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?

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.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A picture tells a thousand words

Example of student work

My goodness, how time flies. Sadly, no March posts, but we'll start April off right with a new idea for using iPads in the classroom.

The Spanish Civil War is one of my favorite topics, but I find it hard to teach to my Spanish 4 students, who are mostly sophomores and do not have a lot of the content background to understand the historical context or significance of that time period in Spain. I've struggled with this for years, but this year I think I finally found a good way for students to get the general idea while staying in the target language.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Tips for Managing Your 1:1 Classroom

I wrote this post for Fractus Learning this month (which was my first guest blog post ever!). I don't want to be accused of recycling posts--which I guess I am doing--so instead of 4 tips, you, dear blog readers, get 5 tips.

How do you manage a classroom where every student has a mobile device?
When my high school Spanish students first got their iPads, they were paying more attention to them than to each other, and it seemed like every time I tried to integrate a new app or strategy into a lesson, it would fail spectacularly. A year later, my 1:1 classroom usually works like clockwork. Here are four lessons I learned the hard way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Social reading

Classroom #1: After reviewing key vocabulary in a pre-reading activity, students read sections of a story independently and fill out a graphic organizer as they go along. When they finish with a section, the teacher checks their understanding of the text by assessing what they wrote and drew on the organizer, and then gives them the go-ahead to move on to the next section if they have comprehended the gist of the story. Near the end of the class period, students move into small groups to discuss comprehension questions, and then they reflect on the day's learning on an exit slip.

Classroom #2: Students read a story on their iPads. They respond to questions and polls posed by their teacher within the text; after they've answered the question, they can view their classmates' responses. The teacher views responses in real time and intervenes when individual students have misconceptions or trouble with comprehension. Students look up unknown words with the tap of a finger. Small-group discussions and exit slips are also a feature of this classroom.

Which one is better?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The myth of the digital native

Source: Anthony22 at en.wikipedia

I had some interesting interactions with my students today. In several of my classes they did a crowdsourcing activity to gain background knowledge on different topics quickly. One student began his search by going to Bing, typing in "Google" in the search bar, clicking on the first result and then entering his search criteria when he finally got to Google. Many students wrote the question I had asked them in the search bar, worded in just the way I had asked them (but in English), instead of using keywords. Another student was convinced that the website she had found had no information, because she did not scroll down to see the table of contents, and the first hyperlink on the page led to an unrelated topic. In my 1:1 iPad class, both the students and I struggled with hiccups in document workflow on Showbie (see my post about the usually seamless app here). In all of these classes, I was not able to maintain speaking only Spanish as we troubleshooted these issues, and I know other content was sacrificed today due to the inefficient way that the technology was being used. It makes me wonder: In a 21st-century classroom, how can technology support learning, rather than get in the way? And how can teachers and administrators make sure that students know how to use technology effectively?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adventures in apps

It's been a while since I published my last post--health, holidays and midterms all have taken a toll on my blog writing lately. But now that midterms are mostly behind me, I'm ready to focus on second semester, and I'm excited to explore a couple of promising new apps.