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!