Learning from an Online Course (Post 2)

About a month ago I shared a post which was a ‘co-reflection’ on a recent ICT online course with one of its participants, Olga Lukashova

Being a teacher trainer/educator, I am often curious what happens with the knowledge and ideas after the course ends, and after some time passes. Are the ideas still relevant? Working? Are the teachers able to implement and ‘deepen’ what we talked about during the course? Did the course bring any change (at all)? How would their ‘distant’ reflections be different? I contacted a couple more teachers who took the course in my sections, and shared the same questions Olga asked me for our post. I also added two more questions from myself, feeding my curiosity about the impact from the course.

This time my guest author is Svetlana Gavrilovic from Serbia (as usual, you will find her bio blurb at the end of the post). She took the ICT course in the spring of 2020 (from April to June, to be precise). Hope you enjoy reading our post!

The City of Uzice in Serbia.

Z: What was the most motivating thing for you in the ICT course?

The most motivating thing for me was the constant interaction, both between the participants and the instructor as well as among the participants themselves. Comments, suggestions, and instructions kept arriving from everywhere and everyone, all of them so positive and supportive and full of understanding and good will, people were generously sharing their ideas, points of view, resources, etc., and I was always alert trying to do my best and give something in return to all of them.

Z: What was the most challenging aspect, or task/assignment?

S: Six months ago [Zhenya’s note: right after the course] I would have agreed with Olga and said ‘writing the lesson plan’. But now I believe that what I described as the most motivating thing in the course was also the most challenging aspect of it. The other participants kept challenging me with their hard work, brilliant posts and creativity together with the instructor with her kind and thought-provoking comments that I just had and wanted to keep up with them. 

Z: Do you feel the discomfort of writing reduced as the course progressed? 

S: It’s interesting, but half a year later I don’t even remember being burdened by the writing tasks at all. They seem like no big deal. But the truth is, there was a lot of writing and what I found extremely helpful were the assessment rubrics [for each task]. They were literally giving us clear and basic instructions on what to write, how much to write, what/who to mention etc. and once I discovered their magic, writing became a much easier and more enjoyable thing to do.

Z: I love the rubrics in this course too! What was your most favorite part and why?

S: My favorite part of the course was doing the lesson with my students because it gave me the sense of accomplishment – OK, so we went a long way to get here and yes, the lesson went well, the hard work paid off. On the other hand, my students’ answers and reactions to what we did in the lesson pointed out to me the flaws in my lesson plan, or better to say, they showed me which way I needed to go with it in the future (namely, I included my students’ perspective of things in the plan, but not enough of it). So, there’s still work to do. However, this is one of the many things I love about my job – you’re ‘forever teaching’ but at the same time you are being taught too. 

Z: Or, in other words, you are learning, right? What were your learning expectations from the course and to what extent were they achieved?

S: My expectations before the course were moderate. I was looking for ideas on critical thinking activities and ways of incorporating them in my everyday teaching. I knew it was going to be good as I had previously attended another OPEN course, Teaching Grammar Communicatively. I was mistaken – it was fantastic! An eye-opening and sort of purifying experience which made me think and reflect about myself and my own teaching more and led me to understand the mistakes I was making not just in teaching but in my life in general and told me to forget about my occasional (or continual?) self-centeredness and put myself in the shoes of other people, my students in particular, in order to make teaching and learning = life more fun but at the same time more effective. So with the help of the ICT course, every day in every way, hopefully, I’m getting better and better. What more could I have expected?

Svetlana’s school.

Z: I love the TGC course too (feeling very biased, but it is another amazing course). Back to ICT: have you been able to implement any ideas from the course in your teaching after the course ended?

S: I have been able to implement some of the ideas from the course but not as many as I have wanted to. The reason hasn’t been my lack of will, but the circumstances in which we’ve been working. I’ve focused on the rubrics the most, and I’ve created several of them, some on my own, and some with the other English teachers in my school. They’ve been of great help but I’ve noticed two important issues there: 1) I had to rewrite almost every single one of them because what happened was that I would check the first of my students’ essays, for example, and immediately see the defect in my rubric; and 2) my students are not used to using rubrics so they need time to learn how useful, guiding and time-saving they are and how much they can help them in achieving better results in their work.

Another important thing that I’ve done is I’ve tried to include more critical thinking in the questions/activities I ask/do in class. There’s been more personalization in the classroom activities, I think, more comparison tasks like ‘Which city is the most youth-friendly and why? What would you rather do and why?’ etc., and a bit more of looking at things from different perspectives. There was a lesson on adolescence, for instance, in which we moved from the suggested (rather generic) text, to discussing the students themselves, the changes they had noticed about themselves, the changes in their relationships with other people (family, friends, teachers, etc.). This eventually led us to students describing themselves from their parents’ point of view – How do your parents see you? Is your adolescence easy on them? We rounded the whole lesson up with a list of things both they/adolescents and their parents should do in order to make this period in life more pleasurable and less frustrating for all, which was sort of a conflict resolution.

Z:  I love the change of perspectives (can be a fantastic thread in the lessons with teenagers, e.g. How would your parents react to this idea? ) My last question is about ‘Cascading’ new ideas and knowledge to your colleagues locally, which was one of the biggest components of the course. Have you managed to make any steps in this direction?

S: I’ve managed to share the information about the course and some of the course material with all the other language teachers in my school. I also suggested my fellow English teachers to work together on creating rubrics for different types of assignments, which they all liked (we’ve been working on the rubrics since June). In September, I put up the sharing board in the staff room with the updated info about OPEN courses – this was appreciated by everyone and worked really well until the end of November, when the schools were closed again; and, Marta Velickovic, another ICT course participant from Serbia, and I wrote a joint article about the course, which was published in the November issue of ELTA Serbia newsletter (pp. 106-114).

Z: This sounds so productive and positive! I can feel the energy boost from reading what you have been up to. And it is certainly great to have a colleague from the same country with whom you can develop further ideas. Please keep sharing them!

Svetlana, thank you for the chance to get connected and see how the course looks and feels now, after some time has passed. Today a new term of the ICT begins, and I hope to be able to share this post with the teachers in my groups in 8 weeks.

Svetlana’s workspace.

About Svetlana

I’ve been teaching English to young learners and teenagers for over thirty years, and enjoying it all this time. I’m very keen on professional development and I strongly believe in the concept of lifelong learning. Though many will say that teaching is a routinized job, I love it because of its creative aspect (possibilities are endless). My main areas of interest are using literature, music and games in ELT, though I’m currently very much into the use of digital tools in the English language classroom. I’ve been involved with ELTA Serbia – association of English teachers of Serbia in various ways since its foundation; I’m still one of its coordinators, and in the past I was a Board member, a member of the Editorial Board, and Editor-in-Chief (ELTA has two publications). I’m passionate about promoting the association and its activities.

I live with my husband and daughter in Uzice, a small town in Western Serbia, and apart from teaching I love cooking, reading, singing and dancing.

Note to readers: all the OPEN courses are free for teachers. Please check if you are eligible and learn how you can apply. Good luck!

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/.
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4 Responses to Learning from an Online Course (Post 2)

  1. Linda-Marie says:

    Svetlana’s comments about the course that she completed many months ago are so interesting. As I’m another facilitator of the same course, her comments lead me to think about how I might modify some aspects of the course, just as Svetlana’s experiences using rubrics with her own students led her to see how she could improve the rubrics. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of the participants in our online courses could reflect on what they got from the courses, months afterwards, like Svetlana did!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Linda-Marie
      Thank you for your comment (and it is wonderful to be starting a new term of the course together with you!)

      You said ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of the participants in our online courses could reflect on what they got from the courses, months afterwards’ and I would love to have an chance to read such reflections (not only this course, but actually all the courses we offer). Always curious what kind of change (if any) there is. I used to work at a language school with many teachers I had known as Ps, so this need was fulfilled. Now, it is all about getting in touch and asking this question 🙂
      (Let’s keep thinking of ways to get such feedback/reflections?)
      Zhenya

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Learning from an Online Course (Part 3) | Wednesday Seminars

  3. Pingback: Exit Ticket (Dialogue Post) | Wednesday Seminars

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