Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lifelong Learning with Snapchat

Spring Break 2016 started out like several others have over the years with a flight to Colorado and a happy reunion with best friends, Keri and Aaron. On the agenda: hugs, good food, and plans for local adventure! This year's week of Colorado vacation, however, included an exciting discovery of a new-to-me social media tool. I must tell you that prior to the past few years, it was becoming the norm that I would sign up for a new learning tool while in Colorado or at least while I was with my besties. In fact, the first time this occurred was when I road tripped from South Carolina to Colorado with the aforementioned BFFs, and joined Facebook during a stop in Texas. Jump ahead two years to the Spring Break Colorado Snow Storm of 2009. That's when I joined Twitter and revolutionized my professional life, thanks to discussion and collaboration with educators from around the world.

                        On the road through Texas. CVogel 2007

While my interest in connecting with educators on Twitter has waned a bit since then, it's still my number one go-to forum to discuss all things education. That said, I am not so interested in using Twitter to connect my learners with French speakers around the world at this point. Hmm. I miss the excitement of using social media as a learning tool in the classroom. I get great value out of it, personally, but I want to continue down the path of teaching digital literacy and global citizenship by way of meaningful projects and, possibly, with the help of the latest tools.

Guess what. I am happy to report that the SOCIAL MEDIA EXCITEMENT IS BACK! As of early April 2016, I can call myself an active Snapchat user! Yay! It was fun exploring Snapchat while being in one of my happy places -- Colorado! What's more (significant,) I've already invited my students to use Snapchat to learn and share, but I'll tell you more about the initial, classroom experience in the next blog post.

                              Snap logo interpretation by me!

My millennial best friend Leah, (who's my go-to contact when I need to know what's cool to people much younger than me,) told me a while back that I should join Snapchat, but I really wasn't inspired based on what I understood of its use and the lack of education-related social media posts on the tool. (It's possible that they existed earlier last school year, but none popped up in any of my feeds.) So, you might wonder what or who convinced me to sign up for the seemingly most popular social media tool for teens at the present time. In fact, inspiration came from a Facebook post by Outdoor magazine about two professional American climbers -- Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards -- who decided to attempt to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and snap their way to the top. Oh my gosh! This sounded so fascinating to me, so I immediately made an account, and texted my millennial BFF for assistance with setup.

It took me a little while to understand how to navigate, add neat "famous friends," and post, but I was able to watch the climbers from the comfort of my home on the other side of the globe in the meantime. Because of the time difference, I mostly watched them in the morning before I left for work and sometimes late at night. I looked forward to learning about the joys and fears of that most amazing (and quite reckless) adventure. I won't spend too much time on my Snapchat inspiration, but just know that my own personal learning was tremendous, thanks to their snaps.  Oh, and Cory summited without supplemental oxygen on this first EVER Everest climb while Adrian, who had already climbed it 6 times with supplemental oxygen, had to turn back just meters from the top due to the beginning stages of frostbite. (See my list of people to friend below.)

From there, I decided to google famous Snapchat users to increase my learning and entertainment. Wow! I never dreamed that I would see so much of the world and learn so much! Snapchat IS indeed a great tool for lifelong learners like me to discover new things, or learn more about something you already love, through the lens of a new-ish camera. It should be noted that you can also use the drawing tool to unleash your inner artist.

                              Snap and drawing by me! :)

Here's the list of some of the people I follow. For now, my account is private, but I will probably make a school account soon, and will update the blog with that information at that time.


For Lovers of the Outdoors:
adrianjb : Adrian Ballinger - professional climber / adventurer
crichardsphoto : Cory Richards - professional athlete & Nat Geo photographer
emilyaharringto : Emily Harrington - professional climber, adventurer, speaker
everestnofilter :  the account Adrian & Cory used for the Everest climb in April/May 2016
columbia1938 : Columbia Sportswear - They share great tips for outdoor adventure along w/products.
usinterior : Interior Department - USA park rangers share what they are doing in the national parks.
thenorthface : The North Face - They also share outdoor adventures, but aren't too active, overall.

For French Learners and Francophiles:
crdepirate : Coeur De Pirate - Canadian singer-songwriter from Montréal
jeromejarre : Jerome Jarre - Comedian YouTuber from France
noholitablog : Noholitablog - Fashion blogger in Paris (Even if you have little interest in fashion, it's great to listen to her speak French. She loves Drake's "One Dance," fyi. :)
davidlebovitz : David Lebovitz - Pastry chef and food blogger in Paris (He snaps the city of Paris,
uses French vocab at times, and shares great cooking/baking tips.)

For Comedy:
batdadblake : Bat Dad - a father who dresses like Batman & playfully "monitors" family activity
itsdougthepug : Doug the Pug - All I know is that this little dog has a lot of costumes. :D
lilswag79 : Kevin Hart 4 Real - comedian (He does curse a lot, so be warned if that offends you.)

For Food: 
allrecipes : Allrecipes - one of the most well-known free sites to find all sorts of recipes
davidlebovitz : David Lebovitz (again) - It's great to see what he's cooking up in the City of Lights.
migrationology : Mark Wiens - Food & Travel - He travels. He eats. Repeat.
thekitchn - The Kitchn - site that offers recipes, tips, and other information on food-related topics

Screenshot from a video snap of prosciutto & mozzarella in Italy.

For Art:
geeohsnap : GeeOhSnap - Norwegian Snapchat artist, graphic designer and illustrator
lacma : Los Angeles County Museum of Art - snaps of art with hilarious captions
salliasnap : Sallia Goldstein - Snapchat star (engineer by day; artist by night)
(Check to see if your local museums (or ones in nearby major cities) have a Snapchat. I follow three of them in the Carolinas.)

For Government & Politics:
whitehouse : The White House - See all sorts of neat events that happen on the daily.
(Some politicians snap, so look for your favorites, too.)

Lastly, you should know that there are Snapchat stories anyone can discover. Depending on what's going on in the world, you can watch it unfold from the comfort of your own home.

Hope you feel inspired to set up an account and explore what there is to offer if you haven't already done so. If you are already snapping, who are your favorite people to friend? Please share in the comments! I would love to know what else is out there. As you may already know, there are lots of people who have not tried out this fun and educational tool yet!

In my next post, I will share the details of a Snapchat task my learners completed last spring along with student samples. Stay tuned!

Happy Snapping! Happy Learning!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

On Student Voice : Seating and Other Classroom Comforts

Student voice. Seems like it's been a hot topic of discussion for the past several years. However, I'm not so sure it makes its way to many classrooms. Perhaps it's like many other trendy topics that explode and then slowly fade to an occasional ember. When I was in the process of obtaining my alternative certification after earning my B.A. and M.A. in French literature, the conversation was focused on the concept of backward design. Were educators talking about turning the tables to empower young learners to use their voice for good in those days?  Hmm. Well, Twitter wasn't around back then, and who reads listservs, so I guess we'll never know.

Last Friday, I conducted a confidential survey at the start of each class.  It was top secret because one section asked students to write down two people with whom they do not work well. I did not think that one up on my own. In fact, a student asked me to do it last semester, so I decided to include it on the survey, especially since this student takes French again now, and can see that I listened to her. While teenagers are learning how to handle (difficult) relationships, it's fine with me to lessen the trouble I'm going to have when a new seating chart comes out. Furthermore, students occasionally have valid reasons for keeping distance from some of their peers.

Anyhow, the survey allowed me to find out the following preferences:
-location in the room (front, middle, back, near the teacher)
-desk arrangement (quad, pairs, semi-circle, alone, other)
-lighting (one or two sets of overhead lights, lamps, natural light on bright days)
-who not to be seated by in the class

After school on Friday, I read through all of the surveys, and tallied the number of times students wanted a particular seating arrangement. Please note that they could check all that applied. (By the way, there are 42 students in total in the French program at my new school this semester.) 

Quads (the arrangement of all desks until now:)  23
Group of 3: 1
Pairs: 11
Semi-Circle: 6
Alone: 4
No preference: a few (I didn't take tally these.)

Original quads that were kept as is
for learners who prefer them.

Perhaps for the first time in my public school teaching career, I did not have too many complaints about the new setup. It was a tad challenging to rearrange the room, and I don't know how I'll do it when I need more desks for bigger classes, but we'll tackle that when it happens. The semi-circle only has 4 desks in it, and it's not a very circular shape, but it works, and students made comments in favor of it.

If you'd like to see and/or use the survey, you can access it on my wiki here. Here's a look at the new setup!

for students who want to sit near me
and/or use the outlet and/or make up work
the semi-circle with a grouping for pairs in the corner

for groups of 3

Finally, here are a couple photos of alternative seating. I'm under the impression that students hurry to class in order to score some of these before everyone else arrives. Moving forward, we might need to come up with a plan to share these options with other classmates. 

The French bistro set and table are near
our beautiful view of the school grounds. 
My kind Spanish teacher colleague shared
this extra seat with me. It's been a hit!

Hope you enjoyed this look at our classroom. Feel free to share a photo of your classroom design in the comments. Educators love peaking in each other's rooms -- such a great way to get inspiration! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Update: The French-Only Classroom Revisited

If anything motivates me to carve out time for a blog post, it's when a member of my PLN asks me to explain how I do something. Thanks, @CathMus , for inspiring me to publish an update!

She asked me how I keep my high school learners in French during our time together. I half-jokingly replied that I do it with carefully planned lessons. All kidding aside, that is the main ingredient, but there's also a need for accountability… the form of food.

We've been attempting to stay in the target language for almost five years now, but our methods have evolved over the years. I will share the changes I've made below. Here's the original post I wrote about the first, successful French-only method I employed:

This past August, I began a new educator journey at a public high school, located one hour north of the private school where I taught for the past seven years.  The fall semester was a 90% TL fail, in part, because I was overwhelmed with all that comes with a transition to a new school. I had to adapt my lessons from the 50-minute, year-long courses to a 90-minute, semester schedule. It takes carefully structured lessons to make 90% TL happen, and that was just not my priority in the fall. That said, the spring semester is off to a promising French-only start. With a few changes to the original policy, it seems to be going well so far.

The Updated French-Only Policy:

Teacher: If "caught" speaking English 10 times, the teacher must make brownies for the class in order to start back at 0 points.

Students: If the student is not "caught" speaking English a total of 10 times at the end of four weeks, s/he will receive candy or another sweet. (Students can reach 9 English points and still get the reward.)

English Freebies: Students can write a question on the mini whiteboards in English without earning a point. They can also speak English in "Le coin anglais," or "English Corner," but both feet of any English speakers must be in the zone.

Results (as of Week Two:) 

-Many of my learners are already showing signs of better classroom command comprehension that wasn't clearly observed last semester. (I must add that my clothesline of frequently-used expressions has also been downsized. I group survival phrases by theme now. Why I didn't do this before, I'll never know…  For example, the restroom and water questions are posted right above the door now, instead of along the clothesline with every other question.)

-Students are buying in to this reward system. Who doesn't want candy???

-I'm back to holding myself accountable for my use of French in class.

-I'm intentional, more so than last semester, about how I design my lessons for a 90-minute class during which comprehensible, French transitions need to occur.

If you have an accountability plan (other than grades) to keep learners in the target language, what do you? If your system has evolved over the years, please do share what has worked for you.

Happy Communicating!