Final reflection on #ONL202

Being an active ONL202 participant has provided me with important insights into digital literacies, open learning, networked collaborative learning, and design for online learning. However, rather than what I learned (the course contents) in this course, how I learned is what I will reflect on in this post. The Problem Based Learning (PBL Group 15) group that we created, as an integral part of ONL202, has been the main drive behind my learning experience. Our learning was facilitated through engaging discussions, collaborative decision making, and problem-oriented focus that took place during our weekly meetings. We discussed, created, produced, and delivered collaboratively.

ONL202 involves weekly course webinars, many PBL group meetings, and multimodal course content. PBL group meetings almost felt like a bridge that connects what we read, watched, and wrote in our own time to the task we were supposed to complete each week. I think the central reason why this course has been so effective, engaging, and fun was due to the continuous collaborative and productive work we have been engaged in as a group. I should say that I had never experienced a long-term collaboration that is as intense as the one in our PBL group. It is clear that I had to dedicate substantial time, which was very difficult given the workload in my full-time job. This was the case for other members of our PBL group too. How could we meet during the evenings every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays then? How could we complete all the individual tasks and group assignments in a timely and well-planned manner? What motivated us? There are two main answers to these questions: we prioritized and we were engaged.

Engagement is a key word here. We did not simply “participate”, “get involved”, “co-operate” and “collaborate”, but we were engaged. This meaningful engagement kept us going until the final task. One of the reasons we have been able to engage this much was due to the selection of topics, which were highly relevant to our current situation. Almost all of us were teaching online lessons and designing online or blended courses. We could easily relate to and apply what we had learned from the course and from each other to our daily teaching practices. Sometimes this involved the use of a collaboration tool like Padlet, and sometimes the benefit was more at a conceptual level. (1) The input from the course webinars, (2) the discussions and the production in the PBL group, and (3) the opportunity to reflect through blog posts created this strong engagement.

I know that I will be using what I learned from this course in the future for designing new courses. Online course design is part of our professional life now, and I am very glad that I was part of the ONL202 group this semester. Our PBL group decided to keep in touch, and there is a possibility that we may even write an article together in the future J We have enjoyed learning together, and we will hopefully continue this collaborative partnership over the years. My humble suggestion for the future ONLers is that they should keep an open eye in this course from the very beginning and make the most out of this course: in order to do this, one needs to prioritise, engage, and collaborate.

Reflection, #ONL202 Topic 4: Supporting students in online and blended learning environments

Language teachers are, according to some, cursed when it comes to online and blended learning. Many language teachers cannot fully focus on the “message” an online text written by a student gives, without an eye on linguistic accuracy. Some teachers who design online courses fall into the temptation of correcting all language mistakes in students’ messages and use online platforms as an opportunity to assess students’ proficiency in writing rather than using them as facilitator of an overall learning experience. I first came to realize this back in 2011, when I first read Mompean’s (2010) piece on meaningful interactions in a blog for second language users. In Mompean’s study, the online presence of the teacher and the feedback the teacher provides to students’ blog posts were found to be very important for creating a good learning atmosphere. However, feedback “provoked paradoxical reactions from the students who were not sure whether they liked it to be public or not” (p. 391). Nevertheless, the message was clear: in an online environment, teacher presence and feedback need to be “felt” by the students. They need to know that the instructor/teacher is with them, reading (and responding to) all the messages, posts, discussions in great detail. In order to maintain your presence throughout an online or blended course and to become a source of continuous feedback, though, you need to design the course in a way that meaningful communication can take place in as many parts of the course as possible. Communication is the main drive in a supportive online course.

Communication is also a matter of design in online and blended learning environment. In the 7C Learning Design Framework (Conole 2015), communication has a central role. The way you design your activities according to who will participate with whom, you can facilitate a stronger community of inquiry. Within these channels of communication teacher presence is quite important, as presence of the teacher and the practices of scaffolding throughout a course are not just motivating, but directly pedagogical interventions to the learning environment. As a teacher, you need to design activities in a way that will allow multiple and varying frameworks of participation, most of which should create room for engagement and learning. I have tried to design a range of communicative modes in my recent online courses: sometimes students think “alone” and annotate the screen to provide responses, sometimes I put them in break out rooms and they brainstorm their ideas that will be drafted on Padlet. In moments of transition, I add whole class discussions. Yet, the design of communication is not the only way to support the learners. I also “planted” online hands-on tasks to be completed in pairs and groups as well as mini reflection assignments. Sounds all positive, right?

Not always. One of the tasks I assigned was not being completed by the majority of the students for instance. I tried to get immediate feedback from the students in a semi-open discussion format and I think it worked. It raised students’ awareness and also clarified the aim of the task to those who probably needed clarification. Therefore, I got to understand that although increased teacher presence and giving feedback are key in creating a supportive online environment, gathering instant feedback from the students on emerging problems, without waiting till the end of the course, is also key in creating a supportive online environment. I should confess, though, that creating a community of inquiry in an undergraduate course where everyone involved (the institution, learners, teachers) are “obsessed” with assessment is a massive challenge. I know that I need to work hard to create a supportive online environment: good that I have 30 years before I retire…Do I really though? 🙂

References
Conole, G. (2015). The 7Cs of learning design. Learning design: Conceptualizing a framework for teaching and learning online, 117-145.

Mompean, A. R. (2010). The development of meaningful interactions on a blog used for the learning of English as a Foreign Language. ReCALL, 22(3), 376.

Reflection, #ONL202 Topic 3: Learning in communities

I first learned about the concept of “Communities of Practice” (Lave and Wenger 1991) while I was reading John Hellermann’s (2008) influential book on classroom language learning. Considering a group of learners as a community of practice and applying this idea to understand how the students learn as a community in a classroom have been eye-opening. Group work and collaboration are two key aspects of collaborative learning in a community. In a digital environment, collaborative learning be an excellent means of development for some learners, while it may create frustrations and turn out to be ineffective for others. I am personally enjoying learning collaboratively in online environments: I do believe that the digital tools we have access to and we use for collaborative work now are golden. This is why I am increasingly using tools that facilitate collaborative work between groups of students in my online lessons. Do all my students share this passion of mine though? Probably not.

I have assigned students many group work tasks in different courses in the past, and these students were assessed after their group work. I have to confess that compared to now, 9-10 years ago, I probably was taking the positive effect of group work for granted. Recently, I believe that I am more careful and responsive when it comes to online collaborative learning activities carried out by my students. As Capdeferro and Romero (2012) have revealed, online collaborative learning activities can be frustrating for learners, due to a number of reasons including asymmetric collaboration, the excess time spent on online tasks, difficulties in communication, etc. I believe that most of these can be prevented by careful planning, transparency, effective communication with students, amongst other things. Brindley et al. (2009) list many recommendations to increase the effectiveness of online collaborative learning, including monitoring group activities closely, making sure that the tasks are highly relevant to the learners, choosing tasks that are best performed by groups, and providing sufficient time. The issue of time, amongst others, is key in my opinion, when it comes to online collaborative learning tasks.

Time and relevance are two extremely important issues in online collaborative learning environments. I use Zoom in teaching, and I assign group work that is assessed (lightly), which is to be completed during the lesson in break-out-rooms. Students work using third party applications like Padlet. So far, I have observed that online collaboration takes more time than face-to-face collaborative tasks. After seeing this problem, I decided to add pre-written sample tasks on Padlet, together with step-by-step instructions, which have been quite useful. I visit the break-out-rooms so that I can check if there are any problems. This is also useful to monitor the group work in online collaborative tasks. The next step is to receive feedback from my students on these practices, and I will try to do that before the semester is over, so that I can make changes in forthcoming weeks and in future online courses. Student evaluation needs to feed into our online collaborative teaching activities. Each course and each group of students are unique: making reflections on our design principles and receiving feedback from students are very important for those of us who want to facilitate online collaborative learning.   

References:

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3). Click here to download.

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning, 13(2), 26-44.

Hellermann, J. (2008). Social actions for classroom language learning. Multilingual Matters.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Instructional materials and OPENness: a reflection on #ONL202 Topic 2

The last two weeks of ONL202 has been eye OPENing in a number of ways. We have had the opportunity to gain important insights into open learning and the concept of openness. One of the interesting materials in this part of ONL202 was a podcast, which included an interview conducted by Kiruthika Ragupathi. The interview features educators from all around the world who discuss what openness means to them. In the podcast, the words of a Finnish educator, Johanni Larianko, made me think about my own attempts to encourage students to share what they produce with each other and the rest of the world. Larianko stated that he is willing to share as widely as possible, and although this may also mean that he shares his mistakes, he said: “I am willing to be more vulnerable”. I think this is a position that we and our students all can learn from. In this post, I will reflect on a course I delivered in the past that involved an element of “openness”, and will consider how practices of openness can inform my future courses.

I personally have always believed in the value of collaboration and openness when it comes to the courses I have had at higher education level. Between 2013 and 2017, the Instructional Technology and Materials Development course I offered at Hacettepe University (Department of English Language Teaching) had a blog where student-teachers can upload their materials and get feedback from their peers. These materials mainly included lesson or activity plans designed by pre-service teachers (see a sample material here). I am happy that I used a blog for that course, as blogs and other participatory technologies are crucial for an open pedagogy (Hegarty 2015) that can benefit many people. What was important for me back then was that the student-teachers collaborated in creating these materials, and they provided peer-feedback to each other. I was able to write about the benefits of this peer-feedback (Sert & Aşık 2020) and collaboration process in a research article recently, which made me realize once again that students, and student teachers, need to be “open” to collaboration, and they need to go beyond collaborating within a class and share their experiences with the rest of the world. However, I have also realized that I should have educated myself better, as a course instructor, on open education practices and ask my students to get creative commons licenses for the materials they produced.

Bates (2019) argues that in the future “students will work mainly online and collaboratively, developing multi-media learning artefacts or demonstrations of their learning”. Especially if we are teaching to student-teachers, then, we need to equip them with the skills that they will use to create engaging online and open content for their students. I will definitely put this at the heart of my future teaching, but this time, I will make sure that each student-teacher taking my course “considers” (at least) open education as a future goal, thinks about what kind of licenses they need for the materials they produce as part of the course, and actively thinks about how collaboration with peers and other professionals in the world may benefit them as well. One important point for future teachers to consider is that the material (i.e. content) they share online will not be the same when it is used by another teacher in another “context”: it will need to be contextualized (as was discussed in the webinar for topic 2 of the course). This is something the teachers need to consider when they use an open access material: it needs to be adapted to the context. Therefore, critical evaluation and adaptation are skills we need to possess and teach to our students when it comes to open pedagogy. This is something that student-teachers taking my future courses will be made aware of.

The last two weeks have been eye opening for me thanks to our PBL group discussions, readings, the webinar, and the materials. I had the opportunity to reflect more on openness and I have made some future-decisions. Open access is the way to go, both in education and in research. Yet, ethical considerations and criticality still need to be at the centre of any decision making when it comes to openness in education.

References:

Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for teaching and learning. Victoria BC: BCcampus. Recuperado de: https://opentextbc. ca/teachinginadigitalage.

Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology, 3-13.

Sert, O. & Aşık, A. (2020). A Corpus Linguistic Investigation into Online Peer Feedback Practices in CALL Teacher Education. Applied Linguistics Review. 11(1), 55-78. https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0054

My forthcoming plenary in ILTERG2

I have been reflecting on my corpus linguistic, conversation analytic and recent ethnographic investigations into language teacher education practices lately, given that I have a plenary in the forthcoming ILTERG2 conference. It has been such a pleasure to work with student-teachers and mentors from Turkey and Sweden so far – my research would not have been possible without their commitment, passion, and openness. I will also be acknowledging my past (Asuman Aşık), present (Merve Bozbıyık, among others), and future (Annaliina Gynne, Maria Larsson, Marwa Amri) co-authors during my plenary “The discursive turn in language teacher education research”.

The title is ambitious, but I am not sorry about it 🙂 It is obvious that I will not be able to present a comprehensive review of all discursive studies within the field of language teacher education. However, I will at least provide an overview of research in line with my corpus linguistic and conversation analytic investigations. I am not sure if I can do the justice to this title, but I will hopefully at least present a coherent argument. I will show and present analyses of data from various settings. I am editing my video and visual files now – the audience should be ready for a multimodal buffet. Not everyone leaves a buffet with a happy face though- too much of everything might be hard on the body and the soul 🙂 Let’s wait and see what kind of traces my buffet will leave.

In any case, it will be great to see familiar faces from Ankara and other cities in Turkey on Friday. It would be much better, of course, if we could also catch up with some of my friends and colleagues for a pint or two – I truly miss them. Yet again, we are on Zoom. And we do not know how long we will have to be on “only” Zoom. Oh, btw, should I add Covid-triggered new normal jokes? Nope. I will leave it to those who like it. We do not really need the backing-up of a pandemic to justify the value of our research.

Olcay

13.10.2020
Västerås

John Gordon – Teacher education and researching classroom talk around literature

It was a pleasure to host a webinar with John Gordon on the 16th of September as part of the SOLD Research Environment seminar series at Mälardalen University (Sweden). John managed to attract participants from 14 different countries, including Chile, Turkey, Austria, France, and many others. John’s webinar brought together a diverse group: school teachers and student-teachers in Sweden, as well as university teachers and researchers from all over the world. John kindly agreed to share his video publicly, which also motivated me to create a Youtube channel:

John provides important insights into the use of literature in English language classrooms. His talk facilitated discussions especially around reading-aloud activities. He goes beyond teaching, and gives tips for teacher education. How can we use Conversation Analysis transcriptions in classrooms? What do the emergent interactions in the classrooms look like? For more, please have a look at John’s webinar video. If you want to investigate this further, his article published in Classroom Discourse would be a perfect read for you.

Olcay

11.10.2020, Västerås

My experiences as a participant in ONL: Two weeks and counting…

My last blog post was on January 15, 2020. Almost 9 months ago… What went wrong? Why did I stop? Have I been too busy? Have I dedicated too much time to micro-blogging (i.e. Tweeting)? Or should I blame COVID-19? Not that I had it, I guess… And may be that is why I decided to take this Open Networked Learning (ONL) course: I did want to get back to blogging. I also wanted to go through a new learning experience with digital tools, so that I could be more useful to my students, to my colleagues, and to whoever willingly or accidentally feels my online presence. Yes, you, who is reading this 🙂 Bear with me, in this first post about the ONL course, I will explain 2 things that I “took away” from this course. They may change me. First, I will reflect on David White’s visitor/resident metaphor for online presence. Second, I will reflect on how I came across with the concept of “Digital Design Literacy” (Pangrazio 2016), and how I gradually have developed an interest in it. Yes, both may sound boring to external eyes, but as I said, bear with me 🙂

Figure 1. My drawing during David White’s webinar

Figure 1 was drawn in less than 30 seconds when David White asked us to reflect on our own online presence, considering whether we use digital platforms for personal vs professional purposes and if we just temporarily use them for given tasks (i.e. visitor) vs or do these platforms become spaces where we use on regular basis and develop identities in (i.e. resident). His question and webinar made me think about these issues, and I noticed that I am a resident in a number of digital platforms mostly for professional purposes. I noticed that I want to have some more professional and personal time on WordPress as writing helps me think, reflect, and make future-oriented decisions. I also thought about my future courses, and I decided that I want to create and make use of digital spaces with my students, where they will not just be visitors for academic purposes, but they will reside there, develop personal and professional identities there, and grow there… I believe that we can grow in digital communities which are constructive, open, and interactive. Like our very own “Problem Based Learning 15 (PBL 15) group” (see our introduction video here) which we created for this course.

As part of our first task in the PBL Group, we created a visual that depicts various elements of digital literacy. My task was to investigate Critical Digital Literacy (CDL), and my journey in this investigation took me to a recent article which re-conceptualized CDL as “Digital Design Literacy” (Pangrazio 2016). The concept of digital design literacy, in my opinion, is liberating and it made me think about my past and future teaching experiences. The concept views students and teachers as active agents who are not just “consumers” of digital literacy, but are “doers” “producers” “designers”. I am already thinking of designing 2 of my forthcoming courses by putting the concept of digital design literacy at the centre of some of the activities, which will help students learn by design, critically. I can already see that the concept has gotten into me although at first I was critical towards it 🙂

This very short reflection on the introduction phase of the ONL course, I hope, gave you some ideas on the transformative power of this course. It engaged me from the beginning, it allowed me to investigate concepts I was not familiar with, and it is already making an impact on my future-oriented decision making. What is more important than everything I’ve written so far is the developing collaboration and co-operation we have within the PBL 15 group. I am not changing and evolving alone, just myself. I am in a dynamic group with like-minded friends: Ebba, Malin, Bianca, Zhao, Davis, Thashmee. I look forward to designing, creating, and working with them this semester. Being a student again, with all the experience I had, and the joint experience of this group is priceless. I hope I will be writing more posts on this space, not just ONL-related, but more. I am here to reside.

Olcay

11.10.2020, Västerås

Reference
Pangrazio, L. (2016). Reconceptualising critical digital literacy. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 37(2), 163-174.

Two data sessions at Mälardalen University, 24 January

Mälardalen INteraction & Didactics (MIND) Research Group

MIND is organizing two data sessions on the 24th of January, Friday, with Søren Wind Eskildsen (University of Southern Denmark), Niina Lilja (Tampere University) and Silvia Kunitz (Stockholm University/Karlstad University). The sessions will take place at Mälardalen University (Västerås campus). Please see below for details on the venue and time.

Best wishes,

Olcay

On behalf of
Mälardalen INteraction & Didactics (MIND) Research Group


MIND data sessions, 24 January 2020
10:15 -12:00 – Swedish EFL Classroom Interaction
Olcay Sert and Marwa Amri

13:15 – 15:00 – Vocabulary in the classroom and in the wild
Silvia Kunitz, Niina Lilja, Søren Wind Eskildsen and Olcay Sert

Venue: Ypsilon, Västerås

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Hello world!

Hi all!

Finally, I joined those academics who have a personal website. Since this comes with a blog, why not blog? I am not sure if I will be able to post regularly, but I am quite motivated to write on issues that are relevant to teachers, researchers, and those involved in teacher education. In my posts, you may see updates on our MIND research group, information on publications in Classroom Discourse, my own and others’ publications, as well as just my ideas and reflections on teaching, learning, classroom interaction, and teacher education.

I hope the blog posts on http://www.olcaysert.net will be worth your time 🙂 Happy new year.

Olcay

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