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:

EdTech

Learning Portfolios in Spanish 1

Do you follow Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) on Twitter? I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference this summer and attending his sessions on EdTech and self assessment. Here’s one of my favorite Bill Ferriter quotes:

Why is the toaster that you are currently using exactly the same as the toaster that you used back in 1983? Answer: Because it does exactly what you want it to do. Use that same filter when making technology choices.

So I began my portfolio experiment last year. I chose Seesaw as our portfolio platform on a whim after reading a blog post raving about it. As the semester went on, issues began to arise highlighting the fact that Seesaw was not passing the toaster test – while it had lots of nice features, it was not doing exactly what I wanted it to do. Here’s what I wanted in a portfolio:

  1. A place to collect student work and reflections on their learning and growth, including audio, video, pictures, and text
  2. Privacy – the student controls who sees it, if anyone, other than me
  3. Ownership – the student shares it with me, but it is their collection of work and they retain control of it to look back on later, or to share with others to show their growth

Seesaw checked off number one, and we figured out how to adjust the post settings so videos were not automatically shared with the class (oh, the teenage horror!), but the ownership aspect was non existent – I was in control of all content submitted to Seesaw. Students didn’t have a username and password to sign in, but needed a QR code or passcode from me every time their browser data was erased. Oh, and the codes expired every hour, so I couldn’t post the code on Schoology for all time. In practice, this meant that once they compiled their artifacts in Seesaw, they might not be able to access them again. I’m not trying to hate on Seesaw – it has a lot of cool features, and the privacy settings and login system would work really well for elementary schools. Just, for me, it wasn’t meeting my needs.

Cue Powerpoint, the classic presentation tool teachers love to outlaw. Honestly, one of the most useful skills I learned in the EdTech class I took for my masters degree was how to create a narrated PowerPoint and export it as a video, but PowerPoint has been banned for every single assignment I’ve had for my EdS in Edtech. For why, professors? For why??? I mean, I get it, you want me to learn a new tool, but if Powerpoint does exactly what I need, why do I have to do a project in Hyperstudio when literally no one uses it, it requires a special software download, and I’m not allowed to install software on my work computer? <endrant>

Powerpoint allows for video, audio, images, and text (although inserting the video may require a rinse cycle in CloudConvert), and allows students to share with me and anyone else they choose, while still retaining control over their work. Toaster test? Passes with flying colors. Sorry, grad school professors, but in this case, PowerPoint really is the best tool for the job.

If you want it, here is the PowerPoint portfolio template I gave to my students. For unit 1, they have a video, two Explora Español activities, and a learning reflection.

Template – Learning Portfolio (1)

EdTech

Learning to Teach in a Blended Classroom

I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week, and I found this gem from September 2016. 

Y’all, my students got computers this year. Each and every one of my students was issued a Dell Laptop from the school for use at school and at home. Can I tell you how excited I am??

That being said, a month into school I have to say that this sudden exponential increase in the technology and resources available to me is going to take some getting used to, and some time for me as the teacher to figure out the best way to use it.

Love

I love having students submit work through Schoology, my district’s LMS. I love how I can save paper by posting assignments online, and use online interactive activities. I love the possibilities for instant feedback online practice gives, and how easy it is for me to enter personalized feedback on student assignments. I love how much less paper there is for me to keep up with! I love how I can collect speech and writing samples for students at regular intervals, and have them organized and accessible the moment students submit.

Needs improvement

Me: Did you finish your work?

Student: No, my laptop’s dead….

By high school most of my students know to ask for a pencil if they don’t have one, but in class of thirty two where every single one of us literally has the  same computer, you can’t ask to borrow a charger? Why won’t they just ask? And on assignments, why do some students never ask for help? I had a student pack up his bag ten minutes before class ended today without finishing his assignment, one with whom I have a positive relationship, because he was frustrated with the assignment and didn’t want to complete it. Umm, hello….ask for help? Or how only 8/30 students submitted audio files for the unit 2 recording assignment? What were they doing in class that day? I walk around, monitor, offer help, supervise, support…how does this slip past me?

Besides the management issues, I am also learning a new LMS, Schoology. It is far more friendly than Blackboard, but I still find it challenging at times (and that’s from a pretty tech-savvy teacher). Why can’t I copy a question when making a quiz, like I can on Google forms? Why can’t I assign a multiple choice assignment, why does it have to be a test or quiz? Why do I have to reset the due date when I copy an assignment from class to class? And why can’t I put some default settings on all my assignments, such as always showing the Spanish special characters?

More positives

Truly, I am grateful for this wealth of technology my district has bestowed upon us, so I before I end this post, let me share a photo of one of my sweet high school babies:

IMG_20160822_092111.jpg
Individual Listening Practice – more engagement than I’ve ever seen with whole-class listening activities

I wrote in my last post about using the laptops to flip listening from a whole-class activity to an individual/pair activity, with students controlling the  pauses and repetition of the audio and working through at their own pace. What I love most about having more technology in the classroom is the possibilities it opens up. My lesson planning is limited by my resources – in previous years, an activity like this wouldn’t have been possible with the smattering of student devices and the school’s intermittent WiFi as my resources. Although I’m in a novice stage as a “blended classroom” teacher (or whatever the term is these days), I won’t be a novice forever, and the possibilities for growth, for both my and my student’s learning, are endless.

 

Update – May 2019

I still love working in a 1:1 environment! So much of this is still true three years later – students who don’t charge their laptop or students who won’t make a recording no matter how much class time and encouragement they get. Other things have certainly changed – I would say my LMS proficiency is Advanced, and I’m much more comfortable managing a technology rich classroom. I’ve also experimented with technology-enriched instruction and assessment a lot over the last few years – I give most of my tests and quizzes through Schoology now (and often get them graded the same day!), and student have completed projects using Sway, Adobe Spark, and Padlet (and sooooo many Powerpoints!). The district is replacing teacher and student laptops next year with upgraded Dells (yay!), and I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment and expand my technology skills. 

Classroom Management & Organization, EdTech

Curation: Sort, Share, & Steal

Recently I read some posts on curation over at Cult of Pedagogy. I think curation is useful not only for ourselves, but can save other teachers a lot time when those curated collections are shared. Today I want to share some of the tools I use to curate, some of my curated lists, and some lists that have been curated (or collaborated on) by other language teachers. Many of these were mentioned in my SCOLT presentation, so these ideas may not be new if you were at my session.

On Twitter – Lists

Do you use lists on Twitter? I made a few lists several years ago and as I’ve recently followed a few political accounts, I find it useful to use my lists when I’m looking for teaching ideas. You can click here to see my lists; I’ve chosen to keep some private, but my teachery lists are public. You can add an account to a list by clicking on the three dots next to the follow button on their profile, and you can also view other people’s lists on their profile page. If you want to sort all the accounts you follow into lists in one fell swoop, TwitListManager may help to speed up that process.

On YouTube – Playlists

Have you ever tried searching for playlists on Youtube, rather than just a song? If, for example, you search for “spanish commercials,” and then refine your search to playlists only, this is what you will get:

youtube playlists

In the top three results, you’ve got a list of 28, 13, and 37 videos that someone else has helpfully curated for you. I also like Youtube playlists for music. I use playlists to collect the songs we listen to in class (I post it on our LMS, and will play it sometimes while we work or play Kahoot), and I use other teachers’ playlists to discover new songs that are likely to work with my students – comprehensible, clean, and catchy.

To see another user’s playlists, click on their profile. Sharon Birch’s playlists are a musical goldmine!

On Pinterest – search for boards, not pins

Y’all, I hate Pinterest. I find it to be a timesuck and the links are always broken (sidenote: to exclude pinterest from your google image searches, just add -pinterest to your search). However, when I do venture into Pinterest, I search for boards, rather than individual pins. I found this strategy especially useful when I was looking for ideas for teaching a novel – I could check out one or two Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro boards, and have  a lot of ideas at my fingertips. Or, similarly to Youtube, you can check out the boards of other teachers, rather than going down the search bar rabbithole.

Blogrolls

Blog recommendations from other language teachers helped me out hugely when I was a baby teacher looking for ideas & mentors. I use feedly to manage my blog subscriptions, with sections for politics, friends, recipes, and teaching. I haven’t been able to find a way to share my complete education reading list from feedly with you, but you can see the WordPress blogs I follow in the right hand sidebar. Again, I find other teachers to be the best resource as to what blogs to follow, so I love checking out other teachers’ blogrolls.

This post was written in March 2018 – I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week 🙂

Class Activities, EdTech, Spanish 2

Reviewing Vocabulary with NearPod

In this post: Reflecting on my first use of Nearpod, plus free, ready-to-use Spanish 2 resources for Realidades chapters 2b, 3a, 3b, and 5a

It is the time of the year when motivation is swiftly waning for both students and teachers. As I was planning for my lesson today, I thought about what motivates me as a teacher: being creative, trying new things, experimenting with technology, and finding ways to keep it in the target language. I decided to give NearPod a try, and I was pleased with the result – 30+ minutes of engagement for both students and teacher! I wrote a series of definitions/descriptions in Spanish for the vocabulary words, using free response and draw it slides. Students saw the prompt on their screen, and then either typed or drew their response. Next time, I want to include more draw-it slides with longer descriptions. They really enjoyed drawing and seeing what their classmates drew, and sharing their images was quick and easy. I can’t figure out how to retrieve those images now that I’ve ended the session with my students, or I would share  some of their cute sketches with you!

I am teaching driving and directions vocabulary in Spanish 2, which corresponds to Realidades 2 Chapter 3B. If you would like to see my nearpod, here is the link. I also have a Google Slides version. I have done similar definition/description activities for chapters 2b (shopping – crossword linked), 3a (places around town, errands), and 5a (disasters). The same clues could be used for a crossword, a tarsia puzzle (Chapter 2a – shopping linked), or you could print them and have students work in teams to figure them out (just be sure to clarify that their phones are off-limits). You could also project the clues on the board and have students write the answers on paper or mini-white boards. Writing the clues would be a good task for heritage speakers or advanced students (though they aren’t always as good at keeping it comprehensible for their classmates!).

EdTech

Tech Tip: ClassroomScreen.com

My school’s technology specialist recently introduced me to a neat little tool: ClassroomScreen.com. It is designed to be projected on your whiteboard and offers a number of useful widgets: a timer, a clock, a random name picker, a QR code generator, as well as  a text box for posting announcements or instructions. Check out my video demo below:

Pardon the quality – I’m learning!