Covid_19 Diaries: 23 August 2020

Sitting now on the flight back to the UK looking at this summer’s photos.

The one here was taken on the street in Thessaloniki where we spent most evenings with my friend, drinking mojitos, analysing our deeper dark & happy thoughts about life.

That’s the 10th summer I do this trip (UK-Greece)..& upon departure I am always left with watery eyes saying ‘See you soon’.. How soon will it be this time? In the midst of this pandemic, I started feeling homesick at some point.. One evening when my brother was already in Greece, I was jealous & I notoriously booked to leave the UK the morning after. My original flight to Greece was cancelled twice so the only option was to fly to Bulgaria. I travelled light with my backpack to fit my laptop.

I visited amazing places that I booked last minute. From north to south and to the west and to the south.. Thessaloniki-Santorini-Anafi-Herakleion-Athens-Giannena-Parga-Thessaloniki-Pelion-Athens..

I may sound impulsive to some, but living under so much uncertainty due to Covid_19 made me want to cherish everything to the fullest..

✔️I met nice and weird people that had something to teach me about myself

✔️I went to places with amazing beaches

✔️We played beach volleyball while the storm had already started (hadn’t excersised this sport since high school but we won!)

✔️We went for rafting in the river, walked along the river on our flip flops (not recommended, do not do this!)

✔️ We tasted incredible food that someone else cooked for us.

Doing all that after a few months under lockdown made me feel ALIVE. 😉

[I even became blonde (!) for two months but I am now back to ‘normal’..]

My skin absorbed so much solar energy and saulty water..I enjoyed everything a bit deeper and expressed myself openly. I might appear to be “too much” but life is now and the pandemic has changed a bit the way I ‘evaluate’/value life.

I was always spontaneous but I know I might have taken it to another level. 🙈One of the challenges was the ‘guilt’ feeling each time I hugged & kissed people!Back to my MK home, to do more evaluations (in online courses in principal) and let’s see where life will lead next. 🥰


Tips on flying during a pandemic

With this post I aim to share my experience of catching a flight during this ‘new normal’ we are living in which doesn’t seem normal and it is uncertain how long it will last. This post might be useful as there are plans to allow people living in the UK to start travelling again in July 2020.

Travelling to Thessaloniki, Greece from London, UK is not an option at the time I am writing this post. After some time that I haven’t moved from the UK, this week, I felt that I really needed to go back home to see my family. As soon as I finished my ‘work from home’ pattern this Friday I booked a ticket from Luton to Sofia, Bulgaria to travel the next day. Sofia is not too far from Thessaloniki by car. I found my passport and packed my backpack to leave the next morning.

I complied with all the rules while travelling. A few tips to protect yourself follows:

  1. Follow the rules of the air company you travel with. They send emails to inform us about health and safety. Read it or at least skim it. I noticed that most passengers did not follow the rules of social distancing, they were not wearing their masks at all or they were wearing them wrongly.
  2. Arrive at the airport well in advance as fewer people work at the moment. I arrived at the airport 1.5 hour in advance as I had no luggage to check-in. There was 0 minute security wait time at 6 am. I passed the control and walked towards the shops. The airport felt so empty, like a war just finished. All shops were closed apart from a Boots and a WHSmith. There was a short queue and hand sanitizer on the entrance. There were much fewer flights (12 in total for the day).
  3. Keep two meters distance when you wait to pass the control and to get on the plane. I felt that someone was invading my space most of the time. I was told off by some that I am ‘strange’ and I exaggerate. Retrospectively, I would have answered to them that I wish ‘strange’ people were like me, caring not only for myself but also for others around me.
  4. Take some time to learn how to wear your mask and change it every few hours. I had a dozen. I used 6 masks from the time I entered the airport to the time I left the taxi. I saw people wearing their masks without having their noses covered or as if the masks were earrings. I also learned that with surgical masks we need to have the coloured side facing outwards! The truth is that I didn’t pay attention to this and some of them I wore them the wrong way! I only noticed it from some selfies I took photos to remember this day of the pandemic. Simple steps on how to use a mask are included in this video. If you prefer to read the steps, see below or skip to 5.
    • Step 1: Wash your hands before wearing your mask
    • Step 2: Hold the mask through the ear loops with the coloured side facing outwards
    • Step 3: Ensure your mouth, nose and chin are covered
    • Step 4: Pinch the metal edge of the mask so that it presses gently on your nose bridge
    • Step 5: Remove the used mask by holding only the ear loops
    • Step 6: Dispose used mask into the bin
    • Step 7: Wash your hands with soap and water
  5. Do not expect that if you fly with a low budget company (e.g. Wizz air) they will keep some seats empty. Air companies had a big financial loss to now make sacrifices for passengers’ health and safety. Rules of social distancing apply in shops and bars that will open 4th of July but the same rules do not apply for air-travel! I find it horrifying. The flight I was in was almost full but it happened that my row was empty. I had someone though who asked me to join me in the window seat and of course, I made them space to sit while I sat on the aisle seat. I heard from friends that travelled with other airlines that there was no distance between passengers and their flights were full too. So maybe this was not a single case.
  6. When ready to disembark they instruct to remain sited. We all want to leave the aircraft, be patient. The rule on this flight was that groups of 30 passengers were to go out to take the bus shuttle. As always, most passengers stood up to go get their stuff over the heads of other passengers.

Some general comments

-at Luton airport nobody took our temperature.

-arriving at the airport in Bulgaria there was a man with a digital contactless forehead thermometer measuring each passenger in seconds. No explanation was given to us about what he was doing or if he did say, it was probably in Bulgarian. There were no real social distancing rules in Sofia airport, at least yesterday that I was there.

-After passing the temperature measurement check, we were asked what’s our final destination and we were given a form to fill in and sign. We had to declare that to the best of our knowledge we don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms and that we are transiting to Greece. This took a minute to fill in. The passport control right after took less than a minute. There was no queue. I was asked to show my face without the mask (from a distance and it felt safe) to check with my passport photograph.

I was wearing a mask from the time I entered Luton airport until I arrived to Thessaloniki and changed it a few times. I got used to it. It’s harder to risk to get sick and have a high temperature for 43 days, like a friend had, than to suffer breathing for a good 9 hours, don’t you think? 🙂 [ok, you might only get mild symptoms but still!] I decided to self-quarantine and will also test myself in a private clinique (this costs 150 euros).

If you happen to know any Greeks and you have been to Greece you already know that we express our love a lot by hugging and touching each other as many Mediterranean people do. So, the hardest aspect when arrived, was to see my family and not being able to hug them after so long that we haven’t seen each other.

Greeks were in very strict quarantine long before the UK. Citizens had to send a text when leaving their house and explain the reason according to certain categories (shopping, exercising, helping someone etc). Greece has reported 191 deaths from Covid-19 (28 June 2020).

Stay safe!


On the PhD Journey

Have you thought of doing a PhD? Are you currently doing one or awaiting your viva – oral exam? Have you finished your PhD? Then you might be interested to listen to this podcast here. I talked with Angelo Salatino on his channel about my PhD journey that finished in January 2019. This is an honest reflection about the PhD process, the submission and the viva of a 4 years journey. The words/phrases to characterise my journey : Roller coaster, resilience, reflection and learning. I mentioned among other things that there is only one way to feel good when doing a PhD. That is by writing it and submitting it. The PhD submission was incredibly liberating. The viva felt more as a discussion about the PhD journey rather than an oral exam.

Life is good after the PhD. I have now built the resilience needed for the challenges coming ahead in life. We finish the podcast by asking Angelo what advice he would give to someone doing a phd.

My PhD topic was on MOOC Educators: who they are and how the learn – thesis available here

at the WD Lab

The old shoes

I walked on the old black green shoes in so many amazing places the last year. I experienced things I could not imagine. These shoes travelled to Cuba where I was walking 10-15 km a day some days..Back then, I thought that this was too much.. until the pandemic hit us. I walked over 500 km since March while listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks, talking on the phone with loved ones, analysing emotions or just staying with my own ones. The old shoes are worn out now. I had to buy new ones but I am so emotional and I don’t want to throw them away so if you have any ideas on how I can turn them to an installation to have them as a memory in my living room, message me.
Walking helped in doing so much reflection. I read somewhere that ’emotion needs motion’. It’s so true! One of the things I want to keep doing after this pandemic is to keep walking.

p. s. Shops are closed so I found an optimal solution. I bought the same ones in a different colour! 🥰

Virtual Evidence Cafés amid COVID-19; guidance on how to run one

If you are planning to run a virtual Evidence Café these days due to the COVID-19 restrictions or due to travel restrictions of the people you want to include, this post is for you. This guidance may also be relevant to people organising remote/online events where attendees need to exchange ideas and knowledge.  

In my role as evaluation lead on the microcredentials of the Open University (OU) that are running in partnership with FutureLearn, I am evaluating different aspects of these courses. [Microcredentials are designed to help people build professional skills and pursue further specialised study. They take 10–12 weeks of online study and, in the end, learners/students gain academic credit which they could later use towards another qualification, such as a degree.]

Part of the evaluation plan seeks to investigate and highlight issues relating to the accessibility of courses offered on the FutureLearn platform. To do that, my colleague Rebecca Ferguson (Academic Lead of microcredentials at the OU) and I, decided to write a proposal to run an Evidence Café.

An Evidence Café (EC) is a methodological approach where participants share knowledge in an informal way -while also drinking coffee. ECs seek to bridge the gap between research and practice and they usually last between two and three hours or they can run over one or two days. The Evidence Cafés are facilitated by an evidence- café champion and in this case, it was me, while a research champion, academics specialising in knowledge exchange and an academic from a relevant research project also take part. 

Our aim was to equip the university to address in an informed manner the policies of accessibility in the context of microcredentials. The original plan was to run the Evidence Café in Milton Keynes, UK. We arranged to bring stakeholders from the UK and the EU who have expertise related to the accessibility of online courses together with academics and decision-makers to discuss the topic: ‘What we can do to make online courses, including microcredentials, accessible to disabled learners?’ We considered that an Evidence Café is an effective way of collecting different views upon different types of evidence for a complex topic.  However, due to restrictions on travel related to Covid-19 and 4 days before the event was to take place, we decided to move it online and organise it through Adobe Connect.

[Adobe Connect is a piece of software that the OU is using with their students, for online tutorials, seminars etc. The software is generally used to create information and general presentations, online training materials, web conferencing, learning modules, webinars, and user desktop sharing. It also has the feature of meeting rooms.] 

Moving an Evidence Café from face-to-face to the online space was not an easy task and entailed a lot of adjustments.

The guidance below comes as a result of my experience having run the first virtual Evidence Café. 

  1. Find a software -online space- to host the event that serves your purpose. We used Adobe Connect as this was the tool that the OU has a licence for and it was convenient to get access to in a short time. Attendees do not need to have a subscription but you as a host need one. You can then send them an invitation link to join before the event. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and as many people work from home, different tools for remote working/ online meetings are now being used or become popular. However, do check the privacy risks for each tool before deciding to use it.
  2. Familiarise yourself with the software you are using to organise your virtual EC and its affordances. I never used Adobe Connect before. I watched YouTube videos and I asked for help from people that used it before. I split attendees into three groups (Adobe Connect allows that by creating breakout rooms) so that we facilitate discussions as we would do in the physical space. 
  3. Keep it simple and explain to attendees any adjustments you make due to the online nature of the event. Do not try to do something fancy and surprise the attendees in the last minute as it may not be effective. Discussions in Evidence Cafés are facilitated by discussion objects selected to match the topic of the EC. Make sure that the activities you create are as simple as possible. As the key is knowledge exchange rather than presentation, we simplified as much as possible the discussion objects.
  4. Create Meeting rooms (i.e. breakout rooms) for the activities you are planning, think of how you will need to distribute people with different types of expertise in different groups and assign a facilitator from your host organisation for each of them. I created 3 breakout rooms with 5-6 people (Adobe Connect allows up to 5 – correct me if I am wrong) each, and we had one person from the OU to facilitate the discussions. It seemed to me that it was a bit more challenging to start a discussion than it would have been in a physical space. There were gaps in discussions. As a host, I was able to move around the different breakout rooms where the groups analysed their discussion objects but I was not able to wrap up. Facilitators were key to coordinate the discussions and motivate attendees, while also keeping notes of what was being said.
  5. To keep the interaction active, ask attendees to wrap up after the end of each activity and broadcast a message to all breakout rooms to inform them how much time is left. It happened that attendees would need more time for their activities as although they were given 20 min for each activity to discuss in their breakout room they would need a bit more.
  6. Be ready to adjust your plans when something does not work as you designed it or you would expect. Although it is better to stick with one tool (Adobe Connect in our case) we found out that keeping notes related to the discussion objects was not working well on Adobe Connect. The features were not accessible so we quickly switched to Google Docs which are much more collaboratively friendly. Moreover, originally we had three activities planned in total. During the EC, we adjusted the second one by shortening it, as the introduction and the first activity lasted longer than I expected. The entire event lasted 5 hours with the breaks included.
  7. Send an email in advance to inform attendees about the whole process of an Evidence Café and its approach as well as prepare a few slides that make it clear at the beginning of the event. The feedback we received after the event took place, showed that some attendees were unsure of what they should expect, having not attended an Evidence Café before. However, they found it stimulating.
  8. Offer gift vouchers to attendees to get coffee and biscuits. A virtual Evidence Café means that people will not be drinking coffee together around a table. However, as the methodological approach of ‘Evidence Café denotes, coffee is essential. Make sure you remind attendees about coffee. Maybe also show them your cup of coffee and ask them to show theirs. In our case, we did not know until the last few days before the event that it would happen virtually, thus I emailed attendees to let them know that we would be offering them gift vouchers to buy coffee and biscuits online after the event.
  9. Start the Evidence Café by introducing each other and add ice-breaker activities.  In a remote event/workshop, people may feel mentally distanced and not engage as much or may not be psychologically prepared to talk or be asked questions. This may make discussions harder. So, we asked attendees to introduce themselves and tell us 3 facts (2 truths and a lie) to get to know each other. This was a bit long as we had 18 people participating, but it was essential to get to know each other. Other ideas would be to ask them to wear a hat, adding an extra element to the ice-breaking where a host could get attendees not only to chat but to look at each other as well.
  10. The online tools to be used for collaboration should be introduced ahead of the session or incorporated into the opening session. Some of the tools were proved much more challenging to some attendees than others.
  11. Give access to microphones as a host and ask attendees to keep microphones off whilst not talking. There are features of raising hands, agreeing or disagreeing etc. that attendees may click on during a session.
  12. Ask attendees to use their cameras so that you don’t have the feeling that you are talking to the vacuum. As an Evidence-Café champion hosting this evidence cafe, I encouraged attendees to use cameras. Having at least some cameras of attendees on, when bandwidth permits, offers greater interaction.
  13. Think of ways to engage attendees during breaks. For example, you can ask people to share a photo, a postcard and ask them why they chose to show this in order to share aspects from their personality.
  14. A virtual Evidence Café may be cost-effective but it is very intense both for hosts as well as for attendees, especially when it takes place non-stop. We had two breaks, but it seemed that a third one was needed. Asking attendees to take 5 minutes to stretch would perhaps be useful. Suggesting a few stretching exercises through a youtube video might be entertaining. However, it is worth noting that an advantage of the online nature was that we could bring in people from multiple countries amid the COVID-19. Attendees that were not planning to attend the event face-to-face, managed to be present because it eventually happened online.
  15. Be friendly. Evidence Cafés are informal. During the introductions, one of the attendees mentioned that it was their birthday so I started singing to them happy birthday in Greek 🙂
A Selfie of relief after the EC, with Vicky Murphy and Dimitrios Vogiatzis who facilitated the event. We miss Irina Rets from this selfie as she was facilitating from home that day!

This virtual EC would not take place without the three lovely facilitators and the incredible help of Maria Di Gennaro, Kylie Matthews, Gareth Davies and of course without having the attendees and their expertise!

Thank you all.

Where there is a will there is a way!

If you have questions please get in touch.


Συμβουλές από το Ανοιχτό Πανεπιστήμιο (UK) και το Martin Weller για τη μεταφορά της δια ζώσης διδασκαλίας στο διαδίκτυο λόγω του Κορωνοϊoύ

Προς δασκαλους και καθηγητές που τους έχει ζητηθεί να κάνουν τα μαθήματά τους διαδικτυακά. Αυτό το κείμενο είναι για εσάς και περιλαμβάνει μερικές συμβουλές.

Αυτοι που σας ζήτησαν να διδαξετε διαδικτυακά πιθανώς να βρίσκονται σε θεσεις λήψης αποφάσεων και ειναι αναμενόμενο να μη γνωρίζουν ότι οταν διδάσκουμε ή μαθαίνουμε online χρειάζεται να υιοθετήσουμε διαφορετική παιδαγωγική προσέγγιση από ότι στη δια ζώσης διδασκαλία/μάθηση. Δε μπορούμε να τα αντιμετωπίζουμε σαν να είναι το ίδιο πράγμα. Αν διαβάζετε αυτό το κείμενο σημαίνει πως έχετε πρόσβαση στο ίντερνετ από υπολογιστή ή από το κινητό σας. Παρ’ολα αυτά μπορεί να μην είστε τόσο εξοικειωμένοι με τις νέες τεχνολογίες.

Αν σας ζήτησε το φροντιστήριο/σχολείο/πανεπιστήμιο/ιδιαίτερο σας να διδάξετε online και αγχωθήκατε, ειναι ανθρώπινο. Πάρτε μερικές βαθιές αναπνοές και συνεχίστε την ανάγνωση. Μπορεί οι συμβουλές παρακάτω να βοήθησουν.

Παρά το γεγονός ότι είχα ξεκινήσει να γράφω ενα κείμενο που στόχευσε στο να συμβουλέψει δασκάλους και καθηγητές που εχουν ερθει αντιμέτωποι με την πρόκληση να αλλάξουν την καθημερινη τους πρακτική, αποφάσισα να μεταφράσω τις σημειώσεις της Τζουλιας από τη συνεδρία του Martin Weller που ειναι πιο περιεκτικές.

Η κατάσταση στην οποια εχουμε βρεθεί δεν ειναι κάτι συνηθισμένο και δε μπορούμε να την αντιμετωπισουμε σαν μια κανονικότητα. Αυτό που ίσως σας βοηθήσει να μεταμορφώσετε τη δουλειά σας είναι να σκέφτεστε με τον πιο απλό τρόπο. Κανένα εργαλείο (βλέπε πλατφόρμες) απο μόνο του, σύγχρονα ή ασύγχρονα δε μπορεί να αντικαταστήσει τον ανθρώπινο παράγοντα, το δάσκαλο. Δειτε το σαν μια πρό(σ)κληση για να έρθετε σε επαφή με κατι καινούριο, την online μαθηση και διδασκαλία, που στην προκειμένη περίπτωση θα είναι μαλλον κατι σαν αυτο-ρυθμιζόμενη μάθηση (self-regulated learning) για έσας ως εκπαιδευτικούς. Κι όλο αυτό γίνεται μέσα απο την πρακτική σας εμπειρία που μπορεί να συντελέσει στο να ανταποκρίνεστε αποτελεσματικά στη διδασκαλία σας σε online περιβάλλοντα. Η μάθηση δεν ειναι γραμμική άρα προσπαθήστε να δείτε αυτη τη διαδικασία μακροπρόθεσμα, οπως ακριβώς κάνουμε οταν διδασκουμε κάτι στους μαθητές μας! 

#Μένουμεσπίτι και κανουμε το καλύτερο που μπορούμε. Σας στέλνω δύναμη από το δικό μου που το εχω χρωματίσει και μεταμορφώσει σε γραφείο_γυμναστήριο και το γεμίζω λουλουδια καθε φορά που πάω στο σουπερμαρκετ σε ώρες μη αιχμής!

IMG_20200326_125613850_HDR (1)

Το παρακάτω κείμενο λοιπόν είναι μετάφραση από τις σημειώσεις της Dr. Julia Molinari ( twitter: @EAPTutorJM) από τη συνεδρία που οργάνωσε ο καθηγητής Martin Weller (twitter: @mweller), καθηγητής στο Ινστιτουτο Εκπαιδευτικής Τεχνολογίας (twitter @IETatou) του Open University, UK. Στη συνεδρία αυτή ο Martin δίνει συμβουλές για τη μεταφορά της δια ζώσης διδασκαλίας στο διαδ’ικτυο. 

To πρωτότυπο κειμενο βρίσκεται εδώ.  Θα σας παρακαλούσα αν χρειαστεί να αναδημοσιεύσετε τα παρακάτω ή να τα αναπαράγετε αλλαζοντας τους μορφή σε αλλες πλατφόρμες να επικοινωνήσετε αφενός μαζί μου για την ελληνική μετάφραση και αφετέρου με τη Julia Molinari. Η μετάφραση εγινε σε πολυ μικρό διάστημα και υπάρχει το ενδεχόμενο να μην ειναι άριστης ποιότητας. 

25 Μαρτίου 2020 – Συνεδρίαση ελεύθερης πρόσβασης (λεπτομέρειες εδώ)

Κατα τη διάρκεια αυτής της συναντησης που διαφημίστηκε στο Twitter υπήρξε ενημέρωση με ερωταπαντήσεις από ειδικούς του Ανοιχτού Πανεπιστημίου (The Open University) του Ηνωμένου Βασιλείου για την online (διαδικτυακή) εκπαίδευση.

Μερικά σημεία που μπορούν να βοηθήσουν εκπαιδευτικούς στον προγραμματισμό και τη διαχείριση του διαδικτυακού χώρου ειναι τα εξής:

Διαφορές μεταξύ δια ζώσης (F2F– Face-to-Face) και online διδασκαλίας και μάθησης

  1. Η ικανότητα συγκέντρωσης σε ενα F2F περιβάλλον μάθησης σε οποιαδήποτε εργασία (π.χ. ανάγνωση ενός βιβλίου) είναι περίπου 90 λεπτά. Αντίθετα σε ενα Online περιβάλλον η ικανότητα να συγκεντρωθεί κάποιος είναι περίπου 20 λεπτά. Η κατάσταση σε ενα σπίτι μπορεί επίσης να επηρεάσει τη συγκέντρωση.
  2. Είναι πιθανό οι μαθητές/φοιτητές με μαθησιακές δυσκολίες να μην σας ενημερώσουν μεσω του διαδικτύου ότι αντιμετωπίζουν κάποιο πρόβλημα. Είναι πολύ πιο εύκολο να εντοπίσετε τυχόν προβλήματα σε δια ζώσης -F2F περιβάλλοντα.
  3. Οι ήσυχοι μαθητές/φοιτητές μπορεί να είναι πιο ενεργοί σε ασύγχρονες δραστηριότητες από ό, τι σε F2F περιβάλλοντα: μην υποθέσετε ότι δεν είναι ενεργοί.
  4. Οι παρεξηγήσεις / αμφισημίες προκύπτουν πιο γρήγορα και συνεχίζονται για μεγαλύτερο χρονικό διαστημα οταν βρισκόμαστε σε online περιβάλλοντα, γι’αυτο πρέπει να τις εντοπίζουμε και να τις αντιμετωπίζουμε γρήγορα.
  5. Οι ασύγχρονες πηγές μπορούν να αξιοποιηθούν καλύτερα στο διαδίκτυο.
  6. Οι συνεργατικές εργασίες χρειάζονται περισσότερο χρόνο.
  7. Η διδασκαλία και η μάθηση στο περιβάλλον του σπιτιού είναι πρόκληση τόσο για το δάσκαλο όσο και για το μαθητη/φοιτητή: ενασχόληση με τα παιδιά τους, πολυάσχολα νοικοκυριά, κοινόχρηστοι χώροι, ζώνες ώρας. Η συγκέντρωση επηρεάζεται οταν βρισκόμαστε στο σπίτι. Υπάρχουν πολλά πράγματα που οι άνθρωποι κάνουν στο σπίτι που μπορεί να επηρεάσουν την αφομοίωση, την επικοινωνία, την παραγωγή, την αξιολόγηση (αναφέρθηκαν αλλά δύο στοιχεία που ο παρουσιαστής δεν μπορούσε να θυμηθεί). Επίσης, σκεφτείτε το φόντο σας (όταν μιλάτε με βίντεο, δε χρειάζεται να φαίνονται τα βρώμικα πιατα σας!).
  8. Όλοι οι μαθητές δεν έχουν την ίδια τεχνολογία (προσβαση σε υπολογιστη, laptop).
  9. Χρησιμοποιήστε το F2F μόνο για συζήτηση. Το ασύγχρονο περιβάλλον μπορεί να χρησιμοποιηθεί για παρουσίαση του περιεχόμενου.
  10. Οι μαθητές/φοιτητές μπορεί να περνούν χρονο βλεποντας ο ένας τον άλλον μέσω facetime, what’s app, viber τη στιγμή που εσείς διδάσκετε/αξιολογείτε. Μπορούν να κλείσουν το μικρόφωνο και το βίντεο. Το ‘απενεργοποιήστε το τηλέφωνό σας’ δεν λειτουργεί πλέον online! Στην πραγματικότητα, θέλετε να συνεργάζονται/ επικοινωνούν ο ένας με τον άλλον.

Σχεδιασμός ύλης μαθημάτος

  1. Συμπεριλάβετε στον σχεδιασμό σας άτομα με μαθησιακές δυσκολίες, φοιτητές με δυσλεξία.
  2. Ισορροπία μεταξύ αλληλεπίδρασης και μαθησιακής ύλης: μην προσπαθείτε να κάνετε αυτό που θα κάνατε δια ζώσης αφού δε μπορούμε να βασιζόμαστε στις ίδιες ενδείξεις/μηνύματα (π.χ. γλώσσα του σώματος).
  3. Ποια είναι η ύλη και πώς μεταφράζεται online; Ένας λέκτορας στη γλυπτική για παραδειγμα, μπορεί να υποστηρίξει οτι δε μπορεί να διδάξει ηλεκτρονικά, αλλά θα μπορούσε ίσως να παρουσιάσει online καποια στοιχεία που δεν θα μπορούσαμε καν να φανταστούμε ότι θα γίνονταν δια ζώσης; Πρέπει να κάνουμε μερικές πεντάλεπτες ‘συναντήσεις’ για να κάνουμε συνομιλίες με φοιτητές/μαθητές που θα βοηθησουν στη διαδικασία της μαθησης.
  4. Οι αλληλεπιδράσεις πρέπει να είναι σύντομες και σκόπιμες. Ερωτήσεις και απαντήσεις μπορούν να γίνουν σε χωριστά ‘οnline δωμάτια’ με μικρό αριθμό ατόμων που θα καταλήγουν στο να βρίσκονται επειτα όλοι μαζί σε ένα φόρουμ. Οι παρουσιάσεις μπορεί να μοιράζονται ως ύλη σε καποιο online χώρο, αλλά έπειτα οι άνθρωποι πρέπει πάλι να συναντηθουν και να συζητήσουν σε ένα φόρουμ ολοι μαζί.
  5. Μια παρουσίαση στο PowerPoint δεν πρέπει να υπερβαίνει τα 20 λεπτά.
  6. Ενθαρρύνετε την αλληλοδιδασκαλία: ζητήστε από τους μαθητες/φοιτητές σας να μιλήσουν μεταξύ τους και να επιστρέψουν και να σας μιλήσουν για ενα συγκεκριμένο θέμα. Ενθαρρύνετε τους να γραψουν σε ενα blog ή σε κάποια αλλη πλατφόρμα. Το WordPress για παράδειγμα μπορεί να χρησιμοποιηθεί ως χωρός οπου θα αναστοχαστούν, θα μοιραστούν υλικό και θα συνεργαστούν. Ειναι πολυ πιθανόν να εξουθενωθείτε προσπαθώντας να κάνετε τα πάντα σε συγχρονα περιβάλλοντα (live).
  7. Προσφέρετε ποικιλία από δραστηριότητες.
  8. Η συνοχή αναφέρεται σε αυτό που αντικαθιστά τη δομή μιας μέρας που περνάει ενας μαθητής/φοιτητής πηγαίνοντας σε διαλέξεις, παίρνοντας καφέ, παρακολουθώντας το μαθήμα, πηγαίνοντας στη βιβλιοθήκη. Πώς μπορουμε να δημιουργήσουμε ξανά αυτή τη συνεκτικότητα στο online περιβάλλον; Ποιος δημιουργει αυτή τη συνοχή; Είναι ένα γνωστικό φορτίο.

Το μεγεθος των γκρούπ

  1. Τα ανοικτά φόρουμ μπορεί να είναι μεγάλα. Οι ασκήσεις σε συνεργασία θα πρέπει να στοχεύουν σε 4-5 ατομα. Ένας εκπαιδευτικός μπορεί να εχει μέχρι 20 ατομα online.
  2. Η ομαδική διδασκαλία είναι καλύτερη.


Ανάπτυξτε αξιολόγηση βασισμένη στην προσπάθεια και όχι στο περιεχομένο. Δεν μπορείτε να κλειδώσετε τις συσκευές των μαθητών/φοιτητών, δεν μπορείτε να παρακολουθείτε το περιεχόμενο/πληροφορίες  που αναζητούν. Δημιουργήστε νέες μορφές αξιολόγησης όπως είναι ο προβληματισμός/αναστοχασμός για να ενθάρρυνετε την προσπάθεια και τη συμμετοχή και, στη συνέχεια, δώστε ενα βαθμό γι’αυτα τα στοιχεία. Δεν μπορείτε να ξέρετε αν ένας μαθητής έχει μάθει αυτο που έχετε διδάξει ή πώς θέλετε να έχουν μάθει, ή αν βρήκαν την απάντηση κάπου αλλού. Η αξιολόγηση που είναι ‘βασισμένη στην προσπάθεια’ απαιτεί από το μαθητή/φοιτητή να σας πει πώς και τι έχει μάθει [όχι αυτό που εσείς τους έχετε διδάξει]. Δεν μπορείτε να ελέγξετε τι κάνουν ούτε να ελέγξετε αν σας δινουν πισω το περιεχόμενο/ την υλη με τον κατάλληλο τρόπο. Πρέπει να ενδιαφέρθείτε για την προσπάθεια των μαθητών και να τους ζητήσετε να αναλογιστούν τι έχουν κάνει και οχι για το αν έχουν μάθει το περιεχόμενο.

Η αξιολόγηση που βασιζεται στην προσπάθεια είναι:

– Ανθρώπινη

– Δίκαιη

– Κατάλληλη για διαδικτύακη εποχή.

Σχεδιάστε αξιολόγηση μικρου μήκους, αξιολόγηση σε στάδια, για να εξασφαλίσετε ότι οι μαθητές/φοιτητές θα διατηρήσουν την προσοχή τους αλλά και για να τους διαβεβαιώσετε ότι είναι “σε καλό δρόμο”.

Η παρακολούθηση απαιτεί διαφορετικά επίπεδα για διαφορετικούς σκοπούς, σκεφτείτε διαφορετικούς τρόπους για να ελέγξετε τους μαθητές/φοιτητές, π.χ. πίνακες ελέγχου για δραστηριότητες, -βίντεο-κλήσεις. Δώστε στους μαθητές χώρο και κάποια ‘χαλαρότητα’/διευκόλυνση.


“Μην ανησυχείτε για τη λογοκλοπή τώρα!” (σχόλιο του Dave Cormier, ο οποίος συνέταξε το πρωτο Massive Open Online Course το 2008 και ο οποίος ήταν ένας από τους συμμετέχοντες στην οnline συνεδρία).

Αυτό που συμβαίνει δεν είναι κάτι συνηθισμένο, επομένως δεν μπορούμε να συνεχίσουμε ένα συνηθισμένο πρόγραμμα σπουδών.  Ποιο είναι το ελάχιστο που πρέπει να κάνουμε; Να δημιουργήσουμε απλές συνεδρίες, να κάνουμε διαλείμματα και να μην κάνουμε τα πάντα μόνοι σας.  Δε γινεται να βγάλουμε τον άνθρωπο έξω από το σύστημα.  Έχετε στο νου σας ότι υπάρχει περισσότερη μάθηση παρά διδασκαλία.

Η επόμενη συνάντηση θα είναι για την υποστήριξη του φοιτητή/μαθητη και θα ακολουθήσουν ερωταπαντήσεις. Ο Martin Weller σχεδιάζει να κάνει κι αλλες συνεδρίες μέχρι το τέλος Απριλίου. Λεπτομέρειες στο @mweller στο Twitter και στο blog του. 


Καλή δύναμη!

δρ. Ακ.Τινά.κι 🙂 







15 tips for those travelling to Cuba

In the previous post, I wrote about hospitality in Cuba. Time flies and I didn’t get the chance to blog again but as there are friends planning to go this year, I thought of sharing with you 15 tips that might help you make your trip smoother!

1. Air Tickets – no visa was required when travelling by Air Canada from the UK  

I travelled from the UK to Cuba with Air Canada and booked the tickets 4 months in advance. The tickets were around 650 GBP.  I did not need to buy a visa or a tourist card to enter Cuba as this was included in the ticket. I was given a form to fill in which I gave to the officers in Cuba – I am an EU citizen.

2. Travel insurance

When travelling to Cuba as well as other places it is safe to have travel insurance. For Cuba, it is mandatory to have your own private travel insurance. I bought one with Virgin as I was told it’s quite fair. I took the multi-trip silver one for around 75 GBP for a year. In some guides, they write that an officer might ask you to show your travel insurance once you arrive at the airport. I did not present my insurance to them although I had the paperwork with me, and they never asked for it. Print your insurance in any case so that you are covered.

3. Weather

Visiting Cuba in October meant that it wouldn’t have many tourists. October is normally a wet period with high risk for hurricanes so fewer people visit. The brave ones who go there get more attention from the locals. I was quite lucky as I only saw rain a couple of times – the heaviest rain I have ever experienced in my life! It was pretty scary while driving in the ‘highway’ from Santa Clara to Havana but the driver was a great professional and my friends were putting greek music on to give less attention to the thunderstorms.

Heavy rain on the road from Santa Clara to Havana when the sun was setting 

They say that the best time to visit Cuba is from December to May, a time that is dry and sunny. However, with climate change, I would say that it might not be so accurate.

4. Currency 

In Cuba, there are two types of Currency – one for locals (CUP) and one for tourists (CUC). This is a bit strange in the beginning but keep in mind that you will be using CUC. You can exchange money once you arrive at the airport (exit the airport and you will see a small shop on your right-hand side). Once in town, you will get better exchange rates at the bank (make sure you have your passport with you and the address you stay at in case they ask for it). Alternatively, you can exchange money at big hotels and the exchange rate is not too bad. It might get a bit tricky if you go later in the evening.

 5. Language 

If you plan to go to Cuba and you don’t speak a word of Spanish I would suggest you get duolingo on your phone and learn the basics! It makes such a big difference to be able to communicate with these lovely, happy people. Do not take for granted that they are going to speak English. If you speak Italian or French you might communicate easier with them. If there is no time to learn anything, smile at them! It opens all doors.

6. Where to stay 

I stayed in Casas Particulares (Like Airbnb) and booked everything directly without getting to Airbnb. When I arrived in Cuba, I asked my first host where to stay next and I got suggestions which I followed and I did not regret it. If you want an authentic experience, avoid hotels and especially the all-inclusive ones. Cuba is certainly not for that, you can visit another country in the Carribean for all-inclusive services.

View from our house in Havana 

 7. Getting around 

I was told that Collectivos are not too expensive to get around. Collectivos are taxis that work as part of an agency. As technology is not very developed in Cuba, you can always ask the person that hosts you to book you a collectivo. They know people and they can always help you. Collectivos work a bit like uber but via calling. Do not expect to see luxurious cars but they will do the job. Get in and enjoy the ride.

I only used collectivos but there are also buses which are different for tourists. They are called Viazul. You can book those in advance. I’ve also heard that it’s easy to rent a car in Cuba but when I visited Cuba there was an embargo and petrol was difficult to get. Make sure what the situation is when you decide to visit.


Collectivo drivers showing solidarity to one of the drivers that his car broke down

Yellow taxis are also everywhere. Try to negotiate the price before you get in as they can be too expensive. To go from Havana airport to the city I paid around 25 CUC (similar to 25 Euros) with a yellow taxi.

 8. Places I visited and you can visit too

Havana: I spent around 5 days of my trip on and off in Cuba’s capital. It is a city that is worth visiting although it is not extremely clean for European standards and most buildings are very old and not maintained. However, I categorise Havana as one of the most ‘beautiful-ugly cities’.

Getting a local guide was the wisest idea that one of my friends had. We asked Joaquin to show us Havana – His webpage can be found here. Joaquin guided as to an authentic part of Havana and we learned so much about the culture and history. I cannot recommend him enough. Do not miss a guide from him, it’s very easy to contact him via what’s app. all his details are on his website.

Joaquin with our gang outside the university of Havana

When in Havana, do not miss

  • the Havana Club museum if you like Rum – you will find out how rum is produced
  • Vedado which is a beautiful area away from the touristy centre. Visit the University of Havana. The buildings are stunning.
  • Walk along Malecon – the seaside of Havana
  • Old Havana which is touristy but is worth the visit
  • Go to Floridita for Margaritas and to Bodeguita del Medio for Mojitos- that’s the places Ernest Hemingway was visiting when living in Havana
  • El Dandy – amazing coffee/cocktail/food place in Central Havana
  • 304 O’Reilly– incredible cocktails and food place in Old Havana – just make sure what they charge you against the menu because we had some issues there
  • Los Nardos – huge portions of food that was delicious. It has different cuisines

Viñales: I spend almost half of my trip to Viñales and I went back to it for another day when my friends joined me in Cuba. I have already written bits about their hospitality here. I stayed in a casa particular which can be found here . If you decide to go Leo’s number to book directly text Leo on What’s app – +53 58539943 or email him at You will not regret it. His family was so kind to me.

In Viñales you can start walking from the camping to the mountains, you can see different caves. Adriel (tel. +5358925009), who speaks Spanish, can guide you around. He is a farmer and lives around there. He took me to different caves that were not touristy, he showed me where the farmers cover themselves during hurricanes, he introduced me to all kinds of plants around the valley. We rode horses that he owns with his brother and we went up to a mountain where we drunk the best mojitos in Giovani’s cafeteria.

View from Giovanni’s Cafeteria -Los Aquaticos 

After familiarising with horseback riding 

With Adriel we also went to Julio’s house where we saw how they produce rise, we had food, coffee and I also bought coffee for back home. We then visited Jorge’s house where I was shown how they make cigars and got a few back home. You can get up to 50 cigars. The ones that the farmers make are supposed to be organic and they are cheaper than in Havana (you could find a cigar for 2-3 CUC).


Jorge posing after showing how Cigars are produced

Do not miss the chance to go to a beach not too far from Viñales. It is called Cayo Jutias and you can get there for 15-20 CUC by collectivo. it looks like the following photo.

IMG_20191016_203015_589 (1).jpg
Cayo Jutias – around one hour drive from Viñales

Trinidad: We only spent a day and slept overnight but we really enjoyed it. The casa particular was incredible. The link can be found here. If you decide to go contact Liliam directly at +53 41993955/ mobile +5352905114 or email her at Liliam and her family cooked for us, we had the best chicken we ever tried and the ambience of her house was unique. The decoration was beautiful. Their hospitality was great. We walked to the centre and it was not far.

Our Collectivo taxi outside Liliam’s Casa 


Liliam’s Garden where we had our dinner and breakfast 

We visited a school, a few bars and we left the next day spending some time at the Playa Ancon which is only a few kilometres away and our driver was with us.

Santa Clara: We spend a few hours and combined it with our trip to Trinidad. This is an important place to visit if you want to learn about Che Guevara in a small museum next to his Mausoleum where there is an eternal flame. You will also learn about the battle of Santa Clara during the Revolution.

Che’s monument in Santa Clara 

Other places that I was suggested to visit is Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa but I keep it for next time. I met many locals some of them working in tourism and I asked about Varadero- they told me to avoid it as it has nothing to offer apart from all-inclusive.

9. Culture of negotiation 

Being able to communicate in Spanish will make price negotiation a game for you and the locals. Do not overdo it because they will get mad at you. I was always trying to negotiate prices on the streets when buying stuff, or in bars and with taxi drivers but I was also aware that in Europe salaries are much higher than in Cuba. At the moment a worker gets 12 CUC/Dollars a month, a doctor and a teacher around 100 CUC/Dollars a month. With these salaries, you can imagine that Cubans can’t travel outside their own country which is unfair. We get to see their amazing country but they cannot travel. Plus, they also need to get a visa to go anywhere apart from Russia. So think twice when you are being too harsh with negotiations.

10. Queuing in Cuba 

Don’t be surprised if you go to the bank, ATM, phone company to buy an internet card and see people queuing but not in a straight line as in the UK. You will probably get outside a shop/ bank etc and you will hear each person arriving asking ‘El ultimo’? this means ‘who is the last one’ and the last one will raise their hand or say they are the last one.

working hours in Viñales bank 

 11. Safety in Cuba 

I travelled on my own the first 10 days and I never felt that I am at risk. It is a safe place for someone to travel on their own. They will probably try to convince you to go to certain bars/ restaurants – paladars but they won’t harm you. Just be polite and reject their offer. They certainly try to make money out of tourists but this is common practice in touristy places. Be aware of jineteros/as. These are people that try to earn money from you. They offer to find you accommodation, to take you to restaurants, to get you an internet card and they take a commission. They will not harm you, you will just offer them a few drinks perhaps and they will then disappear.

12. Food 

The best food I ate was in Casas Particulares but I also had amazing food in Havana. Cubans eat rice and beans every day – I was eating rice and beans for 20 consecutive days- and I don’t exaggerate here. They also have Yuka which is like potatoes and you should try it too. Avocados had a real taste. Fruit like pineapples and papayas were delicious. Everything seems to be organic. There is not so much diversity but anything I tried, it tasted good! Do not expect to go to Cuba to eat chocolate. They don’t have much of that but sugar is in Mojitos so you will not miss the sweetness.

If you are vegetarian you might have a hard time as for them, for example, chicken stock in a vegetarian soup counts as a vegetarian dish. Re-Define what vegetarian means and they will understand.

Some of the dishes I tried and were delicious:

  • Lobster – you can get it fresh for 10 CUC on the beach
  • Ropa vieja (meaning old clothes) which is a dish with beef
  • Chicken – you will see that it’s the most common dish they have
  • Jutias – this is in the family of rats – the ones that are big though and weight up to 8 kg. They live on the mountains and they are clean. When I was offered a portion at Vinales valley, I ate it. I could not ‘google’ what Jutias was as technology is inexistent in most areas.

They say that eating at Paladars is nice too!

If interested in Cuban food – see the previous post that is dedicated almost entirely in food.

13. Internet 

Technology in Cuba is not similar to what we have in Europe. Do not take for granted that your Casa/ Airbnb will have internet connection 24/7. But you are going there to disconnect from technology and connect to the people and the Cuban Culture. You can get internet cards from Hotels (1-2 CUC for 1 hour) and connect to an ETECSA network. You can also get internet cards from the shop called ETECSA. There are normally queues outside this shop, use the waiting time to interact with people. There are also parks and plazas where you can connect to the internet if needed.

14. Supermarkets 

The idea of supermarkets that we have in Europe and the diversity of products does not exist in Cuba. Be prepared that you will have the basics. There are Mercados for tourists and locals but I got into both with a Cuban person. They will probably have all you need, if not ask a local/your host and they will be able to help. Solidarity is the main thing in Cuba.

15. Pharmacy 

I had a spot on my skin which was probably nothing serious and went to the pharmacy shop (a different one for the ones that locals visit). The pharmacist did not give me any creme and advised me to use oil. They are all about natural products, I can tell.

Fun facts

  • Working for tourism makes you richer than being a doctor
  • Toilet paper – they have in Casas particulares so don’t take with you although many guides say you should
  • No need to get food from your own country, they have lots and it’s delicious

Be open and enjoy your trip. While in Cuba, don’t be bothered to ‘google it’. Think and ask around.

Let me know if something is missing and I can update this post 🙂

Cuban Hospitality in Viñales

There will be a series of personal posts where I will be talking about my experience during my trip to Cuba which Ι wanted to share with my friends and family as well as colleagues or strangers who would perhaps wish to visit one day too. Even if not, I wish to make you all travel with me through my writing. 

I have travelled in Europe but not much outside of it. Last January, a good friend sent around an email to invite us to her 30 birthday in Cuba! My friends are a bit crazy and I am grateful for having them in my life. For a collection of reasons (and an awful breakup), I was unsure whether I would do that trip until July. Originally my friend was organising the trip only for a week so that she makes it convenient for all of us to get time off work and to be able to afford it. A few weeks before the trip and while I was in Spain after my work contract had ended, I had no clear idea of what I was doing in October/ November onwards. Thus, I decided to change my ticket and fly 10 days earlier.

I looked online and asked friends whether it was safe for someone to travel to Cuba on their own. They were all positive. As my experience has also shown, it was safer than I expected. If you follow me on social media, I already mentioned that this was the first time I travelled somewhere on my own, just for pleasure. Being Greek and a woman, this sounds insane, but I decided to just do it. I thought that, no matter what, I would be able to communicate the basics in Spanish and I would manage. And as it turned out, speaking their language was decisive in getting to know them better. I did not find many people in the countryside speaking English. 

I asked friends who knew people living in Cuba to give me suggestions on places to stay. I was, therefore, reassured that when I would arrive in this unknown territory, I would have a safe place to stay. It took me around 17 hours to arrive. I flew to Havana, stayed there for a day and travelled to Viñales by collectivo (i.e. a service like Uber that is arranged through people’s networks calling landlines/cellphones- the use of the internet is not very widespread in Cuba).

Viñales, this small village and its surroundings, captivated me. 

I booked my stay there for three days and I ended up staying nine for a number of reasons. The first was the hospitality I experienced by Caridad and her son Leo, and this post is dedicated to this.

The second reason was that I could not get enough of the sceneries I discovered with Adriel,  the guide I met when I got lost in the single road of Viñales. I am good at getting lost, indeed. Adriel showed me his second home, the Viñales Valley, its Cuevas (caves) and Los Aquáticos. I was extending my stay in Viñales at the end of each day.


The last reason I could not leave the province of Pinar del Rio was Cayo Jutias, a Carribean beach, very different from what I have seen before.


I will be writing more posts on these soon.

Having discovered this paradise on earth in this province, I had to take my friends that would arrive 10 days after me. After spending all the days in Viñales, I travelled back to Havana to meet my friends. We visited a couple of other places (i.e. Trinidad and Santa Clara) and I then went back to Viñales for a second time, with them. I booked us to stay at Caridad’s Casa so that they experience her hospitality. I also got Adriel to guide us to the valley. We visited Jorge’s house who was a farmer. He showed us how they make organic cigars and we got to try them and also carried some back home. Some of us hiked up the mountains and the rest rode horses to reach the most beautiful view we have ever seen.

IMG_20191015_145945062_HDRWe ended up going to Cayo Jutias for a last swim and we enjoyed the light blue waters with a few traditional cocktails, lobster and Cuban music. 

To start with the Cuban hospitality, Caridad, the owner and jefe (i.e. boss) of the Casa (i.e. house) I stayed is a dynamic woman that made me feel that I have a had a second mum, a Cubana mama. (Mama Sofia I love you, you are the one and only of course!) Caridad loves cooking and I love eating so we got along very well.


She is running her Casa as a bed & breakfast (+lunch, dinner). From the state of the house, I would not say that she and her family are rich. There are no luxuries in the house as in most houses in Cuba, but I liked the green colour on the walls and the comfort of having air-con and a fan to relax after a hiking day under 35 degrees.


Caridad loves what she does and it is more than obvious. She was preparing my breakfast every day which always had a tortillita (omelette), cheese, ham, bread, butter, fresh juice, coffee as well as cangrejitos de coconut (the pastry that looks like a croissant in the photo below).  


One of Caridad’s son was making the cangrejitos on fire as shown in the photo below. The process was taking place in the backyard of their house.



I believe Cubans eat these for breakfast or as merienda (snacks) and they were probably selling them around the neighbourhood too. I could not figure out what was the deal because Caridad’s son was not speaking clear Spanish- it was more cubañol and I might have misunderstood. Everything I write is my interpretation of my understanding in Spanish that it was getting better day after day.

Caridad was giving me merienda to take with me on the mountains or on the beach for which I never asked. I was drinking papaya or mango juice every day. She was cutting the fruit for me. 

IMG_20191012_085947990 She was preparing the strongest coffee I ever tasted which was the best I had in my life.


The quantity of food was very rich. So, the stories I heard that I need to take food with me from home because their food is bad are not true. I carried so many snacks (mostly chocolate) in my luggage from the UK. What I did, in the end, was to give a pack a day to Caridad to enjoy! She loves chocolate and, in Cuba, they do not have the diversity of products we have in Europe so I got to make a person happy. I was giving her my food and she was generously giving hers to me.

There are no supermarkets. I didn’t see any. There were only Mercados (markets) and Bodegas (convenience stores specialized in distributing food) that have very few products to buy or get stuff with coupons that the state offers to Cubans. What I found strange was that I had to leave my bag to a person at the door when going to a mercado. I think we had that in the past in Greece too. I felt many times that Cuba is how Greece used to be in the 1960s. I was not born but from old movies I have watched, it seemed like it. Going back to mercados, I went to two different mercados. One was for Cubans and the second for tourists. The prices seemed a bit different. There is this interesting situation that tourists pay in Cuban Convertible Pesos, namely CUC (1 CUC is around 0.90 Euros) and locals in the Cuban Peso National, namely CUP. (1 CUP is around 0.033 Euros) This makes things complicated sometimes and more expensive for tourists but undeniably, tourists have much more money and paying 5-7 CUC for a bottle of Rum, for example, is still cheaper than what you buy it in Europe.

When I was going back home after hiking the mountains or walking along the long beach and swimming, and after a couple of mojitos that only cost 1 CUC in Viñales, Caridad had my dinner ready. I tasted amazing food in her house. Lobster was my favourite as I tried it for the first time – cooked in tomato sauce!


I had fish which I don’t know what it was but it was delicious and was served with Yucca. Yucca is a plant in the family of potatoes which I liked very much and is one of the things I will miss coming back to the UK, except if anyone knows where they sell it so that I buy it.


Caridad was making the tastiest chicken..-chickens in Cuba are everywhere, even in the national roads- including Caridad’s garden. Her house also had roosters walking around. They were waking me up every morning while crowing.


Rice was part of the cena (i.e. dinner) every single day. She was also frying plantains (similar to bananas but different). She was also preparing soups that I am not very enthusiastic about when it’s 30 deg outside but I was trying everything! She told me that many tourists were complaining about the food. They were saying that it was similar every day. I did not complain about anything although you might see me complaining in real life sometimes (!). I was only happy and I was living the NOW, as every Cuban I met does.

I only drank bottled water the 20 days I stayed there. Cubans though boil the water they drink if they get it from the sink. Caridad was even washing my clothes every time I asked her to. I was always willing to assist her in cooking but I was her guest so she did not let me do anything. I was only putting the empty plates in the sink of a very old kitchen that reminded me of my grandmother’s in my village. She did not have a kitchen stove as we do to prepare food. She had different appliances old and less old ones where she was putting all her magic and spices (who said that they don’t use any spices? – not true). 


Caridad did not speak English but I was so excited by her kindness that after a couple of days in her Casa, I was able to communicate with her and tell her stories as a 5-10-year-old girl speaking Spanish. The progress I made these 20 days in Cuba was exceptional. I was impressed by how much I got immersed by the Cuban culture when I realised that people did not speak English. I had a basic knowledge in Spanish thanks to Juan, the best Madrileno teacher I got to learn it with. This knowledge gave me the opportunity to get to know the people and to understand them.    

Everything Caridad did for me was from her heart (de corazón), hence, divine. A reason I did not want to leave Viñales and stay there for my whole trip was the fact that I found a home away from home, thanks to her. She made me feel like a princess. I was enjoying sitting at her rocking chair reading my book. By the way, the rocking chairs must be a thing in Cuba, they are everywhere and I wanted to put one in my luggage and take it with me back in the UK. People in Viñales seemed so relaxed and happy on those. 


Leo, Caridad’s son, is a 22-year-old guy with whom I was playing Uno in the evenings while drinking rum.


I took the chance to find out how young people live there, and what they think about the government. Leo, as well as other young people, praised the education and health system which is free and accessible to all Cubans. However, although Leo speaks Spanish, English and French like me, he is not able to travel. Moreover, he learned these on his own. From books. For a Cuban to travel, they need an invitation from someone to the country they want to go (this is the case with many nations who need to travel to foreign countries) but also, it is extremely expensive for them to buy a ticket to another country. The only country they can go to without a visa, is Russia. Reflecting on that now that I am back in the UK, I think it explains why sometimes Cubans try to gain more money from tourists. It’s not really ‘ripping off’, it might be a necessity for them to have a chance to travel or to do things that with the CUP is impossible.

I also found myself asking silly questions to Leo like, ‘why do you have internet only an hour a day?’ to receive the simple answer that ‘we cannot afford to have it for longer’. Things that we take for granted in Europe, are not conceived or applied the same way in Cuba. I was asking him about relationships and he was describing how easy it is to meet someone. He and his friends just go and talk to girls and ask them to dance in the Casa de la musica (i.e. salsa/ reggaeton/bachata place) of Viñales. The rest is simple in his view, girls either want and get more intimate with them or reject them. Love is simple for Cubans. I explained to him that in Europe people don’t go to talk to someone so easily even if they like each other. They might gaze at each other but they will not approach each other. He laughed. I then went on and explained that people also use dating applications on their phones as relationships are too complicated with many people being busy with work, not making time to go out to meet actual people at a bar. I went on saying that what people do elsewhere is to see photos of potential partners and to choose whom they like or not on the screen of their smartphone. I remember him smiling when I said that. Thinking about it now it sounds funny. 

This took me to reflect on the whole mentality of communication in the places I have lived during time and compare it to what I experienced during my stay in Viñales and in Cuba, in general. I realised how direct and expressive people are in Cuba. You may sit at a table to get a coffee and if you are on your own, the waiter or someone else will approach you to start a conversation. The first thing is to ask you where you are coming from and how old you are. Asking a woman ‘how old are you’ in Europe is a forbidden question! Cubans on the other hand, just ask. Cubans reminded me of kids that express their thoughts unfiltered, as they think about it inside their mind. They are also hugging each other a lot, they give one kiss on the cheek when they meet. They do not make plans for the future, they have the mentality that ‘todo es posible en Cuba’ and they smile! I saw very few people not smiling in Cuba, no matter what their situation was, even the ones that were chasing tourists to get some Cuban pesos. 

Most people in Cuba were not carrying smartphones and wi-fi or 3G are not of great quality. Some of them do not have a cellphone. I saw a few phone booths on the streets – no, they were not red as in London and tourists were not taking fancy photos-. People were actually using them. My smartphone was not working at all for 20 days, -it had no signal- but I solved this issue as, whenever I needed to call someone to arrange something, I would simply ask Caridad, a taxi driver or whoever I would see with a phone to call from theirs on a local number to plan my day ahead. There was no person that refused to give me their phone to call every time I asked and smiled at them. 🙂   


I did not really know what to include in my first post about Cuba but I thought that hospitality is a good start. I will go on with the experiences in the Vinales Valley. Bear with me.


Challenges and Good Practices related to online interviews

Last week, I took part in the Joint Technology Enhanced Learning summer school in Portugal where I gave a workshop related to ‘Gaining access & Conducting research on moocs: Challenges and Good Practices related to online interviews’.

During this workshop, we discussed with participants how they intend to gain access and prepare online interviews. I then asked them to conduct and record an online interview on a certain topic or on the topic I gave them. We then reflected on the challenges and good practices of their short online interview. I finally shared my own experience of challenges and good practices of gaining access and conducting online interviews with mooc educators.


The activities we went through during this 90 minute workshop can be found on SlideShare on this link 

Lessons learned from gaining access & conducting online interviews

Which practices were found useful? 

  • Personalisation
  • Notes/ diary keeping
  • Timing
  • Building virtual relationships (rapport)
  • Sending kind reminders
  • Recording with different devices
  • Conducting the interview in a quiet place for both interlocutors
  • Reflecting on the challenges
  • (Re)Planning throughout the process of the online interviews
  • Opening networks continually
  • Being flexible, agile and persistent

Poster Paper for EARLI Conference: How HE educators learn how to teach in Massive Open Online Courses: a case study

Poster paper prepared by Tina Papathoma, Prof. Allison Littlejohn and Dr. Rebecca Ferguson for EARLI conference

Tampere, Finland

31/08/2017 at 12:00

Main Building E – E301

Session I: 11, Professional Development and Lifelong Learning


People working within HE institutions need to learn new forms of teaching and learning practice, to transform the ways they work. This study explores the types of knowledge gained by those working in HE when they teach massive open online courses (MOOCs). Data were gathered through a case study involving interviews with six people with teaching roles on one MOOC. Data analysis used Tynjälä’s model of integrative pedagogy to identify the different types of theoretical, practical, sociocultural and self-regulative knowledge needed in order to teach in a MOOC. The analysis shows that individuals did not engage in formal training (theoretical knowledge); they learned by experience; by (re-)running the MOOC and from learners’ feedback (practical knowledge). They also reflected on their learning experience, on their contact with different cultures, on engaging with ideas from other MOOCs and people (self-regulative knowledge). They worked collaboratively, sharing expertise, but sometimes found communication with colleagues was difficult (sociocultural knowledge). When they faced challenges they integrated theoretical, practical and self-regulative knowledge to solve problems (mediating processes).

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