There has been an interesting turning point with the use of technology in my classroom. First, it was just a means to complete an activity, then it opened new ways for students to show what they are able to do; now it is integrated in my teaching; as a daily learning and teaching tool. Next year our middle school is going 1:1; all students will have a laptop....and I can't wait!
Yes; there might be some management and logistics to take care and make sure all works smoothly; but essentially they are the same organizational skills we try to teach students when they have to bring and take care of their materials to class. For the last 5 years we have been booking carts; but it the end it has become obvious that we are ready to be a one to one school.
Our World Languages Department is excited; but to be honest; some are a bit overwhelmed as well - fair enough! Nevertheless; I am positive it will take a couple of months before they start seeing the wonderful, teaching and learning moments that can happen. The opportunities to connect around the world, talk to native/proficient speakers of the languages we teach, learn about culture, and visit places virtually; finally opens the doors of our language classrooms to a global community!
To share how I have implemented technology in my Middle School Spanish classes; I would like to share one of my class blogs. Here, you will be able to find examples of various projects; some as formative or summative assessments; you can read my blog and see examples of student work by going directly to their blogs on the right.
My class blog has two purposes; one is communication with parents and students about what goes on in class. It is also the attempt of starting of a digital portfolio for my students. If my students continue to study Spanish throughout high school;here or in a different school, looking back their blogs will show evidence of their language progress.They can reflect by looking at what they have written or created. They can have access to their blogs all the time and maybe use it as a tool for college application in the future.
Taking into consideration a generation which is immersed and connected digitally; digital tools can enhance their language learning and their needs. As a teacher I enjoy using technology as a tool to open opportunities for them to use the language in real contexts; I try to keep a balance of the face to face experience and the online experience.
For example; my Spanish A students had the opportunity to interview Spanish speakers. They used unrehearsed language and chatted in a real context face to face with someone. Then, a few of my Spanish B students were part of a live on-line radio interview; having the world as an audience. Both - great language learning experiences!
A valuable moment in teaching is having the opportunity to have a colleague visit your class to later share insights on the learning that is occurring in the classroom. This year, I had the chance to learn about a protocol called "Looking for Learning." The focus of the visit is not to "observe" the teacher; rather, it allows to chat informally to students about their learning. The visitor speaks one to one to a student and asks a set of questions; these start a conversation to reflect on what they are doing in the classroom. In the few visits and debrief meetings I have been part of; I have been amazed by the comments, connections and reflections the students came up with. After, the chat with the teacher has not only been a worthy professional conversation, but it has also lead to self reflection to what goes on in my own classroom.
I had the opportunity to have Kim Cofino, 21st century literacy specialist at our school, come and chat with me before and after she observed one of my language classes. Although her visit was geared to the Coetail course; she mentioned she will be using some of the protocol questions from Looking for Learning with my students. She shares her observations in her blog post; where she explains in detail the process to observe my class.
This particular experience went beyond the conversation about the value of integration of technology in a language class; it also enhanced the connections students make from their core classes, and how they value what they do in class. I was able to get a clear insight on why the students think we are doing a task, or if they feel they are learning something new...or if what we do makes sense to them . This; in their own words.
This conversation brought up valuable points to help me reflect if my lesson (shared in the previous blog) was successful; but most importantly how it can be improved for the next time.
My grade eight students go to an academic field trip every year. They visit Chiang Mai; a city about 700 km north of Bangkok in Thailand. In their trip they get to choose different activities: learning about organic farming in an ecological day trip, or learning about Thai rural life by staying with a local family in a small town, or enjoying Thai northern nature; these among other choices. Using this experience allowed me to make cross curricular connections; so I incorporated it in our current unit.
Combining our unit standards and integrating technology standards from NETS we came up with a formative assessment. The class became a tourism agency and using digital story telling students promoted tourism in Thailand; specifically Chiang Mai. Because the students travelled to different areas and experienced different activities, they were able to share facts and experiences.
The organization included checklists which outlined what needed to be included, a rubric which had three criteria: tech use, content and language.Students also created a sketch of their stories, reviewed the use of creative commons, and decided on a digital tool. Interestingly I had most working with photostory3 and a few with imovie. I set up the class in groups which included at least one student who was confident in using creative commons and a student who was confident with using photostory3 or imovie. These "experts" helped their groups with any questions before they came to me. This allowed me to concentrate on supporting my students with the language; as students collaboratively worked with technology.
The highlight of all this task is that it all happened in the target language. Most importantly, it was not only I speaking Spanish to students; it was them speaking among themselves to get their tasks done!
In a pre-observation meeting for this Coetail class; I shared a lesson which did not only focus on language teaching and content, but it also integrated technology in alignment to the standards of the unit. The pre-observation conference helped me to reflect about the objective of my lesson and the value of integrating technology in my class; with the constant question "how do I support my students to use Spanish? With this in mind;some ideas worth paying close attention came up: the value of teaching about technology in the target language; students are not only learning about the language; it is the means of communication. Also, students adopting new roles to support others who need help with technology and the opportunity for students to show in a creative way; which makes sense to them; their understanding of content and language. Personally, I found value in a pre-conference to put my thoughts out loud and reflect on the purpose of what I bring to my class.
Several months ago the idea of integrating technology in my language class was a bit intimidating. It was not only about learning how to use a tool; but also making it meaningful to what my students need, and trying to match it to standards and benchmarks so that it does not become "one more project". It was also overwhelming to think about the logistics of using technology: not enough laptops, the connection, classroom management..!
Technology has become a part of my teaching in different ways. It is a means of communication with my students and parents through our class blog. It is is our connection to other Spanish speakers and learners around the world, or a tool for my students to independently improve their language skills. It is an alternative for students with different learning styles, or a portfolio to show language growth through school years and beyond. I confess at the beginning I spent a lot of time, learning and planning to use technology; but I also have to say it pays off when it works.
To share this experience; my next blog posts will explain a pre-conference meeting for an observation of a lesson integrating technology in my language class, a reflection of the lesson and comments on the post observation meeting.