Monday, February 22, 2016

Creating a Teaching Network

As I looked at the first list of blogs I found several to be of interest.
I chose to follow:

1) El Mundo de Birch
   because it included tons of tools for language learners to find and practice information and also
   to create great, simple products with what they learn.

    because it had shared a variety of ways specifically to use iPads which is our school's choice of

3) Bryan Kandel's TPRS
     because it had great ideas for using Google Voice to help students get comfortable with speaking.

I would like to increase my scope, especially using Pinterest, because I am comfortable using it and it has so many great ideas explained in a short easy to use format.  I am sure I will find more as I go and will add them to my network.

I chose to use Feedly because you provided a good tutorial I could follow and it looks easy to navigate with a bit of practice.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

ACTFUL, Connected Learning, and the 4C's

The ACTFUL Position Statement
     As I read the position statement from ACTFUL, I was pleased to see that it fit right in line with my hopes and beliefs about the World Language Classroom.  There was nothing with which I could disagree.   I sense that the majority of instructors also very much appreciate this understanding of technology in relation to the acquisition of a new language.
     I had the unfortunate experience of watching the Middle School exploratory program in my district dissolve.   I had poured my passion and experience for sharing the beginning excitement of learning a new language into this program for 18 years.  When the French teacher retired, the district decided to replace her with a Level 1 OddesyWare package and a teaching assistant to monitor the classroom.  As can be imagined, it was a real disaster!  The students were confused and frustrated, the assistant was at wits end because there was no ability to connect with or help the students, the principal in charge of grading was overwhelmed since none of the students understood the curriculum and parent phone calls kept pouring in.  Needless to say, after 1 year of this, they totally cancelled the French/German/Spanish classes.  In their place they started a Skills for Digital Aged Learners class.  I was very disappointed to lose the language program, but I was privileged to be part of the new curriculum for a year.  I learned so much, and with the collaboration of our team of teachers and assistants, had the opportunity to introduce the 4C's to the  students through PBL projects connected to the core subjects.  It was an experience that truly enriched my understanding and teaching skills!
     Now, I am back in a Spanish classroom at the High School.  I have started to put both sets of skills and passion for facilitating positive learning experiences together in this new setting.  That is why I was so pleased to be able to enroll in this course.  This story leads to my choice of a key sentence in the Position Statement: ALL ACTIVITIES SHOULD BE INTERACTIVE, MEANINGFUL, AND COGNITIVELY ENGAGING.  Without a qualified instructor to facilitate, lead, and encourage the students, no real learning takes place!   In fact, the atmosphere is destructive and may result in a worthwhile program being discontinued, to the detriment of students who would benefit from it.  
     A language classroom is first and foremost about communication.  Technology can be a marvelous tool to increase that communication and also add the other 21st century skills.  It needs to be quality technology managed by a competent instructor if it is to enhance the critical learning of the students.
     The only point that I feel may be missing from the Position Statement is that there needs to be time, connection, and support for the language instructor to build a set of technology tools and work with them so that the students receive the most benefit from their use.  That is what I would say is my goal for technology in my classroom.  I need time to explore technology tools that will work for my students and for me.  I need time to learn how they are best utilized and how their contribution to my classroom will make my students'  learning experience Interactive, Meaningful, and Cognitively Engaging.

Connected Learning
Connected Learning not only acknowledges, but celebrates the chance for students to learn in as many ways as possible.  It encourages links to not only teachers, but other students, academic experts,  and people and experiences around their community and around the globe.  With the proper technology tools in place, this opens unlimited opportunities that some students may have only dreamed of before.  It allows students to become equals on the academic stage and encourages them to make their dreams of success in their area of passion come true.
     I recently read a profound statement that spoke of education in a whole new light. "We should not ask our kids what they want TO BE when they grow up.  Instead, we should ask them what problem in the world do they want TO SOLVE."  This simple sentence sums up the idea of Connected learning for me.  The students will be focused and excited about using their special and unique talents, in collaboration with others to make a real world difference!   There can be no better learning than that!
     Because I was able to interact with students in a PBL format last year, I have come to truly appreciate how it changes the vision of the students from doing a teacher-led task, to really exploring their own interests through the use of the subject matter. I do a semester-long PBL project in both Spanish 1 and 2.  My second year students pick a Spanish-speaking country of their choice.  They start from the beginning of a "virtual trip" and explore the many attractions, events, and festivals the country has to offer to its tourists.  They find appropriate flights, hotels, transportation, and restaurants, in addition to native foods to pass-times to enjoy on their voyage.  They then put together a digital presentation of their trip, using simple Spanish, to share with the class.  The students have impressed me with their attention to detail about their journey and their creative talents in displaying their trip to the class.  Almost every one of them says, "I can't wait until I can actually take this trip for real!"  It is my hope that this "learning experience" ignites the passion for learning and for sharing the amazing talents they have to offer. 
     I hope to add to this project in the future.  I would like to have the students learn about daily life in their chosen country and possibly "virtually visit" a school.  I would hope to be able to use technology to set up meetings with students in that country to get a first-hand view of life as a young person in their culture.  I would also like to find a larger audience than just the class to view the projects and support the learners' effort.

21st century skills
    The 4 C's that will allow our students to become avid life-long learners and successful contributors to our world are Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity.  
The jobs and careers that our current students will need to be prepared for in the future are often not even thought of today.  We can't send our young adults out into the world with a finite set of knowledge and skills that will be obsolete before they even settle in behind their new desk.  We need to provide our learners with a set of skills that encourage them to keep learning, developing, and growing to meet the needs of the future.  Because both the work and the workplace are being redefined, our students need to be good critical thinkers,  They need to be be flexible and ready to evaluate and synthesize information to solve problems with their teammates.  Knowing how to collaborate with others, looking to maximize each person's strengths for the greater good, will be essential to a successful career.  The need to communicate positively and effectively with others, both like ourselves and different from ourselves, will also be a requirement.  Their world is truly a global one and sharing ideas and needs in a productive way is required to create a positive environment where great minds can flourish.  And finally, creativity will be what really allows us to be the problem-solvers that can make a difference in our community, country and world.
     I try to incorporate the use of all these skills when my students work on projects.  My Spanish 1 classes research a famous Hispanic person of their choice.  They think critically about what information needs to be shared and the best way to research that information.  They collaborate with a partner to choose appropriate facts and to decide how to share them. They communicate their findings through a creative presentation to catch the interest of their peers.  
     I find this project time consuming and students still need direction on how to research and how to be creative in the presentations.  But it is well worth the efforts because they truly "own" the final project and learn so much more by working through the problems on their own with minimal direction from the instructor.  I do my best not to give them answers, but to lead them to think critically about their own process of discovery.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tech Assessment at my School

Central York School District is committed to providing technology to its students that will encourage and enhance every students' learning and competence in 21st Century Skills.  All of our students have access to technology in the classroom and every student from grades 4 to 12 is provided with an iPad-mini to use both in and out of school.  As of next year, all teachers will be using Schoology to organize their classes and keep track of students' assignments and progress.  This tool will be linked with the Skyward Student Management System. It will connect all aspects of the students' records including grading, attendance, classes, educational history, etc.
Most of our students are comfortable using technology and many tools are available to them.  They actively engage with  Google Drive, Notability, Book Creator, iMovie and any other apps they are comfortable using.  They have the App Store and can download any App they choose to  help them accomplish their learning goals. (A specific student's iPad can be "locked" to particular apps if it is found that they are impeding the educational goals of the student.)  If a teacher wants students to use a free app that might be "blocked" they can request that the Tech Department check it out and then open it for that teacher's class. If necessary, the teacher can use their own computer, which is connected to our classroom projectors, to show a particular site.  Our Media Center provides a variety of Data Bases that students can access for research. And there are several collaboration rooms and a One Button Studio for students to use to create more advanced digital projects.  Our Tech Department is wonderful and is always ready to help the teachers and students alike when there are hardware or software issues. 

As I spoke with a German teacher at my school that uses a variety of technology tools, I found that we do many similar things.  There are several projects that she assigns to her students within each unit that require them to show understanding of the content through a digital presentation.  Usually, the individual student or group  can choose the app that works best for them.  She currently uses Moodle to organize her class content, assignments, and assessments.  She will be required to transfer her classes to Schoology next year since it will become the School District standard.  Her students do projects ranging from presenting basic conversations to  making a family tree with descriptions of family members, to showing a variety of native foods and talking about them.  Most often her students choose to use iMove, Book Creator, Google Presentation, Power Point, and Prezi.  The digital projects may take an extra class period and some time outside of class but the additional time is not excessive and well worth the effort. The fact that all of our students have email and Google Drive makes the transfer of information or assignments very easy for both the teachers and learners.   One way she uses technology, that I have not tried, is to require students to retell a short story from their TPRS experience on a phone message to her.  They call her Google Voice phone number and leave her a message with the story in German they have worked on in class.  I think this would be a great idea and I hope to implement something similar next school year.

The other teacher I connected with was an English teacher.  She uses many tech tools, focusing on the Google Drive apps for communication and collaboration and the Data Bases for research.  She has a very organized class in Schoology and allows her students to work at their own pace, using completion folders.  She is able to scaffold for her Learning Support students by assigning certain assignments to specific students. This method is private each student is only aware of their own individual work load.  It is a very efficient and respectful way to deal with differences.  Her students are able to produce quality work with the help of the teacher and other students through the collaboration of Google Docs and the ability to revise and improve their product.  They think critically to share meaningful feedback to their classmates and feel good about what they have learned and can impart to to others.  The technology allows for a much improved product and our Management Systems provide easy access to help and submission of assignments.

I have learned a great deal about possible future projects and goals from my colleagues and this assignment.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

SAMR vs. TPACK - What works for me?

This model is one that our school district has been discussing, using, and encouraging for several years.  It is simple and shows a pattern for progress that adds technology skills step by step.  It makes sense to me because I have looked at my instruction using this model and have worked to move from simple Substitution toward Redefinition.  

Flikr - 8448164657_d2c5abae5f_o.jpg

As SAMR moves a student from substitution to higher forms of understanding,  it encourages learners to analyze and evaluate information and to create using what they have learned.  It connects well to the 4 C's (21st Century skills).   When students have the opportunity to communicate what they know with fellow classmates and then to share their skills through collaboration, they are encouraged to think critically about their knowledge and then to create something that shows their understanding.  This creation is something they can be proud of and is often a product they can share to help or encourage others.  
It is easy for me to see a progression from Substitution, adding a technology like putting a worksheet on line,  to Augmentation where the students can easily use web information and apps to enhance their product, like using the WordReference dictionary to find words and improve their work. 
When they use Google Docs or other means to collaborate they can move to Modification. And finally, when they are ready to creatively share their own original work, they have moved to Redefinition.  

This model ends with a similar result to SAMR but is organized in a different way.  It combines Content, Pedagogy, and Technology to "enhance teaching and support learning more deeply and effectively".  The  Content refers to the facts, concepts and theories that are the basis of any course.  The Pedagogy is the framework of the learning theory by which the instructor teaches his/her subject.  The Technology is the set of tools, including hardware, software, and apps, that layer into the other two domains to enhance their ability to have students learn in innovative and exciting ways.   It allows the teacher to delve deeply into exactly what and how he/she teaches and then to search for technology that will support that style and provide more efficient ways of learning and more choices for learners to show what they know.  TPACK is the perfect blend of all three domains and provides opportunities for both students and teachers to be comfortable with the new and improved process of learning.

My Thoughts on the Models

I see the value of both the SAMR and TPACK models.  I believe that they both lead to positive results for the teacher and the students.  If I had to choose a system by which to evaluate my choices for progress in my classes I believe I would lean toward the SAMR model.  This is partly because I am more comfortable with this system since my school district has widely adopted it.  I think that it is also partly because I easily see this as a linear progression of teaching practices that logically adds more supportive technology step by step.  I include a Project Based Learning unit in each of my courses and I have watched students begin to truly take the responsibility of and for their own research and creative product.  It is exciting to see them prepare, plan and execute something all their own and be proud of their accomplishments!
I have also tried to include smaller projects that fit both the Modification and Redefinition categories.
My Spanish 1 students use the free Toontastic App to create a basic conversation and record it with the cartoon characters that move around the screen while they talk.  This fits the goal of redefinition.  They also use the free PicCollage App to create a collage using images of things they like and don't like  with the correct Spanish sentence to say how they feel about each image. This project fits the Modification category.
My Spanish 2 students use iMovie to create a restaurant scene where customers order food and discuss their preferences while conversing with each other and their waiter.   They use Book Creator to tell the story of a fictional character's daily schedule using reflexive verbs.  These are both using Redefinition to integrate the available technology.  

Continuing Enhancements

As my Spanish 2 students are completing their unit on foods, I would like to have them use technology to show how to create a recipe of a native food they might try in the country they will "virtually visit" through their PBL project.  I have set up the idea and suggested that they could actually use iMovie to record themselves creating the recipe, or they could use another method to show photos of the ingredients and final product while they record themselves narrating through the visuals.  Most of our students have been using educational technology for more than a year so they are comfortable with trying new things and finding what works for them. I am not sure how long this will take or if the students will want to work at home or during class.  I do not expect any really difficult issues but the minor problems of an uncharged iPad or an absent partner may slow us down a bit.  Many of my students say they appreciate the opportunity to show their skills in a creative way rather than simply "testing" to show knowledge.  The active engagement makes it more interesting and they remember it better.
I would like to try something with my Spanish 1 class that I haven't done before. I have noticed that they have real trouble understanding the connection of Subject Pronouns and the conjugations of SER which they learn in the first unit.  I would like to try to have them use Educreations  to make a screencast that explains this connection and how to choose the correct conjugation.  I believe this will encourage them to think critically and truly come to a better understanding of this basic concept.  It will also help me understand what they don't understand!  The Educreations app is readily available to us and many of the students have used it previously.  If there are any issues, I would guess that it would be the difficulty of the concept and figuring out how to explain it that will take the most time.  I do think this is worthy of the time it will take and I will look forward to encouraging my students to become critical thinkers. 


As I read through the numerous wonderful ideas in this lesson for technology integration, I discovered many new projects I would like to try with my learners.  I am excited about the possibilities!
I would like to  look into using MoveNote with Google Presentation.  I have had several students try to employ Google Presentations but were unable to add their voices.  MoveNote may be a great answer to this problem.
I am sure that I will have many more questions as I try new apps and projects.  I look forward to working with my colleagues and  students to solve these challenges.