Some of the aspects of the PD program which have been invaluable to me and also able to meet very specific needs have been :
1. face to face support, one to one at convenient times and locations. ie go anywhere, anytime (including at home and on the weekend)
2. encouragement to follow idiosyncratic directions ie do anything (well, almost anything)
3. Asynchronous OL support by email ie on demand
4. Excellent response time to above
5. Course material and instructions available OL and accessible via project web page - excellent to be able to check details when in different location to hardcopy and to keep up with others' projects.
6. Wise and timely guidance to selected relevant and stimulating sites and lists (eg Michael's Homepage, Learnscope, Neteach and others) broadening issues nationally and internationally.
7. Access to other participants, their projects and issues through mailing list
8. Colleagues at workplace with shared demands, interests, frustrations. People to chat with.
9. Opportunity to experience and rehearse chat via regular Learnscope chat 10. Access to support people for chat scripts and problem solving.
My project was to develop student worksheets to help beginning ESL students gain some familarity with using the computer to access the internet and to create a web page where I could share my worksheets with others. I developed 3 easy student worksheet to use with the Australian On-line White Pages. The project involved revising and practising many of the skills I learned in Stage 1 of the project. These included:
(1) brainstorming and searching the web
(2) sending an attachment and
(3) using Netscape Composer to design and create a basic web page.
I found the skills I learned, the notes from Stage 1 as well as my one-to-one sessions (about 4) with my mentor very helpful. The Learning Plan that I wrote up after an initial consultation with my mentor was followed, even though at the time of writing it up it seemed not within my capabilities.
The process involved in Stage 2 of the project was very satisfying to me, especially as it gave me a lot of time on my own to explore and practise much of what I had learnt in Stage 1, as well as having access to someone with some knowledge and expertise in facilitating such a project which saved me hours of time. I was also especially keen to do something useful to assist my students in gaining awareness of the usefulness of the internet and to practise their English.
I am still much of a novice with my skills and need to develop and practise further. In particular I need to focus on file management and do more web searching.
I am interested in having students use English in authentic contexts, as well as gaining information that is personally relevent and useful. In the future I would like to extend the worksheets I have done to more interesting and useful exercises for the students. One exercise could be to teach the students to search for government and business phone numbers and devise a worksheet with various important phone numbers that they would try to find, such as the Poisons Information Centre.
During Stage I I learned many new skills and frankly was not always at my best as the first few weeks were a rush to get to Croydon on time as I had a class which finished at 12. Also I am teaching low level students at present and knew that I would not immediately be able to use much of the material I found on the Web. I did not want to work on a project as such for stage 2 but rather to consolidate as we had covered a lot of ground during term 3. I did find it hard to have the discipline to sit down on Thursdays some times but my mentor was very patient and encouraging. I practised Powerpoint and made a presentation about the Preparatory program which my mentor then suggested I alter slightly to make a web page. This then turned out to be my 'project'. I agree with many of the things Frankie wrote re feeling a bit shaky on some of the skills we'd learnt in stage one and I've now discovered I can't remember how to send an attachment. This is a problem as my evaluation is due today! Overall I've learnt a lot, still have much consolidation to do, and it's been a bit of a disadvantage not having internet access at home. Thanks to the facilitatorsl for a job well done.
Stage 2 gave Cathy and me the opportunity to consolidate and therefore apply the knowledge gained in Stage 1. We both decided that if we were going to do something it needed to be useful and not just a paper chase.Hence the Enhancement Project (EP) web page. Our EP web page will become part of the EP resources and we intend to develop it further next year. For example, include information re on-going professional development and workshops. This will be invaluable for participants who can't attend in person. Newsletters may also be "online".
I still need a lot of practice as far as designing web pages. The difference between these and a word document can still leave me feeling skill less, but practice makes perfect. What has been invaluable has been the regular contact with facilitators and mentors, and setting up peer support was a good move. The skills I have gained have enabled me to be more independent in my day to day work. Once just needing to send an Email resulted in a request to the ASO!
I still can't believe that Cathy and I actually presented four workshops on "ESL on-line". The last workshops also included cutting and pasting from a web page to a word document,saving graphics from a web page to a floppy disk and bookmarking. During these sessions we were ably assisted by Peter Gripton who volunteers two days a week in the Home Tutorr Scheme office and has an enormous amount of computer skills.
I still have a way to go re these skills as sometimes during these sessions the steep learning curve became a slippery slope!!!! Without this PD opportunity I would never have tried to learn these skills or seen the potential of the technology and how it applies to ESL. Participating in a training group was essential and invaluable as far as reaching a successful outcome. Thank you to our facilitators.
The PD course Stage 1 was terrific. It felt like a big commitment to come down from the country which meant one whole day out of a week which was already rather hectic. After the first Friday those days quickly became addictive as our facilitators guided us through pathways and towards IT possibilities only dimly glimpsed until then. It was also terrific to meet other ESL lecturers for the first time and to be able to fit names to faces.
The facilitators obviously prepared the course with great care. It was interesting for me - a new person to ESL - to learn from observing their classes. And heartening that they were both so quickly responsive to cries for help in the classroom or on email throughout Stages 1 & 2. Whenever I left my IT folder at the "wrong" campus up here in the Riverland it was good that I could still access course details and support on the course page on the web.
Stage 2 was different. I felt "avalanched" by the work I had neglected by choosing "the Friday option". I had foreseen this but still chose to take part in the course. And I'm very grateful for all the information I gained in this way - much quicker than by choosing any other option. However I still have a long way to go on almost every front before I round off any achievements with classes as a result.
Nevertheless, individual members of the Migrant English class I share with Frankie have explored a number of avenues with me as a result. Students have created email addresses for themselves and now communicate with each other both at TAFE and by using their own local public library. Four members of class have moved away - two to Queensland and two to different parts of Greece and keep in touch with us and each other by email (as well as with far away friends). One student was a rather reluctant convert to Internet but - as a small businessperson (an apiarist) - he has seen the value of keeping up with research and information in his field via the Internet and is fast becoming a fan. Another student is happy to access sites which help her with grammar and essay construction as a support to her studies with us. I'm still working towards the day a student would like to construct a web page.
My part of Frankie's page on the course home page is still "under construction" and I am very disappointed in myself as a result. However I have skills I didn't have before, the students have a window on another world which is opening up opportunities they didn't know about before so I'll fossick onwards next year - travelling in hope even though I haven't yet arrived.
The PD course, in one word ? Empowering. It was a push and a shove into the new millenium for me: new skills and and a new attitude. I'm an old hand at Word, but a very recent convert to Netscape. Surprised (and relieved) to discover that many others in the PD course knew as little as I did. And so, coming together as a group in Stage 1 of the course, was invaluable and reassuring: progressing as a team, the humour, the frustrations, the minute glories along the way, discussing intriguing issues such as copyright re Internet during smokos, and simply picking up enough computer lingo in order to talk about it in the first place.
These Friday morning sessions were very motivating. Our facilitators taking us through it step by step, then encouraging and cajoling us to do the homework. By the end of Stage 1 my initial resistance had dissolved. The general feeling in our group was so positive and enthusiastic that I finally gave up my cynicism towards the Internet and the new technology, and began to enjoy the prospect of developing my own website in Stage 2.
How can I make this project work for me as an ESL teacher and for my students in the classroom ? This was the starting point and rationale behind the project, "Australian Studies Resources". Out of endless hours randomly searching for websites on topics related to Australia, the project gradually began to shape itself into 8 separate categories (web pages). This required a lot of useful repetition of basic skills introduced in Stage 1 (bookmarking, saving images, linking sites, inserting tables etc.)
When Mary Readman joined the project, I finally had a good reason to practise using email. (But it still would have been a lot easier to use the phone.) Collaborating with Mary was very valuable for extending the project beyond one campus, and for seeing computers as a means of communication, not only a resource. And so out of our collaboration came the most obvious next step: create a forum for students across the two campuses. But without having participated (albeit reluctantly) in the forums in Stage 1 of the PD course, it would not have been obvious at all.
Another aspect to this project was to design student activities related to the websites: getting down to the nuts and bolts application. In the activities on the "Geography" and "Aussie Lingo" pages, using the computer as a resource is only one ingredient of an otherwise oral focused session involving small group and class discussion. In designing these activities, I didn't envisage students staring at the screen for an entire session.
Throughout the course, I tried out a few of these sites with my current Advanced English students at Salisbury campus. The first reaction of a few students when I first introduced the lesson and mentioned using computers was, "Do we have to stay ? Can we go home if we don't know how to use the computer ?" But by the end of the session, they were so involved in the resources that they had forgotten that they were using a computer. But on the other hand, I had less success taking students into the forum. My own lack of experience resulted in a very frustrating session. Apparently if students take too long composing a message, the computer seems to jam up and all their work is lost! A critical detail!
Tomorrow we have "show and tell". The project has been completed in terms of Stage 2 of the PD course. But it's on-going. It needs to be tended, extended, used, tested.... The "contact" page should perhaps be more inviting, less of Mondrian's modernist boxes. If we encourage students and teachers to send us other useful sites to link to, or ideas for activities, then the site can start breathing on its own. It would be great if in the future another campus sent us their class photo and joined the forum. And students in the forum who have personal web pages could be linked to our site. It never ends: the never-ending webpage.
And thank you to our facilitators. The amount of work, time and patience involved on your side must have been tremendous. I hope that you're feeling as satisfied as your PD students with the outcomes. It has been a revolution..a revelation. Signing off.
Our stage 2 project involved four students, three who came every Wednesday for two hours for six weeks, one who came and worked separately with Amanda when he could. Students also worked at home and were able to email our mentor for help.
The concept was to create a Job Link page, which presented Job Link and had links to pages presenting professional/biographical information about our students. We asked students to create as a minimum their own simple biographical page.
In fact most of these students had far greater aspirations - they actually wanted to advertise their businesses for commercial purposes.
The Job Link site cannot satisfy the commercial aspirations of these students. It is only accessible through ESL talk. For their own purposes the students would need to put up their own sites in consultation with their own Internet service providers.
The success of the project lies in the knowledge gained by the students (and the teachers) from the experience of conceptualising, designing, trying and making mistakes, coming up against obstacles, refining and finally producing. It's a bit like a relationship: initial acquaintance followed by ever deepening knowledge of the other, joys and frustrations, love and fights, gestation and labour and a bonny babe to show for it at the end.
The Job Link Website now has links to 4 student pages/sites. In the future other Job Link students could create simple pages with the help of some step by step notes, peer tutoring by those who have already done it, or Job Link staff. We would need good photo scanning facilities, which we haven't got at the moment, a digital camera , reliable computers and good computer support preferably by people with these skills.
As a follow up to stage one of the Learnscope project in Term 3 1999, a group of 3 of us decided to design a web page for the statewide program on which we teach, The Advanced English for Migrants Program. Our aims were:
Now in the last week of the project we are on the brink of satisfactorily achieving both goals. In evaluating the project there are a number of aspects which we would like to comment on.
Firstly we came to the project with a significant degree of trepidation. Stage 1 was a very comprehensive, thorough and enjoyable program which provided us with practice and a very effective set of notes to which to refer. It was a very well run program but, like all learning processes, requires the learners to practise the skills out of class hours. This was not always easy, as all 3 of us have considerable teaching loads and other commitments. Hence our trepidation - which was definitely not a reflection on the teaching of our facilitators.
Nevertheless, we decided that the best way to start was to jump in at the deep end; so after a fairly comprehensive planning session (with Liz to reign in our ambitious ideas), we set about the continuation of the web page (s). With support at critical moments from Liz and Alison, we were able to develop the pages and certainly, as the process continued we became more confident about the mechanical skills required. We experienced a degree of frustration caused by apparently "losing" material on the computer, but this is more the result of careless file management than anything else.
A few thing we learnt:
Overall we found stage 2 of the project very valuable. It forced us to put into practice what we'd learnt in stage 1 and we defiantly developed in proficiency and became more realistic about the process. While we are proud of our final product, we know that there are many refinements that can be made to it. Maybe in time - if only there were more of it!
The LearnScope project was a very satisfying experience = It was a steep learning curve but we had great teachers and gained significantly from the experience. It would be wonderful to be able to use these skills next year - Any more money?! Certainly if there is funding available it would be good to work on developing some on-line modules. Alternatively, getting involved with staff development, training others in using these skills and providing ongoing support would be very satisfying.
Here at Port Adelaide TAFE Deb and I went for a programme of consolidation for the second stage of the PD course - Deb entered the course late and I felt a great need to "secure" the skills that we had covered in stage 1. I am now [relatively] confident in areas such as file management and eudora [including many of its facets]
During the course of stage 2, as needs became more apparent and as confidence levels rose, Deb & I undertook the design of a Powerpoint presentation which is to be used for the student information session at the beginning of the semester. Deb had actually started this at the original session on Powerpoint but had not had a chance to get back to it and I had actually missed that PD session so it was a good and practical opportunity to work on this together. Our mentor's assistance and comments were invaluable.
The second stage of the PD course also saw me taking my class into the computer room on a regular basis. [albeit only for the last 4 weeks]This would have been unthinkable without the PD course.This was possible because:
Next year/semester I intend to continue using computers on a regular weekly basis. The web sites/addresses/evaluations that are put up are an invaluable resource.The main problem is - as always- the time factor. I look forward to increasing levels of confidence and creativity in this technology in the future.
My evaluation of stage 2 most is probably the last one in and with least amount of substance. I really did not have a project as such to develop and so I can't comment on the prgress of it. I checked a few links and searched for a few sites that could be added to the ESL talk pages as well as consolidating some of the other skills acquired in Stage 1 of the course. I was able to introduce some new sites to my computing class as well as familiarising them with browsing and searching the net.
I did spend a fair amount of time ( between kids) browsing the net myself and looking at chat sites, web pages etc. The biggest plus point for me has been the increased confidence to 'go it alone' through the web and to know there are plenty of 'life lines' if and whenever I needed one. And it was wonderful to get immediate feedback to anything I sent to the list - insignificant and minimal as it was!!
Stage 1 of the Learnscope project was excellent. It was well-prepared, well presented, interesting in content and most enjoyable. The ratio of two facilitators per group enabled each participant to get the help they needed at any time.
Following on from Stage 1, we decided to make Stage 2 the training of two colleagues in the Counselling team where we work at ELLS. We chose this project in order to consolidate our own skills and found that training other people did achieve this aim. The support available from Liz as our mentor was invaluable.
We conducted a skills audit for the two colleagues and on the basis of that information we designed the course content. (see attachment) We allocated two hours per week for the training and started very optimistically. All went well for the first two weeks mainly because we decided to work in the library where we would have no interruptions.
Unfortunately the Computer Suite became unavailable and so we had to return to our work stations where there are constant interruptions in the form of phone calls and inquiries from staff and students. In addition, one of our colleagues fell and broke her collar-bone after the second week and hasn't been at work ever since. We continued with the remaining colleague(!!) and tried to fulfil the tasks we had set.
Due to the nature of work in the Counselling team the time allocated was not always available in reality. As a consequence the remaining staff member offered to come to work on her leave day so that we could finish the training.
We achieved what we set out to do even though we encountered the above problems. We are both more confident about email, the internet, file management, web searching and creating web pages. Our colleague is so enthusiastic about the training that she wants to come in this Friday whilst on leave to complete her tasks.
We would like to offer the following recommendations for other people who undertake a similar project:
I feel (this project) has been a great success, particularly as I have devoted the last seven weeks to introducing my students (ASLPR 1 to 1+) to the internet - a feat which would have been impossible before the first stage. I will endeavour to dot point these successes as follows:
For seven weeks I have assisted my class of 10 ESL students in using the internet. I have done this with the regular assistance of a mentor. Certainly, without her help I would have been on shaky ground. However, Stage One plus her ideas enabled me to teach my students confidently, amazing as it may seem!
In a nutshell we:
The students have been extremely interested and I feel I have enabled them to become empowered through going online. I also feel I have offered them a way of learning English independently and have provided a medium for a lot of communication with their classmates. Perhaps the best indication that the course has been a success is that we don't ususally finish until well after 12.30, often it's 1 o'clock and I leave well before they do!!
Next year I would like to consolidate these skills by teaching a class of a similar level English and to explore more options e.g. chat rooms, bulletin boards and even webpage construction. Many thanks to our facilitators and mentor for a brilliant launch into cyberspace!
I began the PD in Term 3 thinking that I would be able to learn about web design and construction, but that most other things I was pretty well able to do. After all, I had been using email for about three years and had been playing around on the Internet for four years (intermittently). I was competent in managing files and had started the year by becoming involved in producing material for online delivery. I had been teaching my students to access the Internet and email for a few terms (not always successfully), so thought that I could help out as a mentor to others doing the PD and support the facilitators as well.
However, I learned some tricks in using email (the art of addresses), which make life much simpler and less a hit and miss affair in sending messages. I am confident that my messages will always arrive and am now quite accustomed to sending attachments too.
I also learned some valuable tricks in keeping up with the plethora of passwords that are given every time you arrive in a new protected environment. If I choose, I now try to use the same one, and if I am given one, I have found it works to save it on a disk which I can carry with me.
Then I discovered a whole new way of searching the Internet which makes my searching much more controlled and not the random unknown discovery that it used to be. Now I can use boolean searching and use the meta search engines and have a much better idea about keyword searching, which previously had been painstakingly learned by trial and error.
I have also learned the simple art of sorting bookmarks and being able to save them to a disk so that they can be saved from computer to computer upgrade, or to transport from one computer to another - great for preparing common bookmarks for a class to use.
In Term 4, as part of the second phase of the project, I mentored several projects and shared the excitement and frustration of the participants as they ventured forth into new territory. I learned of the difficulties from a reflective point of view of dealing with low English levels and of complete unfamiliarity with the technology, and talked about ways that we could use to help solve these problems. It was especially valuable for me to be one step removed as we discussed these issues as it will inform my praxis as I go back into the classroom.
The greatest learning came when I helped out with uploading the web pages created by the teachers. All the intricacies that are involved meant that the learning curve was really steep at times and the frustration level in the danger zone. However, being part of a great team meant that we never blew out at the same time and so were able to hold it all together overall. Being able to upload both in and out of WebCT, at home and at work, singly or two or three at the same time, amazed me at the flexibility of this medium and now I know that I can work any where in the future.
I can roll over, sit up and beg, fetch, jump through hoops and am now learning to run while standing on a barrel. Who says "You can't teach an old dog new tricks"? I can be taught and have fun at the same time.
The class consisted of students from a wide range of ages. The older ones were very hesitant about using a computer. They overcame this hesitation. One student went all over the place with her mouse and at the end of a session she had opened so many files. I just stood there looking at the screen in amazement. I am keen to find a program on mouse skills to help along. Can anyone help!
I found that the time spent in the classroom explaining computer tasks before going into the computer suite was time well spent. Also some of the class learning activities were developed further through IT exercises. In the year 2000 I hope to consolidate a learning program for students in the form of a package.
What I learnt: I learnt I could do IT!
Being an online participant was novel and exciting to me because I had never done anything of this nature previously - I was a bit nervous as I did not know exactly what to expect and how I would cope with problems that would need immediate feedback or personal assistance. Thus it was with a sense of slight apprehension yet anticipation that I went into the course.
I can say that I gained enourmously from the course in the area of knowledge on how to use the internet. The subject matter that the course undertook to deliver was done well. The e-mail list and the website especially was of enormous help to me as I learnt and surfed!! Knowing that I did not have the opportunity to go to a face to face session where I could request and receive immediate feedback was for me an essential part to getting to be independent on the web!! I felt that at times I had to almost go it alone and I started to enjoy that aspect of it very much - It was with some sense of acheivement that I finished my web page as an online participant and realised that I had kept up and that one could actually keep up with a face to face group. The fact that I could iron out some of my difficulties with occasional meetings with one of the facilitators helped a great deal too.
As for feeling part of THE group; I had sort of imagined that I would be somewhat isolated as an online participant from the rest of the group and to a certain extent I was. I did not feel very connected to the other particpants but at the same time I could empathise with what they were going through, their frustrations, their acheivements and their excitement. This was in Phase 1 of the course. I however felt that it would have been a good idea to have met the other participants at least once. Maybe the reason that I felt somewhat remote was that I was almost the only online participant whereas the 95% of the group were more personally "connected" - I could sense this online as well!!! This was confirmed on the final day when I met the others.
I definitely preferred stage 1 to Stage 2. I enjoyed stage 1 and as stated I felt that I actually achieved something. However in stage 2 I felt I had nothing to do; a bit lost and wandering!! I definitely did not feel a sense of wholeness between the two stages. Maybe if I worked along with another participant on a project I would not have felt so. I felt that I was doing something almost irrelavant to what I had done in stage 1; maybe my expectations were differrent. However I feel that the online participants would need more close 'monitoring' and support at this stage than was provided.
The course was definitely of great value and the convenience factor it provides for online users like myself should not be under-estimated. Undoubtedly it was on the whole a satisfying experience - it opened a whole new dimension in the areas of learning and teaching for me. I would definitely recommend it and would class it as a very good tool for professional development if it were done effectively. I am inclined to wonder what if more or all participants were 'onliners'? Would there have been more of a feeling of 'connectedness' between them?