Monday, August 25, 2014

Tomas the cat

Tom, my cat, has been enjoying his summer. The local tenant's cats come down now and then and entertain Tom with their wishes to eat all his food. He has been sleeping during the day in his carrier, which doubles as a little house.

Now and then Tom finds a fly to chase or a bird outside the window to stare at. I like to think that Tom has a good life here in America.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Joy in Vancouver

Last year, you might recall, I went with Ian to Vancouver, BC to celebrate my birthday. However, when we went the weather was cold and wet. We didn't really get out and explore much and I felt like the whole time I was just trying to figure out how to get around. Ian and I always said that we would go back and so we finally made true on that promise and went there for 4 days this past weekend.

This time instead of driving we took Amtrak, which meant I didn't have to drive and instead got to enjoy the ride and see the vast countryside that is Washington State.

Arriving into Vancouver you get off the train and they check your passport and you answer a few questions. For our stay this time, instead of shacking it at a hostel we went for an Airbnb in the downtown region of the "West Side" or near Robson Street.

We stayed in this high rise and it was a good accommodation with our own bathroom, but it felt like at times the owners didn't really want guests but were tolerating it to save money. Yet all in all it was a comfy place to stay in a good location.

I think most of what I did in Vancouver was eat. I made several observations while I visited and one of them is that Vancouver is a lot like Seoul. There are large buildings everywhere, people out and about on the streets and generally just felt like a metropolitan city. Seattle still feels like a smaller city to me, but in some ways I can sit back and relax at that realisation.

We mostly rested our first day in, but the next day rented some bicycles and took a ride around Stanley Park. This was a lot of fun and provided us with some great views around the city and nearby.

As you can see it was quite a bike ride, maybe 4 miles? But you get to stop along the way and check out the view and even find little concession stands here and there. Looking back I would say my favorite part of the trip was biking Stanley Park because I just felt so free and could look off into the scenery and know I was someplace else.

But of course the rest of the trip was still fun. The next day before Ian woke up I went out and grabbed a little breakfast sandwich then sat at a nearby park and enjoyed the morning time. The clouds were clearing away, revealing the mountains in the background.

I met up with Ian and we went to Granville Island which is kind of like Seattle's Pike Place Market, but with more walking and shops to check out. I enjoyed going into the shops and finding little treasures here and there. I found one stationary shop that was really awesome and I wanted to buy everything but of course just took back a few things.

I also treated myself to a new necklace...something to add to my work outfit when I go to work again.

After Granville Island we walked over to a Phillipino Food shop called "Goldilocks" where Ian picked up some of his favorite treats. On the way there was some graffiti and a "100" sculpture in this park.

Our last day in Vancouver we tried going to "Main Street" but turns out we didn't really find anything special. There were some thrift stores that I checked out and enjoyed but overall we spent a lot of time getting brunch at Medina Cafe. This was a very popular restaurant with a long wait for not just a table but also your food. However, what we ordered was very delicious. One thing I realised is that practically all the waitresses in every restaurant we went to in downtown Vancouver were wearing black dresses.

The ride back to Seattle was quiet and peaceful with some lovely views before the sun went down. Riding back I put on my iPod and listened to music. I was kind of whisked away by how the train would light up the ground as it went by. It felt like some kind of movie. Then it also was interesting as houses would come into view surrounded by darkness. It made me miss being in the countryside and away from the city life.

I managed to take back home with me an aromatherapy diffuser and some oils...maybe I'm getting back into my old hippy days - minus the pot. ;) Anyways, Vancouver was a lot of fun and it helped clear my head from all the school work and routine that life brings us. Nowadays I'm just doing what I can during my break and looking ahead to what's next. In September I'll be subbing for 3 whole weeks and with a full schedule. I am looking forward to this but also nervous at the same time as I know it will be a bit hectic. But need to bring in some extra cash as I enter the Fall quarter.

It's still warm here in Seattle, yet it does feel like summer is winding down. Time to prepare for the fall and all that is in between.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Using Canvas for CALL

You can view my course publicly by following this link: Joy's CALL Lesson. When you are there please go to "pages" and go through that page and follow instructions.

Some reflections on producing a CALL lesson with Canvas... We found out last week that anyone can use the Canvas system for free. So since then I have been migrating from my school's version of Canvas to the real thing. At that point I was exhausted from looking at my lesson and so took some time off.

But now that I look at Canvas and work my way around it I find that it is actually pretty easy to use. Plus they have guides to help you set your course up and in the end you have a lot of tools such as quizzes and assignments to help keep track of student work on the site.

It seems there is a lot to learn but I'm excited now that I can explore all this at my leisure. Yet at the same time I feel challenged to understand better how to make the online learning experience just as rich as the in-class learning experience. When I think about this I start to feel that perhaps we need to just let that go. The online-learning experience is perhaps a whole world of its own. I think most students should have a background of using technology and that we should integrate this kind of knowledge and skills into online learning. But for language learning you need to take things a step further by allowing room for not just reading and clicking but interaction with the language. Thankfully, there are a lot of CALL tools out there such as voice recording apps, conference type apps and editing documents together such as in Google docs.

I think the key to this would be to sequence the directed actions students take in one's online course. So that first they complete an online task you designed, whether it be content loading of information via reading, listening or watching (video) and then some kind of practice in a format that can be recorded and assessed. Then there should be an element of production where they take the content and the practice and produce something that is either a writing or speaking element. My CALL lesson is meant to do this in that students eventually create their own photo-narrative using an online tool of their choice. Giving students choices in an online environment I think is a wise thing to do as it mimics the reality of using the internet. Whereas, not everyone uses the same tools or creates information in the same way.

Also creating a collaborative and supportive learning environment is also important. It was suggested to us that in the beginning of our course to have some kind of activity where students get to know each other so it's not like everyone is a stranger online.

Anyways, it's been interesting learning all this and I hope to continue on with it after this quarter has completed. I welcome your comments on my very rough Canvas lesson that I linked to above.