Tweeters can be Teachers Too!

Twitter is more than a site about loading up on all of the celebrity gossip and letting the world know about your daily routines.  Did you know there exist twitter chats where you can discuss topics with others from all over the world interested in said topic?  You can do this through “hash-tagging” the name of the chat, for instance, #langchat. This is the chat I attended and I couldn’t believe how much information I gained from it.  Basically these chats are similar to you searching the internet for ideas or inspiration but instead of talking to Mr.Google, you can talk to actual people who specialize in this area you’re interested in, or perhaps just average Joes and Janes who have just as good feedback for you.  I found some awesome links that will definitely be useful to me in the future. I followed a few difference chats and gathered an incredible amount of ideas. I also checked out out the Diigo langchat for more inspiration.

Some of these links include: Bonjour Moggin -a cute site where students practicing translating English phrases to French.

I also found an interesting article about why you should  Pay attention in your language class

One of the chats I followed was on suggestions of what to have your class do on planned substitute days.  Here, I discovered a great website for teachers: Teachers pay teachers One of the ideas I liked was having students create a poster that represents a specific famous quote in French by a famous Francophonie, such as Victor Hugo.  There were so many great ideas on this site.  This goes to show that one link online can lead to several others.  Another idea I liked was the verb fortune teller:

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I absolutely consider these chats to be a form of professional development.  There is some great resource-sharing that goes on during these chats.  You would most likely be talking with some real professionals as well. ACTFL frequently contributes to the chats and even posts dates and information about future or past conferences.  There are chats out there for everyone, whether you are a LOTE educator like me, in TESOL, history, science, technology, art history or in physical education.  I know this chat inspired me, hopefully you can be inspired too!

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Connecting with ePals

ePals is awesome! This site can connect your classroom with another classroom from around the world.  For LOTE teachers or TESOL teachers, this site is a goldmine!  It is an excellent way to fulfill the culture and language exchange learning standard.  I know of teachers who have done this and it is very interesting to me!  I do not yet have my own classroom as I’m still a full-time grad student at this time but I can definitely see using this site in my classroom one day.  This isn’t however, something I would do in my first year of teaching, maybe not even in my second.  Once I become comfortable in the school and with my yearly curriculum,. I would definitely love the idea of connecting my classroom once or twice a week or for a few months, (for example) with another classroom in France or Quebec.  Quebec would be easier since there would not be a time difference for me, but France would probably be more interesting and rewarding to my students.

The site also can connect you with peer and teacher mentoring outlets.  There are also projects posted on the site that could be of interest to other teachers.  The project could last an entire year or for only a few weeks.  Depending on the exchange at hand, you could find a classroom to meet your specific needs.  This site isn’t only useful for LOTE classrooms.  History, English, political science, economics classrooms could all profit from this link.

Give your Learning a BackFlip!

What does it mean to “flip leaning”?  To be perfectly honest, I have heard the term used a few years ago, but before investigating the Flipped Classroom site, I wasn’t really sure what it was.  Basically, it is the idea of bringing most of the classroom work to the online world and using in-class time for collaborating, more personalized interactions with the teacher, and hands-on tasks.  Lectures are relatively nonexistent and lessons are taught through viewing videos provided by the teacher, doing readings, and expressing opinions online.  The idea is that students are learning by doing.  The Flipped Classroom site is a great outlet for classroom-flipping teachers out there to collaborate and build ideas together,  When a teacher has a problem or is unfamiliar with the flipped classroom, he/she can post in a help forum or in their content page what the issue is they are having or to simply ask the general flipped community a question.
Flipped Learning

What is my personal opinion of flipped learning?  I can see this being successful if the entire school was on board with this learning style and if all students in the school had access to the internet and a computer.  Not all students will remember to make the time to do their work online at home if all of their other classes revolve around what occurs in the classroom.  I also think this type of learning environment requires students with a lot of intrinsic motivation and who are rather responsible. Furthermore, I believe this type of learning would be more successful at higher level classes, perhaps French 4 or 5 classes or even at the college level.  I can see using this flipped learning for a class project or special activity.  I would perhaps try this method to add some spark to the year.  I would let the students know ahead of time that for the next month, for example, we would be experimenting with moving the classroom to the online world.  All homework assignments would be online, such as writing blog posts or reactions to videos I would post.  I would use VoiceThread with the students for speaking and listening practice.  In class, we would discuss what occurred online and perhaps play some of the recordings or read some of the posts in class. At the end of the month, I would have the students take a survey of how they liked or disliked the change in classroom pace and depending on the results, I may or may not continue with the flipped classroom.  However, I do find it to be a very interesting idea and plan to try it one day.  I wouldn’t “flip” my classroom for the entire year but I would definitely give it a try.

The flipped classroom Would you flip your classroom?

A Learner is Like a Weed

Learners, like plants, have an unlimited potential to grow in their knowledge.  They start small, as a seed and with a healthy environment provided to them by their teacher, their peers, and their own individual motivation, they will one day grow into a plant.  In this post, I will be discussing what can be concluded from an article Digital Age Learning Theory and the following video on Human Nature and Learning.  According to Siemens’s article on the digital age, “Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.”  However, he also states that knowledge can have a “half life”.  “The “half-life of knowledge” is the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete.”   We learn constantly in every situation we are placed in, in our workplace, with our friends, in school obviously and when we make good or poor decisions, we learn from our mistakes. Therefore, we need to recognize that although our knowledge can and should continue to grow, it can also be lost should we neglect to further our knowledge.  The types of environments that allow us to further our knowledge can be key to our continuous growth.

Why did I use a “weed” as a symbol for a learner?  You may be wondering since weeds are generally thought of as negative and destructive.  On the contrary, weeds can grow faster than many other plants and when left to grow, they really can gain grounds and conquer all other plants around them.  Oftentimes, we don’t allow a weed to get that big, but if we did, I wonder how big it truly could grow.  In addition, when weeds are combined with other weeds, the land around them could very well be dominated.  Weeds love being around other weeds and they seem to become more powerful in quantity.  Do you see where I’m going with this when compared to the learner?  Learners have so much potential to grow when placed in an environment where they can grow and build off a combination of ideas.  As this blog centers on the power of the internet in the classroom, let’s imagine these ideas to be found online.  Where online? The possibilities are endless; we have blogs, facebook, twitter, pinterest…the list goes on.  As stated in previous posts, a key element to the online world in expanding our knowledge is that any type of learner can flourish there.  The timid weed who tends to remain planted on the outskirts of the garden may find his/her voice when only given the chance and replanted in a more relaxed setting where he/she can privately soak in the sun and drink in the rain.  This “more relaxed setting” being the internet.

As stated several times by George Siemens’s video post, humans “need to externalize; we can’t really have meaningful private dialogue” without externalizing our thoughts.  In order to “birth our thoughts”, we need to externalize them.  What does this mean exactly?  I personally interpret this as the fact that our human nature needs to have a place to express our inner thoughts and private speech that is outside of our verbal speech.  Artists are perfect examples of this phenomenon. They express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas through their artwork.  Learners need to express themselves outside of the classroom in a new environment, perhaps the internet?  He also makes the point that “many individuals together can better foster ideas in an external fashion in order to create something more meaningful.”  This statement connects nicely with my weed analogy. Together in abundance, learners, like weeds are more powerful and have more potential to create something beautiful.

Pinterest VS. DIIGO

I’ve had a pinterest account for quite some time and so have been familiar with it but by no means an expert.  DIIGO was completely new to me and have spent a few hours exploring it and figuring it out but have still so much t understand.  From a comfort perspective, I prefer Pinterest.  From an educational stand point, I think I still prefer pinterest as well. I find it to be extremely user-friendly and it is so easy to search and find interesting ideas and tricks relating to whatever your search of choice may be.  I adore viewing all of the different French-themed bulletin boards, posters, songs, quotes and ideas for a classroom setting.  It’s an incredible tool and I hope to use many of the ideas I’ve found on various albums.   My DIIGO and Pinterest pages can be accessed here.

Some examples of what you could find on Pinterest if looking for French education ideas include:

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I Love this poster which states the classroom “golden rules”.  

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This collage containes different ideas for reflecting on different artists’ works.  Students state the artist and the piece of work they choose by this artists and their opinion of it.

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All foreign language classrooms need posters with useful expressions in the target language, (TL). 

Honestly, I cannot be 100% sure how the “tagging” process works with Pinterest but I think depending on how you describe the image you post, the album name you organize it in; this will all reflect on how it can be searched by others.  It is extremely easy to search a topic.  The search “French” could come up with options as vast as cuisine, literature, the city of Paris to Educational tools using French.   DIIGO certainly has very organized tagging procedures.  The website seems to revolve around tagging.  You can list multiple tags for the links you share.  You can search a tag and find many different websites that relate to and contain this tag.

DIIGO is a great site to find links to topic you’re interested in and the resources available are amazing.  You can comment on other’s lists through DIIGO but you can’t seem to do the same through pinterest.  However, you can send posts/links/images to your friends on pinterest.  You can also follow other users through pinterest and be exposed to their postings.  Pinterest is all about sharing ideas through images and it is an instantaneous process to share and add pins to your own page.  Likewise with DIIGO only you are sharing links which usually include, blogs, websites, and useful resources to whatever it is you’re researching.  For both sites you are given suggestions of other images/bulletins/collages or links that might interest you depending on what it is you were searching.

I’m a full believer in “a picture states 1,000 words” and so this may be the reason why I prefer to learn through images, collages, and quotes rather than lengthy articles.  This also would explain another reason why I prefer Pinterest since its whole dynamic is based on images and collages.  I know for certain that I would continue to use Pinterest as it is a quick way to find something inspiring.  I cannot say for sure that I will continue with DIIGO but I do like having access to many of the links I have found.  How can one decide which sites to keep when organizing one’s educational links?  There are just simply too many!  This reminds me of Charles DeGaulle’s famous quote “How can one govern a country that has over 246 varieties of cheese?”

chevre DeGaulle

The Future of Education

What is the future of our education system? How has it developed and progressed throughout the years? Do most people realize to what extent it has progressed?  I can tell you, after viewing some of the videos provided in my LAI class syllabus that I do not even realize how much technology is changing our educational system.  I will discuss some of my feelings and reflections from watching the following two videos:  Future of Education and 21st Century Education in New Brunswick, Canada 

The prior was interesting because the people in the video were very “real” people.  They didn’t appear to be reading from a script or trying to sell anything.  They were just expressing their opinions and feelings on the internet world and how it is changing rapidly in our society.  I found the references to video games very appropriate.  I am not a fan of video games personally and I never have been despite the fact that both of my brothers were big “gammers” growing up.  However, a very good point was made about these games.  As stated in the video, children will pick up the game for the first time and more often than not, they will fail relatively quickly.  Despite the failure, they will pick it up and try again, slowing gaining more time and improving.  What does this tell us about our generation and children engaged in technology? They are capable of being self-taught.  Just like video games, students are able to learn the internet on their own.  There are so many resources out there that can tech you virtually anything on the internet.  Always wanted to learn to play the ukulele? With a simple google search and two minutes of browsing YouTube, you can teach yourself a new instrument with the click of a button. Learn the Ukulele  The internet provides information when you need to know it and you can “learn something when you have a reason to learn it.”

Colored pencil drawing of my brother at my grandmother's piano.

Colored pencil drawing of my brother at my grandmother’s piano.  I drew this in high school.

After watching a few youtube videos and finding a piano website where he learned to read notes, my younger brother taught himself piano.

Tim playing Piano at Shakespeare & Co in Paris

Tim playing Piano at Shakespeare & Co in Paris

The second video, 21st Century Education in New Brunswick, Canada was a rock and roll-esque video that did not include any people talking to you.  Instead the video was a read-along slideshow containing simple images and a simple message; The technological advancements are moving fast and we need to be prepared to incorporate such technology in the classroom!  The video transported us to the time when we “got up to change the channel” or the time when we “used a payphone”.  The idea here was to show us how far we have come in such little time.  Will students be using texting, facebook or twitter one day in the classroom?  People can even earn a salary online nowadays, not during precise work hours but in their free time. The internet provides us with international communication and collaboration.  I could one day invite friends from France into my classroom though the use of skype.  My students could one day speak with native French speakers in the comfort of their classroom, even though said speakers would still be overseas in Europe.

In summary, the Internet is the foundation to our future in education.  It’s available at our fingertips and waiting to be explored.

 

Blogs Boost Learning

We live in such a technology-run society.  The time when calling was once the main way to communicate with your friends has now been replaced with Twitter, Facebook and internet blogs.  The question we now face as educators is how do we reach out to our students who speak a different language than us, this language being the language of the internet and a technological world.  Can we implement this technology into our classrooms?  Can the internet provide an educational foundation as well? The answer is yes and yes! No matter what the subject is, the internet can be a wonderful educational tool.  In this post I will focus on the use of blogs in the classroom and how we can meet our NYS LOTE Standards through these lessons.  For example, Students will use the TL to write a short personal blog post including their opinions, likes, dislikes and overall reactions to the French commercial and will comment on at least 2 peers’ posts using the TL.

Using blogs in the classroom is a great way for students to communicate with you as a teacher as well as their fellow students in the target language,in my case French.  The difference is that the students would have less pressure to make a mistake in front of their classmates.  They could edit and revise their posts before submitting them and they can take as much time as they need to think it through.  In class, students feel the need to impress their classmates and so either refuse or are hesitant to participate or they say the wrong or inappropriate responses to be “funny”.  It all depends on the student dynamic of course and obviously these things can’t be avoided online either but they can be managed.  Giving students the outlet to express themselves in the comfort of their home or outside of the classroom is something I’d love to provide my students with as a teacher.  In addition, blogging is shown to broaden one’s horizons of thought.  Through writing, students allow their minds to think more abstractly and out of the box, if you will.  This way of thinking is another component I’d encourage in my classroom. All opinions matter to me and I would like to show my students that their opinion is valid and important to not only me but to the other students in the classroom.  By requiring my students to respond to other student’s posts and comments, I would hope to encourage a sense of community and unity among the class.  Students who may not usually talk to other students in the classroom setting would talk to them through the online blog classroom setting.

My students would obviously be required to use the target language, (TL) in at least 85% of the work done online.  Students would be encouraged to correct other student’s grammar and I would stress that making mistakes is a huge and very necessary part of learning a new language.  I would rather my students make several grammatical errors than to not speak or attempt to write at all.  In addition to the students reading and writing in the TL with myself and each other, they would also be exposed to authentic videos and texts from francophone countries that I would provide them with.  These authentic materials can be so easily found online and I’d want the students to see just that.  One of my goals would obviously be for the students to reach out and discover these links on their own time, outside of class. I could post French commercials or advertisements for TV shows that could be found through France TV such as this link which is a short weather forecast summary.  Students could be required to watch the video and then comment on their understanding of the video and what the weather was supposed to be like according to the video.  Depending on the level of the class, the questions and requirements would be different of course.  For example, if this assignment was for a 7th or 8th grade class, their reaction comments would be in English and they would state simple phrases in French on what the weather was like.  One of my other main goals would be by exposing my students to these authentic French materials would be to show the students that it is OK to not fully understand the videos or texts.  The goal is to find an overall understanding.  The exposure is what is important.

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I would also share photos from my own traveling experiences and have students react to them.  The following are photos from Bordeaux.  “What is your impression of this city? What was the weather like when I was there? What types of things do you see in these photos? Use as much of your French vocabulary as possible.”

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Blogging in the classroom not only raises self-awareness and awareness of others but it can also lead to a more unified classroom.  Students would learn to be opinionated, express themselves constructively, take more pride in their work, develop an understanding of other student’s work and feedback, and ideally, students would become more motivated in class.  I would absolutely implement blogging into my classroom curriculum.