Thursday, August 6, 2020

Different Ways to Use Google Forms for Digital Learning

I originally sent this out on Twitter, but I figured I should post it here so that I have a record of it.

Since a majority of us teachers are starting the school year in a somewhat virtual environment, personally I have found it very overwhelming to learn lots of new web app tools. As much as I want to implement them, I also know from experience that it is best to learn 1-2 new tools and then to master them. I also know that I also need to take the web app tools which I do know and to learn new ways to facillitate them.

In the spring, when we abruptly had to change to digital learning, I knew how to use Google Forms, so here are different ways in which I milked Google Forms for all that could I during that time. These were set up as self-grading quizzes. Students could do these up to three times, and I would take the best grade. These forms are based on the Latin novella “Perseus et Rex Malus.” Students would receive their scores immediately upon completion, but I did not provide the correct answers.

A key component: in order to get in repetitions of language, i did 3-4 of these activities for the same passage. Students were able to get in necessary repetitions of language and to interact with the messages in different modalities without it being repetitive.

Some of these examples are better than others, because some of these I just threw together to create something for students to do when I couldn’t think of anything else. However, I do plan on adapting many of these for better usage. I have written up directions for many of these activities on this blog - do a search in the side bar for "technology":

  1. Reading Comprehension/Sight Reading 
  2. Picture/Sentence Matching 
  3. Character Matching 
  4. Support the Statement
  5. Emoji Sentences
  6. Derivative/Cognate Matching
  7. Using Video Clips
  8. Using Audio Clips (I would suggest using Formative for this instead. When you create this using Google Forms, your audio clips are stored in Google Drive, but Google Drive has a daily download limit of media. I found this out the hard way when many students could not access the audio files.

Friday, July 31, 2020

GoFormative - Get a Taste!

I have been playing around with Formative, which is an online assessment tool. When we had to switch abruptly to online teaching, I heavily used self-grading Google Forms for various ways of assessing students (and have written here about those uses). However, now that I have learned about GoFormative and as I am beginning the school year again in a digital environment, I am going to be using this web app tool, as well as Google Forms. 

I will post more about Formative here on this blog, how to use it in conjunction with Google Classroom, and how I plan to use its various functions in a classroom setting, but if you wish to experience it yourself as a student, here is a quiz which I just made as I was playing around with it. The majority of the quiz is Latin, but if you do not know Latin, you can at least see the various ways of assessing students. 

Go to
Code: 6J845M

Formative is not free, but I used the 30-day free trial to create this formative assessment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Integrating Technology: Explaining TPACK Theory

As we educators are faced again with the possibility of teaching 100% online in the fall, we can be better prepared for this undertaking than in March. As I said in my previous blog post, remote teaching requires a completely different set of skills and knowledge than classroom teaching. I have posted here on this blog about the SAMR model which is a good way to envision technology usage and the creation of new meaning in a Bloom's Taxonomy way. Although the SAMR model is understandable, critics argue that it focuses too much on a finished product at the end of a unit and that educators rush up the SAMR model to get to the higher levels, when in fact, like when using Bloom's, it is okay for teachers to focus on lower levels of critical thinking as needed. As this blog post title states, I am going to focus here on TPACK theory. 

Like the SAMR model, TPACK theory is another way to view the application of instructional technology to the classroom. TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge. Formerly known as the PACK theory before Technology was added to the acronym, this theory is a Venn Diagram of three domains: Technology Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge:

  • Technology Knowledge - Do I have a working knowledge of various information and web app technologies? Do I understand instructional technology theory? Do I have an understanding on instructional technology design?
  • Pedagogical Knowledge - Do I understand learning theory? Do I understand how to teach my content area in a developmentally-appropriate manner which is suitable for all learners? Do I understand how to facilitate and to scaffold lessons for the development of higher order thinking in students and for the creation of new meaning? Do I even adhere to a particular learning theory? 
  • Content Knowledge - Do I understand my subject area?  
When these three domains intersect properly, the TPACK is formed. The goal is that sweetspot in the center where all three domains intersect and where educators present subject material through the proper use of technology for the development of critical thinking in preparing students to be 21st century digital citizens.

So often, even without a knowledge of TPACK, we educators attempt to implement all three domains but fall short usually with only two intersections:
  • Pedagogical/Content - Educators know how to present their content with an understanding of learning theory and how students acquire knowledge but continue to implement 20th century tools for its delivery. We need to remember that today's students are 21st century learners who need to be using 21st century learning applications. 
  • Content/Technology - Educators know their subject material and know their technology but do not understand learning theory or how to use technology properly for student learning and the development of higher order thinking. I call this "throwing technology at students" and results in either disconnecting students or just entertaining students without engaging them.
  • Technology/Pedagogical - Educators know how to implement technology to instill critical thinking in students but address subject material in a very limited scope due to a lack of knowledge. This does not occur often.
Do you see yourself in any of the above examples?

Although the TPACK model looks good on paper as a Venn diagram, the major criticism surrounds: What the heck does that center sweetspot even look like in the classroom? At least with the SAMR model, there is a finished product or artifact at the end which illustrates the end goal! While I confess that I too do not "know" what that sweetspot looks like, however, I will continue to implement TPACK as a planning guide. So as I begin to look ahead now to the possibility of teaching 100% online again and begin to create online lessons, I am asking myself these questions IN THIS ORDER:
  • Content Knowledge: What is skill or content do I need to teach? Do I know what I am teaching? As educators, this is probably the easiest of the three knowledge domains for us.
  • Technological Knowledge: What technologies do I want to implement for this lesson? Does my use of technology line up with instructional technology theory? If I were to be teaching 100% online, I would have to address this question before addressing pedagogical knowledge. However, many times, the technology will naturally lend itself to the focus/goal of the lesson, while other times, it may be necessary to seek new ones which will support your goal. 
  • Pedagogical Knowledge: How can I implement Comprehensible Input in this lesson? How can I ensure that I am addressing the learning needs of all students? What are my student learning goals for this lesson? Is my lesson addressing higher order thinking in students? When addressing these questions, in many ways, one must also ask if the use of particular technology can achieve these goals. This is where Technological and Pedagogical Knowledge overlap. 
Examples of TPACK thought process in lesson planning:

In many ways, I hope that I have not oversimplified TPACK theory, but hopefully this theory can help guide you when creating online lessons or even in-person lessons for the classroom. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Looking at Online Learning

Yes, I am back! I had envisioned that I was going to take a long respite from blogging, because I did not feel the need to blog anymore and just wanted to take a break from it all. Looks like I only lasted a month. Now that there is a huge national debate raging about schools re-opening for the fall, and with many school districts giving parents the choice for their children to attend school either in-person or online, suddenly, I want to blog again and to add my voice to this debate, using my Instructional Technology knowledge and degree. I am only speaking for myself in this post and not for the online learning community as a whole. 

One of the main arguments which I am hearing for schools re-opening in person is that both parents and students had a negative experience with online learning when schools closed. And to be honest, what else can I do but to agree and to congratulate them on their remarkable perception, because most likely, they are correct: Parents and students did have a negative experience with online learning. However, the blame should not be on online learning per se, i.e., online learning in and of itself is not bad. Rather we should focus on the fact that most teachers have never received any type of training related to remote learning. As an Instructional Technologist, I will say that teaching online requires a completely different set of skills and knowledge than teaching face-to-face in the classroom. When schools had to abruptly switch to digital learning, most districts were caught off guard. Although many districts had learning management systems (LMS) set in place, teachers never anticipated the necessity to implement them as their primary means of instruction. To be honest, I had only really used my district's LMS for housing CI stories for students to review prior to exams and for the occasional snow day lesson. So when suddenly faced with having to deliver instruction solely in a digital manner, most teachers simply took their face-to-face lesson plans and set them in an online environment, as if a 1:1 complement existed (which it is not at all). This is not to say that teachers were not doing the best they could in the situation - I was definitely thrown off by it all, even with a degree in the field and being a doctoral student in Instructional Technology! In addition, toss in the fact that many districts did not set up clear grading guidelines or student accountability, an uncertainty for how long this digital teaching would occur, and a lack of technology access for students. It is no surprise to me at all that many parents and students do not have a positive view of online learning.

So some terms to define, since many districts are tossing them around, and the terms can be confusing or be misused:
  • Blended-learning - This is a mix of face-to-face and online instruction. The idea is that half of a student's instruction comes from physical in-person classroom time, while the other half is delivered in a digital environment. The flipped classroom is an example of blended-learning curriculum. If you teach in a traditional classroom and have a LMS, this is how on paper a curriculum should be delivered, but most likely, teachers still implement 90% of their instruction face-to-face, with the LMS serving solely as a supplement or storehouse for past class notes or activities. 
  • Online/remote/virtual/digital learning - This refers to a 100% online delivery of instruction. A student's curriculum occurs solely in a digital environment, where "face-to-face" instruction occurs in a variety of ways: screencasts, YouTube instructional videos, Khan Academy, Zoom meetings, Google Meet, Microsoft Team, Blackboard, etc. One of the major benefits of online learning is that it allows for a learning environment no longer bound by physical space or time, i.e., students do not have to adhere to a specific meeting space at a specific time. Within prescribed deadlines, students can learn at their own pace according to their own schedule. As a result, online learning is not meant to have daily assignments but rather a list of prescribed tasks and assignments to be completed by X time.
When schools closed suddenly, immediately teachers had to switch to a 100% online delivery of instruction overnight. The biggest problem with it was that teachers had never been trained properly in how to teach online, and most were struggling to keep their head above water with it all. Many schools (mostly private) required students to continue their daily schedules as before except in an online environment such as Zoom, so these teachers were able to continue face-to-face instruction. On the other hand, since I teach in a public high school which is not 1:1 but rather BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), I did not feel comfortable setting up face-to-face sessions, primarily because I had no guarantee that all of my students even had access to technology or home Wi-Fi. 

As we see COVID-19 numbers spike dramatically in almost 3/4 of the country and as many district are having to consider 100% online learning again, if we wish for our students to learn in the best way which we can offer digitally, then I propose the following:
  • Districts need to provide educators with proper professional development in online learning. Just as there are learning theories for the classroom, learning theories exist for digital environments. Educators must understand how to best to address the learning needs for all students, which includes instructional technology learning theory and instructional design theory. As an online graduate student, I will admit that there have a number of courses which I have taken that have been quite boring. At the same time, there are other courses which I absolutely enjoyed and had an incredibly positive learning experience. In my opinion, the difference was due to the professors and how they had designed the courses. In the same way, provide educators with the correct tools and information for how to design an online environment backed by proper learning theory. 
  • Districts need to provide the necessary technology for all students who need it so that they can take part in online learning. 
  • Districts need to provide take-home hotspots for families who do not have Wi-Fi at home. Pre-COVID, a large number of students relied on school Wi-Fi and other Wi-Fi hotspots in the community to complete their assignments, but during the shelter-in-place ordinance, these students lost their sole access to Wi-Fi. Districts should also consider mobile hotspots on school buses, such as Kajeet SmartBus, and park them throughout the community for students. Once we return face-to-face instruction, then students can continue to use the school bus Wi-Fi during their transportation to and from school.
Let me finish by saying that there is no substitute for face-to-face instruction. During the shelter-in-place, I greatly missed my students and interacting with them. I missed the relationships and getting the opportunity to teach them in person. As language teachers, so much of student learning is dependent on student interaction with the language and with you as its deliverer. However, in this current COVID time, until there is a vaccine, safety of my students and my own self-preservation are my primary concerns. Therefore, if necessary to go 100% digital learning again, we need to be prepared and armed with knowledge which will help our students best learn in an online environment. We need to make the best of this situation and to adapt as we can. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Is Latin Exclusive and Elitist? The Desperate Need for a Remedy

Yes, I know that I just posted a few days ago, writing that I was taking a break from blogging. In light of current events, accept this as my true last blog post before I go back into self-imposed blog "retirement." This blog post represents my own opinions based upon my own experiences. I do not speak for the CI or Latin teacher community in any way. Any views expressed are solely mine.

World Language enrollment at the college level has been in constant decline over the past number of years. While across the board, language enrollment numbers have been decreasing (with exceptions of American Sign Language, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean which all have seen an increase), the decline can be especially observed in Latin. According to the 2016 Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education Report published by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Latin enrollment numbers at the college level are:

Year Enrollment
2006 32,164
2009 32,444
2013 27,192 (16.1% decrease)
2016 24,866 (8.1% decrease)
2019    report has not yet been published

The question remains: What has caused this decline? What trends have occurred in the past 10-15 years which have led to Latin numbers decreasing? Possible reasons:
  • In general, less college students are taking language courses. There has been a 16.3% decrease in overall enrollment since 2009. Are more students entering with AP language credit and thereby have already fulfilled their language requirement?
  • Changes in language trends. As stated earlier, ASL, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean language enrollments have increased. Are those students who traditionally would have taken Latin now taking one of these three languages instead?
  • More students headed towards STEM courses and majors, of which many do not have a world language requirement. 
  • Perhaps an emphasis on grammar-translation in university-level Latin? 
So what have we traditionally done in the past to increase our Latin enrollment numbers, especially to attract students of color in recent years? We play up wearing togas, that Latin is not a "spoken" language, that Latin is "fun," and that Latin helps prepare students for the SAT (not a reality any longer with the new SAT). We target underrepresented students by talking up the cultural diversity of the ancient Roman world. While all of these efforts are admirable, when implementing grammar translation, we still set up a classroom where only certain students will succeed. In our recruiting efforts to increase our Latin enrollment, we tend to set the following filters:
  • Do we weed out students who do not fit the traditional “Latin” mold? 
  • When promoting Latin with parents and counselors, do we say that only students with high language arts/math scores and high GPA's should take Latin?
  • Do we say that only “mature” 9th grade students should take Latin 1 (partly because that will guarantee an AP program down the road) and that "immature" 9th graders wait until their sophomore or junior years?
  • Do we target 4%ers, since those are the ones who tend to succeed under traditional Latin pedagogy?
  • Do only visual learners tend to succeed?
Latin has a reputation for being exclusive and elitist and that only smart students and those with the highest GPAs take Latin. In many ways, I cannot argue with that. However, although this status quo may be completely de facto in nature, and as much as I firmly believe that no Latin teacher ever intentionally sets out for this situation to occur and to exclude students, the fact is that it does exist. As a result, we as Latinists must address this. 

For years, I taught Latin using grammar-translation methodology, since that was the only way in which I knew to teach the language. And I was a damn good grammar translation teacher! At my former school, my colleague and I built up our Latin program to over 300 students using Latin for Americans, as the word on the street became "take Latin." I secretly delighted that all the smart students took Latin, but as our program grew, we began to attract all types of students, including those who did not academically fit the Latin mold. At the same time, I was determined that these students would pass my class (more for my pride and not for them as students). However, in good faith I remember telling one student who failed my class, "You know what? I don't think Latin is for you. I think you'd be better off in Spanish." Now this student tried so hard in my class, but when it came to conjugating verbs, doing synopses, parsing, memorizing endings, translating, and all which we expect students to master in a grammar-translation class, he struggled. I look back now and am so remorseful for displaying such an elitist attitude in saying this to that student. Essentially what I told this student was "Latin is only for certain types of learners - it is too bad that you are not it."

Those in the spoken Latin movement propose that adding a spoken component will attract new types of students to Latin, since we are now appealing to oral and auditory listeners, instead of only to visual learners. While I wholeheartedly agree that we need to add a spoken/listening component to our Latin curriculum, speaking Latin can turn the language back into being “exclusive” again. A survival of the fittest mentality emerges, as immersion often turns into submersion for students.

While I applaud the movement of introducing much needed under-represented and overlooked voices and perspectives into the Latin curriculum to address the absolute dearth of diversity in our Latin curricula, without a true change in a pedagogical approach, I feel that all these changes will accomplish is to create a diverse classroom of 4%ers. Yes, our students will look different, and we can applaud ourselves for having classrooms which now represent the diverse demographics of our school building, but in actuality, our classrooms still attract only those students who can succeed with a traditional approach to teaching Latin. Yes, a classroom full of students from diverse backgrounds but still a classroom of 4%ers nonetheless. All which we have done really is to replicate ourselves, students who can learn Latin in the way which we learned Latin. In other words, we have still missed the bigger picture of creating a classroom where ALL students and learners are able to succeed.

That is why I am proudly a CI Latin teacher (you can read here about my CI journey). If we wish to attract all types of learners to our classrooms, then our methodology needs to change first. When we do that first, then diversity in our classrooms will follow. When students who have traditionally viewed Latin as a smart, white-kids' language and do not fit that mold see that they can succeed in the language, word among students becomes "take Latin." And yes, I agree that much of CI curriculum too needs to change and to be revised to represent more diverse voices. As we reflect on current events, I am certain that these changes will occur.

I am not so blind to think that a CI-focused pedagogy is a panacea for inequity and diversity issues in the Latin classroom, but I have been an eyewitness to how CI seeks to address and to begin remedying these problems. I am part of a department of SIX Latin teachers (Rachel Ash, Elizabeth Davidson, John Foulk, Miriam Patrick, Bob Patrick, and I) at a public high school of 3,000 students, of which 700 take Latin. My classroom is now full of students whom I would not have seen in my classroom 15-20 years ago when I was using grammar-translation - all types of learners and of diverse backgrounds. These would have been the students to whom years ago I would have said, "I do not think that Latin is for you. I think you would be better suited for Spanish." But with a CI-based curriculum, I now welcome these students, because I know that they can succeed.

Latin enrollment numbers are declining. Programs at the college and secondary levels are closing due to decreased enrollment counts. We are now in survival mode. I leave you with this final thought: Do students need to fit the Latin mold in order for them to succeed? or does Latin need to fit the student mold in order for them to succeed?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Taking a Break

I began this blog in December 2013, and now after 282 posts and over 615,000 page views, I have decided to take a break from blogging. The blog will remain live, but I am taking a break from posting. I am not "blogged" out per se, because I actually have about 20 future blog posts in one kind of draft form or another that I have yet to publish. So it is not that I feel like I do not have anything to say or that the well has run dry in terms of blog post ideas. 

Quite honestly, the reason is that I just do not feel the need to blog anything at the moment. It has been two months since I have last posted anything here. Granted the last two months have been adjusting to a life of self-quarantining, of social distancing, and of facilitating digital distance learning with my students, but now that life is starting to re-open to a post-quarantine world, I realize that during those two months, I did not miss blogging (and I certainly had the TIME to blog!). 

So much like when I took time off from attending/presenting at conferences, I am going to take time off here from blogging. But much like how I returned back to attending conferences and presenting, I am certain that I will return again to blogging. Hopefully, it will not be a 18-month respite like it was for me with conferences. When I miss blogging, that is when I will know that I am ready to return.

So to the ten of you who faithfully read my blog - I thank you so much! I look forward to blogging again and sharing ideas with all of you in the future.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Student Digital Lessons Feedback Survey

By now, I am sure similar to me, you have learned that teaching in an online environment is HARD! This makes me think that if this is hard for me, then what must it be like for my students? After the first week of digital learning (see my 2-week digital day lesson plan), I decided to have students fill out a survey about what they thought of their Latin digital day work. Since I am just one of their six classes, I wanted student feedback to know what they thought of their Latin assignments in terms of difficulty/ease, to gauge how does my workload compare to their other classes, and to check in with them personally.

In the Google Form survey, I asked the following questions with a Likert-type scale response:
  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • No opinion
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree
  1. Digital Day material for Latin has been challenging for me.
  2. Digital Day work for Latin is overly time-consuming compared to the work in my other classes.
  3. Digital Day work for Latin has contained a lot of variety.
  4. Compared to my other classes, I look forward to doing Digital Day work for Latin.
  5. Digital Day work for Latin has been difficult for me to complete due to access to technology.
  6. I find the daily screencast helpful in explaining directions.
  7. I prefer seeing all of my Digital Day Latin assignments for the week on eClass at once.
  8. I prefer seeing my Digital Day Latin assignments on eClass released on a daily basis.
  9. I am tired of Digital Day work and wish that I were back at school learning instead of doing learning independently.
  10. I am deeply concerned/worried about COVID-19.
  1. I am very grateful for the feedback, because it will definitely inform how I move forward.
  2. After the first week of digital learning, students overwhelmingly seemed to have a very positive attitude towards their online Latin assignments, with most saying that it was not overly difficult/challenging, not overly time consuming compared to their other classes, and that they thought that there was a variety in the assignments. Most students agreed that they look forward to doing their Latin work compared to their other classes.
  3. For most students, access to technology was not a major issues. For those where it was an issue, I am aware of many who have to share a computer with other siblings, thus limiting their access.
  4. After just one week, about 2/3 of students were tired of digital learning and wanted to return back to school. As of today, it has been two weeks since I gave this survey. I venture to say that the number is probably MUCH higher now.
  5. After one week, students were split in terms of how they felt about COVID-19, with 1/3 not concerned at all, 1/3 having no opinion, and 1/3 expressing concern. I wonder how they feel now that it is two weeks later and that the number of COVID-19 numbers have dramatically risen and so much has changed in their lives in those two weeks.
So consider checking in with your students about how they feel about your assignment workload and make adjustments where needed. At this point, it is no longer about keeping up with instructional calendars and making sure that they are prepared for next year - that ship sailed away A LONG TIME AGO! It is about making assignments worthwhile and meaningful for students.