A glimpse of High School graduates’ perspectives #futuregradsmooc

Upon asking for a volunteer from the current class I’m teaching at college, to conduct an interview on the experience of high school, a female student came forward and had some time to spare to do this interview. I found at first glance that only motivated student could apply for something that is out-of-class!

I asked her the following questions:

  1. Since it’s been a year since you were at high school. Do you have good memories of it, why or why not?
  2. What do you think the purpose of high school is/was?
  3. What are 1 or 2 skills that you think you acquired from college
  4. What are 1 or 2 skills t you think you realized that you need now at college?

Upon interacting with here it became clear that she was motivated to study for a “high grade” because her parents persisted that to ensure a bright future for her, she needs to score high to good a good job and a good future. Additionally she believed that school taught her many skills like teamwork, presentation skills, and “studying hard” as a virtue important at that stage. Upon coming to college she realizes that being in mixed classes, she thought that school can never make her ready, say, to work with men (if she finds a job after school), or to study with boys, since she is at college. She feels always shy to speak or present in front of the opposite gender, particularly. But she thinks, upon spending a semester at college, she feels that she is overcoming that obstacle slowly but surely. She also found time to join student clubs and participate in volunteering activities at school and at her community as well. She still feels she needed to be good at basic computer skills; sending emails and studying online were not part of school preparations.

I’ve realized from this interview that, especially girls, who happen to be dominating at the private college I teach in, seem to be much more motivated to score higher at school, than boys, probably because a lot is at stake; her social status, not finding a job and thus staying at home, etc. I still need to further investigate this by talking with a male student for things to sort of clear out. That being said, for her, home has played a major role in setting attitudes towards future life and study while school helped her achieve the high scores she needed to move forward to the next stage. Not that schools helped her prepare for college life in terms of using computers and communicating and studying online, however, generally, she emphasizes that high school is for setting the foundations for a successful start into the future and realizes that though school seems to spoon feed students, it was a great place for her that helped her start jump her academic life at college.

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Teaching-for-skills approach for language teaching

As for learning any skill, I think teaching language requires continuous guidance and hand-holding along the way, up until they get it and can do it on their own.

I noticed that guiding students and carefully following up with them on every task is essential to their acquisition of linguistic skills. I think it should be what teachers do most in most of their class time.

In reading/writing, for instance, I make sure I demo note-taking for an article, then I move around to provide help where needed. I also keep an eye on good students and direct them to assist struggling students with the task at hand.

For listening/speaking, I go over what goes into listening for main ideas, then play a small portion of the audio track, then answer it so students can follow my lead. This also serves to support students with lower-linguistic abilities along the way.

I think this approach helps develop a sense of accountability in students, and a critical observation on their own learning–since they get the help and support they need along the way. It may also help reduce dependence on the teacher in the long run.

My most powerful learning environment #liismooc

As I was growing up, I had developed a critical eye on what works in an educational setting. My particular observations regarding a powerful learning environment started with when I was a young boy at grade 4. It was when my science teacher asked for a volunteer to bring a “rotten toast” to the school laboratory to demonstrate to the rest of the students in the science class the components of rotten food and the kinds of fungus that grow in it. What I did is I suddenly started linking real life with classroom’s mostly theoretical knowledge. Continue reading

You need to learn to laugh at yourself!

As an educator and learner, it’s very important to “know” how to laugh at yourself.

Now what do I mean by that?

Simply, as human beings, there are many things that we just don’t understand/know. Nobody knows everything. But, true, there are people who know quite a lot of things. But that did not come out of thin air; they were not born this way. They all went through the tedious burden of “learning” how things work. In the process, there were moments when they felt helpless and did not think they would learn what they wanted to learn, but after a while, they realized that what they were frustrated with was a simple part that they needed a little help with, or they just missed a simple thing along the way! and that’s when they “laugh” at themselves!

To conclude, as educators, we need to constantly improve ourselves and , in the process, learn how to laugh at ourselves. Students, also, are in need of such an attitude in and outside of the class. So, come on everybody;, start learning and “laughing at yourselves”! 🙂

To practice or not to practice..

It has long been said that “practice makes perfect”. I don’t necessarily want to break that saying or disqualify it entirely. Nor do I want to propose a “rocket-science” method that would replace the vitality of practice. Rather, there is more to practice than meets the naked eye!

When talking about language acquisition, I can’t emphasize enough that no body would be able to achieve a decent level of fluency and efficiency without really indulging in getting his hands dirty (if that is an appropriate expression), and actually speak it or write it. However, I think that it doesn’t really matter how much you practice the target language if you aren’t consciously aware of the mistakes you make and/or how to correct your utterances! Continue reading

The “Candle Lighting Ceremony” aura

Flags of different color combinations, signifying the multi-country culture of the university, are brought about to the “Rothman Center” hall, with some harmonious bagpipe music along the way. Then the university’s board members walk up ahead to the platform.. The mission is to spark the first light in the lives of the new citizens of the University–the new students. Continue reading

Mobile Phones: Are They Making our Lives Easier

Recently I had the pleasure to present a workshop on “Mobile Phones: Are They Making our Lives Easier” at Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat on August 5th, 2012.

Here is an overview of the topic approached along with resources for expanded knowledge on the points discussed: Continue reading