Thursday, December 10, 2009


The unit I am designing includes the use of technology in the summative assessment.My grade 8 students will be creating digital storybooks for children using voicethread and sharing those with the ES students in our school and other audiences in the web.

The idea is to give a chance to my 8th grade students "teach" the young ones through a book. They will be focusing on the "pillars" taught in ES/MS and presenting the concept to ES students through a story.

The unit offers the students the opportunity to use the target language to interact and come up with an idea, to read in the target language and look through examples, and to write and make their story age and language appropriate. They will also practice presentational language to make sure their story impacts their audience in the most efficient way.

The highlight of this project is the sharing. A few years ago, my students (in a different school and country) did something similar. We shared the books face to face in a classroom setting with the younger students. Nevertheless, I look forward the interactive part of this "new" version where the audience is able to interact and comment through voicethread. We will attempt to share with students from other schools and post the projects on our blogs to share with the world. A greater audience will allow my students to continue to share, practice and improve their language skills with others.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Technology Peripherals in the Language Classroom

Using technological tools in the language class requires a positive attitude to learn and try something new. A project using technology could work smoothly and enhance language learning; or fail and be frustrating. Anyhow, using technology in my Spanish class has been a constant learning process. I have learned some useful tips by failing and by listening to other teachers share their failures as well.The tools I use frequently are laptops, cameras, smartboard and videocameras. I will explain how I used laptops recently and some ideas which helped to organize a project better.

About a week ago my Spanish students used Photostory3 to complete a project as a unit assessment. To help my students with the project, I broke it down to small parts trying to avoid chaos. For the first step I asked students to bring a project sketch. Using paper and pencil, they had to organize their ideas, scripts and images.The paper I created for them was a simple table which included key words for them to keep in mind what I expected. Then, I presented a short lesson to use "creative commons" and asked my students to bring all their images ready on a flashdrive for the next class. After, our MS tech expert came in to help my students with the tool; she prepared a digital tutorial which helped them to know how the tool works. I helped with the tool myself; but using only Spanish. My students then worked during two full periods and had very good projects; with their voices, images, music...they used only Spanish and highlighted the theme, the characters, setting and other elements of a short modified novel we read.

As I learn how to use more technology and decide where it fits best to help students learn Spanish; I continue to speak to my students on different ways they can show me and others what they know. I believe one important learning I have had is the value of allowing my students to show how they can use Spanish in ways that make sense to them. As long as the class outcomes and expectations are clear, the variety of ways they can show language learning is fascinating.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Managing laptops

Laptops in the language class can be quite useful and fun. Things do not always go as planned...of course there are times where the connection to the web is slow or the laptops were not charged correctly, or a student has been playing around and the text on the screen is upside down! In general I have had good experiences with laptops. These are some things I do to make sure we use them efficiently:

- Every time we use laptops - I write the following on the board:"get your laptop, log in, go to...and wait for instructions with screen down" This has created a routine; so when we need to be efficient with time at the beginning of class; this usually works.

- In every class two students are in "charge" of checking the carts to make sure all laptops are plugged in correctly and to take the cart to the next location. I rotate the students so that all get to help.

- When working in a project and using a tech tool (voicethread, photostory,blogs...)- there is always at least one student who knows or is familiarized with the tool. They become my helpers with the tech part so pair them up with other students or have them working in small groups. My students know my role changes; I am not necessarily a provider of information; I guide them and together we figure it out. I learn with them.

- The "screen downs" and "ojos para mi" (eyes on the teacher) helps to get their attention for instructions.

- Yes; students are great at having various windows open on their laptops; so I make my expectations clear. I believe that if they are engaged and interested then they will be on task.

- With language learning; especially in the lower levels, the challenge is to use these tools AND keep the target language going. For this reason; I choose carefully when I use laptops; I check how much the students know already about the tool and make sure the task is broken down as much as possible to continue to use only Spanish in class. I have also tried to have students who have stronger language proficiency work with others; as with the students who are more knowledgeable with technology.

These are some ideas...I am not saying it always works perfectly; it can be intense, but it is worth trying!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

NETS to be a good educator?

The NETS for teachers and administrators describe great teaching principles; but the only addition to these guidelines is the word "digital tools/age." If you read the document without the technological element; you still have great teaching described.

Good teaching may occur regardless of the technology. It has to be understood that the digital piece is a tool which enhances teaching and learning; but it is not solely what makes great educators. As educators, regardless of technology, we attempt daily to "facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity." Yes, we can improve our teaching by going beyond paper and pencil, but it is not what makes us good educators. The same idea applies with the administrative description; I hope as a teacher to work with an administrator who has "visionary leadership" despite the digital tools!

I reflect about my own experience as a student in an international school; where 20 years ago technology was not greatly integrated in classrooms. I remember and admire several of my teachers who enhanced their teaching in other ways. Now, as a teacher myself, I have learned to use and give credit to the digital tools which have improved my teaching (and plan to continue to use them!); but I don't think that is the only tool that makes a good educator.

Learning Technology and Information Literacy...

Learning technology and information literacy is a collaborative effort. It is a shared responsibility to teach it effectively. It needs to be integrated and articulated effectively within all subjects curricula and across grade levels. As we do with any other skill, it needs to be taught accordingly to students' needs and assessed effectively to ensure that students are learning. This responsibility can not lay on one department.

Teachers need the time to learn and feel comfortable with new tools. Change takes time, but if teachers experience that technology could be used in a meaningful way to enhance learning and teaching; then they will feel it is worth to put the time and effort to apply it. It is only by experimenting with these tools that motivates teachers to learn more and integrate it into their lessons.

Technology is part of everyone's lives now. It is a powerful means of expression and communication. Students and teachers learn about it daily; the challenge is not only to learn about the tools, but to use them effectively in our teaching. It requires time, support and as any other content in an effective curriculum; constant revision.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Teaching NETS and AASL

The NETS and AASL share common philosophies; they are part of a whole. These can not stand in isolation because they should be a key element of a whole curriculum. Teaching these is a shared responsibility. Teachers; regardless of the grade level or subject area must give learners the means and tools to be able to show their knowledge and to make learning more meaningful. This shared responsibility should not limit to the classroom; ideally parents should be familiarized with them as well to support better their children at home.
If these standards are part of our curricula; then the real challenge is to assure that they are being taught in the most effective way.
These last couple of years; I have been lucky to have tech support in my class. It has been a taste of what these tools could do to enhance language learning; it proves that it is not one department's or grade level's responsibility; but they should be taught in collaboration.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


As a final project I have designed a unit which gives students the chance to use presentational language through the use of a technological tool.

The task is for students to use the target language to research and read about a topic which impacts teenage life; for example drug use, alcohol, consumerism, and so forth. One of the goals of this project is to connect the themes the students study in their other classes; humanities, health, science... To make sure they can handle the language I will previously make a selection on articles and material on several of these topics.

Using movie maker; students need to enhance the most important information they have learned about the topic. Then include a section in their presentation with a strong message of "do's and dont's." The idea is to impact the audience as much as possible with facts about the information and suggestions on solutions. This project will integrate specific grammar and vocabulary points covered in the unit.

Some students will need to learn about the tool. Fortunately, several students are familiarized with movie maker already; so the idea is to have the experienced students help and guide the students who are learning how to use this tool.

This project will allow students to improve their language skills through the use of Spanish in a broader context. The prior knowledge they will have by connecting the topics from other classes' curricula will support what they do in my class.

Once the videos are ready; the plan is to post them in their blogs to reach a broader audience and be able to interact with other language learners around the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Screencasting could be very useful in a language class. I look forward to create lessons using this tool. When I need to explain a grammar point or vocabulary word explicitly I write up lessons using a word document; I include visuals and use language I know my students will understand.

A possible way of improving these lessons and notes is through the use of screencasts. It allows me to record an audio file as I explain a grammar point or use a specific word in context. It gives students the chance to listen to a lesson repeatedly; so it could be a great tool to support different learning styles.

On the other hand, it could also be a useful tool for students to use. They could create screencasts to show their understanding of a concept, or show the subtleties of language; or use language in a greater context. For example, a great cross-curricular activity for Math and Spanish could be to explain, in Spanish, how to use a Quipu

Altough screencasting does not allow interaction; it becomes a resource for students to use continuously and a tool for them to show their understanding.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Videos in the language class

Videos can be rich language and cultural resources in a language class. The web now offers a great variety of videos; you can pretty much find anything you need! These are some ideas on how videos can help enhance learning.

Videos and music/literature: This is probably the most popular way of video use. Using a song which goes hand in hand with a lesson, vocabulary or theme. It is not only the music, but the images and lyrics with it - all in one- it provides students with one of the tools they enjoy the most. The same applies for poetry; with images,and sound.

Videos and culture: I have found great videos to introduce cultural aspects of South American culture; from celebrations such as the Day of the Dead; to the typical Quinceaniera, to South American dances...

Videos in class and assessment: Students can create videos easily to show their understanding. It is also a common tool for assessment; several placement tests recommend video taping students to see their language growth. It is a great way to record language growth.

Videos allow to play and replay to practice different language skills. Students can create and work with these independently.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A digital story to share...

One of my favorite tech tools to use in my language class is voicethread. It is not only easy and manageable but it allows great interaction in different ways.

Last year, I created a project for my Spanish students in which they had to choose images which describe them best; their interests; their nationality; family…any information about themselves (but no pictures of themselves) They made a recording, in Spanish, to explain why they chose that particular photo and what it tells about them. The final product was a slide show of photos with the students’ voice explaining who they are.

This project did not look for one particular grammar point, or vocabulary; it attempted to have students use Spanish as a whole. The goal was to interact with other learners via a digital tool; using powerful pictures to show who they are.

The students did not only interact with other students and teachers in our school; but with students at an international school in Taipei...all in Spanish!

This is what I created to show my students how to use voicethread...

Take a look...

"A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound" (Ivan Turgenev)

We all know that images can carry a stronger meaning than a text. In a language class; sharing cultural experiences through images may bring great opportunities to go beyond reading or hearing about different cultures. It may also become the means for students to use the target language in various ways. Through better presentations students will also learn to become better presenters - despite the language they may be using.

With this in mind, during our last session I had the chance to sit and improve a presentation I used last year in one of my Spanish classes. The presentation intended to open up a discussion about the celebration of Carnival around the world; and reflect on any similarities the students may find in their own cultures.

I selected better images which conveyed a clear message, used a few words and allowed the pictures to do the talking for me...

This is what I now have...

Carnaval En El Mundo

Friday, September 25, 2009

Teaching with images

Learning a new language inevitably gives you a taste of culture. In my classes I attempt to integrate culture in different ways.
Displaying an object for example. I combined Google Earth to show my students the monument to the Equator located in Ecuador, but first I placed a small wooden replica of it on a desk for students to look at it and discuss what they thought it was - fun and very creative ideas came up!
With audio, the sound of a "charango" or a "quena" may lead us to talk about music instruments in the Andes and/or life in the Andes.
The image in this blog is part of a short powerpoint presentation about the celebration of Carnival in South America and around the world. It is a picture of the well known "Diablada de Oruro" in Boliva. This is presented in context with other images as examples of how Carnival is celebrated around the world. Because the image is beautiful and it allows a variety of activities; I can ask my students to brainstorm on what they see; describe the costumes, research on what is the Diablada, or compare it to other forms of Carnival celebrations around the world.
Images in a language class open broad opportunities to practice any skill.It takes time to look for and find the right one; but once you have it; the time was worth it.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Technology in a language class

As I am taking the courses in our program and applying technology in my class, I have to admit it has brought the best and worst out of me. Applying technology in education does not only require an extensive amount of time to search the right tool and then implement it; but it also demands flexibility when it does not work and you need a "plan B."

On the other hand; when technology works smoothly it highlights learning and offers variety; it brings originality and ownership to students. It has allowed my students the option to show what they can do with language - with tools that make sense to them.

Skype, chat rooms, audacity, voicethread, Google Earth are some tools that have great value in a language class. We have had virtual tours, chatted in Spanish, collaborated with other teachers and students in different countries! These tools have transported my teaching outside the classroom in a valuable way giving my students an opportunity to experience real Spanish despite being in Asia.


Monday, May 11, 2009


The main highlight from working with James in this project has been collaboration. Team work is not only about dividing the amount of work to be completed; it has to do with creation and expertise. It is valuable to become collaborators when we are involved in education; to set this time into our busy schedules to have professional discussions, share ideas, revise curriculum and ultimately think about increasing student learning.

My students in their third year of Spanish are now working on a project using voicethread. They are using this tool to describe themselves within specific guidelines. This project required support and team work; from setting it up with our school's IT support teacher, to having other Spanish speakers in our community contribute by listening to the projects and posting comments. This project gave my students the opportunity to use the language in a real context; it opened the opportunity to use it outside the classroom. At this point, my students are commenting each other's work on voicethread, giving feedback to what others have created. The best part, it does not limit to our school. We have shared what we created with students in Taipei. This experience has created a "linguistic collaboration" as these students listen and view each other's projects and post comments on each other's work.

So, our learnings as teachers are great when given the chance to collaborate with other colleagues. The result has brought incredible learning opportunities to our students.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mass Collaboration

Mass collaboration could be the key to solve several social problems that are inundating our lives. Through collaboration we could solve issues in communities, companies, governments; or our shared crisis on global warming. Mass collaboration sounds like the perfect solution to any social issue.

Nevertheless, to make mass collaboration effective it depends on how it is structured and organized. Undoubtedly team work is part of it, but it is not only about “tipping in” to solve a problem or create something. Mass collaboration is about commitment and expertise; and it is successful if it is used correctly.

To put this into a smaller context, we could think about education. As teachers, we have the opportunity to prepare our students; how? We can start in a smaller scale – our classrooms. Learning about mass collaboration is the best instrument we can give our students to face world issues. For that reason, we can use classrooms as scenarios to give students the chance to develop skills, trust their instincts and use their knowledge.

Although mass collaboration has always existed, I think the key is collaborating for the greater good. So, the question "are we preparing students for a world of mass collaboration?" should not only be directed to teachers; it goes to all of us- to a society who needs to work together.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Power of the Web

The web gains power as it constantly changes and grows. Not too long ago people received printed newspapers at their doors every day; now people read the paper on line, or glance at the headlines as they open their email. People rented videos, bought music CDS; now it is all compiled for you on line. Through the web, you can keep in touch with all your friends, at once, in different parts of the world. If you need a map, directions or the location of a city; you use the web and learn about the place and do a virtual tour of it. These examples could go on and on; which means the web can be a powerful tool when used appropriately.

To consider the influence of the web in a specific context I want to share a couple of experiences my students and I have had in my language class. We have had virtual tours of Latin American cities through Google Earth, soon we will be connecting through Skype with other native Spanish speakers to listen to different accents and learn about the culture of Latin America, and we will be sharing a project with other language students from a different school in a different country. Is the web powerful in this context? Yes; absolutely. The web has made a meaningful difference in my students’ learning.

Thinking about the bigger picture, the Web can be a great social tool when used for a global good; when there is collaboration. The challenge is using it correctly; sharing a common understanding of its potential. We would not want to miss the point that people are the focus of a society and not a digital tool.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shared Responsibility

Teaching safety on the web is a shared responsibility between schools and homes. The web is not exclusive of one specific setting; because it is accessible anywhere it deserves attention from parents and teachers.
To make this a shared duty, it is important to have common visions on the use of the internet; there are opportunities where schools can establish communication with parents to guide them on philosophies and uses of the internet in relationship to education. Outside the classroom, it is parents that need to be vigilant on how children use the web. As I have mentioned in previous blogs; the idea should not be to censor the web or threaten the use of it; but rather to learn to use it responsibly as a tool for learning and contribution to society.

(image from Google images)

Readings on Copyright

When I mentioned to a close friend, a sociologist, I was reading about copyright she recommended reading Richard Stallman. Stallman is a software freedom activist who has developed the GNU project which promotes free software; he is also the creator of the concept of copyleft among other ideas.
As I have been reading his essays I have found interesting, valid points he makes regarding copyright. It is worth reading his interviews - “copyright vs. community in the age Computer networks,”, for example, or his opinion about why schools should use free software…
As teachers it is valid to have a broad spectrum of different opinions on issues that impact education and our society.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Copyright or "shareright?"

Rethinking copyright is like stirring a witch’s brew. The more I read about copyright, the more I am convinced that it should be related to a greater idea; a philosophy of learning, knowing, and sharing for a common good.

To re-think copyright it is essential to reflect about knowledge. The best contributions to the world have not been by one sole brain – the idea of having a genius who enlightens the world does not happen on the day to day. In reality intellectual creation is a product of collective intelligence; creation is the result of a process of collaboration. The best inventions to the world have been triggered by a person; then revised, improved, and maybe taken close to perfection due to collaboration (like software for example...). So; if we need to rethink copyright it must be with a broader mind where the right to access works is not hidden behind a law which has several gray areas.

The palpable example is our classrooms. It is in schools that intellectual collaboration happens all the time. It is through education and accessibility to the internet that our students find resources to add on to their learning and be part of a network of knowledge. Do we have to guide them to give credit to a work? Yes; but we do not need to present copyright as a threat to creation and learning. Do schools and teachers need to follow “the rule?” Yes; since that is the system. But, let’s not forget the most important point; education is not longer centered in one person; it is about a community of learning.

Note: I have to mention that the pictures used in this blog are taken from flicker and/or google images.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Online Privacy

An online dictionary defines privacy as “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs”
When you find spam email in your inbox, google your name to find information about yourself which you had no idea was out there, or realize that a social network owns your profile and pictures of your life; then the right to privacy online is a mockery. In reality, using and posting on the web is not about having privacy; it is about making the right choices and learning how to use this system. Evidently we all deserve the right to privacy online; realistically speaking it does not happen.
So what are our options? First, we have to continuously demand this right. For example, as consumers we cannot allow social networks such as facebook to use our lives to their best interest. Then, on the day to day, we need to continuously learn how to use the web efficiently and make proper decisions about what we want to be published for the world to see. Most importantly, parents and schools need to talk about the consequences of poor judgment of online use. So, we have a choice now: limit and control the use of the web or learn to use a tool which when used properly it could open many doors.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

They know who you are...

About Digital Footprints...

I googled my name…
I know in South America my name is somewhat common: Gabriela. I was amazed with all the different profiles that showed up: a journalist, endless facebook pages, an activist in Africa…and yes; I was there too.
As adults, it is opportune to think that our use of digital tools sets an example to our children. Think about it; what image does the world have of you? How can you responsibly use these tools and at the same time protect yourself?
As teachers; I believe digital tools should be present in our classrooms to enhance our curriculum. As a consequence, we have the duty to teach and show our students to be responsible users. Children have to understand the implications of having a digital footprint; they need to learn that their actions bring consequences. We need to help them know how to use these tools to boost their learning rather than deprive them from entering a college or getting a job.
Nevertheless, this is not the job of one teacher or one administrator or one parent. Learning about digital footprints; requires collaboration within a community. Students need to hear about it in school and home; they have to learn about it as they access the web.

Try it and find your digital footprint; google your name and see what’s out there.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reflection: Language Exchange-Intercambio Lingüístico

As I have started my digital learning journey these last couples of weeks I find myself motivated and intrigued to learn about the best ways to make digital tools fit language learning in a meaningful way

I have to admit I look forward to some of the projects and connections I have made these last weeks. My students will be connecting with students from other schools who are learning Spanish through voicethread, and listening/speaking to other Spanish speakers using Skype…and yes, those connections are valuable!

An important piece is collaboration. Working as a team with James and Carole brought up significant conversations about language learning and teaching. Sharing experiences, knowledge and teaching philosophies enhances the application of digital tools. By combining ideas and suggestions we prioritized real language use, but at the same time integrated tools which will help our students be learners of the 21st century. It is productive for us as teachers and will be valuable for our students.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


(A "digital native" dialogue – the names have been created for this example )

Mary: Sup pl?
James: Nm doing my hwk
Mary: U watched the movie?
James: 4 got- u?
Mary: y? It was gr8! – funny! Rofl…htbt
James: OMG 2bad I missed it!
Mary: Do we have Spanish hwk?
James: Idk…idc
Mary: K, wtv
James: Gtg
Mary: Np
James: L8r
Mary: ttyl

I guess if I am a "digital immigrant" (term used by Prensky) I have to start learning some of this! I have to thank my 8th graders for taking the time to teach me some of these.

Is "bff" or "nvm" a new language? I would not call this a language; but a social register, a digital jargon, an adaptation of language to fit technological needs. The beauty of a real language is that it is innate; human beings have the ability to acquire it and once we have it, modify it depending on needs – like in this case, to fit a tool in a rapid changing world.

If you teach language arts or writing...what do you think? Syntax, spelling, this new register hitting on quality writing?

Reality is this digital jargon is out there which forces all of us to learn it; it is necessary. Call it a “language?” I don’t think so …that’s 4now…brb.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Project Sketch

Objectives and Outcomes:

1. Students will be able to speak about themselves, describe their likes and dislikes, talk about their home countries, families, hobbies, and reflect on their process of learning
2. Students will be able to comment and exchange thoughts with other language students.


1. Creativity and Innovation: create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
2. Communication and Collaboration:
Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of sources and media.
Interact, collaborate and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
3. Technology Operations and Concepts
Understand and Use technology systems.

Spanish Project

This project is designed for students of Spanish in Middle school who have been studying the language for 2-3 years. This project does not look for one particular grammar point, or vocabulary; it attempts to have students use Spanish as a whole. The goal is to interact with other learners via a digital tool. This project is one of the assessments that will be used for the exiting criteria for MS Spanish.
Each student will create a project using voicethread. They have to choose 5 pictures which describe them best; their interests; their nationality; family…any information about themselves (but no pictures of themselves) They will also make a recording, in Spanish, to explain why they chose that particular photo and what it tells about them. The final product will show a slide show of photos with the students’ voice explaining who they are.
The audience is not only the other students in class; but this project will be done with another Spanish teacher in a different school in Asia. He will have his students do the same project; our students will listen and leave comments about each other’s presentation.


A rubric is being created which assesses the use of technology and the use of Spanish as a foreign language. It will also look for the comments the students will leave on each other’s work.

A salesman at my classroom door...

All of us have experienced the annoyance of a salesman at our door. That was the feeling I had after reading Adopt and Adapt by Marc Prensky. It felt like a marketing campaign set up by a businessman – not an educator. His article is not only diminishing to the great teachers out there, but it also only portrays a biased opinion. I just wonder; how often is Prensky in a classroom? How involved is he in curriculum design? From what I read at the end of the article he is a founder, CEO of a game company, speaker, writer, and consultant… is he a teacher?
I believe we have a responsibility as teachers to learn about new tools; but the way the Prensky’s blog makes it sound good quality education cannot be accomplished without technology. It’s not true.
And then… I happened to come across a blog (thanks to Chrissy) by Simon Siemen; where he questions Prensky’s article Digital Natives? Digital Immigrants? It was definitely a refreshing blog. All the questions and comments that Siemen makes are valid and needed. But there is one particular observation that I would like to point out from his comments; he says:

On page 2 of Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Marc talks about digital language and how us ‘immigrants’ have to learn ‘digital’ like a second language…. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain. Does it? What scientists? Is learning to work an ipod really the same as learning a second language? Perhaps Marc is taking his analogue a little too far?

Yes, he has.
The comment lacks knowledge about second language acquisition, about the components of learning a new language, about the importance of interaction and creating a comfortable environment for students to use the language…
Again…just wondering…how many languages does Marc Prensky speak?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reflection on an activity- a mere coincidence?

After reading a section from “Reinventing Project-Based Learning” I thought of an activity my language classes are working on this week. The article talks about “Essential Learning Functions; Ubiquity: learning inside and outside the classroom, and all the time.” The idea is to give students the chance of using a tool to learn whenever they want and wherever they want.

I have to say I created this activity to help my students listen to Spanish outside the class; as in this side of the world they are only exposed to Spanish during my 55 minute period.The students have been listening to audio files I created in audacity regarding the Chinese New Year. They had to listen to the horoscope and answer questions; which we will later discuss in class. After the struggle of not being able to hear the file, nor open the instructions; it all worked smoothly in class and their homes (they are able to acces the files from their home computers).

Now why did this call my attention?
Today one of my students came in and ran the show; he showed the class how he had downloaded the files to his phone. He shared he had been listening to the files and repeating them over and over again. The best part, he attempted to explain this in Spanish!

My lesson went a step further; thanks to one of my students, I learned something new and my students have audio files they can carry with them at all times…
Interesting tool…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Talking about a network of learning...

George Siemens uses a metaphor of a pipe to explain connectivism as a network of learning. He says the focus is on learning about the tools – the how- more than the knowledge itself- the what. He says: “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.”
Well, how is it possible not to ask about the quality of the “flow” within this pipe? About its source, or its credibility?

Just recently I had the chance to see a network of learning with no computers or internet…yet individuals were still the starting point of a cycle of knowledge. I just returned from an overnight trip to an ecological farm in the north of Thailand with a group of 8th graders. The members of this ecological project showed us, taught us and shared with us their knowledge. The students helped building an earthen building; we mixed the sand and clay with our feet. Yes, we could have googled it and see a gallery of images, but this was real. Now, isn’t this valuable because of the quality of knowledge? And how the network was set up? (both the pipe and the flow…)

Maybe I just don't get it...

So, here is the thing: sharing knowledge and passing it on has been present in human race for ages. It is in our nature, to question, to solve, to invent, and to socialize; which means this new idea of connectivism, has been present for a long time; not just in the 2.0 era.

“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge…” (Karen Stephenson) True- but it happens around the world without the need of technology. What happens in a third world country where communities have no exposure to a computer? How do they learn? By sharing experiences and passing on wisdom from generation to generation….is that connectivism then? Building on experience? So, who is “connectivism” aimed to? To which society? To what group of people?
Connectivism exists outside computers and bandwidth…

Monday, February 9, 2009

Today I learned how to Google better

Bonsai cats; I found it on the internet!

Chris Betcher’s talk was practical and useful. It reminded me of our responsibility, as teachers and students, for finding out which information is reliable or not on the internet, questioning sources and researching beyond. Betcher’s tips (authority-currency-content/purpose-audience-structure/workability)are valuable and necessary to integrate in our classrooms regularly. We need to teach our children to be responsible users of technology and guide them to use their best judgment.

Googling effectively is necessary in all classes; whether you are teaching students to research in a humanities class or look up a new word in a dictionary in a language class. Not too long ago I remember reading in a student’s paper: “Yo mosca a Estados Unidos.” Running off to the first translator or dictionary you find on line; won’t necessarily give you the right answer...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Face to Face with Clarence

“Once you have the digital tools you are no longer the smartest person in the class”

Clarence Fisher made his point when he talked about his classroom as a network of learning. He describes it as a community of learning and thinking; a place where collaboration is a key ingredient. His students are genuine members of this community: they work together; they help and support each other, they reach goals together. This network is not only happening within his classroom; but beyond, thanks to digital tools. Fisher clarifies our roles as teachers: we help students make connections; we guide them to reach a learning goal.

I enjoyed this conference very much for two particular reasons; Fisher did not only talk about what a teacher could do in a 21st century class – he explained what he and his students are doing. Second, Fisher said it: teachers and students need to have the willingness to fail as we learn. It’s a life lesson; but in this particular case it brings some reassurance to what I want to try out in my own classroom. Pheew!

Nevertheless, as I think back, the conference also leaves me with some questions: How do I keep up with the technological race? TIME: When and how will I learn which tools best apply to a language class? How do these tools help my students speak Spanish?
And one more thing regarding this network of learning, don’t we see this collaboration in our classrooms -despite the digital tools -when students are able to talk about how they learn and what they are learning? Or when students set their own learning goals and collaborate with classmates and teachers to reach them?

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I had to read this article a couple of times as it was making me anxious. According to the author, Marc Prensky, school is the place where kids are less engaged; but it is thorough video games and technology that our children feel motivated and challenged to learn. How did this happen?
As the author describes video games he uses words and phrases like:
”Explore…” “Don’t work alone.” “Challenging” “Build…” “Perform…” “Research…” “Lead…”
He points out that these words are not part of a regular classroom! The article makes me reflect on curriculum design and my teaching. Part of me feels this is a strong biased point; which suggests one solution to engage students. I believe there are teachers out there who inspire and challenge students without having access to technology. There has to be a balance. On the other hand, as teachers we have to help our children to become problem solvers and team workers in this new millennium; so maybe this is part of the solution.
So; I am left with two thoughts in my mind. I definitely want to engage my students. I am fortunate to work in a system that offers me the tools to take the initiative; but this is not a “one man show” it is definitely team work, it takes collaboration and agreement on a new philosophy of teaching; as a consequence I agree curriculum is the first step to this new challenge.
Secondly, a thought in the back of my mind; I ask myself, is this article describing a utopian system? This is definitely targeted to a privileged group….what happens to the other millions of children around the world who still want to be engaged?

Ref: “Engage me or Enrage Me”: What Today’s Learners Demand
(Marc Prensky)


This is definitely my question…
As a foreign language teacher, I envision a classroom where students use the language in context, interact with both the teacher and their classmates, and comfortably take risks. I constantly attempt to create opportunities for my students to use Spanish in class as they learn about it. It becomes a challenge as I am the only fluent speaker in the class and I only see my students four times a week. So I wonder if technology is part of the solution to make my students connect to other native speakers around the world and other students who are also going through the experience of learning a new language.
I have had some positive experiences with the implementation of technology in my Spanish class. Some tools like Youtube or Audacity have enhanced my teaching; but I would like to learn what else is out there…
What I hope to get from this course are some insights on how technology can help me best teach a foreign language. I want to create a positive link between technology, curriculum, and my teaching. I want to give my students an opportunity to connect to Spanish speakers and other language learners around the world; then “being on the other side of the world” will be relative…