Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Multi-tasking [muhl-tee-tas-king, -tah-sking, muhl-tahy-], (n)

Week 5, Middle of the Week

Doing this course is not easy. I am trying to juggle three jobs, a family life and this course all together and am sometimes afraid that I am dropping some of the balls.

Over the years, I have heard that women are better at multi-tasking than men which always made me feel slightly jealous but quite skeptic as I seem to multi-task better than many women I know.  Today I found research disclaiming the idea all together.  BRANDY R. CRISS of the DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY, MWSU experimented and found unequivocally that there is no difference between men and women (concerning multi-tasking). Here by the way proof that men can multi-task:

The word multi-tasking comes from the world of computers and was originally used as an adjective to describe a computer that could do multiple computations simultaneously. Only in 1998 was it also used for humans. "Multi" comes from the Latin "multus" (much, many), cf with the Greek "malta" (very very much). I searched the Internet to find if there is any connection between this Greek word and the name of the island Malta slightly South of Italy but this is apparently not the case. So here I am again, writing a blog and searching the Internet at the same time; multi-tasking.

As teachers we multi-task all the time. One of my fellow students, Masafumi, listed the many tasks/ roles we have as teachers:
1. The Teacher as Controller
2. The Teacher as Director
3. The Teacher as Manager
4. The Teacher as Facilitator
5. The Teacher as Resource

With five different tasks/ roles, we should actually get 5 salaries! But keep dreaming, we are far from that.
You won't become a multi-millionaire multi-tasking as a multi-role teacher, but it is multi-satisfying.

Webquest [web-kwest], (n)

Week 5 - Beginning of the Week

The topic of this week for our course is "Project-Based Learning, Webquests and Rubrics".
Project-based learning I've done a lot, rubrics I am quite familiar with but although I know what webquests are, I have never used these in class and until now had never created one. So I took it upon myself to create my first webquest today.

A webquest is a quest on the web. A quest is a search or pursuit in order to find something. It comes from the old French queste (origin of the word "question"), from M.L. questa which is an alteration of the Latin quæsitus which is the pp of quærere  which in its turn is the source for "query" and this, in the end, became "inquiry".

A webquest is an inquiry oriented online tool for learning. It is an interactive lesson in which most or all of the information that students explore and evaluate comes from the world wide web. The concept of a webquest was first introduced by Bernie Dodge in 1995.

- can be as short as a single class period or as long as a month-long unit;
- sometimes involve group work, with division of labor among students who take on specific roles or perspectives;
- are built around resources that are preselected by the teacher. Students spend their time USING information, not LOOKING for it.

Learn more about Webquests here.

I used the webquest creator site  to create my webquest. This site is extremely user friendly and intuitive. The only downside of the site is that one can only create ONE webquest for free. :-(

I decided to use an article I had written a long time ago as the base for my webquest. In the article, I explored the origin of the expression "before you can say Jack Robinson".
So without further ado, here my very first webquest:

Who was Jack Robinson?  

I hope you'll like it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Exhilarated [ig-zil-uh-rey-tid], (adj)

Week 4 - Beginning of Week

Last week we were asked about the use of technology for oral and aural skills. We were invited to draw up a list of websites that could be used in class for this. This reminded me of my very own website I had several years ago. It was a website I had created for my students. It had taken me years to create and students all over Israel used  my webpages. It had a special corner with listening activities for students who were studying towards their matriculation examination (called "bagrut" in Israel). One terrible day, however, some two years ago, I found out that my site had been hacked and completely deleted by the malicious hackers. All gone, and no backup. I never managed to find the energy to start all over again. It was a great disappointment.

When asked to find Internet sites for oral and aural skills, I tried to remember the sites I had put up on my website. And then, completely by chance, I heard about the "Internet Archive". This is a non-profit organization aimed at building a library of the Internet. The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet - a new medium with major historical significance - and other "born digital" materials from disappearing into the past. In order to do this, the archive has been "crawling" the net from as early as 1996 and is archiving everything it finds. Using the "wayback machine"  one can submit the URL of a website and see how it developed over the years. Take a look for example at the first Google page. This first snapshot was taken on November 11, 1998. Didn't look all that impressive then, did it?

With trembling fingers, I submitted the URL of my long lost website. Would the Internet Archive maybe have a copy of my site? Could it be that I might be able to revive it? And lo and behold! There it was. My own site in (almost completely) working order!!

I cannot describe how I felt. I was completely exhilarated. I quickly copied a few of its links to the course site and then sat back to enjoy the sheer sight of my site.

Exhilarated means extremely happy, overjoyed, electrified, thrilled and intoxicated. It comes from the Latin prefix "ex" meaning "thoroughly" and "hilarare" = making cheerful. Ex, by the way, comes from the Greek cognate PIE eghs with its superlative form eks-t(e)r-emo and I can, without doubt, state that I feel eksteremo exhilarated at the moment.

Or "happy" as Jim would say:

Don't you just love how Jim explains what the easy word "happy" means by using more difficult words like "delighted, pleased and glad"? Now what kind of help is that?!

Anyway, if you ever had something get lost on the Internet, I warmly advise you to try and find it on the wayback machine of the Internet Archive.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Delicious [dih-lish-uhs], (adj)

Week 3

This week, the topics of our course are social bookmarking and oral/aural skills. For social bookmarking we created a Delicious bookmarks page. The page I created can be found here. It is still a "work in progress" because I am adding new bookmarks all the time.

I am not overly impressed with Delicious but do not have time to research other options in order to see if they offer anything better. My main problem with Delicious is that it presents the bookmarks in a long boring list, ordered by date submitted. True, if the links are properly tagged one can easily find a required link but the Delicious layout is very old-style, counter intuitive and without a 21st century feeling. I would have loved a dynamic layout, something along the lines of Fences.

Do you know Fences? It is a wonderful (free) desktop organizer. If your desktop is so cluttered that you can't see the background picture (and you never find the shortcut you need) this is for you. It helped me get organized with the click of a button. You can create new "fences" (= blocks of shortcuts with a title) anywhere you want and drag the fences around until you are happy with the final layout and look. THIS is the kind of intuitive dynamic interface that would greatly enhance Delicious so that links are organized by the user under user defined headings and placed on the page according to personal preferences. iGoogle uses the same idea, why not Delicious?!

The adjective "delicious" means "highly pleasing to the senses". It originated from Latin "delicia" meaning a "delight. allurement or charm" from "de" (=away) + "lacere" (=lure).

With this layout, however, Delicious is definitely not "highly pleasing to the senses" and will not "lure me away" from anything to anywhere.

Etymology "delicious"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

flabbergasted [flab-er-gast-id] (adj)

Week 2, End of Week

Like all other participants, I was blown out of the water by the Noodletools websearch engines page.Whenever I wanted to search for something on the Internet, I always used Google and even though I knew there were other search engines available such as Bing, I never used them.

But to get a page with SO many different options, some completely new to me, was quite astounding. I was completely flabbergasted.

What a great word, flabbergasted! And you know what? Nobody knows its exact etymology. It is generally assumed that the word is a portmanteau (a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog)) and that it is a combination of the words "flabby" and "aghast". People's lips and facial expressions become flabby when they are aghast (struck with amazement). 

I especially liked iSeek. To compare between Google and iSeek, I looked up the word "flabbergasted" in both. The difference between the two left me stupefied, dumbstruck, dumbfounded, surprised, bewildered and astounded. Have a look here:

Did you notice the crystal clear explanation and thesaurus at the top op iSeek?
Did you see the categorization of the results into that neat tree on the left?
But you haven't seen it all yet. By clicking on the "education" tab at the top of the iSeek search box you get an additional list, this time all from sources that are educationally sound. In this case (with a word like flabbergasted) that does not help much for us English teachers but just try typing in "heterogeneous teachng" and see what pops up!

As I said, I am speechless in all languages so here a few translations of the word "flabbergasted"

  Foreign Translations
Dutch: verstomd, versteld
French: sidéré
German: platt
Italian: sbalordito
Spanish: estupefacto, atónito, pasmado

Thank you Robert for sharing this search engine page with us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jargon [jahr-guhn, -gon], (n)

Week 2 - Beginning of the Week

The topic of the course for this week is the ABCD model. This is yet another acronym in the Education Jargon. Well, technically it is not really an acronym because an acronym is an word formed by combining parts (usually the first letters) of some other terms. For example, "modem" is the acronym derived from modulator/ demodulator. ABCD is not a real word and, although in modern speech also called an acronym, it is actually an initialism, which is the combination of letters representing a longer term. The A stands for Audience (who are we teaching), the B for Behavior (what do we want them to be able to do), C for Condition (what tools do they have or what information are they given) and D for Degree (how well do we want them to do this).

Education theories nowadays seem to be full of acronyms, initialisms, blurred terms such as "top-down and bottom-up processes" or "metacognitive knowledge" and other edubabble. My students at teacher in-service courses and teachers colleges often ask me why we make simple stuff seem so complex by using this jargon. They are not the only ones to ask this question. A few years ago the Guardian asked "Are Teachers Using too much Jargon?". This topic has even merited official research such as work done by Philip Kerr in the ETJ Journal Volume 59/ 2 April 2005. And that it is not specifically a problem of the English teaching field can be seen here:

The etymology of the word jargon itself seems to indicate its uselessness. Jargon comes from O.Fr. jargon "a chattering of birds" also in language "idle talk or the language used by thieves". The term came into use in the mid-14th century and today means "mode of speech full of unfamiliar terms". Other similar terms are "pidgin, lingo and slang".

So why do we use so much Jargon or shouldn't we? Here the two reasons for using jargon which I usually give my students:
1. Using Education Jargon gives teachers a feeling of professional pride. They are in-the-know, they can talk about their profession using a lingo no one else understands. This in itself would already be a good enough reason because raising the self-esteem of teachers who often feel and are seen by others as being at the lowest level of professionalism should be important.
2. The Edubabble also has a very practical point. Here we are for example in this course, teachers from all over the world and from many different cultures with more native languages than there were in the Tower of Babel. The only way for us to hold a professional discussion and exchange of ideas, is if we agree on a common language and agree on the same precise technical terms for what we mean. And that is the Jargon we need to learn and practice.

Can any of you find additional reasons?

Here a Dictionary of Educational Jargon

ABCD model

Etymology of jargon
Definition of Acronym and Initialism

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Overwhelming [oh-ver-hwel-ming, -wel-] (adj)

Week 1 - Towards the End
Read this, do that, react here, create there. Pfew, after three days without Internet access it is suddenly raining assignments - quite overwhelming.

Did you know that the antonym of "overwhelm" is "underwhelm"? Never seen that one in print. Just for the fun of it, I ran a comparison through Googlefight ( The results were overwhelmingly in favor of "overwhelm", 1.080.000 results as opposed to 12.800 results for "underwhelm". Where does the "whelm" in overwhelm come from, you ask? Well, believe it or not, it comes from O.E. hwielfan (W.Saxon), meaning "to cover over" and this apparently led to O.E. "helmian" (to cover) which is the origin of the "helmet", a head covering we might all need if it continues raining assignments.

Did I really complain earlier that this course started too slowly? Well, I am taking my words back. I have a lot to do now and need to plan my time carefully. Are others feeling overwhelmed as well? Here is something that might help:

I would have liked to write some more but I have to post on the class forum, react to the posts of others and read the blogs of fellow bloggers so there is not much time. Let me close this post with an overwhelming quote from Robert Coleman:

"Unless I accept my virtues, I will be overwhelmed by my faults"

Etymology overwhelm
overwhelm quote