Language Learning and Technology – Summer Course

June 19, 2018

University of Calgary logoI am excited to be teaching one of my favourite courses this summer: Language Learning and Technology (EDER 669.73). This is a course for our Master of Education students who are specializing in Teaching English as an Additional Language.

One of the things I love best about this course is that students do a hands-on technology project instead of a final paper.

Course Description

This course has been designed for students who want to learn how to effectively incorporate technology in their present and future careers as language teachers. The course will cover both theoretical and practical issues in teaching second language and the use of new technology to support and enhance the learning process.

A special emphasis will be on combining both face-to-face and the use of technologies in and beyond the classroom walls to enhance the second language learning process. Although the course may address the different types technologies such as Web 2.0 technologies (e.g., blogs, wikis; audio and video podcasting; online videos; mobile tools); mobile technology (e.g., mobile phones; MP3 players; digital cameras; camcorders), and other type of interactive technologies, the focus of the course is on the pedagogical and practical aspects of integrating new technology to face-to-face language teaching.

The course is open to second language present and future teachers at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary level. The course also invites language teachers with limited knowledge of the target language to learn how to enhance their language teaching by integrating blended teaching into their practice.

Learner Outcomes

Page 1 graphicThe intent of this course is to explore the integration of technology to enhance language learning, particularly in in blended or distance environments.

Specific objectives include:

  • understand different learning theories informing pedagogical practices, and in particular the TPACK and SAMR models, as they apply to language learning;
  • review current research on the learning of additional languages enhanced by digital technologies;
  • explore digital mediated communication methods that can be used effectively in distance and blended language learning programs;
  • examine current and emerging trends in educational technology as they apply to language learning; and
  • design and evaluate language-learning modules integrating digital technology for online or blended environments.

Click here for a copy of the course outline.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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Lessons learned from 2 Million blog views

June 5, 2018

8 years.

614 posts.

5126 followers

2,014,851 views.

According to the blog stats, I’ve recently topped two million all-time blog views, with over 1.2 million visitors (some of whom have viewed more than one post, obviously):

All time views - posts

Here are some things I’ve learned about blogging as a result of this experience:

Keep on blogging

I know so many people who have started blogs, only to abandon them because they got too busy, got frustrated when they didn’t get a massive following instantly or just got bored.

Here’s a high-level graph that shows a steady increase in blog views and visitors over the years:

Year-over-year.jpg

Of course, the stats for 2018 are lower because year isn’t half over yet. But if you look at 2010 through 2017, you can see that the number of individual views, as well as the number of visitors, has increased steadily over time.

The graph below breaks it down a bit more. It shows how many views my blog has had over the months and years since I started it in February, 2010. Darker colours represent more views.

All time views - Months and years.jpg

In 2018, my monthly average has been about 39.9 thousand views per month, from January through May. (Given that I’m writing this post in early June, 2018, the numbers for this month don’t look very impressive, but that block will be dark blue by the end of the month.)

The number of views has increased consistently over time. The average number of views per month in 2010 was under 1400. What I had as a monthly average number of views in my first year of blogging is now almost my daily average!

When I tell people that my blog now gets over 1000 views per day, they look at me in disbelief, but here are the stats:

Average per day.jpg

Again, the numbers for June 2018 look low because that’s a monthly total and we’re still at the beginning of the month and that number is the average for the entire month. That number will increase throughout the month.

Look at all the light grey in the first two years of my blog. The real increases started to show in year 3 (2012). If I had given up blogging, I would never have seen those increases. My lesson learned here is: Keep on blogging, even when you think no one is reading. More readers will stop by as your blog gets populated with content.

Your progress is relative

There are some superstar bloggers out there who get millions of views every week. Some bloggers make money from their blogs, and others even blog for a living. But that was never my intention. My goal with my blog has been consistent: to share and archive content, document my own professional and learning experiences and offer tips to students and educators. The number of views and visitors is relative to the industry you work in, your purpose for blogging and how much content you share.

Sometimes you don’t know the reason for the stats

My best day for blog views was April 7, 2014:

All time views - posts

What happened that day? Nothing special, as far as I can tell. I didn’t even post that day. It was a complete fluke. I have no idea why that day in 2014 was my all-time daily maximum for blog views.

My learning from this is to not get too hung up on trying to achieve every day. Progress happens over time. Blips and flukes happen, too. The important thing is to not give up and stick with it.

Try different things

I have tried all kinds of different things over the years. I’ve written features about educators who inspired me (like this post about Deaf educator, Brent Novodvorski, for example). In 2012, I did a weekly series where I posted my favourite resources of the week. I have also used my blog as a space to archive material that I wanted to share online with readers, like this APA Checklist for Term Papers.

I have tried all kinds of different things over the years. My learning from this is that experimenting helped me to figure out what works. It also helped me to figure out what kind of blogger I want to be.

Develop your blogging identity

I have worked as an educator since 1994. It’s no secret that I love teaching! I love interacting with students, whether they are in a classroom or online. While I may have been experimental with my posts at times, I’ve been consistent that my blog has always been focused on learning in one way or another. I don’t post recipes or tips to improve your health or fitness. I post about education. My followers have come to expect posts about learning, teaching, leadership or a related topic.

My learning from this is to develop an identity as a blogger. I have grown and developed as both an educator and a blogger since I started my blog. I engage in regular reflection about what I have learned and what I still want to learn. For me, my professional growth and my development as a blogger have gone hand-in-hand over the past eight years.

Followers come from different places

Apparently, my blog has over 5000 followers:

Followers.jpg

Some folks follow along on WordPress, others get an e-mail every time a post is published and still others follow along on social media. WordPress doesn’t give me much information about who these followers are, but all I can say is, “Thank you!” I appreciate that you have read, liked and commented (or even just lurked) over the years. It makes me feel that my blog with worthwhile to you. What better reward could there be?

Approach comments with caution

Regular followers will know that I shut down the comments section on my blog a few years ago. For a long time, I was really excited to get comments on my blog. But then, things took a dark turn once the blog started to really gain views. The nature of some of the comments sometimes became rude, aggressive or abusive.

I expect that anyone who has spent a lot of time blogging has encountered something similar. I understand there are different thoughts on how to approach this. Some people believe that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the more flaming comments, the better. Me, not so much. Ultimately, I decided to shut down the comments function. I still really appreciate it when people hit the “Like” button at the end of a post, but I’m not sure I’ll ever re-open the comments again.

Your blog can be an incubator for ideas

One highlight about developing my identity as a blogger and as a professional is that in 2010, the first year of my blog I wrote a post called, “Are your students plagiarizing? Here’s how you find out”. I wrote a few other posts about plagiarism over the next year. Several years later, academic integrity has developed into a major research area for me. In 2017, I published my first peer-reviewed research article on plagiarism.

My learning from this is that your blog can be a place where your ideas germinate and incubate. I think those early posts in plagiarism in 2010 planted a seed that grew over the years.

People sometimes steal your content

I am sorry to say that some of my best content has been replicated on other people’s blogs or sites without attribution to me. Of course this makes me sad and angry. I sometimes wonder if that experience was part of the reason my interest in plagiarism as a research interest developed? Not sure.

I have learned the hard way that there are some people who feel entitled to lift whatever they want off the Internet and claim it as their own.

At one point, I was so upset this by this, I took a long hiatus from blogging. I almost abandoned my blog altogether. Instead, I learned a few tips and tricks. I’ll share these in a future post. (Wink, wink!)

My advice for bloggers

My key piece of advice for bloggers is: Stick with it. Your blog is an expression of you and your ideas over time. Share whatever you want. Some people will love it and others won’t. That’s OK.

If people leave you hurtful comments, turn off the comments. Your blog is about you and those who appreciate the effort you put into it. Experiment. Try different things. No blog is perfect, so don’t aim for perfection. Aim to be yourself and share whatever inspires you. Over time, I bet you’ll be surprised to see how you grow as a result.

Blog on, my friends!

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


“Growing our own teachers”: Rural individuals becoming certified teachers

May 30, 2018

I’ve been working on a project on rural teacher education for a few years here in the Werklund School of Education. This week, my colleague, Dr. Dianne Gereluk, presented on behalf of our research group at a panel at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Here’s a slide deck that summarizes the findings of our project:

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This blog has had over 1.9 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Can you plagiarize chocolate?!

May 22, 2018

A recent news article last week talked about a dispute between a chocolatier and a supermarket chain in the UK. Hotel Chocolat allegedly claims that the grocery retailer, Waitrose, has plagiarized some of their chocolate bars. A photo posted by @TweetsFood shows the similarities:

chocloate.jpgThe news article published by The Week starts with the headline, “Waitrose accused of chocolate plagiarism by Hotel Chocolat”. The headline implies that “chocolate plagiarism” is actually a thing, in the same way that text plagiarism or computer code plagiarism is a thing. It begs the question: Is “chocolate plagiarism” actually a thing?

There are many definitions of plagiarism available. One of most often cited definitions comes from University of Calgary professor, Irving Hexam who has a terrific web resource dedicated to plagiarism. Hexam cites the Compact Oxford English Dictionary and talks about stealing not only text, but also designs and ideas. If this is so, then it is worth observing that the design of the bars, both of which feature curvy edges, a mix of pink and white chocolate and fruit on top, really do seem quite similar. It might also be argued that the design for the bars may have been lifted without credit. So, I think an argument could be made.

What’s interesting though, is that outside of academic contexts, plagiarism isn’t actually punishable by law in many jurisdictions (at least as far as I know). It is morally reprehensible and unethical, but not actually illegal. This begs the question: Should industry bodies include plagiarism in their code of ethics and conduct for their members? It’s an interesting question and my first reaction is: yes.

In educational and academic circles we talk about “integrity”. In business, the term “ethics” is used. One business school defines the two terms as being closely related. If we send the message that integrity matters in school, but not in industry, that’s troubling. The message that both ethics and integrity matters after graduation needs to be taken up by someone other than academic institutions. Even if legislation doesn’t criminalize the ripping off ideas and designs, it is incumbent upon the bodies that oversee various industries to ensure that ethics and integrity are upheld as industry standards. I am not sure what industry body in the UK exists among grocers and food producers, but there must be one. I’d like to hear them chime in on this debate.

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This blog has had over 1.9 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Academic doping and “smart drugs”: What educators need to know

May 15, 2018

 

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When athletes use performance-enhancing drugs it is called “doping”, but the practice has moved from the locker room to the study halls, as students have taken up the practice to help them perform better on exams and in-class. The informal or slang term for these substances is “smart drugs” because students are promised that the substances will make them smarter, at least temporarily. When used for academic performance enhancement, it’s called “academic doping” or, if you prefer a more formal term, “pharmacologic cognitive enhancement” (Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe, 2017, p. 230).

What are “smart drugs”?

These substances are most often stimulants or cognitive-enhancing drugs (CEDS) (Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe, 2017). They generally fall into two categories. The first is actual prescription medications that are used for non-medical purposes, with the most popular being Adderall®, Ritalin®  and Modafinil®, which is also known as Provigil® (Aikins, 2011; Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe, 2017, Vaughan & Diver, 2018). The second category are poor quality versions of these drugs made illegally, often in Russia, India and China (Vaughan & Diver, 2018).

In terms of how students acquire them, some get a prescription. Others buy from prescription users. Still others buy their supply from the Internet, specifically, the dark web, and have the goods delivered straight to their home address (Vaughan & Diver, 2018).

Why do students engage in academic doping?

There are a few reasons why students might think that taking performance-enhancing drugs is a good idea. The first is the pressure on students to succeed (Aikins, 2011; Vaughan & Diver, 2018). Another is that some students may simply want to experiment (Aikins, 2011). Aikins (2011) offers an excellent overview of the reasons students might take illicit drugs in general, and it’s important to note that there is no single reason why students might take drugs to help them perform better in exams or other learning tasks.

How prevalent is academic doping?

Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe (2017) summarize the results of previous studies on the use of non-medical use of prescription stimulants (NMUPs) which showed that anywhere from 7% to 35.5% of students have used prescription drugs for academic performance enhancement. There seems to be very little data about how many students are using the illegally made versions of these drugs. But in any case, these rates would probably be higher than most parents, faculty members or policy makers might suspect.

Do “smart drugs” really work?

There are users who post information about how well they believe these substances work for them. Having said that, Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe (2017) found that “there is little real world data proving that” students who engage in academic doping “experience any actual academic gains” (p. 231). So basically, students who self-medicate seem to think that these drugs will give them an advantage, but there’s not much in the way of actual data to support that idea.

The bottom line is that it is important for parents, educators and higher education policy makers to understand that academic doping is real and students can sometimes make poor choices because they feel pressure to succeed. It is up to us as educators to show we care about students’ well-being and health and to send a clear message that long-term success does not come in a pill bottle.

References

Aikins, R. (2011). A qualitative study of the perceptions and habits of prescription stimulant–using college students. Journal of College Student Development, 52(5). doi:10.1353/csd.2011.0064

Aikins, R., Zhang, X., & McCabe, S. E. (2017). Academic doping: Institutional policies regarding nonmedical use of prescription stimulants in U.S. higher education. Journal of Academic Ethics, 15(3), 229-243. doi:10.1007/s10805-017-9291-0

Asprey, D. (n.d.). Modafinil: The rise of smart drugs.  Retrieved from https://blog.bulletproof.com/why-you-are-suffering-from-a-modafinil-deficiency/

Vaughan, R., & Diver, T. (2018). Exclusive: University students turn to dark web for performance enhancing ‘smart drugs’. iNews. Retrieved from https://inews.co.uk/news/education/university-students-turn-to-dark-web-smart-drugs/amp/

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This blog has had over 1.9 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Writing Educational Research (EDER 603.23) – Spring 2018

May 8, 2018

Spring 2018 course (image)I am excited to be teaching one of my favourite courses coming up in the Spring 2018 semester. This is the final course for students in the Master of Education with a specialization in Teaching English as an Additional Language (TEAL).

Course description

This course will focus on examining and developing the skills associated with crafting an academic report and discussion on research data. Topics include genres and purposes of academic writing, as well as venues for presentation and publication. An academic paper is more than a compilation of relevant literature, attending information and a conclusion.

An acceptable paper, whether intended for an academic or a professional audience, and whether a report of findings or a theoretical-philosophical argument, takes a clearly defined idea, situates it in the current literature, and supports it with a well-structured discussion. The principal intentions of this course are to introduce students to the various structures of academic and professional papers and to provide support in their efforts to craft, present and potentially publish their written work.

A traditional approach to writing educational research involves first learning about writing, then learning to write. Learners first study sample texts, analyzing them and then dissecting them, examining their structure, argument and style. The next step often involves producing an original piece of writing that mimics the style, tone and structure of the sample text. The final step is to integrate elements of the student’s own voice and style with elements of the texts they have previously studied. The rationale behind this approach is that the student must first learn what counts as excellent writing by learning about writing. Only then are they prepared to write themselves.

This course takes a non-traditional approach to learning to write about research for scholarly or professional purposes. Students will focus on writing, offering feedback to peers, revising, and incorporating feedback.

Students take on three key roles during this course:

  1. Writer – Crafting an original work intended for sharing in a public forum.
  2. Reviewer – Developing your skills offering substantive and supportive feedback to peers to help them improve their writing so that they, too, are successful in sharing their work in a public forum.
  3. Reviser – Learning to consider and incorporate peer feedback thoughtfully. As scholars and professionals, we recognize that our work is stronger when we incorporate revisions from trusted colleagues whose intention is to help us succeed.

Check out this .pdf of the entire course outline.

Why I love teaching this course

I love working with students who are also professionals to show them how they can craft a research term paper into a manuscript for publication. I’ve taught this course about a dozen times before and I marvel at how students can develop competence and confidence as writers during this course.

Some students who have taken this course have gone on to publish their work and it inspires me to see them grow in this way. I am looking forward to creating opportunities for more students to become published writers!

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 


Action Research for Graduate Program Improvements: A Response to Curriculum Mapping and Review

May 1, 2018

CJHE copy.jpgI’m excited to share news with you about a new article that’s just been released with co-authors Michele Jacobsen, Barb Brown, Marlon Simmons and Mairi McDermott. Here’s an overview:

Abstract

There is a global trend toward improving programs and student experiences in higher education through curriculum review and mapping of degree programs. This paper describes an action research approach to program improvement for a course-based MEd degree. The driver for continual program improvement came from actions and recommendations that arose from an institutionally mandated, year-long, faculty led curriculum review of professional graduate programs in education. Study findings reveal instructors’ perceptions about how they enacted the recommendations for program improvement, including

  1. developing a visual conceptualization of the program;
  2. improved connections between the courses;
  3. articulation of coherence in goals and expectations for students and instructors;
  4. an increased focus on action research;
  5. increased ethics support and scaffolding for students; and
  6. the fostering of communities of practice.

Study findings highlight strengths of the current program and course designs, action items, and research needed for continual program improvement.

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This article is the result of a two-year project with our amazing team. It has been incredible to learn with and from them as we embarked on this journey together. We are eager to share what we learned about how to improve students’ experience in our Master of Education program.

Check out the entire article in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


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