Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Online Learning Tools

Using a variety of online learning tools can help reach more students. Some people learn best by reading new material, some by listening to lectures, and some with hands-on experience. Other people, like me, are multimodal, and need more than one delivery method to fully learn new material. http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=faq

There is still controversy about whether or not students learn best “when they are taught according to their preferred modality” (Pamela Kachka, M.A.Ed., Academic Trainer & Consultant – “Teaching to the Learning Styles of Multi-Modal Learners… a Big Waste of Time?”)

What is evident, though, is the more various the methods of delivery, the greater the number of learners reached. If a person learns well with one method, trying different methods will only reinforce what has already been learned and helps the retention of the material. Repetition has always proven to be an effective method in retention of material for students in general.

I am the type of person who learns in different phases. No matter which method I’m exposed to, my first phase always involves just familiarity. I need to learn the material in different ways to slowly deepen my comprehension. I go through different phases, but once I understand something well, I never forget it. My last phase is always a kind of self-assessment. I like to try doing what I've just learned - if it can practically be done - like making a sentence in a new language or creating an animation on a new tech tool I've just explored. This phase always helps me realize where I may go wrong - as a student - and teaches me how to assist others avoid the same problems - as a teacher.

Miss T.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My New Life-Style

For the last three years, I've been setting my cell phone alarm to wake me up at 6am every day of the week with a nice melody and I've been spending an average of two hours every morning on the computer, checking my email, correcting students' essays, following updates on facebook, and learning stuff on google, all while listening to my French radio station -http://www.rtl.fr/.

All of that changed when I got my puppies in May 2010. When I brought the puppies home, they were four weeks old, and their schedule was sleeping for two hours and playing, eating, and making a mess for two hours. I couldn't get any sleep and felt so miserable for about a month! Then something miraculous happened! I was up every two hours cleaning their mess, playing with them, feeding them, and I did all that so naturally. Yes, my puppies trained me well!

By the time I got used to my new life, which involved waking up due to nose biting and hair pulling rather than the soothing music I had taken for granted, I started taking the online teaching courses in June 2010. The two hours I used to spend on the computer became four hours and waking up at 4:30am became a must. With four part-time jobs and two little monsters, I needed to somehow make time for these courses, and my puppies had the perfect solution for me!

Learning new things takes time. This morning, for example, I woke up at 4:30, fed the puppies, and started playing with http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/. After creating several silly cartoons, I moved on to http://www.animoto.com/ and made a few video clips. By the time I was done exploring these two sites, two hours had passed and I had to get back to reality! I'll be looking forward to spending time on new sites tomorrow morning.

Miss T.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


After one week of being exposed to all kinds of tech tools, I have finally been able to make some progress. I might even soon be able to leave my Nutella - of course, not literally - and get closer to a chocolate bar - which, unlike Nutella, can be refrigerated! Yes, my technology temperature is getting cooler - baby steps!

(photo by Noosha Ravaghi - 11/28/2010)

After one week of continuous efforts, I can say:

  • I'm much more comfortable using blogger.com!
  • I've used flickr.com, which I didn't even know about until last week.
  • I've created a voki - basic, but still!
  • I've managed to make a little word cloud on wordle.net.
  • I've checked the site http://www.tagxedo.com/.
  • I've signed up on diigo.com - which I will explore further this coming week.
  • I've gotten familiar with storybird.com - I haven't tried creating anything on this site yet, but I'm very interested in it and will definitely play with it since I'm working on a series of children's books. http://www.noosharavaghi.com/
  • I've played with blabberize.com a little.
  • I've learned about Voicethread.com - which I intend to play with shortly.

This may not seem much to you, but come on: it's Miss Technology we're talking about!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

I've been looking forward to today, Black Friday. There are many things that I've thought about buying in the last couple of months, but then I've told myself to be patient. "I'll buy them on the Friday after Thanksgiving and save a little money." So in order to be well-organized, yesterday, I sat down and made a list of all the things I was going to buy today. This way, I would know exactly what I was shopping for and not forget anything.

This morning, while I was drinking tea, I looked at my list again. I looked at every single item I'd written and realized I didn't really need any of them, at least not now. Then I started thinking, "What made me want to buy these things in the first place?" I did start thinking about these items a few months ago, so why was it I didn't feel a need for them now?

I still haven't been able to find an answer to my question. This whole situation made me think, though. It made me think about how we always want more things. Don't we already have enough? Personally, I feel I do. I have enough. I mean I'm already having a hard time keeping up with the cleaning and the organizing of everything I do have. Do I really want to add to my work and to the time spent doing it? What even motivates me to want things I don't need? Is it that these things could make life more convenient? Maybe - or maybe not.

Is it that we are bored with the things we have, and we're trying to change them? I don't think that's the case. Here's why: Imagine you go to a store and see this cute mug, this mug that has the right color, size, and shape. You look at the price and you realize it's on sale 50% off. What a deal! You take the mug and put it in your basket, feeling really happy that you've found this perfect mug. When you go home, you put away everything you've bought. You happily take the mug out of its box and carefully wash it. Then you open the cabinet where you keep your mugs and you put this one next to the other mugs. Now the question is "Are you bored with the other mugs?" If you were tired of using your old mug, you would take the old one out and give it away or throw it out. Do you do that? You may say "Why would I throw it out? It's a perfectly good mug and I may use it again some day." It's true; you might use your old mug again some day, but how many mugs do you really need at one time?

I live by myself and I just checked in my cabinet: I have seven mugs! Do I use a different one every day of the week? No, I've been using the same one day after day, and the rest have been sitting in the cabinet, possibly collecting dust. What made me buy all these mugs? Now if the new mug did something the old mug didn't, I could totally understand the need for the new one.

That is the case with technology. New devices usually do something the old ones didn't, and that's what makes them so special. Even though many people don't keep up with every upgrade there is in devices, the technology generation is busy experimenting. More experiment with new gadgets leads to more ideas on how to improve the features on the next ones, and that is how technology advances everyday.

Going back to my list, since there is no electronic high-tech device on there, I'd better spend Black Friday cleaning everything I already own instead of shopping for new things I don't really need.

Miss T.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks for Technology

It's Thanksgiving, and on this day, people give thanks. People always have many good things to be thankful for even if a few things are not going too well for them. It's important to be able to see the silver lining because every cloud has one even though it's not always easy to see.

My first Thanksgiving in the US was a very interesting experience for me. I didn't know much about this day, the history behind it, or the details of it.

What I did know was that families got together on this day and enjoyed a big meal together. To me, this translated as a happy day, a day off from work that I could enjoy by myself since I lived here without any family or relatives. So I decided to do all my favorite things on this day: stay in bed and read a book in the morning, and go out in the afternoon, do some shopping, watch a movie and then go treat myself to a nice meal at a nice restaurant.

What I didn't know was that many shops didn't open on this day, and those which did closed early afternoon, right around the time I got out of the house. I was a bit disappointed, but I thought "Well, since I'm not spending time shopping, I'll have enough time to watch two movies instead of one!" My disappointment suddenly grew exponentially and in every direction when I realized that even the movie theater in my neighborhood was closed on Thanksgiving! I was unable to realize two of the three things I had planned for this day, and that was not cool! I did my best to stay positive, though, and not let these unfortunate incidents bother me so much as to completely ruin my first holiday experience in the US. I told myself that this day was really about eating turkey and as long as I did that, I would have experienced a real Thankgiving. So I decided to go eat turkey at a nice restaurant. I went to a place I'd always wanted to go, but to my surprise, it was closed and had a sign that proudly said "Closed on Thanksgiving." The optimist in me told me that there was probably a better place waiting for me, so I went to another place, making sure it looked "open" before I parked the car. This elegant structure looked open and was crowded, so I went in, thinking it must be a good place to eat. A nice-looking lady came to me and asked me if I had a reservation. When I said that I didn't, she gave me the most beautiful smile I'd ever seen in my life and told me that they couldn't seat me. Wow! That hurt more than if she had kicked me! So, I smiled back and left the restaurant. As I was walking to my car, I decided that I was going to give this one more try. After all, "the third time is a charm"! I drove by a restaurant and saw some people walking out of there, looking happy. The front of the restaurant didn't look crowded like the previous one, so I assumed no one was "waiting" for their reserved table. I was able to see inside the place through the glass and some tables seemed empty. This was it: I finally had a good chance to get a table without reservations and eat turkey. I parked the car and went in excitedly. The place looked very nicely decorated and had nice relaxing music playing inside. Just as I was taking off my coat and thinking the day hadn't been a total disaster, a lady came to me and said, "Sorry, we are closed." I couldn't believe it! It was only 8:30pm! How could they be closing? Without a word, I turned around, put my arm back in the sleeve of my coat, and went to my car. I was shocked at how ridiculous this day had turned out to be!

After this experience, I learned to make special plans for Thanksgiving, plans which didn't include going out. Now, I spend my Thanksgivings watching movies I like on dvd or online, sending email to friends, and listening to music I like on cd or online... and most of all giving thanks for technology which makes all of this possible.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Miss Technology at Work

Most of my friends know me as Miss Technology. I can assure you it doesn't mean I'm an expert in technology! No. In fact, I learned how to use an ipod only a few months ago. Since I don't have one myself, and I haven't had a chance to practice, I may have forgotten how to use one by now!

You may be wondering what I'm doing making a blog about technology. Let me clarify this immediately. With the advance of technology, the world has gotten a lot smaller. Communication has become a lot faster and easier. I'm able to sit at my dining room table - my favorite place - and use the keys on my laptop to send a message to my best friend who lives on another continent, knowing she will get my message in a few seconds! Well, I'm thinking why not do what I've been doing my whole life - teaching - in the same way? After all, many teachers are doing it... and doing it effectively!

So, I'm trying to learn to use some computer tools in order to communicate online with my students. I want to be able to do online everything I do in my face-to-face classes. I want to teach my students everything I know by using different methods to reach all of them - those who are good at reading the charts and the rules of English grammar and structure as well as those who understand all that better when they listen to and watch me explain it.

Make no mistake. I'm still Miss Technology, the girl who doesn't know how to deposit a check through ATM. So when I say "I'm trying to learn," I don't mean by myself. I'm taking classes for this. I've so far managed to finish - successfully, I might add - five classes, such as "Effective Interaction" and "Universal Design," and I'm now taking my sixth and last class in the series of online instruction. Guess what this last one's called! "Technology for Online Instruction."

I'm in my first week of this class, and I've already been exposed to at least fifty different tools I'd never heard of. This should be enough for me - Miss Technology - to freak out and quit. There's probably one other thing I should've mentioned about myself, though, and that's I'm very stubborn. So, I'm going to ignore all these scary tools that I'm not familiar with and concentrate on the one that I've actually managed to use this week: Voki.

According to http://www.voki.com/, "Voki is a free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages" and that's exactly what I did! I used a voki message in my invitation to an event I'm having. Check out my first voki creation. You will need to install Adobe Flash 10 or greater. www.adobe.com/support/flashplayer/downloads.html.

Cool! Isn't it? You can choose from so many different avatars and you can use your own voice - like I did - or type the text in the box and have it read. I've posted my first voki on my blog. Now, I'm going to try sending it in an email message.

I'll be back soon to share my new discoveries.

Miss T.