develop yourself in whatever you start learning. That is why I hope that every time I write in my blog i wil get better.

Student F – Having read this article I had a brilliant idea, why not augment my students autonomy through blogging. If our students create their own blogs in order to discuss or share some actual problems and news, it will enhance the student’s reading and writing skills faster than we do now, of course, if we follow the structure figured out in this article.

There are a lot of people who are autonomy learners, for example, Nazarbayev Intellectual School students augment their learning via reflections on learning English or whatever subject they learn. It seems the same we do through bloggings.

From my point of view, it will help the teachers to make their lessons easier and more interesting through bloggings. On the other hand, students will be encouraged to read and write more. And the blogs created by them own will give them autonomy. So, feeling this autonomy, making one step ahead the students will be close to the teachers. The students will be aware to read more, consequently developing their writing skills. Today, especially when the students are keen on lot of computer games, which can be useful and usefulness. So, why not attract their attention on reading through bloggings, whatever the teachers write or their thoughts on anything.

Today it was a great day to experiment this idea with my different aged students and I analysed that teenage students were more interested than 10-12 year old students. It is clear that teenagers have a lot of themes to discuss with me, relating to the subject, life or family. We teachers do not know what is happening inside of our students family, especially their living conditions. On the contrary, the same questions touch our students too. And when I showed them my own blog they had a big desire to read whatever I wrote. Why not? First they had a time to read it was about our discussion on Human trafficking. They read it, then asked questions on the topic seen on the blog. It was really interesting, they said they would keep reading it at home. When I asked them if they have had an internet access at home, I was glad because everyone had it.

Secondly, today our teachers have big problems on concluding their lessons There are some questions should be asked in order to solve this problem:

– How to conclude the lesson? or Are there any ways to conclude it?

I think lack of time causes such problems. And why not use bloggings for reflections at the end of the lesson, without spending time for that.

Further, the teachers should follow this new technique and it is time to refresh the teaching methods. Moreover, after such bloggings among the teachers and students, the teachers will know what part of the lesson was interesting or vice versa. Or what should we work on to make our lessons interesting and cognitive.

 

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