Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cultural Projects for My Final Make

Since I began teaching, my goal was always to prepare my students to be lifelong learners. The Problem-Based-Learning (PBL) approach is always implemented in my teaching. ED 677 refined the methods I use in my classroom. By taking small steps each week, the semester of Spring 2016 ended  with amazing results making me and the students very happy and proud of our work. My students' cultural projects for the end of the semester were great to have as an example of their improvement and my final make. 

I teach two different Arabic language levels at West Chester University; Arabic Intermediate and Arabic Advanced. Both levels were given project assignments  to work on for the end of the semester. The Intermediate level project was a group presentation about some aspects of the Arabic culture; and the Advanced level project was a group presentation about some Arabic art form which is also  part of the culture. This wasn't the first time my students do projects for their Arabic class, but the way they have their project done this time is different than previous.

Before and after ED 677:

When I assigned projects to my students last semester and the years prior, they were  individual pieces of work. I gave them some freedom to choose what they want to learn about, but not completely. There were some rules and constraints to follow in completing their work. Every student worked privately on their project and they had their own presentation in the classroom. The only audience for those pieces of work were my students and I. The students reflections were done orally after every presentation.

This semester, by implementing the connected learning principles and making small changes every week, I prepared my students to be more flexible with collaboration inside and outside the classroom. It became evident they were responsible and curious about the subjects at hands, more able to do their research, and more open to share their work with peers and other interested people out of the classroom. The final projects were examples of their improvement, and the  results came out phenomenal.

The learning principles were implemented in these final projects:

- Interest-powered: Because the project was interest-powered, my students put extra effort to find answers to their questions. As an example, one of them was interested to learn about Arabic music and dance, she asked the dance instructor in the university to teach her how to belly dance, and she performed in front of the classmates and tried to teach them how to belly dance. What she did was very unique and has a very positive affect on the other students' learning.

- Peer-supported: These projects were peer-supported. All the students were working together and helping each other to come up with an informative, clear pieces of work, full of pictures and videos, with the least possible mistakes, to share with others. Even though it was a group project, students exchanged their feedback which made them contribute and share their knowledge and views.

- Academically-oriented: Both projects were academically-oriented. They were related  to the curriculum the students are learning. By completing them, the students' knowledge was expanded, and they were more familiar with some aspects of the culture of the Arab world.

The design principles were also implemented:  

- Shared Purpose: in both projects, my students shared their interests and contributed to a common purpose which is exploring and understanding the Arab culture. Their main goal was to produce an informative and interesting presentation about the aspects of  the Arabic culture they learned to share with peers, school community, graduate students at Arcadia, and other networks.

- Production-Centered: My students learning came from actively creating, making, producing, experimenting, remixing, and designing. The type of the project gave them the opportunity to produce, circulate, curate, and comment.

- Openly-Networked: These projects were a good move for my students to be more openly-networked by having their research done through the internet, working with their peers, and sharing what they learned with the school community and others.

The Projects:

 The link has both presentations and samples of the students reflections.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Final Make

One of my inquiry questions for ED 677 was how to encourage my students to communicate with other learners and Arabic language speakers in the school, the district, the city, the country, and all around the world. After spending some time learning about the connected learning and equity, I am going to add to it how can I create the openly networked environment in my classroom?

I like the idea of small moves. In my opinion, small moves are more effective and successful for the far future than the big sudden steps.

My role this semester was to convince my students to agree with me on the importance of being openly networked. As a first small step, I encouraged them to be more open to each other in and out the classroom by collaborating together and sharing their work with each other more than before. The best time to implement the openly networked design principal in greater depth was their final cultural project, which will be my final make for this course.

The cultural final project is not a new project to my students. They had  similar ones before, which were a lot of fun with a lot of knowledge. The way of working on the project this time is new to them, which I am going to explain in my final make.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Interviews and My App

I had three different groups of people to interview and question. Individuals in the first group were, a freshman Temple student (P1), a human resources employee (P2), and a friend of mine who is a house wife (P3). I used the questions Christina offered us in the PDF.

  • Do you have a cellphone? 
P1- "Yes, I have a Galaxy S6 Active."

P2- "Yes, I do."

P3- "Yes I have a cellphone. I have Samsung Galaxy S4 Active."

  • How often do you use your phone?  
 P1- " I use my cellphone almost constantly."

 P2- "Daily and often."

 P3- " I use my phone all the time every day."
  • What do you use your phone to do?
 P1- " I usually use it to text or snap-chat my friends, email, Facebook, and play games when I'm         bored. I feel that the "call" feature in cellphones is no longer the most important aspect to  most people, as it was in the past."
P2- "Talk on the phone, text, check and send email, social media, camera for pictures and video, voice recorder."
P3-  "I  use my cell phone for send and receive  emails, text messages, phone calls, keep notes, messenger, listen to music, What's app, Skype, time check, prayers time, news check, the road GPS, alarm, stop watch, amazon orders, calculator, check the date, write appointment, and birthdays, take and keep pictures, record notes, read posts and post on Facebook, check the weather, google, check my bank account, pay my bills, check my credit card statement."
  •  What can a phone do, that a desktop computer cannot?
P1- "Compared to a desktop, my phone offers extreme mobility. If you think about it, these days, most phones can do just about everything a computer can. I can use Microsoft office, browse the internet, and edit photos. But it's all the extras that set a phone apart. Speaking on the phone, instant knowledge and information on the go, and even a navigation System."
P2- "Take pictures, talk on the phone, it's light and portable."
P3- "Cellphone fits in my pocket and I  can take it everywhere. Desktop is bulky to take anywhere.
Things I can do with my phone and not my laptop, make and receive phone calls,  send and receive SMS, and take pictures."

The second group of people was three educators of my colleagues, the first one teaches Arabic (P1), the second one teaches French (P2), and the third one teaches German (P3). For this interview, I used the questions Christina posted this week's page. 
  • What do you notice about the interests students bring to their classrooms?
P(1)- "My students always ask questions advanced to their level. They want to know everything about the language in a very short time.They bring to the classroom amazing  curiosity and desire to learn."
P(2)- "Students are very interested in popular culture (current music, film, commercials, technology)."
P(3)- " Students don't bring many interests to the classroom. The interests I am aware of are sports, music, connecting with friends esp. through social media, course work.
  • In what ways do you (or can you imagine) connecting these interests to academics pursuits and curricular goals?
P(1)-  "They use new words in their homework and in the classroom  all the time and always google not only the meaning of these new words but also the pronunciation. I see them understand how a small change in the endings of the words can make the difference between subject and direct object or between possessive construction and adjective  and how that changes the meaning of the sentence and sometimes makes it funny. They joke all the time and make little changes to  the words to make up silly sentences. They use that to write comprehension and translate paragraphs and that makes  them able to say what they want in the correct way and correct grammar." 
P(2)- "I use these elements (music, film, tech...) depending on the vocabulary and grammar targeted in class. It helps 1. contextualize the material 2. make it meaningful/relevant to the students and 3. take the language study to a cultural level."
P(3)- "I can imagine integrating course work into social media. We already use D2L for discussion groups, but I think students would be more engaged if they could post to a site directly and easily from their smartphones."
  • How do you mostly use your phone? To connect with people? To create something new? To play?
P(1)- "I use my phone to connect with people through emails, sms, Whats app, Skype, messenger, and  phone calls. I read the news, check the weather and the road and traveling time, also posts on face book. I also use the calculator, amazon, alarm, I also use it to  keep addresses and important
 notes, know the time and check my credit card and bank statements, pay my bills, google translation 
I use Google for everything."
P(2)- "I never use my phone with my students except to answer to their emails if I'm away from home."

(P3)- "I use my phone primarily for writing texts or what's app, making phone calls, taking pictures, going to websites (but not for reading longer texts), and playing games."

The Third group of people was my students, and my question was, if I am creating an app for Arabic language, how do you like it to be? My students gave me great ideas. The main idea was to include all what they need in one app. Is it possible?  I think so. If a very good group of IT experts and Arabic language educators collaborate together to create the app. 
Combining together the results of the interviews I had with what I think should be available in a good Arabic app to use. I think that my app needs to have vocabulary games, like choosing what materials you need to build a house, or where to visit when you travel,...etc, the word of the day quiz, the conjugations of the verbs, a good dictionary, a chatting window with native speakers and other learners,  tutoring videos, and some stories and books to read.

ED 677 makes me sometimes dream about something I never thought about before. I hope my dreams come true as being a teacher came true.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Peer-to-Peer Learning

-What way the process of Google sheet peer-learning does it support my learning?
The idea of Google sheet peer-learning is great for me. By reading the inquiry questions and the answers of all participants, I got some ideas to implement in my classroom. Replying to my inquiry question was the most helpful to me, thank you to all, and a special thank to Shayla who made me find what I am looking for. The online conversation made me feel that I am more in a real classroom even though I didn't have a face-to-face meeting with my peers, and all of us were working asynchronously.

- How being more openly networked does support my interests and my small moves?
Since I began the program at Arcadia, I have been taking on-line courses. Being openly networked helped me in my personal and professional life. For ED 677, sharing and reading the find 5, 6, or 7, and the blogs in addition to what Christina offered us provided a lot of information. I took the action of many small moves in my classroom this semester. I began preparing my students to be openly networked by encouraging them to share their work with classmates and others greater than before. I also encouraged them to be more collaborative than before. For my personal life, due to the encouragement of Ryan, and after his post about participating, I persist going to gym nowadays. 

- What about production and shared purpose have been important in learning from peers?
Connected learning environments are designed in a way to provide tools and opportunities for learners to produce, circulate, and connect on media. They are also designed for peers who share interests and contribute to a common purpose. In ED677, we are all producing, circulating, and connected by posting our blogs. We all have the goal of implementing the connected learning principles in our teaching. For me personally, I have been interested in many finds and posts which have inspired and helped me at work.

- What are the implications of connected learning and equity for the learners I serve?
By implementing the connected learning elements in my teaching, my students are more motivated, creative, and engaged in collaborative work through reflection and dialogue, they have the sense of sharing responsibilities with their peers, and are more connected to the real world and ready to face the future life.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Power of Interest Drives Learning

When students are interested in what they are learning, they pay deeper attention and process the information more efficiently. They engage in more critical thinking and connect what they already know with what they are learning. They work harder and persist longer. They bring all the skills they have to the task at hand.

To make a subject interesting to learners, it should be related  to a familiar subject, not too hard or too easy to understand, students should comprehend  what they are learning and master the challenges presented to them.

For my college level students, I have to follow the curriculum, but at the same time I give my students the freedom to follow their interests by giving them a main topic to follow and let them choose a subtopic they are interested  to learn about. As an example, the final project they have for this semester is about The Arabic culture; there are many subtopics to choose from depend on their interests.

Open badges is a new and interesting idea to me in teaching and learning. When I was reading Kira's tips about teaching with open badges, the first tip made me immediately think about my kids and the trophies, medals, ribbons, and   badges they have won from business clubs, baseball games, boy scout activities, and swim team competitions.  Their reactions become clear when they get the awards, and how they put more effort after getting those awards. I asked myself, "can it be the same with learning in the school?" After reading what was posted on ED677 page and doing my research, the answer was yes. But I think college students still care about their As for their GPA, especially if their intent is to continue studying for a higher level of degrees.  

I created the following badge for ED677 https://badges.p2pu.org/en/badge/view/858/

Friday, April 1, 2016

Week # 10 Five to support me

1-To honor and celebrate the interests of my college students, I always keep them centered in my classroom by giving them the power of choice and voice. I always allow for a large amount of freedom  on what topics their projects should be for and how to create them. As an example, one of the projects they will have this semester regards art in the Arab world. I keep topic selection very open for them to choose what kind of art their project will be on. It might be on music, mosaic,....., or even architecture depending on their interests.
An interesting article to read on how to make the classroom student-centered can be found at

2- I am a very motivated instructor who like to motivate my students. There are so many ways to motivate students. One motivational tool I use is giving my students some extra credit assignments. With these assignments there are no boundaries which allows every student to choose a connected subject to our study to have a presentation on to share with class. Another way to motivate my students is to plan some trips for them to be connected to the Arab world and experience the culture while here in the USA. Two weeks ago, I planned a dinner in a Moroccan restaurant. In the link down, there is a picture of my students enjoying the Moroccan culture at Casablanca restaurant.

 I am also planning a new trip to a Sufi poem concert. You are welcome to join us at Trinity Center for Urban Life | 22nd & Spruce St, Philadelphia on April 16th.

You can learn many ideas motivating your students by reading how to motivate students: Top Twelve Ways. If you are interested to read it, please visit:

3- Students who are learning a foreign language are always interested in learning and practicing the culture of that language. Watching videos on YouTube is a great tool to help students understand the concept of what they are learning. Students also sometimes like to have their own videos on YouTube to show what they came up with.

In the middle of this month, our lesson was on marriage and weddings. Many videos helped the students understand the culture and enjoy what they are learning. One of them was about Henna, the  night before the wedding, which I am going to share with you.

4-  One of the methods I use which I don't think many teachers use is how to grade my students work. It is very frustrating to someone when he/she doesn't get a good grade. I always underline their mistakes with a red pen without any grading and give them back their papers to look at and think how to correct their mistakes. I give them my feedback, and let them try to correct their work. I found this way gives much better results in their learning than when I correct their mistakes for them. Understanding their mistakes makes them happy as they are less likely to have them again and more confident of what they are doing.

Please visit http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/degrading-de-grading/ to read about grading.

5- The Digital Badges idea is completely new to me. So, to grasp the concept  more, I did my research on it. On YouTube, I found this critical conversation which explains the role of Digital Badges in extension and lifelong learning in general. Please join me to watch it at

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Openly Networked Learning for Teachers and Students

People can learn in many different ways. Collaboration is thought to be one of the most effective ways of learning. The original definition of collaboration is when two or more people meet in the same room at the same place to share and revise ideas. With today's fast evolving technologies, there are no limitations for space or time to restrict collaboration. Technology is helping people connect digitally and virtually which is what is called connected learning.

Social media offers many tools to help educators become connected with each other. The connected colleagues can have a face to face meeting on Skype or Hangouts, or share their knowledge through webinars, videos, blogs, twitter,...etc.

What about our students?
There should be a connection between classroom learning and the other aspects of living and working. The use of digital technologies usually makes open networking possible. It provides incomparable access for learners across both time and space, which makes for enhanced learning and idea sharing.