Who are you, and what do you like to learn about? (academically, professionally, and/or personally)

My name is Shakila Anwari and I am a graduate student at GMU. I am married for 40 years to a college professor, I have four grown children, and three beautiful grandchildren, (the forth one is on his way in December :-)). I have been working as a language instructor for the past 8 years at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). I have come from a learning background which was text based, lecture based, and rote memory based. When started teaching language, I thought I could use the same routine with my students here at FSI. I have learned through seminars, professional development, and other trainings that there are many different constructive ways to teach language. For me learning never stops. Academically, I want to learn more regarding human learning behavior and teaching concepts that will accommodate different behaviors. Professionally, I would like to learn how to be successful at what I do, which is teaching, developing materials, assessments, and instructional design. Personally, since my hobby is sewing and I use patterns to make dresses (formal, evening dresses for my daughters, my sisters, and me), I like to learn how to use “draping” to make my own patterns. Also I am the first generation Afghan American; I want to be a role model and motivation to many women in my community that it is never too late to learn.

What hardware do you use to learn? (Eg. smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop)

I have started using computers in the 80’s and looking back, it was fascinating and I thought even then that it was the best tool for learning and I still do. Through the years hardware and software technology have advanced and using computer and mobile technology became part of our life. I use laptop to do most of my learnings for my school work and in general learning for example; advanced sewing. I use desktop at work for professional use, and I use smart phone as a phone and as a source of seeking information which is available at my fingertips.

What software do you use to learn? (Eg. search engines, mobile apps, social networks, eBooks, digital libraries, wikis, blogs, videos, podcasts)

I have never stopped to think which software I have used to learn because I have used so many back and forth. At my undergraduate and graduate school I have learned from whatever my professor posted on the Blackboard which I think, is a database. The most I use for my research papers for college and work is the search engine “google” and digital libraries. I use YouTube for other general learnings. I feel that I have learned about my health, my car, my hobby, different cultures and music, and many more using YouTube. I also use Wikipedia for looking up definitions of words, concepts, and ideas. I get the most out of online dictionaries, English and Persian.

What digital tools do you wish you had access to for learning? (Eg. any graphic organizers, mind-mapping tools, resource management tools, progress tracking tools, design tools, etc.) Why?

I understand that there are many digital tools available for language learning. We get introduced to some of these tools when attending a seminars or professional development sessions. We were introduced on how to use graphic organizer in a language class for speaking and reading. I would like to use graphic organizer for teaching in my classroom because it is a communication tool that uses visual symbols to express knowledge, concepts, thoughts, or ideas, and the relationships between them (Wikipedia). I was introduced to mind-mapping tools during one of my classes at GMU which I think is a good tool for organizing ideas and focus on what is important and get the idea across more effectively. I am not familiar with the other tools that you have mentioned above.

What might your ideal Personal Learning Environment (PLE) look like?

I never thought of PLE of until now. What makes an ideal PLE? I could not find a single definition for it. Everyone has their own definition of PLE and they define it according to their experience. In general people have described PLE as a tool, communities, and services that an individual use to pursue their learning and educational goals.
I created a physical PLE at my house when my last child left for college. I used one of their bedrooms and converted into a place that I go when I need to learning, doing, and reflecting. I have placed in this room all the technology that I need for learning, all the books that I need to use for referencing, and all other tools that I would use to help me learn “something”. This is a room that I study, do sewing, and reflect on what I have learned. I have created this environment for myself, am I going to learn something using this environment is up to me. I am sure your question is on technology based learning environment. In this case, my laptop is my PLE. Everything I need to learn is at my fingertip and I feel the task of how to learn something is rely on what our goal is for learning.

Shakila Anwari at GMU EDIT 730

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