Wrapping up the semester… FINALLY!

After 16 weeks of class, things are finally coming to a close. Graduation day is approaching (even though I’m not graduating, I feel as though I am since I’ll only be on campus for 8 weeks in the fall). Projects are flooding professors’ offices… or in boxes if you happen to be Angie. Students are rejoicing as each final is conquered and dorm rooms are being packed. Looking back over the course, it’s been an interesting, jam-packed semester of activities, homework, and friendships.

For this class alone I’ve grown to appreciate technology a little more, even though it frequently is the cause of headaches and misunderstandings. Before this class, I knew hardly anything about technology in the classroom. I thought of the technology as simply SmartBoards, PowerPoint, and YouTube videos. A new world has been revealed to me.

I’ve discovered several incredible programs that my students can use that don’t require me to know all the ins and outs of the program. Twitter, although I don’t use it as frequently as I should, is a wonderful resource for connecting with other teachers in my disciplines. I hope to become more consistent in my use of it when my schedule becomes more routine and less chaotic.

I was hesitant and resistant to technology at first no matter how much I said I wasn’t. Looking back I realize that. However, after these modules, I’ve discovered that it’s not as terrible to use once you actually attempt. And, should something not work quite right, there are hundreds of advice sites for each program and that it will work eventually if you sit back, relax, take a deep breath, and try again. I see the value more in educational technology, but must first research the tech to see if it provides what my students need in the classroom or if it’ll simply detract from the lessons. So yes, technology will be incorporated, but I’ll wisely evaluate whether it helps my students or is using technology for technology’s sake.

Animoto… Ole!

Where has this semester gone?!? I’m simply flabbergasted with how little time I have left. Motivation is severely lacking, but I’m making a valiant attempt to muster up enough to finish this week.

After commenting on another class’s Animoto projects, we have the opportunity to create our own. So pulling in all my crazy Spanishness, I decided to use a flamenco influenced Animoto as a hook to a cultural lesson. Before I began this, we looked up information on how teachers are using this tool in the classroom setting. Various sites I found through Google suggested using Animoto because you can download the video slideshows you create. This would be handy if you have limited internet access. Also, the program is straight forward and easy for most people to work with. It is a great way to present vocabulary or as a preview of the lesson to come. Some cool Animotos included a vocabulary introduction, a presentation of Civil Rights, and even one on bridge building. Most sites emphasized the free Animoto privilege given to educators. This is a great way to encourage learning and it’s wonderful that the makers have realized this.

Although I can see the benefits of Animoto, I personally won’t use it that often I believe. I would rather use another slideshow tool that has more ways in which you can manipulate the times pictures are up and such. From what I saw, it was limited to the basic template you choose and modifications are hard to make. It may be that I simply didn’t dedicate enough time to it to discover the various quirks of the program, but I just believe I could create a slideshow better using other methods/tools for creation.  If I want students to create a simple wrap up of the unit or to produce their own vocabulary list, I might employ Animoto. As I’ve mentioned in other post, however, the goal of speaking the language in a communicative fashion will be most important in my classroom. This program doesn’t allow this. Only time will tell if I will use Animoto.

Wordle Story Revisions

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This past week we received feedback on our various project ideas for our EDUC 346 class. A huge thanks goes out to Jane and Suzie, the co-authors of our textbook, for the feedback they gave!

It was encouraging to hear from others. I also bounced the idea off of my methods for foreign language class. It’s wonderful to hear that the basic idea isn’t a flop and would actually be a fun activity (according to several tech classmates). Others recognized my emphasis on communicating in the target language~ definitely what I was aiming for. Jane and Suzie suggested more group work. I really want to allow students the opportunity to try this on their own with their personal story, but think it would be wonderful to have them contribute to others’ stories as a specific character perhaps. I’m not sure exactly how I would allow them to work together. It would be part of my initial handout concerning the project once I develop it a little more.

My next step would probably be to create a rubric. I’m not sure what other problems would surface, but rubrics show where flaws may come out. As of right now, I’d just be excited to see what stories would result and how they presented them. I’d probably bounce the idea off my kids about now in the semester to see how they’d react to it. The project is definitely coming together and has great possibilities. I can’t wait to use it in my future classroom!

Que dificil es hablar el espanol…

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My former Spanish professor posted a comical Youtube video on her Facebook the other day. Naturally, I shared it with many Spanish-speakers that I know. I just ran across this blog article discussing it. It’s a wonderful song, especially for someone who understands it. Hopefully, my more advanced students will appreciate this video chistoso when I have my own classroom.

Additional Sites of Interest

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The other day on Twitter one of the Spanish teachers added a comment about Free Rice. If you’ve ever played it, you know how addicting it can become. I sat on Free Rice and played for a half hour or so the other… in SPANISH!

I didn’t know they introduced this portion of it. I hadn’t been on it since coming to college. The words were fairly simple for Spanish since it’s a basic level language learner portion (also available in German, Italian, and French for those of you wanting to expand your linguistic knowledge). When I looked up the other subjects, I was astonished how much it had grown! After playing in Spanish for 30ish minutes, I switched to Flags of the World. So much fun! I should have been reading for my 3 history classes, but everyone needs to escape for a short while, right? Anyway, if you’re interested, join Free Rice to improve your knowledge while helping others out.

Also, for my GS 401 class with Prof. Jurchen, we are encouraged to discuss various current events to remind us that we will soon be out there and have the opportunity to witness. I’m not the best at bringing current events in, but decided to look up some for class this week. I found something on FARC in Colombia. This rebel group has recently announced its renouncement of kidnappings and has plans to release current hostages. After taking several courses on Latin American history, this is a monumental announcement. True, they haven’t renounce their violent ways, but hopefully this is a start to better future for the citizens of a politically distressed country.

Jing-a-ling

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The latest assignment? Create a Jing screen cast. I must admit, this was a terrifying idea when it was introduced. With the technological difficulties I’ve experienced within the last few weeks, I didn’t think this would go well. However, this is one of the smoother assignments I’ve had thus far for class. It looks tougher than it is. I just had to speak up more than normal for the mic to pick up my voice. I think Jings can be useful outside of the realm of instruction for online technology as well. I could use this as another option for my students if they didn’t like the other options in my Wordle Story idea. {At the end of the school year I’d present several Wordles with the TPRS vocabulary structures we’ve studied. The students would create a short story and present it using one of several online storyboard programs, videos, or podcasts. It’s a great chance for our students to show-off how much they know now in a FL. Also, I could share it with another Spanish class across the globe to show off my brilliant students.} And now when I have a problematic pop-up screen telling me that technology still hates me, I can take a picture of it and send it out asking for assistance! Anyway, without further ado, I give you my screen cast on Showbeyond. Enjoy!

Learning a Foreign Language: Not as Difficult as Some Believe

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This is an article on foreign language learning that I found in a tweet from someone tonight. It just mentioned using cartoons for FLL. Of course, I was intrigued thinking back to my host mom and her love for Mafalda, an Argentine cartoon character who hung in my room.

This is such a great article that contradicts and remedies the misconstrued idea that adults can’t learn a FL. If you fall in that category, please humor me and look over this article. It’s not too long of a read and shows you how you too can learn a FL. It reminds me of TPRS for outside the classroom. Immerse yourself in the target language and you’ll be surprised at how much you start to pick up accidentally.

Glogster: The Voicethread Revolution

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For this week’s module, we created a Glog (basically, it’s like an interactive, online poster board) to describe a technology that can be beneficial in the classroom.

I opted to use one of the technologies mentioned by Cynthia in my interview: Voicethread (see the link on the glog if you care to know more!). It doesn’t take too much, but still allows the students to use their Spanish skills. Her class is sending a voicethread about her school (en espanol, claro!) across the globe to other Spanish speakers. I think it’s a wonderful way to connect through a common language and share something that is special to you.

As for Glogster, I haven’t had a great experience. I’m a perfectionist and couldn’t manipulate the tools to get the right color I wanted or figure out how to spice it up (I could have found out, but am running out of time and patience). When I tried to finish the project the other night, I was told that Glogster was overcapacity, whatever this means. It could be a good program, but as a student I would invest too much time into the preparation of the project and lose the meaning of the information I’m conveying (I apologize if this occurred here). Overall, I’m not sold on Glogster for my classroom purposes, but can see the usefulness of it for others.

Check it out and give feedback/critiques if you feel so inclined.

Skype Interview with Cynthia Hitz

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I’m really enjoying this Instructional Technology class. It’s overlapping nicely with my methods class for foreign language. In my methods class we are learning about a relatively new style of teaching called TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling). It’s a completely new concept for me, but I think it’ll be a wonderful way to engage students in learning a new language. So naturally I thought it would be best to find a teacher who is passionate about TPRS and technology; kill two birds with one stone, right?

I love how easy Twitter makes it to connect with others. I simply typed in TPRS and found a wealth of resources and people to connect with. I contacted Cynthia Hitz (@sonrisadelcampo) to see if she was willing to Skype with me to answer several questions regarding technology in the classroom in association with TPRS. She teaches high school Spanish in Pennsylvania. I must admit, I was using this project more so as a means of discovering more about TPRS in the classroom than for technology, but found they work well together.

Our class had two questions we must ask: Why do you integrate technology? and Who would you recommend? My additional questions included: Did you receive technology training from your school? What technology do you have access to? What technology has been the most valuable? What has been more trouble than it’s worth? What are several of your favorite projects? What social networks are best for your professional development? How often do you use technology in the classroom? Do you follow any specific technology standards? Do you connect with people across the globe? How have parents reacted to your use of technology in the classroom?

Our interview wandered around the topics of technology and TPRS instruction. {Revision from original post due to poor reporting on my part. Sorry, Cynthia!} After visiting numerous technology workshops and helping lead them for her school district, Cynthia has enjoyed learning more about various technologies for the classroom. She also has taken several grad classes about technology in the classroom as well. She uses a variety of programs such as podcasts, voicethreads, screecast, storybird, and is looking forward to the new smart board she’s getting in her classroom. Of course, the standard computer and LCD projector used in class. While some rave about Glogster, Cynthia doesn’t find it as beneficial for her teaching style. Her tech savvy students pick up on new programs rather quickly. To cut down on training them on a new program, she has the students set up passwords and such before the class period they will need it. She’s active on Twitter and enjoys others’ blogs to keep in touch for personal development. Without having any specific standards to follow, she makes use of technology in a variety of ways. Her class created a voicethread recently to show off their school using their Spanish-speaking skills. The students see the real world connection of a language by sharing the finished product with students in northern Spain, Chile, and in a Spanish classroom in Taiwan. The parents are supportive of the technology integration and students seem to expect it in the classroom anymore.

Looking back, I wish I had asked about assessment of technology-based projects. I’m curious how much of the grade is figured on the usage of the technology at hand, if any. Also, I’m intrigued about Cynthia’s opinion of a keeping a blog with her older/more advanced students. As a preservice teacher, I’m simply curious to see exactly how TPRS works in her classroom since I didn’t initially learn Spanish using that style. I’m hoping I can become a good teacher using TPRS even though I’ve never seen it specifically modeled for me. Overall, I thought it was a wonderful interview and I’m thankful to Cynthia for agreeing to chat with me for a short while.

PBL in a Spanish Classroom

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I found a neat blog for world languages that I’m going to follow now. It has some of the concepts we’ve been covering in my modern language methods class as the core values. They’re seeking authentic, communicative language learning, not simply a regurgitation of rules. Several PBLs were included. I chose the first on the list provided.

For a first year language learner (of any variety), having them dive into authentic sources and providing authentic input (not simply speaking in English about the language) is crucial. To have the students use basic level grammar and vocabulary, one teacher has them write a menu, write a short script, and create a video about the experience. Specific standards aren’t addressed in this, but it encompasses using the grammar, writing understandable sentences, and speaking, all of which are crucial in language learning. In a language classroom, I believe communication should be the main goal. Students can see the benefit of this project when we share the videos with native speakers. Their involvement will greatly increase when they receive feedback and hopefully a few chuckles over great, amusing scripts. When they see that they can communicate with others in a foreign language, hopefully it will encourage them to participate more in the classroom and not view a foreign language as another hoop to jump through to get a better diploma. This particular project doesn’t necessarily combine with other subject areas; however, it could easily be modified to work with a social science class. If you wanted to describe different dialects, you could present it to several countries and change words to whatever the call a particular food item. I believe this could encompass all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students need to recall and remember the various words for food items that we’ve covered in class. They need to understand the basic formation of a sentence and grammatical rules in another language and apply these basic ideas. They’ll need to compare what they’ve written to how a native speaker would say something to look for mother language interference. They need to evaluate what they should include in their presentation. And lastly, they are actually creating something in the target language instead of repeating what has been given to them. Creativity, high productivity, communication (both within their group and with others outside), and manipulating the technology used all incorporate 21st century skills that are highly valued. I believe the students would work harder on these projects if they understood that a native speaker would be commenting on them. Also, who doesn’t like to talk about food?!? I think this is a wonderful way to encourage lower level foreign language learners to continue on. The words are generally easier to use and sound similar to English often. When they go to the grocery, they can impress their parents by labeling the various foods in Spanish. If they see a Spanish-speaker struggling to find something in the market, perhaps they could help. Also, if they go to a foreign country, they would be more able to order at a restaurant and know what is coming before it shows up on the table. I like this project because it focuses on the language instead of the technology. It brings the language to life in that they are communicating with others.