Monday, July 30, 2018

Upcoming talks related to academic writing

This Tuesday and Wednesday I will be discussing the following with new incoming learners who will be enrolled in a four-five-year bachelor's degree in English language teaching:

My Page Basics of Academic Writing Paragraph Development

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Disposition, Orientation, Cognition, and Socialness (DOCS): An Education Manifesto



The purpose of creating an educational manifesto is to attempt to collect and organize a set of ideas I hold true related to teaching and learning.  The rationale for sharing such an endeavor is to encourage others to think about the same and offer feedback that will continue to shape my opinions on my own educational philosophy and current teaching practice.

A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made.

Here, a manifesto is a written declaration of my intentions, motives, and views about teaching and learning, a personal education manifesto shared with the masses if you will.  I first thought about writing my own manifesto after having read, The 27 Principles to Teaching Yourself Anything (Scribd Scoopit, Blog - in the works at the time of this writing).  But what motivates me even more are my learners.  My intention is to present this manifesto the first day of class next semester (August 13, 2018) in hopes that it presents a personal philosophy and expectations that ultimately can compare with learners' expectations they have for the class. Secondly, having an education philosophy will serve as a basis for an upcoming talk I have in September regarding strategies successful learners employ to get the most out of their studies and throughout their professional carreers as English language educators.  Although this manifesto addresses education in general, the intended audience are those interested in the teaching and learning of an additional language.

I use the accronym DOCS to catorize ideas around an education manifesto that I feel currently represents how teaching and learning emerge in both formal and informal education.  DOCS begins as a variation of the The 27 Principles... because the bulk of any educative experience primarily has to do with what the individual learner does while the educator's job is to facilitate the process. I conclude by offering a slightly more nuanced viewpoint by expanding on disposition, orientation, cognition, and socialness.

DOCS as a Variant of the The 27 Principles...


Having a good disposition is the most important tenet of DOCS since it relates to one's overall attitude.  Attitude relates to character and the will one has to keep an open mind, learn, and take action. To this end, having appreciation for what one has means not taking anything for granted. I would group the following three of the 27 priniciples as follows: 1) everything is a lesson, 2) nothing is certain, and 3) it never ends.


Orientation relates to metacognition, or learning how to learn.  Orientation relates to how a learner recognizes where they have been, where they are currently, and where they want to be in the future as it pertains to their own learning journey.  I group the following five of the 27 principles as follows: 1) learn who you are, 2) learn what you love, 3) learn what you hate, 4) don't assume anything, 5) what if everyone had it backwards.


Cognition refers to how one makes relationships between theory (what others say about the topic) and practice (what you have to say about the topic).  Relying solely on what others say or ignoring what others say superficially frames cognition as shallow thinking or the opposite of critical thinking.  Thus, to think critically in a way that recognizes theory and practice as being at opposite ends of a single continuum is to distinguish between the abstract and concrete; analysis and synthesis; compare and contrast; logical and illogical arguments; persuasion and compliance, dissuasion, etc.; and the ability to resolve and ignore cognitive conflict. I reluctantly group only one of the 27 principles in this category since it places more emphasis on practical application: theory is optional, practical application is mandatory. Theory does not exist without practice and practice does not exist without theory.


Socialness relates to how one recognizes the impact human relationships have on a personal learning network (PLN).  From a professional standpoint, the ability to recognize the value in connecting with others will depend on the type of engagement: 1) uni vs. bidirectional communication, 2) frequency, and 3) quality. Understanding social networking terms like prestige, centrality, and influence will also provide ways to evaluating the quality of the connections one has.  Based on this personal awareness, one can then make better decisions in paving a way to better educative experiences.  I loosely place the following 17 out of 27 principles in this category:
  1. showing up is just the beginning, 
  2. put yourself in situations where learning is required to survive and thrive,
  3. teach others,
  4. build things,
  5. break things,
  6. make money, 
  7. record everything,
  8. analyze every investment,
  9. efficient is not the same as effective,
  10. explore,
  11. try every medium,
  12. get in arguments,
  13. seek out different ways of doing things,
  14. be careful who you learn from,
  15. connections are EVERYTHING,
  16. find people who think you are crazy,
  17. most education happens outside of the classroom.
To understand any one of the four tenets of this education manifesto - disposition, orientation, cognition, and socialness - requires a level of understanding of the other three as they all are causes and effects of each other.  Context will determine which of the four tenets provide the best "entry point" into a necessary nuanced discussion and reflective action pertaining to how these four collectively relate to the educative experience.  A teacher's role is to use this understanding of the four tenets to facilitate effective, efficient, and engaging educative experiences for each learner.  

I have purposefully left this post short, realizing that further explanation of disposition, orientation, cognition, and socialness is necessary; for now, just wanted to present these ideas in hopes that others might offer feedback. 

Does this education manifesto resignate with you?  What's missing? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Personalized vs. Individualized Learning

After having read Why Are We Still Personalizing Learning If It's Not Personal?, I felt compelled to offer a slightly different perspective of the term "personalized" and "individualized" learning. Today's views complement prior posts that I have made on the subject.

I agree with the underlying premise that, "personalized learning in practice often falls short..." when it comes to "personalization" of formal education (para. 2); however, I don't think that it's because there is a difference between the terms personalize and individualize.

Let's compare personalize with individualize (my personal favorite definitions)...

  • personalize: 1) to ascribe personal qualities to; personify; 2) to make personal, as by applying a general statement to oneself; 3) to design or tailor to meet an individual's specifications, needs, or preferences
  • individualize: to make individual or distinctive; give an individual or distinctive character to; 2) to mention, indicate, or consider individually; specify; particularize
Although I can appreciate the effort it takes to attempt to distinguish between the two terms, the complexity of what teaching and learning entail makes the practicalities of using these terms differently a bit futile.  So, for the purposes of this discussion, I will use the terms personalize and individualize interchangeably since I have yet to be convinced that there is a reason for separating these two semantically.  
As individualization increases, so does the potential for isolation (para. 4).
If individualize means to make individual or distinctive, I don't necessarily see this as only a social phenomenon.  Individualization (and personalization) is just as much cognitive (internal) as it is social.  Today's technology can use algorithms to approximate ways of facilitating teaching and learning (which I have no qualms about) but what really matters is how educators assist learners in how to become better... well, learners.  Educators can help learners become more aware of how to better personalize their own learning experiences for particular purposes - educators can differentiate instruction but they cannot personalize learning. 

Learning is inherently personalized, there is no escaping it.  Take a group of 40 students who sit in the same class for 50 minutes and each will leave having had a personal experience.  In order to leave with a personal experience, each student personalized automatically (for better or worse) thoughts, behaviors, materials and technologies, etc. in order to realize the experience.  This act of individually personalizing his/her learning could have occurred implicitly or explicitly, but the awareness of how one personalizes learning is where the benefit of understanding a personal learning network (an aggregate of ideas, materials/technologies, and personal relationships) comes into play. 
... if we over-individualize, learning can quickly become impersonal..." (para. 7).
Nothing about teaching and learning is "impersonal".  This is like accusing someone of "having no personality".  Everyone has a personality because... well, everyone is a person.  Since everyone is a person, the act of learning can only be personal.  Therefore, learning is a result of one having personalized certain behaviors, thoughts, and materials for a particular purpose.
 "...I think [we use a web-based, adaptive tool for math instruction] because then our parents don't have to help us with our homework" (para. 12).
In this case, the student is being forced to use a technology without understanding why, how, and to what end.  This is the opposite of personalization.  Any time a discussion or decision is made about using technology without considering other factors like rationales, objectives, higher order of thinking, human relationships, etc., then personalization becomes an afterthought.  The problem here might not have anything to do with the technology but how, why, and/or to what end the technology is being used.

It is impossible to "put the person back in personalized learning" (para. 21) because it's impossible to remove the person from personalized learning in the first place.  As educators, let's learn better ways to empower learners to understand their respective personal learning networks and why, how, and to what end a personal learning network emerges and dwindles (as it never stays the same) over time. If we can achieve this, then learners are personalizing or individualizing their own learning in a more relevant and meaningful way.

Photo attribution

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #1: Creative Commons & ICTs

And this is how it all started, February 17, 2018!!

TLC Socials

Google Chrome Tab Order:
What is four elements to Creative Commons?

  • Non-derivative 
  • Non-commercial 
  • ShareAlike
Why Creative Commons?
How to apply Creative Commons license to content?
What are the six different creative commons license?

How does Creative Commons relate to TLC?

ICTs and Educational Processes

General overview of how the incursion of ICTs speed up communication processes in Educational Tasks. (focusing on TLC as an example)

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #16: Trello in the Classroom

TLC Socials

In this segment, we discuss a few decisions an educator must make before choosing to use any type of technology in the classroom: 1) espoused and in-use theories, 2) types of communication, 3) content (as input and output) delivery, and 4) closed vs. open learning environments.  This discussion is not meant to be a comprehensive review of Trello, but rather how I plan to use the tool after having spent only a week with it.  I currently have a Trello Gold account and will be pursuing an educational account discount of 30%.  I do not represent Trello nor have I received any compensation whatsoever for this segment.

What do you think of Trello in the classroom?  Share your opinions and experiences!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #15: UPTC 2018 & The MUSIC Model

TLC Socials

Piry Herrera
Benjamin L. Stewart
Facebook | Twitter #tlcelt | YouTube Playlist

UPTC 2018

  • Types of English courses offered at the Universidad Panamericana 
  • UPTC history and reflections on this year’s event after having not having such an event for four or so years.

M.U.S.I.C. Model

MUSIC® is an acronym that can be used to remember the five key principles of the model that relate to the words eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring. The principles are listed below.

The instructor needs to ensure that students: 
  1. feel empowered by having the ability to make decisions about some aspects of their learning, 
  2. understand why what they are learning is useful for their short- or long-term goals,
  3. believe that they can succeed if they put forth the effort required, 
  4. are interested in the content and instructional activities, and 
  5. believe that the instructor and others in the learning environment care about their learning and about them as a person (Jones, 2009).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Flipped Learning - Defined


I am currently preparing for an upcoming talk on practice in the English as a foreign language classroom and felt compelled to create my own definition of flipped learning:
Flipped learning is a framework in which interactive learning environments involve both synchronous and asynchronous communication and online and offline delivery of content and human engagement in a way that achieves shortterm and longterm goals which are both personal and collective.

I will be presenting my talk this Friday (May 25, 2018) at the UPTC 2018 and will subsequently make the presentation and recording of my talk available via this website.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #5: Flipped Learning

TLC Socials

Piry Herrera
Benjamin L. Stewart
Facebook | Twitter #tlcelt | YouTube Playlist

Flipped Learning Interview with Ken Bauer

Ken is a full time professor in the Computing Science Department at the Tecnol√≥gico de Monterrey Guadalajara Campus where he has been a member of the faculty since 1999. He also is Chair of the Board for the Flipped Learning Network since 2016.

Four Pillars of F-L-I-P

  1. Flexible Environment
  2. Learning Culture
  3. Intentional Content
  4. Professional Educator

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #6: Deeper Learning & Learning Objectives

TLC Socials

Piry Herrera
Benjamin L. Stewart
Facebook | Twitter #tlcelt | YouTube Playlist

First segment: Deeper Learner

Driving question: How can educators create opportunities for (language) learners through deeper learning that merges knowledge and skill sets that align with future demands?
  • Deeper learning aimed to…
  • Not only do students learn, its backers say, but they develop the speaking and writing skills they need to convey their viewpoints. (learning perspective)
  • The schools teach the standard subjects, but many include more collaboration among teachers so that those subjects are taught together. (teaching perspective)
  • Project-based approach that’s become synonymous with deeper learning.
  • Wei said that deeper learning works best when it’s incorporated throughout the school rather than limited to a class or two
  • Deeper Learning for All: the Equity Agenda in Louisville (Hewlett Foundation)
    • Equity, diversity and poverty
    • deeper learning competencies as 1) mastering rigorous academic content, 2) learning how to think critically and solve problems, 3) working collaboratively, 4) communicating effectively, 5) directing one’s own learning, and 6) developing an academic mindset — a belief in one’s ability to grow.
Tweet link to Image (What skills do employers…)

Second segment: Planning based on activities vs. planning based on objectives

How important is it to have a clear view of what the class objective is especially the language focus of the day in order to modify the activities as to fit the major possible practice along the process.

It may be questionable to implement activities which require a long-term context, complex set of processes regarding performance, and a limited timeframe to practice the language focus of the day.

To follow up, here is a link to a video about a research on learning objectives. Dr. Will Thalheimer talks about presenting learning objectives in class:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #4: Time Management and Making Decisions in the Classroom

TLC Socials

Piry Herrera
Benjamin L. Stewart
Facebook | Twitter #tlcelt | YouTube Playlist

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Start by saying, “I don’t know”.
  • Many are uncomfortable to admit they do not know something.
  • Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Innovation Lab Network (ILN) focuses on building local capacity for personalized learning, although they admit they have never worked with a school system
  • The focus is on students and an inquiry-driven process of “personalized learning”, but what about teachers?
  • Impossible to discuss personalized learning without discussing assessment (teacher or students)
  • Teachers, what to do when you don’t know what to do!
    • Paraphrase students’ doubts
    • State what is known, and be honest
    • State what is not known, and be honest
    • Commit to a follow-up response
    • Wisdom
  • The 3 Best Teacher Feedback Questions to Continuously Ask Your Students
    • What should the teacher start doing?
    • What should the teacher stop doing?
    • What should the teacher continue doing?

In-progress decisions in the classroom

  • Time management considerations concerning activities that relate to student achievement
  • Blog post on time efficiency “T is for Time” Scott Thornbury’s blog. New Zeland Teacher
  • Intro to Chapter 21 in Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English Language Teaching. England: Longman
Plan may change when: Magic Moments, Sensible Diversion, and Unforeseen Problems

Friday, March 9, 2018

Teachers, what to do when you don't know what to do!

Carefully observe students

There are times when an instructor is in the middle of a class and a learner poses a question that the instructor does not know how to answer.  There are other times when the instructor detects a gap in student learning where learners may not come right out and ask a question, but there is some issue that needs to be addressed that the instructor is unable to answer.  By carefully observing student behavior, an attentive instructor should be able to detect these moments and either make a mental note or write down some notes in order to look into the issue later.

Paraphrase students' doubts

Part of the observation process is having an exchange with students in order to clarify precisely the issue they are experiencing.  Paraphrasing what the learners have said or what was observed offers a clear way to determine what the exact issue happens to be.  This gives the instructor time to think more deeply about the issue as instructor-learner exchanges emerge, allowing the instructor to share some knowledge about the issue depending on the circumstances.

State what is known, and be honest

While instructor-learner exchanges are unfolding, instructors should be honest about what they know and how certain they are about what they know.  Mistakes can happen, but being honest is always the best policy when stating something as fact. Usually, learners can detect when instructors are making things up as they go along, so it's best to error on the side of caution if not completely certain about a particular topic.  When possible, state what you know and reference outside sources when applicable, and when outside sources pose a difference in perspective, present various viewpoints when there is no one correct answer to the question.  Also, instructors should try to be aware of personal biases when expressing what is known about a particular topic, and constantly reflect on how one can continue to grow one's knowledge base through ongoing professional learning through objective observation of one's own perspective.

State what is not known, and be honest

An instructor should be forthcoming when it comes to sharing with learners what is not known about a topic as well.  There may even be uncertainty about a topic which should also be communicated to the class.  Don't be afraid to ask the learners themselves for answers as well.  When instructors do not know how to answer a question while in class, instructors may choose to turn the moment into an inquiry-based experience where learners look up a question online (if mobile devices and an internet connection are available).  Alternatively, an instructor might have learners look up the answer outside of class, and have them present their answers in a subsequent lesson.

Commit to a follow up response

After the instructor and learners have determined what needs to be looked up for a subsequent class, the instructor should commit to a designated date for answering the question.  Either the instructor can schedule a time to answer the question or the learners themselves can answer (or both).  The point is that the same day that the unanswered question comes up, there should be an arrangement set in the future so that the question doesn't just fade away.  If the instructor and learners are using social media as part of the educative experience, then follow up answers might occur more timely and before a subsequent face-to-face class by exchanges happening openly online (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Pursue Wisdom

Professional learning for an instructor comes from one's wisdom.  The five facets of wisdom that an instructor might consider are as follows:

  • "Problem Solving with self-knowledge and sustainable actions.

  • Contextual, sincerity to the circumstances with knowledge of its negative and positive aspects (or constraints).

  • [Value-based] consistent actions with knowledge of diversity in ethical opinions.

  • Tolerance towards uncertainty in life with unconditional acceptance.

  • Empathy with oneself to understand one's own emotions (or to be emotionally oriented), morals...etc. and others feelings including the ability to see oneself as part of a larger whole" (para. 11).

An instructor can consider professional learning in terms of cultivating a personal and professional eportfolio or website dedicated to demonstrating one's knowledge and understandings, skill sets, and values and attitudes related to becoming a more competent teacher practitioner. A teacher practitioner should embrace those moments when an answer to a question is not attainable by always having a clear plan when unprepared to answer a particular question while in front of the group of eager learners.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Teaching Learning Cast (TLC) #3: Personal Learning Networks and PeerLearning Communities

TLC Socials

First segment: Personal Learning Networks

  • Cultivating and Growing Your Personal Learning Network
    • “Do you have a PLN?”
    • “Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant”
    • “A PLN can help you find a curate the best ideas and resources, and build a network of supportive peers in a time of constant change.”
    • “To maintain relevancy in the classroom, we need to maintain relevance ourselves”
    • 15% (now more like 25%) of teachers are connected (The Connected Educator) - These percentages should not be the focus, however.
    • How can we help more educators cultivate and grow a PLN?
    • Districts need to see a PLN as a viable means for professional development.
    • We need to provide credit for educators to make the extra effort to build a PLN.
    • Teachers need more time.
  • Personal Learning Network at Google Trends
  • Connectivism at Google Trends

Second segment: The teacher outside the classroom

  • Is there a moment to take the “teacher suit” off?
    What kind of impact do teachers cause outside the classroom?

    Chapter two of this book mentions a project in which teacher extended beyond the classroom to transform education in their community. It is a proper example of how important can be teacher’s roles outside the classroom. Reflection raises on the impact that teacher can cause outside the classroom, whether intentional or not.
    Guilles, R., Ashman, A.,Terwel, J. (2008). The Teacher’s Role in Implementing Cooperative Learning in the Classroom. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

    Beyond the classroom and into the community

    GI model

    Four new features of GI: investigation, interaction, interpretation, and intrinsic motivation

    Six stages of GI model

    1. Class determines sub-tooi a and organized into resource groups
    2. ‎groups plan their investigation
    3. ‎Groups carry out their investigation
    4. ‎groups plan their presentation/feedback
    5. ‎Groups make their presentation
    6. ‎teacher and students evaluate their project.

    Six mirrors of the classroom

    1. Mirror one: the physical organization of the learning and teaching space.
    2. ‎Mirror two: Learning tasks - Using peers and computers as thinking and investigation resources
    3. ‎Mirror three: teacher's instruction
    4. ‎Mirror four: Teacher's communication
    5. ‎Mirror five: Pupil's academic behavior
    6. ‎Mirror six: Pupil's social behavior

    Teachers' role in school-family partnership

    Literacy-related activities (first graders): meetings and workshops with both cultures (Arab and Jewish participants)
    Family storytelling as cooperative writing each month,

Shared Teaching Experience

  • (Benjamin): Academic Writing: Self-Assessment PROPE

    • Assessing Academic Writing (Student) Survey
  • (Piry): Making class decisions for the right reasons.

  • Raising awareness on the idea of why we decide to do something in the classroom: material selection, context, discipline, topic, vocabulary, projects, technology, etc.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Teacher Learning Cast (TLC), #2: Take Teaching Seriously, But Not Personally

TLC Socials

Making Teaching Personal

    Bringing Context Into The EFL Classroom

    • Topic Context – (Broad context about an area of interest)
    • Situational context – (where? And why? In which action of life?)
    • Explicit Context –  (class simulations)
    • Content integrated Context – (Task-based approaches, content integrated learning)

    Shared Experiences