Technology in Spanish

This is our first GUEST POST from Charley Adams. Thank you to Charley for sharing the program he and Tessa have created both at this conference and on the blog. (If you would like to contribute, let me know!)

From Charley:

It was a kick to present with Tessa at the fall COFLT (Confederation in Oregon for Language Teaching) conference in October. Since we began to develop our own curriculum for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Spanish four years ago, we’ve developed ideas and identified resources that we felt could be useful to our colleagues from other schools. Thanks to OES’s amazing technology department and the laptop program, many of the most exciting things we’ve done in the last four years are, in one way or another, anchored by technology. We presented to an audience of 40-50 educators, who teach of a range of foreign languages, for a little under an hour. Some had useful tips to add (like uploading pictures to quizlet), while others are just getting started using technology both in and out of the classroom. All (I hope) took away at least one idea that they can use to enhance their teaching.

Google Apps Suite:

Shared documents, from simple vocabulary lists to student-generated visual/virtual flashcards using the presentation format, have opened up a new universe of how we look at our teaching resources. Allowing students to access and submit work electronically saves paper and prevents the “I lost/forgot my homework sheet” excuse. Websites and calendars provide hubs for lots of our class material and student resources, including handouts, lessons, photos, links, and more. Blogs are great for general parent communication (like on language trips!).

Garageband:

Great for creating our own music in Spanish, as well as for recording Spanish dialogues. These are some of the most fun and successful comprehension activities, especially when kids hear teachers of other subjects speaking Spanish.

Jing:

Awesome for on-screen grammar explanations, which kids can access from home whenever they want. Really helpful if students have a hard time recalling the in-class lesson when they sit down to do their homework.

Quia + Quizlet:

Lots of free, ready-to-play games that cover everything from simple vocabulary to complex grammar concepts. We’ve also made our own games on quia through setting up a subscription account. It’s free to set up a quizlet account and make your own vocabulary sets, which students can do easily. They can then share the fruits of their labor with their peers, keep scores if they want, and enjoy easy access and quick practice.

Audio Dropbox:

Excellent free resource from clear.msu.edu that allows students to record their voices online. The teacher streams their recorded answers for evaluation, saving lots of time from the now-outdated method of attaching and downloading audio files.

iMovie and Youtube:

Great for creating and sharing kid-generated movies in Spanish.

Questions I am Living

At the Klingenstein Summer Institute, we talked about “questions I am living.” What I love about this idea is that these are questions that we are constantly seeking answers to. This can feel absurd (and mildy frustrating) for a pragmatic person like myself, but it holds me in the process of living rather than focusing on a finish line.

The Questions I’m Living

1. What is “enough”? When is enough enough?

Do I give enough love, enough time, enough motivation, enough dedication, enough devotion to my life, my family, my job, myself?

2. How can some things be the same as they have always been and yet the world is always changing?

Adolescents have always rebelled against the institutions of the older generation and the older generation has always grappled with how to guide them.
Technology is changing how we live in this world, yet technology has ALWAYS changed how we live.

Side note: Scott McLeod wrote a great post about the attitude that “We didn’t have technology as a kid and I turned out okay.” I love the way Scott takes buzzwords or phrases that you feel comfortable with and picks apart the embedded issues. Technology has ALWAYS changed how we live. That doesn’t mean all technology is good or better, but it will change, and we need to adapt to it.

The Questions that Guide my Professional Development
For the OES Technology website, I wrote a short version of my educational philsophy, framing it with questions:
1. Why teach?
Learning comes from experiencing new information, skills, emotions, perspectives, connections, and relationships. Being immersed in this process, as a student or as a facilitator, is stimulating, challenging, and rewarding work.
2. Why technology?
Technology situates students (of all ages) in an environment of exploration, connection, creativity, and collaboration, during which learning opportunities are expanded. Additionally, the ubiquity and mobility of devices is changing how we function, learn, and work, and thus learning to navigate this rapidly changing, digital world is imperative.
3. Why middle school?
This is a critical age, when abstract thinking blossoms and perspectives shift; when life habits and values are formed; when capacities for empathy, creativity, and energy explode. The changes I see in students from when they enter as sixth graders to when they leave as eighth graders is a testament to the amazing growth that takes place in a short three years. I am humbled to be a part of the community that guides young people through this formative stage of their life.