YouTube: quick questions posed to people on the street


This YouTube was shared with me by a colleague (Jim Stroud) on EnglishCafe

I laughed, but am horrified. Were any of these ‘staged’? Would that many people truly not recognize that some places were mis-labeled on that world map?????

The educator side of me sees wonderful PBL (project-based-learning) possibilities here.

I believe this should be shown to high school classes, to ABE (adult based education) classes, and then projects assigned — for learners to create their own ‘mimic’ videos — drafting new questions and taking them to the streets, then creating (learner-created) teaching videos addressing any of the errors noted.

What’s your reaction?
Please share reactions, comments, questions here in a reply post; thanks!

Top Seven “musts” for effective, meaningful online learning opportunities?


What would you list as the “Top 7” considerations for an online learning environment to be effective and meaningful for you for an online language learning experience?

“Off the top of my head,” here are mine: [I’ll probably edit this list as I ponder further. This list is in random order, not prioritized in any intentional way.]

* audio component / capabilities for participants to both play and record

* profile information posted to include photos (if not of the participant, then of something each participant chooses to represent themselves, their interests) — AND those photos show with each post and interaction generated by the participant (as in Moodle and other platforms).

* spam-free (password-protected registration process to deter spammers gaining access)

* combination of synchronous and asynchronous opportunities; lots of interaction built in to the design of the site and the curriculum

* tutorials provided, with screenshots, to show HOW to use the site

* facilitators who post frequently in a genuine and intentional way (not ‘canned’/’pat’ responses), are highly visible on the site, and available for quick, friendly responses to questions and concerns

* clear agenda or syllabus

Reactions? Comments? Questions? “Bring ’em on!”

Holly [also posted to my English Café online learning group 11/24/08]

Rethinking educational infrastructure…

Below is an edited version of a discussion I posted in an online course I’m taking:

What infrastructural changes would be needed to generate a change from letter grades or ranked grades to “S” for satisfactory or “blank” (indicating not yet achieved) for specific skills and targets?

Consider that the federal government is in the process of generating standardized breakdowns of mastery levels per grade, as are most states.

Why not use those as ‘report cards’ – cards available online for access anytime by teacher or parent or learner – with feedback, query and response options built-in?

Why must there be “superior” or “failure” grades? Why not admit that everyone is on a continuum, that progress is anticipated, and track when satisfactory is achieved — and at periodic intervals thereafter to determine retention and maintain the ‘S’?

Infrastructural changes would have to include discussions about “grade levels” – most likely abolish ‘first, second, third, etc.’ and simply have disciplines. All students would be required to attend (some? all? options?) disciplines – and might move from one group to another based on their progress.

“Gifted and Talented” classes would not have to be so labeled. Learners, in their various areas, would simply accumulate ‘S’s and then move on to the next group or be encouraged by teachers to continue their climb, to follow their passions.

For example, a student might excel (and have a passion for) biology but might not be as strong in (or have as high a passion for) literature. So, in biology, he/she might progress from one level to more ‘advanced’ levels, accumulating a string of ‘S’s – but in literature settle for only ‘basic’ S levels.  The expectations for all would be to find where their natural talents and interests are – and to learn, learn, learn.

In such a system, teachers, too, would be encouraged to follow their passions and talents. Co-teaching would be encouraged, group collaboration and celebration of individual strengths and interests would be encouraged. Planning would naturally be peer-involved because there are no “this is for fourth grade, I can’t teach that” concepts, merely ongoing enriching, enriching, enriching of curriculum.  Online opportunities would enable this collaboration beyond the physical boundaries of any particular district — students with fine-tuned interests could be and would be encouraged to link up with others anywhere in the world sharing that same interest and linked up with a teacher somewhere else in the world to enrich their experiences.  Everywhere would be the same (expanding/evolving) list of possible standards to meet and surpass.  This portfolio of sorts could be embellished with audio, video, scanned documents, etc., to create an ever-building portfolio that could be shared at individual’s discretion — with future employers, for example.

As learners achieved proficiency up to college level courses, they could be encouraged to attend courses in those specific areas only.

This is the beginning of my ramblings… please share your reactions, comments, questions!

navigation skills, part two (some useful ideas!)

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Joe Horne of Atlanta GA gave me permission to share these words of his wisdom with you:

“I would say that distinguishing between good and bad information on the web is an essential life skill for students, workers and civilians.  As a user of the web, this is a crucial skill. 

And if you are teaching a class that utilizes technology, you must challenge your students with verifying information.  If, for example, a student references a wiki entry, they must list it as such. 

And they must also identify the information as “verified” from another source. 

In fact, I require at least one wiki reference per paper (but it must also be confirmed from an additional source – so this hopefully helps them develop a habit).  99% of the time, the wiki is right – but the 1% when it isn’t can be enlightening.

Navigation skills are also important. 

In my classes that extend over an hour (where we might be doing intense graphic design work), I question the students on what is the most efficient way to do a task. 

Then I ask them what is easier on their hands.  In other words, is a certain movement more likely to cause a strain or carpal tunnel?  Plus, we take a 3 – 5 minute yoga break in the middle of class. 

If I see their shoulders rising, I know it’s time to take  break.  I think this is a good practice to develop for web surfing too.

And I do think multiple intelligences should be honored.  They are honored in society (in some ways), and we should honor them (as appropriate) in the classroom.

~  ~  ~  
Excellent ideas!
Thank you, Joe
comments? reactions? Please send a reply message/post!

hodge-podge (WiZiQ, a good book, more)

Hello to all readers.

Well, this morning I’m experiencing an odd clash of emotions.  I’ve been using WiZiQ ( for some months now, with as many students and friends as I’ve been able to convince to try it.

I have scheduled sporadic chats on WiZiQ and invited many prior students, colleagues, others to join me to ‘play’ and experiment with WiZiQ.

I have used my passionate enthusiasm. I’ve used screenshots and created detailed tutorials for how to register on WiZiQ.

Earlier this morning, I had a chat scheduled for one and a half hours.

I had invited over 50 people to join me in WiZiQ.

I sent reminders (short and hopefully friendly reminders).

There were indications from a few folks that they would try to join in.

But, no one joined me.  It was a lonely hour and a half.

~    ~    ~

I am disappointed.  BUT, I am still smiling, because I’ve learned that it takes time… that it’s not (necessarily) “me” that’s the problem.  There are SO many possible reasons for people not joining me:

technology-wise:  New things are intimidating!  Learning without face-to-face help/guidance is an extra challenge.  For some, dial-up connections, the lack of a headset, not used to chats of any kind, and more — might be factors.

ESOL complications:  For most of the invitees, English was not their first language!  So, on top of the technology torment, there is the very real anxiety element of communicating in new technology language and second/other language (English) as well!  Add to that the fact that many of the invitees have never met each other, and there’s a third challenge!

time-wise:  I scheduled a time when I hoped that folks from other continents might be able to join in — but making things convenient for them meant a morning time here.  Many of the invitees have told me they are NOT ‘morning people’ — and so 8:30 on a Saturday morning means that I will not see them on WiZiQ.

I am an optimist, an idealist.  I will continue to strive to get more people excited about technology.  I will continue to learn from others who are so much more aware and proficient at technology skills than I am.  I will continue to schedule practice WiZiQs and continue to invite students (current and former).  Whenever possible, I will provide hands-on tutorials (face-to-face, side-by-side demonstrations), so that when the ‘next’ WiZiQ is scheduled, more students will be willing to try it.

I will continue to dream of the time when I land or create a position where I’m able to reach larger groups of students, in small group settings, to excite more people to the potential and positives of technological tools.  These tools, I emphatically believe, can make language learning and culture-sharing more meaningful and rewarding.

~    ~    ~

And, while I was waiting, hoping that others would join me, I finished reading a book!  The book is one I picked up from the “NEW BOOKS!” shelf of a local library branch — and am so glad I did!  I began it Thursday afternoon and finished it this morning!  The setting of the book is familiar territory — Charlottesville, VA and the ‘valley’ area nearby.  many of the places mentioned are familiar to me.  The author, Jason F. Wright, has another bestseller I must read (title:  Christmas Jars), but the one I just finished is The Wednesday Letters

As a writer, I love this concept of “Wednesday Letters.”  A character in the book writes letters to his wife every Wednesday of their lives together — decades of Wednesday letters.  Some are written on napkins, some on index cards, some typed, etc. 

Family secrets, forgiveness, anguish, joy, love, steadfastness — and more — are themes in this book.

There are faults I could find with the book — but also much I admire.  I am going to try and get my husband to read this book, and see if we can follow the tradition – of a weekly write to each other (via email or handwrite or otherwise)…  wow… when I think of what it might reveal.  And I like the thought of trying to write to Amber (our daughter) every week, too.  We communicate often by phone or email — so I feel as if I have done this to some extent.  But what if I had done so since she was born?  And then left them for her to discover when she was ____?____ age?   wow… It is difficult to share deep thoughts.  But what power in the sharing!

Anyway!  I recommend this book:  The Wednesday Letters, by Jason F. Wright (2007).

It does remind me of the loss, the ache, of having lost all my journals and cherished letters from years past [lost nearly two years ago, August 10, 2006, in our house fire] — I did so enjoy reading, re-reading things I’d written — I have learned a lot about myself from rereading the authentic voice of my past.  I had saved every letter received from personal acquaintances since I was 12 years old — all now lost… I had hoped to use them to help me add authenticity to a book (or books) I hope to publish someday.   

Enough for today! 


What preparation should a teacher do to help students know how to prepare for a good job?

I participate on several listservs, finding the interactions very rewarding personally and professionally. 
One of these listservs is facilitated by David J. Rosen, a man for whom I have great respect and admiration.  It is the National Institute for Literacy’s Workplace Literacy mailing list. 
Information about the list:
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Recently, David asked the list:
<< What preparation should a teacher do to help students know how to prepare for a good job?>>
Here’s the response I posted:
I do not call myself a professional developer.  I do call myself an adult eucator.
I’m writing this from my personal lifelong learner worldview and life lessons, which are strongly influenced by ‘happenstance,’ by pushing myself through the process:
My short answer:
Increase your awareness. Know some of the goals learners in your classes are striving for — and try to find out why.  Model and reflect and share and develop the awareness in all learners — of any age — that as life is a process, so a career or any “good” job is a process, too.  If stagnation (a good vocabulary word to learn) is not your goal, then seek to avoid it… take action. Asking is an action, so ask questions.  Help each individual become increasingly resourceful in finding answers or partial answers to their own questions.
Plan and dream (I call it dream-scheming).  Plan immediate.  Plan short-term.  Plan long-term.  Plan frequently.  Document your plans.
Learn from observation of yourself and others that ‘things happen’ when some process, any process is followed.  Ask questions.
Believe in this and consistently illustrate via the steps learners in your class successfully take — have them document and develop a portfolio (public or private) as validation of the process, of the changes (positive and not-so), of the accomplishments.
Acknowledge the realities of folks who appear not to have progressed, or perceive that they have not progressed.  Document this. Encourage frequent review of the dream-scheme plan and portfolio and ask questions and try again. 
Acknowledge the realities of folks who appear to have progressed, to have found successes. Document this. Encourage frequent review of the dream-scheme plan and portfolio and ask questions and try again.
Trust the process.

8 Tips for effective progress:

adapted from Stephen Covey, Julie Morgenstern and Franklin Covey:

1) Think of your resolutions as goals  (Make sure each goal includes clear measurements and specific deadlines). 

I will try = a goal, versus 

I will = a resolution

Goals allow for recommitting and redirection.


2) Set Only one or two realistic goals at a time (If you create a long list of goals during dream-scheming, select one or two at a time to pursue actively, but document all of them!).


3) Write down your goals (document) and revisit them frequently.


4) Take baby steps (and document them).


5) Go public  (Tell people you live, work or socialize with about your goal; use technology and create a wiki or blog or website space).  Ask folks to ask you questions.


6) Track your progress (document).


7) Reward yourself (document the rewards).


8) If You slip up, forgive yourself and recommit (Try again… and document the lapses — it will make subsequent lapses easier to forgive and move on from).

Thoughts? Reactions? Comments?  Please post a reply comment; thanks.


reflecting on the practice of being an adult educator…

Nearly one year ago I attended a conference at which a colleague asked this question (of as many conference participants as possible): 

What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you began teaching, and why?

and at another conference event, we were asked:

What is a short list of ‘things to remember’ you would give a new adult educator? (think about why you are including them before you short list them!)

Here’s my short list, not necessarily in any ranked order, and not necessarily complete! 

* suspend judgment; delay reaction if feasible

* listen and observe; listen and observe carefully; ponder what you see and hear; attempt to clarify that what you hear is what is being said,  that what you see is what others see; reflect upon the differences

*be prepared to forgive yourself for not always being able to live up to your best intentions  [Note: this is probably the one thing I “know now that I wish I had known when I began teaching…”]

*strive to know your audience, and their objectives – and compare their objectives to your objectives

* look for the positives in everyone (including yourself); share your awareness of the positives with the world around you

* acknowledge the not-so positives; inclusively collaborate for possible interventions

* be prepared for surprises!

* persevere

* smile

* try to learn to let go of what you have no control over

* embrace lifelong learning

* reflect deeply upon your practice, your philosophy, your worldview

* be kind

 Challenge to all — how might you answer these questions (or how do others you ask answer them?): 

What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you began teaching, and why?


What is a short list of ‘things to remember’ you would give a new adult educator? (think about why you are including them before you short list them!)

Reactions? Comments? Thoughts? Questions?  Please reply and post a comment! (thanks)