Tech Integration: "I know it when I see it."

 
 
 cass teaching class.jpg

cass teaching class.jpg

 
 

What does technology integration look like in your classroom?

This is the question posed to us in Course 4. I'm attempting to answer it with an example from my class.

A few years ago I had a 5th grade student, Cass, who wanted to teach others Spanish. Her level of Spanish was amazing and I suggested she teach an online mini course, not having any idea what that could really look like. Cass decided to give it a go and created a Google form seeking potential students and/or classes. I sent out her form via Twitter to spread the word. When someone responded she instantly shared the news with me.

cas email
cas email

A Spanish teacher in Florida wanted her to teach her 6th graders.  Cass composed an email to the teacher in Florida. She cc'd me in on the conversation but the letter came from her. They chose a date. The Florida teacher then sent Cass the material she wanted her to "cover".  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, Cass shared with me the list of 40 plus words present in the traditional end-of-chapter pages.   I was sad, yet not surprised, this teacher was still using such a traditional textbook/approach, but that's another post.  Cass and I decided 40 words weren't practical for one lesson and chose six important verbs from the list.

Cass prepared her lesson. She asked for the names of a few students in the actual class and learned that the class would be visiting the Dali Museum in the near future. She created a lesson that integrated the students in Florida and the new vocabulary with an imaginary story of the theft of an important piece of art at the Dali Museum. She created flashcards with images to use in her lesson. She practiced in front of our class and received valuable feedback from her classmates.

feedback.jpg
feedback.jpg
 

She also came to my 1st grade class and practiced the lesson in front of a bunch of eager 6-year-olds. We then Skyped a friend of mine in Costa Rica who was learning Spanish so she could practice the lesson once more over Skype.

The big day arrived. Cass was ready and excited. I was a little nervous.

cass ready for teaching florida kids.jpg
cass ready for teaching florida kids.jpg

The lesson started fabulously but almost immediately the video feed in Florida went out and Cass couldn't see the class.  She could hear them but she couldn't see them. Fortunately, they could still see and hear her so the lesson continued.  She was slightly rattled but continued like a pro. I would not have remained so poised. Reminds me of last night's episode of The Voice where the contestant continued singing after her mic went out. Cassidy finished her lesson in about 25 minutes and we were both thrilled. The teacher thanked her and then wanted her students to thank her as well. We quickly created an Edmodo group for an easy location to continue the conversation. Each student in Florida wrote a post to Cass thanking her and sharing their new learning.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 10.36.22 AM
Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 10.36.22 AM

Although it was time for lunch and recess, Cassidy stayed in and personally answered each reply.

This lesson represents for me true integration of technology (or redefinition) according to the SAMR framework.

The funny thing...

My biggest take-away with her lesson had nothing to do with technology. It was when the Florida teacher commented to me that she thought it was quite interesting (I believe she meant interesting in good way) that Cassidy made the lesson personal and chose to teach the vocabulary in the context of a story.

This brings me to the TPACK model of technology integration which has always been a bit complicated for me in the past.  As transformative as the technology can and should be, pedagogy and often content trump the technology for me every time.  Even moving up the SAMR scale won't be truly transformative if content and pedagogy aren't addressed in the learning.

Hopefully Cassidy's lesson inspired another WL teacher to possibly look differently at her pedagogy and content.  Then again, the inspiration would never have happened without the amazing possibilities that the technology affords us today.

Could effective technology integration be like Justice Potter's definition of pornography, "you just know it when you see it" but cannot define it?

 

Digital Storytelling in the WL Classroom

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”   ~ Indian Proverb

Storytelling has been a major component of my World Language classroom for many years. New vocabulary and grammatical structures are embedded into stories co-created by myself and the class. Students are the actors: a king, a talking tortilla, an octopus or possibly Shakira.  Stories are an effective vehicle for providing compelling, repetitive and personal comprehensible input.  Because language is acquired through comprehensible input, I have found storytelling effective for both helping students acquire high levels of Spanish as well as creating a close-knit community of risk-taking language learners. 

storyboard 1st.jpg
storyboard 1st.jpg

I have used the traditional paper/pencil/crayon storyboards for years. Quick and easy for assessing Listening Comprehension (Interpretive Mode) and practicing retells (Presentational Mood) but many kids (often the older ones) find drawing difficult.

Digital storytelling is incredibly more powerful in terms of building language proficiency. Digital tools today enable my students to capture our class stories, create their own and easily share them with a wider audience on my website or their blog. The ability to easily work with audio, text, images and now video is amazing!

Here are a few examples of students creating digital stories.

iMovie (above)

Zooburst

Storykit

Go Animate

Voicethread

Course Three inspired me to create a digital story(with iMovie) based on our most current class story. Kim was correct in stating the amount of time required to make an actual video. Embarrassingly, it took me about 10 hours to complete mine and it is no masterpiece. I created it primarily on the plane with no wifi and wanted to experiment with the different features. I'm grateful otherwise I’m sure I would have spent double the time looking for images of Juanes and music from Marc Anthony. I tried, instead, to focus on providing repetitive language and asking a few simple questions to prompt students while viewing.

My only caution, as a language teacher, in using Digital Storytelling is the potential amount of time spent (in class) creating digital stories.  Although most tools are quite easy, there still is a learning curve and I find my students move back to English when learning how to use the tool or program. I'm trying to teach language such as What do I do next? or How did you do that?  to mitigate them moving into English. Also, students and teachers can spend too much time looking for the perfect background, color or image.  I say too much time only because class time is limited and searching for the perfect color of blue will not increase a student's proficiency in the language. That being said, giving time lines to finish stories and encouraging out-of-class creation are two strategies that have worked for me.

Limiting the tools you teach students is alright, too. There are so many options to create digital stories. New tweets everyday, with long lists, appear in my stream.  It is not always about having lots of different tools to tell your story but having a few that work well for you and your class. That way, you are spending more time leveraging the power of the tool, rather than learning a new one. Sometimes I send kids home with a list of choices and they report back as to the best ones.  Ideally, I'd love it if my students came in to my class already having had practice with a fews tools, as they do with a pencil or pen.

Please share examples of digital storytelling in your language classes. I'd love to see them.

Can a digital story land you a job?

teeth pic monkeychicks pick monkey If I walked into your class, what would I see?

Have you ever been asked this during an interview?

When I'm asked, I try and paint a picture in the interviewer's mind so he or she can feel what it would be like to be a student in my classroom.  I've also asked similar type questions when I'm interviewing teachers with the hope of getting an authentic glimpse into their classroom. The last thing I want to see, honestly, is the portfolio sitting on the table.

I may have a better option.  Digital storytelling.

Why not immediately start the cued-up video or quickly send the link if you are on a Skype interview of your class story to answer the above question?

This course again moves my thinking up an iteration.  I thought I had a killer (smaller than most which I know was appreciated)  portfolio 20-years-ago and just three years ago when asked why I thought I was qualified for a certain position, I casually pulled out my iPad showing a quick Keynote (mostly images) as to why. It's almost 2015 and I need the next version to answer to the question.  A digital story is the answer.

"I realized the importance of having a story today is what really separates companies".

— Blake Mycoskie, CEO of Tom's Shoes

I believe this is true for educators as well.  Being able to effectively share your story with a potential employer will set you (and me) apart.

This Animoto video I put together for parents last year during the holidays is a start. Images, short video clips, student work, teacher-student interaction and parent testimonials will be the framework of my class story.

The trick will be keeping it super short. Two minutes is probably the key length. Maybe I'll make two versions: a 3-minute video and a 30-second trailer depending on the purpose and/or stage of the interview process.

I’ll be ready when the next opportunity comes for me to share my story. That is, of course, until the next version is launched.