Monday, July 29, 2013

Faculty Goals & Self Reflection...With My Successes AND Failures for All to Read!

Good evening!

Now that back-to-school season is upon us, I'm reflecting on 2012-13 and making goals for the new year.  Typically, we are asked to do this task in the fall sometime and then we meet with our principal to discuss our reflections. This year, administration is doing it a little differently, so, beginning next year, we will be required to reflect and plan at the end of the academic year.  Since the new system wasn't developed until school let out for summer break, this year's goal-setting document is due during the first week of school.  As I began writing my thoughts yesterday evening, I thought I should just turn this into a blog post that I can refer back to at the end of the year. Oh dear! Here I am sharing my successes AND failures with you. I am comfortable doing so because goodness knows I make and (usually) learn from mistakes. Read at your own risk as this might be rather boring for anyone besides me! :)

·    Reflect on your qualities as a teacher. Comment on your strengths and areas that need strengthening in your classroom practice.

Keeping all learners (students and yours truly) at or above the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) recommendation for 90% target language use in the classroom has been my goal since I first stepped in the classroom several years ago. For the past two years, I have been able to reach that goal, so that is the area of my teaching where I feel the most success at the moment. On most days, we are speaking French during class for more than 90% of the 50-minute class period and are doing so by actively participating in a fun and easy system of accountability.  Overall, students have made marked improvement with regards to oral communication, so I plan to continue to engage students in spoken practice with this method.

The most significant weaknesses I see when thinking about my goals for professional growth include the areas of feedback and assessment of interpretive communication. During the 2012-13 academic year, I was concerned about the way I handled both of these components of my courses, so it was rather easy to brainstorm ideas for this goal-setting exercise.

In the past, the turnaround time for student feedback has not always been what one would describe as stellar. In fact, sometimes I don’t return work for a week or, shamefully, longer.  Oh là là!  I feel that I should return work to students within two days after the due date. With quicker feedback, my hope is that students will have at least a little more success since the information will still be theoretically fresh in their minds. 

During our first year with 1:1 iPads, I also began using a proficiency-based grading system that has been wonderful for assessment of student progress.  However, I didn’t have a rubric for the interpretive mode of communication (e.g. listening to podcasts, reading various texts, and so on…).  When students had to perform in this mode, I usually felt that I had to prepare short answer questions for them to answer so that I could grade the work out of the total number of questions rather than assess their proficiency level.  Sometimes, students would do other tasks, like summarizing what they read, to demonstrate understanding/proficiency, so I had to use rubrics that didn’t correspond with the ones I had in place for the other types of assessment. I would like to have rubrics reflect the proficiency goals better.

·    How will you work on those areas that need strengthening? Include ways that [the school] can assist you.
Depending on my schedule and the amount of planning time I have each day, I will make an attempt to schedule time for feedback on student work each day (rather than do it without any type of organized plan.)  If that’s not possible, I will make a concerted effort to do it every other day.  Since I don’t create multiple-choice and/or fill-in-the-blank tests, it can be rather time consuming to assess the type of work my students do. There’s not really anything that administration can do to help me with this goal other than ensure I have two planning periods since students must write compositions, create products, and so on.
As for my goals for better assessment methods of the interpretive mode of communication, I am either going to create rubrics before school resumes or use one that another world language educator and/or school district prepared and shared.  I will also do more pre-, during, and post listening/reading tasks that require students to show comprehension by engaging in critical thinking.

·    What were your professional goals this year? Comment on your ability to meet these goals.
Listed below are the 2012-13 goals I submitted last fall with comments on successes and failures in parentheses.  (Last year, we were asked to list three general goals and three that include some sort of collaborative work.)
1.  French 1,2,3 Curriculum:  I plan to revise the current curriculum as the year goes on to make it align more with the six major themes of the AP course. The themes are very broad and practical, so it makes sense to get students accustomed to them from on day one of the program. (I would say I met this goal because I did do some revisions as we moved from unit to unit in all four levels of French. This is a continual work in progress, so I will be revising it again this year, just as I do every year.)
2.  Model UN  : I plan to prepare students for the spring conference this year. I also plan to build a wiki that will be rich with resources that will aide delegates in their research. ( I would say that I met this goal, too, since I did the following: created a club website, met students for a few meetings, participated in a club meeting with a former ambassador to Tanzania, and tried to find a conference (to no avail) that didn’t conflict with our holidays.)
3. French Club:  I plan to see if there is some sort of service learning members can do OR help gather donations for supplies to be sent with a doctor/missionary going to Haiti. I have an idea for the latter, so I just need to make initial contact. (I did not meet his goal, unfortunately. French Club only met a handful of times due to lack of leadership on my part and on the part of the officers. Moving forward, I hope to merge with the Spanish and Latin clubs in order to form a bigger and, hopefully, more united international club.)
1.  I plan to work with the upper school librarian in order to do a lesson on effective Google searches for quality authentic sources in French.  Students need to be able to conduct research by finding articles, infographics, and podcasts/videos in the target language.  The librarian will also teach them how to set up their Noodle Tools account and write an annotated bibliography.  All learners, with the exception of French 1 students, who will do it in the spring, will have this training in the fall. Moving forward, I will not have to have two-day lessons on this at every level of French since it will be done in French 1 every year. (This goal was mostly met because I did collaborate with the librarian to carry out this learning experience, but I didn’t remember to do it in the spring with the French 1 students. This means that I will have to do the lesson with French 1 and 2 students this year in order for all students to have the initial training. I will review the research process with the level 3 and AP students this year. I will also change the expectations for the research project for the level 2 students because I asked them to produce at a level of proficiency that was too advanced and resulted in frustration and poor performance.
2.  I plan to do a year-long collaborative project with a French teacher in Paris, France. We are doing a focused project that involves research among students at participating schools, both in-house and across the globe.  We are building a wiki and modeling it after the FlatClassrooms project. This is a huge endeavor, but it should be rewarding for the students.  The topic of this project is global citizenship and digital media. Only levels three and AP will participate, it looks like, but I hope to have the lower levels at least connect with other schools through blogging.  (This goal was not met. We started the project, but it fizzled out due to conflicting schedules and a loss of contact. The blogging project with another American independent school did not happen because I dropped the ball. Our schedules do not mesh well either so we should have had organized it better on the front end. Moving forward, my students will be connecting with university students in Paris and they will come visit us one day in February as they have done for the past two years. There is another possibility for an exchange with a French high school, but I’m not yet sure if we have the same ideas for a project.)
Moving forward, I plan to create a reflections and goal-setting document that students can add to the e-portfolio they will keep this year. Last year, I think I just asked students to think about their goals because I can't find a document anywhere! If I find one, however, I'll add a link in the comments below.   If you read this post, thank you for humoring me!

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Now, that we're getting closer and closer to the first week of school, I'm going to go ahead and wish you a fantastic year full of creativity, inspiration, and, finally, something we need to experience every day -- laughter!

Monday, July 22, 2013

On the 1:1 iPad Classroom: Tips for a Smooth(er) Year

Good morning!

Now that the first year with one-to-one iPads is complete, it's a good time to reflect on the lessons learned and plan for the second year. The following tips are not listed in any order of importance and can be relevant in classrooms where other types of technology enhance instruction.

  • Test apps ahead of time with a student or colleague.
  • Teach technology vocabulary, especially if you're a 90%+ world language educator, during the first weeks of school.
  • Use an app because it enhanced the learning experience: NOT because it is on a 'top app' list.
  • Give students a list of recommended apps for content area games/practice so that they can use them when they finish a task early or for exploration at home.
  • Create another list of apps that provide ALL students with authentic resources in the content area. Great ones might include newspapers, magazines, museums, and the visitors' welcome page for a city.
  • Show students how to add shortcuts so that they can quickly access websites that have not yet created an app for it.
  • Actively monitor use of the iPad. If several students are off task, they are not being engaged.
  • Ask students to load apps the day BEFORE you want to use them in class. Saves precious time.
  • Show students how to make a folder for the apps that they'll use in your class. Do this during the first week of school.
  • Know what you want with regards to note-taking tasks before school starts. Are you going to prepare guided notes? Should students take notes on paper? This can be a time consuming problem, so think it over.
  • Carefully select the way(s) students can submit work. Naturally, there will be less confusion if students only have one or two ways to share their learning.
  • Helps students organize their work within their note-taking apps. Require one-on-one time outside of class if students are unable to get organized. Do this periodically for the particularly unorganized student. I have had students take photos of important information and then leave it in the cameral roll. Egads!
  • Have a backup plan if the technology fails. We were fortunate to have very few days where the wifi didn't work, but there's always potential for down days!
  • Be flexible, patient, and willing to learn!
  • Allow students to choose the app they'll use for a task as long as it has the necessary features.
  • Put the technology away sometimes. Students need to step away and see that learning can occur without it, too.
  • Give yourself a break when looking for apps/tools to enhance a lesson. Quality over quantity.
  • Choose apps that are versatile and allow students to create a product, when possible.
  • Teach students how to produce quality photos and videos.
  • Make a sound booth for recording in the classroom. Consider using a large cardboard box, egg cartons, and a blanket to create this space (sound booth construction idea by @k_shelton).
  • Require students to share presentations with you. Hook your iPad up to a screen and pull up each presentation as students comes up to present. Saves tons of time!
  • Ensure that the subject heading for task submission is standardized. Keep it simple!
  • Decide on the e-mail address(es) you want students to use BEFORE school resumes. The addresses seem to automatically save in Contacts so there is confusion at times if there are too many addresses from which to choose.
  • Strongly encourage students to save their usernames and passwords in Keeper (a free app that only requires you to remember one password in order to access your information).
  • Ask yourself if the task can be done without the iPad/technology. If it can, ask yourself if there would be added tech skill-building possibilities if you go that route. Technology should enhance.

What tips do you have for educators who are going 1:1 in the classroom?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Appy Times in World Languages!

Good evening!

Now that summer's in full swing, I have had some time to reflect on my experiences with one-to-one iPads in the world language classroom. The initiative began in April of 2012 with the faculty rollout. We participated in several Apple-sponsored professional development days, beginning in May and ending in August. This allowed us to spend the summer discovering apps and preparing for this new adventure. The rollout for all high school students occurred in August, just before school resumed.  What a year of trial and error for everyone involved! 

In this post, the focus will be on the types of apps that were and will be used in the world language classroom. Although these apps were tested for and used in the French classroom, they can be beneficial in other world language classes and possibly even other content areas.

Year One in Review

Frequently Used Apps

-Dropbox (Free) - This one allowed me to organize documents within each unit and class and then share them with students. For the first couple of months, students submitted tasks to my account, but it was an organizational nightmare for me, so I switched to folders in G-mail.  I will continue to use Dropbox in order to share documents, rubrics, and so on.
-Fotobabble (Free) - Take photos, record audio in the target language, and share.  Great for speaking practice on content-related topics! Currently, there is only an iPhone app for it, so we just enlarge the iPhone version on the tablets. 
-iMovie ($4.99) - Create videos in the target language, edit, and publish.  The movie trailer feature would be nice, but we didn't really use it because it appears to only allow users to add music.
-LaRousse Dictionary ($4.99) - This was the required dictionary app last year. It has some great features, like the verb conjugation charts for many tenses and the audio pronunciation of vocabulary, but there are often too many choices for novice learners to effectively choose the word they need. Students will be asked to install the WordReference iPhone app this year (See below for details.)
-Keeper (Free) - Store passwords in this app that requires users to only memorize one password to gain access. Pay $9.99 to upgrade to access in the cloud and backup protection.
-Keynote ($9.99) - Create presentations (Apple version of PowerPoint.)  My students often create presentations made up of images and/or graphs with or without text which they use as a visual for presentational speaking tasks.
-Pages ($9.99) - Type essays (Apple version of Word.)  Upper level students used this app more than the lower levels because they typically wrote persuasive essays for a major assessment research task.

Less Frequently Used Apps

-Blogger (Free) - We started the year out with blogs and planned to comment on other French students' blogs in another state, but it didn't work out in the end because I tried to bite more than I could chew during the first year of 1:1 iPads...  This is a rather user-friendly blogging platform, but initial setup was a bit of a struggle for some students because the set-up steps aren't cut and dry from what I remember.
-Book Creator ($4.99) - This tool allows students to make several books. It includes an audio feature and the finished product can be opened in a variety of places. My second year students used the storytelling tool of their choice for a book writing
-BuddyPoke (Free) - Make talking avatar videos in the target language and share.  Last year, we used the app one time in French 1 in order to create a French-speaking avatar. Learners might make an avatar at the beginning of the year and add to their online portfolio this year. 
-Concept Mapping Tools (Free) - Make a visual representation of one's learning. Great springboard for critical thinking and presentations. I won't name any of the free apps here, but every single one we tried had major bugs to fix, so we were never able to use them.  See below for the tool I may use this year.
-Feedly (Free) - Upper level students used this tool to access all of the blogs they wanted to use for research in the target language.
-Pic Collage (Free) - Make posters with photos or try their design features.  Similar to Glogster.
-Poetry Magnets (Free) - Create poems with this tool that allows users to change the language and include accents! Just drag a tile up onto the wall and double-tap on it to bring up the editing box.  When finished writing the poem, click save and then it can be located in the photo stream.
StoryBuddy 2 - The lite version allows users to make one book at a time and allows users to save the story as a PDF and gives more options than the previous tool I mentioned. The upgrade costs $4.99 and allows users to create 5 stories, add audio, and offers more ways to share. My second year students used the storytelling tool of their choice for a book writing task.

Year Two: Planning Ahead

-Instagram (Free) - Take photos, like them, and leave comments.
-Interview Assistant (Free) - Prepare interview questions and then record answers.
-iThoughts ($9.99) - Visualize the thought process! I've used a free (buggy) one in the past with upper level students who documented their learning over the course of a unit and presented with it serving as the visual. Students do not buy a textbook for my courses (with the exception of AP), but I do require them to purchase a few apps. If administration does not want to purchase it for all iPads, I might include it in my required app list at the start of the year.
-PhotoCard (Bill Atkinson) (Free) - Write post cards in the target language and e-mail them to recipients. Users can use their own photos or the app choices.
-QuickVoice2 Text Email (PRO Recorder) ($2.99) - Record from just seconds to hours in the target language! We tried the free version last year, but students could only record about 2 minutes if they wanted to share their work. Upper level students needed more time so we are upgrading to the pro version this year.  There is also the voice to text feature that will convert 30 seconds of recorded speech.  I only tested it in English, so I don't know if students can use it in French.
-Share Board (Free) - Collaborate with one classmate at a time with the free version.  Before school resumes, I will test this app out with a colleague to determine if it would be a good fit for my classroom.
-Socrative (Free) - Do quick comprehension checks with short quizzes.  I may or may not use this app much since it requires a lot of prep on the teacher side. 
-Tellagami (Free) - Create talking avatars with pre-chosen backgrounds or user photos.
-VoiceThread ($79 for 50 student accounts) - Post a photo, video, or other visual and invite students to voice comment around it.  My school might fund it if I want to use this tool, so I might use it, but I still have to conduct a cost benefit analysis.
-Web to PDF (Free) - This tool will be for my use only since users must be 17+ to install it.  It looks like a great tool for capturing web pages for the class website or presentations.
-Weebly (Free) - Use as a class website where students can access links, documents, and so on. I just created a class site and it looks beautiful in Safari on the iPad. I have not actually used the app to build much yet, so I will be checking it out soon. I might have students use this tool to create their online portfolios this year, as well.
-WordReference (Free iPhone app only) - This is a great dictionary for the world language classroom. Some features include the verb conjugations in multiple tenses, lists of expressions, and the forums.

Voilà, voilà! I divided the apps from last year into the two categories of frequent and not-so-frequent use in order to show you that my students didn't really use a great number of them in the first year. I have found that it can be so overwhelming when we get our hands on new technology for the classroom, especially since there are many tools that can enhance the learning. The key is to choose tools that can be used for a variety of tasks and also help students reach their proficiency goals over the course of the year.  Sometimes less is definitely more!

Is there an app that you would add to this list?

If you use any of these apps already, what are some ways you use them to enhance the learning experience?

Please take a moment to share your 'appy thoughts' in the comment section below.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Keeping Learners in the Target Language Since 2011


Today's post is long overdue, so here we go! After several e-mails in which I explained/forwarded the method I use to keep students in the target language, I decided to write a post so that I can refer back to it when the topic comes up.  Blogging serves a beautiful purpose!

I would like to thank French teacher, Janet Hachen, of the Upstate in South Carolina, for first presenting this PAIE-MOI! (Pay me!) system at the South Carolina chapter of the AATF's fall workshop back in 2011.  After attending her presentation, I implemented the plan in my classroom the following week and have been using it ever since. Merci mille fois, Janet!

Before I share my thoughts on this method, please visit my professional wiki and click on the file entitled, 'French-Only Policy,' in order to get a better understanding of how it works.

It goes without saying that students' oral proficiency has improved, dare I say, tremendously since the implementation of the paie-moi system.  They speak with more ease AND some language learners even crack jokes (...usually at my expence, but it's all good!).  Of course, this type of plan only works because I greatly prepare students with useful 'classroom navigation' expressions at the start of year one AND I strategically plan daily learning experiences.  By the way, classroom management issues are reduced significantly when students are actively engaged in target language tasks. What a great incentive to make the change!

Some language educators with whom I've corresponded have an 'English zone' in their classroom where they put down masking or duct tape in the shape of a box. Students can enter the zone along with the teacher and pose a question or make a comment in English.  This comes in handy on occasion, especially for the first year students, because they sometimes have long explanations/questions that would take too long to write down. (My 'English zone' is just outside my door in the hallway because I feel comfortable using that space.) 

Remember, with this system, students may write things in English on mini white boards, tablets, or elsewhere. Trust me, this ends rather quickly because students seem to prefer speaking, even if it's in the target language. Yay!

It should also be noted that this method really holds the teacher accountable for 90%+ use of the target language, as well, because baking brownies for a class takes away some of that precious personal time! Now that I speak French from bell to bell, the often frustrating days of going back and forth between the native and target language are a thing of the past.

Now, some of you might not think the paie-moi plan would work in your classroom. Here are some other ideas that might suit you better.  Special thanks to @HCPSLanguages from my Twitter PLN for sharing these resources!

From the October 2012 edition of ACTFL's magazine, The Language Educator:
"Going for 90%+: How to Stay in the Target Language" by Douglass Crouse

Check out this wiki page for several ideas that have been shared by world language educators!

Before you go, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  Do you have a TL-only system in your classroom? How does it work? Do you know of other resources that would help WL teachers make the switch?

Best wishes for a new year of 90%+ target language use in your classroom!

Cristy Vogel a.k.a. @msfrenchteach