Integrating Guided Discovery/Experiential Learning and Technology

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This workshop was held in Riyadh on Saturday, 5 Oct 2013 for (female teachers only) at Al Faris International School at around 9:00 am to 11:00 am.

Who presented it? It was Katrina Baran. According to the intel that was given along with the abstract, Ms. Baran has taught ESL/EFL since 1999, and has delivered teacher training workshops in South Korea, Mongolia, the United States, UAE and Saudi Arabia. She holds a BA (hon) in Lingusitics/CTESL, a certificate in Online Learning, an MA-TESOL at the School for International Training (USA) and is currently pursuing a DELTA.

So what I really like about it? Ms. Baran defined what discovery learning was and how it could be instrumental in the teaching strategies with the involvement of technology. She discussed the steps when it comes to bridging the gap between discovery learning and the circumstances that are prevailing in schools. Be it the preparation time or the content of the course, it was about exploration and problem solving for the generalization of knowledge, integration and creation.

Ms. Baran insinuated that establishment of applications that were broader in applications was the key. If the students were encouraged to learn at their own pace, that would definitely lead to the what she called the ‘guided discovery’. in their already existing knowledge, they could be allowed to build more or in other words, they could extend on that knowledge to bring in new ideas. Of course, that’s where the facilitator comes in, the trouble shooter who would design the lesson in a such a way as to make the students drift. That’s right, I used the word ‘drift’ according to how I analyzed the concept of guided discovery. And along with the experience, they get to learn the skills and not the facts. Not to mention the implementation of technology in the execution of a lesson in class would do the enhancements in so many ways.

What I did learn from this workshop? It’s an everyday discovery for teachers as well in how to make their lessons prim and proper and it truly is a journey. And I know that even through failure, there’s a discovery. On that note, happy discovering!

Thank you Katrina Baran

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KSAALT – Riyadh Chapter Review – Use of Literature in the ESL/EFL Classroom

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When I read the word ‘literature’, I was like WHOAH! Some perspective to teaching Pride and Prejudice in an ESL class there could be. Of course, critically analyzing Jane Austen’s round characters (or multi-dimensional for those who insinuate otherwise) wouldn’t qualify in an ESL world. Would it? The questions still lurk at the back of my mind. However, with my major being the literature got me on tenterhooks to find out what this workshop had to offer.

Who was presenting it? Dr. Abdirazak W. Osman is one person you could approach when it comes to applying literati strategies in teaching. This second General Meeting was held on 26th of October, 2013 and I for one was very excited to attend it.

Dr. Abdirazak introduced himself by telling us about his teaching experiences in different setting. He had really cut to the chase in scrutinizing the topic of the workshop. So how did the scrutiny begin. He asked us to deduce pros and cons about the idea of teaching literature in an ESL class. He presented the slides with all the pluses and the minuses. Some agreed. Other raised questions for which he was quite quick on the trigger with the answers.

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Dr. Abdilrazaq presented us with some sentences (the literary texts of course) and we discussed how they could be used in a class.

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That was followed by some more exploitation that led from the slides to the handouts that were given before the start of the session.

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He wrapped the session up with a warm up activity that was kind of testing the waters with what he really thought of. The scans are proof of life 🙂

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It seemed and sounded a different ball of wax but things went swimmingly and the workshop came full circle at the end. Needless to say, I wasn’t wrong to be all eager beaver about it.  We hope to see more of literature enthusiasts in the ESL world in the future.

Thank you Dr. Adbdilrazaq W. Osman.

Riyadh Chapter Review (KSAALT) – Key Principles for Designing Effective Language Tests

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Okay so I know I’m very late in writing about it but studies and work has kind of taken its toll on me. Needless to say, I had to get back to reporting about it.

So as we all know (and for those who do not know), we have an association for English teachers here in Riyadh and anyone who is teaching English is more than welcome to join for enhancement, professional development and meeting people with the same interests. Workshops are presented, feedback is given and yes, if you’re interested in presenting a workshop, you can send an abstract about it too. It is really a cynosure where people bring in ideas and share them here under this umbrella.

The first workshop in 2013-14 was held on 28th of September, 2013 presented by Dr. Dina El-Dakhson titled Key Principles for Designing Effective Language Tests at Prince Sultan University.

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The event took off at 9:30 AM when Dr. Alia Mitchell (chair of English Department at Prince Sultan University and president of Riyadh Chapter) made the opening by introducing herself and giving a brief description of what KSAALT is all about. After she mentioned few more names in the KSAALT team who made it happen, she also said that one name must be conjured with – Dr. Dina El-Dakhson.

Dr. Dina introduced herself with zephyr of a smile. She then started her workshop by explaining the purpose of it all.  The handouts were given with Test Jokes printed on the first page. What a way get to get all those moods all festive. But honestly, that was an exercise for the esprit de corps of attendees :-).

She asked us to read the testing terms and their definitions. She explained why eight factors while designing a test were very important: Authenticity, Discrimination, Inter-rater Reliability, Reliability, Validity, Practicality, Washback and Weighting.  After that, she critically made us analyze differences between Textbook Tasks and Test Tasks. There were twelve examples given which we were to analyze about their inclusion in a test.  For instance, the first example was about interviews with two immigrants. It had three questions: When did he/she move to the US?, What is difficult about being an immigrant? and What does he/she miss the most?  Second example was about numbering the events(six ) in the life of Nicole Kidman.  Third example was about the identification of parts of speech and their usage in meaningful sentences. You can see the rest of the examples in my scans.

Second Section

In the third section of the workshop, we were asked to read the guidelines for the test design and underline the ones we disagreed with. There were several of them underline the headings of General, Reading+Listening, Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking, Vocabulary, and Grammar which can also b viewed in my scans. 

Third Section

In the last section, we were asked to evaluate the test tasks. Each one had a defect and were were to detect it :-). First example was a Vocabulary Test and question was the circle the correct answer for the missing gap. What was wrong with it? Well, have a look at my scans and you’ll know that those defects are really non-fictional and that we’ve had these back in our days as well. You can see the presented examples in a Grammar Test, Reading/Listening Test and a Writing Test.

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Dr. Dina wrapped up the workshop around half past twelve by mentioning the references and sources. She also said she could be contacted for any queries at ddakhs@pscw.psu.edu.sa and dinadakhs@yahoo.com.

It sure was an insightful experience padded with layers of knowledge. It was smart, savvy and heart-warming in its observational radar.

Thank you Dr. Dina El-Dakhson.