Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Me and another 1288 students made it!

After a week on a holiday I opened my mailbox and found a letter:

Congratulations are in order for the 1289 students who earned a Statement of Accomplishment for English Composition I: Achieving Expertise. About half of those students had a score of 85% or higher. As such, I decided to award a Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction to those students.

We started with 60 000 participants, most of them failed. In my opinion it is not about the certificate, but about learning. Congratulations to all who learned something new during the process! I know I learned a lot.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Research Plan Guidelines

I have another deadline facing me in few days. It has to do with the Writing II: Rhetorical Composing coursera I am taking. It is already week 7 by now. I have managed to make all the deadlines so far. Lets see how it goes this time... 

At the moment they suggest me to make a research plan. To support the process have the professors provided nice guidelines some of which I would like to share:

Given your claim, audience, and argumentative purpose, consider message, medium, and manner as well as recency, relevance, and readership in examining and evaluating the research and evidence you’re compiling: 
Message: Identify your persuasive claim and purpose. What is your claim and what end do you envision your text achieving? Are you hoping to make your audience better informed? Consider alternative perspectives? Become more tolerant of alternative perspectives? Change an opinion? Move to action?
Medium: What form will the argument take? What are the implications for you as a writer as you engage readers in this medium or genre? If you’re writing a blog post, how does that affect how you argue? How does it affect how you cite your sources? If you’re writing an opinion piece for a professional newsletter, how do the conventions and constraints of that genre and location affect the decisions you make about how you use and refer to your sources?
Manner: Consider again rhetorical appeals, metaphors, commonplaces, rhetorical tense, and visual rhetoric as you work toward a draft of your research assignment. How will you employ these elements in service of achieving your persuasive ends?
Recency: In what ways does the recency of source material matter? In other words, from what timeframe are you most likely use material? Why?
Relevance: Of what relevance to your argument is the material? In other words, what kinds of material—and from what sources—have you found and why are you considering using it? Why is it relevant for this audience? For this purpose? For this venue?
Readership: What material will be most persuasive to your audience? Why?
Now consider how you might align or adapt the source materials you’ve collected to suit your audience, purpose, and argumentative goal:
 Alignment: Do the sources you’re using align with your opinions or claims? To what extent or under what circumstances? Alternatively, if you’re using sources you’re contesting, how do those sources diverge from or not align with your position? It’s important to clarify—both for yourself and for your readers—your position relative to your sources.
Adaptation: In what ways might you need to adapt or adjust evidence from your sources to suit your argument? For example, if a source addresses the effects of spousal abuse on women in their 60s but you’re addressing the effects of spousal abuse on women in their 30s, what adaptation might you need to make to maintain both the integrity of the evidence (your source) and your claim and argument? 
All the vocabulary and tools used before the writing process starts, are explained quite well in these few short sections. I am writing nearly every day. Details like that become automatic and I do not actually analyse each time in such a linear way how I am addressing it all, but I still have an explanation to each of these, if someone cares to ask. 

Since I have not had time to start the research process for this assignment just yet, I do not have a clear picture to share here now. I have been reading and thinking about Michel Foucault and postmodern research in education since I am giving a lecture about the topic next week in Norway. I will probably write something in this direction. Just two days ago I was visiting Uppsala, it is one of the places where Foucault used to work, he wrote his "Madness and civilization" there. Unfortunately the Swedish professors at the time did not realise the value of the ideas the young man was presenting and so he had to move to another university in order to get his doctoral thesis accepted. It is a wonderful story about madness and higher education system. Perhaps I´ll write about that...    

Sunday, June 9, 2013

English Composition I: final reflection

The following were the course learning objectives:

  Summarize, analyze, question, and evaluate written and visual texts
  Argue and support a position
  Recognize audience and disciplinary expectations
  Identify and use the stages of the writing process
  Identify characteristics of effective sentence and paragraph-level prose
  Apply proper citation practices
  Discuss how to transfer and apply your writing knowledge to other writing occasions

What have you learned in this course? Choose 2-4 of our course learning objectives, describing each objective and referring specifically to particular passages from your coursework that demonstrate your progress towards and/or struggles with that objective. Indicate why you have chosen those objectives as the most important for you. Cut and paste specific portions of your coursework, and use them as evidence for your argument. In this way, by having an introduction, argument, evidence, and conclusion, your “portfolio cover letter” will both discuss and demonstrate how effectively you have achieved the goals of the course. Length: ~500-750 words.

The common struggles for any academic writer is summarizing, analyzing, questioning, and evaluating written and visual texts. What a challenge it is! Every text or a visual image has so many meanings as there are people. During this course I have had an excellent chance to work more closely with this problematic. One on hand, composing the essays for assignment demanded working with several texts on my own. Secondly, since the course has peer-to-peer review as its main evaluation and learning tool, it has given me, as a writer, a possibility to experiment and see how my texts are summarized, analyzed, questioned and evaluated by outside readers.

Critical feminist writing is a field that meets a wall of indifference by some audiences, at the same time it is an emerging area of interests for many. How to be able to write in an open way and invite people to critically examine their assumptions and agendas hidden from most of the members of our society? That has been a big question mark during this course.

To give some examples of my writing I would like to point out two possible passages.

Firstly, I would like to invite you to read an excerpt of my case study about who are the experts in education. Among others I quote Ivan Illich known for his critical writing about US school systems already back in seventies.
As a possible future innovation Ivan Illich is inviting people to think about “learning webs”. According to him the good educational systems will: “provide access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.” (2012:75)While being part of MOOC, some people have perhaps experienced that Illich has a point here. Even though there are minor drawbacks and some try their best to control and institutionalize, the realm of educational practices is shifting. People are taking more responsibility of their personal learning as well as teaching others. It is indeed happening online with the help of the learning webs.
This case study is available online in my blog AppleTree:
The second passage is taking my readers to a Nordic conference about early education where the only speakers are male at the same time when audience, Norwegian kindergarten teachers, is female with only few exceptions. I present a picture of a professor talking about himself and his work.

“This picture presents us with a sentimental stage of expertise in educational research. As I am the one who took the picture just a few days ago, I know that the audience mainly consisted of women. It is a typical picture of educational conferences held in Europe. An old man talking about his work, talking about something that has been done a long time ago and having a lot of women carefully listening and making notes. This is a picture of expertise in the field of education, where most of the people occupied with the work are women but the know-how still belongs to men. I would argue that the expert in my area of study often looks like an old white Western male presenting himself, having only very little to do with the actual field of the research. The gap between educational theory and practice is therefore profound.

This was an excerpt of my visual image analyses assignment. You can read the full assignment in my blog AppleTree      

In both of these sections I not only analyze, question and evaluate, but I also give arguments in support of my positions. The course outline has fitted into multiple approaches and enabled everyone to work in their own realms coming together as a global writing community and support each other in our personal growth. Even so, it has been a great challenge to incorporate my writing style and interests, the demands of the course curricula and my timetable. To do that I have sometimes made compromises but not really that many. Thank you! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Discussions with an Apple Tree

One day I realised that the world was talking to me more than ever before and there was a strong need to replay. I was going through the forests and everything was suddenly breathing. It was not an abstract idea of nature that is growing, I felt it with my body, I felt it with all my senses.  I knew then that trees were alive not because they said so in my biology lessons, I just knew because I had seen trees breathing…

There is a great Swedish writer Stig Claesson who describes his discussions with a wise apple tree in a book called “You sleep I will do the dishes”. Sometimes I wished I had my own apple tree to talk to…

“Women without men” is a book written by a woman from Iran. She is writing about the voiceless women in this violent society, they try to find their way to became alive. In one episode she tells us about a woman who grows herself roots and after a while branches and then the leaves come. In that way she was able to realise herself, she became free, finally… she was able to give seeds and send them with the flow of the river to meet the world…

I have been a tree whole my life, my family name means oak in Estonian. When I was a little girl I was called acorn – an oak seed. Perhaps this is why I feel so close to those writers, why I feel so close to nature. I do not need to grow the roots or leaves, my roots are very deep in the soil as it is and my leaves touch the sky.

With my online writing I want to meet myself and the world around me. I have no idea where it will lead or who is coming to join me during this journey of life, the virtual life.  I will send out the first seeds.  I have grown and become a young oak tree by now…

You can find my discussions in the blog "Collected discussions with the AppleTree".

Comments with grammar corrections and philosophy discussions about life are welcome here and in the AppleTree blog!

This is my personal philosphy essay submitted to Composition 2 course. 
Compose a 400-500 word personal philosophy essay in which you lead your audience to recognize and understand why a specific belief is important to you. Before you begin, review the modules and slides from week two. Imagine that you are writing to another person enrolled in this course, someone who doesn’t realize that you hold this particular belief or that you hold it so strongly.
This essay is not fiction; instead, it is a way to share your belief about one aspect of your life. For example, you might write about one of the roles you play in your life, an important value you hold, a significant relationship you’ve had, a position you take on an issue, a personal goal, and so on.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Collected statistics

I started this blog on the 24th of May and today, two and a half weeks later, I discovered having already more than thousand pageviews. Thank you for visiting and very special thanks to all of those people who have taken time to comment! Even when I write this post I know that I have comments to answer to.

As a surprise present I decided to make an overview of the page statistics. I like sharing the blog backstage information, it makes one feel being part of the process. At least I feel that way whenever I get to read someone elses statistics.

During this time I have written 17 blogposts about MOOCs, writing and other related topics. The most visited ones being these:

May 29, 2013, 3 comments

Most commented post is "Author´s guide to slow twitter" with its five comments. The same post has received eight likes on google+. The second most liked post in google+ is "Creative imagination in art of education #artofeducation" which has received 6 likes.


Since I have been active in social media for some years by now I am used to send my seeds out and share materials (created by me or others). Facebook is the most common place where I send my articles or small news pieces but also Google+ and more recent discovery twitter.

During the last weeks I have had many mentions out there in the social media world. Most of them initiated by me but also by the other writers or readers. At first it came as a big surprise when a "real" writer took time to comment or send a message. I have been especially interested in twitter world in these recent weeks probably because it is new to me, therefore I would like to share some of the twitter comments here:

Excellent blog piece on Author´s Guide to Slow Twitter Evelin! Thx for connecting!

Jim Denney is an author of a series called "Timebenders" and has a blog here

The Daily Wryter is out! ▸ Top stories today via

Betty Write-Goode invites people to a writers blog "The Daily Wryter" that on the 28th of May featured my piece about Isol:

How to write children´s books? Learn from Isol, the winner of ALMA price 2013.

I have been  active in twitter nearly every day and really like the idea of being present while tweeting. Welcome to connect and slow tweet with me @tammevelin.


It is so inspiring to know that people who arrive here to learn to write in English come from all over the world. US and Sweden are the most active in visitor numbers but there are also many other countries on the list. stats are quite poor because they show you a very limited number of entries and because of this I do not know exactly how many contries could be listed if we counted each. I will post here the list that is available via There are possibilities to use other tools for counting but I am not so seriously into the statistics, it is much more about the writing process, communication and sharing than numbers to me.  

Pageviews by Countries

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
United States
United Kingdom


One of the most important part of social media and blogging is that it is connecting us in our thinking, writing or other creative work. To be connected means to get engaged in the process via commenting, sharing, reblogging. The bloggers are like a huge global community constantly working in millions of different directions. The beauty of this fragmented lot becomes visible when we start to find the connecting points and really meet each other.

Part of this blog is the idea to be publishing texts of other people. We are nearly always quoting each other but I would like to share some stories about learning experiences of people from all around the world. Therefore I invite you to send me a story where you tell how you become a writer or started to write in English. I would like to feature your story in this blog to inspire others who are just starting their journey.

If you have a story you would like to share, please send it to Who knows perhaps your story is the one that will be published and read worldwide?  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Coming This Year: A MOOC for English Language Learners

The University of California, Berkeley will offer another free online course in writing under the title College Writing 2x: Principles of Written Communication.
College Writing 2x is a writing course designed specially for learners of English. It will be offered through, and will be completely free. It will use some of the most advanced tools in online writing instruction. Students will have meaningful ways to practice their writing and get feedback on how well they are doing.
The course will be taught by Maggie Sokolik. Dr. Sokolik received her Ph.D. in applied linguistics from UCLA. She has taught writing and technical communication at UC Berkeley since 1992. She is the author of over twenty ESL and composition textbooks, including Sound Ideas, co-authored with Michael Krasny. She has also written for and been featured in several educational video projects in Japan. She travels frequently to speak about grammar, writing, and instructor education.
The course plan includes:

 - 5 weeks studies of Written English (A review of basic grammar terminology and understanding; writing effective sentences and paragraphs; introductions and conclusions; strategies for writing longer texts; thesis statements);

 - 5 weeks studies of Techniques in Editing and Revision (Proofreading and self-editing; revision vs. editing; common errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling; understanding tone and diction; vocabulary development.)

- 5 weeks studies of Modes of Written Communication (Formal and informal writing; effective email communication; academic writing; memos; project proposals; creative writing; technical writing)

The initial plan is to make the course available twice a year. The first course starts in September 2013.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Composition 2: personal philosophy essay

As I am nearly finished with Composition 1, the next course has already started. This week I have to submit my first assignment. I was thirst thinking of posting here the description of the challenge. The description was retrieved from the homepage.

Compose a 400-500 word personal philosophy essay in which you lead your audience to recognize and understand why a specific belief is important to you. Before you begin, review the modules and slides from week two. Imagine that you are writing to another person enrolled in this course, someone who doesn’t realize that you hold this particular belief or that you hold it so strongly.
This essay is not fiction; instead, it is a way to share your belief about one aspect of your life. For example, you might write about one of the roles you play in your life, an important value you hold, a significant relationship you’ve had, a position you take on an issue, a personal goal, and so on.

Begin the essay with a question, a challenge, a startling fact, a dramatic incident, or a significant quotation (or some equally compelling strategy for beginning a personal philosophy essay). Do not start with a dictionary definition. Use “I,” since this is a first-person essay.

In the body of the essay, in order to support your argument—the reason you hold your specific belief—share a focused anecdote that illustrates why you hold your belief. The specific and concrete details you present in the anecdote are the evidence for your argument.
In your anecdote, consider the three elements of the rhetorical triangle and the ways they might function in your essay.

Conclude by returning to the way you captured the audience’s attention at the beginning of the essay; for example, explain how you have answered the question, challenge, or startling fact with which you began.

Once you have completed your essay, create a title for the essay that synthesizes your belief and that captures your readers’ attention and interest.

Your essay will be evaluated by how well it (a) begins with a way to capture readers’ attention and interest in the title and the opening, (b) focuses on a specific personal belief, (c) presents an anecdote using specific and concrete details to illustrate your belief, (d) concludes by returning to the way you began, and (e) conforms to conventional language in grammar and mechanics.  

I am not sure yet about my exact topic for this assignment but I am certain that I will figure it out soon... 400 - 500 hundred words feels almost like a piece of cake. It can be of course that it turns out to be very hard and challenging to write something with so few words.  

Learning Objectives of English Composition online course

Since I am now finishing the course about writing I decided to share the list of learning objectives set for us by professor Denise Comer. Here you can see what we have been working with and what were the goals.

Course Learning Objectives

  • Summarize, analyze, question, and evaluate written and visual texts
  • Argue and support a position
  • Recognize audience and disciplinary expectations
  • Identify and use the stages of the writing process
  • Identify characteristics of effective sentence and paragraph-level prose
  • Apply proper citation practices
  • Discuss how to transfer and apply your writing knowledge to other writing occasions

Project 1 (Weeks 1-3): Critical Review
How do we become experts? I will ask you to draft and revise a critical response to an article about expertise by Daniel Coyle. Specifically, we will focus on how to:

  • read critically;
  • summarize, question, analyze, and evaluate written text;
  • engage with the work of others;
  • understand the stages of the writing process;
  • workshop writing;
  • respond towards revision;
  • incorporate reader feedback;
  • integrate quotes/evidence;
  • cite the work of others; and
  • craft effective titles.

Project 2 (Weeks 4-5): Analyzing a Visual Image
What does expertise look like? How do we define it? I will ask you to select a visual image depicting your selected area of expertise and then explicate that image in order to make an argument about what expertise looks like and how it can be defined. Specifically, we will continue to work with the elements we learned in Project 1, as well as build on them by focusing on how to:

  • summarize, questions, analyze, and evaluate visual texts;
  • argue and support a position;
  • use evidence;
  • achieve cohesion;
  • develop paragraph unity;
  • revise; and
  • edit.

Project 3 (Weeks 6-9): Case Study
What can we learn about expertise in a particular area? What does it take to succeed? I will ask you to research a particular example of expert achievement in your selected area and, drawing on multiple resources, make an argument about expertise. Specifically, we will continue to work with the elements we learned in Projects 1 and 2, as well as build on them by focusing on how to:

  • conduct research;
  • write an extended argument;
  • develop an intertextual conversation;
  • understand popular sources and scholarly sources;
  • create effective introductions; and
  • write strong conclusions.

Project 4 (Weeks 10-12): Writing an Op-Ed
What do you think people need to know about expertise in your selected area? In this fourth and final project, we will turn to a more public form of writing as I ask you to write an op-ed (opposite the editorial page) about your selected area of expertise for a publication of your choosing (you do not actually have to submit it to that publication, but I encourage you to do so). We'll also be working together to collaboratively crowdsource a bibliography of potential resources. Specifically, we will continue to work with the elements we learned in Projects 1,2, and 3, as well as build on them by focusing on how to:

  • write for more public audiences;
  • write concisely;
  • edit and proofread thoroughly;
  • decide whether to use active or passive voice; and
  • transfer the knowledge, practices, approaches and skills we learned in this course to new writing contexts.
Here you can see that mooc courses are much more than just an easy way to certificate. I have been writing a lot, learning a lot and giving so much feedback that it is a whole special chapter of this online learning experience.  

Mooc miracle: 27 courses in 10 months

I am finishing with one of the writing moocs I have been taking during the last months. It feels like being part of a writing marathon. The last deadline for the writing assignment in English Composition one course has just passed. We had to write an op-ed using about 800 words. I managed in time but was quite close to give up because of the time frame not fitting in my last weeks schedule. I ended up writing about change in education, if you are interested in the topic then it is possible to read it online in AppleTree "Where is the change in education?".

When I was posting my link to the facebook group of the course I discovered a posting made by a fellow student Achint Nigam from Kanpur, Uttar Paradesh * in India:
"Finally, this one is also over, and its time for a break from moocs, this was my 27th mooc..btw.. over a period of 10 months :D"
There are people really taking the most of the MOOCs as you can see. Twenty seven moocs in ten months time! Why not?!? Here is some great piece of advice for the beginners shared in the same thread by the experienced online student.
do not engage in courses that are not directly going to help you. i.e. just for the sake of doing a course. I did some courses which I did not understand a bit, but they were very easy to complete hence completed them and wasted some valuable time. Second, don't get disheartened in courses which have written assignments, there are times when you don't get marks that you deserve, and become a cry baby on forum, remember there is no redressal for such errors yet. its better to quit some courses in order to do other with adequate rigor. And lastly there are so many platforms with moocs, so occasionally keep checking what is starting where. And to finish off, you will make many friends, from the other side of globe so interact and enjoy. There are times when there is evening on other side, and you have just waken up.. 

There has been a huge discussion about the dropout rate being exceptionally high in moocs (about 95%) and this student also gets question about the number of his dropouts in the thread.
ya, i dropped out of many.. last month only I dropped form two psychology courses.. and another english course. Earlier dropped some statistics courses, which were not related to my area of interest.
I have dropped out many as well, the statistics course being one of these. It was so theoretical and boring even I am doing statistics much and usually like it.

But anyway, it is amazing how much you can learn through the courses! My experience about writing in English has been very positive. One can only learn to write while writing and an online course can provide a great possibility to do so. I will receive my first certificate within a week after having given feedback for the other students.

Where to next? I´ll keep posting.

*Kanpur, previously Cawnpore, is the largest industrial city of Uttar Pradesh and also is the administrative headquarters of Kanpur Nagar district & Kanpur division. It is known as the Economic and Industrial Capital of Uttar Pradesh. It is also known as Leather City as it contains one of the largest and finest tanneries in India and in South Asia.