My take on MOOCs

MOOC. It’s such a funny word. I mentioned my interest in taking a MOOC to an IT friend over the weekend and he had NO idea what I meant. Massive Open Online Courses are one of the fastest growing trends on the internet these days. Universities, very well-known ones, are jumping on this bandwagon to offer free, not for credit programs with real professors. I attempted to take a programming course through University of Toronto (eh?) in the fall, but I just got way to busy at work to follow through. Herein lies problem one with a MOOC. If the course is not for credit and you are essentially auditing it, then you had better be crazy motivated to complete it. One of the pros of a MOOC for the learner is the certificate of completion. You can add it to your resume and help become more marketable. I am enrolled in a second MOOC this January on Data Analysis. This one is closer to my heart, so I hope I’m motivated to finish it. All in all, I love the idea of a MOOC from a student’s perspective. I am a person who loves to continue my education, regardless of the fact that I have a Master’s + 60. I would love to get my doctorate, but that is for another post another time. The fact that I can learn from excellent professors from universities I would ordinarily not have access to is very exciting.

That was all from a learner’s standpoint. I still cannot wrap my head around what the university gets out of delivering a MOOC. Perhaps I am a cynic and a capitalist, but isn’t the university in the business to bring in revenue to keep their schools open? How does providing MOOCs serve the university? They get their names out there, but in the case of Stanford, their name is already out in the public. Universities become leaders of something new. Perhaps. How do MOOCs generate revenue? That is my take on MOOCs.


New student

As it seems to happen every year in October and November, here at my school in Philly, I received a new student today. He’s a 10th grader who has been in the US for 15 days from Dominican Republic. I always feel terrible for these kids who have to catch up on so much language and curriculum. Secretly, for me though, I love it. I love the challenge of teaching these students. I love watching them on their first day be silent and knowing that in a year’s time, they will be coming to me and asking me all kinds of questions. I love knowing I have such an important job. Sometimes I wish I weren’t teaching anymore and want to do the admin stuff more, but on days like today, when I have a newcomer who so desperately needs me, I love teaching!

Long time, no write

I am so embarrassed that almost a year has gone by and I have not written a single blog post! Ugh, I am terrible blogger. Oh well, get over it, Kim. You’re the only one reading this anyway. I think the reason I stopped writing was I had this amazing post I had created about which iPad cart to purchase. I had compared all the carts pros and cons, included pictures, prices, and websites to purchase. Sounds great, right? Wrong. It never uploaded properly and went into cyberspace, never to be seen from again. (Cue waa, waa, was music). I was so frustrated by that experience that I stopped writing new blogs. But, I’m back and better than ever.

Today, I’m going to describe some fun ways I’ve been teaching my beginner HS ESL class. We’re working on the past tense, including past simple, past and present perfect, passive and active voice. I have a SMART Board, so I found a great Passive Voice Review Connect 4game to play with the ELLs. This took 3 days to finish and they loved it. I find my ELLs are always super competitive with each other; I’m not sure why. Next we did a Zombie Passive Active Voice worksheet. If I were to create the worksheet again, and I just may, I would make up a zombie story and then have them change the active voice to passive voice to have the zombies doing all the action. This idea came from a viral tweet by Rebecca Johnson‏ @johnsonr

I finally learned how to teach my guys to ID the passive voice. If you can insert “by zombies” after the verb, you have passive voice.

The other fun thing I’ve started in class is using lyrics for warm-ups. This all started when out of the blue, my students started singing “Call Me Maybe.”  I looked on the internet and lo and behold, I found a lyric activity for simple past. I’m now going to do a lyric every day for warm-ups for awhile. Today will be “Dogs Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine. I created my own for “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees. Neon Trees Everybody Talk lyric warmup I like that I’m hitting the listening and reading domains with high engagement from my students.


Success with AirPlay!

Yesterday, I finally was successful in projecting exactly what was on my iPad wirelessly to an older projector with only VGA. It took 3 tries to find the correct converter box, but ViewHD was the success. I was able to hook up the projector to the converter and the converter to an Apple TV. The key to the proper conversion was HD in to VGA out. A lot of the other converters were doing the opposite.  I then used AirPlay to mirror what was on my iPad. Today, I did it again, only this time, my high school students figured out how to do it, as well. Five minutes later of them booting each other off of the projector screen, we settled down to read our iBook of I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. This novel study is going well. I purchased a wireless speaker to attach to my iPad and we use that to listen to the audiobook and follow with the ebook. We use the highlighting tool to highlight difficult vocabulary, the dictionary tool to look up a word (although my new favorite dictionary is and our Google Site to share definitions and summaries. I have also started a forum site on Leflora to have the students answer discussion questions. The kids seem to like the content and how I’m delivering it. It’s been a good, but busy week.

Google Site

Yesterday, I was developing my unit plan for our new novel study, I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. As I was doing this, I was trying to figure out the best delivery model for the assessment pieces (vocabulary, comprehension, collaboration). I found this teacher’s wiki: This was exactly as I wanted to do. I started recreating it on my wikispaces (which I hardly ever use), but then realized I had everything I already wanted at my Google Site. My ELLs are already pretty comfortable with getting on the site. We’ve saved it to our home screens for easy access. I currently use the site for uploading class files and giving them their warm-ups. All I had to do was grant them access to edit and we were set for the collaboration piece. I created pages for the vocabulary and the comprehension. I left the vocabulary blank, because I want this to come organically from our reading. I bought the book as an iBook. Students will use the highlighter tool. We can then add these words to our google site and do the student-friendly definitions and translations. As for the comprehension, I wanted it to look like a discussion forum. Google Sites does not have this embedded (yet), so I had to create an outside one and use an iframe to embed the forum. I chose Lefora based upon a recommendation. I emailed the students invites. Hopefully, this all goes smoothly. We shall see today at 1:06. #wishmeluck

My Perfect Digital Textbook

I have a vision. It is so clear; it’s almost as if I can feel the digital pages curling beneath my fingers. The textbook would be full of the most current content available on the web. It would have important people and ideas hyperlinked to 3D images that can be spun with the flick of a finger. I’m thinking of a bust of Mozart being able to be turned to see all 360 degrees. It would have vocabulary linked to the glossary, which was also in every language available on sites like Google Translate. Speaking of which, the entire textbook could change languages at the tap of a button on each page or as a setting for the whole book. Timelines would not be static; they would be dynamic, interactive hyperlinks. At the tap of a button on the timeline, images, video, and links within the textbook would become available. Charts, graphs, and tables could be drilled down to access even more data. Maps would of course be Google Earth-like. Videos would be embedded throughout with additional content. Music would even be included as an extra insight into something historical, cultural, or artistic. The typical quiz/review features would be clickable quizzes which provided students with feedback and show more content to help them understand what they missed. Project-based learning and social networking would be embedded throughout with instant access to twitter feeds, wikis, blogs, and creation apps to enhance the learning. This is my vision for the perfect digital textbook. Does it exist?