Saturday, December 20, 2014

Is the tone of the assessment conversation what really matters? (#edchat)

Hashtags: #edchat, #eltchat, #education, #teaching, #learning
Photo attribution

Just read Kilburn’s Predictions for K-12 Education in 2015, and his point about the tone of the assessment changing for the better left me perplexed.

One thing is the “tone of the conversation”, or narrative, and another is the reality of two often diametrically opposing world views about K-12 education put into practice. Has the narrative changed all that much to think that some narrative equates to some concrete change for 2015? And who exactly are those participating in this narrative: teachers, administrators, public leaders, politicians, etc.?

I doubt really that many more teachers are talking about the benefits of formative assessment over summative assessment, which has been discussed at length for some time now in the literature - any decent educational program will reveal this.  And perhaps we might lump administrators into this same group as well.  If teachers and administrators are opening up classroom experiences in ways that make the implementation of formative assessments more transparent, and if this is what is meant by a change in the “tone of conversation”, then Godspeed. This is a good thing, but is it really enough?

Or, has a change in narrative by consensus that occurred in 2014 occurred beyond the level of teacher and administrator? Teachers and administrators within the school can be as transparent as they want, but if this level of transparency does not extend to educational stakeholders outside the school system (i.e., civic leaders, politicians, etc.), what good is it?  We still live in times of standardized testing when it comes to teaching and learning in K-12, so I ask, “Who reached this consensus in 2014?” If this consensus went beyond teacher and administrator, I would love to see some evidence of this.  Kilburn also states,
…during 2014 we have seen a growing consensus on the need for better, fewer assessments that provide timely insights into the teaching and learning cycle (para. 7).
So, moving on from consensus, I will assume that “better" assessments means more formative assessment and less summative assessment?  And I was left scratching my head when I read about the idea of fewer assessments, to the degree that I wonder if he means better (formative and/or summative) assessment and fewer (formative) assessment?  For instance, since formative assessment is ongoing, informal, and an alternative to more traditional approaches to student evaluations, it’s hard to quantify it: checking homework, informal classroom decisions, etc. are examples of formative assessment that I doubt many would suggest we count doing, let alone think we should do less of.  So let’s assume that “fewer” assessments means doing fewer summative assessments.

Doing fewer summative assessments can occur internally or externally, which will depend greatly on who has taken part in the consensus building that occurred in 2014.  Since Common Core is still a reality, can we say that external summative assessments have not changed all that much in 2014?  Sure, there are those who oppose them, but is the opposition all that much greater than what we typically see when any standardized program is being implemented at the national level?  And since there is a big difference between talking about doing fewer assessments and actually doing fewer assessments, perhaps whomever is saying that we should do fewer external, summative assessments isn’t really an indicator that in 2015 that we can expect some meaningful change of the actual number of external, summative assessments that are being applied. Yet, Kilburn remains the optimist as he predicts,
I believe that in 2015—fueled by the ways that technology can make assessment data a powerful tool for personalizing learning—we will see a more positive and productive conversation about how assessment data can be used to provide more timely, useful feedback for teachers and students.  
So I ask,
  1. Which educational stakeholders will make this realization in 2015 that technology affords better assessment data for personalized learning?
  2. Are we talking about formative assessment, summative assessment, or both?
  3. Are we talking about personalized learning or differentiated instruction, since there is much more literature on and I would say more useful to discuss the latter.
  4. How will technology (through learning analytics) conjoin formative and summative assessments, both internal and external, using both qualitative and quantitative data in such a way that best benefits each learner?
  5. How will learning analytics be shared among all educational stakeholders and for what specific purposes?
The narrative I would like to see among all educational stakeholders would include seeking answers to the various questions that I pose.  The tone of a conversation is only as good as an end result.  Reaching a consensus is an outcome of putting into practice an idea that came from first having a change in narrative.  I want more for 2015…I want more than a change of tone of the assessment conversation, but a more specific yet contextual and open narrative of the differences in assessment and concrete plans that reveal timely and purposeful learning analytics to better transform each learner into more productive, global citizen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Desk app for Mac: Initial post and reaction
Initial purchase

I just purchased Desk and am now testing the app on my MacBook Air, mid-2012.  I particularly like the option of uploading directly to a blog (most popular blog sites are supported); but in my case, had a slight issue getting started.  I have a blogger account with the address,, but since I reside in Mexico, this same URL automatically changes to  I tried entering the .mx URL when setting up my blogger account in Desk, but to no avail.  It wasn’t until I entered the .com URL that everything worked just fine.  So, food for thought to those in a similar situation.

Initial reaction

Things that I like about this app for far...
  1. Streamlined interface.
  2. Automatic numbering/bullets just by entering a number or bullet point…no need to push a formatting button.
  3. Automatic resizing of text when adjusting window size.
  4. Streamlined process for uploading to personal blog.
  5. Simple word formatting like underline, bold, and italics just be using hot keys or intuitive popup mini toolbar that appears once text is selected.  Although using hot keys to format text is standard these days, this app does not include fixed icons that takes up space.  One of the attractive features of this app is the minimalistic approach it takes by not including tool bars that take up screen real estate and distract from the overall writing experience.  Again, when you select text, a mini toolbar appears for most common formatting features one would need.
Two things that I miss already (have had the app only for about 30 minutes): 1) automatic spellcheck and 2) a way to insert an image using a URL.  I just tweeted @DeskPM about this and will post there response.

What do you think?  What’s your experience with this app?  Is it something that you find useful?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#Edudemic authors, why hide?

Edudemic (#edudemic) was created in 2010 and has since grown into one of the most popular destinations to cover teaching, learning, and how technology positively shapes our education.  They publish various types of posts:
  • Research and evidence-driven strategies for professional and self-improvement
  • Expert guides and how-tos for the newest education apps
  • News re-caps of the most important updates for each week
  • Compilations of the most useful edtech tools and tips
  • Reviews of valuable and innovative products for educator
  • Special features such as college reports
I have written for Edudemic in the past (image) and have shared many great stories related to education.  But today, as I was perusing the site, I came across a post that I wanted to share. I noticed (for the first time) that the "author" of the post was listed as Edudemic Staff.

In this particular Edudemic post, I happened to take issue with the narrow definition of the term scaffolding; but more importantly, the bigger question is whether an educational website like Edudumic should post ideas anonymously.

The term anonymous can be defined as
  1. without any name acknowledged, as that of author, contributor, or the like.
  2. of unknown name; whose name is withheld.
  3. lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction
By listing the author as Edudemic Staff, ideas then get linked to the entire Edudemic organization and not to any particular author(s).  From an organizational standpoint, what's the benefit for doing this?  From an individual standpoint, what's the benefit?

As in a school, Edudemic's identity, reputation, etc. is directly related to the efforts of it's individuals.  What's better for the organization, to have a reader disagree with an individual (author) or with the entire organization?

As an individual author, what advantage is there posting one's ideas as Edudemic Staff versus listing one's own name?

When I have posted to Edudemic, I would never have considered spending the time to post an idea if my name weren't associated with the idea.  My rationale was (and still is) that posting to Edudemic was a good opportunity to share my ideas to a readership that also might subsequently lead to connecting with other individuals.  Those who read my posts could also make a value judgment on the validity, reliability, and level of bias of my ideas - they could consult my online identity and judge for themselves how credible (or not) my thoughts and opinions were.  I think this is a valuable consideration that readers of Edudemic lose when posts are published under the veil of Edudemic Staff.

A possibility: One possible reason for posting as Edudemic Staff is to give the impression that there are more authors involved in publishing than there actually are.  If this is the case, what's worse? 1) A blog with the same (or limited number of) authors or 2) not knowing who wrote the blog?  I would say the latter.  If the problem is having a limited number of authors, the answer is not posting ideas anonymously. 

  1. Should websites like Edudemic post ideas anonymously?
  2. From an organizational standpoint, what's the benefit of posting ideas as Staff?
  3. From an individual standpoint, what's the benefit of posting ideas as Staff?
  4. From an organizational and individual standpoint, what's the benefit of posting ideas using the author's name? 
  5. What's better for the individual and/or organization, a reader disagreeing with an idea posted as Staff or an idea where the author's real name is revealed?
  6. How can organizations promote open authorship in online spaces?
  7. What are possible reasons for posting ideas as Staff?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ELT Live #7: Questions from future English language educators

ELT Live #7 is scheduled for tomorrow where my applied linguistics group will have their second opportunity this semester to participate in a live hangout on air (HOA) - see their first attempt from last month.  Questions from the show notes have been percolating all week as educators from around the world have been both asking and answering questions related to TESOL.  Our friend Maria Colussa even posted to her blog a detailed reflection!

Once the recording has been posted to YouTube, I will embed the recording to this blog post as well as to the ELT Live archive page. You are also encouraged to visit the ELT Live main page to find a more complete video archive along with Twitter feeds for each talk.  If you wish to find out more about ELT Live, you are encouraged to join the ELT Live Community.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Matching the needs of the learner with the expectations of the teacher (@teachpitch)

TeachPitch asks, @bnleez thank you for tweeting! We'd love to hear your take on how we best map & match the #learning needs of #teachers. Do let us know:)

Let's assume a formal educational context where course objectives are stipulated beforehand, based on curricular goals.  Create a learning map (e.g., Google sheet) that is shared by all students.  In it, course objectives and any other expectations the teach has can be included.  Then, set up column titles that students can fill out (one row per student): student name, interests, needs, goals, strengths, weaknesses, individuals or public websites students feel comfortable with for getting additional help, any social media contact information, etc.  Depending on the maturity level of the students, this information might be a public document or private, and teachers may wish to obtain this same information by having students respond individually.  But there should also be a way for students to periodically check in with the teacher about how the class is going: particular things students like, dislike, find easy, find difficult, and suggestions as to what students need or how they prefer to engage.  This allows the teacher to "check the pulse" of the class throughout so that changes to teaching practice and/or learner tactics can be made more promptly.  

This is one way to map and match learning needs with the expectations of the teacher.

English Language Teaching (ELT) Lesson Planning and Assessment (#eltlive, #keltchat)

I enjoyed today's #eltlive discussion on lesson planning.  The main takeaway for me was how to associate lesson planning around the idea of assessment.  One of the questions I posed was how can lesson plans be assessed, which shifted the conversation to the importance of assessing students during the implementation of the lesson plan (i.e., formative assessment).

Assessing students

Comments were made about how we receive feedback from students and how we typically reflect in action, to borrow from Schon (1983). The conversation included the dichotomy of covering content by strictly sticking to the lesson plan and being flexible with the lesson plan based on how students are performing in class.  And although this relates to assessing students indirectly, it doesn't exactly reveal how we plan lessons around the assessment of students.

I tend to think of lesson planning as being a backward design (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005; Popham 2008).  We plan our lessons around assessments first (presumably based on course objectives), then decide on the most appropriate learning sequence.  By deciding on assessments first, we prepare a "road map" that frames the journey students are to take in order to achieve particular outcomes (whether these outcomes are part of the curriculum or pre-determined by the language teacher and students).  This approach to assessment is the opposite of planning a lesson sequence first, then thinking later how to assess students on what was covered in prior classes.  In a backward design, the point is to "uncover" content and not merely cover it.

Assessing the lesson plan

Throughout today's discussion, I also kept thinking about how others might assess their lesson plans (I ask because I don't do nearly enough of this).  Assessing lesson plans can take on three forms: 1) assessing the lesson plan before implementing it, 2) assessing the lesson plan while implementing it, and 3) assessing the lesson plan after implementing it.  Assessing before the class might involve sharing and collaborating around a lesson plan with colleagues, students, admins., or any other education stakeholder around course objectives, materials or technologies used, among others.  Assessing during the class is not necessarily the same as assessing students as mentioned earlier, but rather would include reflection in action in terms of students' actual behavior and how one originally planned students would behave before class.  And finally, assessing after the class would not only be an individual reflection (reflection on action) on students' actual behavior vs. planned behavior, but could also be a shared experience with others (e.g., via social media).  All three ways to assess a lesson plan include distinguishing between intentional and incidental student behaviors that are either favorable or unfavorable.   

One idea I heard repeatedly was that many of us know when students are engaged, on task, etc. which we then can assume to mean that the lesson plan went well...and this quite often might be the case.  But I have oftentimes been surprised to finish a lesson, think that all went well, only to find out (after asking students) that it did not go quite as well as I had originally hoped.  It's not a stretch to acknowledge that misinterpretations can exist when it comes to the signals students provide in class and assumptions we place around those signals.

I always appreciate those who take part in these open, online discussions (like #eltlive), whether they are HOAs, Twitter feeds,  or through some other means because it gives me perspective and awareness that teaching in isolation does not have to be the norm and that professional learning opportunities continue to be at our fingertips.

(Language) Learning is Mainly About Engagement.

A recent response about my current feelings about (language) learning and purposeful engagement...

Let me start by saying that I have not seen in action, and am only commenting on the post made in EDUKWEST.

I guess that I am a little surprised to see that the three key trends seen by EDUKWEST are personalized, effective, and efficient learning. I get effective and efficient learning, but it seems that personalized learning is practically inherent in any open, online experience. One trend that I am surprised not to hear much about is engagement.

The main problem that addresses is the difficulty in using authentic content based on research that supports the notion that learning must be organized in order for it to be efficient (and I don't doubt that such research exists). But is systematic learning through authentic and purposeful engagement realistic?

If language learners want systematic language learning experiences they can go to school for that. Perhaps more startups should focus on the authentic (and purposeful) engagement piece more and the value of learning an additional language much in the same way one learns the mother tongue. If they get the engagement right, the effectiveness, efficiencies, and personalization (which have more to do with the individual learner) will fall into place.

Looking at learning in general, the trends favor engagement (how we communicate with each other and for what reasons) over effectiveness, efficiencies, and personalization. I would argue that language learning is no different.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What are your suggestions for changing a "teacher-centered class" to a "student-centered" class?

I read with great interest the LinkedIn forum thread of What are your suggestions for changing a "teacher-centered class" to a "student-centered" class? I was curious what I might find by using Dedoose (Dedoose Support) to conduct a discourse analysis on the entire thread.

I include my brief analysis in the video below.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Composition (3rd Semester): Group Writing Task

Group: Composition (3rd semester)
Time: 50 minutes
Task: As a group, listen to the above video as many times as you wish and write a single paragraph describing the essence of the message (idea), but in your own words.  Create the paragraph using Google Drive and project the text onto a large screen so that the entire group can view it. Make edits to the text however you'd like, and include a list of those who contributed to this task (first names only) below the single paragraph.  Once you have completed the text and have included your names, choose one person to sign into Google, and upload your work as a comment to this blog post.

My Reflection

To view 5th semester's outcomes and my reflection...

Composition (5th Semester): Group Writing Task

Group: Composition (5th semester)
Time: 50 minutes
Task: As a group, listen to the above video as many times as you wish and write a single paragraph describing the essence of the message (idea), but in your own words.  Create the paragraph using Google Drive and project the text onto a large screen so that the entire group can view it. Make edits to the text however you'd like, and include a list of those who contributed to this task (first names only) below the single paragraph.  Once you have completed the text and have included your names, choose one person to sign into Google, and upload your work as a comment to this blog post.

My Reflection

To view 3rd semester's outcomes and my reflection...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Applied Linguistics Group Can Hang!

I had the pleasure today to hangout with other EFL/ESL educators (via Google+ Hangouts on Air - HOAs) along with my 7th semester, applied linguistics group to discuss how we feel about portfolios and sharing work openly online.  We also discussed how feedback and error correction might take place and different rationales for doing so.

After today's HOA, I immediately began thinking about how we might schedule future sessions since my group really enjoyed the experience.

I would like my students taking applied linguistics this semester to leave comments below regarding any topics we might discuss in our next session, and anything else about today's HOA that you'd like to share.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pre-Session Meetup (ELT live)

This open meetup is to discuss future HOAs with ELT Live and my applied linguistics group. It's scheduled for this Sunday at 7:00 AM.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TILL Hangout On Air: Open Courseware and Open Educational Resources

Join the Teachers for Interactive Language Learning (TILL) Hangout on Air tomorrow where we'll discuss open courseware, OERs, and open education in general.

Join meeting:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Participatory Action Research

Does the image below represent the notion of participatory action research?  What's missing?


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Learning technologies for English for academic purposes (EAP) classes

Here's a rundown of learning technologies I plan to use next semester.


​I'll be trying Schoology for the first time this semester for the three courses that I plan to teach this fall (2014): applied linguistics, composition (3rd semester), and composition (5th semester).  All of the resources for the three courses will reside both within Schoology as well as outside of Schoology: public websites, virtual library databases, etc.

Google Drive

Google Drive (documents) will be used within Schoology where learners will be able to create the written word as well as collaborate and cooperate with each other.  As their instructor, I will also be able to interact with their creations and ideas as well.

Google+ Hangouts and Communities

Most ad hoc videos created throughout the semester will be recordings of Google+ Hangouts on Air that will be posted as Google Events within the TILL Community.  Also, certain classes may also involve Google+ Hangouts on Air (such as poetry readings) so that learners have exposure to authentic audiences for their classroom performances.  All authentic performances will also be recorded so that learners can self-assess and use it potentially as a performance-based teacher portfolio.

Scrivener for Mac and Dropbox

Throughout the semester I will be putting together my thoughts and experiences together using Scrivener (for the applied linguistics course only).  Periodically, I will be compiling the data in Scrivener to a PDF file which will be shared to Dropbox (and accessible to learners via Schoology).  This will allow learners to not only have access to information for reviewing content covered in class, but also will give them the opportunity to provide feedback to the document itself.

These are the learning technologies that I plan to use next semester in order for my learners to be more engaged with the content and each other.  My intent is also to be as accessible  as possible as I anticipate using not only my MacBook Air but various mobile devices to access information and student communications related to the three courses.

What learning technologies are you currently using or that you plan to use in the future?  To what end?




Sunday, May 18, 2014

Performance-based assessment in action...into action

A very thoughtful post Schneider in Performance-based assessment in action. My response I particularly appreciate the argumentative essay rubric and accompanied the blog post.  My response...

Given the academic prompt above, and thinking in terms of putting this into practice...

1. Are performance tasks standardized throughout the institution?  What flexibility is there for educators to adapt (or differentiate) academic prompts (performance tasks) around a particular classroom context?
2. How do educators share in the planning, implementation, and assessment of their respective outcomes from these performance tasks?  In other words, are performance tasks (planning, implementation, and assessment) shared publicly?
3. How do performance tasks connect learners with the global community?  How do learners interact with individuals outside their own classroom?
4. How are standards (e.g., CCSS) referenced throughout the process of planning, implementing, and assessing a performance task?
5. How are professional development opportunities embedded within the process of planning, implementing, and assessing performance tasks?
6. How much time is spent on a performance task, both inside and outside the classroom?  What other resources are required?

Certainly, the initial blog post above sets the stage for putting performance-based assessment into action, but the actual outcomes of a given performance task will depend in large part how one answers the six questions above.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Limerick Poetry Reading

For those taking Composition this semester, in order to fulfill the online portfolio requirement, you'll need to embed your poetry readings to your personal blog.  We'll discuss how to do this in class, but it should look something like what I have below...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Poetry reading: Limericks

This Thursday, I'll be conducting a poetry reading with my pre-service, English language educators via a Google+ hangout on air. You may attend this open poetry reading by visiting Teachers for Interactive Language Learning (TILL), and select Event to see all upcoming events.  Or go directly to the event page.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Mitra Debate: Research vs. Teaching Practice

I read ELTJam meets Sugata Mitra today and found some interesting comments that I thought I might tease out.  My comments today are based mainly on Robinson's text as many of the YouTube videos I was not able to open at the time of this writing.

I commend Robinson for taking the time to conduct this interview with Mitra in revisiting some of the issues around his research and how many EFL educators perceive his research.  Then taking the time to post the interview with some journalistic tones that emerge throughout his text.  Overall, I get what he's after: to bring forward some of the controversial issues that have been floating around the web, along with sufficient dousing of editorial comments throughout.

But there are moments in this text that left me scratching my head, followed by a comment from Nicola that prompted me to ask myself, What is journalistic writing as it pertains to this blog post? I realized that this question and the reasons for me scratching my head were related, so I wish to explore this relationship...and yes, I might sprinkle in a few editorial comments of my own as well. :)

Nicola really loves Robinson's piece...

I love this piece! I am choosing to comment on the article as a piece of journalism rather than the questions raised because there are so many and worth a longer time to consider.
But I wanted to say, on first reading, as a piece of journalism this blew me away. I really care about writing – maybe more than I care about ELT in some ways and this seems to me like pretty groundbreaking journalism. It’s not just an interview/blog post…it’s creative non fiction with video. Stand back a minute and look at the skill that went into presenting this in this way. It’s awe inspiring – really.

She may be able to divorce language with content, but it's not as easy a task for me. But I appreciate her comment as it made me take another look at this post from a slightly different perspective: fact vs. opinion.

The Road to Newcastle

Since I was unable to ever view the recording, my commentary is strictly related to Robinson's text.  His use of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person is distracting and presumptuous at times.  This section is mainly based on opinion...after two paragraphs he introduces his first report by quoting Mitra which was his describing how he ended up becoming a teacher and his motivations...

How to make money. … How to make money doing the least amount of work as possible.

Then Robinson's response throws me off...

There it is in black and white: the root of the whole problem. From those early days would come a quest for economic efficiency straight out of the neoliberal manual for the automation of labour, and the root of the eventual demise of teaching as a profession.

I think if you ask any teacher, most would agree that summer vacations, holidays, etc. (time off) is one of the perks of being a teacher.  Isn't that what Mitra's saying?  And I think in most countries, few teachers would say that they got into the teaching profession because of the money.  How does this statement get construed to Mitra being the "devil in disguise" (aka a neoliberal)? Can anyone argue his investment into educational research as not being work?  And do we need to compare this with the amount of work found by a "traditional" teacher?  Finally, even if he did have horrible intentions when getting into the profession...who cares?  Isn't what he's doing now more relevant?

Then, Robinson shifts from a strict personal opinion to being diplomatic.

But it’s a little facile to read too much into it, isn’t it? What’s more, I agreed with him, as you can hear in the video. And I think many other people would agree, too. Who wants to work inefficiently? Who wants to work more than they have to? Do teachers? Do we feel that it’s the teacher’s lot to work too hard? Do we have some kind of martyr complex? Is that why some people can’t even start to entertain the thought that our role might end up different (or diminished)?

This sudden shift threw me.  I'm used to reading either an opinion piece from start to finish (e.g., persuasive/argumentative piece); reporting that is more diplomatic throughout (e.g., an objective balance between various sides of the argument); or presenting facts, like something Mitra said, followed by a comment (an opinion).

East vs. West

The first paragraph is more reporting, but then in the second paragraph...

What I’d hoped to get here was some sense of just how bad the conditions in a place needed to be in order for the possibility of ever getting a teacher there to be ruled out.

This says a lot.  I'd argue that having this discussion was not at all about how bad conditions would need to be to take any kind of action to improve teaching and learning.  The presumption here is that the result leads to a teacher being ruled out (Robinson does this later as well), which I do not subscribe to.  Robinson continues on which leads to the following questions...

What if the system is actually broken? What then?

I'll just say that every classroom has something that is broken, and that this premise goes a lot further in getting to better solutions that simply asking a overarching, dichotomous question that requires a complex answer.

Better than Nothing

I worked hard to follow Robinson's logic here, but ends by posing two questions:

Are those who agree with him [Mitra] simply giving up too easily?

Or are those who don’t simply too idealistic (or, maybe, naive)?

I commend Robinson for trying to simplify the matter, but I just don't follow.  I think we (the TESOL community) are better off having been exposed to Mitra's research. I think it brings up important questions like how can EFL educators create learning environments where students can learn more on their own, and then assist them more efficiently and effectively in matters they are unable to learn on their own.  Robinson's questions seems to again attempt to simplify a complex scenario.  And whether or not a teacher agrees with the outcomes of Mitra's research specifically (or him personally) does not mean that the research itself is irrelevant.   

The Neoliberal Question

Robinson states, "I’ve taken the liberty of pulling out some of the choicest quotes from this section and displaying them without context, as that’s what’s likely to happen in blog comments and on Twitter anyway..."  In other words, he might as well post isolated comments that are easily misconstrued since everyone else is doing it. Robinson goes on to list six "choice quotes" (again, going by text only since the YouTube video does not open):

  1. How Mitra feels about the profession of a postman is irrelevant.

  2. If Mitra is saying that teachers cannot be replaced, and that schools can never disappear, then what's the problem?  What side of the argument is this statement on?

  3. I have no idea as to the relevance of this "choice quote".

  4. In other words, are educators putting their time to good use when students can learn the same content without the help of the teacher? Students should learn what they can on their own (using the objects available to them), so that educators can take students to the next level.  Wouldn't Mitra support this idea?  I think so. How would one support an argument against this idea?

  5. Any educator who is teaching a student something that they could just as easily learn themselves (with no teacher intervention), and this behavior represents a singular teaching method, should be replaced (by either man or machine - using gender-specific language for effect).  Am I being unkind?  To the educator who is not adding value to the educative experience, yes.  To the learner, no. 

  6. See comment five above.

A Theory about English Language Teachers

Robinson concludes, "non-native teachers of English from around the world; in the anti camp: native speakers from Britain. Is this another battle line in the debate – East vs. West?"  Comparing native/non-native speakers and East vs. West is like comparing apples with oranges.  The logic is all over the place.  Stick to one point and unpack it.  If it's a native/non-native thing, stick to that.  If it's an East/West thing, stick to that.  To answer one of Robinson's questions, yes, I think our community can be divided at times in terms of expectations individuals have between the perceived notion of native and non-native speaker teacher.  But the way to remove this division is to stick to the nuances of issues and avoid generalizing (stereotyping) groups of people.  We should be beyond the native vs. non-native speaker teacher debate by now to one that is more about what is and is not working in the English language learning classroom.

On Evidence

I completely agree with Robinson here.

The Edge of Chaos

Robinson started his conclusion well...

From our conversation, I, at least, did get something of a clearer sense of what makes Sugata Mitra tick: a belief that we’ve let control go too far; that if we can loosen that control, learning will happen, and it will happen in a better way; and that, in some cases, the way to relinquish that control might be to...

I was with him all of the way, until he finished with...

...get rid of the teacher altogether.

What?  Why must the end be "get rid of the teacher altogether"?  Why can't the answer be somewhere in the middle?  Why can't the answer be something like teachers taking a closer look at their teaching practice and adopt and adapt as necessary as they recognize that students can learn a lot more on their own than we sometimes give them credit for. 

I know why...Educators, at times, misunderstand research design for teaching method.  Yes, research should be rooted in pedagogy.  Yes, there should be a link between research and teaching and learning.  But to Robinson's point about evidence, educators should take research (evidence) and compare and contrast how the findings relate to their own teaching and learning (local) context. This should be done without feeling that a particular research design, under a particular research setting, is synonymous in application across an infinite set of local learning environments that may exist.

The Mitra debate is as much about the role of research and teaching practice as it is about Mitra and his research.  It's a worthy debate and one that is likely to continue.

Photo Attribution (Steve Jurvetson)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

IHAQ#4 on EdTechTalk

IHAQ#4 on EdTechTalk (Google+ Community) begins later today.  Past questions that have led to potential questions for this week:

Featured Question:
From  +Paul Allison   via

What would a K-12 MOOC have in it? What connections would it nurture? Would teachers codesign it with students? Do they exist?

Other Questions That May Be Addressed:

From +Benjamin L. Stewart 
How can instruction and assessment (not accreditation) "live as one" within an online course.

Why does Mitra anger so many in education?

Curious, is it possible to pull info (using a hashtag) from blog posts without sharing in Twitter, facebook, Google+, etc? 

From +Clarissa Bezerra 
Best ways to approach/handle teenage smart-phone use/addiction <nervous-thumbs syndrome> :) in the classroom?

How can assess (and accredit) rhizomatic tasks in higher education? or, it is conflicting? 

Teachers are subverting education policy rubbish to ensure children have creative learning experiences! Good! #eduquestion time

Possible follow-up on last week's question

Friday, April 25, 2014

Parts of a thesis

Refer to the following when developing your thesis paper:

Parts of a manuscript (APA, 2001, pp. 10-29) SampleSample two

  • Title page

  • Abstract

  • Introduction (Introduction to APA)


  • Method (Express the appropriateness of the method and the reliability and the validity of the results.)


    • Participants or subjects

    • Instruments (Apparatus/Measures)

    • Design and procedure (Data collection)

  • Results


    • Data analysis

    • Tables and figures

    • Statistical presentation

    • Effect size and strength of relationship

  • Discussion (conclusions and recommendations)Multiple Experiments (if applicable)


    • Evaluate and interpret implications

    • Problem choice (limitations)

    • Levels of analysis

    • Application and synthesis


  • References

  • Appendix


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How can assessment and instruction live as one? (#eduquestion)

[caption id="attachment_1148" align="alignright" width="300"]Attribution: Attribution:[/caption]

During I have a question #2 (see video below), several questions were addressed (using the Twitter hashtag #eduquestion); one in particular that I posed and one which I would like to discuss in more detail here was, How can assessment and instruction (and not accreditation) live as one within an online course?

When I say, accreditation, I mean receiving grades, diplomas, certificates, etc. in formal education; and badges, certificates of completion, etc. in informal education.  Albeit important, I'd like to exclude the topic of accreditation from what I'd like to cover in this post and also will not need to make any real distinction between informal and formal education as I think my overall thesis applies to both.

TeacherRefresher presents a concise outline (PowerPoint presentation) of the differences between assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning.  If assessment and instruction are to live as one, some combination of these three types of assessment usually exists.

In an online learning environment, assessment of learning might be receiving constructive criticism from one's peers or outside experts (not just the instructor, trainer, facilitator, etc.) pertaning to what a learner understands (content) and can do (process and product).  Making the learning process as transparent as possible yields (i.e., through online blended learning scenarios) more dynamic interaction where assessment of learning can more effectively take place.

Assessment for learning can be linked to assessment of learning by allowing the instructor to reflect on learner progress to see what future changes in learning designs or instruction are needed, and what learning tactics are needed on the part of the student.  Perhaps a new video or different problem-solving activity is in order.  Maybe a subsequent review or more didactic learning session is required.  It's been my experience that any changes to a learning design and/or learning tactics be considered as a negotiation between instructor (trainer, facilitator, etc.) and learner through ongoing reflection (i.e., reflection-in/on-action).

Assessment as learning takes summative and formative assessment one step further by allowing learners to begin the process of matching individual goals with institutional or organizational goals (e.g., syllabus, curriculum, company mission/vision statements, etc.).  For instance, online courses with the various social media tools available allow learners to more actively design their own rubrics (as assessment tools), which in-and-of-itself gives learners a chance to interact and think critically about how they learn best, and how to best approach their individual weaknesses.

In all three examples - assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning - instruction is "baked in".  Many of the open, online courses that I have experienced (we used to call them distance courses before MOOCs came along), learners really had to take it upon themselves to see how these three types of assessment fit within their own learning experience - course facilitators tended to lecture and attendees conducted discussions as they pleased.  In formal educational settings, assessment (along with accreditation like grades etc.) is typically forced onto the learner, which too tends to interfere with finding the right mix of this assessment trilogy.

Regardless if in a formal or informal educational setting, recognizing that assessment and instruction are not mutually exclusive but rather reciprocal and iterative throughout the learning experience does away with the antiquated notion that instructors must first teach learners (or students must learn something first), then assess what students (theoretically) have learned later (i.e., two separate and isolated processes).  Online learning, with its inherent potential for interaction and transparency, embraces assessing of/for/as learning so that both intentional and incidental learning can emerge in more effective, effecient, and engaging ways.

What do you think?  How does assessment and instruction intertwine within an open, online course?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Narrowing down a research topic


Narrowing down a research topic

Selecting a topic (handout): Move from an everyday problem that you would like to investigate (stage 1) to defining a specific subject, perspective, and vantage point that defines your research topic (stage 2).  The final stage (stage 3) is to remove yourself from the personal domain of refining the topic of interest to the formal world of academia.  In this final stage, switch from everyday language to technical terminology used in a particular academic discipline (e.g., applied linguistics). See list of possible research topics in applied linguistics below as a guide. Source: The Literature Review

Merge your topic with an area of linguistic focus: a) individual skills (i.e., reading, writing, listening, speaking), b) grammar, c) vocabulary, d) or some combination of the aforementioned (e.g., reading and writing, listening and speaking, speaking and vocabulary, etc.). 

Moving from a topic to questions (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 2008)

Brainstorm a set of questions from a variety of perspectives, beginning with asking who, what, when, where, but focusing on how, and why.  Then continue brainstorming through the following types of questions:
  • Topic history

    • Ask questions about developmental context.  How has this problem, technique, method, material, etc. changed over the years?  Why has it changed over the years? etc. 
  • Structure and composition

    • How does your topic relate to a bigger context?  What is the composition of your topic?  How do the pieces fit together?
  • Categorization

    • How can your topic be grouped together?  How does your topic compare and contrast with topics within the same or similar category.
  • Positive to negative questions

    • Turn positive questions to negative questions.  Why have wikis not become a prevalent web tool in today's language classroom?
  • What if... questions
    • What if all language teachers had to use wikis with their learners?
  • Questions from sources
    • Search primary research articles and find questions for further research.  Or tailor research questions from primary research articles to local research topic interests.  Find questions from outside sources that allow you to fill the literature gap so that what you investigate adds to the body of knowledge that currently makes up the field.

Moving from questions to a problem

To move a question to its significance, try using the following prompts:
  • I wish to learn more about...(a topic).
Here are some examples with key words (nouns deriving from verbs) italicized...
  • I am studying teachers' beliefs about formative assessments and related teaching techniques.
  • I am working on why students are reluctant to speak English in class.
  • I am trying to learn about teaching covert grammar and how students feel about different related teaching techniques.
Add an indirect question (in bold) to your topic to indicate what you don't know or would like to understand better...
  • Example: I wish to learn more about _________ because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how _________.

  • I am studying teachers' beliefs about formative assessment because I want to find out how students feel about related teaching techniques

  • I am working on why students are reluctant to speak English in class because I want to find out what authentic materials I might use to promote better interaction among students

  • etc.
Build research questions specifically around the indirect question (bold text) that you have created above.

So what?

Your topic must be interesting to you, the researcher, but must also be interesting to others in the field.  Add to your topic and indirect question the significance of your research.
  • Example: I wish to learn more about __________ because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how _________ in order to __________.

  • I am studying teachers' beliefs about formative assessment because I want to find out how students feel about related teaching techniques in order to demonstrate the role of formative assessment in the English language classroom. 

  • I am working on why students are reluctant to speak English in class because I want to find out what authentic materials I might use to promote better interaction among students in order to place less emphasis on the coursebook as a syllabus

  • etc.
Moving from a topic to questions involves a three-part process: 1) stating what you want to learn more about, 2) tagging an indirect question to your topic (beginning with a because clause), and 3) concluding with the significance of your research (an in order to clause).

Moving from questions to a problem

Reflect on your topic-to-question statement:
  • Topic: I wish to learn more about...

  • Question: because I want to find out what/why/how etc....

  • Significance: (Reflect on the reader's point of view.): in order to...
First, distinguish between a practical problem and a research problem...
  • Practical problem: Students are afraid to speak in class.

  • Research problem: How can I provide feedback to students in such a way that they feel more confident to speak English with their peers?

  • Research solution:  Provide individual feedback when requested during the task, and group feedback once the task has been completed.

  • Practical solution:  Avoid overcorrection or providing too much feedback to students.
A problem consists of a condition and a cost or consequence.
  • (topic) I am studying teacher feedback (question #1 & condition) because I want to find out when giving feedback allows students to feel more confident when speaking L2 with their peers (significance, question #2, & cost or consequence in order to answer the bigger question of how teacher intervention can either promote or discourage student's oral production in class.

The first question (the condition) helps answer the second question (the cost or consequence).

Example: Knowing when to give feedback that allows students to feel more confident when speaking with their peers (question #1 or condition) addresses the bigger question of how teacher intervention can either promote or discourage student's oral production in class (question #2 or cost/consequence). 

Here are additional tips when searching for a problem to research:
  • Ask teachers, students, administrators, and other experts in the field about problems they face related to teaching and learning an additional language.

  • Search primary research articles for related problems to find relevant examples.

  • Begin with a problem at the onset of your research, but understand that research problems may morph or emerge in different forms as one conducts a study.
Unit of Analysis

Lesson 1-5 Units of analysis
Possible Research Topics in Applied Linguistics 

  • Grammar

    • Overt/cover
    • Implicit/explicit
    • Chomsky's Universal Grammar

  • Bilingual education

  • Classroom discourse

  • Corpus linguistics

  • Cognitive linguistics

  • Discourse analysis
    • Grice and Implicatures (part 1part 2, & part 3)
    • L1 use in language teaching
    • L2 transfer
    • Learner autonomy
    • Interactive/collaboraitve language learning.
    • Task-based learning
    • Problem-based learning
    • Performance-based learning
    • Language learning strategies

  • Language exchanges

  • English for Academic Purposes
  • English for Specific Purposes
  • Generative grammar

    • Chomsky's Universal Grammar

  • Innatism

    • Krashen's monitor model

  • Language and culture
  • Language and Gender
  • Language and Identity
  • Language Emergence as a complex adaptive system
  • Language learning and technology
  • Language teacher education

    • Professional development or professional learning among (English language), in-service educators

    • Professional development or professional learning among (English language), pre-service educators

  • Language testing

    • Formative assessment in the language classroom
    • Formative vs. summative assessment in the language classroom
    • Dynamic assessment in the language classroom
    • Language exchanges
    • Task-based learning
    • Problem-based learning
    • Performance-based learning

  • Lexis
  • Linguistic Imperialism
  • Multilingualism
  • Phonetics and phonology
  • Systemic functional linguistics
  • Multimodality
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sociocultural theories
  • Sociolinguistics
    • Motivation
  • Translation

Additional reading

Six steps for conducting a literature review (Machi & McEvoy, 2009)

  1. Select a topic.

  2. Search the literature.

  3. Develop an argument.

  4. Survey the literature.

  5. Critique the literature.

  6. Write the review.


Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (2008). The craft of research. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Machi, L. & McEvoy, B. (2009). The literature review: Six steps to success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

#Eduquestion Matrix

EdTechTalk brought up a question I had this past Sunday about how to best foster/curate #eduquestions...

Here is my response and a possible #eduquestion matrix...

If you would like to post education-related questions and engage in the discussions, use the Twitter hashtag #eduquestion.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Participatory Action Research

Review what is meant by participatory action research as this is the type of research we'll be doing this semester.  As with any type of research, the "secret" is not to get behind.  This week we discussed what applied linguistics is and the importance of being able to define a problem.

Your assignment for this week is to come up with a problem you can investigate as part of a PAR project.  The problem you choose should be something that interests you but also a problem that others have already investigated.  I recommend that you visit the UAA virtual library in order to get ideas.  See how others have research your problem to help you get some ideas.  You are free to duplicate or modify someone else's study, which includes using their instruments.  Just make sure you reference their study according to APA.


  • Create two Google Documents using your own Google (email) account.

  • Copy and past the text from the Problem and Argument template and the PAR template to each of your Google Documents; create links to your Google documents and add them to the class projects page.

  • Complete the Problem and Argument template which now resides in your Google Document.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

It amazes me that I am even writing about this.

Yesterday, I read Klein's (April 8, 2014), Longtime Substitute Teacher Leaves Job After Being Told To Unfriend Students on Facebook, and didn't think much of it.  But today, I read Whitby's (April 9, 2014) sloppy critique (see Revoked Rights For Educators), which made me take another look.

I read a post today about a teacher in a New Hampshire school district who was forced into retirement for refusing to unfriend students on Facebook.

If you are going to comment on another post, at least provide a link back to the source.  I will assume Whitby is referring to Klein's piece.

I lived in the community in which I taught for 25 years. This is not unlike many educators in our country. At no time during my tenure in that district did anyone call me into an office and instruct me on how to interact with the children of the community.

It's not clear if he is referring to that last 25 years to the present, or some 25-year period in the past; regardless, it's impossible to compare his context with the context of Thebarge's, given what we know.

No one told me I could not be friends with children in the community. I was never told where I could, or could not go in that community. I don’t think any administrator would have even considered such a discussion. Yet, these are the discussions some administrators are having with teachers today about their social media communities.

It's easy to get lost in the vagueness.  What does it mean exactly to be "friends" with children in the community? And is befriending students in facebook the same as befriending students outside social media?  Perhaps the issue here is not whether teachers are friends with students, but what type of behavior is appropriate between teachers and students.  I get the feeling that Whitby is trying to compare teacher-to-student relationships before social media with teacher-to-student relationships via social media.  He's trying to compare apples with oranges.

Statistics tell us that our children are more in danger from family, close family friends, and even clergy, much more than people on the Internet

First, when forming an argument, include the source (citation or link).  Fine, there are statistics out there that support your argument.  But it weakens your argument if you are unable to tell the reader where you got the information; this allows the reader can make a more informed decision on how valid, reliable, and unbiased the statistics are.  Second, the evidence here compares family, close family friends, and clergy with everyone else on the Internet.  Klein's piece has to do more with teachers than all other people on the internet.  And since I don't have access to the statistics I can't confirm this, but is it not a stretch to think that relationships with teachers might also fall within the category of family, close family friends, and even clergy?

I heard a TV celebrity say recently that parents need not prepare the road for their children, but they must prepare their children for the road.

In other words, prepare students to expect some teachers to behave inappropriately with them.

Social media communities are open to the public where everyone sees all.

Again, apples and oranges.  Facebook, unless it's a public page, is not quite the same as an open community.

Some people will be inappropriate, but the community will deal with that as it develops and matures. 

Incredible.  I would love to see how this would go over at a school board meeting.  "Parents, realize that some people (teachers) will behave inappropriately, but don't worry.  The community (school) will deal with this as it develops and matures." need to take preventative measures, or take action to try to prevent bad things from happening.  Sure, you might argue that Stevens High didn't do enough (absent of any real details of the entire story), but still...

If administrators are fearful that their image, or that of the school will be tarnished by people speaking publicly about the school, then maybe these administrators should look at themselves, or their policies. 

So administrators of Stevens High are shutting down facebook because they are fearful of their image, or that the school will be tarnished by people speaking publicly about the school?  Well, perhaps, but without knowing all of the details, I have to think that it's also possible that they are just very concerned that teachers and students conducted themselves appropriately going forward.  The post seems to suggest that they did try to allow teachers to use facebook (against school policy) until they had problems. And we also do not know what other measures they are taking in addition to disallowing facebook.

I cannot see any court supporting the idea that a person gives up a constitutional right, just because they are employed by some backward thinking school district.

Again, it's impossible to know just how "backward" Stevens High is without knowing the details.  I'm just surprised at the rush to judgment when the seriousness of an inappropriate student/teacher relationship seems to be an afterthought.

It amazes me that I am even writing about this.

I couldn't agree with you more!