Category Archives: Personal Thoughts

5 Healthy Habits of Successful Online Learners

I had an online conversation with a parent yesterday. The mother shared her concern about how her child has been skipping meals to fully focus on completing required assessment tasks the school has set. I also had a similar discussion with a cousin who is feeling overwhelmed with the bulk of work the university has sort of dumped on her. Thus, I thought it would help to put together what different institutions have shared so students could stay healthy while adjusting to the learning scheme which is pretty new for the majority. I thank all the pages I linked here as my references to create this short post.

Get enough sleep. This requirement is included in almost all pages that talk about study and healthy habits every student should take heed. I agree with Oxbridge Academy when they stressed how sufficient sleep allows the brain “to assimilate knowledge acquired during the day.” Post University also pointed out the need to reduce exposure to blue light and even recommended the use of traditional alarm clock instead of mobile phones that only tempt users “to browse Instagram [or Facebook] for hours instead of getting much-needed sleep.” In this same vein, Education Corner emphasized how every student should not attempt to cram all of his/her studying into one session. This echoes my previous post on time management. Learners are typically given new sets of assessment tasks to work on every start of the week and deadlines typically set by the end of the same week. This is to help students build a routine so they would not need to wait for teachers to upload new assignments at random hours or remember too many deadlines. Building a study schedule promotes some peace of mind that trickles down to better time management where quality sleep is prioritized.

Eat well. Do we all not get a headache if we keep on working for hours without nibbling on some snacks? Food fuels and nourishes our brain cells. Oxbridge Academy highlighted how small, healthy snacks curb hunger, keep blood sugar stable, and our minds active for longer. Post University also reminded us to avoid processed food. They reiterated that when we increase produce intake we “feel more energetic throughout the day.” I guess it is time for me to prepare more kimchi.

Stay hydrated. I used to have a water alarm. I found myself snoozing it instead of leaving my seat to grab a glass of water. Now, I set my mobile phone to alarm every 60 minutes. How is this different from the water alarm? (1) I manually reset the timer to sound again after 60 minutes. (2) I check my games to earn “coins.” Incorporating these extra steps to drink water pushes me to really take a break which again is part of what the University of Texas highly discouraged students from doing – long periods of sitting.

Stretch and walk. This can be part of the need to be hydrated. Since my work station is not next to the water dispenser, I obviously need to stand and walk. After about an hour of being on the computer, do we all not feel the need to stretch? to yawn? and even to look outside and focus on the greenery? On this same idea, Post University noted how we should remember to fix our posture especially when we feel aches and pains too often. So, let us stretch and sort of make our muscles breathe.

Choose not to be alone. Online or distant education carries isolating repercussions. This is considered a tragic fate for personalities who love to socialize. It is actually haven for the introverts. Let us remember the old adage “no man is an island.” When the notion of loneliness becomes unbearable, instead of inviting more depressing thoughts, it is healthier and is actually part of our responsibility to open all possible virtual windows and doors to keep in touch with family, relatives, and friends and even make new friends. University of Texas shared how students can organize virtual study groups or chat with their peers and make use of different collaboration tools together.

Let us always keep these five healthy habits in mind and remain optimistic as we know and learn more about our small, ever-changing world.

Why do we need an AUP?

I have been teaching in a blended learning format for several years. I still remember how some students called me as the “techie” English teacher. I have always made it a point to incorporate the use of information technology in my classes.

In terms of teaching through an online learning platform, I started with Moodle. I still remember all the conversations I had with Alfredo Papaseit (the school librarian at that time) who introduced it to the faculty. I remember long hours of setting all the rights and how the program sort of paused when no one in the IT department remembered to press the button to refresh the server after a power interruption that happened after school hours or over the weekend. Moodle has a lot of features that may be overwhelming if an educator is new to the online teaching club. It is a grand learning platform that is suitable for higher education and for big universities.

My second stop was Schoology and Course Director (the older brother of Google Classroom). I was happier using Schoology because it had a similar interface with Facebook. Then, the idea of flipped classroom came and teachers had too many different virtual classrooms and students needed to remember too many passwords and too many shortcuts. It was during this time when I tried Google Classroom, too. It did not have as many features as Schoology, but was only clicks away for a school using Google Suite. Soon after, a group of students proposed that the faculty chooses only one to avoid confusion and to be able to monitor their progress better. Few months later, it became a requirement for teachers to run Google Classroom side-by-side onsite classes. I still remember how we were made to stay outside our physical teaching areas, away from our students, to mimic an “online session.” That was the school’s online class rehearsal.

Early in March 2020, I got to apply my online teaching skills to respond to a real demand when schools were made to suspend classes. I came across new issues though. I came to wonder how my former experience was smooth and productive. I did not receive ridiculous alibis from students (e.g., cannot open PDF files because they are unsupported and cannot open any Google Form because the page says “This site cannot be reached”) and other rude and weird online learning scenarios. I asked myself What am I missing? The answer is a question which is the title of this post. Freaking out with the world when COVID-19 hit, I forgot to share with the school administration the need to have a clear and fair policy laid out. These expectations were presented when I had those online class rehearsals. These policies are absolutely essential.

Scholastic says that having a technology policy is valuable “to harness this [referring to the Internet] powerful tool so that it is effective and safe for student use.” I love how Scholastic listed the components every school IT policy should include. They also provided examples.

Kajeet in their article entitled Why Acceptable Use Policies are Critical for Education highlighted how an agreement supports students’ safety online. They have two main big ideas to stress the importance of an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) – “protecting students” and “providing students.” They mentioned a student-centered approach and shared links to other AUP materials.

School administrators may need to see the bigger picture though. Now that online teaching and learning has taken the front seat as the world continues to fight off an unprecedented health and economic pandemic, how to keep the whole school population safe must be a heavy load on their shoulders. The Internet Society in 2017 defined Key considerations for policy makers. They identified “five priorities for Internet and education.” These are infrastructure and access, vision and policy, content and devices, capacity, and inclusion.

Of course, there are institutions that have gone ahead of this game. No one needs to reinvent the wheel. From my online teaching experience, I am fully aware that these policies are imperative. Administrators and support teams must find time to collaborate and establish one for their community. Schools must continue to cater to their learners’ needs far beyond the sharing of class codes, modules, activities, and materials. Students must also learn, grow, and become responsible digital citizens.

Google Certified Educator Level 1

I took the three-hour online Level 1 exam on Friday, May 8th. I did not expect receiving a very prompt response. The Google for Education team must have been working doubly hard these days. In less than 48 hours after a very comprehensive examination experience, I got the results. With God’s mercy and Google’s guidance, I passed.

If teachers are familiar with when, how, and why they use different apps in Google Suite as educators who incorporate the use of information technology in an onsite or blended learning environment, they are more than ready to take the Level 1 test to be Google Certified Educators. The whole examination is a thorough evaluation of a teacher’s use and understanding of applications in Google Suite like (1) Gmail, (2) Drive, (3) Classroom, (4) Calendar, (5) Chrome, (6) Sites, (7) Tasks, (8) Translate, (9) Docs, (10) Sheets, (11) Forms, (12) Slides, (13) Meet, (14) Groups, and (15) YouTube. The exam has questions on the most recent version of these applications; making the three-year certification logical and supportive of professional development. The test has two parts of teaching scenarios: multiple choice and application. Three hours is fair amount of time to work on all given questions.    

Every candidate signs a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Agreeing or signing it is part of the preliminary questions test takers have to answer right after they open the exam account Google sets. Via Gmail, Google sends relevant information and a quick, helpful overview to be ready for the exam which applicants should take no later than seven days after forwarding payment of US $10 for Level 1. It has been a shared advice not to forward payment if one does not feel confident to complete the exam within a week. Forwarding my payment pushed me to have a go and I am happy I did.

The exam will need to access the web camera. I took time to set my camera before the test schedule. Google needed me to grant them permission to turn it on during the whole duration of the exam. The camera served as my proctor. I linked my phone mobile data to my laptop. I made sure I had credits more than enough to keep the Internet connection running for three hours. I chose non-peak hours. I was online from 2200H to 0100H when the majority goes to bed. I made sure my laptop was fully charged. I locked myself in the bedroom to avoid distractions. I emptied my bladder before the exam started to avoid the need to go to the bathroom (consider doing the same especially when your body responds in such a way whenever you get anxious). I kept myself focused during the whole duration and used the given time wisely. I highly recommend keeping track and budgeting time really well. In fact, I came across a challenging scenario. It was taking me some time to figure it out. So, I skipped and went back to it when I reviewed my output before clicking the final “Submit” button and the page went saying “Validating your exam” which I waited to load for five minutes and closed when it was not showing anything. Well, the page also assured me that my answers were already recorded; that I would only need to wait for Google‘s email for the exam results. 

The examination made me realize that there are still a lot more to learn in Google Suite. The challenge to complete steps accurately and to find the right buttons made me forget about the camera and about the fact that I was taking a test. If you have used Google Suite apps in teaching, consider taking this self-assessment opportunity. It would surely be one of those rare tests you would find enjoyable.

Tips to Memorize a Long Hymn

INC ChoirWhen choir members prepare for big events, there are a lot of factors to consider before they can declare with confidence that they are ready for the big and very special day.  One, that requires time, effort, and serious focus, is to memorize a really long hymn.  Here are tips from choir directors, veteran choir members, and personal experience.  If you have been memorizing long hymns a number of times in a year, for so many years now, most of these tactics must be familiar to you.  Remembering them does not hurt.  Thus, read on.

Master both melody and rhythm.  Your voice projection and articulation will only sound confident when you fully know how the notes move and how fast and/or slow they move.  If you do not play any musical instrument to review the score sheet on your own, ask permission to record the organist playing the piece or ask him/her for a voice guide recording.  Study the piece or hymn in sections.  Depending on your learning style, choose to start with the most challenging part/s or with the easier and repetitive ones.

Internalize the meaning of the lyrics.  Read the lyrics.  Check the dictionary for the definition of any unfamiliar word. Take a closer look at the meaning of every line in every stanza in every section.  Think of the emotion/s the hymn aims to impart.  Reflect on how and what the hymn wants you and the listeners to feel.  Visualize its overall meaning and create a story in your mind.  When images get attached to what the hymn means to you, recalling the lyrics comes more easily.  If possible, associate or summarize every stanza or section with an image that is meaningful to you.  You might want to draw or find photos of these images to reiterate these visual cues in your mind.

Practice. Practice. Practice.  Keep a conscious effort to realize your goal: to memorize a long hymn.  Try singing yourself to sleep.  Sing the whole hymn before you go to bed to send the lyrics to your subconscious mind for better retention.  When you wake up, sing the hymn again to refresh your memory.  If you love writing by hand, write the lyrics again and again.  If you prefer typing, then manually (cut, copy, and paste commands obviously defeat the purpose here) type the lyrics again and again.  If you want something tangible that gives you a quick overview, create your own set of mnemonics or flashcards to remember initial letters or first words of lines per section.  If you are more of an audio person, record yourself singing the whole hymn.  The recording alone will take you several attempts before you will be satisfied with a “final” file.  Use a headset to avoid distractions when you are listening to your own audio output.  Do not become too proud to let the whole neighborhood or office department hear you sing a long hymn.  Play your recording in a loop and use it as your daily OST until that special day.  Listen to it while you work and/or made to wait for whatever reason.  Please do not put your headset or earphones on when you are driving and walking on and/or crossing the streets.  Your safety comes first.  You have an important duty to fulfill and we all want to perform with you.

For other lessons and fun videos, please visit my YouTube channel.

by JellSoL, 2018-06-28