Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cell phones during exams? YES!

All of my Spanish II and III students used cell phones on their final exams this year. And I was so proud of them!

They had been using their cell phones (specifically, QR code scanning apps like this one) all semester to access listening and reading resources. I wrote an earlier post about the benefits of doing this. The final exam, of course, had a hefty interpretive proficiency section as well as speaking and writing prompt, so the students were really just continuing to do what they had been doing for months in class.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What if we treat technology like a foreign language?

Photo by Roland O'Daniel license
Recently, I had a thought-provoking experience in my Spanish 3 class. The students had been struggling with using Explain Everything to make screencasts. They'd been frustrated with the app; they were saying things like "I'm not good at technology," "Technology hates me," "I suck at this," and "Why is this so hard?" I felt badly that the assignment wasn't going as smoothly as I'd anticipated, but I also wondered why some of my students were so anti-technology. Why did they lack curiosity about how the technology worked? Why were they reluctant to engage in trial-and-error as they created their screencasts? Why did they seem unreceptive to the possibilities that this technology made available to them? And then I thought that those qualities I wanted to see in them--curiosity, risk-taking, open-mindedness--are the same characteristics that I'm hoping to cultivate in them as language learners. Could we approach learning new technologies in the same way that we approach learning languages? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Student portfolios with Evernote

From evernote.com
It took me a while to become an Evernote convert. When I first made an account in 2011, I didn't touch it for about six months because I didn't know what to do with it. It's so versatile and easy to personalize that it seems like a blank slate at first, and if you don't have a clear purpose for using it, it can be hard to realize its utility. But once I began using it to develop unit and lesson plans (see my previous blog post), I became a hard-core junkie. I use the Evernote app every day, mostly to create lesson plans, clip useful websites and PDFs, and take notes at meetings and conferences. This year I've begun using it to create student portfolios, with some mixed results.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How can we use QR codes to promote proficiency?

My students listen to authentic audio using their cell phones.
Ever since I learned about QR codes, I've been slowly adding them to my repertoire. If I create an interpretive task based on a web resource, I make a QR code of the website using a site like this one and insert the QR code right into the worksheet, which I then distribute to my students in print form. I've also projected the QR code onto the TV or projector screen, which students scan right from their seats using a QR code scanning app on their smartphones. Lately I've been using these codes to link to audio or video resources for listening comprehension activities.

How is this better than just playing the clip myself?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How do you teach empathy?

In a world where information is abundant and free, traditional teaching practices must change, as well as our conceptions of what to teach. For a foreign language educator, this means that the grammar drill-and-kill style of teaching has to finally die. Students can find translations and conjugations anytime, anywhere. The majority of our communication will most likely be virtual, instantaneous, and informal (and probably is already). How does language learning fit into this new paradigm? Grammar and vocabulary will always be essential. But there's an app for that! If you strip away everything that can be taught or learned via a computer program, what is the essence of learning a language? What's urgent about it? What is something that only I, a human being, can offer my students? I think that every teacher should be asking themselves these questions and answering them for themselves. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

So, do iPads really improve student learning?

Flickingerbrad via Flickr
For three semesters, from January 2012 to June 2013, I collected student data. I surveyed my high school students weekly or biweekly and kept a record of their responses. I analyzed midterm and final exam scores, both cumulative and by skill (speaking, writing, reading, listening, grammar). I compared yearlong averages for students in both the iPad class and the traditional class. Do you know what I found? 

Friday, August 23, 2013

From "summer brain" to "school brain"

I had a big summer. A huge summer. I got married, and I moved to New York City with my husband, where I'll be starting at a new school in less than a week while he begins a master's program at Columbia Teachers College. For two months, my brain has not been in school mode. All I've been thinking about is wedding-related rigamarole and the totally mind-consuming process of packing, moving, changing my name, etc. Up until Tuesday, I hadn't read anything education-related (not even my Twitter feed) or communicated in Spanish or tested new apps since the middle of June. I'm no stranger to "summer brain"--taking a mental break from school for the month of July--but my total detachment from the education world this summer feels deeper than years past. How am I going to get my "school brain" back?