All posts by ruslankakenov

Dealing with procrastination is not an easy task

Recently I watched TED talk by Tim Urban. In his talk “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator“, Tim shared his experience of procrastination on important things, like writing a thesis. Then, I realized that it is not only me, who have been struggling in meeting deadlines, particularly, when you do not have strict deadlines.For instance, I know that I need to work on my thesis regularly, I even made a three-month plan for writing a thesis, but I rarely sticked to it. I now realize that I always find something else to do except working on a thesis. I would rather concentrate on work or read blogs on facebook or just watch football games. And thesis?! Yeah, I am very eager to write my thesis this Saturday and Sunday…Ooops, I have an English assignment to finish on those days. So, I never start to work on the actual thesis.

I think I can manage procrastination if I follow some recommendations made by some experts, such as meditating and having enough sleep (McGonigal, 2013). It is actually interesting to explore the effects of procrastination on students’ achievements and I might even choose this a topic for my PhD dissertation, but let me first finish my MSc paper.

References

McGonigal K. (2013). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Avery; Reprint edition.

Urban T. (2016). Inside the mind of a master procrastinator [Video file]. Retrieved from  http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

Why I chose qualitatitive

When you reach the methods part of your research, you have to choose to go with the qualitative or quantitative method, though some researchers like to mix them. Generally, researchers are in favor of one over another. If you like talking with people, and then exploring their reponses, then qualitative is the one to choose. If you like to work with data, analyze it and find correlations, then you would usually choose quantitative methods. However, it all depends on the research questions that you raise in your research. And the picture that you want to get after you have all the data.

I chose the qualitative, because it was important for me to understand the experiences of learners in online learning. Some of the challenges that I faced were to design an interview questions in order to get answers to my research questions. I was struggling to develop good series of questions for my interviewee to open up, and share his experiences. Also, it might be little demotivating, when you hear that people do not want to participate in your research. That discourages. And we do not like hearing no.

I chose a qualitative method since I wanted to understand experiences of respondents to the research questions. Semi-structured interviews were developed for that. As Creswell (2014) says: “Qualitative research is best suited to address a research problem in which you do not know the variables and need to explore.” In this study, I learned a lot about personal experiences of the participant. However, it would be difficult to extrapolate these findings to the general public.

This small scale study assisted me in practicing how to take interview. I saw that some of questions need to be better written, since the participant did not provide a good enough response for the purpose of my study. From that I need to develop my questions more thouroughly in order to get quality responses.

References:

Creswell, J. (2014). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Blog post 7. Writing a thesis…

Writing a thesis is not an easy task. It’s not a matter of a day, nor of a week. To begin with, as one of our professors said, you have to be passionate about the topic of your research. Choosing a research topic may be hard, since there are so many ideas floating around, each of them worth exploring. However, the best topic would be the one that matters the most to you. This is usually the one that you confront on a daily basis in your school or a classroom. Since I am a language coordinator, the interesting issue to explore for me was to understand what teachers go through when they teach content in the second language, what are their challenges and what are their inspirations.

Once you chose a topic, narrow it down. It is easier to focus on certain aspects of the matter that you want to explore. Or you will be struggling with oceans of information, not knowing where to start and where to head. In my case, I narrowed my topic to “Teachers’ experiences in teaching History and Geography in the second language of instruction”. Then, I was able to concentrate only on these two subjects. They are taught in Kazakh as the second language of instruction. Also, I only look for teachers’ experiences as area of my research interest.

Then, my advice would be to read, read and read. Print and read. Read a lot on your topic. Learn how to use our university library system. Find papers and dissertations that are connected with your topic. If you struggle with it, ask your librarian to assist you in finding the necessary literature. It is very important. Really! Google for literature overviews on your topic. And then, read them all. That’s the single most effective way to be competent in your research topic. While you read, make notes, extract main ideas, collect them into one large document organizer. This is the most time-consuming part of your thesis. Therefore, it should be your first strategy when you start writing your thesis.

Once you did what was suggested previously, the rest is not that frightening. All you need is to put everything you collected (in your memory and your notes) into a readable and approvable research template. The remaining work related to field work and data gathering should not be very hard if you did your homework.

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/

Keep your research topic narrow

Writing a literature review could be exhausting exercise for one’s brain since you have to go through lots of literature in order to find those that will fit in the context of your thesis. First, you need to be very focused, otherwise, you may enter to a labyrinth of research papers, which have little value for your research. It usually takes a lot of time and energy to organize and structure main ideas from these papers. Moreover, it would be difficult to identify essential researchers in the field of your research. Therefore, my advice is to narrow the topic of the research.

I would start the literature review with the definition of the research theme, including some history on the development of the theme. Then, I would describe the main contemporary research issues, which were put forward by prominent researchers. After that I would mainly find arguments that support or contradict my hypothesis of the research.

One of the most important things in finding resources for your research is to use the right keywords related to the research. This will keep your reference list limited. For instance, I am writing a research to study the pedagogy of teaching subjects, such as history or geography in the second language of instruction. Initially, I looked for “language immersion” but after reading piles of research papers on that topic, I realized that what immersion is not what I am looking for. Then, I searched for “second language acquisition”. This search was closer to my topic, however, it still was too broad for my purposes. Finally, I found that “CLIL” pedagogy is what I really need to explore for development of my research.

Some tips for finding literature are to look at the reference list of a research resource that you liked and you can search on the web for literature overviews that are usually provided by some universities on the particular topics.

At the moment, I am writing the methodology part of my thesis. I am struggling with developing a research design since it seems to be the hardest part of my research.

My first APA paper was a total mess

I first encountered with writing a paper according to APA style when I was taking some courses at Canadian university. At that time, I did not quite understand why it was so important to use a uniform writing style, such as APA.
In my first paper there, I included some citations in the text that did not appear in references. Also, I had some authors in my reference list, which I did not cite at all, or with mistakes in the text itself. It was a total mess.
As time passed by, I eventually realized that for a researcher or a student, writing in a uniform system makes one’s findings easy to source and credible. For instance, you may easily track what sources the paper used and read more about that there. To my surprise, when I started tracking for sources, I found that some researchers had citation mistakes in their papers, as well.

Essential communication skills that MOOCs still lack in order to replace traditional universities

In this blog, I want to argue that MOOCs or massive open online courses such as Coursera or Edx still cannot fully replace traditional university system. Today, we all are fascinated by the learning opportunities that MOOCs offer to us.  Boy, did I imagine that one day I would study Financial Markets course from the Nobel-prize winning professor of economics at Yale University. That was exciting experience for me. When I enrolled to the course, I watched all the online video lectures, completed the online assignments, interacted with peer students from all over the world on the forums and eventually wrote a final exam. After all, I received my statement of accomplishment from this course.

Although, I was studying at one of the most elite university in the world from the famous professor, I lacked the answer and question session that usually happens during the face-to-face class. There was only one-way flow of interaction. I could not ask him a question that would probably lead me, the class or even the professor into a new cognitive dimension. Of course, online forums try to develop a learning community that would facilitate collaboration and cognitive interactions (Glance D.G., Forsey M. and Riley M., 2013). Yes, I interacted on the forum but only in order to find an answer to an assignment that I was struggling with. Not more. I could not use deeper questions, since if I posted them, it did not always find the critical discourse. Hence, face-to-face and group communication is an important factor to facilitate critical discourse and flow of ideas into comprehensible form. Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) in their study reveal that deep learning does not occur if there is no considerable instruction involvement. For instance, I remember getting an insight about principle of overproduction when I was discussing an article with my students. The insight that I did not understand five years before that.

What is clear is that even though the MOOCs offer new and breakthrough innovations in higher education, the traditional universities still have their own strengths that they need to understand and take full advantage of in order to be competitive in this new learning environment.

References:

Garrison D.R. and Cleveland-Innes M. (2005). Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction Is Not Enough. American Journal of Distance Education. Vol. 19, Iss. 3

Glance D.G., Forsey M. and Riley M. (2013). The pedagogical foundations of massive open online courses. First Monday. Volume 18, Number 5-6 May 2013. Retrieved on September 13, 2015 from http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/4350/3673

Assessing the application of CLIL concepts in Kazakh history and Geography classrooms

For many years, learning Kazakh language was not a priority in the education agenda of Soviet Kazakhstan (Fierman, 2006; Kuzhabekova, 2003). Since its independence, Kazakhstan has developed a trilingual policy to learn three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. However, it seems that there is still not enough motivation to learn Kazakh among residents of Kazakhstan. The evidence shows that learning Kazakh in a school subject as a foreign language is not sufficient in order to use it at an appropriate proficiency level. Therefore, selected schools are trying various methods to teach Kazakh through the content of humanitarian subjects, like history and geography (Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools, 2013).

Among the schools in Kazakhstan that teach Kazakh history and geography in Kazakh as a second language of instruction by applying CLIL concepts are Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS). However, 2013 annual report of Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools indicated that there are “transition issues” regarding teaching and learning Kazakh history and Geography in Kazakh as a second language of instruction, such as unprepared students, lack of understanding of CLIL concept, particularly by new teachers and lack of study resources in Kazakh language.

In my thesis I want to bring forward a case study of a Kazakh History and Geography classrooms in NIS in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, where an integrated program was introduced to attain second language and content learning. I will explain the curriculum design, implementation issues and challenges of the ongoing CLIL classrooms, including teachers’ awareness of CLIL pedagogies, its impact on students’ grades.

The challenge for me at the moment though, is to figure out the design of the research method I need to apply in order to achieve the set goals. Moreover, it is not always easy to observe the extent to which teachers has to apply CLIL concepts in the classrooms. And lastly, the proficiency level of students in these classrooms may vary, therefore, learners may struggle not only with learning the context but also understanding the language.