Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Future of Foreign Language As We Know It

As I was discussing Spanish III with my niece the other day, it occurred to me that if foreign language teachers continue in the direction many are heading, the future of foreign language as we know it is bleak at best. My niece mentioned how unfriendly her Spanish teacher is; which in turn was the deciding factor as to why she refused to continue in Spanish. The teacher's outlook on teaching Spanish has to do with "old school" beliefs that Foreign Language should be grammatically difficult as a means to challenge students. While I agree we should always challenge our students; it is the manner in which we choose to do so that will make the difference. 
There are many ways to challenge students in foreign language to stimulate higher-level thinking. Challenging students to find solutions to real global situations plaguing the areas being studied is one of my favorites. I love The Flat Classroom Project! It is the ingenious collaborative effort of Viki Davis and many others. If you are unfamiliar with Flat Classrooms, please, do yourself a favor and check out the many amazing things they have accomplished.
Foreign language teachers need to change their mindsets to match the students they teach. If our goal is student learning, how can we truly believe this, if many continue on the same path with little to no change? Students are no longer choosing to continue in the FL they had been studying. Instead, they are taking other electives after they fulfill the minimal requirement.
Here's the problem with the old mindset; kids are not choosing the conventional language classes and now that computer programming is now an option to fulfill the FL credit,  we now have competition; and compete we must!
Stir things up! Here is an amazing site that provides a multitude of ways technology can be used in a foreign language classroom.Use technology and have students LOVE our beloved foreign language!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Adventures at the 2014 TCEA Conference

Sitting here at the 2014 TCEA Conference, (Texas Computer Education Association), has my mind reeling with incredible ideas for the "World languages tech takeover". Yes. I said it. It's about time foreign language classrooms transform into engaging learning spaces. We have the capability of transforming learning as as we know it. If you haven't experienced a TCEA conference (or any tech related conference)...I highly recommend you do! I have heard inspiring stories of learning through the use of Twitter, Animoto, ebooks, classroom design, QR codes, and many many others.
The big focus this year in the Digital Square, thanks to the incredible efforts of Scott Floyd, was learning spaces and how learning can be transformed by creating an environment that is powered by collaboration. I know... I know... many of you are thinking, "Oh great, not another new idea that will soon fizzle out." What I found were incredible individuals with proof that students' learning improves when the learning spaces are inviting and centered on collaboration. There were some intellectual conversations circling this topic; as well as, one of the questions we have all asked at some point; how do we get "buy-in" from administrators and teachers unwilling to give up the traditional classroom design? There is no easy answer but we must be empathetic and work to educate these individuals by collecting and presenting data; lending an empathetic ear; and provide them with a support net to help with transitions. Christian Long and David Jakes facilitated the discussion in regards to learning spaces and design thinking.
It was refreshing to see how willing many administrators present at these sessions want the change for their schools.
Now,at this point, you should have noted a tone of favoritism towards this new concept of how the classroom environment impacts learning. There is a distinct difference between learning spaces and traditional classroom designs. Companies today are searching for innovators and individuals that collaborate well in team settings. 

Let's take a look at the two:


These two photos demonstrate learning spaces. Students are engaged and working collaboratively.


  
The traditional classroom model invites direct instruction which does not foster a collaborative atmosphere.
As a World Language teacher, it is my duty not only to promote language acquisition, but also to provide a learning experience that will produce creative collaborative individuals capable of intellectual thinking and problem solving.  I challenge you to use engaging and thought-provoking lessons to help prepare our students for the future. 

"We have 19th Century equipment, must move into the 21st Century but we still have a 20th Century mindset." -Tom Whitby Do we have a challenge ahead of us? You bet; but anything worth getting takes hard work and determination.

 Be an agent of change! Create a learning space for your students where the seamless use of technology will yield incredible results!



Monday, July 16, 2012

Flipped Classrooms...LOTE Style!

It has been a while since I have posted and there are many new technology resources out there for foreign language teachers! One important concept that is sweeping education today is the flipped classroom. This concept is not about the videos per se, but a way to get students engaged in their learning. For those of you unsure of a flipped classroom, watch this video by Aaron Sams. There are many tools available today to help with videos and animation if this is the road you choose. This one has many resources already created by fellow FL flippers! The key to success is to remember that this concept is not about the video. If you do not have resources to create animated videos, no worries! You can be as successful with a simple video to impart what you want your students to know. A couple things to keep in mind: keep them short and impart humor! Oftentimes, you can find incredible videos on youTube that will serve the pupose perfectly. No need to reinvent the wheel! Another resource for flipping your classroom is the TedEd website. There are fantastic videos you can customize to your teaching. Now, as far as LOTE teacher are concerned, we are still the pioneers. The flipped classroom gives us more application time in the classroom which means more exposure to what we want our students to master. The beauty of this concept is this: when the kids need to apply what they have learned, you are right there to help them so they do not practice incorrectly! It is much more difficult to correct inaccuracy that has been practiced over and over than to teach and model correctly and practice initially. Another advantage is that students can watch the videos, pause, and rewind as many times necessary to help with mastery. The final point I will make in regards to flipping your foreign language classroom is the fact that it caters to all levels of learners. Those that master the concepts quickly can move on. Those who need more time, can spend more time learning and mastering the concepts. It is a win-win for educators. There are many resources for you on the web. I hope you take the time to consider even using this method some of the time in your classroom. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Collaboration Tools

I came across some online sites that are helpful tools to put in your tool belt. The first I found to be especially helpful as it has real time communication for collaboration and allows the users to see the updates as they are being made. typewith.me is a helpful site that will enable your students to work in groups with real time communication.
The next site I found to be especially helpful to language teachers is Google Earth. I know many of you have had exposure to this online tool but may not be too sure as to how you can use it in your language classrooms. One way you can use Google Earth is to create a "tour" to various places in a country as a culture lesson. There are photos you can "fly" into and 3-D buildings you can experience.
Here's one that is a new spin on a favorite of mine, tagxedo.com  This site uses the same concept that Wordle uses but you can create your word "clouds" in shapes. These tools can be used at the beginning of a unit, a warmup activity, student work, Advance organizers, to name a few.
There are many new tools that can be incorporated easily in the foreign language setting. I will post a few more in the coming days.
Think of the units you plan to teach and find ways to incorporate technology into them so that it is as natural as using a pencil.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flickrstorm!!!

Foreign Language teachers (and all others for that matter), you are about to acquire a tool that will allow your students to use photos from Flickr safely! For those of you, like me, we cannot use Flickr in our district and I understand exactly why...now. As I was searching their site for photos on Spain, I came across a rather alarming, but funny photo. Of course, I would be completely dismayed should any of my students come across something like this while searching for useful goodies! I found that Flickrstorm will allow you to search their site (be sure to use the "advanced search" for creative commons photos), you will then take the photo you like and put it in a "tray". You may put multiple photos in this tray. Then you will take the web address for that tray, and share it with your students. This way, they ONLY see the photos YOU added!! I was so excited to find this little nugget and just couldn't wait to share it with you! Flickrstorm is easy to use and above all, safe for your students to have a resource for photos. Just be sure they are creative commons and allowed for student use or educational purposes!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Voicethread

Wow! I came across this little nugget at a Web 2.0 class this week! It has so many great features! Project opportunities abound! This is especially helpful in a foreign language classroom. The students can create artwork and discuss it or they can post a picture and describe it in the target language. You then have his/her classmates make comments on the work also in the target language! What a great way to have students practice at home! Another way to use this tool is to provide prompts and have students make comments and answer. Teachers can leave video comments to provide students with constructive criticism and guidance.
http://voicethread.com/