Friday, March 26, 2010

What do students say?

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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Using digital storytelling

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!