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…