Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Reflections on ARP / Personal Growth

I submitted my cycle reports to the headmaster, dean of faculty, department chair, and a couple of foreign language teachers of the Bishop's School, and received very positive feedbacks from some of them. The headmaster sent me an email and commented: "... I liked the data that proved collaboration over individual study brought significantly better results...." His comments were really encouraging as I was told that the headmaster had never sent e-mail to any teacher. This shows me that my ARP is important to the development of education at the Bishops' School.

My ARP is going to complete soon, but I feel the learning is continuing. The Bishop's School asks me to introduce my ARP to the whole school faculty next year. I feel there is a lot to say and there is a long way for me to go.

Looking back on my process of learning from the beginning of OMET, I think this Action Research Project has been an eye opening, enjoyable, and positive learning experience for me.

This project has actually changed me. I went from an instructionist to a constructivist educator´╝îfrom a didactic teaching style to encouraging social learning. In applying these educational theories in my classroom I experienced social constructivism and learning by doing. I have witnessed the effects of the change in my students and myself. My students are happy with how they learn and are delighted with what they have learned. My job was made easier and more effective. I am enjoying the process of facilitating, and role of "Guide on the Side." I am teaching less but my students are learning more through discovery and through the help of their fellow students, and their peers in China. I feel students have never learned so much and so enthusiastically without me walking them through it. I was able to set up the learning environment in such a way that they took charge of their own process. My practice has improved tremendously and my students process of learning and understanding has improved as evidenced in their own reflections and actions. For the first time I have discovered that digital portolio is so powerful. I think if students present their portfolios to their parents, parents are then able to see so much more than a grade marked on a paper would have told them. The data collected have shown me that the projects students designed allowed them to get a new sense of themselves as learners - that setting a goal and working together to achieve it was something valuable to them. Self knowledge and reflections have deepened their learning.

The OMET program has provided new lenses in which to see and understand how people learn and the applicable theories on which to base actions. What a worthy and productive Action Research Project!

Friday, April 15, 2005

ARP Reflection - Learning and Teaching with Passion

Through my ARP experience, I have discovered that the learning environment created by a teacher in class is a great influence on how a student views a subject. To create a postive learning environment, teachers should have a passion for the subject which they teach. Their attitude toward the subject matter and toward the students should reflect a love of their job. This positive attitude then gets reflected in the way they set up the class, which influences a student's view of the subject. As teachers, their responsibilities entail passing on this passion and love for knowledge to their students. In order for pupils to want to learn about a subject matter, they need to observe their teachers' excitement for it. If teachers do not seem to enjoy the material they teach, then the students can come to the assumption that it must be boring. For this reason, an important way teachers encourage students to learn depends on presenting information as interesting and relevant to society.

If students do not think educators enjoy what they teach, the students do not feel compelled to try to learn the material. If educators do not view the information they teach as interesting, many students conclude that the material must not offer excitement, and therefore do not feel encouraged to learn. They might consider the subject boring and a waste of time, so their attitude becomes negative toward the class. Educators without interest in their jobs give students the message that what they teach must be worthy of interest.

As educators, teachers strive to bring a refreshing and positive attitude to their subject and to students. If they do, their attitudes will help them create a class structure that students find enjoyable and stimulating. Teachers have the opportunity to give their students one of the most important skills and gifts in life: a passion for learning. With guidance from teachers with the right attitudes and classroom structure, students can flourish into knowledge --- hungry individuals. A love for learning can stimulate not only a successful educational career but also the basis for a successful career, because education provides the key to success.

As for grades, students always think grades are important to them, especially those who want to go to a prestigeous institution of higher learning for their post secondary education. They need the good grades to realize their dreams. For some students, it is the grades that motivate them to learn. I don't know what to say about this. I am still struggling with this.

Inner Stillness

"Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together" is an interesting book that MM recommended us to read. During the trimester, I was busy with my ARP, mentoring process, and curriculum project; so did not really have time in reading. Now at the end of the trimester and before the start of the next trimester, I think this is a good time for me to read.

As I read, a section "Stand Still" struck me. The author states in this section that to stand still means listening from silence, listening for and receiving the meanings that well up from deep within us. These creative pulses may move in us, but often we are too busy to pay attention. Stand still.

There are many traditions worldwide that encourage people to cultivate inner silence. In the book Tao monitoring - the Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom, the author talks about the Chinese virtues, and one of the virtues is inner stillness. A person cannot see his or her own image in running water but sees it in water that is at rest. Only when one has realized growth and potential through inner stillness can one experience meaningful relationships and understand the universal laws of self-expansion. We all deserve sanctuary and time out along the way, a place where openness and wonder truly exist.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Another Function of Video Tech in Language Education

I recently discover that showing students videos of native Chinese speakers conversing in real-world contexts can enhance the listening comprehension of the students. They must carefully observe the video, looking for important pieces of information that they use to construct a solution. Constructing the solution requires that they continuously articulate what they know about the problem and reflect on its sufficiency for solving it. Obviously, video is more engaging to the students than textbooks are.

I am going to get some movie clips in which native Chinese speakers talk some daily subjects that my students are familiar with, and I will see how the students react to the movie. Although this activity will not be part of my ARP, it will certainly enhance students' listening capability.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Cycle 3 Inquiries

An interesting activity in cycle 2 was that students participated in e-mail exchanging activities to build good rapports with their e-pals in China. They have exchanged emails with their Chinese friends, and some sent to each other pictures. Some students designed virtual gifts using technologies to introduce the American culture to their e-pals before the Christmas holiday. The purpose of this activity was to learn the language and culture from the native speakers.

The students are excited about the learning opportunities with the native speakers. With the technologies available for the distanced learning, they want to gain the authentic learning experience. Now I have been thinking of building a project for my students to collaborate with their peers in China, and my inquiry for this activity is whether this project will help my students learn better.

Previous research suggests that it increases learners' opportunities to use the target language, induces a series of negotiations of meaning (Blake, 2000 ), and improves the quality of written and spoken language (Sotillo, 2000 ). With collaborations that involve the native speakers, students will have real-life purpose and accelerated motivation to construct their knowledge and develop their language skills.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Department Meeting

Last Friday I introduced the Narration Recording function of PowerPoint to the department. Some teachers were really interesting the function. I could see their excitement about the learning. Some were not so interested. I guess there were some problems with the microphones and the connection.

The reason I introduced this function to the department is becuase I think it is an effective and efficient way for the foreign language students to practice their speaking and their pronounciation. If they make any mistake, they can hear it when they play the show, and they can re-record their voices and correct the mistake. It is also a good tool for assessment. If the students record all their speaking for every lesson from the beginning of the term to the end of the term, they should be able to hear their own progress at the end of the term.

I also showed the movie that my students made during their project learning. After watching the movie, I received some positive feedback from the teachers. They enjoyed watching the movie, and thought it was an interesting way to motivate students' learning.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cycle 2 Reflection

Findings and Insight:

It was an incredible thing to watch students so engrossed in the learning activities that they didn't want to stop. I felt students had never learned so much and so enthusiastically without me walking them through it. I was able to set up the learning environment in such a way that they took charge of their own process.

When I was in Florida for the Educational Technology Conference, a substitute was assigned to teach my classes. The substitute does not speak Chinese. How did my students learn from a non-Chinese speaker? A student from Advanced Honor Chinese 5 class taught Chinese Intro II when she was in her free period, and another student taught Chinese III. The most exciting thing was about the Chinese IV student's learning. They had class discussion by themselves through Tapped-in. I was surprised to receive the transcripts from the Chinese IV student's Tapped-In session when I was in Florida. From the transcripts I was very glad to find out that the Chinese IV students learned the new vocabulary of the new lesson and together as a group constructed their new knowledge through Tapped-In. I was so proud of my students for their own learning.

The insights of cycle one are still true. The synchronous and asynchronous communication technologies have still served as tools to facilitate students' learning activities. In project based learning, the students have collaborated around meaningful projects and powerful ideas that allow them to get a new sense of themselves as learners - that setting a goal and working to achieve it is something valuable to them. Student-centered learning has enabled the students to control over their own learning, and thus they have learned for deep understanding. As a student states: "This year has been much more beneficial than the past few years just because of the way we have been learning Chinese."

I was very excited to discover from student's learning activities that PowerPoint could not only serve as a presentation tool, but also it could be an interactive teaching tool. I also found out that video recording was not just for presentation, but it could be a powerful assessment tool in the language education.

Self knowledge and reflection reveal and deepen student learning. When students collected their semester's work and began to reflect they realized how much they had done in the first semester. The review also seemed to remind them of their knowledge and helped them retain it. Learning to practice meta cognition helped students to take responsibility for their own learning. The students were thinking about their learning. Since portfolios cause dialogue and reveal perceptions, I became aware that discussions about their reflections would be a good way to further understanding. I think if students presented their portfolios to their parents, parents were then able to see so much more than a grade marked on a paper would have told them.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Self Knowledge

Dr. K asks: "what is it that you are really assessing and how are you going to be sure you are assessing it appropriately? "

We have some discussions about assessment in Madre's class recently. Now in Dr. K's class since many of us believe that assessment is a crucial part of curriculum, the questions about how and what to assess were raised again here. With those questions in mind, I read Chapter 6 of Understanding by Design, How Is Understanding Assessed in Light of the Six Facets? (pp 85 - 97) The chapter gives me some new insights. It tells me how the six facets of understanding inform and guide our assessment of understanding. For each facet, the chapter gives us some suggestions or strategies for getting at the heart of the topic.

I really like self-knowledge (facet 6). I think self-assessments is one of the powerful ways of learning. The reflective questions can make students look back to their learning process and see how they have learned and where they should improve.

Meta cognition refers to people's abilities to predict their performances on various tasks and to monitor their own levels of understanding. The meta cognitive approach to teaching includes activities that focus on sense-making, self-assessment, and reflection on what worked and what needs improving. ( Bransford, Brown, & Cockling. 2000 ).

Portfolio reflection provides a means to make learning visible. This in turn becomes the bases for deeper learning. The reflection piece requires some meta cognitive work; that is, students thinking about their learning process. When talking about what assessment should look like in a project-oriented classroom or school, Papert contends that portfolio-based, so-called authentic assessment is very good. ( Papert ).

After entering the OMET program in the Fall of 2004 I became more aware of the importance of reflection and metacognition. Although reflection invites introspection portfolios have an audience and so do the reflections included in them. This dialogue about the learning process can profit students in ways to help them learn more. Hence, students learn how to learn. (Murphy, S. 1998) The importance of thinking about one's own learning is of utmost importance. Bransford (2000) gives the example of a person who reads through a passage once, takes a test, and fails it. The pattern repeats itself unless he/she stops to think about his/her own learning, and that it may take more than a mere one time reading to master the material. Many students of my classes are always very eager to get their graded homework or tests back, and when they do so immediately look at the grade and put the homework or tests into their backpacks. They usually do not take time to see what mistakes they mady, and think how they made the mistakes. I asked them if they wanted to complete the tasks to receive As or they wanted to learn to have the ownership of the knowledge. They said that they wanted to learn to really understand the materials. In the first semester I asked students to write reflections in their blogs on all major activities.