Monthly Archives: October 2015

Research Interview

While being on University campus, I decided to interview two teachers to explore the research questions of my mini-thesis. I scheduled the interviews with each interview participant choosing the date and the place for the interview.

The main research questions of the mini-thesis are:

  1. What are the main benefits of online learning for students and teachers?
  2. What challenges do students and teachers face in online learning environment?

In view of above research questions, I used qualitative design in my study. My research is based on one-on-one, face-to-face interviews. According to Creswell (2002), interviews gives opportunity to hear the participants “… experiences unconstrained by any perspectives of the researcher or past research findings” (p. 240).

The use of the qualitative design allows me to obtain ideas and opinions of the interview participants to explore the central phenomenon of my study from the perspective of teachers themselves.

In my research, I used purposeful sampling. . As Creswell (2002) claims purposeful sampling provides an opportunity to choose individuals or sites that can “best help us understand the phenomenon” as well as such sampling contributes to “a detailed understanding”. To develop many perspectives in my study (Creswell, 2002), I used maximal variation sampling to understand better the benefits and challenges that teachers as students face.

One-on-one interview with open-ended questions was chosen as the main tool for data collection since it is considered one of the main means in qualitative research. As Creswell (2002) states one-on-one interviews are a good tool for interviewing participants who are open to speak and who can “share ideas clearly”. Although the researcher states that such interviews are “time-consuming and costly approach” they seem to provide an opportunity for the participants to reflect, analyze and delve into the issue of the research.

Later all the interviews will be transcribed and coded for further in-depth analysis. The next procedure will be identifying themes related to my research questions. It is of high probability that sub-themes might emerge as the data analysis continues since each participant will share his/her perceptions from various angles.

Reference

Creswell, John W. (2002) Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Pearson.

My first experience conducting interviews

Image source: http://www.educationnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/GraduateInComputer_Bk.jpg

In my mini-thesis, I investigate the perceptions that managers with hiring power in Kazakhstan have on online degrees when they are looking for employees. In order to gain some insight into the matter, I designed a semi-structured interview and set out to find some employers who would be willing to participate in my little study. What follows is a brief description of my experience conducting the interviews: the challenges I faced, the advantages and disadvantages of the data collection method I chose, and how this experience will inform my thesis.

Perhaps the biggest challenge I had was finding managers outside the educational realm willing to participate in the study. I emailed a few representatives of the bigger companies in Kazakhstan, but failed to receive any positive answers. I ended up having conversations with two vice principals working for the network of school where I am currently employed and a fellow master’s student at Nazarbayev University.

After conducting the interviews, I found out some of the weaknesses of this method. First and most hindering, was the realization that some people do not always feel confident in one-on-one conversations. With one of the interviewees it was like pulling teeth: I could see that they were honestly trying to help me with my research, but they were so uncomfortable that I had to rely on probes after each question to elicit full sentences. Another disadvantage was my lack of skills, which I now realize might at least partially explain why one of the participants did not feel particularly at ease during our conversation. I did not record the first interview on audio, so for the good part of it I struggled to listen, analyze, and take notes at the same time. Also, one of the interviewees had a nasty habit of trailing off topic, and for fear of being rude I just let them go on. Because of that, the interview lasted almost twice as long as I had originally planned.

However, in the long run the advantages of interviews as a data collection method far outweigh the disadvantages. If carefully planned and well executed, interviews are guaranteed to either give you the answers you were looking for or tell you that you are looking for them in the wrong place. After all, no matter how difficult it was, I did manage to get enough information to form some understanding of how online degrees were perceived in Kazakhstan.

It was my first time conducting an interview for research purposes, so it was a good way for me test the water. I am now aware that it takes a long time to prepare good interview questions, and that it takes some serious skills to make the interviewees feel relaxed and ready to share their opinions. I will definitely use this knowledge to organize the interviews for the big research I am doing this year.

“Skype Education”

Who hasn’t heard about Skype? In the beginning, we used this program as a tool to keep in touch, however, as the years went by people became to adapt Skype to their real needs and finally the key role of Skype now is to bring education and spread it all over the world. I detach this type of education from the general kind and refer it to completely new way to be educated – “Skype education”.

If we take the example of Kazakhstan, one of the youngest developing countries, our government is trying to develop and strengthen the education in order to improve the competitiveness among other countries and fix our position in the world. Furthermore, citizens understand that they actively have to take part in this process and to be involved in this progress. Skype is accessible free program for the public and any can just download and practice it. There are a lot of qualified courses and academic programs around the world that are open to share their knowledge and train ‘new brains’ via Skype.

To illustrate, in our education centre in Astana we have been working with some teachers online via Skype. For instance, it’s difficult to find tutors here who prepare for GRE or GMAT (verbal section) and Skype is the only approach of quality and value for money. Moreover, we work with our international partners (British Council, English UK, ICEF, ECE projects etc.) and with the help of Skype we can arrange courses for our students from Kazakhstan who cannot leave their homes to get education or to be trained. Through Skype we organize program with proficient teachers who teach the student and finally our students receive the international certificates or diplomas. And it is really cool, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, the main drawback in “Skype education” is sometimes imbalance of quality. Not all teachers in Skype are licensed to teach and they offer their services as they know that demand on education has been soaring and such kind of teachers can earn. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor the selection of suitable college or university, program and teacher. In most cases it is more trustworthy to address to accredited and certified centers which are approved and have experienced team. It is the only disadvantage and benefits of “Skype education” overshadow the given minus.

Overall, only knit work of the government, habitants and desire to advance facilitates the prosperity of the nation. We need not to resist the changes, on the contrary, to reach and realize our aim of better education, be ‘hi-tech’ developed and keep up with the times. Be creative, innovative and a bit risky!

Reference:

Skype in the classroom – Tony Bates (7 December, 2012). [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKdVlqH2Hi4

It is rather difficult for me to share with current experience that I don’t have. As a matter of fact I do not work. However, while searching the Video for this assignment I remembered a talk I had with a boy who spends his most time at home due to his illness. This talk impressed me much twice. First, I asked myself a question that does not have the answer. That is » why children suffer from illnesses» and the second, what if there were a library that would be accessible at any time from anywhere with huge number of sources and that would not need to move there. Now I have found the answer for that it is a Virtual Library.

Virtual LIbrary is a great option for 21st century’s young people with different backgrounds to develop and advance in the frame of rapidly changing time. I believe it would help people who need special care to be motivated to stand on their feet to struggle with their illnesses and join the society. Unless, the time they spend at home make them feel alone and needless to the community they belong to. Such a library will provide up to date sources that enrich their views towards the world where they live. Modhighern technology is the key instrument in these libraries. Various digital devices are tend to establish access to peoplea with the world of LIterature. Virtual Library of Birmingham is an excllent example of high quality library service for life-long learning and enjoyment. Moreover, the construction and the design of the library meets all necessaties of visitors.

The idea of Virtual Library can fulfill the gap that exists in our society, especially in Education. On the one hand it is a great solution to enourmous numbers of problems from the perspective of Inclusive Education.On the other, a beneficial way to develop reading skills among young students who spend less time reading books and other sources.

Reference

Virtual Library of Birmingham. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11SPISd1q

Schoology is my best online tool-friend

The innovative educational technologies are being developed, but at the same time the quality and improvement of the educational programmes, curriculum and assessment are also required. Teachers are asked to differentiate the teaching and learning, use different active learning approaches, work with low able and high able students, provide them effective feedback, and promote learners’ self-learning, research, reflective and critical thinking skills. The list of suggested methods can be continued.. but, complains about a lack of teachers’ and students’ time and energy are heard everywhere. Therefore, there is a need to keep all the data in one environment and organize the work time effectively. Also collaboration and communication with students and colleagues are very essential. One of the online learning environments and the best friend of mine in solving these issues is Schoology.

Teachers and students can have access to the schoology.com for free. As it is written in the webpage of the environment, there are plenty of opportunities the online tool can offer: to create new courses, new groups, school wide or world wide communities, create various types of tasks for students or him/herself, upload any data, set up restrictions or permissions to a particular group of students or assignments, make a grade book, share resources, and etc. One of the convenient options of the website is a creating of quizzes and tasks according to the criteria- based assessment model. The online tool is also can be downloaded from appstore or playmarket for smartphones and tablets.

From my own experience, I have been using this tool for four years, which means from the beginning of my teaching career I use schoology in my classroom. Nowadays all of my colleagues are trained to use this tool. We are using it not only to teach, but also for the collaboration and sharing purposes. According to the students’ feedback about schoology, it is very effective for assessment preparation and to get instant feedback from the teacher.

I can discuss the advantages of the website infinitely, however as my colleagues said, there are some drawbacks of the tool. The language of the website content is English. So it is problematic to understand the instructions for Kazakh and Russian speaker teachers. As the second disadvantage is relevant to any other educational technology, it is time consuming to construct and set up the environment and create assignments. Nevertheless, after making and regulating it for the first time, it will be applicable and usable for multiple times.

Reference list:

Video. Retrieved from https://www.schoology.com/learning-management-system.php

Innovative classrooms.

This is a very clear and vivid demonstration of a future classroom with sufficient implementation and effective use of various progressive technologies. Although this video does not contain a single word it shows how students can be actively enrolled in the learning process and how greatly they show zeal for education and gaining knowledge. I believe that students from this type of innovative classrooms and schools are going to be many steps ahead comparing with students with more traditional approaches in teaching and learning, as well as they are going to be more prepared for real fast-changing life in global village and succeed in it.

This video has also empowered me to use innovations in my own classes, despite the fact that I belong to more conservative type of teachers, who prefer usual group work or error correction and feedback than googling and web-chatting. I realized that innovations and new technologies should not be taught in our Kazakhstani schools as a separate subject but should be implemented and additionally used in all subjects to help learners use up-to-date gadgets effectively. However, it does not mean that innovative technologies are solutions to all the problems in schooling but they may become very effective tools to foster the current situation and connect the education with real life and real students’ needs to get ahead in it.

In case of our country, the issue may be that the government and the Ministry of Education make big investments in these fields and provides schools with new and modern technologies but there is a lack of specialists who can deal with these innovations. So, computers and Internet are used for entertainment or simple chatting in social networks, smart boards are used as whiteboards, IPods for watching films. For this reason teachers should be properly trained how to use these innovations for maximum effect and benefits.

WIKISPACES: COLLABORATION BECOMES EASY

A modern teacher needs to keep up with the times and use innovative technologies in the classroom. Websites and applications for learning have made both teachers’ and students’ lives easier. Not only does ICT raise learners’ motivation but gives more opportunities to those with special needs too. Personally I love discovering new tech tools which help me with my teaching a lot. One of the last discoveries is WikiSpaces – a free online platform where teachers and students can share files, ask and answer questions, upload videos and pictures, assess and plan together.

I find WikiSpaces quite helpful for my subject especially. I teach Global Perspectives and Project Work and part of the course is writing a paper on some global issue. As the class time is never enough to give feedback to everybody we prefer to work in WikiSpaces which makes it easier to track every student’s progress and support them with written comments.

What I really love about WikiSpaces is that it makes students collaborate and give advice to each other. I noticed that if one student addresses the peers with some difficulties (for example, finding resources or asking to complete a survey) they are eager to assist. Learners like to contribute to the pages by uploading videos and pictures.

However it takes time to get used to using WikiSpaces as a teacher and then making students use it too. It goes without saying that one of the drawbacks of such platforms is being bound to equipment and Internet access. Teachers should also think about the proportion of the feedback given personally and online as it is important to actually talk to teenagers and not making the learning process too digitalized.

Overall, I think we need more workshops in schools about using technology in the classroom as it saves time and makes project work much more effective.

Reference:

Jeff Dunn (2013). How to easily use Wikispaces for education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJjT–hbbhc

Formative: A Revolutionary Platform for Real-Time Assessment

Honestly, I am not an avid user of technology in the classroom. Though I fully understand the fact that currently we live in a more networked world where the Internet has become an essential tool for human communication and education. Thus, there is an urgent need to evolve our learners` competency to work creatively and innovatively. The use of technology can be precisely a means to respond to these demands of the society and meet the needs of the 21st century learners.

Hence, today while searching for online tools that can facilitate teaching and learning I have found hundreds if not thousands of such tools. But the instrument, which drew my attention straightaway, was the real-time assessment tool simply known as Formative.

This tool provides teachers and students with an online assessment outside the classroom. The Formative is the most recent online application that combines online quiz and instant feedback service concurrently. It operates on any gadget, which has the Internet connection.

This software allows educators to create online classrooms, that is, students sign up for the Formative application followed by enrolling in the assigned class. As soon as an online classroom is built up, a teacher can assign assignments to students prepared by him. The types of assignments could range from simple quizzes, for instance, short answer, multiple choice questions to complex ones as true/false or open-ended questions. Besides, teachers can provide their learners with immediate feedback.

One of the peculiarities of this tool is its “Live results”, in other words, a teacher has an opportunity to track, watch and observe the students` answers in real time. The system enables teachers to watch and observe students` answers and how they work online and intervene at the right moment to give feedback or direct students to the right path as needed if they wish. Furthermore, intervening online into every learner`s work helps educators reduce the disparity between low and high achievers in the classroom.

In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, there is an innovative element of Formative program called “Show your work” that makes it distinctive from other online tools. It permits learners not only type their answers but draw or upload images to the questions on a blank page of the screen. This feature is especially perfect for math learners since math tasks are not answered simply by standard keyboard as they usually contain various formulae and math figures.

Moreover, with the help of this program not only teacher could save his time but get red of the piles of unnecessary paper to check and provide feedback. As for the challenges of implementing this application I cannot share with them yet since I have just come across this tool today. However, the Internet access can be the main hindrance owing to the fact that not all learners could have an access at all to effectively employ this software at home.

Reference

Formative (January 21, 2015). About Formative [Video File]. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Cu8F6gMshg

Why we need to use Kindle for reading in all schools all over the world

When I got my first Kindle Keyboard five years ago, I actually started reading again. That summer I read over twenty books without stop. I have never read so many books in my life, even when I was ten, the age when I dived into adventure and fantastics books. I do not mean that I do not read paper books, I do. I like to go to a bookstore, stare at shelves and buy a book that I was looking for.

What makes Kindle different from other devices like smartphones, ipads and computers is that the e-ink screen does not glare, so that your eyes do not hurt even after long reading. From here on, I want to discuss some benefits of Kindle for classroom usage. First, Amazon provides a service called Whispercast, which allows to synchronize all readings over every Kindle so that each student has access to the reading materials. A teacher or a librarian can assign different readings to different classes. Second, Kindle has in-bult dictionary, which might assist when reading in a foreign language. A student can look up for a definition or a translation of unknown words. That coud save some time. Third, Kindle can keep tonns of books. That is helpful for a librarian and a student since now the librarian can load a favourite book of the student into the device. Additional advantage, probably more for IT technicians, is that the battery lasts for a month. And, of course, it does not distract students with facebook apps or browsing opportunities like in smartphones or ipads.

There are few other things that I want to discuss here about this technology and why we need to use it for reading in all schools all over the world. One, it can alleviate poverty and reduce illiteracy worldwide. Books are expensive, and it is more cost effective to introduce Kindles in schools in poor developing countries rather than obtaining paper copies for them. For instance, Worldreader, a nonprofit organization, is actively promoting the use of e-reading devices in places where books are difficult to access. Two, it can save the environment. Kindle helps to save trees since publishers do not need to print paper books anymore. The positive news are that people are switching to e-reading devices. Amazon, one of the largest U.S. booksellers, claims that  ‘for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books’. To sum up, technology, such as Kindle can help us sustain the environment and enhance the classroom reading acitivities.

References:

Amazon. (May 19, 2011). Amazon.com Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Print Books. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1565581&highlight=

United Nations. (Nov 21, 2012). Ghana: An Education Revolution . Retrieved October 11, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIWxw2ZzGf8

Worldreader. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from http://www.worldreader.org/about-us/faq/

Quizlet – a simple way to learn words!

Learning languages is always challenging, especially learning new words which usually contain unfamiliar sounds and letters is scaring both for students and adults. As teachers we wanted to help students of our school because they indicated vocabulary as a major obstacle that makes it difficult if not impossible to use new words in their speech. So, we started to search actively for new strategies.

At first we tried to organize 5-minute activities at every lesson in different forms. One of such activities that we used frequently was memory challenge. The procedure is following: you show students 10-20 phrases that were learned previously and they were asked to look at the list for 2 minutes. As a result they were supposed to write all words they remembered paying attention on spelling. Even though the idea was not to overload student with writing and make learning process interactive we definitely did not achieve our goal.

Suddenly we realized that students needed to find their ways of learning and practicing new words. In addition, the time that student can provide for these activities was not similar and as they study at a boarding school there are students who could learn immediately after school, and there are some for whom it takes an hour to get home. Thus, we were searching for online tools that are available for all students. Furthermore, these tools can be used in different places. Also we wanted students to enjoy the process of enriching vocabulary.

As in response to our mission recently we have found a wonderful website. It provides plenty of opportunities for learners and teachers to improve their grammar and vocabulary. Searching for more information on this website I was surprised that it was created by 15-year-old boy who wanted to make learning French easier.

The website is available for different ages and types of schools. There are people from all over the world and it is always interesting to see that the person from Florida or Israel is working on same tasks. In general, we understood that Quizlet is a worldwide educational utility that allows students and teachers make learning process more enjoyable. In addition, it reduces the amount of paper and students see that we are trying to save the planet and stop deforestation. Consequently, we decided to give the website a chance.

At first our students were skeptical. When they started to learn vocabulary using this website they did not understand why there were so many buttons. Then they got interested after receiving first results of vocabulary quiz. As a result our students got involved and they enjoyed practicing vocabulary a lot. The reason could lie in availability of various ways to learn vocabulary. There are definitions of words, flashcards with pictures and speller activities helping with pronunciation. Moreover, there is a tool that tests students’ learning and even records their voice so they can share it with others.

We started to use Quizlet this month and I still have many questions about opportunities of it. I plan to use this website often especially when I am on my studies in Astana and students are in Karaganda preparing for their final exams.

References:

https://quizlet.com/mission

Technology for Teachers and Students (Director). (2014). Quizlet Virtual Flashcards 2014 Tutorial retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN6dP3tPYi0&hd=1