Saturday, 11 October 2008

CCK08 - Groups and Networks

I have been a really bad student lately. I have missed too many live meetings, skipped too many readings and I haven't been blogging for a long time. True, I had a problem with Technorati - they didn't update my posts regularly and I only realised that when I couldn't find my latest post under CCK08.
I have resolved my problems with Technorati now (or so I hope) and I am ready to blog again. Plus, I would really like to sink my teeth into the groups and networks issue. I have recently read Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom by Zoltan Dornyei and Tim Murphey. I loved the book and I must admit I have been using some of the techniques to better manage my classes.
The book argues that a coherent group is considered to be a good thing in the classroom. It raises student motivation and helps resolve discipline issues. It is all about cooperation and focusing on the common goal - in this case learning.
Of course, the learning context is completely different on the Internet. I guess what we have in CCK08 is not a group, but a network - over 2000 people who don't know each other at all, but are willing to learn from each other and discuss different issues. This is great for introverts like myself, who don't need to belong in order to learn. Yet, this way of learning might be too aloof for some people.
Groups go through four stages of formation before they become coherent: Norming, Storming, Forming and Performing. Observing our CCK08 network, I can see there is a lot of norming going on (what exactly is connectivism, what is the difference between networks and groups, etc.). I can also see a lot of storming, but I'd rather not go into that. So, what if a network is a group which got stuck in the norming stage? If this is the case, how do we stop networks from evolving into groups? And is it always a good idea to do so?

You might also like:
What can connectivism do for me

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Sunday, 14 September 2008

CCK08 - What can connectivism do for me?

I have been trying to write a post on connectivism for a week. I am new to connectivism and I am still struggling with the concept. So I am not going to write about the theoretical part. Instead, I am going to talk about why I am here.
I started the course out of shear FOMS (Fear of Missing Something) that so many compulsive online students have. I am a Webhead and, when more and more Webheads started joining the course, my FOMS became acute. Once I hit the Join button, I started suffering from another fear I am familiar with – the Fear that I Won’t Be Good Enough (no abbreviations here). But what connectivism is all about, as far as I understand it, is joining, connecting to others and choosing (or letting your brain choose) what you will learn. As a teacher, I am aware that what I teach will be very different from what each individual student will write down and what they write down will be very different from what they will learn. But the end product will be the same – they will (hopefully) be able to speak English more or less fluently. So, no matter how they choose to travel – on foot, or by a racing car – they’ll eventually get there. But to be able to understand in more detail what it feels like to be on the road is really useful for the teacher. So, that’s one thing I am hoping to get from connectivism.
Secondly, it seems to me that connectivism offers tools for dealing with the information overload that we are suffering from nowadays. Because of new technology, the way we are learning has changed, whether we are willing to admit it or not.
Finally, there are the social networks themselves. The reason why I am such a big fan of new technology is that it enables us to form connections with other people that will no longer be based on geography, but on our true interests.

You might also like:
Groups and Networks
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Thursday, 15 May 2008

My Global Neighbourhood

When I was a little girl, television sets were not a common thing. It was quite usual for the whole neighbourhood to gather in front of a single TV. We had a TV and we always had guests when there were important events - football games, figure skating, Saturday night comedy programs and music competitions. And when there was a good film on, the people gathered in front of the TV set would comment on the film.

On Saturday evening a couple of Webheads gathered in Tapped In and watched Pangea Day together. We commented on the films and the music. The emotions and images on the screen spoke a universal language of love, hatred, pain, friendship, fear and more love. Each film was a masterpiece. The music was lovely. The highlight of my evening was "the heartbeat of the world" - an amazing global drum circle. Imagine drummers from all over the world performing at the same time. That was the moment when I really felt the presence of all those people on the Internet who were watching the event at the same time.

Yes, images are a powerful weapon. Can they bring us closer? Can they help us to see the world through the eyes of the people living at the other side of the globe? Well, there is hope. I am old enough to remember Live Aid and, while it didn't solve the problem of famine overnight, it did help. The real problem is that those who need to learn from events like these never watch them. I am sure that everyone sitting in front of their computers that night already knew that "people are the same wherever you go", as the good old song says.

Still, if we keep telling each other stories, singing to each other, laughing and crying together, we might wake up one morning and find out that our world has changed overnight. Call me a dreamer, but keep those films coming.

Other posts about the Webheads:
How to become a Webhead
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Friday, 4 April 2008


I need to prepare a short talk on motivation for my school, so, if you don't mind, I'll think aloud here.
Motivation is a difficult topic. On a good day, motivation should be seen, not heard. You are a really good teacher, right? Right. You always prepare your classes thoroughly, right? Right. So, your students are always motivated, all of them, right?
We all know this is not always the case. Teachers are often ashamed to talk about this problem, because, more often than not, they blame themselves.
How do you know your students are not motivated?
You walk into the classroom full of enthusiasm. You have been preparing your class the previous night and you have a killer activity that's going to fascinate them. Or it is an old activity, the one that's never failed you. Everything seems to be working fine on the surface, but by the end of the class, you, the teacher, are bored to death. In your own class. That's how you know. If this happens once, or even twice, you shouldn't worry much. Maybe they are tired or it is spring time and they are all in love. If it keeps happening, though, you probably have a class that has a problem with motivation.
There are different reasons for this, of course, and sometimes it is hard to find out what the problem is. I believe that, to motivate a particularly unmotivated class, you first have to find out why they are not motivated. A possible list of reasons:
1. Maybe they don't really want to be there at all. Maybe someone - their parents or their employers - want them to learn the language. Maybe all they want is a diploma.
2. They expect too much. They want to be fluent by the end of their elementary course, they want everything at once. And they thought it would be easy.
3. The course is too difficult for them. They refuse to go one course below the one they are attending (sometimes even two courses below), because they believe that, with hard work, they'll catch up.
4. The course is too easy for them, but again, they won't listen to you.
5. They want you to teach them. Whether they learn or not is your responsibility, not theirs.
6. The classmates don't like each other too much. I am fascinated by group dynamics and it is interesting to watch how everything in the class changes if there is a new student or if one or two students leave the class.
7. They don't come to their classes regularly. They usually have a good reason for this, but it is a big problem.
8. They don't have enough time to study at home.
The list goes on.
Now that we have defined our enemy, we should start working on the solution.
So, how do you motivate a particularly unmotivated class?
End of part one.
In the meantime, feel free to add your ideas and comments here.

You can see Part Two here.

You might also like:
Groups and Networks
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Monday, 17 March 2008

My First Voicethread Message

Hi. Long time, no blog. My mind went blank and I couldn't think of anything worthwhile to blog about. I was thinking of inflicting injuries on myself, so that I could get blogging ideas.
I did something very similar. I recorded my voice. I used Voicethread and the software part is all right, but...
I lived under the illusion that I had this very pleasant, melodious, deep voice. Only yesterday someone at the Zoo told me I sang beautifully (Yes, I am afraid I sang at the Zoo). So, after such a compliment, I decided I should finally tackle Week 4 assignment. I left a short listening comprehension exercise in my class blog (Coffee Time).
Somebody should have told me I had a lisp before. I would have refrained from speaking in public. I mean, of course I knew about the lisp. What I didn't know was that I actually sound like Daffy Duck.
Our time on Earth is short. The idea was that we should spend it listening to ourselves through that beautiful resonance box our body creates. So what business do we have recording ourselves?
Lucky I didn't try leaving a singing Voicethread message.
By the way, I didn't know how to post Voicethread as a regular message, so I added it to the footer of my page. There has to be a way, but I haven't worked it out.

You might also like: My first Podomatic podcast
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Friday, 29 February 2008

How to become a Webhead (for the first time)

As I announced rather loudly in my previous post, I have become a Webhead. I have attended two wonderful, but rather demanding six-week workshops - Becoming a Webhead (BaW) and Blogging4Educators. Since this was my first time and I was a total beginner, the mere fact that I got to the end makes me very proud of myself.

So, how did I do it? I developed a number of survival techniques that I would like to share with you.

Here is the tutorial:

How to become a Webhead
Difficulty: very difficult
What you'll need:
- a computer (make sure it's in working condition - it might not be by the end of the session)
- Internet (preferably a fast connection)
- lots of coffee
What else might help:
- insomnia (If you already suffer from it, cherish it. It is your best friend now.)
- flu (Getting ill is very useful, as it will keep you inside. You will get bored and do every weekly assignment in your wiki just to amuse yourself. Be careful not to get high fever, though, as that will keep you in bed. We don't want you in bed, we want you in front of your computer.)

Survival tip 1: Everything you need is in your wiki (thanks Carla Arena for this tip). Look at your weekly assignment. Concentrate on doing it. Forget everything else that's going on.
Survival tip 2: Don't read the daily digests. They will only confuse you. Check the messages directly from the forum - it is much easier to see what the message is about, and decide whether you are going to read it now or later. Also, saves you from scrolling down the daily digest and reading the same messages over and over again. Or you can wait for the week to be over and read the weekly threads. Just be careful not to miss a message addressed directly to you.
Survival tip 3: Don't just read about it, do it. Start a blog and write in it. Make a wiki. Do whatever is your official homework that week.
Survival tip 4: If you have missed something, leave it until after the end of the workshop. I was away during week 4 and when I got back I continued with week 5. I haven't touched week 4 yet, but hope I'll do it by next January.
Survival tip 5: Don't take it too seriously. Socialise. Make new friends. Enjoy it all.

You might also like:
I have graduated as a Webhead
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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Blogging with my students - a change of plan

I made a real mess with the last post. That's what happens when you write about something you haven't thought out carefully beforehand.
So here it is - there are not going to be hundreds of class blogs, there is going to be only one. I will start with my upper-intermediate class for two reasons:
1. their English is relatively good and
2. I taught them in the previous semester, which means that I know them.
Also, they are doing portfolio assessments, so I could merge these two things together (again, I haven't thought it out carefully).
I am not going to teach (grammar or vocabulary) in the blog.
I was thinking of starting it as a meme, something like our Week 4 challenge. What do you think?
Any ideas on how to merge blogging and portfolio assessment?

Friday, 22 February 2008

My blogging projects for 2008 - part 2

Concerning my class blogs:
- in this semester I will start two blogs - a blog for my two elementary classes and another one for my two upper-intermediate classes.
- I am not sure how I will name the blogs yet, but they will probably be called Coffee Time Elementary and Coffee Time Upper-intermediate. Why Coffee Time? Because it will be like chatting over a cup of coffee, informal, yet creative.
- I will start the blogs, but they will be group blogs. If some of my students feel like starting individual blogs, I will be more than happy to offer them support.
- I will demand word verification and moderate the comments.
- this will be an individual project to start with, but I hope some of my colleagues will like it and start doing the same.
- these particular blogs will be active between March and June 2008
- the blogs will be connected to the curriculum, but we will also write about whatever interests the students – films, music, books. We will use the blog to socialise outside classroom and get to know each other better. I will try to use a lot of pictures and visual stimuli.
- the students will have to post from their home computers. Some of them have slow connections, so I will have to bear that in mind.
- I think it would be realistic to expect the students to post twice a month, not more (unless they wish to). I will do some preparatory activities in class before the assignment and some error correction activities after the assignment. I will NOT correct their errors in the blog.
- Apart from the regular assignments, I hope the students will feel free to post entries and comments whenever they feel like it.
- There is no way I can force the students to post (no marks), but we do portfolio assessment in my school, so I will encourage the students to see their class blog as an E-portfolio. Also, some of them take exams, and this is excellent exam practice. I suppose some of them will not blog regularly, maybe not at all.
- At the beginning, they will write for me. Then, I hope they will start to communicate with each other through the blog. After that, they will find out there is a whole world outside listening to them. I hope they will go through these three stages quickly.
- I am not sure how I will advertise these projects. A poster on the school notice board sounds like a good idea. Dekita? Yes, if I get the students to participate.
- I have to be careful with widgets because some of my students have slow Internet connections. I will embed a few, to make the blogs look more appealing and to help other people find them.

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My blogging projects for 2008 - part 1

Concerning my personal blog, i.e. the blog you are reading now:
- it will remain active, of course
- I won't change its name - I know Natasa's blog is too general, but I like it
- I will stick to Blogger, I am really happy with it
- I will demand word verification, as I already do
- this is an individual blog, but I welcome your coments
- I will blog about: teaching English, Web2 tools, CALL, good books and films, travel, life...
- I will post from my home computer
- I don't know exactly how often I will post. On the average, once a week.
- Why will I post? Because I enjoy it, to stay in touch with you and to set an example for my students. Also, so that my students can get to know me better.
- My target audience? Again: you, my students and of course anyone else who cares to stop by.
Also, my colleagues, both at my school and in my country. My family and friends.
- I don't know what I could do to promote my blog. Write well?
- I already have a handful of widgets: a web counter, a subscribe button, del.ici.ous, Blogger and Technorati buttons. Oh, and a Voki. I guess the widgets speak a lot about the sort of person the blogger is. I moght get some more widgets, I really like them.

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Five things you didn't know about me

Well, here it is:

1. I love coffee. Just the thought of a nice, warm cup of coffee makes me smile.
2. I love reading and watching crime stories and whodunits.
3. My favourite singer is Leonard Cohen.
4. I still dream of writing a great novel and becoming a famous writer (though I hardly ever sit down to write at all nowadays).
5. I am afraid of the dark.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Second Life

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All right, so I went to Second Life, so what? Doesn't everyone go there sooner or later?

There is an inner child dormant in each and every one of us, right? And this child likes to play, which is why so many people are fascinated by SL.

My inner child woke up on Saturday and the experience made me think. It made me think back to my real, First Life childhood.

I was clumsy. I was one of those girls you didn't want to have in your basketball team. It took me ages to learn how to ride a bike. And even then I kept falling.

I am clumsy in SL. I am learning how to walk all over again. Scary, but fascinating. A bit like learning a new language, isn't it?

One thing I love is flying. It is the superpower I would really like to have. And I love teleporting myself to different locations. The only problem is that I often can't find my way back. That's what I am like in my First Life. I get lost easily.

It is frightening, but I keep coming back. Maybe because it makes me face my inner fears and insecurities.

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Saturday, 16 February 2008

One Blog to Rule Them All or a Multiple Bloggonality Disorder

Just how many blogs does a girl need?
This question has been troubling me for the past week.
When my blogging course finishes, I will start a class blog, maybe even a different blog for each class (I usually have five classes and the levels range from beginner to advanced). But what will happen to this blog? Will it start behaving itself and become a nice educator's blog, informed and informative? Or maybe not.
I have a compulsive need to write, have had it ever since my childhood. I never know in advance what I will write about. So, if you are looking for expert opinions on the latest pedagogical methods, do you really want to bother reading about a stray dog? Blogs should teach us something, or so I have been told. The days of personal blogs are behind us, or so I have been told. Alas, I am an old-fashioned kind of girl. And I love lost causes. And I am keeping this blog just as it is.
I may start another blog in which I will discuss teaching and modern technology.
Or maybe I will keep things as they are now.
What do you think?

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Friday, 15 February 2008

My most embarrassing experience

My most embarrassing experience happened when I was about 20. I was going to this boy's birthday party for the first time. I am one of those people who get lost really easily. So, he offered to meet me at the bus stop. I was supposed to get off when I saw a large shopping mall.
So, I boarded the bus and I got off when I saw what I believed was a mall. I waited and waited. Furious, I took another bus home and I called the boy's mother (there were no mobiles in those times, you see). She told me that he was, in fact, still waiting for me. She asked me to tell her where exactly I had got off and it turned out that I should have stayed on the bus for another 20 minutes.
I boarded the bus again and this time got off at the right stop. I was almost two hours late. To my surprise, the boy was still waiting.
You should have seen his friends' faces when we finally arrived to the party. They hated me for the rest of the evening.
I didn't see much of him after that.

What do you think I should have done?
How do you think I felt?

What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? How did you feel?

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008


We had a great time on Zlatibor. It is a beautiful mountain.
We had all sorts of weather, from sunshine to rain to snow, but it was always fun.
This time, I would like to let the pictures speak for themselves:

Finally, if you have any more questions about the mountain, I will be happy to answer them.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Everybody's dog

It is a rainy day here on the mountain of Zlatibor. Nothing much to do. So I decided to spend some time in an Internet cafe.
I was followed here by Cuddly (Mazuljko in Serbian). He has sort of adopted my family. He follows us everywhere, sleeps in front of our door and loudly protects us if anybody (including our landlords) passes by. No, he is not hungry. Cuddly is, you see, everybody's dog.
I don't know how he manages. He knows everyone and everyone has a different name for him. Everyone feeds him and everyone gets the honour of his company and his loud protection. No one owns him. Cuddly is a free spirit.
He is not much to look at. He is small, full of fleas and he could definitely do with a bath. But he is a real friend, as long as you don't take him for granted. He could be here today and in front of someone else's door tomorow. In fact, as I was coming here, he left me to follow a little girl.
Maybe tomorrow morning I will find him in front of my door again. Maybe not.

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Thursday, 31 January 2008

A blogiday?

Thank you all for your kind comments.
I will be away next week. I am going to a really beautiful mountain, which means that I will have something to write about when I come back. I will try to take some nice photos and put them into my blog.
I don't think I will have a chance to blog while I am there, though. So, see you when I come back.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Thank you, Carla

Carla, I believe you saved my blog from an untimely death. I was lost and disoriented, I was going to give up.
When we blog, it is like shouting out to the world: Here I am, listen to me. We want to leave a mark, any mark. We want to share our thoughts with others. There are thousands of people on the Internet right now. Blogging means that you never need to be alone again.
When I was a little girl, I had this dream. I wanted to be a writer. I am a blogger now. So you should never give up on you childhood dreams.
To publish a book, you need to be really talented. Then you need to find a publisher who is willing to read what you have written. The publisher then needs to decide whether you are talented enough for your book to get published. Once your book is published, it needs to sell, which means that the audience has to like it enough to spend money on it.
Blogging is as simple as pressing the Post button. Everybody can blog. Maybe it is good, maybe it is bad. But it is addictive.
I don't know how this is going to help my students. After all, I started an educational blog. It doesn't really look like an educational blog right now.
I think I'll just keep blogging and see what happens.

Blogging is scary

I click on the Post button. A blank page opens. I sit in front of it and a feeling of panic overwhelms me. So, I open the folder containing my poetry (yes, I am afraid I write poetry) , I choose one of my poems and I copy-paste it onto the empty page. Mission accomplished. I have posted something, plus I have "published" a poem.
Blogging is scary because it makes me reveal things about myself.
Blogging is scary because I never know what I will write about. And I end up writing about something completely different from what I intended to say.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Instructions for an apprentice painter

Put your hands onto the canvas,

draw the first line,

the rest will follow.

Who is speaking through you now,

an angel or a demon?

Who is using your hand as a brush,

who is painting through you?

An angel or a demon,

what does it matter?

Any help is welcome

as long as the canvas

doesn’t remain white.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

My online seminars

I am currently attending two online seminars - blogging for educators and becoming a webhead. I am a total beginner in both groups. The whole experience is a little scary, but I feel I really belong here. The amount of information is overwhelming and if you are, like myself, one of those people who can't focus and get easily sidetracked, you will end up in front of your computer at three o'clock in the morning.
I love every moment of it, though. In all those years of silently surfing the Internet, I never for once felt like contributing to it myself. Although I am still scared by this whole blogging affair, now that I have made it so far, I am here to stay. This is my birthday resolution.

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My Birthday

Hello. I have decided to start blogging today of all days, because it is my birthday.
My name is Natasa.
I live in Belgrade, which is in Serbia.
I am married and I have got a seven year old son.
I am a teacher of English.
I am a dreamer.
See you around.

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