MAET Y2 Reflection Paper

Participating in the MAET program has been transformative to the way that I approach technology integration in my classroom, as well as to the way that I approach curriculum and classroom design in general. This program has introduced me to a range of guiding principles, technological tools, and professional resources. It has also given me the opportunity to practice my own digital skills in preparation for introducing and implementing them in my classroom and teaching them to my students. I spent some time reflecting on all of the different ways that it has influenced me. You can read more about my growth through this program here.

 

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DreamIT Part III

The Total PACKage

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Context

I teach high school Spanish in a school of approximately 1,300 students. Our building is modern, and the neighborhood is suburban and relatively affluent. My students are white, with notable minorities of Chaldean and Jewish students. Classes typically have between 30 and 36 students, though the classroom itself was designed for 30.

My classroom has a few technological offerings. I have my own laptop computer provided by the school, plus a projector and a Smart Board beginning this upcoming fall. I also have one older-model iPad that runs slowly.  While my students do not have their own computers, nearly all students have an Internet-connected mobile device. These are useful but also problematic, as students are often distracted by text messages from friends, SnapChat, games and other apps. I also have access to a computer lab with reasonably up-to-date computers. However, it is often a challenge to have students use the computer lab in a timely manner, since a trip there requires travel time, time to boot up and log into the computers, and extra time at the end of class to close everything down. Often it is easier to find ways to perform activities without technology at all than to integrate, and so a small technological addition – video cameras available to use in the classroom – would make a meaningful impact.

Content

With this project, I foresee my students accomplishing several content goals. Spanish language content goals include having students communicate in Spanish in a variety of modes. A video project as proposed supports several of these modes: presentational speaking (the video), presentational writing (any text that accompanies the video), interpretive listening (listening to others’ videos) and interpersonal writing (writing and responding to comments). Some of these forms of communication are challenging to meet in a traditional paper-and-pencil classroom. For example, interpersonal writing tends to be difficult to monitor and design in an authentic way, and presentational speaking tends to take up a lot of class time, and instead of interacting with the speaker in Spanish, student audiences are much more prone to disengage or use English to respond to their classmates. This video project proposal would increase the quality of both of these modes.

An additional content objective is that of authentic communication – students are presenting their own ideas in the language, and not merely reading or memorizing a script. Another is a goal of online Spanish communication, which includes learning and adapting language to an online context rather than the more formal writing that typically occurs in a classroom. This can be difficult in a classroom because it is an artificial environment. Connecting students to a true audience opens the door for more authentic communication.

A final content objective is that of connecting to other Spanish speakers outside of the classroom. This is one of the most challenging objectives to meet, since it often requires a personal connection of the teacher to a Spanish-language person or community and significant coordination to integrate that connection into the classroom. A project that is published online is in fact an ideal opportunity to introduce students to the much more accessible online Spanish community.

Technology

I envision having my students using small, portable video recorders to record themselves speaking on assigned topics in Spanish, and then posting the videos to a website or blog. In addition to supporting the content challenges described in the section above, having video recorders available in the classroom resolves several technological and management challenges. For example, while I could have students record using their mobile devices, this causes complications because not every student will have access to a device, capabilities may vary across devices, and troubleshooting is more challenging when everyone is trying to do it differently. Acquiring a class set of pocket video camcorders that I can keep in my classroom will enable students to prepare and record their videos within the same class period. A second class day for students to work in our computer lab to edit their videos and publish them online. Outsourcing some of the computer needs helps us to make the most effective use of time in the computer lab, which we must share with other teachers, and minimize the need to travel from lab to classroom and back again. Having students work on projects that are stored online also allows them to access their work form home if they need to finish outside of class, to interact and respond to one another wherever they have Internet access, and to share their work with friends and others outside of our classroom.

Pedagogy

This project will engage my students in a number of ways that are supported by cognitive and learning research. One way is the creative factor that is an essential feature of the project. When students become creators of content, they step away from passivity and become agents in their own learning. This project is creative in another sense of the word as well – a video is a canvas onto which students can apply their own sense of humor, interest, personality and taste. This helps students to take ownership and pride in their work, resulting in a much higher quality of learning.

I also see this type of activity being highly motivational for my students. Many of them lack experience using Spanish in the real world, and they believe that it does not have a true purpose in their day-to-day lives. Enabling them to connect to the outside world using Spanish will help them to see how it can enhance their ability to interact with other, real-life people. Additionally, it provides the opportunity for students to be creative and expressive, since they will be producing original content in a way that reflects their own ideas and personality, and then sharing it with others. This community aspect will hold them accountable for producing higher-quality work aside from the wish to earn a good grade.

The SAMR Model

When implementing technology into the classroom, it is important to consider if its use is merely a gimmick for attention, or if it is in fact supporting and extending student learning. A model to help consider this feature is the SAMR model, which stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. As educators integrate technology, their goal is to use it to achieve objectives that were previously unattainable without the technology.

Using video camcorders is a strong use of technology because in some ways it augments what we can do in the classroom, and in other ways helps students to accomplish tasks that were previously inaccessible to them. In this project, student learning will be augmented by technology is the presentational speaking function of the project. While students can present in front of the class, such presentations frequently take up significant class time and is a prime opportunity for the non-presenting students to disengage altogether. Using the video/blog format, students will access all modes of communication and will remain engaged with their own content and with the content produced by others throughout the entire project, interacting with one another and with the wider world in ways that were simply impossible without the technological aspect.

The primary way that technology redefines the task, that is, accomplishes something that was previously impossible, is that of connectivity to the Spanish-speaking community. Students in a classroom in southeast Michigan almost by definition have limited access to the wider Spanish-speaking world. While a language teacher can have students speak to one another in class, such communication tends to be limited, scripted, and inauthentic. Video recordings expand students’ reach to their classmates, to their peers online, and further beyond into to the digital Spanish speaking community.

DreamIT Part V

Connections to Educational Technology

The video project that I envision will meet many language and technological goals, as I demonstrated in the previous sections. A final benefit that I would like to discuss is the way that this type of activity will engage students in a design process, teaching them to develop ideas from concepts into final products.

Many different groups have developed various models of “design thinking”. In my MAET summer class, we did several activities based on a model developed by the Stanford d.School. The five steps in this model are Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

As students create their video projects, each of these steps will be necessary. Empathy is to take the time to understand the nature of the problem, or in this case, they will begin with the premise of the project – to connect with others using Spanish, to be heard and to hear others’ perspectives. They will then define the information that they most wish to convey in their video. Next, they will generate ideas on how they can best convey the desired information, and the choose a few ideas to move into the next stage, prototyping. Prototyping is when they begin to create their product, and this step will also include testing their prototype, realizing it isn’t working, and revisiting the list of ideas to see if there is another way to accomplish their goal.

By allowing students an opportunity to work through the design process, they move away from passive learning and instead become creators, risk-takers and solution-seekers.

 

DreamIT Part IV

Assessment

In order to measure the impact of this new technology in my classroom, I can use a variety of assessments. One assessment will be of the linguistic quality of each students’ work. By working with students as they plan and produce their videos, I will be able to give them formative feedback on their works-in-progress. Then, when the videos are published, I will be able to summatively assess my students on the quality of the ideas expressed, their pronunciation and fluency, and the control of grammar and their use of the appropriate vocabulary.  I will assess these factors in a variety of modes, including the presentational speaking video, the presentational writing of the text, and the interpersonal writing of their comments.

Another important aspect of this project will be to gauge students’ digital skills. To do this, I will look at several components of digital literacy. One aspect is students’ technical skills in the completion of the project. Were they able to plan and produce a quality video? Was the video published correctly? How well did they plan and problem-solve throughout their process? The aesthetics of the project are another important digital literacy. This includes how well did students format their published their work, and if it is well-organized and aesthetically appealing. A third skill is students’ ability to integrate multiple forms of media. Did they use imagery, text, sound and video in a cohesive manner that supports their work? Safety and appropriateness are another digital skill that I will assess. This includes using appropriate language, demonstrating knowledge of cultural norms, and discretion in revealing personal information. And finally, how creative is the work? I will be looking to see if students expressed an original idea, if they presented it in a compelling manner, and if they were able to convey their sense of humor and personality in the final product.

My other objectives are less concrete, and will require extended time to assess. For example, I wish for my students to make connections between the content they are learning in the classroom and its real-world use. One possibility is that I could give them a formal survey inquiring as to how useful they perceive Spanish to be. However, I think that the true product of this lesson, if learned well, will develop in the attitudes and the motivation of my students to learn Spanish. I hope to hear fewer remarks along the lines of, “Why do we have to learn Spanish?” and more remarks of students noticing Spanish websites, signs, and Spanish speakers in public spaces. I would also hope to see an increased willingness to engage in Spanish in the classroom. I would like to see them speak with less fear of making mistakes or working through challenges, and more willingness and subsequently more skill in negotiating meaning using the words and patterns that they know to communicate the ideas of their own (and not only the ones that I tell them to say).

DreamIT Part II

Outline

My goal in this project is for my students to communicate in Spanish using multiple communicational modes. In doing so, they will demonstrate their understanding of the language and how it can be used in an authentic context. The proposed technology will enable my students to record videos, publish them online, and then interact with others online. 

The primary skills that my students will apply are Spanish language skills. By using video recorders and publishing the results, they will utilize all four skills of speaking, listening, writing and reading in Spanish. The proposed type of activity also includes the presentational (video), interpretive (listening to one another’s videos) and interpersonal (written comments and responses) modes of communication.

Authenticity and creativity are two additional goals that this type of activity will accomplish. Authentic communication is when students use Spanish to communicate original ideas that have value to them and to their listeners. There will be an further value because the format is open ended, inviting students to express their own personality and tastes. As a result, they acquire the perspective that Spanish is useful for self-expression, not only in a scripted or educational context.

Assessment will also be supported by the design of this project. I will be able to visit student pages to check their work and give them individual feedback. Students can also email or print their activity logs, and so I will be able to monitor and give feedback on the content and interactions between students.

Technology is a crucial component that supports each step of this project. Video recorders, facilitate the recording of students’ presentations, computers enable the editing and publishing of the videos, and the Internet also allows for students to interact with one another and give one another feedback. Technology also allows me to monitor students’ work and the interactions between them.

DreamIT Part I

Project Description

While we live in a multilingual world, it remains that the students in my Spanish classroom often lack opportunities to interact in Spanish in a real-world context. This can lead to the misconception that Spanish is a classroom-only skill, and is not useful outside of those four walls. Additionally, much of the Spanish resources for classrooms are formal and carefully edited, when in fact Spanish in the real world and the digital world is full of idiomatic expressions, slang, abbreviations and pop culture references. This is problematic because when students do venture to use Spanish outside of the classroom, they find that their formal, simplified skills are insufficient to meet their communicative needs. 

In order to have my students engage one another and the world at large in Spanish, I would like to have them use small, portable camcorders to record a variety of personal videos, which they can then share online with their classmates and others outside the classroom. The context of a video blog would be an ideal opportunity to engage students in multiple modes of authentic communication (speaking, listening, reading and writing) in addition to increasing students’ digital literacy skills.

 

Flip camera display.jpg
Image by Phil Roeder – originally posted to Flickr as 10.14.2010 <18>, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12020609

 

Sticky Ideas

In the article “Teaching that Sticks“, Chip and Dan Heath state that, “A sticky idea is an idea that’s understood, that’s remembered, and that changes something (opinions, behaviors, values).” They discuss how important it is to present concepts to students in ways that are compelling and meaningful. The five principles they suggest are to present content in ways that are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and are part of a story.

My MAET classmates and I tested out these ideas by creating a video that demonstrates the differences between kinetic and potential energy. In the video, we used a visual story – riding a rollercoaster – to connect to the viewer’s emotions and imagination. Take a look!