Monday, February 10, 2014

Student portfolios with Evernote

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?

Source: Stefan Kühn
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?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

QR codes + Google docs + stations = a more fun exam review

Paul Wilkinson
June is one of my favorite times of year: school is wrapping up, the days are long, the weather in Connecticut is beautiful, and summer vacation is tantalizingly close. One thing I really can't stand about June, though, is final exams. Devoting much of class time to explicit grammar review and test-taking strategies bores me and bores my students too, just at the time when we all really need to do something fun, interesting and engaging while still preparing students adequately for the upcoming tests. Enter our trusty friend, the QR code!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What happens when the iPad begins to collect dust?

Do you ever get so busy that anything nonessential gets pushed to the back of your mind? Of course you do. Me too. A quick review of the last six weeks includes: wedding planning, a new teaching job for the fall, an imminent move out of state, mentoring five first-year teachers... not to mention AP exam preparation for two classes, curriculum development, final exam revisions, myriad professional responsibilities... needless to say, my mind has NOT been on this blog, and unfortunately I've been a bit on auto-pilot in my iPad class as well. But I shook myself out of my glassy-eyed end-of-year semi-coma this week.