Thursday, May 13, 2021

Is My Classroom Better Now Because of Technology?

These past months of teaching digitally in a hybrid learning environment and of having to rely so heavily now on technology for delivery of instruction and for digital assignments have definitely taught me a lot. I will say that I am quite proficient now in Google Classroom and Zoom, two web app tools which I had never used before July 2020! So now with only 1.5 weeks left in the school year and as I look ahead to next year, I have to ask myself: Is my classroom better now because of technology?

As I ask myself this question, keep in my mind that I am viewing this through my own lens of personal classroom experience and of having a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, so I have both personal experience and academic theoretical knowledge on the topic. 

I think that we need to be careful when we think about technology facilitation in our curriculum because it is easy to make a blanket statement by responding with a hearty "yes, my classroom is better now because of technology. Look at what I am using!" Rather, we should divide our technology implementation into two categories: 

  1. Technology which makes my job easier as a teacher.
  2. Technology which aids in student acquistion of material, raising critical thinking among students, and allowing students to create new meaning with the material.
Allow me to explain this further. When implementing any type of technology or web app tool, the question to ask is cui bono - who's to gain from this? And honestly, there is no clear cut answer for this when evaluating technology facilitation because in and of itself, hopefully classroom technology usage fulfills both categories when used properly. However, just because one may use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, that does not necessarily equate to facilitating student learning; its primary student usage may be solely for turning in digital assignments and viewing grades. Throwing technology at students does not equal proper implementation.

if I am going to assess my own technology implementation this year, here is what it looks like:

Technology which makes my job easier as a teacher

Technology which aids in student acquistion of material, raising critical thinking among students, and allowing students to create new meaning with the material

  1. Google Classroom

  2. Zoom

  3. Brightspace learning management system

  4. Remind

  1. GimKit

  2. Blooket

  3. Movie Talks

  4. EdPuzzle

  5. Whiteboard.fi

  6. Screencastify

  7. Google Docs

  8. Google Slides

  9. Nearpod

  10. YouTube


While I can pride myself in that the 2nd column is longer than the first, I must then ask myself: how closely did these web app tools correspond with the higher levels of the SAMR model (the Bloom's taxonomy model for Instructional Technology)? Did thse web app tools actually lead to student acquisition of material? Or was I just entertaining students? Could I have achieved the same student learning outcome without technology? Was only lower-order thinking activated in students when using these web app tools?

Of course, this past year's teaching situation dictated a full "technology-centered" classroom, but next year looks like we will be returning to a somewhat, pre-Covid, face-to-face learning environment. What are web app tools which I will continue to use? What are web app tools which I will bring back that this year's teaching situation would not allow?

I do not profess to have any answers to my original question of "Is my classroom better now because of technology?" but this type of reflection has been very helpful to me as I look ahead to next year. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

I am So Ready

With just 3 weeks left in the semester,

  • I am so ready for this hybrid teaching situation to be over.
  • I am so ready to NOT be "chained" to my laptop screen in order to teach both in-person and digital students simultaneously.
  • I am so ready to be mobile again in order to interact with students, instead of being 100% stationary behind my desk.
  • I am so ready to be "teaching to the eyes" again, because quite honestly in this hybrid situation, I have NO clue what students (especially Zoom students) are understanding and not understanding.
  • I am so ready to tell a story to students in the target language, to have them act it out, to ask them questions, and to do PQA's AND to move around when I do all of that.
  • I am so ready to NOT have to rely completely 100% on digital assignments and activities in order to accommodate both in-person and digital assignments at the same time.
  • I am so ready to finally get to know my students personally and to learn of their interests and strengths and for them to get to know me.
  • I am so ready to do face-to-face interactive activities with students again which Covid, Zoom, and hybrid-teaching have made impossible.
  • I am so ready for my classroom to be arranged like it was pre-Covid and not be spaced out in the way which it is now where I feel like students are so distant from me.
  • I am so ready to not be teaching wearing a mask which I feel so impedes my level of communication and comprehensibility.
I also understand that this time will eventually come. I just need to be patient.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Smoke Seller - Movie Talk

Here is another one of my go-to movie talks which I tend to use quite regularly over the years, because I like the plot and because I can manipulate the animated short to fit the vocabulary which I need for a particular reading. Words which can be targeted in this movie talk are young man, old woman, dog, drives a car, city/town, approaches, goes/comes to, sells, life, miserable, better than, citizens/people, wears clothes, transforms/changes, and airplane.



Observations

  1. I really like the music in this animated short!
  2. I think that this is made by the same animators as Snack Attack, because the young men in both animated shorts look strikingly similar! I did not catch that, but students have certainly pointed that out to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dragonboy - Movie Talk

This is one of my all-time, go-to movie talks. I really like the story, and because I have done this movie talk so many times, I can manipulate it to preview whatever vocabulary words which I need. I just have to remember which levels have seen this Movie Talk and when! It is a great animated short for level 1 for basic words like boy, girl, take, flower, make, see, love, wants, has, happy, sad, and angry, but I have also used it in upper levels for very specialized words such as attack, punch, seek out, chase, pretend, princess/queen, leader, kingdom, dragon, roar, and cruel. 



Observations

  1. I have found that students really like this animated short. 
  2. Every time I do this Movie Talk, students will always ask, "Where the heck is the teacher during the play?! Are there any grownups there?!!!"

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Using Blooket

I feel like I have totally come late to the party on this web app tool, but near the end of last semester, I was introduced to the website Blooket. Around November 2020, the German teacher at my school shared it with my department, and Rachel Ash (one of my Latin colleagues) then created a novella chapter review for our Latin 2 team. My students really enjoyed the different activities which we played, so it is now one of my digital web app tools which I use for review. 


Blooket has so many different games and activities which you can assign students to play either as a whole group or as individual work. The best part is that you only have to create one set of questions, and then you can choose which activities you want to do with those questions.


I will usually do 2-3 different activities in a classroom lesson.

Racing
Usually, I will first start out with Racing, which is simply students answering questions, and if they answer correctly, they can move forward one space in the race course. The more quickly one answers questions correctly, the faster one will move across the screen. However, as you answer questions, you gain chances for random rewards, which can move players up a space, players can choose to move leaders back a space, and players can shield themselves from attacks. I like doing this activity first, because it exposes students to the questions in a quick 4-5 minute game. This will prepare them for the longer game which we will play next (I learned this from Rachel too).

Gold Quest
This is a really fun game to play for about 7-9 minutes! I tell students that they will either love this game or absolutely hate it, because it is all based on chance and just because one may know all of the answers, it does not mean that person will necessarily win. 

The premise is very simple: players will answer a question and if they answer correctly, they can choose from one of three treasure chests. Each of the treasure chests has a different reward or "punishment," e.g., 100 gold pieces, lose 10% of your gold, triple your gold, take 25% of another player's gold, swap gold with another player, etc. Because this is based on chance, no one has an advantage over another in terms of being able to win. It all depends on which treasure chests the players choose.

There was a holiday version of Gold Quest released for December, and that was a lot of fun to play!

Observations
  1. I will usually make about 35-45 questions, which means that students are getting LOTS of repetitions of questions during an activity.
  2. I have found that students enjoy playing Blooket more than GimKit. I think because it does not necessarily cater to the students who know how to "game" GimKit to get to a million points within a minute, so it seems more fair. Also depending on the game, everyone has a fair shot at winning due to the chance factor.
  3. I always play along with students. Just because I know all of the answers (and questions!) does not mean that I will win the game. On the contrary, I usually am the one who ends up doing all of the heavy lifting, only to have my points taken away from me by other players. 
  4. Some of the games have rewards such as blurring everyone else's screen so that they cannot read what is on it, putting trees all over the screen, minimzing screens, turning the screen upside down, icing players' moves for 10 seconds. It is a lot of fun! 
  5. During this hybrid teaching situation, Blooket has been a godsend!
  6. Although it is "free," there is a limit to how many "blooks" you can create with a free account. For a price, you can upgrade to an unlimited amount of blooks and exclusive features. I suppose you could rewrite existing blooks to make new ones?
  7. A lot of these activities can be assigned as individual homework - great for asynchronous learning days!
  8. Much like GimKit, I will do Blooket every 5-6 weeks in order to preserve the novelty.
Have you used any of the other Blooket activities in your classes such as Cafe or Battle Royale? Let me know how your students liked them.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

GimKit - Draw That

Just recently, I tried out the new Draw That game on GimKit. In this current hybrid teaching situation of trying to balance in-person and digital students and of me remaining 100% seated behind my desk in front of a screen, so many face-to-face activities which were mainstays of my CI-driven classroom have been pushed aside for another day. Even GimKit has gotten a bit stale with students, so this new drawing game could not have come at a better time!

Essentially, this game is a digital version of Pictionary, where a student draws a picture and in real time, it appears on everyone else's device screens. Meanwhile, the rest of the players guess the word by typing it in their devices


Observations

  1. Students loved this game! Being able to see the picture being drawn in real time is what made the activity so attractive and engaging for students.
  2. Like Pictionary, your choice of words need to be easily illustrated, i.e., don't pick a word like dignity.
  3. The only drawback I found with this was that it requires correct spelling of vocabulary words. For an inflected language like Latin, what form of the word should I pick? For nouns, just the nominative or should I pick a more common form with which students are more familiar from the readings? For verbs, should I pick the infinitive form or a particular form (tense, person) which they know better? For example, one of the words which students was guessing was urbs, but a lot of students were guessing urbe instead, since the readings tended to have the phrase in urbe more than urbs.
  4. Students found that when using a phone or tablet, autocorrect would change the spelling of the Latin word to an English word. I will play along with students, and when I typed in the word misit, autocorrect changed it to moist. 
  5. Because students knew that they could be called on next to draw, they had to pay attention and to be part of the game at all times!
  6. Now from a CI perspective, I prefer the Charlala Draw Room because I can have students illustrate full sentences instead of individual words and then they can choose which sentence they believe the picture is depicting. 
After we played it last week, a number of my Zoom students (who are normally very quiet) wrote in chat, "That was so much fun! Can we play it again?" As much as I love hearing that, my pat answer whenever I hear that is, "Yep...in 5-6 weeks (in order to preserve the novelty)." 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Car Park - Movie Talk

Here is another fun movie talk which I had done 4-5 years ago and had completely forgotten about but just recently found it in my Google Drive. It is called Car Park (this animated short was made in the UK, so a "car park" is what Americans call a "parking lot" - I had to explain that to students. I remember when I said that the movie talk was called "Car Park," a student innocently asked, "Is that like a dog park?"). The animated short is relatively brief but gets in a lot of repetitions. Target words for this movie talk are man, dog, barks/makes a loud noise, car, looks for, finds, through the window, frightens/scares, is frightened/is scared, hides, his (reflexive use of the possessive pronoun).





Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ormie the Pig - Movie Talk

Here is a fun Movie Talk which I had done many years ago, but I completely forgot about it. Just recently my colleague John Foulk reminded me about it. It is called Ormie the Pig (is he a character somewhere?) and his attempts to steal cookies from a cookie jar on top of a refrigerator. Again, the best movie talks are those with a lot of repetition in it in terms of action, and there is a lot of that here in this animated short. This is a good Movie Talk for words such as cookies, refrigeratorwant, steal/take, in order to, on top of.





Thursday, March 18, 2021

False Story Sentences using Google Forms

As it is now a year since I have begun some form of digital teaching, at this point, I feel like I am scraping the barrel for new, novel ways for students to review stories in an online setting. I have been dog paddling for a year with digital teaching, doing everything I can just to keep my head above water, and I am weary. I know that my students are weary too of this weird hybrid teaching situation. Because of this, I am trying to limit the web app tools which we are using in class so that there is familiarity for students in using them and that they do not have to learn a new tool on their own. I feel like I have been milking Google Forms to an extreme, trying to find different ways of using them for assignments and for students to demonstrate comprehension/mastery of material. 

My colleague John Foulk came up with a new way for students to review a reading: False Story Sentences. It is actually very simple and is a good way for them to demonstrate understanding and comprehension of a reading. If you are like me, one of the things which I hate about this hybrid teaching is that I really have NO CLUE if students are actually comprehending anything which we are doing. While they may be completing assignments, that does not tell me much per se, other than they completed the assignment. This use of false statements at least forces them to indicate meaning and understanding to me.

Directions

  1. Take 10 sentences from a reading, and change just one word in that sentence. Do not change more than one.
  2. Put those sentences in a Google Form, and put the answer setting as "Paragraph"
  3. Give students a copy of the reading. They will use this to find the correct sentence.
  4. Tell students that they are to figure out what is false in that sentence and then to write what is incorrect and what the sentence should say instead. Why in English? Because this is a comprehension activity. While students could tell me what the correct Latin word should be, e.g., the sentence should say "iratissimus" and not "laetissimus," that does not tell me whether students understood what they were actually reading. Considering that they have the actual reading as a resource, writing down the actual Latin word is nothing more than a copying exercise. 

Observations
  1. This definitely was a novel way for students to demonstrate comprehension while truly showing me what students understood and did not understand from the reading.
  2. Since I was able to print up students responses on a spreadsheet, it made grading very easy, because everything was in a grid. I was able to compare student answers against each other and to see where there were common student errors.
  3. This was a new way for me to use Google Forms - euge!!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Giving Grace to Myself and to Others

Sometimes after teaching a lesson in this weird hybrid era, I think to myself, "Gosh, I am doing a horrible job here. I have no absolutely no idea what students are learning or how engaged they are. I don't know if students are acquiring anything from what we are doing. I don't know if my Zoom students are even there (since their cameras and microphones are off)! I feel completely out of my element, since it is not 100% face-to-face. Teaching in a concurrent environment is just plain hard, and I have no clue how to do it!"

However, when I do feel like that (which is A LOT), I make sure to remind myself, "But you know what? Nobody else knows really how to do this either. We are all in the same boat. You are doing the best you can at the moment just to keep your head above water, and that is okay. This is not a permanent situation by any means. Eventually, we will return back to a semblance of pre-Covid days. I just need to be patient." 

We are now coming up on a year of the COVID shelter-in-place orders and the sudden, abrupt switch to digital teaching. Honestly, these past twelve months have been very jarring. It is as if we were working on a perfectly, laid out puzzle, and suddenly, somebody came along and knocked over the puzzle table. The pieces have scattered everywhere. Naturally, we scramble to find all of the pieces so that we can put the puzzle back together again perfectly, but alas we cannot find all of missing pieces. This upsets us, because we were working so hard on that puzzle, and now it is in disorder. We look around to blame whoever knocked over the puzzle, cry, scream, get anxious, and we want to know specifically why this puzzle table has been knocked over and why we cannot find the missing pieces. But in all of this, I have learned the following: Life is a series of putting puzzles together and having them knocked out of place. And it is OKAY if we cannot find all of the pieces, because big picture - there are things which we have to accept that are going to be out of our control.

So my puzzle is currently in disarray, with pieces which I cannot find, and you know what? I have come to accept that, and I have peace. I know that for many folks, this teaching situation and the pandemic in general has been hard. Any type of life disruption can be difficult and challenging, let alone a global pandemic. But in it all, I have learned to give myself grace as a teacher. However, giving grace to myself as a teacher has not been easy thing to accomplish. As an overachieving 4%er who thrives on performing and achieving, I want to do my best. I should be the one leading the way - after all, I am the one with the graduate degree in Instructional Technology, right? But the reality of this is that teaching in a hybrid situation is hard, not to mention that I am still learning to live and to adjust to life during a global pandemic! So I have learned to accept that when it comes to teaching concurrently, I have missing puzzle pieces, and it will probably remain that way. As a result, I do not need to hold myself to a standard which is unrealistic and is based on a fully-assembled puzzle. I have purposed now to be just an "adequate" teacher, and it is so freeing!

I am realizing that when I am able to give grace to myself in this weird teaching situation, I can freely give grace to other teachers too. I think that many times because we are incredibly high overachievers, we hold ourselves to such a high standard that we impose this same standard upon everyone else, not realizing that our idea of 100% is probably 150% for everyone else. We drive ourselves to do the best to such a degree that we unknowingly or even purposely drive everyone around us to be at our standard or at least to attempt to be. Our passion for the best ends up driving others away, and in turn, we lose any bit of credibility with them. Our hearts and motivation are not really in the "right" place. We tend to insulate ourselves and associate with other overachievers so we start to think that we are normal and that everyone is and should be like us. However, this is the reality: we are not the normal ones.

I have looked over my past Tweets from a year ago when all of us suddenly were thrown into digital teaching and had no idea for how long this situation would be - I am aghast and ashamed of my tone in many of them which address teaching digitally. My tone is dogmatic and pedantic, as I "share" (but did anyone ask for it?) my Instructional Technology knowledge about how teaching digitally should be "done," and if teachers are just throwing their face-to-face lesson plans into an online environment just to give students something to do, then they were doing their students a disservice. Wow, I shirk and recoil when I read those Tweets, because while there may be some truth in what I said, by no means was it the message that needed to be heard at that time. As a profession nationwide, we were scrambling - instead, we needed messages of support and continue to do.

So to all of you teachers out there who feel like you are failing as a digital teacher, guess what? You are not alone, and we probably are failing as digital teachers. But this teaching situation is not forever. We will eventually return back to the classroom environment and interaction with students which made us glad to be teachers. We just need to be patient.

As I wonder if I have failed students as a teacher this year, let me end with an anecdote which I have shared many times on this blog: If I only look at where I fell short, then I cannot see my successes. I am reminded of what Rose Williams once said to me in the past, "(In spite of where you fell short), your students still loved you." And for where I fell short with my students? That is what next year is for - I can go in with a plan already in mind. The new school year brings hope. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Shameless Plug LOL

Here is a shameless plug for a podcast on which I was recently a guest. My Latin colleague (and fellow CI user) Liz Davidson has a gaming podcast called Beyond Solitaire, and she asked me on as a guest to discuss Games and Activities in the Classroom. By no means am I an expert on the topic, but it definitely was fun to be on Liz's podcast. Topics addressed were games in the classroom, CI, lowering the affective filter, building community, and engaging students vs. entertaining them. I am sure that I rambled on about nothing in particular, but Liz is a great interviewer and edited the podcast to sound like I know what I am talking about. In the podcast, I credit a lot of fellow CI users and mentors about what I have learned over the years from them.

Please take a listen and support Liz's gaming podcast!

Keith Toda on Classroom Gaming - Apple Podcast

Keith Toda on Classroom Gaming - Podcast.net



Monday, February 22, 2021

More Observations about Student Grammar Errors

This semester, I am focusing on having students do free writes for their writings. Previously during a normal face-to-face teaching setting, I would have students retell the particular story in Latin which we had been going over for that unit by writing it down in a composition book. Since we had reviewed the story so much as input, writing would be a natural way for output to occur. However, in this digital setting and having students type out their writings of the stories on a Google Document, I soon found that many students were just copying and pasting from digital copies of the story which were already on Google Classroom from previous assignments and submitting that as their writings. As a result, I decided to focus on free writes, where I give students a prompt for them to complete, and their job is create a sequel to the story on their own from that prompt.

Here are some examples of Latin 3 student writing based on the prompt which my colleague John Foulk created: Monstrum et puer nunc sunt amīcī. Cum monstrum et puer aquae appropinquant, subitō…

Example 1

Monstrum gaudet. Monstrum est laetus. Monstrum est lateus qoud amici habet. Monstrum numcam habet amici. Monstrum non queritur dentes e ocolus. Subitio de aquae Peppa pig surgit. Peppa vult cibum. Peppa dicit “puer dat cibum NUNC!” Puer timet. Monstum non placet Peppa.Puer est eius amici, non vult puer timit sed vult puer lateus. Monstrum petit Peppa. Peppa  pettit monstrum. Petit e petit e petit Subito Peppa cadit in Aquea et perit. Puer est lateus sed non iam timet. Peur est latues quod oculous habet et puer potest videre monstrum est un amici.Monstrum et Puer ambulat ad tabernam. Subito Peppa surgit et didct “redibo”. “Non iam pax in gens sed bellum, bellum gerit contra puer et monstrum.”


Example 2

Puer cadit in aquae. Puer non potest natare. Puer est patitur. Monstrum nonscivit liberate puer. Monstrum parat videt mortuus est puer. Monstrum est tristis et patitur, videt drowning puer. Monstrum tristissimus et fugit ex from aquae. Monstrum in dolore et searches for miles ut liberate puer. Monstrum et miles fugit ad puer, sed puer non iam in aquae. Iam puer cum piratae. Piratae liberavit puer et nunc puer est piratae. Pirataes non placet monstrum. Pirataes bellum gerit monstrum. Sed Monstrum fortissimus. Monstrum caedet pirataes et pirataes nunc mortuom. Monstrum vicit pirataes et nunc odit puer. Puer est vulneratus et non iam placet Monstrum. Puer odit Monstrum. Puer fugit ab ex monstrum. Puer videt aliud monstrum sed non amici est. Nunc Puer odit et ab fugit omnes monstrum.


Example 3

Imperator appropinquant. Imperator fortis et audax. Imperator habet arma et vult bellum gerit. Imperator of Bikini Bottom ingens et cancer. Monstrum et puer timet. Monstrum et puer vult pax, non vult proelio. Monstrum iubet ut pax. Imperator iratus et non vult pax. Imperator cadit in terra. Imperator manet in terra. Imperator patitur sed imperator vulneteratus. Imperator non iam vult bellum gerrit. Monstrum, puer, et imperator nunc sunt amici. Subito, regina Sandy appropinquant. Sandy considit in terra, Bikini Bottom. Monstrum, puer, et imperator considit in terra. Imperator audit Patrick et SpongeBob mortus. Imperator iratus et non lauetus. Imperator in dolore. Monstrum et puer in dolore. Omnes Bikini Bottom patitur. Pauci homines such as Squidward non patitur et guadit. Squidward laetus et canit carmen. Monstrum, imperator, puer, et Sandy non nunc sunt amici with Squidward. Omnes iratus at Squidward. Imperator et Sandy videt taberna. Imperator, Sandy, monstrum, et puer vult comedere.



Now if you are familiar with Latin, the first thing which I am sure that stands out to you is the SHEER AMOUNT of grammar and spelling errors! And I am certain that for many of you, it is very PAINFUL to read. However, if I view these writings through the lens of a sympathetic reader (an ACTFL term), then wow, these students are communicating in the language! Even though these are Latin 3 students, in terms of language acquisition, knowledge, and grammar control, they are novice-high/intermediate-low writers. If my students were children learning their first language, they would be equivalent to 2-3 year-olds. As a result, their language is going to be incredibly MESSY! To use an example from Bill Van Patten, when a 2-year old says, "Mommy go bye-bye," do you correct that child's grammar and choice of vocabulary? Absolutely not, because you as a sympathetic listener know exactly what that child is attempting to communicate. That child is piecing together whatever vocabulary has been acquired to communicate. You can try to correct that child, but we know that the child's language will improve over time with more input and exposure.

I have used this illustration before, but it is so true!


Why can I relate to the above illustraion? Because the first time I truly spoke Latin in 2010 at Rusticatio, a weeklong immersion event, everything that came out of my mouth was in the nominative case and in infintives. Keep in mind, I have my Masters in Latin, but when it came to truly speaking in Latin for the purpose of communication and conversation (something which I had never done before), I was a novice - a very LOW novice. My grammar was horrible! Case endings, verb endings, and subject/verb agreement went out the window, because all i could do was just get vocabuary to come out of my mouth - any vocabulary!! 

I love Nancy Llewellyn's quote which she traditionally gave in her opening talk at Rusticatio:

You are going to make the same kinds of grammar errors that if your own students were to make them, you would skin your knees running to grab a red pen to correct them. So be patient with yourself.

That was ten years ago. I can say that I am probably an Intermediate High level speaker now, but I still definitely struggle trying to put it all together with correct case endings, subject/verb agreement, correct usage of subjunctives, noun/adjective agreeement, pronunication, etc.

So when getting students to write in the target language, be sure that there has been plenty of input first so that there is a natural overflow of output, but be prepared for it to be messy. However, if you are viewing the output from a proficiency viewpoint instead of a performance lens, you will be amazed by what students are attempting to communicate in the language.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Reflections So Far

The following video describes how I feel about my current teaching situation:


Do you feel like this? That administrators, politicians, and parents want teachers to teach digitally/concurrently but yet no one knows what this means or looks like? But yet, we keep being told to teach this way?

I cannot believe that I have been doing concurrent/hybid teaching for the past 6 months now. Throw in the two months of shelter-in-place from last year, and I have been teaching in a digital environment for roughly 9 months. At the same time, I am trying to keep perspective. Yes, this is not at all an ideal situation. Yes, I have no training in this hybrid/concurrent situation. Heck, I have never lived through a pandemic before. 

I can place blame on district leaders, students, parents, politicians, anyone, etc., but big picture: there is only so much which I can control in all of this. What I can control though are my reactions and how I personally deal with the situation. As a result, I need to celebrate my victories no matter how small or insignificant you may think they are, because these truly are positives:

  • Over these past 11 months, I am amazed at how resilient I have been in all of this. I have always known that I am rather flexible in situations and that I am not one who initially over-reacts emotionally. So why have I not fallen apart in all of this? From personal experience, I know that life is always going to be a series of storms and of sunshine, and that no one is ever immune from hardships of any kind. I have endured the loss of both of my parents in the past 10 years to dementia and to cancer. I lived through both of those experiences, so I can certainly live and gain new perspective through all of this too. I look forward to a continued, future, even stronger resilience. 
  • I amazed at what I have learned to do with Google Classroom. If it had not been for the pandemic, I never would have learned how to use this learning management system. I can vividly remember during pre-planning watching videos on how to set up Google Classroom, create assignments, etc., and having no clue of what to do and being nervous about mis-steps. Now I look at myself and see just how saavy I have become with Google Classroom, and although I could say, "Wow, why was I even concerned about this, since it is so easy?", I realize that I need to say, "Wow, I truly have come a long way since July!"
  • This pandemic has brought to light a lot of "shortcomings" in my own nature. You can read about some of them here in this blog post. 

So what have I learned about digital teaching in all of this? I can definitely say that my views have completely changed over the past months. 

  • Do not worry about what students are not going to learn this year, because this is not a normal teaching situtation. To project that onto this current learning environment is not going to work. As a teacher, you are going to become frustrated, and students are going to get lost in the way.
  • Focus on deep and simple, and on what you can teach them. Now more than ever, I am truly learning this. By no means is this a normal learning environment for students - honestly, I really have no idea what language (if any) students are acquiring through all of this. I know that they are completing online assignments, but all that this tells me is that they completed it and did the work. In other words, it may be possible that no true long-term learning has occurred. As a result, I need to really go deep and simple with the material.
  • Less is more. What worked face-to-face probably will not work for every student in this digital setting. So many of my colleagues in the core areas have had to re-evaluate their own expectations of what can be accomplished and of what students are able to do in all of this, because what they would like to see and what is actually happening/what is realistic are two completely different things. 
  • When we do return to a "normal" teaching situation, I will evaluate what it is that students know and adjust my curriculum based on that. 
Talk to me in 6 months, and let us see if I still feel this way...

Monday, February 8, 2021

Digital Word Cloud "Predict the Story"

I am currently taking a district-level, learning management system professional development, and one of our assignments dealt with creating a digital lesson demonstrating concept attainment/application/prediction (yes, very Educationese terms) which would use with our students. Rather than invent and learn a new web app tool, I decided to revise/adapt an already existing strategy to a digital setting: Word Clouds.

I am introducing a new reading with students, so I created a word cloud for students involving words which would be in this passage (see here for how to create a word cloud using MS Word). Based on the word cloud, students are to predict what they think will happen in the story which they will be reading soon. 

In creating the word cloud, I found using Dark City color format was easier for students to distinguish the words. I also set the layout to Horizontal. 

Directions

  1. On a Google Form, insert your word cloud as an image/picture.
  2. The directions are simple: ONLY using the words from the word cloud, write your FOUR sentences in ENGLISH below. Be sure to number your sentences. 
Why respond in English and not in the target language? Because this is a prediction activity using vocabulary, I need for them to respond in English to demonstrate comprehension of those words. If I asked them to respond purely in the target language, I would get students who would put the Latin words together to form a sentence, but if the sentence were not to make any sense, I would not know why: did they just throw Latin words together just to complete the assignment? Did they not understand the meaning of a particular word which then impedes my comprehension of what they wrote? What if students just created a sentence which was all nouns or all verbs? By having them respond in English, I can at least tell that students are demonstrating comprehension of the given vocabulary words.


Observations
  1. This was a very easy digital assignment for students to complete, but it still involved some degree of higher-level thinking, as it was dealing with prediction based on given information.
  2. This was a very easy digital assignment for me to create. Probably creating the word cloud took the most time.
  3. I enjoyed reading student responses. Many students tried to predict the entire story, but most just wrote four random sentences (which is perfectly okay!).
  4. Students told me that they liked the assignment, because it was short!