Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Special [spesh-uhl], (adj)

Today is a special day to me. 35 registered students have started my online course. I hope all of them will successfully finish it. I would not like this course to become a case for the "survival of the fittest" as Darwin wrote in his infamous book on evolution "Origin of the Species" (1859).

Did you know that the word "species" and "special" are etymologically connected? "Special" comes from Old French "especial" which comes from the Latin "specialis" (individual, particular) from "species" (appearance, kind, sort) showing that, whereas the word "special" has slowly evolved from "species" over the years, the word "species" itself has kept its original Latin word meaning - a real case of survival of the fittest. But if the "species" stayed so long unchanged, doesn't that prove something against the evolution theory?

The fact that these students are doing my course is special to me because this is the first ever course I have built on Moodle. Every new course I build is an adventure. I learn something new every day. I also learn a lot from online courses I do with other institutions. For example, I did an online course by the University of Oregon on "Webskills in the 21st Century" which was extremely interesting and gave me a lot of ideas for my own online course "Teaching English in the 21st Century". The course was sponsored by the American Embassy. In the spring I will start an additional sponsored Oregon course called "Special Education and Differentiated Instruction in EFL Contexts". Did you notice? Here we have the word "special" again....

"Special Education" is a well-known collocation to teachers. I was therefore quite surprised that it is not considered a "common collocation" in the collocation dictionary of Prowritingaid.com. This dictionary gives collocations such as "special agent", "special occasion", "special interest" and "very special", "something special", "make special" and "nothing special" but "special education" is not mentioned. Apparently they feel that the need for special education is not that common. Maybe they should come and visit an average Israeli classroom...


  1. Hi Avi
    First course on Moodle? Really? What did you use before for online courses?

    I am also surprised that special education doesn't come up in the collocation search but then I don't know what corpus they use in Prowritingaid. If you search COCA it comes up as the MOST frequent collocation for special.

    By the way, guess what is the most frequent noun that comes after learning ?

    I am glad that you've resumed blogging.


  2. learning disabilities

    (Took me a while to figure out how the corpus works but is great resource! Thanks for pointing it out to me)

  3. Avraham,
    We, students, can really notice how hard you work to build your first online course on Moodle. I can say that you have succeeded! Everything is so clear, the checklist at the end is extremely helpful. We are also very excited to be the first students to explore and learn from your course. Good luck to all of us!

  4. The course is really well organized but it is not possible for you to anticipate all of the pitfalls that befall the novice in this area. I have spent many, many hours on completing the various activities required for the fourth session and that is just on posting and reading blogs without actually preparing the lesson. In all I am finding the experience extremely frustrating without sufficient support.

  5. Avraham,

    Even though the semester is far from finished, I want to thank you for the tremendous amount of time and effort you visibly put into the course. Only after the first few weeks did I fully realize how well the course is organized, the wealth of material and the way that the course's week to week consistency allows students to know what to expect in terms of their work.

    Like favorite.fruit above, I also find myself spending a huge amount of time trying to complete the assignments and leaving some things out (and English is my first language!). It is definitely time well spent, but it would probably be more enjoyable if it was my only course and I had more time to invest in it. But that is life, and it's a good reminder of how some of my students probably feel as well (especially in a class like English). In the end, a good student just had to push himself to be disciplined and consistent in his work.