I am just starting as a student on a MOOC on Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching. I have only scanned the course but as with the previous Lancaster MOOC on Corpus Linguistics, I am impressed by the number of moderators they seem to have allocated.
I have recently heard that several languages are being cut at A Level. Amongst the languages affected are Polish, Bengali, Modern Hebrew and Panjabi http://www.aqa.org.uk/supporting-education/policy/gcse-and-a-level-changes/structure-of-new-a-levels
This seems strange for all of the languages but the withdrawal of Polish seems particularly surprising:
- as Polish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the UK after English.According to the ONS (2013), it is the most common "other" language in the UK.
- is a language spoken in an important EU partner
- is similar to many other languages in Eastern Europe
- is a contrasting language to English and students studying Polish can get a greater awareness of language features such as cases.
A petition can be signed at:
ONS (2013) Language in England and Wales 2011 Available at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census-analysis/language-in-england-and-wales-2011/rpt---language-in-england-and-wales--2011.html [Accessed 23/03/2015]
The default time that seems to be suggested for evening OU Live tutorials seems to be 7pm but I have the impression many students would prefer later times. For example, last week, I had a student saying she could listen and type but not speak as she was eating. Another student was interrupted by her young child.
It is impossible to please all students and cater for each person's circumstances. However, when I have autonomy to suggest times to students, I tend to find that 9 pm is the most popular time.
Does anyone have thoughts?
For the L185 course, there are occasional OU Live chats amongst the tutors and course chairs (called "watercooler meetings") to discuss issues of concern and interest. We had one last night and one of the issues was feedback and whether students read them effectively.
I have the impression that students who are successful tend to read the feedback quite carefully but those whose marks are lower may not read them so carefully (if at all). It is difficult to disentangle cause and effects here as perhaps students produce stronger assignments if they read feedback or perhaps those getting good marks are keener to revel in the praise.
I am thinking of how to persuade students to read more of the feedback and act on it. Something I have tried was refer back to feedback on previous assignments to show how they have/have not improved in the aspects I mentioned. One issue is to avoid seeming tectchy if there has been little progress between assignments.
Does anyone have any thoughts?
I did an E303 session last night. It seems to be working much better now after a lot of problems in December. It seemed to run smoothly last night except for some delay in Sharing Screen, which seemed slow but worked eventually.
I am currently involved in moderating the E852 multimodality forum. This has always been an interesting experience and we are currently discussing some political manifestos. However, I reflected on how little I use multimodal affordances in this blog and have the following hypotheses for why this is:
- perhaps I do not think in a very visual way
- I tend to post fairly frequently but quickly
- my posts tend to be quite short.
I suspect the latter two are the main reasons.
It was working better for me last night. However, one of the students did not seem to be able to speak and another kept getting thrown out of the room. It is a very stressful and concentrated platform for teaching when the teacher needs to notice who is in the room, check whether participants can speak as well as think about what they want to do in terms of content.
OU Live seems to be working extremely poorly at the moment in terms of reliability and stability. I had several students who were unable to access tonight's session and I was also thrown out of the room several times. It has been very frustrating.
Last night's OU Live session had added intensity as my volume kept slipping. I could see that the slider was moving sometimes to reduce the volume and monitoring this added to the intensity of the session. I frequently had to do all of the following at the same time:
- think about what I was saying
- respond to what students were saying
- work the whiteboard
- monitor and respond to messages in the text boxes
- monitor my own volume.
OU Live clearly has great value but it is challenging for tutors to work with it. All teaching involves making many decisions and bearing different factors in mind but OU Live requires even more than most face to face teaching.
I have just been reading a translation of an unusual book by Pessoa (1991) and was particularly intrigued by some thoughts on grammar towards the end of it. Many of them seem to relate interestingly to concepts covered in E303 and E301.
The first is "grammar is a tool not a law" (page 231). This seems to relate to the ideas of SFL where there is such an emphasis on the functions that language serves.
There is then a long paragraph where he suggests that "someone who understands what is involved in speaking often needs to make a transitive verb intransitive and vice versa" and that "If I wanted to talk about my existence as an entity that both directs and forms itself.....I would have to inventa transitive form and say grammatically supreme 'I exist me'" (page 231). This quote is interesting as "I exist me" seems similar to the kinds of structures used in spoken English (Carter 2004). Pessoa also seems to be explicitly linking grammatical deviance to creative and literary texts.
There is then another call for appropriate deviance "Only those who are unable to think what they feel obey grammatical rules. Someone who knows how to express themselves can use those rules as he pleases. There's a story they tell of Sigismund, King of Rome, who, having made a grammatical mistake in a public speech , said to the person who pointed this out "I am King of Rome and therefore above grammar" (page 231-232).
These points resonated with many of my thoughts recently. For example, I was thinking of this as I heard David Cameron recently say "I are...." I have not seem this referred to in the press and I slightly wonder whether he was using the mistake/deviance as a tool for expressing (perhaps manufactured) anger about the recent EU bill.
Carter R (2004) Language and creativity: The art of common talk London: Routledge
Pessoa F (translated 1991) The Book of Disquiet London: Serpent's Tail.
I currently teach courses at level 1 and level 3 (plus a Masters level module). This year, some of my students in the level 3 module, Analysing English Grammar (E303) are students I know from having taught them EAP Online (L185). It will be interesting to see the extent to which they have developed and used the skills of EAP Online.
The new L161 course makes use of the Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters (Byram et al 2009). It seems to be a useful document in that it provides a framework for the analysis of intercultural encounters. However one aspect slightly puzzles me and that is the use of the question "Who am I?". Thinking about significant intercultural encounters I have had, it appears that they change who I think I am and I would think the relevant question would be "Who was I?".
It seems to make use of the principles of reflection dealing with "what?", "so what?" and "now what?" (Barrett 2001). The first stage after the "Who am I?" section involves describing the encounter (page 6). The section on the importance (page 7) deals with the question "so what?" . The section on "looking back and looking forward" (page 18ff) seems to deal with the issue of "now what?".
Barrett, H.C. (2001) “Electronic Portfolios: a chapter to be published in Educational Technology: an Encyclopedia [online] Available from http://electronicportfolios.org/portfolios/encycentry.pdf (Accessed 28 October 2007)
Byram M, Barrett M, Ipgrave J, Méndez García M de C, Buchannon- Barrow E, Davcheva L, Krapf P, Leclercq J-M (2009) Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters Council of Europe Available at http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/autobiography/Source/AIE_en/AIE_autobiography_en.pdf [Accessed October 21st 2014]
Students on these course are just starting a new presentation. There is beginning to be some activity on the Tutor Group Forums.
I was in Milton Keynes for a briefing for tutoring on this new course (L161 Exploring Languages and Cultures) on Saturday. It looks like a very interesting course and I think students should be looking forward to doing it.
There are examples from many different languages and text types. For example, there is an interesting analysis of different kinds of menus in different kinds of contexts where it is pointed out that the categories expected on menus in Britain and the ordering of these is not the same on Chinese menus.
I have had some mixed feedback on the same course. One student was so keen on my work that she named me in response to a question of who was significant for her studies and made some very generous comment.
In the anonymous feedback for the same course, I generally got good feedback but for each category, there was one who wrote negative comments. I can entirely understand that there are different opinions and students should give their honest views. However, some of the feedback is demonstrably (or could be demonstrated as) untrue - e.g. feedback that messages were not replied to. I am sure that one rogue person who seems to maliciously criticise would be ignored in the greater context but I wonder whether there should be a need to demonstrate criticisms are reasonable. I suppsoe this might affect anonymity.
It still seems to be going well and many students have been supportive of each other. There are, however, some postings that seem unnecessarily negative about presentations that people have posted.
One thing that has been striking is how often terms of address have been problematic. Some people have been using titles (Mr X etc) and Madam/Sir. These seem to be misinterpreted at times. There is a perhaps a need for clearer expectations about the level of equality that is expected.
The course generally seems to be going well. Something that is striking is that in week 5, there are quite a large number of students still posting on the early activities, stating that they are just starting the course. I am trying to reply to at least some of the postings by these students so that they are aware that we are interested in their contributions and still keen to encourage them.
I had an OU Live meeting last night which seemed particularly intense in terms of the demands that I was under. One of the students was having problems with sound so was typing about this problem in the chat box. I was feeling under pressure to support her as I also spoke and manipulated the white board and also tried to encourage engagement from the other students in the group. Sometimes the demands on tutors can be quite extreme when doing OU Live sessions.
Students still seem engaged on the course and there is plenty of useful discussion occurring. I am trying to encourage and support by making my presence felt. There was one unusual reply to a message I posted - "yah". I find it hard to interpret.
The first week was interesting to experience. There were many comments and the discussions seemed to be lively. Many of the concepts were perceptive but the main impression was of energy as there seemed to be postings almost by the minute. I wonder what student responses to such a busy course are.
The course I took as a student (on Corpus Analysis) had many more facilitators and they were more visible as a result. I hope that students do not feel that there is too little presence of the facilitators but they are only human and cannot be present all day every day.
I will be working as a facilitator on the Future Learn MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on presentation skills. If anyone reading this wants to join, they can do so at:
It is free to register for it.
I hope to post some thoughts on how it goes as the course progresses.
Recently finished L185 and E301 for this presentation - time goes so quickly. They are both good courses and students who work hard on them learn a great deal.
It is the centenary of Sun Ra's birth today.
I wrote a post about a documentary about him here:
OU Live is being used for LB160 for the first time this presentation. We had the first two sessions last week. Students in one group needed help getting used to the technology but those in the second group were already familiar with similar systems which meant we could concentrate on the content of the session.
I have commented before on the inspiring commitment of many students and this was underlined again this week by the example of a student who woke up for an OU Live tutorial at 4 am where he lives.
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