More detailed reflections on the whole postgrad experience to come soon....
Monday, 7 January 2013
Monday, 17 September 2012
Hi. I have offered to write a guest blog entry for Dave, partly as a thank you for his assistance this summer in providing advice and providing a test run for my interview stage during my MA dissertation, and partly because I have not written a guest blog before. I’ve never met Dave, not in the flesh anyway. Like a lot of good friends and members of my PLN (personal learning network, which has grown from practically nothing at the start of 2012, I have only met him virtually. This blog was one of the first I stumbled across when setting my own up in the beginning of the year as part of an ICT in ELT module. I later went on to write about blogging as well as writing about ICT tools on a new blog, here (http://tinyurl.com/crmrtjh), before going on to do a professional practice module, introducing a new technology or tool into an actual setting that I have taught in before. I continued to use the blog, although not required as part of the course, to share the remaining work on my MA, including using it to generate interest and attract participants into my research for my dissertation. It is that research which I am writing about here.
Image: Research Wordle
One virtue of being an autonomous teacher-learner is that an autonomous philosophy can be instilled in their learners/students, and who are, therefore, much more likely to develop autonomy if they are exposed to autonomous practices in the classroom. It helps teachers to stop being prescriptive and, instead, foster learning.
The issue of Teacher Autonomy is something I first discussed with one of the professors at the University of Warwick, Richard C Smith. As someone who has written extensively about Learner Autonomy and knows all the main protagonists in the field, such as David Little, Leni Dam, Phil Benson and Terry Lamb, I also questioned him on the issue of Teacher Autonomy. I was interested in how autonomous English language teachers are when it comes to learning about new technology and, more specifically, ICT tools. He pointed me in the direction of some dimensions he first tried to define in 2003:
The concept of teacher-learner autonomy relates to both the 'capacity' for self-directed professional development and the freedom from control over professional development. There is also the dimension of self-directed teacher-learning in relation to professional development. These are separate from but also the potential basis for professional action, which, for the benefit of my research, is when a teacher actually puts things into practice. I used this concept to underpin the potential for action and actuality of something happening in practice. It can also be the separation of the capacity of teachers, based on their perceived 'relationship' with technology, to learn about new tools, and their willingness to do so, given that relationship and other contextual factors, such as institutional resistance or other barriers. That ‘relationship’ – i.e. the extent to which teachers are competent ICT users – was used as a starting point.
The investigation generated taxonomy of current ICT/web tool usage, with comparative figures obtained for different tools that are not only used in the classroom, but those used in preparation or feedback. Furthermore, there was tools defined as those used as part of professional development, which are less to do with teaching and more to do with discovery and discussion of tools. The barriers to integrating tools into teaching was also investigated, along with current institutional support and/or training.
Institutions and employers are not always at the forefront of training teachers in the area of ICT and, especially, in utilising the myriad of web tools that exist, unless they have a specialist trainer or enthusiastic, knowledgeable director of studies. A lot of the impetus for learning about existing and new tools appears to come from teachers engaging with the online community. Indeed, many of those teachers I interviewed expressed how they were leading the way, compared with colleagues, in respect of their autonomous behaviour. This becomes even more essential when a teacher is self-employed or works freelance. With complete freedom from control over one’s own professional development, a high level of teacher-learner autonomy was demonstrated by those who took part in the research.
Plenty of autonomous behaviour was demonstrated. For many teachers, being self-reliant was something rooted in personality, with characteristics such as impatience mentioned by some. For others, it was something that had been learned, often at a time of life when it was imposed upon them, such as at university, when a learner’s hand is not held at every stage. When it came to learning web tools, many seemed to take the initiative and try them out first. Most learned these by practicing or experimenting with them, before looking for a tutorial or further help. A general impatience and an inability to wait for others to train them had lead many of those interviewed to take the initiative.
Those aspects of learning ICT and web tools which take place as part of professional development are those related to self-directed teacher learning and teacher-learner autonomy. As Smith (2003) notes, it might be possible for institutions to focus on developing the willingness and capacity for self-directed teacher learning, but the evidence was that this is only partially happening, at least from the teachers’ perspective.
Those employed as teacher-trainers did demonstrate that web tools were being promoted to their teachers and quite often informal training was given. They also gave some examples of trying to foster more autonomous behaviour. The teachers who were interviewed, however, painted a less positive picture in this regard and if they were fortunate to have dedicated training, it was not being acknowledged. The different perspective on actual training between those who were solely teaching and those predominately employed as trainers was an interesting, emerging feature.
The extent that teachers were self-directing their learning was high and many took substantial responsibility for learning tools. The survey had suggested that whilst the belief was that training should be given, teachers did not wait for this to happen. The interviewees partially backed this perception, as many teachers felt a frustration with having to do their own self-directed learning in their own time. While those that did invest substantial time being autonomous learners were rewarded by the amount of autonomy they created for themselves at work, for many that lack of political will was very much in evidence.
Although some described a lack of access to reliable technology, most reported an above sufficient capacity and a strong freedom from control to learn about and integrate web tools in their practice. This was certainly truer of freelance teachers, although they were not the only ones to have shifted their autonomous behaviour. For the most part, teachers reported support, if not training, by institutions, and were mostly free to teach how they wanted to.
Of course, any decent research should include some reflexivity and, in mirroring Dave’s own banner title, I reflected upon those who took part in the research. The fact that most of the 14 names who signed up for interviews, following the 106 teachers who completed my initial Taxonomy Survey, clearly demonstrating their autonomous behaviour in this area, was something that couldn’t be left uncommented on. There was an over-representation of teachers who had a positive relationship with technology, even if that has become more so over time. There were stories of how teachers had made decisions in respect of their professional development which sat primarily outside of their contracted work hours. They had increased their ICT knowledge and skills in their own time, as part of one or more online communities.
Drawing any conclusions from the whole data set proved difficult because of a huge variation in the wildly different teaching contexts of the participants. Despite some reflective drawbacks, a snapshot of current practice was obtained. As teacher-learners, substantial evidence was demonstrated of self-directed learning. In many situations, interviewees were at the forefront of integrating web tools into their teaching practice ahead of colleagues. Interviewees were keen to show they were taking responsibility for their own learning in this area. This was demonstrated by their involvement in extra-curricular activities and assisted by technologies which allow for self-discovery and practice.
Bio: Phil Longwell is from Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, UK. He has been a volunteer in Tanzania and a teacher in South Korea, China and Saudi Arabia. Following his MA, he is currently job-hunting. He has two blogs, one on ICT in ELT mentioned above and another, TPs TEFL Travels, which is more general and personal: http://tinyurl.com/cjpa2ps. He is on Twitter as @teacherphili.
Reference: Smith, R.C. 2003. ‘Teacher education for teacher-learner autonomy’ in Symposium for Language Teacher Educators: Papers from three IALS symposia (CD-Rom), J Gollin, G Ferguson and H Trappes-Loman (Eds.) Edinburgh. IALS. University of Edinburgh. Also available at: www.warwick.ac.uk/~elsdr/Teacher-autonomy.pdf
Sunday, 26 August 2012
Having recently handed in my MA dissertation, I got chatting (virtually, that is) to Martin Sketchley, aka ELTexperiences to you Twitter folk, about his postgrad studies which finished around this time last year. That led to the idea for this guest interview in which I ask Martin about why he chose to do an MA, what he got out of it and what has changed in his career since - useful insights for someone like me wondering ‘what now?’ and also for any of you considering upgrading your TEFL qualifications.
Sundial Korea by @Victoria52 via eltpics
Dave: You started your course in 2010 after a few years teaching EFL in Korea. Why did you decide to do an MA at that point in your career?
Martin: When I first arrived in South Korea, I had no teaching experience and no qualifications to match. The only course that I done was completing a weekend intensive course in language teaching. It was an eye-opener and introduction to the world of language teaching but very little can be taught as well as learnt in a couple of days. Nonetheless, after teaching one year in Korea, I decided that to undertake a CELTA Course at the British Council in Seoul to complement my experience. After two years in Korea, I decided to return to the UK and teach. However, I quickly noted that I had no experience teaching multilingual classes and felt that I was back in the same position of my first year in South Korea. It was wonderful experience but felt that after a year in the UK, it was time again to develop professionally and decided to undertake an MA in English Language Teaching.
Dave: Why an MA and not a DELTA?
Martin: Whilst I was teaching in the UK for the first year, I noticed that a number of my colleagues had a DELTA but none had an MA. When I looked at studying towards an MA, I approached a number of universities in the UK. I noticed that not many of them offered any practical teacher training course such as a diploma level qualification, apart from the University of Sussex (Advanced Practical Teaching) as recognised and accredited by the British Council. Thus, I would have been able to complete a DELTA equivalent as well as an MA in ELT and received two certificates after graduating: one for my MA and the other for the Diploma level course.
Dave: Many people say a DELTA is more desirable than an MA due to the practical teaching aspect. What is your view on this?
Martin: There is always going to be a debate about the distinction between practical training versus academic training. I suppose if teachers, or other educators, are willing to commit a year towards studying an MA, that in itself is admirable. However, it is also admirable for those that make the financial and professional commitment towards completing a DELTA course. I was very lucky to complete an MA course that also had a practical teaching aspect and I would always recommend those that are wishing to complete an MA to possibly seek a course that has a practical teaching element included. Of course, some of the students on the MA course held a DELTA and were seeking to develop professionally as well. Personally, an MA or a DELTA does not make a teacher great, but it does offer opportunities for those that are willing to develop.
Dave: After several years as teacher, how did it feel to be back in the student’s role?
Martin: I was never a very good student when I was young and felt that I missed a lot of opportunities. I suppose I was a late starter: I never took any A-Levels and flunked my GCSEs but I was given the chance to take a BA (Hons) after a few years in the RAF, as a mature student. Anyhow, it was a wonderful experience to be a student again and to be studying towards my highest ever qualification at a prestigious university. After teaching, I learnt that if students were given the space to learn at their own pace and were supported, they would be able to achieve something highly respectable. I was honoured to be present with other professionals and we all received support from our lecturers. I enjoyed every minute of my MA course and being a student again.
Dave: What was the most challenging aspect of the course?
Martin: During the Autumn term, there were two courses: one related to Second Language Acquisition theory and the other was related to grammar. I found the course related to grammar, lexis and phonology incredibly tough. Grammar was being analysed with the use of grammar trees, we looked at some languages and had to break down phonological patterns as well as looking at the ambiguity of vocabulary. It was incredibly tough and I found it too mathematical. This aspect of the course was the most challenging but I was determined to complete the MA and fortunately passed the module without any hiccups.
Dave: What led you to choose Dogme ELT as the focus of your dissertation?
Martin: During my Advanced Practical Teaching course, my experimental teaching focused on Dogme ELT. Just a few months before hand, I received a copy of “Teaching Unplugged”, which I reviewed on my blog. During my practical teaching course, I thought about Dogme ELT and suggested to my tutor that I wanted to focus on this. He was very supportive and we decided to film the class with me teaching unplugged. I looked at one activity in “Teaching Unplugged” and wrote a lesson plan (perhaps guessing what might or might not happen during the class). After completing the teaching, we had the usual sit-down and discussion about how things worked and how things could be developed but received some very supportive comments from my tutor. A few weeks passed, after the end of the Spring term, and I was still thinking about Dogme ELT and teacher, as well as student, uptake in the classroom. I realised that I should research this and complete a dissertation in Dogme ELT and approached my tutor. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dave: What was the main benefit you got out of doing the course? Was this something you were aiming for before the MA or was it something that emerged during the course?
Martin: Before starting the course, I thought the main benefit of completing the MA course would suggest to possible employers that I was dedicated to language teaching and made the commitment to support myself towards professional development. However, after completing the MA course I still found it difficult securing any permanent work in the UK. Some employers were less willing to employ those with more respectable qualifications, than those with very little qualifications. Was it related to cost of employing someone with an MA compared to the cost of a teacher with just a CELTA? I am not sure. Nevertheless, the main benefit that I discovered was that I was interested in researching language teaching and language acquisition. I have some ideas of future studies/research and would like to undertake these in the next few years at my own pace. Anyhow, I found myself being able to complete my research at ease (perhaps because I enjoyed the topic), and enjoyed meeting other teachers and students. It was a wonderful experience and being able to network with local schools raised my profile as a language teacher in my local area in Sussex.
Dave: It has been a year since you completed your MA. What kind of impact has it had for you, both in the classroom and in your career in general?
Martin: It has certainly been a very busy year since I completed my MA. After completing the course, I was requested to teach in the language department at the University of Sussex during the summer of 2011 and more recently in 2012. I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful teachers in the UK as well as abroad, with my recent posting with the British Council to Bucharest, Romania. Within the classroom, I have become more aware of language learning at work. When I look at students that are conversing naturally in English, I find it incredible: this is genuinely language learning at its best. Anyhow, I have learnt a lot during the MA and was able to put it into action. I guess it has made me a better teacher.
Dave: What’s next? Any plans for further study?
Martin: This is a broad question. More recently, I completed a TYLEC Course at the British Council Bucharest. I would never say no to further study and would be happy to complete a Doctorate but I guess this is around 5-10 years away, and I would have to be supported financially or receive sponsorship. It is a tough commitment and I have no idea what I would be researching. Currently, I am trying to write up a chapter in a research book related to Dogme ELT. It is being co-authored by a number of language teachers and I have just completed my research. Around 50 teachers completed the questionnaire from around the world and I am starting to write up the results of the survey. Nevertheless, my wife is starting an MA in Korean Translation Studies at the University of Durham this October, so we are looking at the possibility of moving to the North East of England. Once she completes her MA course, we are considering moving to South Korea so that my son is offered the opportunity to become a more confident bilingual user between English and Korean: his English is the stronger of the two languages at the moment. However, a lot of these are ideas and nothing concrete has been planned so, I suppose watch this space.
Dave: Thanks once again Martin for sharing your MA experience and insights.
Martin Sketchley has been teaching English for nearly seven years with experience in South Korea, Romania as well as in the UK. He currently teaches for the British Council in Bucharest, Romania, but is returning to the UK in September to support his wife for further education. He is also a Cambridge ESOL Assistant Marker for the FCE and BEC examinations. He currently holds an MA in English Language Teaching, a DELTA equivalent, a CELTA and this year completed a TYLEC at the British Council.
Make sure you check out Martin’s blog: www.eltexperiences.com
Thursday, 23 August 2012
Anyway, I have some reflections on the whole experience to share but I think you’ll forgive me if I give my fingers a rest and limit my time typing today… Instead, I’ll share a few numbers with you.
24,440 - words in the entire document including contents sheet, tables, appendices and all that.*
5 - chapters written.
95 - pages in the final version.
26 - tables and figures of research data.
70 - sets of survey responses analysed.
3 - interview and blog analysis participants.
66 - blog posts read, reviewed and analysed.
375 - comments read, reviewed and analysed.
48 - hours spent at the keyboard drafting, redrafting and proof-reading the final text.**
46 - hours spent browsing the web, watching videos and playing games when I should have been doing the above.**
4 - hours spent at one point on getting one table formatted exactly right!
8 - separate number of back-up files I kept (better safe than sorry!)
37 - publications referenced in the text.
31 - publications, articles and book chapters read but not used in the final write-up.
0 - sheets of paper and pens/pencils used.
10 - pints of sweat shed while hunched over my laptop in the middle of a Turkish summer.**
6 - pints of beer drunk in celebration at having finally finished.*
*This total is true at the time of writing but may be subject to revision.
**This total is a wild guess that may be greatly exaggerated or woefully underestimated.
Now, it’s fingers crossed as I face the long agonising wait for results….
Thursday, 21 June 2012
If you can't see the embedded survey clearly in your browser, please click here to see the full version. Thanks to Martin Sketchley for pointing me in the direction of his post on using Google Forms for the survey - worth a look if you are planning on doing any research of your own. Thanks also to Tyson Seburn and Ceri Jones for their feedback on the questions.
Friday, 6 April 2012
As those of you who have followed this blog for a while may know, blogging has become the focus of my current MA research. It is now nearly two years since my first ever post and in that time this blog has come to play a major role in my development as a language teacher and my online professional identity. That was the initial reason why I wanted to research this area - to find out more about the role blogs have to play in a teacher’s self-development.
Individual or part of a group? Image by tkksummers
Earlier this week, I was discussing how my research is taking shape with my dissertation supervisor and I mentioned that my interest was in how individual language teachers use their personal blogs for self-development. In that way that academic tutors often do, she immediately honed in on three words I had used without really considering their weight and meaning: individual, personal and self.
However, as the discussion continued, I began to mention comments, blog rolls, links to posts shared via social media and the relationships that begin to form with between the writer and the readers (who may also exchange roles when interacting on each other’s blogs). My supervisor pointed out that this was taking me away from the individual and personal aspect I had begun with. That got me thinking that perhaps my idea of ‘self-development’ was not quite the right angle to investigate from - maybe the community and connections made with other teacher-bloggers are more important for enabling development.
Blogs are inherently personal in nature - the main body of content, the layout and the links shared are all chosen and composed by an individual. And yet, through this individual space on the web, we are able to connect with teachers worldwide, exchange experiences, ideas and advice and be active as readers as well as authors.
So, my question to all you blogging teachers out there is:
Do you see you blog as your own personal space for expressing and developing your thoughts and ideas about ELT?
Do you see it as part of an active community of practice where shared experiences contribute to something more than just self-development?
Your answers in a comment please.
Monday, 30 January 2012
I did the course. I read the articles. I chose a topic to focus on. I discussed it with the tutor. I read around the subject. I kept notes of useful references. I swapped ideas with my course mates. I planned in detail. And still I spent an estimated 20+ hours just writing the damn thing!!
Focus on your education! Image by cityyear
Writing an assignment is hard work, no doubt about it. It can be very rewarding or it can be punishing and torturous - extended moments spend starting at the flicking cursor on the screen, rewriting a sentence several times until it sounds vaguely academic, your shoulders and neck aching from being sat at the computer too long…. and still 2,000 words to go!
So how can we avoid the above and make it more rewarding? My experience over the last couple of years has taught me the following (again, some of which I have done, some of which I learned the hard way that I should have done):
- Set yourself a deadline before the deadline
Julian Edge, the now retired and very much missed tutor on my first course, offered a sage piece of advice as my course mates and I approached that first assignment date: “Don’t work to the submission deadline - tell yourself it is 2 weeks earlier and work to that deadline.” Two weeks might be a bit much but I believe it is important to aim to be finished with a few days to spare. That gives you time to check things in a much more relaxed manner and means those “I wish I had written that” moments instead become “ooh - I can still write that” moments. Besides, you never know what’s going to happen - some unexpected event (like suddenly being told you have to write report cards for each of your 180 students) may rob you of precious time right before the deadline. Better to be done or nearly done before that happens.
- Read and re-read as you go
One eye-opener from doing a course like this after a decade of teaching is how the things I advise my students to do when writing absolutely do not come naturally to me! One thing I had to train myself to do, despite the fact that I always go on at my students about it, was to read what I had written and think about how it sounded and whether it could be improved or reworded. Doing this as you go (after each section or few paragraphs for example) can really help with clarifying things that perhaps came out in a muddle. I find it my constant self-editing usually helps keep me within the word limit as well.
- Space your writing time out
Writing can actually take a lot longer than you expect. Many times, after more than an hour at the keyboard, I have looked back at what I’ve written and discovered that it amounts to just two or three hundred words. I find it’s better to plan for a ‘little and often’ approach - better to write 500 words per session over the course of a week than attempt 3,500 words in one weekend! Typing for an extended period of time is hard - it can give you headaches, a stiff neck and an ever-growing sense of despair. Writing a few hundred words each day, even if you have to force yourself to do it after a long and tiring day at work with another to come the next day, will ultimately cause you less stress than doing it all in one go.
- Check your references carefully
One thing to be very careful about when editing - you may add a reference to an article that was not in your original list or you may delete one that was originally there. Make sure you check your references list at the end of the assignment several times - you may end up forgetting to list an article you referred very briefly or leaving in an article reference that you ended up deleting from the assignment otherwise! I also find it useful to do the reference list while writing the assignment - it can be a time-consuming task to rush through at the end if you are not careful!
- Back everything up!
Keep your assignment Word file on a flash disk or external hard drive and maybe even online via a service like Dropbox. Do the same with any pdf articles and course notes you will or even might need as well. Back them up daily. Don’t let a virus, a malfunctioning hard drive, a wayward cup of coffee or a curious two-year old make your nightmares come true! If anything, just do it for peace of mind.
- Leave a little time to relax
You need time to write an assignment but it should be quality time. Better to spend an hour working in a relaxed state than 3 or 4 hours when you feel tired, stressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So, by all means make you assignment your priority but make a little time each day to do something for yourself as well - read a book, watch a favourite TV show, exercise, bake a cake (for me ) - if you make sure you don’t leave everything to the last minute, it should be easy.
- Print it out and read it one last time
You’ve typed the concluding sentence of the concluding paragraph, checked the word count, ran the spell-checker and completed the reference list - ah, the relief! After weeks or worrying about it and hour upon hour sat at the computer typing, you’re all done, right?
Image by Gerard Stolk
What do you always tell your students? Read the whole thing again and check that it all makes sense! The best way to do this (or so I have found) is to print the whole thing out and read it away from the screen. Somehow, certain errors that the spell/grammar checker may not pick up or certain awkwardly phrased sentences stand out more when I read them from paper. It’s good to have enough time to wait a day or two before finishing and doing this final check as well - leave some space….
Of course, the next time I deal with any of the above, I’ll be doing it on a much larger dissertation scale. I’ll let you know how that goes but in the meantime please share your tips for tackling MA assignments and extended essays. I for one would love to get some different pointers!
Sunday, 29 January 2012
This blog has been on the backburner recently while I tried to drag myself from the hell that is writing an assignment. For someone (like me) who embarks on an MA course after a long break from formal study, being asked to write assignments again can be a bit of a shock to the system. All that reading and getting your head round what you want to say can easily lead to thoughts of “Why am I doing this?” (or to put it another way, #whyamIdoingthis). Thankfully, I (just about!) got it all finished ahead of last Monday’s deadline but, after such an intense bout of writing, decided to take a break from the keyboard and leave the blog waiting for a few more days.
Almost burned out… Image by stonelucifer
So what better way to return than to share a few words of advice about preparing for MA assignments. Of course, this comes a little too late for those of you who were working to similar deadlines to me but it will hopefully come in handy for future reference. The list includes some things I did to make the process easier and some things I should have done - I’ll leave you to work out which is which!
- Find out what your assignment is as soon as possible
“Well, duh!” you might think but this is an easy one to overlook. Some of my course tutors have been kind enough to include details of the assignment with the introductory materials of a course but others have not provided this information until later. The sooner you know the better as it allows your study to be more focused and gives you plenty of time to raise questions about any part of it you are not clear on, which neatly brings me to the next point…
- Make sure you are aware of exactly what the assignment entails
We may often equate ‘assignment’ with ‘extended essay’ but that’s not always the case, especially if there is a practical application element to the course. There’s nothing worse than suddenly finding out (as I did part-way through a course in my first year) that you have to create a fully-functioning website which will be assessed together with your written work or that you have to design materials to be used for a computer lab or online lesson. Also, the written part of the assignment may ask you to focus on an aspect of your teaching, or provide a rationale for choosing a certain web tool or research method, or to reflect on your experiences during the course - all of which require a very different approach.
- Start to look for inspiration everywhere
Once you know what your assignment is and exactly what you need to do, it’s best to never keep it far from your thoughts. An idea for how to approach the task may come while reading the literature, or it may come while your reading a blog post, or while you are in class, or while you are in the middle of watching a Quentin Tarantino film in the cinema (why Inglorious Basterds made me think of investigating how 9 year-olds engage in self-assessment, I’ll never know!) Make sure you have some way of noting it down as well.
- Be prepared to change your mind and start over
Having said all that about getting a head start, it’s important not to commit yourself to one avenue without exploring other paths as well. Just as a moment of inspiration may come at any time, another better one may come later. The key thing is to have no fear of changing your mind. Last year as part of a course on Teacher Development, I spent a long time looking into action research in the language classroom with the assignment very much in mind only to abandon that and decide to investigate using a blog for self-development instead. Nearly a year on, that change of heart has had a heavy bearing on the direction my dissertation will take so it’s a good thing I was ready to try another path.
- Make a note of useful articles (including page numbers!)
There’s nothing worse than thinking that you read something a while ago that would make a useful quote or be a useful reference for your article but then being unable to remember which article it was. Or maybe you will locate the article or book chapter only then to realise it is over 50 pages long and that little piece of insight that you’re looking for is buried in it somewhere. That’s why I always keep a note of articles, book chapters and page numbers that might be useful when it comes to assignment time as I read them (something like Evernote is great for this). In the end, many of them may be discarded when you actually come round to planning and writing but it saves a lot of time to have all those references to hand rather than be frantically searching for them and wondering whether you actually read or it was all a dream….
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
In my experience of distance learning, both as a student actually taking an online course and as a student learning about effectively leading one, it has surprised me how many learners seem shy about asking for help. Some people, it would seem, prefer to stay quiet rather than ask something that may seem like a basic question (the same is true for the classroom I suppose!) Don’t be. Ask your questions and state your worries either in the online forum or directly to your tutor by email. I’ve found the tutors at the University of Manchester are always happy to help and offer advice. Even better, if you ask on the online discussion boards, you often get great help from your course mates as well.
- Plan on paper!
I don’t have a problem reading from the computer screen or from my iPad and, as I mentioned above, I make use of online discussion boards and Evernote to develop and keep track of my ideas. However, when it comes to planning an assignment, paper just works better for me. I think it’s the fact that I can spread it out on the table or floor and see how it is taking shape… It’s also nice to take a break from sitting at the computer for a while as well. Also, when you get to the writing up stage, referring to a piece of paper in your hand is easier than clicking between windows of different Word files, pdfs, the online forum and Evernote!
Of course, saying those things is easy but remembering to do all of them is not! You may be thinking that I have left something out and, you’re right, I have. There’s hardly any mention of actually writing the darn thing but that’s another story for another post…
Thursday, 12 January 2012
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
This post is different, however, as it allows me to combine part of my study programme with my blog. At the moment, I’m doing a course entitled ‘Developing Researcher Competence’ (DRC), which aims (amongst other things) to get us to produce a pilot study ahead of doing the final thesis. After much umm-ing and ah-ing, I have decided to look into the use of blogs for teacher development. The course notes suggest opening up my chosen area to ‘other-interrogation’ so I thought who better to consult about blogging than the blogging community I’m a part of?
Using a blog as an open reflective journal for teacher self-development
- What inspires you to write posts?
- What prompts those moments of reflection?
- How important is the role of the audience for you?
- Does the presence of an audience and the fact that anyone can find and read your blog affect what you write?
- Do the comments made help you reflect on your practice on a deeper level?
Obviously there are a lot of questions there and I need to narrow my focus a little. Any thoughts or comment you have at this stage on my ideas so far (or anything I may have missed!) would be much appreciated.
As for the research itself, I am thinking of starting with a survey about the kinds of posts people write and what prompts them (this can easily be done online after all) before later requesting permission to analyse the posts and interaction taking place on a few specific blogs (and anyone who would be interested in participating in that research in the future, please let me know!)
I will also be doing a conference presentation next month on the broader theme of self-development through online means so your comments will be helpful for that as well.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
This time, my Teacher in Turkey is Işıl Boy, who teaches university prep students in Istanbul. She is also on the same distance MA programme as I am with the University of Manchester. When she started a year ago, we first interacted through the MA ‘common room’ introductions thread and it was only later that we realised we had been connected via Twitter for some time already!
In this post, Işıl reflects on her decision to study for an MA as well as how she coped with the initial workload and juggling distance study with a full-time job. A must read for any current or prospective MA students!
We are both doing our master's at the University of Manchester, Educational Technology and TESOL. It is a really great but demanding course. Last May, while I was working on my painful assignment, I saw Dave's hashtag: #whyamIdoingthis on twitter, which was explaining that he was also busy with his assignment, and had the same question in his mind. I must confess that it was relieving to see that you are not the only one suffering from assignments and questioning yourself! :-)
It takes three years to finish the course, which is not "free", and I am not fully sure if it is to be accredited by Y.O.K (Higher Education Council of Turkey) since it is a distance course. Currently, I am working for a state university, and the salary is not all that good. Honestly, I have no intention to apply for a foundation university or change my job, of course I cannot know what the future brings, but this is exactly the case now. Hence, I asked myself #whyamIdoingthis? If it were only for the love of educational technology, I also love playing tennis, riding horses and going out with my friends, which are all less painful...
On the day, I took the university entrance exam, I remember dragging my family to a study abroad fair and collecting information on master's degrees in the UK. An educational consultant told me she would always remember me since she hadn't seen someone asking for a master's course who is not even a university student. Then, I learned that I needed teaching experience to apply for the Masters in TESOL, and when I started working at Yildiz Technical University, it was too late since I had to leave my job to get a master's degree in the UK. I waited for five years after my graduation as I didn't want to get a master's degree just for its title but to learn something new and become a better teacher. Soon, I found about the MA course I am studying now, and it is the perfect choice for me, for I am a huge edtech addict. In a nutshell, the answer is, if life is a puzzle (which puzzles us a lot) a huge piece would be missing without it, and I wouldn't feel fulfilled like I am very much feeling now.
A Confession to Make
Most people claim that students feel very confused and lonely during the distance master's programmes. On the contrary, we were always in contact with our instructors and course mates, and got clear explanation, feedback and support all the time.
As for my confession, for the first two weeks I couldn't join the discussions, and managed to read only few articles. Then when I had a look at "library reading lists" there were "far too many" articles and books to read, which caused a real pain in my stomach! A week later, I read the thread about SFRE (Situation-Problem-Response-Evaluation) patterns which helped me to realise what almost all the students had already noticed! I looked for SFRE patterns everywhere and soon after I saw "the clickable TT headlines", which give explanation about the units, and the name of the articles to read, I had somehow missed! Thankfully, it wasn't too late, and I was able to keep up with reading.
There is also one thing I appreciate; in some master's courses only "theories" are taught, but through this course we have learnt about "theorising". It has been challenging to work full time and do a master's course at the same time. However, it has also been very helpful to learn lots of invaluable things and have the chance to put them "in action".
An advice for students: If you are on iPad, you can download "pdf-notes" app which allows taking notes and highlighting. Freely downloadable from here
Isil Boy is an EFL Instructor at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey. Having taken her BA in TEFL from Istanbul University, she started her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology and TESOL at the University Of Manchester. Having developed a heartfelt love for educational technology, she came to realize that in a highly tech-driven society, education and technology should go hand in hand. ICT in Education, Blended Learning and Second Life in Education are among her interests. She is also ‘English for Teachers’ (EFT) Course Contributor, ‘International Teacher Development Institute’ (iTDi) Associate.
Her Blog: www.isilboy.com
Her Ning Network: www.yildizprepschool.ning.com
Her Twitter ID: @isilboy
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
I first heard about Second Life three years ago through a friend who had got hooked. He told me all about the virtual world, how it works, how you could move around, interact with other avatars, attend seminars, listen to virtual buskers and ‘live your other life’ and all (or almost all) for free. That was enough to tempt me to have a look but I ended up disappointed. Perhaps the experience was spoiled for me by the fact that I was playing World of Warcraft at the time. Compared to the fantasy world of Azeroth where I would travel with my Blood Elf Paladin and complete heroic quests, Second Life just seemed so … dull!
On top of the lack of a goal or game-playing aim, the graphics seemed poor, the whole thing ran so slowly and some of the other avatars around were just plain weird (of course, elves, dwarves and orcs in World of Warcraft are also weird but at least they are in context)! And so, I uninstalled the application after just a day and never entertained any thoughts of returning.
Until, that is, Second Life kept being mentioned by colleagues on my MA as a mode of online instruction. By chance, one of those colleagues was Nergiz Kern who had been heavily involved in teaching in Second Life for a while. Her experiences got me interested from an educational perspective and starting a course entitled Teaching and Learning Online provided the final push to start up again.
Our first session in Second Life was all about navigating the environment and manipulating objects. I think my experiences from games like Warcraft helped as I quickly got used to the basic controls and had a kind of intuitive feel for using the keyboard and mouse. In virtual environments, ı like to test the limits of what my character/avatar can do so I was soon sitting on top of walls and signposts. A brief tutorial in how to edit objects led to me creating this giant penguin (if you are a regular SL user and you see one coming, it’s most likely me)!
The second session in SL included a group task in which we were sent to various locations to retrieve information in the style of a scavenger hunt. My group visited a Science Centre and a Greek island, where we all ended up for a drink on the terrace and a post-task reflective chat.
The ability to engage in voice chat was invaluable and really added to a sense of ‘being there’ and interacting together. This clearly has benefits for language instruction but I remain unconvinced for the following reasons:
- Unless you are dealing with seasoned SL users or tech-savvy folk familiar with 3D virtual worlds, a lot of training will be needed before you can get onto the learning tasks.
- I sometimes missed important bits of information due to trying to get my character to wave, point or some such other gesture.
- There are a lot of other distractions - I nearly missed the second session because I was exploring a ski resort!
- As I work with kids, SL is of no immediate use to me (age restrictions). Despite the affordances offered, it’s just not for everyone.
Hmmm, plenty to ponder over a Tequila Sunrise!
*Haven Winton is my avatar name in case you hadn’t figured it out.
Monday, 21 March 2011
I decided to go with the topic of wild animals as there is an existing project assignment to research and write about their favourites wild beasts. However, it’s all done on paper and the kids have the tendency to just stick with the animals and the model paragraphs in the coursebook. As ever, there is also the issue of them being reluctant to review and redraft their writing, especially as many of them go straight to poster mode. The intention is to use the website to introduce a wider range of vocabulary and exploit the ease with which work typed on a computer can be revised.
The home page features a general introduction to the topic with a video from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) showcasing animals from their Africa exhibit. This is all designed to activate their background knowledge of the topic (they have done animals several times before) and see how much they know. Throughout the website, choices are offered as to what activity is done next as some students may need to revise basic vocabulary while others may be comfortable with tackling other tasks straightaway.
I considered a few different ways of presenting vocabulary - during the course module, we looked at glossing words, providing links to online dictionaries, use of imagery and video but ultimately, I decided to go with the most straightforward and child-friendly way and used slideshows. I just made a PowerPoint as I would for any vocabulary presentation, uploaded it to Slideshare and embedded it in the site. However, I still needed to find a way to provide a pronunciation model. We had looked at embedding audio sound bytes together with images but it all seemed a bit complicated for kids to handle so I went with the simplest option again and screencasted my presentations, uploaded the videos to YouTube and embedded them on the page. That way, the kids get a visual reminder of animal and body vocab if they want to refresh their memories and a narrated video slideshow for pronunciation practice.
Elsewhere on the site, vocabulary support is provided with captioned images and I also added a search box widget from Zargan.com, an English-Turkish dictionary site, for the kids to use when needed.
It seems that even with all the latest web 2.0 developments, the easiest and most straightforward program to use for generating activities in Hot Potatoes. I explored some other options but decided HP was still the best as the kids are familiar with it and the quiz and gap-fill options were just what I was after.
After the vocabulary presentations, the students can navigate to a quiz about animals and a matching activity for body parts. I also made use of an HP-derived program called WebSequitur to make some jumbled text activities (see this post by Sean Banville for more examples of how it works) to get the students analysing some texts about animals more closely.
One of the great features of HP is the feedback but it has to be set up in the right way. Just as in the classroom, a “no, that’s wrong” can be off-putting but an explanation of the wrong answer can help so I tried to include more information about the animals in the feedback. Give it a try - type in an incorrect answer on the animals quiz and see what it tells you!
Use of video
As well as plenty of real animal images, I decided to incorporate some video for a change of pace. The video on the home page has no narration so the kids can focus purely on the visuals and try to identify the animals they see. However, later on I include narrated authentic videos about the okapi and warthogs. Obviously, authentic videos can be a bit daunting for young elementary level learners but the rich input of video holds their attention well and they find it motivating.
Supporting the task is key as well. I was careful to make sure there were some cues and questions to remind the children about these animals. I also pose some speculative questions to get them thinking before they watch (together with a little text box for them to type notes into). This gives them a purpose for watching and I made sure most of the questions could be answered from the visuals as well as by listening.
The students are directed to write up a project about 3 animals of their choice in Word. Obviously, they could be directed to write on a class blog or a wiki but the main body of preparing them for the project was the focus of the assignment so I kept it simple for now.
There are also links to other places around the web where the kids can learn and write about animals. Giving such links is important to make these projects more ‘connected’ to the rest of the web rather than being an isolated school page.
So, if you get time, have a look at the site and work through the activities. I haven’t had the chance to use it with my students yet (not sure if I will) but this is something I would like to return to in the future so your feedback is appreciated.
Friday, 21 January 2011
I’m not going to lie to anyone thinking of doing an MA, especially if they are considering distance mode - it’s not easy. Don’t get me wrong - it is worth it. The chance to reflect on your practice, engage with ELT academics, access research and expand your horizons make sure of that. However, at some point when you’re behind schedule, spending late nights hunched over your computer trying to get an assignment finished or trapped in a seemingly never ending spiral of reading academic publications, you will inevitably put your head in your hands and ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”
“Everything has a hole in it - that’s how the light gets in” Image by Mrs eNil
This moment of self-questioning hits the distance learner especially hard. There is no immediate support network of fellow students and odds are, you are juggling the study with a full-time teaching post (and we all know how demanding that can be!), and possibly family commitments as well. Despite your best laid plans to study at a particular time, you’ll get asked to do something extra at work (a terrible side effect of studying - “you’re doing an MA so you can do a workshop on what you’ve learned for us”) or there will be tests to mark, projects to grade and reports to write.
Away from work, there’ll be a friend’s birthday or a family event you can’t miss. Then you’ll find you can’t relax as you spend your time thinking “I should be studying”. And then, you’ll hear your colleagues discussing plans for the weekend/upcoming holiday. As they mention catching a film at the cinema, going out for a meal or having a weekend away, you’ll be thinking “I need to read up on socio-cultural theory and write a short summary of its applications to e-learning”.
It can take its toll and at times, keeping yourself motivated is hard. As I said at the start, it is all worth it though and there are several things you can do to keep yourself on track:
- Plan ahead as much as possible
Get organised with your assignment dates, important dates at work, holidays and special occasions. Invaluable for avoiding potential pile-ups of work! Of course, it’s not always possible to predict what’s coming but it’s useful to be as prepared as possible.
- Keep your boss(es) up to date on what you’re doing
It always important to keep a dialogue going. Let the people you work with/for know what you’re doing and when you are likely to be busy with study. After all, you doing an MA benefits them as well so they should be supportive.
- Keep in touch with your course mates
There are plenty of ways to reduce the ‘loneliness of the long distance learner’. There is the university’s own virtual learning environment of course but then there are all the other social media options: Twitter, blogging, Skype… Being in touch with fellow Manchester MA students like Richard, Isil, Nergiz and Martin W as well as students on other courses like Beyza and Martin S has helped me as it’s good to know someone else out there is juggling the same things as you. For my last course, regular Skype sessions were a great way to feel more involved in a learning community as well.
- Unwind once in a while…
Nothing wrong with taking an evening/day off from the computer screen and the books (unless it’s right before a deadline!) and doing something for yourself like taking in a movie, watching a footy match, joining some friends for a drink. In fact, you might find yourself refreshed a little with more energy to get back into studying.
- Make time to make up for lost time
I’ve had to spend less time than normal with my family over the last few weeks. It got to the point where my son would come home from kindergarten and ask “have you got work to do today daddy?” Once I was done with the assignment, I made sure I had time to focus on just him and spoil him a bit. I also plan to make the most of my wife’s birthday with plenty of family-oriented stuff planned for the weekend. After all, it’s support from family and friends that keeps people going in whatever they do.
Sunday, 16 January 2011
Finally late last night, I got my MA assignment done. Out of the ones I’ve done so far, this was the hardest - not because of the subject (multimedia design & development) but because of all sorts of external factors. While many of my colleagues likely had a nice Christmas and New Year break from work on the approach to deadline day, I was full steam ahead at work (no Christmas holiday in Turkey of course). Actually, as Christmas and New Year both fell on Saturdays, I lost time for study as preparations, celebrations and recovery took over. The last couple of weeks have been tough as we are coming up to the mid-year break in the Turkish academic year and tests and projects need to be marked, grades need to be decided and reports need to be written (those are all due tomorrow!)
I know how he feels.
Image by truester
Of course, I didn’t help myself much with many a study hour lost to frivolous activities. Although I kept away from Twitter and the blog (or at least considerably cut back on the usual amount of time I spend tweeting and blogging), I was easily distracted by YouTube videos and Internet Backgammon (the problems of writing assignments on computer you see). Nevertheless, it was done in the end. I’m not entirely convinced by my writing (usual trouble of too many things to say and struggling to select what to focus on) but I think the accompanying website is pretty darn good, ticking the boxes of promoting learner interaction, self-directed learning and using a variety of stimuli (it is supposed to be multimedia after all). I will share the link eventually but will refrain for now as it hasn’t been marked yet!
Anyway, now the assignment’s out of the way, I can return to regular blogging. I have plenty of posts ready to be written up based on some classroom experiences over the last few weeks such as some ideas I’ve pinched off other people’s blogs, drama activities, some thoughts on the whole testing-grading-report card cycle I’ve been a part of and advice on how (not) to approach your MA assignments. I also have a couple of guest posts in the pipeline which I hope to get finished soon - I always enjoy guest posts, both writing and reading them and I hope to get the chance to do a few of them in 2011.
Beyond that, I will of course have more study to do in the second semester (two modules: ‘Teaching and Learning Online’ and ‘The Education of Language Teachers’), which I’m looking forward to doing (also planning to be more organised with my study this time). I also hope to be busy on the conference circuit. My school’s own conference ‘English Beyond Walls’ is on April 16th (yes, we’re going head-to-head with the IATEFL juggernaut :o), where I’ll be (acceptance pending) doing a session on online teacher development. I’ve also just submitted a proposal for ‘Squaring the Circle’, a conference to be held in Izmir in late March and I am drafting up further proposals for workshops for ‘Reflections and Innovations in ELT’ at ISTEK in April and ‘Eclipsing Expectations’ at Sabanci University in June. Hopefully, I’ll be accepted by at least one of them! Any other upcoming events that I’ve missed, let me know.
Finally, I’ll share a little tune with you to declare myself back to the world 3+ blog posts per week. I’ve been listening to a lot of music recently as it helps me work. I’m not one for that ‘classical music makes you more intelligent’ rubbish though. I like something ‘classic’ in a different musical sense with a nice rhythm to work along to. Something like these fine Aussie chaps:
Friday, 29 October 2010
However, this also brings with it a problem and that is reading off the computer screen. As I began my first module last year, many of my fellow students commented on the forums that they found reading files displayed on their computer screen to be difficult. Common complaints were: getting a headache from staring at the bright screen; stiff neck/back from sitting hunched over a laptop; not being able to highlight/annotate pdfs; being ‘distracted’ by the internet (and Twitter!); and missing the ‘feel’ of paper.
And so, I started to print to read.( I should stress at this stage that I’m not one of those who misses the ’feel’ of the stuff. In fact, I find such claims amusing and my favourite retort to those who say they prefer the touch and paper and ink is to say that I’m a traditionalist and I miss quill and parchment! “There’s nothing like sprinkling dust on a document to dry it off – it just doesn’t feel finished otherwise.” ). This seemed like a good idea at first as I cold carry a printout to work with me to read in free lessons rather than lugging my laptop in. In truth, however, printing wasn’t an ideal solution as I was acutely aware of how much paper I was using. I tried printing two pages per sheet but the small print seemed to give me more of a headache than the screen!
I decided I would just have to get used to it. My solution the headache/discomfort problem was to finally heed the advice I heard (but generally ignored) since I was a kid and first got hooked on the Commodore 64: after 45 minutes at the computer, take a break for 15. I found this was also beneficial for clearing my head and taking stock of the notes and articles I’d been reading. Quite often, concepts I’d been struggling with or connections I couldn’t see would come to me while I was having a cuppa or taking in the view from my balcony (not that there are any great views in Ankara!).
I’ve found now that I’m used to reading from the screen. It comes much more easily now than it did last year, that’s for sure. I’m doing my bit environmentally by not printing pages and pages of course unit notes and articles. I’m even making my personal study notes on the computer now as well! I try to stay self-disciplined and make sure study time is study time with no aimless internet browsing unless I’m done for the day or taking a break (although I do have to shut down Tweet Deck - that little pop-up box is too darn distracting!). Anyway, time to get back to studying. Those articles aren’t gonna read themselves!
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
The start of the course has focused on core issues such as responding to specific learner needs and teaching contexts, providing interaction between the learner and the materials, and taking approaches and methodologies into account. The main thing that struck me through the reading and discussion points was that multimedia and technology in general are really just tools at the disposal of the teacher. They do not change our teaching philosophies, nor do they magically make the learning experience more modern. Just like any other educational resource, it all depends on how it is put to use.
The fact is many CD-ROM packages, video activities, slideshows and other ‘multimedia’ used in class follow an instructionist approach. The learner is expected to sit at the computer, follow on-screen prompts and do the activities in a prescribed order with right or wrong feedback. I have seen classes with bountiful computer equipment where the teacher is still the focus of the lesson, the students are not interacting and everything is done in a rigidly controlled way. The fact is investment in technology must be accompanied by training in how to get the most out of it. Yes, technology can be engaging and motivating but only if it is used in engaging ways. Multimedia and technology can (and should!) be used to encourage collaboration, problem solving skills and independent thinking. With some thought and careful design, these resources can be used for student-centred lessons which facilitate communication.
The current generation of web 2.0 tools offers the chance for students to learn by exploring and experimenting. There’s a wealth of information out there that they can be directed too through links and embedded files but we also should encourage them to go out there and find more of their own. I firmly believe technology is at its most powerful in the hands of the learners. Class blogs, Glogster, Prezi, Xtranormal and all those other cool tools out there are great for enriching the classroom experience but they are even better when the students themselves are producing projects, experimenting, cooperating and learning.
As part of the course, I need to develop my own materials for my students to use bearing these pedagogical principles in mind. I’ll keep you posted on what I’m working on! I’d also love to hear what your experiences of using multimedia with your learners are. What is your approach? How do the students benefit from it? Does it improve their learning experience?
Sunday, 10 October 2010
- Direct teaching input: 24 hours
- Private study: 60 hours
- Directed reading: 24 hours
- Online forum exchange: 15 hours
- Tutorials: 2 hours
- Assessment preparation: 25 hours
The most important thing of course is managing your time well. Set aside specified times for study and reading every week and make sure you stick to them! I soon started to make sure I had my laptop or printouts of reading material with me at work on days when I had free lessons. Those split hours that used to pass with endless cups of tea and chats about the weekend’s football were now replaced with word files, pdfs and book chapters. It also important to let people know what you are doing. Tell your family/housemates/close friends what times you plan to study each week – this is helpful both for reducing the likelihood of being disturbed and for having people to say ‘Shouldn’t you be studying now?’ when you are delaying things. I would also recommend chatting to your boss. I kept my head of department informed throughout the application process and when the course started and I was pleasantly surprised when they offered me the chance to organise my teaching timetable around the hours I wished to study.
The amount of reading can seem unending at first but note that in the above list, there is time allotted to ‘directed reading’. You’ll soon discover that your course tutor will highlight the most important readings in each unit and you can use these as a starting point to pursue your own interests (‘private study’). You don’t have to read everything! Be selective and read what’s relevant or interesting to you. (I will discuss reading in some more detail in a future post).
As for the ‘online forum exchanges’, I quickly made them part of my daily internet routine. You know how you check your emails, browse the latest updates on Twitter and read new posts on your favourite blogs each day? (Perhaps even multiple times!) Well, make checking the forums part of that routine as well. You may find that nothing new is there or your may find a discussion has raged between teachers in a completely different time zone while you’ve been asleep. The important thing is to check regularly, comment when you have something to ask or add and be active (being active in discussions also helps you get to know your fellow students and your tutor and may make them more willing to respond if you ask for assistance later on. ;)). Logging on once a week and finding 50+ unread messages can be quite de-motivating. Daily checks can help you stay on top of things.
That is important for your studies in general: Try not to fall behind. If you get through a unit quicker than expected, start on the next one! Getting ahead isn’t a problem but falling behind is and you can soon find yourself with assignments looming and a lot of catching up to do!
I actually found that once I’d started the course, I became a lot more organised and made time to do things. Previously, I would skip trips to the gym, put off errands or delay marking homework thinking ‘I can do that later’ but, once I was studying, I started to think ‘I have to do this now or I won’t get another chance!’ I also began to realise how much time I used to waste doing nothing!
You should also face up to the fact that you may have to give something up. Whether it be your favourite TV show, a regular night out, a hobby or private lessons, something has to go in order to allow enough time to study. Such are the sacrifices we make in order to develop professionally!
Having said that, don’t neglect those around you. Make time to unwind and be with the ones you love. After all, you’ll be needing their moral support during the whole course and lots of it!
What about you? How do you make/have you made time for study? I’d love to hear any further tips you have!
*Note that this is taken from one of the MA modules at the University of Manchester and may be different at other institutions.
Previous Posts in this Series:
So, you're thinking of doing an MA, No. 1: Are you ready?
So, you're thinking of doing an MA, No. 2: Choosing a course
So, you're doing an MA, No. 1: Surviving the first few weeks