A Super Year!

I hope this has been a great year for all of you!

2011 has been for the main part a great year for me – I would like to say thank you to all of you for making it so special! I have felt so inspired this year, be it from working with great people and students, participating in conferences, online chats on Twitter (such as ELTChat and finnedchat) with amazing educators from around the world from whom I have learnt and who have challenged my thinking, interviewing some and being interviewed as well, meeting some for the first time and seeing old friends, writing blog posts, taking part in fantastic projects like the iTDi project!

May 2012 be great as well, full of health and happiness for all of us. 

I wish everybody Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! All the best!

Interview with Timo Ilomäki

It is a great honour to have Timo Ilomaki on my blog. He is an educator and student counselor from Finland and Coordinator of Entrepreneurship and Social Media Network. He also writes a very interesting blog on the use of technology in education http://educationtechnology-theoryandpractice.blogspot.com/ Timo is very active on Twitter and is one of the people who started #finnedchat, a weekly discussion on Finnish education. He and his partner Aki Puustinen are doing amazing things for education, so stay tuned and follow them on Twitter and their blogs!

Kiitos, Timo!

Number Seventeen – Help Them Shine! – The 30 Goals Challenge

One of the books I remember reading for the course - Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society by Peter Trudgill

As a student, either in Canada or in Greece later on, or in university after that, I have been lucky in the fact that I have had a lot of teachers and professors whom I remember very fondly. This happened for the reason that they were great people and educators, and that they encouraged students to build on their inclinations and even in subjects where they sometimes struggled, to try hard and believe in themselves.

I remember in university having a tough time with Sociolinguistics. I really loved listening to our lecturer, and participating in class discussions (sometimes, as I usually hesitated to contribute, as I thought I would say something silly) and reading the material, but I still felt I was barely keeping my head above water.

One day, our professor asked us a question and I thought whether I should raise my hand and answer. Better not, I thought. You will probably say something and embarrass yourself in front of so many people (it was always a full house with this woman – she was such a great educator in many respects!). So some students were waiting to answer with hands raised. Suddenly I saw her turn to me. “You!” she said loudly. “You over there.” I was petrified with fear, I am sure I turned red as well. “I want you to answer.” And she came right in front of me (I always sat in the front row). “Well?” she said. So I answered in a low voice and she said: “Right. Look what you have done. First you don’t want to answer at all. Then you whisper your answer, you have deprived the class of a great opinion! And everyone’s opinion counts in here!” she boomed. (Even when she was praising us, she did it in a very loud tone.) “I learn from you too, you know!” and she gave us all big smile. “If you hesitate to anwer me once more”, she told me (in her loud tone again), “I’ll come over there and stand in front of you until you let it out! Got it?” and then she winked at me.

I cannot tell you that from that day on that Sociolinguistics became one of my favourite courses. I just loved studying it and yes, taking part in class conversations. I just had not given myself the chance up to then to see what I could do. I thought that I could not understand the complex notions. So what if I gave the wrong answer? I would learn from someone else. Needless to say, that was another day when I decided that if I ever became a teacher, I would never give up on any student of mine. And to this day, I have not.

#MoreThan140 – Meet Aviva Dunsiger

Meet Aviva Dunsiger, an educator from Ontario, Canada and share her passion and enthusiasm for education! Listen to the amazing things she does with her kids in class.

To receive updates about other “More than 140″ interviews, make sure you follow Matt Ray (@mrmatthewray) and Vicky Loras (@vickyloras), follow the hashtag #MoreThan140 and watch this blog.

#MoreThan140 – Get to Know Matthew Ray

Get to know more about Matthew Ray, a special education educator based in New York City and the person behind the More Than 140 project. Matt talks about his super projects with his students, speaks some Greek and discloses his culinary talents! Enjoy.

 

To receive updates about other “More than 140″ interviews, make sure you follow Matt Ray (@mrmatthewray) and Vicky Loras (@vickyloras), follow the hashtag #MoreThan140 and watch this blog.

#More than 140 – Get To Know Your PLN

A few days ago, I was very happy to be contacted by Matthew Ray, in order to start a great project we are calling “More than 140.” We hope you will follow the hashtag #MoreThan140, as well as our blogs and youtube channels (links are provided after the video).

Watch the video to find out more about our project:

***Update: We are working on figuring out how to upload wetoku/vodpod videos to youtube. In the meantime, the videos will be hosted on vodpod, which you can access by clicking here.

Vicky Loras
http://www.twitter.com/vickyloras
vickyloras.wordpress.com
http://www.youtube.com/vickyloras

1st collector for More than 140 – Welcome
Follow my videos on vodpod

Interview with Aki Puustinen, Finnish Educator and Principal

It is a great honour for me to host an interview with Aki Puustinen, Finnish educator and principal at Muurame Upper Secondary School in Muurame, Finland.

Aki is also CEO of Team Company, a company he runs with fellow Finnish educator Timo Ilomaki.

You can read Aki’s blog at http://apuustin-leadership.blogspot.com/ .

Kiitos for this great and informative interview, Aki!

Number Sixteen – Change Your Environment – The 30 Goals Challenge

Change the displays, seating, rooms if possible... (image taken from http://www.newstreamz.com)

This is a period when lots of schools are re-opening worldwide. I love seeing educators on Twitter mentioning in their tweets that they are changing their classroom, redecorating it (some even share pictures or blog posts about that) or coming up with ideas about how they will be changing their classroom throughout the year. The reason I love seeing educators talk about how they will change their classrooms is manifold: they have their students in mind in doing so, they like changing the environment and because it has been proven that learning becomes more effective, either in a classroom that changes often or if the learning environment per se is the one that changes.

  • Educators can change the way their classroom looks as regularly as they like and at a low budget. There are so many ideas on the internet now, that one does not have to spend enormous amounts or ask for great financial support from their administration. There are so many printable posters, banners, signs to choose from, so that your students can be motivated and encouraged throughout the year. Some websites with great printable materials for classrooms, free of charge, are http://www.mandygregory.com/free_classroom_printables.htm and http://p-rposters.com/. Changes are good, as long as they are not too drastic and very often, as they need a sense of familiarity, especially for the younger students, so that it can be a place where they feel safe and where they feel they belong.
  • Two years ago I was very fortunate to attend a workshop by Ron Ritchhart, one of the great educators behind Project Zero of Harvard University. What I particularly loved about the workshop was that he was pointing out the importance of documenting the students’ work on the walls. Educators everywhere use their kids’ own work to put on the walls: posters the kids make, drawings, projects, absolutely anything! Do it often and fill up those walls inside and outside your classroom! Visual learningis at its best when students can see their own work on the school walls and also see other kids’ work. The learning that takes place there is amazing!

    ...or take them outside to learn! (Marcher Sur Le Sable by @Alice_M, from http://www.flickr.com/eltpics)

  • Take your students out of the classroom. Yes, it works wonders and they learn in the process. No matter what their ages are, I always try to take te students out. As I have mentioned in Goal Number Three, I take the kids out – we tried a cornfield near the school plenty of times and they have learned so much. It is also a change of environment and stimulates their curiosity to learn. Even with adult students, leaving the classroom every now and then is a great experience. We go to a restaurant or a walk and start talking about the things around us – especially at the restaurant, we take apart everything on the menu and look at the language of ordering food and drink, asking for things and any other relevant language.

Change can happen in many ways. Your students will love it and learn in the process!

How Will You Follow Up on RSCON3? – An ELTChat Summary

We discussed our experiences as attendees of RSCON3 on ELTChat.

After the very successful Reform Symposium RSCON3, I was very happy to see (and I am sure there were lots out there on ELTChat) that the topic of discussion for ELTChat would be this great event.

The topic was how we will all follow up on RSCON3. The Twitter timeline was absolutely full of recommendations (I got the failwhale three times!). First of all, there were those of us who had seen a lot of sessions but would like to catch up on those we did not manage to watch and there were some people (and that was absolutely great) who did not manage to catch the conference at all.

Some of the recommendations were:

  • Blogging. Some of us mentioned that we had either already blogged about the event or will do so in the future, so there will be quite a collection in the end! (Last night, during ELTChat, there were already 58 blog posts on RSCON3!) In particular, Neil McMahon, an educator based in Argentina, mentioned that he would extend his blogging after attending Steve Wheeler‘s final keynote. Professor Wheeler blogs almost on a daily basis!  Tyson Seburn suggested incorporating ideas from RSCON3 and then blogging about how it went in class.
  • Watching or re-watching the sessions. The great thing about RSCON3 is that all of the sessions and keynotes have been recorded and the videos will all be up very soon, for all of us to watch (or watch again, again, again…). The videos will soon be on the RSCON website: http://reformsymposium.com.
  • Training sessions in our schools. Sue Annan, a great educator and wonderful person from the Jersey Islands (with her own blog), mentioned that she had already organised a training session for her colleagues based on the RSCON3 sessions. Some mentioned they would also be using the videos with their colleagues and will encourage them to participate in the future (as there will surely be a RSCON4!).

Time flew by on ELTChat - as always! (Photo: Three extra minutes by Sue Annan, from http://www.flickr.com/eltpics)

When asked what ELTChat participants would come away with from RSCON3, there was a variety of responses.

  • There was a general consensus that there was a great variety of sessions and the learning that took place was great. Tyson Seburn mentioned that the educators were a very diverse crowd, culturally and education sector-wise. James Taylor also mentioned that he liked the fact that the educators were also from outside ELT.
  • We all liked being able to watch from home or our offices or schools – there were no tech issues worth mentioning whatsoever, so we could all watch the sessions comfortably and everything ran smoothly! It is not called Professional Development in Pyjamas for nothing! The fact that it is a free event was also mentioned by everyone.
  • We all managed to connect with a great number of educators we did not know before on Twitter, Facebook and now Google+.
  • There was a large number of people on the chat who mentioned that they liked the fact that there were a lot of interactive sessions.

Some useful links were mentioned:

The time just flew by, as every time and the chat was great! Once again, many thanks to everyone who organised RSCON3 and to the ELTChat educators for such a great chat.

Number Fifteen – Be A Guide – The 30 Goals Challenge

After a great online conference, RSCON3, time to get back to the 30 Goals Challenge!

Guide them and they will find their way! (Image taken by Carol Goodey, @cgoodey, from http://www.flickr.com/eltpics)

Being a guide in your classroom and your school is very important. It should be part of a teacher’s make-up and being to be a guide towards the students and towards other teachers in their school.

A Guide to the Students

  • A lot of the top educational systems in the world are exactly at the top because they allow students and show them the way to researching on their own. No ready answers from educators, no pressure – the teachers present the subject matter and let the kids explore and find the answers on their own. And that is why we are there for them. To facilitate their learning – not in giving them ready-made answers, but showing them their potentials, that on their own and through searching and looking and researching they can find the answer and their way to knowledge. Each student in their own way. In my classes, the best lessons come when I am listening to the kids speak to one another and debate and explain – I am only there and intervene to give them encouragement and praise and lead them perhaps to something else, when I see that they want more to learn.

A Guide to Teachers

  • There is nothing better than a school full of teachers who have a great relationship among them, communicate and always know they will be there for each other. A bit difficult to happen throughout the whole school, but at least it can happen for a number of teachers in a specific school – and then, who knows? The others might join them as well!
  • Let your teachers know you are always there for them, be it for school-related things or personal things, if you can help them of course. There is nothing better for them to know they can depend on you and come to you without hesitation, whatever your role in the school.
  • Guide them to new things: social networks like Twitter, Facebook and now Google+ and so on and let them know how they have helped you with your professional development. Let them know about conferences and workshops – I let them know I am going and sometimes they join, because they feel better when they are with someone else. Once we are there, they open up and meet other educators as well (and see what good stuff they are missing when they do not come!).

Be a guide for both students and other teachers – someone else has guided you and is guiding you too – everyone is a link to a great chain!