EdTech, Music in Spanish Class, Teaching Reflections

Web-Filter Woes

Y’all, I love teaching with music. Spanish pop music has been a part of my classroom since year 1, and my use of music for increasing student engagement, reinforcing grammar and vocabulary topics, and touching on cultural issues has only increased over the last ten years. Many students tell me that music is their favorite part of my class – “Yes! It’s Wednesday! It’s song day!” They beg me to play songs on Wednesday, and every other day of the week, give me song suggestions/requests, and tell me they’ve added their favorites to their personal playlists.

Over ten years of teaching, many things have changed, and other things stay the same: my students still love listening to Spanish pop music, and I still have to do battle with the internet filter every. freaking. year.

Admittedly, it has gotten better: at my previous school, I emailed the tech guy every single week with a list of videos to unlock. I think he got a real kick out of Mi novio es un zombie! And there was a stretch at my current school- I believe it was during the “Youtube for Education” era – where just about all my music videos were blocked, and I had to remember to download my videos at home so I could show them in class. Currently, I can access most of my music videos, and occasionally, when one is filtered, I can usually find it on another site with a video search excluding youtube (protip: search with -youtube to find videos hosted on other sites).

My current beef with the web-filter involves one of my favorite sites for extension, enrichment, choiceboards, and early finishers: LyricsTraining. I have talked about LyricsTraining in presentations to world teachers at FLAG, SCOLT, and within my own department, and it never ceases to impress. If you’ve never used it, it is a fill-in-the-blanks-in-the-lyrics activity. Students watch the video and, as the lyrics scroll underneath, they enter the missing words. It is a great listening activity, exposing students to accents of native speakers, and also gets them to engage with speech at native-speaker speed in a non-threatening way. But don’t get too excited: LyricsTraining relies on embedded YouTube videos. If your school filters videos the way mine does, you might find that many of your favorite, school-appropriate, teenager-pleasing Spanish pop songs are blocked for students. Songs like Te mueves tú, Corazón sin cara, Soy yo, and Tengo tu love.

The 2001 Child Internet Protection Act requires schools to install filters that block “sexually explicit” content. I absolutely support that, and I understand that no filtering software is perfect. However, schools need to choose web filters that empower teachers to choose age-appropriate educational content, with means to whitelist websites and YouTube videos that are being unnecessarily filtered out. Schools also need to differentiate between how the internet is filtered for students and staff members, but I think that is a post for another day. For now, I’m stuck pondering the latest email from my school’s wonderful technology support person, telling me there is no way to selectively enable blocked YouTube videos, and mourning the loss of my beloved Lyrics Training activities for my students this semester.

My Spanish 1 Playlist:

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