April 11, 2007

Blogging tips and assessment

Some useful tips on good blogging practice, from Idratherbewriting. Nothing revolutionary or outrageous, just common sense, but it works as a useful reminder.

#10 spoke to me: "archive by topic rather than date", unless yours is a purely personal journal. "Date archives mean little to readers."

Following his own tip of linking abundantly (#8), idratherbewriting includes links to some interesting sites. One of the first ones I clicked on (Creating Passionate Users) included this thought-provoking tip:
Parelli Natural Horsemanship sells horse-related products including saddles, bridles, ropes, etc. But you have to pay more to learn how to use them properly. Much, much more. Users are paying anywhere from $200 to $1000 for home-study kits including booklets and DVDs. Yes, horse training is not the same as using a project management app--clearly the markets and context are different--but the main point is the same--people place an extremely high value on quality learning and support materials... FYI: Parelli has one of the largest, most loyal passionate fan bases I've ever seen... Characteristics of World-Class User Learning Materials

1) User-friendly
Easy to use when, where, and how you need it.
2) Based on sound learning principles
i.e. users actually learn from it, not just refer to it.
3) Motivational
Keeps users willing to push forward to higher "levels"

The following pictures are some examples of how Parelli does this. The only thing you need to know to understand the examples is that the Parelli system groups a set of skills and knowledge into "levels". Founder/creator Pat Parelli designed levels into his program based on the success of the martial arts belt system and video game levels. In other words, he knew that the levels --key achievement milestones with clear rewards--are more motivating than just, "here you go... keep going."
Hmm, "just 'here you go... keep going.'" In my EFL classes, am I offering more motivation than that? I've bookmarked the entry because there's more in this post that I might use to improve my teaching.

(Check out the neat, simple, graphics Parelli uses, which exemplify blogging tip #5 "present your ideas visually". They reminded me of another "tips" post by math teacher dan meyer on how not to use Powerpoint. Be sure to click thru the links. I love the post-it-photo-presentation. And Miranda July's presentation using her kitchen appliances is hilarious.)

I got fired up about vocab acquisition after reading Paul Nation. I think vocab acquisition could provide some clear milestones for students. I also was impressed by math teacher Dan Meyer's ideas on assessment, and his article on the subject got me thinking. One of the problems I think my students have with learning English is the apparent slow pace of progress and the difficulty in getting clear, "milestone"-like feedback on how they are doing. With motivated students, this isn't a major issue (tho still an issue), but with students who a) are not sure whether they are interested in English or not, and b) will likely have almost no chance to use English after they graduate (and know it), little sticks and carrots like these become more important (and I can't make up my mind if a "milestone" is a stick or a carrot).

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