Empowering Language Learners with Technology

No matter where you teach in the world, the opportunity to work in an immersion or bilingual setting is an extremely unique and rewarding experience. Dora Deboer and I met through the #IMMOOC, an Online Book Study and decided to work in collaboration to write this blog post to share our unique experiences.

Dora is a Bilingual Intervention Specialist at a Title I school in a suburb of North Texas and her school district follows an early exit bilingual program. This means Dora’s students receive initial instruction in Spanish (her students’ first language) then transition into English language instruction as soon as they are ready. I am the Director of Educational Technology and Innovation at Calgary French & International School in Canada. My school follows an immersion educational model to teach French as a second language. This means the students at my school receive their instruction in French from preschool to grade 12.

As we prepared for the #IMMOOC blogging buddy challenge, we learned that we both share the same love for our job! And although our work settings might seemed very different at first, we both encounter some of the same challenges.

One of the biggest challenges working in any bilingual/trilingual setting, is to keep students engaged and excited to learn a new language. Keeping students motivated to learn a language that is not spoken at home or spoken in the community can leave students often feeling frustrated. In addition, some students like Dora’s spanish speaking students can be passive learners and reluctant to participate in language production activities. In my French Immersion setting, students are excited to learn a new language when they are younger, however when they reach upper elementary, they become more reluctant to converse and communicate with their peers in French.

But this “challenge” is also one of the of the reasons we love our jobs so much because it forces us to find new and creative ways to engage students in the learning of a new language. We need to look at our instruction differently in order to design opportunities where our students are motivated to learn a language.

Thanks to having access to various technology tools, there are many ways they can be used to support second language instruction. At Calgary French & International, we use the iPads to create various types of videos, from digital storytelling, to interviews, to small videos clips on the ePortfolio, video is a great way to capture what students are capable of doing in their second language. Furthermore, using video allows the teacher to capture the learning and then share it with the child’s parents, who don’t always have the opportunity to see what their child is capable of doing in the other language. This also helps strengthening home-school connections because it creates a bird’s eye view into the classroom.

Another benefit of using videos is that it allows students to listen to themselves and provide opportunities to self-reflect, which empowers them to take ownership of their learning by setting personal goals. The reaction of watching students listen to themselves for the first time with their foreign language is priceless.


The Aurasma App allows students to get involved in critiquing each other’s language production and learning how to provide specific feedback. This App gives students the opportunity to become active participants in the learning process because the teachers is not longer the only one assessing students. Students learn to be critical listeners!

ChatterPix is another great tool to encourage oral language production. This provides an opportunity for students to practice the target language in a fun and creative way. Students love going around the classroom to take pictures of newly learned vocabulary and then recording themselves practicing their new words. This is perfect for reducing students’ speaking anxiety since it allows them to give voice to any object. Another favorite tool in grade 1 for learning new vocabulary is PicCollage. Below are some pictures the students created while learning the French terminology for different emotions.
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Technology tools like the ones described above can also help level the playing field in the classroom. This is especially the case when working with a language that learners are at different proficiency levels. These tools and many others like it can support and encourage students to develop their second language skills in engaging ways. Teachers can also benefit from incorporating technology into their teaching because it can help personalize instruction to address individual needs.

It is clear to us that technology has the power to transform the way we teach and learn; however, we understand that by just integrating technology in our lessons, we are not harnessing this power. We need to start with the learner and their individual needs, then we need to design lessons where students feel empowered and are active participants in their own learning.

Being a “change agent”

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.  How are you embracing change to spur  innovation in your own context?

I try to embrace change every day and every way because I see myself as a change agent. Like George, I was also hired into a new position, as Director of Educational Technology & Innovation, to provide support to teachers and to help lead the way in innovating student learning at my school.

When I first started, I was assigned a teacher per grade level in the elementary division, as a “tech rep”, with whom I would meet with weekly to plan and discuss how we could integrate technology into their curriculum. Unfortunately, due to many challenges with technology and the school’s unreliable infrastructure, teachers felt very frustrated and found it hard to take risks in integrating tech into their classroom. Furthermore, most of my one-on-one meeting time turned into providing tech support and help troubleshoot issues, instead of planning.

After building trust in my team, and after several improvements were made to our infrastructure and tech support, I thought it would be a good time to refocus my team and get everyone back on track to invest their time with me on innovating their grade levels. Soon after, I changed their title from tech rep to innovation rep, to better reflect their role. Though we do discuss a lot about tech integration, I remind them that their role is to be a model of how to integrate, not just technology into the classroom, but to look at ways to innovate student learning. I constantly remind them that “Innovation can happen without technology, however technology can be used as a tool to drive innovation.”

The next step for me, in being a change agent for my team and my school was to help create a roadmap to help teachers build tech integration and project-based learning into their classroom. Over the past few months, we have been busy working all together to build our own K-12 EdTech Scope & Sequence.

As a result of having recently completed and updated grade level unit plans, the innovation reps have more easily been able to identify and link age-appropriate technology skills and projects into their curriculum.

Here is where the magic is happening: Because we have put together a scope & sequence and identified what needs to be accomplished at each grade level following the Alberta Ed ICT Learning Outcomes, those that have been more resistant to change and integrating tech into their classroom, have become more accepting that this is part of their curriculum. Also, in order to provide additional support to those that don’t feel as comfortable, my team has offered to go into their classroom and team teach. Furthermore, they have begun to model weekly, during their grade level meetings, a new innovative activity they are doing in their classroom. Little by little, the innovation reps are slowly becoming change agents for their grade level.

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“Je colorie mon français” with QR codes

I always love walking up and down the hallways of the school where I work. The wall displays are put together with care, with themes to really demonstrate what the students are learning in their classrooms. From artwork to poetry, lego, and pictures that capture students learning, there is always something new and exciting to see.

The other day while walking through the hallways in the school, this big poster of a rainbow paintbrush on the wall saying “Je colorie mon français” really caught my attention. So I stopped by one of the classes and spoke to one of the teachers to learn more about what the poster was for. She then explained to me that it was to help teach students French expressions and corrections. She explained that, after school that day, the grade 4 teachers were going to get together and make two videos for the students. One, that would teach them the expression of the week, and one to help correct common mistakes French Immersion students often make. Once the videos were finished, they would be published and a QR code would be created so students, parents, administration, and teachers could scan and watch their videos. This was the first week for this activity, so the grade 4 teachers created these first two videos to showcase an example to their students. Beginning next week, for the remainder of the school year, students will be working in groups to create, publish, and display their weekly French expression and correction.

In addition, to throw in a little bit of friendly competition and to integrate Math into this activity, when students use the weekly expression or correction in their day-to-day learning, they will receive points for their class. Classroom points will then be added on to a bar graph, teaching students how to use a bar graph – a learning outcome for grade 4 Math.

I was so excited to hear that the grade 4 teachers were embracing technology to get their students to learn French expressions and to help them correct common mistakes. I was also thrilled to hear that the grade 4 team was working together to create this project so all the grade 4 students would benefit from this activity.

The teacher said to me before I left the classroom that day, “you know us, were are never afraid to try something new!” These grade 4 teachers are really amazing and they definitely are not afraid to try something new. If you walk past their classrooms, you will notice flexible seating, gamification, and some really excited and engaged learners.

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Learning with Technology

What a few busy weeks of learning ahead of me!

1) This week I started my level 2 MYP Technology training online, where in addition to getting to know the program, I am meeting lots of great new IB technology teacher to collaborate with. http://www.ibo.org/

2) I am only a few weeks away from completing my Teaching and Learning with Technology course, in addition to 2 other courses, and am already very excited to see what January has in store for me.

3) Today I attended an amazing workshop : Friends For Life, http://www.friendsinfo.net/ca.htm, where I couldn’t avoid sharing my two sense in using technology to help our students communicate with their peers, teachers and parents.

4) I plan to complete Google’s certification to become a Google certified educator, over the holidays!!! So excited!!! http://www.google.com/educators/gtc.html

I just love learning, working with and exploring new technologies!

My quote for today:
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
– B.B. King

Have a great weekend everyone!

Opps…Almost forgot about report cards and parent teacher interviews coming up!

Screencast-o-matic

My lessons just haven’t been the same since I found out about this great computer screen recording tool, Screencast-o-matic: http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/screen_recorder

This tool is really easy to use!

You can save or upload your video into YouTube, you can embed your video into your webpage, blog or wiki and share with your students and other teachers.

Check out some of the PowerPoint presentations my students created and shared with their classmates, using screencast-o-matic.

Not only can your student record their presentations, but teachers can record their lessons for student to refer back to them later on!

Ever have students constantly asking questions about how to do something on the computers? By providing your students with a step by step video, they can watch it as many times as they need to in order to understand what they need to do!

Any online teachers out there??? What a great tool for students to use to be able to share their projects with peers in their virtual classroom.

Ready, set, record!

My first attempt at using Google Forms and Fluberoo

Beginners mistake:

I worked really hard last night preparing my very first online exam for my grade 9 students. I even had a mixture of questions to evaluate all the levels of Blooms Taxonomy. However… when I shared my quiz with the students today, somehow they got a copy with most of the answer’s. Luckily there were still enough questions to be able to evaluate them properly and it was a good drill to get them to verify the answers that were already there.

Needless to say, my lesson learned today: Always send myself a copy, before I share anything with me students. My students lesson today: Patience, understanding and flexibility with using online tools is key in a online course 🙂

On the other hand, I am very grateful to have learned about the application Flubaroo integrated with Google Forms. It saves a lot of time when marking your exams. However, another beginners mistake : Don’t forget to exclude your long answer questions before you submit to have your exam marked, otherwise your students marks will be much lower as it is not able to correct long answer questions. ( I had to send an email to my students apologizing for the amount of emails they may had received with various results of their quiz).

My suggestion and lesson #2 for today: Make a 2 part exam
a) Multiple choice – short answer (User Fluberoo to evaluate)
b) Long answer ( Have students share their answer’s with you in Google Docs)

I hope you will all have much more success when it comes to your first time using Google Forms and Fluberoo.

Feel free to share your experiences!

Supporting Bloom’s Taxonomy in a Digital World

On October 6th, 2011, I participated in an amazing Webinar, offered by SimpleK12, that shared a lot of very useful tools for our classroom.

visualblooms.wikispaces.com

I hope you find these applications useful as they are also very well organized for each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Blooms chart (New Version)

  • Creating
  • Evaluating
  • Analysing
  • Applying
  • Understanding
  • Remembering

Knowledge and Rembering

Comprehension and Understanding

Application and Applying

Analysis..

Evaluate (Formerly the top)

Creating

Links from the webinar:
http://www.diigo.com/user/mrplough07/bloomsSK12

If your interested, check out : http://simplek12.com/tlc/webinars/ for their upcoming FREE webinars!