Final Project: PBL in French Class

CC Public Domain
CC Public Domain

As I reflect on my Coetail learning experience, there is no doubt that I have gained a great deal of knowledge and I have acquired valuable skills that I will continue to develop and implement in my classroom.

For the final project, I attempted to apply skills and understandings that I have gained since I started Coetail in order to enhance my students’ language and communicative skills. I also tried to explore ways to use technology meaningfully to increase collaboration and engagement in my classroom.

I decided to explore Project-based learning with my French Intermediate High class through a unit on Breaking News. This unit was highly engaging since it addressed current events and real world challenges. During this unit,  students explored the world of news in print and in broadcast. They learned how to deconstruct the news and how to analyze the important elements of news media production. They reflected on the purpose of the news media and explored ways to detect bias in news. The ultimate language learning goal was to be able to comprehend the subtleties of media texts, and to be able to communicate ideas and message effectively while reporting news.

During this unit, students used appropriate digital tools to access up-to-date news, to do research, to conduct surveys and interviews, and to generate ideas for the stories they decided to report. Throughout this process, students had opportunities to reflect on progress and learning and make adjustments to their work.

The first project students undertook was creating newspapers in French.  Students analyzed the various elements and techniques used in different French newspapers, and that helped them learn how to read the news critically and with more understanding. After many authentic reading activities where students learned vocabulary related to the news and became familiar with the different topics that the written press covers, students worked in small groups to gather news stories and create articles based on themes that interested them. After students created stories, they edited and revised them, and decided on the final layout before printing the final draft.

The second part of the project involved creating news broadcasts. Students were exposed to various French-speaking news channels and learned how to analyze news production, and how to be critical consumers of information transmitted through different news media. Students then worked in small groups to create their broadcast news. A very important element in project-based learning is learning how to collaborate, negotiate and coordinate the process of video production. Students had a problem to solve, and the problem was collaborating their work in order to create authentic news broadcast in French.

Throughout this process, I had to plan every class carefully so that students were focused and productive. The challenge I faced is using time efficiently to provide structure to PBL project, to give personal and timely feedback and to assess progress at regular intervals. During my planning, I also needed to ensure to clearly differentiate PBL from product creations or hands-on activities. During this experience, I  learned how to step back a little, and how to be patient with the learning process and with the “messiness” and open-endedness of project-based learning.

I had to adjust my pedagogy so that my class would be truly student-centered, where my students would be actively involved in the learning process, and where they would work collaboratively to solve problems and learn together. I continued to provide explicit instruction to explain language concepts (language structures and functions), provide descriptive, personal and group feedback, and give mini-lessons on important language concepts. While engaging in this project, my hope was to encourage more inquiry, discussion, collaboration and reflections. My hope was to create an environment where students become self-directed learners.

As I mentioned before, language learning is best achieved through meaningful experiences where students engage in different communicative tasks that have direct application to real life. The purposeful use of technology made students’ PBL experience possible and authentic. My goal was to implement the learning from the 5 Coetail courses, and to reach the Redefinition stage of the SAMR tech integration model, where “tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable”. I am pleased with all the learning that has happened, and I look forward to learning more as I continue researching, blogging, and participating in online learning communities….

 

 

PBL- Language Learning through Media Production

Learning in the 21st century is all about social learning — working on a goal, idea, or project with a group of diverse learners. In a culture organized around learning through projects, we have a whole different way of organizing time, instruction, even the language in the classroom. Learners need to be able to cooperate, to manage tasks together, to accomplish goals, to contribute. Technology allows a community of learners to do those things together.Angela Maiers- Edutopia

 

Language is best learned when it is used in authentic situations and for communicative purposes. Project-based learning gives students opportunities to engage in communicative tasks that are meaningful and have direct implications in real life. In PBL, students are able to have a deeper understanding of what they learn, and are able to apply their learning to real-life situations. In the context of language learning, students can learn how to comprehend a language and communicate while engaging in a project where they have to work collaboratively to explore real-world topics and issues.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Intermediate French students worked collaboratively to explore the world of broadcasting. Students were exposed to various French-speaking news channels and learned how to analyze news production, and how to be critical consumers of information transmitted through different news media. Students then

By me

photo by me

worked in small groups to create their broadcast news. The news broadcast is a project where students engaged in media production as an authentic and motivating learning task. Critical to project-based learning is learning how to collaborate, negotiate and coordinate the process of video production. The video is the end product and is used not only to present content. Students had a problem to solve, mainly how to collaborate their work in order to create authentic news broadcast in French.

Language classes typically include projects as the end-of-unit summative tasks, or as fun activities: such as making target culture food, creating menus, designing travel brochures. My goal for this project is different: it’s a learning tool whereby students acquire more vocabulary, strengthen their overall language skills, and use language authentically in situations mirroring real-life. The project is also a medium whereby students learn how to “gain important knowledge, skills and dispositions” and “to make meaning that they transmit in purposeful ways” as evidenced in Krauss & Boss’ PBL template, included below.

Thinking through PBL- Krauss &Boss p. 6
Thinking through PBL- Krauss &Boss p. 6

 

The broadcast news project implemented in my class was based on the Essential Project Design Elements by Gold Standard PBL to ensure that the learning targets and students’ knowledge and skill development are the core of the work that students do during the learning process.

These elements are reflected in the UBD unit plan shared in my previous post:

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  • Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
  • Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  • Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.
  • Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  • Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.

 

The role of technology in PBL- Keep the end in mind

When considering the role that technology should play in project-based learning, teachers need to be clear about the essential learning functions that tech tools will serve. Rather than building a project around the latest or greatest gadget, teachers are better off starting with the academic content and 21st century skills that they want students to understand and apply. Only then are they are ready to consider tech tools that will enable students to meet those goals. Integrating Technology with PBL

By me
Photo by me

 

The end goal of language learning is effective communication in the real world. The ultimate goal for PBL in my French classes is learning how to communicate ideas clearly and effectively to a real audience in a real-world context.

New technologies have the power to transform the experience of language learners. Technology supports project-based learning and reinforces the principles of 21st century learning; communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. Advanced video technologies were used because video is an effective medium to help students achieve their learning goal. Technology helps students to be creative and innovative.

During the process, my French students used online resources. They accessed authentic material in French. They used online dictionaries and verb conjugators to understand and produce accurate language. They were able to watch up-to-date news from different French channels. They collaborated using Googledocs. They also learned how to use the video production studio at our school and to record their videos using the most advanced electronic media: They learned how to use tripods, camera angels, voice over and B-roll. Students turned into broadcast journalists, news writers, editors, videographers and producers.

The project wasn’t a simple task to design. It was a challenging task that required students to collaborate, research, analyze, interpret and produce.
Using SAMR Framework to enhance PBL

SAMR

One of my goals was to implement all the learning from the 5 Coetail courses, and reach the Redefinition stage of the SAMR tech integration framework, in which “tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable”. One of the project’s driving questions was: “How can technology enhance communication and collaboration, and how can advanced video technologies enhance the effectiveness of a news broadcast production?”

My students are well aware that technology is a tool to support their learning, and not simply a collection of gadgets to master. They were fully immersed in video production, but they were also reminded to keep the end in mind: and the end is to communicate clearly and creatively in French. Students also discussed the role of technology in facilitating language learning and enhancing communication and collaboration.

Photo by me

By me
Photos by me

 

Assessing PBL

PBL differs greatly from traditional language tests in the sense that it is as much about the learning process as the product. For this reason, it would be inappropriate to use only one tool to assess the skills involved.

The process:

Photo by me
Photo by me

Since PBL happens over an extended period of time, it is important to integrate different forms of assessment throughout the process. Assessment includes formative feedback, peer assessment and student reflections on various aspects. The project had 3 stages: pre-production, production, and post-production. During pre-production, students planned their news stories, gathered the news, and drafted scripts and storyboards. Students received personal feedback on language accuracy and fluency. During production, students had to capture all the scenes using tech equipment. Students worked together and gave feedback to each other during this stage. The post-production stage required students to organize and edit the material recorded, and to add tech elements to enhance the final product.

The product:

For the final product, I worked collaboratively with the IT teacher in our school, who was also very involved in helping students in the video production studio. We created a rubric that would assess not only students’ communicative skills but also the extent to which they used technology to communicate effectively and to create an effective product. The assessment criteria include language, message and the final presentation/ production. For the final production, exemplary work demonstrates the following:

  • Student treatment explains the project in detail. Storyboards are clear and interesting with many varied shots.
  • Filming done with adherence to treatment and storyboards. All revisions enhance the program.
  • Excellent use of dialogue and sound which enhance and advance the program. All edits are crisp and seamless.
  • All transitions/titles/effects are highly effective and enhance the program.
  • Movie has an easily identified theme, all required elements, and shows creativity and originality. Clips flow in an engaging, thoughtful way and grab the audience’s attention. The artistic and technical levels combine to make an exceptional program.

Audience assessment

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Key to project-based learning is presenting the product to a real audience. The students’ news broadcasts were viewed in other French classes. Students in these classes assessed the work using the same rubric, and included constructive comments that highlighted students’ strengths and suggestions for improvement.

Students’ final reflections

As a final step, I used questions from the article Assessing Student Project Work to give students the opportunity to reflect on their own learning:

Content Knowledge

  • What new language knowledge and skills did you learn while working on this project?
  • What new content knowledge did you learn?

Collaboration & Teamwork

  • How did your work and actions contribute to your team’s success?
  • What was the hardest part about working in a team? How did you overcome teamwork challenges?

Technology & Communication

  • What new skills did you learn?
  • How did technology facilitate communication and enhance your learning?

The Broadcast news project happened in perfect timing as it coincided with a CNN visit to our

By N. Block

Photo by Neil Block

campus. The network produced a broadcast at ACS for #myfreedomday. Students attended sessions where CNN was broadcasting live from our school. They had the unique opportunity to talk to network anchors such as Becky Anderson, and to see how news are created and broadcast in real-life. It was a truly authentic learning experience.

After the news broadcast videos (which will be shared in the next blog post), my French Intermediate High students are now immersed in another real-world project. The current challenge to be considered is: “How to make our school campus more environmentally-friendly and sustainable?”

More to follow…

 

Collaborative Learning Leads to Engagement and Deeper Learning

Youth must become media literate. When they are engaged with media- either as consumers or producers- they need to have the skills to ask questions about the construction and dissemination of particular media artifacts. What biases are embedded in the artifact? How did the creator intend for an audience to interpret that artifact, and what are the consequences of that interpretation. It’s Complicated p.181

 

Students have been involved in project-based learning in the last 4 weeks. They have been exploring the world of news, in broadcast and in print. They have been working collaboratively to understand the many facets of news creation and production. Their collaborative work has focused on learning how to deconstruct the news and read beyond content, and how to approach media critically and creatively.

The first project students undertook was creating an authentic newspaper. Analyzing the various elements of different French newspapers has helped students

photo by me
photo by me

read the news with more understanding and see the connection between reading and writing. After many authentic reading activities where students learned vocabulary related to the news and became familiar with the different topics that the written press covers, students worked in small groups to gather news stories and create articles based on themes and topics of their choice. For their newspaper, they had to:

  • Define the targeted audience
  • Select topics and create stories to be reported
  • Identify content gathering formats (interviews, research,)
  • Choose and organize the different newspaper sections
  • Create the design and layout of their newspaper

Students had to choose a name for their newspaper, and had to assign roles and positions ranging from chief editor, editors, correspondents, writers and production members. After students have assigned positions, they had to start writing the stories that they think were important and likely to have an impact on the targeted reading audience. Students had to gather as much information and pertinent details as possible. Once they had enough content, they had to write a plan and come up with a catchy headline that would grab the readers’ attention and curiosity. They had to write well-structured and developed articles, where the most important information comes first, followed by details that expand upon what has already been mentioned at the beginning of their text. Students used class time to write and craft their texts, and that’s where explicit instruction came to play in the form of mini-lessons on language conventions, reading and writing skills in general. Once students finished writing their stories, they shared them with the editor in the group who suggested revisions and checked for fluency and accuracy. The last step is the texts going to press, and that’s the step where the group had to decide on the final layout before printing the final draft.

Creating a newspaper is a stimulating and an engaging activity that targets many important skills, mainly research, reading and writing skills. Creating an authentic newspaper transforms students to readers and writers in situations mirroring real-life.

Technology:

The newspaper project couldn’t have been possible without technology. Digital tools serve as a medium to maximize the benefits of project-based learning in my student-centered learning classroom. Students

Photo by me
Photo by me

had to choose the digital resources that would maximize their learning experience through project-based learning. For their project, students had to start with the end in mind, the knowledge and skills that they need to demonstrate as well as the transfer goals, the understandings that they need to have in the long run. Technology has made the learning experience more real and authentic. The Internet facilitated students’ exposure to authentic and up-to-date newspapers written in the target language, allowing them to see how language is used in real-life situations. Thanks to digital tools, students were able to produce, create, share and publish their work for a real audience. Creating newspapers with the aid of technology was an effective way for my students to demonstrate their language skills as well as their thematic understandings.collaboration

Technology enhances 21st century learning and the needs of language learners in the digital age. Multimedia has allowed us to go beyond the use of a prescribed language textbook, and instead use relevant resources that are authentic and reflects 21 century context. Throughout this project, my role expanded from a language teacher to a tech instructor, coaching students on how to use the tools we have to enrich the learning experience. Topics we covered during this project addressed the following ISTE Standards:

Knowledge constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

Digital Citizen: Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.

Creative communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals

While working on this project, students have gained more understanding of digital citizenship principles. They understand that there are legal and ethical considerations involved in using the creative works of others, and that they have rights and responsibilities as creators and consumers of information. Students explored the ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources- Nets. Students were also introduced to the concept of “remixing”, altering other media to create something new.

Collaboration in PBL

Collaboration is an important approach to learning that my school values and expects all students to demonstrate. Project-based learning provides students with the opportunity to develop and practice collaboration while engaging in meaningful work. The ability to work with others to solve problems, create, produce and learn is an important skill, required to be successful at school and beyond. Being an effective communicator and team player cab be taught through modeling, establishing team agreements and providing time to reflect on collaboration during the process and after the creation of the final product. Purposeful grouping and team building activities are a good way to build an effective team that holds itself accountable for the learning that needs to happen. In the newspaper project, after groups where purposefully formed, students started with an “ice-breaking” activity where they interacted in a fun way and understood the purpose of the group work and the project. Students assigned roles and responsibilities, based on their abilities and interests and their areas for development. I saw collaboration happening during the whole process, where students had to negotiate, to solve problems, to adjust what they were doing and to help each other. It was important to give students time to reflect on the way they are collaborating towards a common goal. The following checklist and open-ended questions were used  to allow students to evaluate their own contributions to group work as well as to understand the factors leading to successful collaboration.

Collaboration Skills Checklist

Consistently

Sometimes

Rarely

I understand the purpose and the learning outcomes of our collaborative project
I understand my role in the project
I make relevant contributions to group work
I appreciate the contributions of others
I help the group without dominating
I stay focused on group tasks
I actively listen and take turns
I work with my team to solve problems
I recommend creative ideas and new solutions
I volunteer to tackle a challenging task
I find and share pertinent resources
I value the learning that happens through collaboration

 

  • What did you learn while working collaboratively with your group members on the Newspaper Project?
  • What challenges have you or has your team faced while working on the project? What did you do personally to overcome the challenge and stay focused on the project goal?

Engaging students is the goal of every teacher. True learning happens when students are engaged. Engaging requires careful planning and scaffolding. Engaging all students all the time can be challenging. PBL provides a unique opportunity for students to be engaged in a language class. It requires students to be involved in performance-based tasks that mirror real-life situations, where they have to use language authentically to communicate in the real world.Involving students in authentic learning that tackles real-life issues can be empowering.

Students are engaged when they can use technology to create and produce. The newspaper project encouraged “geeked out” participation and gave students time and space to “mess around” and be involved in fun productions while using digital tools. Engagement is greater when student’s work can reach a larger audience. My students felt proud about sharing their work with the other French classes. Sharing and publishing student work is a great way to celebrate student learning.

More about this project and the TV production project will be shared in the next post and in the final video.

Pictures of students’ newspapers:

journaljournal 2

journal 3

journal5

 

 

 

 

Coetail Final Project: Project-based Learning

When considering the role that technology should play in project-based learning, teachers need to be clear about the essential learning functions that tech tools will serve. Rather than building a project around the latest or greatest gadget, teachers are better off starting with the academic content and 21st century skills that they want students to understand and apply. Only then are they are ready to consider tech tools that will enable students to meet those goals. Integrating Technology with PBL

Photo by me
Photo by me

For Course 5 project, I intend to apply the skills and understandings I have acquired through the 4 Coetail courses, and to use technology in an authentic and meaningful way to enhance my students’ learning. My hope is to reach the redefinition level of technology use where “the technology allows for the creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the computer”. My goals for technology integration are:

  • Increase student engagement.
  • Develop students’ communicative and intercultural skills.
  • Foster 21st century dispositions, mainly critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
  • Develop media and information literacy skills
  • Develop skills for self-directed and life-long learning.

To this end, I decided to explore project-based learning with my French Intermediate High classes, through 2 units, News Broadcasting and Environmental Challenges. I believe these themes are relevant and can be highly engaging since they address current events and real world problems and challenges. Through the study of these 2 units, students can work collaboratively and engage in an inquiry process, while at the same time developing their French language skills. Throughout these 2 units, while using language authentically to understand and exchange information and ideas, students will engage in valuable activities that involve collaboration, research, problem solving and decision-making. They will work together to complete meaningful tasks, that are complex, multilayered and stimulating.

Project-Based Learning: News Broadcasting Unit

Language students have always done projects in their language classes. These projects are usually done at the end of a unit of study, and the goal is to create a product that will be evaluated as a final summative assessment. These projects are usually prepared at home, with little guidance from the teacher. The product is

usually turned in and is rarely shared with others outside the classroom.

What I am trying to do differently is putting more value on the learning process than on the product itself. Project-based learning is about learning that has a long-term value beyond the walls of the classroom. The work involved in the projects are central to our language  curriculum. All the learning is based on driving questions, or essential questions that students raise, and which entail genuine and necessary inquiries, that spark curiosity and lead to more questions to investigate.

 

Ways to increase the effectiveness of PBL in my classes:

  • Establishing clearly defined assessment criteria.
  • Reinforcing collaborative skills.
  • Giving students more choice and keeping the process open to
    Photo by me
    Photo by me

    possibilities and change

  • Modeling inquiry strategies
  • Providing time and opportunities to reflect on progress and the process of inquiry
  • Giving equal value to the process as well as the product, assessing progress at regular intervals and celebrating small learning successes along the way
  • Selecting tech tools purposefully to achieve the desired learning outcomes.

Desired results- Begin with the end in mind

In this unit, students will explore the world of news broadcasting. They will learn how to analyze broadcast news, and will understand the principles of news media production. They will reflect on the purpose of the news media in democratic societies and will investigate ways to detect bias in news. This theme has been chosen by students as a result of many conversations and questions that have been raised recently in the classroom about “fake news” and the reliability of media. I thought the unit comes in an ideal learning moment, since it will allow students to understand how media influence our beliefs about ourselves and others. The ultimate student goal is learn how to approach the media critically.

In addition to language standards, I have included pertinent ISTE Standards for students. Students will use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively to support learning”. They will also use critical thinking to “plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources”.

Photo by me
Photo by me

 Evidence of learning

To gain and demonstrate understanding of the learning outcomes, students will engage in project-based learning, where they will work collaboratively to analyze news from different sources and interpret intent and meaning in news broadcasts. They will produce an original news broadcast, by writing original story lines and creating original storyboards. They will make deliberate decisions about what news production techniques to use and explain why. Students will select appropriate digital tools to access up-to-date news, conduct research, surveys and interviews, generate ideas, plan, analyze and organize. They will use advanced video technologies to purposefully refine technical components in order to create impact in the news for specific audiences and purposes. Throughout this process, students will have opportunities to reflect on progress and learning and make adjustments to their work. The final product will be published in the the school Channel of communication and shared with language students and French speakers at the school.

This is our third week exploring the unit. Students have been highly engaged and excited. I will share progress soon…

Standards-focused PBL is a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks- PBL

Final Project: PBL and Flipped Classroom to Enhance Student Learning

CC Giulia Forsythe via Flickr
CC Giulia Forsythe via Flickr

 

I believe that reflecting is the most important part of the learning process. As a teacher who values and promotes a reflective classroom culture, I ensure that my students take time to reflect on their own learning and engage in critical thinking to evaluate their learning experience and its outcomes. Taking the time to reflect helps gain new understandings and improve future experiences and performance.

As I reflect on my own experience as a Coetailer, I have to say that the learning curve has been steep. While I considered myself as a teacher who knew how to use technology to promote learning (before starting my Coetail learning journey), I didn’t realize how much I needed to learn about all the complex facets of teaching and learning in the digital age until I started Course 1. What I have mostly enjoyed about Coetail is that it is not so much about technology as it is about teaching and learning in the digital age. In my very first blog post Beyond Lurking, I talked about how challenging the decision to pursue Coetail was, and explained the 3 main reasons why I decided to join. My reasons were my belief in life-log learning, my desire to master skills that matter in the 21st century and my buy-in in the power of collaboration both locally and globally. I knew that as an educator, I needed to stay current with the latest approaches in teaching and learning, and to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to coach my students and guide them as they navigate this complex world.

All the material I have read and created during the 4 courses has challenged me to question my long-standing beliefs, to think creatively, and to take risks to “try new things in new ways”. Blogging has helped me make my thinking visible and communicate my ideas to a larger audience. Reading other Coetailers’ blog posts has given me new insights into other teachers’ experiences in the classroom, and has sparked new big ideas in my head. I felt completely immersed in the reading at times, clicking on hyperlinks, jumping from one text to another and trying to make meaning and construct my own knowledge out of all the information I have processed (hopefully with a critical mind). During course 1, I learned how teaching and learning are taking a new dimension with the introduction of new technologies and how participating in learning communities to explore creative ways to integrate technology meaningfully can enhance student learning. During course 2, the focus was on responsible use of online tools and the importance of modeling and teaching ethical online behavior. Course 3 was practical and hands-on where I learned how to use different visual media forms to promote effective communicative and interactive practices. During course 4, I had the chance to evaluate my own tech integration using the SAMR Model. It is during this course 4 that I started to seriously think about how to develop and implement a technology-rich learning classroom that will enable students to have meaningful learning experiences and become autonomous learners.

Public Domain
Public Domain

Final Project Idea

For the final project, I have been thinking about ways in which I can implement all the learning and integrate technology purposefully and meaningfully to impact my students’ learning. My goals for tech integration are:

  • Increase student engagement
  • Create a truly student-centered classroom
  • Develop students’ communicative skills in French.
  • Develop skills for self-directed learning.
  • Foster 21st century dispositions, mainly critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
  • Develop media and information literacy skills.

To achieve the above goals, I will use 2 models for my final project: Project-based learning and flipped instruction.

Project-base learning:

My project idea is to implement project-based learning in my IB language classes. One IB theme I will choose as a start is Global Issues and Challenges. This theme is pertinent because students can explore real world problems and challenges through inquiry while at the same time developing their language skills and communicative competence. To develop 21st century skills, I thought that it would be relevant to choose a theme that has relevance and is typical of our 21st setting. We live in critical times and our world faces serious problems. I believe that students will be actively engaged in this learning process since global issues concern all of us. We have all been impacted by global issues either directly or indirectly.  As I mentioned in a previous post, language learning is best achieved through meaningful experiences where students engage in different tasks that have direct application to real life. Engaging in language projects that integrate receptive and productive language skills and target clearly defined proficiency outcomes can be very powerful. Apart from using language authentically to understand and exchange information and ideas, students will engage in valuable activities that involve collaboration, research, problem solving and decision-making. I have always used projects in my language classes. However, the projects were merely end of unit products where students created a menu, a fashion show or a travel brochure, for instance. What I am trying to do differently this time is to carefully plan a project that is aligned with language and thematic learning targets and which includes clearly defined assessment criteria. I also would like to give students more choice and time to reflect on progress and the process of inquiry at regular intervals.

Desired learning outcomes

  • Understand the causes and impact of various global issues
  • Create awareness about various global issues
  • Suggest viable solutions
  • Apply critical thinking to a range of problems and issues
  • Develop empathy and understanding
  • Being inspired to create change
  • Communicate ideas effectively using a variety of media.

Evidence of Learning

To demonstrate evidence of learning and achievement of the desires learning outcomes, students will have choice. Students will choose one global issue that they believe is important to investigate. Since it is a French language class, I will encourage students to explore issues in French-speaking regions around the world. Students will propose viable solutions to real-world problems and issues. The end product will be a Global Issues seminar in which students present and publish their work in a variety of forms (oral presentations, infographics and digital stories). The project will foster collaboration, connections and creativity. My intent is to develop the UBD unit with my students. I would like my students to be active participants in the unit planning. My goal is to challenge them to think about intriguing essential questions that are worth investigating and to delineate the knowledge and skills they need to develop along the process. I will share the full UBD unit around mid January once I receive input from my students.

 Flipped Classroom:

While engaged in Project-based learning, My IB students (year 1 and year 2) will be introduced to the flipped classroom approach. I have used elements of flipped instruction before, but I would like to do it more intentionally and purposefully this time. My students should be aware of both the benefits and challenges of such an approach, but most importantly, they should understand how this approach can enhance their learning and help them achieve the desired learning outcomes. The flipped classroom supports the process of inquiry and critical thinking skills. For my language students specifically, the flipped classroom can support the principles of language proficiency as it provides the opportunity to use class time for speaking, meaning making, communicating. The flipped approach will allow my students to learn at their own pace, take the time they need to process the learning, and acquire vocabulary and grammatical structures needed to communicate their ideas on their project.

How will the Flipped approach be used?

  • Students will access resources before coming to class. Home assignments will aim at equipping students with vocabulary, grammatical functions so that they are prepared to engage in conversations to express their ideas meaningfully when they come to class.
  • Students will watch instructional videos, grammar tutorials, and documentaries before coming to class. They will read articles, blogs and other relevant online material in French outside of the classroom, related to Global Issues.
  • When students come to class, they will have the opportunity to ask questions for clarification and to engage in discussions with their classmates.
  • Class activities will be about reinforcement and application of knowledge and skills.
  • In class, students will have the time and opportunity to speak the language and practice their research and writing skills.

This project will reflect my own learning from the 4 courses. My aim is to leverage all the resources including digital tools we have available to engage my students in work that is meaningful. I would like my students to use technology ethically and effectively while doing research, communicating, creating, presenting and publishing. I don’t want to be overexcited and try to introduce everything at the same time, but I think it is important to put into practice all the learning because I believe that the best way for me to fully understand what I have learned is through practice and by teaching it to my students.

Some concerns that need to be taken into consideration:

  • Using time efficiently to plan, create, coach, post, give personal and timely feedback and assess progress at regular intervals.
  • Making deliberate decisions about what can be done outside of class realistically without burdening my IB students with more work.
  • Developing strategies to use if some students do not complete their home assignments.
  • Clearly dissociating PBL from product creations or hands-on activities.
  • Stepping back a little, and being patient with the learning process and with the “messiness” and open-endedness of PBL

My pedagogy will not shift dramatically since I adopt a student-centered approach to language learning in my classroom, where my students are actively involved in the learning process, and where they work collaboratively to practice their language skills. I will continue to use some direct instruction methods to explain some language concepts, provide descriptive, personal and group feedback, and give mini-lessons on areas that students find challenging to understand.My hope is to encourage more inquiry, discussion, collaboration and reflections. My hope is also to create an environment where students become self-directed learners.

I intend to collaborate with 2 teachers in my school who are implementing PBL and Flipped instruction in their subject areas (Social Studies and Mathematics). I also plan to document and share all the learning, including student reflections. To gather feedback on the impact of PBL and flipped instruction on engagement and learning, I will administer surveys and conduct interviews with my students.

I am excited about all the learning opportunities ahead…

Public Domain
Public Domain

 

 

“The Only Thing Constant is Change”

Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” Connectivism

Photo by me
Photo by me

 

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a school service trip in a small village in Tanzania along with 20 students and a colleague. Our service project work included building a dining hall for en elementary school and teaching English to elementary classes.  While I knew that the educational conditions in developing countries were difficult, I didn’t realize the depth of challenges that education still faces today in the developing world. Education remains an inaccessible right for millions of children around the world. The school we visited didn’t have the financial means to recruit trained teachers or provide school supplies. Classes were not only oversized but included multiple grade levels. We were told that many children in the village are unschooled, and the ones that are enrolled in the elementary school do not always succeed to continue their secondary education due to their limited level in English, which is largely due to the absence of an English language curriculum and trained teachers who can speak English. Lack of schooling impedes the social and economic development of developing countries and prevents people from changing their current situation. When I was working with a small group of children, I asked them what they would like to be when they grow up. I felt both hopeful and helpless when a young girl named Halima said she wanted to be a pilot. Children dream high and believe they can achieve their aspirations. Given the right learning conditions, anybody can be successful and lead a fulfilled life. I also had a wonderful conversation with one of the teachers who talked at length about teachers’ difficult working conditions and the challenging learning environment for students. We exchanged many ideas about teaching and learning, and I offered to send him some ESL teaching resources. I was naïve to think that we could stay in touch via email since he didn’t have access to a computer or Internet.

Photo by me
Photo by me

How can we think of the future of education in the digital age when millions of children still do not have access to education today? A lot of effort is still needed to ensure universal education. Knowing that technology is one of the most important resources for education that has the potential to radically change the learning experience, how can we ensure equal access to technology for all?

When I started thinking about the future of education in the digital age, I realized that despite all the impact that technology has had on education, many educational approaches have remained the same. Lisa Nielson states that “if he woke up today, schools would be one of the few places that Rip Van Winkle would recognize after his 100 year slumber. Unlike business, medicine, the media, most schools look very much as they did 100 years ago”. Although many schools have adopted innovative approaches based on technology and created 1:1 learning environments, many classrooms around the word still look the same. In many schools, students have laptops on their desks, yet they are still listening to the teacher who is in front of the class teaching a prescribed curriculum in which students have no choice, and who is supposed to be causing learning to happen. Students are still carrying heavy bags filled with books and binders, and are under constant stress and pressure to do all the work required, pass course assessments and standardized tests, which is not necessarily relevant to them or prepare them for life outside the walls of the classroom.

It is true that many schools have embraced technology as a driving force in education, but I wonder if real change has happened in pedagogy. That being said, change is still occurring because humans want to improve their conditions and create progress.  Change in education is occurs to keep up with the demands of the job market and technology-driven economies. In a world characterized by fast-paced changes and where “New information is continually being acquired”, continuous demands are put on education to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to be productive and successful in a highly competitive world.  But real progress and change in education depends on how effectively educators work together, and how ready they are to question their long-standing beliefs and change their thinking about teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Many schools have understood that change is inevitable, and are working hard to meet the needs of students and the demands of a rapidly-changing economy, politics and ethics. However, many educators I have encountered in my career are resistant to the idea of change because they feel that once they have mastered a new learning tool, a new teaching strategy, there is something new to learn, and change usually requires too much work. Many educators with whom I have worked resist change because they believe they have had “success” in the past, so change is unnecessary. Change in education is necessary, starts with a shift in thinking, and requires promoting a culture of learning among educators, who in turn can turn schools into a community of learners. When educators embrace and adopt new ideas supported by theory, research and practice, they participate in the creation of change, which has the potential to result in 21st century learning outcomes.

P21’s Framework for 21st Century Learning delineates the knowledge, skills and attitudes that students need to develop and acquire in order to be successful at work and life in the 21st century:

  • Content knowledge in key subjects
  • Learning and innovation skills: focus on creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Information, media and technology skills
  • Life and career skills
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

 

According to P21’s Framework, standards, curriculum, assessment and learning environments must be aligned to achieve the desired learning outcomes for 21st century students. Within this framework, the role of the teacher becomes even more important to monitor and facilitate learning in the classroom and online environments. Ongoing professional development of teachers is needed more to ensure that teachers acquire the knowledge and skills to contribute to students’ growth and mastery of 21st century skills.

Having visited the elementary school in Tanzania, the question I keep pondering is: do innovative educational frameworks such as  P21 in some ways create an even greater divide between those that have and those that have not? I would think the goal of P21 should be to continue to emphasize the skills needed in the midst of the ever increasing speed of change, as well as to reduce the significant amount of inequality that occurs throughout the world of education.

Where will we be in 5,10, 15 years from now?

Technology has changed the way we communicate, interact and perceive the world and ourselves. New technologies have created wonderful opportunities and new ways for us to learn, access and share information. Technology will continue to impact the way students learn in the coming decades. As the knowledge and skills that students need change, the role of the teacher shifts as well. Teachers are mentors and coaches, who facilitate learning and scaffold understanding. Their role is to provide learning conditions for students to acquire content area knowledge, and develop creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

As new technologies have entered many 21st century classrooms, key trends are shaping the future of education:

  •      Learning for understanding and transfer to the real world; Learning to solve problems and to apply skills in variety of new contexts.
  •      Assessing the application of knowledge and skills in authentic situations and real-life contexts.
  •      Helping students acquire dispositions and habits of mind to be able to make wise decisions about information and situations they encounter in real life.
  •      Giving learners choice and valuing their input in decision making about curriculum, instruction and assessment.
  •      Revamping learning spaces to accommodate face-to-face and blended learning and to foster accessibility and collaboration.
  •      Personalizing learning, “taking a highly structured and responsive approach to student learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate”.
  •      Recognizing the value of informal learning that comes from connecting, networking, collaborating, researching, creating, and publishing.
  •      Self-directed online learning through open learning environments such as MOOCS.

The new technologies will continue to support learning and the pursuit of knowledge, but back to the elementary school in Tanzania, can new technologies help the developing world catch up and help Halima achieve her dream of becoming a pilot?

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Flipping my French Classroom to Maximize Learning

flipped-classroom
Photo by me

With the advancement of educational technology and the promise that digital media can transform learning, many educators have been re-thinking teaching and learning, and are gradually taking innovative initiatives to redesign their instructional practices. The “flipped classroom” has gained popularity and generated a lot of discussions among educators who are exploring the potential it holds for teaching and learning.

In order to reflect on the place that the flipped approach plays in my French language classroom, it is important to reflect first on my approach to language learning, and my role as a language teacher. I believe that it is wise to think about the goal of education and how learning is best achieved and enhanced before thinking selecting tools, methods or models to use in instruction.

The goal of language instruction is to produce students who can communicate with ease and confidence and demonstrate linguistic competence and intercultural understanding. The goal is also to

Photo by me
Photo by me

help students use the language skills in real world situations, in a variety of contexts and for a variety of communicative purposes. Effective language instruction provides learners with multiple opportunities to demonstrate creativity and critical thinking, and empowers them to be self-directed learners, who approach learning a language as a life-long journey. These competencies associated with learning a language are integral to being an international minded learner and a global citizen in our interconnected world.

The need to produce students who communicate competently has compelled language educators to reconsider language learning and teaching, and has led to the emergence of a proficiency-based approach to language learning. This new approach reflects a vision for language education in 21st century that stresses the need for language instruction to facilitate communication and promote understanding among people from various linguistic and cultural communities. Proficiency-based instruction is not about what students know about language- grammatical rules, verb conjugations or lists of vocabulary. Proficiency is about what learners can do with language; mainly using language to communicate real meaning. In order to communicate meaning effectively, meaningfully, and with creativity and confidence, language learners should have numerous opportunities to practice their language skills. Language instruction guided by principles of proficiency should promote meaningful and authentic communication at all levels of proficiency, from novice to superior.

A proficiency language class exhibits the following characteristics:

  •      Class activities span the 4 language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) and the 3 modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal, presentational)
  •      Listening and speaking are the most important skills in the first stages of learning a language
  •      The four language skills are integrated so that students can understand meaning in oral and written texts and communicate effectively.
  •      Lessons promote the comprehension and the production of the target language.
  •      Authentic, relevant, and up-to-date resources are used in instruction and assessment.
  •      Language resources provide insight into the target language, and the target culture’s products and practices.
  •      Students engage in projects to explore real-world problems and real-life scenarios while studying language.
  •      Grammar and vocabulary are taught in context and for the purpose of communication.
  •      The topics and themes are age-appropriate, interesting and engaging.
  •      Students provide each other feedback as they work collaboratively on their language skills.
  •      Students develop dispositions and habits of mind as they work on acquiring language and developing communicative competence.

Role of the language teacher

The proficiency-based language instruction is student-centered. Learning a language meaningfully entails the active participation of students in the process. The teacher is a co-learner who facilitates, coaches, and creates conditions and opportunities to maximize language learning. His/ her role is to:

  •      Plan for engagement
  •      Create a caring classroom community
  •      Keep the end in mind, the learning outcomes.
  •      Scaffold the learning.
  •      Provide just the right challenge
  •      Check for understanding
  •      Monitor progress and give students personal and timely descriptive feedback
  •      Allow students to teach each other and learn from each other
  •      Give students choice on how to meet the learning targets.
  •      Encourage inquiry
  •      Provide time and opportunities for self-assessment and reflections on learning.
  •      Provides models and samples of language and performance sought
  •      Appreciate and plan for different learning styles
  •      Differentiate instruction to meet the students where they are
  •      Have empathy for the learner and patience for the learning process.
  •      Celebrate learning

Flipped classroom can maximize language instruction in many valuable ways

I started learning about flipped classroom about 6 years ago when my husband attended a tech conference and was excited about all the learning opportunities that the Flipping model offers. He was particularly excited that the flipping instruction supports the process of inquiry in Economics and Social Studies. Intrigued by this innovative approach, I started doing more reading, researching and trying to see how this model can support the communicative, proficiency based approach in order maximize language learning.

What does flipped classroom mean in my language classes?

The flipped classroom model can be used to support the guiding principles of proficiency. What it means basically is that my students watch instructional videos, grammar tutorials, movies, and documentaries before coming to class. They read articles, blogs and other online material in French outside of the classroom. They also do interactive quizzes to test their vocabulary and grammar. Classroom time is devoted to interaction and increased oral and written language practice. Class activities are about reinforcement and application of knowledge and skills.

CC AJC1 via Flickr
CC AJC1 via Flickr

 

The biggest advantage of the flipped model in my classes is that it provides the opportunity to use class time for speaking, meaning making, communicating…The flipped classroom approach allows language students to learn at their own pace, take the time they need to process the learning, and acquire vocabulary and grammatical structures needed for communication.

From a language acquisition perspective, learners should have multiple opportunities to process and comprehend language before they can produce it. Carefully planned flipped activities based on relevant online oral and written material can help students access language input before coming to class. Home assignments should aim at equipping students with vocabulary, grammatical functions so that they feel prepared to engage in conversations to express their ideas meaningfully. The flipped language classroom overcomes the constraints of class time and the biggest challenge of providing students the opportunity to speak the language.

Flipping the language classroom implies flipping the traditional roles of students and the teacher. The flipped classroom supports active learning and student engagement. The teacher provides resources to access language input, scaffolds lessons, facilitates discussions, and encourages students to think critically and to engage collaboratively in hands-on activities. Students are in charge of the learning, and are held accountable for constructing their knowledge and building their language proficiency. Since students differ in the way and time they need to build confidence and consistency in their language ability, the flipped model provides opportunities to individualize learning. When students complete the pre-class assignments at home, they have the opportunity and the time to go over the material more than once until they reach understanding. That way, when they come to class, they can ask questions for clarification and feel they have the necessary knowledge and skills to engage in class activities.

Challenges to overcome:

I believe that the flipped classroom can support the goal of language education. However, the effective implementation of the flipped classroom can be challenging if we do not know how digital tools can be used as a medium for learning. In order for the flipped classroom to be effective and to transform the experience of language learners, a lot of thought, purposeful planning and ongoing reflection should go to the process. As I mentioned before, before flipping, we need to start with the end in mind: what knowledge, skills and attitudes do we want our language students to demonstrate at the end of lesson or a unit? Answering this question will help design activities and making deliberate decisions about that can be done outside of class so that students are ready to complete more in depth activities collaboratively in class. Tips I need to remind myself

  1.     Using the same platform to host all flipped classroom material and activities for consistency and efficiency.
  2.     Being mindful that technology is a means and not an end. The end is not to master technology but to develop language proficiency.
  3.     Communicating a clear purpose behind home assignments to students.
  4.     Explaining to students the big picture, how doing home assignments before to class would enhance their learning.
  5.     Planning flipped activities where I can give students immediate feedback and check for their understanding.

Another challenge I face is to make all students shoulder more responsibility for their own learning, regardless of their age or proficiency level because the success of the flipped classroom relies heavily on students being in charge of their own learning. However, if we start small and are purposeful in our practice to create a culture of learning, students will start to see the benefits and the impact of this model on their learning, and they will feel empowered and responsible for their own learning.

Some might ask how we developed a culture of learning.  We think the key is for students to identify learning as their goal, instead of striving for the completion of assignments.  We have purposely tried to make our classes places where students carry out meaningful activities instead of completing busy work.  When we respect our students in this way, they usually respond.  They begin to realize, and for some it takes time, that we are here to guide them in their learning instead of being the authoritative pedagogue.  Our goal is for them to be the best learner possible, and to truly understand the content in our classes.  When our students grasp the concept that we are on their side, they respond by doing their best. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

I never adopt one model exclusively to teach my language students, as I know that no one model can provide an answer to all the intricacies of learning in the digital age. I rely on progress, how students respond to feedback and assessment data to manoeuvre my instruction. What is important for me is to exercise instructional agility and stay current with best practice and not be afraid to start trying “new things” in “new ways”.

Developing Linguistic and Intercultural Competence Through Project-Based Learning

CC United Way via Flickr
CC United Way via Flickr

“Can we do projects?” a question that I have heard over and over from my language students. Earlier this year, I decided to ask my freshmen students the reasons why they like projects. The answers I received were: “projects are fun, exciting. We like to work collaboratively. Projects are more interesting than traditional tests. We like having time to complete a project. We like researching and having access to resources. We like creating”.

I couldn’t agree more. This conversation with my students has made me think of my approach to project-based learning. Do my students like creating projects as a product or do they understand and own the learning that takes place in the process? I have always designed projects in my language classes as a performance assessment to check for students’ understanding and evaluate their learning at the end of the unit. I believe that project-based learning plays an important role in students’ language education. Learning a language does not entail merely learning the linguistic rules and behaviors associated with that particular language. Language learners need to demonstrate intercultural competence: the knowledge skills and attitudes to understand other cultures, and the ability to community effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.

Carefully planned projects that are aligned with language and thematic learning targets can promote learning the target language and developing understanding and appreciation of target cultures. Language learning is best achieved through meaningful experiences where students engage in different tasks that have direct application to real life. In language-rich classroom environments, students explore thematic units and use the target language for meaningful purposes. Project-based learning can meet language standards and the goals of language learning. Engaging in language

Photo by me
Photo by me

projects that integrate the 4 language skills and target clearly defined proficiency targets can be very powerful. Apart from using language authentically to understand and exchange information and ideas, students engage in valuable activities that involve collaboration, research, problem solving and decision-making.

Project-based learning is inextricably related to a standards-based approach to learning. And a project-based assessment is a performance-based task. In my language unit design, I align assessments with the proficiency targets and learning outcomes, and require students to demonstrate understanding and language proficiency. Assessment is based on authentic tasks that mirror real life scenarios. The units are based on big ideas and thought-provoking essential questions that are relevant and require deeper inquiry. I believe that planning units using backward design supports the principles of project-based learning and helps avoid any issues of “content coverage” or “activity-oriented teaching.” It is important to keep the end in mind: the transfer to real-life contexts. “Transfer is about independent performance in context” (Wiggins). PBL should promote skills that students can use when they encounter new challenges – both in the class and in the real world.

My advanced language students are currently exploring the theme of “Tourism and Travel”.  Through exposure to authentic material and the authentic use of French, students will understand that responsible travel conserves the environment and builds cultural awareness and respect, and that it is our role as global citizens to be respectful and responsible tourists and travelers. Students will plan their travels based on the principles of responsible tourism. They also need to communicate their ideas effectively in French. This theme is relevant and interesting to my students because they have lived in different countries and have traveled extensively. To demonstrate their understanding and language proficiency, students will create  infographics about responsible travel. They will create a digital story in which they share their travel experiences, and explain what they could do differently to promote sustainable travel. These two products will be posted in our class blog. The students  will create holiday packages and share them with other French students at the school. Students will explain how these packages could meet the needs of different types of travellers, and at the same time support the principles of responsible tourism. The learning process involves collaborating, researching, interviewing and surveying French language students and Francophone parents in the community. Students will consult reliable web sites and contact travel agents. My job is to facilitate the process of learning, give direct instruction on vocabulary and language functions as needed, provide them with resources that they can investigate, challenge them to think critically and creatively, provide them with personal and timely feedback, and help them become knowledgeable and effective communicators.

3 other Benefits of PBL in a proficiency-based classroom

In project-based learning, students gain important knowledge, skills, and dispositions by investigating open-ended questions to “make meaning” that they transmit in purposeful ways. Thinking through PBL p. 5- Krauss and Boss

Engagement: Projects can engage both unmotivated and compliant learners. Project-based engagementlearning that requires students to use different skills and complete a task over an extended period of time is highly engaging. Giving students choice and more autonomy and involving them in authentic learning based on real-life issues can be meaningful. Authentic learning requires students to research, investigate, understand, make connections, and create. Students are engaged in performance-based tasks that mirror real-life situations to demonstrate what they can do in the real world.

Enduring understandings: Project-based learning is about learning that has a long-term value beyond the walls of the classroom. The work involved in the project should be central to the curriculum.  PBL is based on driving questions, or questions that are “essential”: questions that light-bulbentail genuine and necessary inquiries, and that spark curiosity and lead to more questions to investigate.

Habits of mind: The work involved in PBL compels students to think critically, solve problems creatively and make informed decisions. Students are not only studying thematic content – they are developing skills and dispositions associated with life-long learning. PBL promotes self-directed learning. Students develop self-awareness and learn how to persevere when faced with challenges. PBL promotes collaborative skills that elevates the learning for the whole group.  Students learn from the process and are proud of the product created.

How can project-based learning be more effective in my classes?

Standards-focused PBL as a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks- PBL

  • Establishing clearly defined assessment criteria
  • Reinforcing the fact that  projects can increase each student’s linguistic and intercultural competence
  • Giving students more choice and keeping the process open to possibilities and change  Modeling inquiry strategies
  • Providing time and opportunities to reflect on progress and the process of inquiry
  • Giving equal value to the process as well as the product, assessing progress at regular intervals and celebrating small learning successes along the way

How can technology enhance PBL?

There are many steps to take in order to maximize the benefits of project-based learning in my technology-rich and student-centered learning classroom. We have many efficient and reliable tech tools available, and the key is to choose the digital devices that will maximize our learning experience through project-based learning. Technology should serve as a medium to meet the learning targets. We need to start with the end in mind, the knowledge and skills that I would like students to demonstrate as well as the transfer goals, the understandings that we would like students to exhibit in the long run. Technology can make the learning experience more real and

CC Public Domain
CC Public Domain

authentic. The Internet increases exposure to authentic material, and helps students understand how language is used in real-life situations. Thanks to digital tools, students are able to produce, create, share and publish their work for a wider audience. Blogging and podcasts are effective platforms for my students to demonstrate their language skills as well as their thematic understandings. Having online access to native speakers, experts, online service projects and virtual class exchanges gives students authentic experiences that enrich their language skills while developing their civic responsibility and personal growth. Technology can meet the demands of 21st century learning and the needs of language learners in the digital age. My challenge is to keep educating myself on how to teach students how to use the tools we have to enrich their learning experience.

When considering the role that technology should play in project-based learning, teachers need to be clear about the essential learning functions that tech tools will serve. Rather than building a project around the latest or greatest gadget, teachers are better off starting with the academic content and 21st century skills that they want students to understand and apply. Only then are they are ready to consider tech tools that will enable students to meet those goals. Integrating Technology with PBL

While I am aware of the benefits that PBL offers, I worry sometimes that projects take time away from explicit instruction and coverage of the themes and topics that are part of the curriculum. The mind shift I need to consider is to understand that more content does not necessarily mean more learning. Project-based learning can provide the instructional foundation for the curriculum. I need to make a deliberate decision in my choice of topics, and identify the non negotiable skills that students should demonstrate in the classroom and in the long-run.

 

Technology Integration: What’s the Story in my Classroom?

CC Krebs via Flickr

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a thought-provoking professional learning session at my school led by Mark Church. Mark talked about habits of mind and important predispositions that we would like our students to develop that would serve their learning in the classroom and beyond. In addition to social dispositions such as collaboration and empathy and work dispositions like effort and persevere, Mark challenged us to think about thinking dispositions, those habits of mind that facilitate and promote effective thinking. Important questions educators should ask: what is getting learned in here? What is getting learned about learning? What is the story in my classroom?

This session has made me think about the story of my tech integration into the classroom, and has given me the freedom to reimagine learning in the digital age, dreaming about a new story of learning. In the case of language learning, it is impossible to teach everything about language over a limited period of time, but it is important to help students develop habits that will help them transfer what they learn into new contexts, and make them successful language learners and human beings. Regarding tech integration, it is impossible to teach students every information related to the new technologies, but we need to focus our instruction on teaching habits of mind, that would help students make wise decisions in their media consumption habits. As a result, they can become more self-directed in using technology for thinking and learning.

Learning requires embracing change and being open to new opportunities and challenges. It requires having a growth mindset and being self-motivated to pursue knowledge. And it requires continuously improving skills and competencies to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.

The goal [of education] needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more effectively to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy-  Steve Denning, Reforming K-12 Education

As Denning states, inspiring students to be life-long learners should be the ultimate goal of education. Inspired learners are engaged, empowered and autonomous; they persevere when they face challenges and are equipped with skills that help them make wise decisions and solve problems creatively.

One good reason why I joined Coetail is that I wanted to be inspired by big ideas so that I can inspire my students. I consider myself a lifelong learner. I systematically reflect on my knowledge and instructional practice, and I continuously seek learning experiences to expand my thinking and deepen my understanding. Joining Coetail meant that I needed to learn something new, something important. Working in a 1:1 environment and integrating technology effectively requires a deep understanding of educational technology and information literacy. In order to inspire and engage my students, I need to keep up with  technological changes and their implications in the classroom.

Technology integration rests on the premise that information does not solely reside with the teacher. We learn, formally and informally, from a variety of media today, from search engines, from text messages, from social interactions and from our personal networks and communities. We learn by communicating, collaborating, creating, sharing. Technology has shifted the way we learn, and this shift in learning requires a parallel shift in teaching. As I expressed in the Course 3 blog posts, teachers and students as learning partners should be equipped with digital literacy skills in order to keep pace with the digital world. New technologies provide us with amazing resources and tremendous opportunities to learn, and with these opportunities come a dire need to develop a critical mind to be able to utilize available digital tools wisely, efficiently and effectively.

So, as a 21st century educator in a 1:1 learning environment, what is my definition of technology integration?

I believe that technology integration is the meaningful and skillful use of efficient digital tools to support the continuous process of inquiry and to promote active thinking and learning. Successful tech integration happens when teachers and students access digital tools as a way to attain learning targets and reach deeper understandings. Technology integration occurs at a school when all teachers are continuously learning new technology skills, and are actively using digital tools to create exciting and challenging learning opportunities and conditions for students to thrive and succeed.  Successful tech integration implies that teachers and students model ethical and responsible use of technology, show autonomy in using digital tools, and make connections between formal and informal uses of technology.

How do I integrate technology into my classroom?

My students and I use digital tools on a daily basis. The use of technology has become “second nature”- Successful Technology Integration.  I use technology as a teaching aid and a learning tool. In my classes, I use presentation software, a projector, a document reader, an interactive whiteboard, cameras, e-portfolios, and Google apps.  I use technology to give personal feedback to students in an interactive way. And I use technology for my flipped classroom approach to maximize learning. Students access authentic material in French. They watch instructional videos, grammar tutorials, movies, and documentaries, and they read articles, blogs and other online material outside of the classroom. Classroom time is devoted to interaction, deeper understanding, and increased oral and written language practice.

From a learning standpoint, access to reliable digital tools facilitates the shift from a traditional approach to language learning, based primarily on grammar textbooks, to authentic learning, focused on effective communication in real-life contexts. In my French classes, my students and I use digital tools for the following:

  •  Researching
  •  Explaining/Understanding (visuals)
  •  Accessing authentic material in French
  •  Accessing updated content in French (live streaming news/ radio podcasts)
  •  Accessing online dictionaries and conjugators
  •  Accessing grammar tutorials and interactive exercises
  •  Communicating
  •  Collaborating (googledocs)
  •  Presenting
  •  Creating with language
  •  Sharing
  •  Publishing

When using digital tools for thinking and learning,  I try to engage students in a metacognitive exercise, where they have to consciously think and reflect about what they are learning, how they are learning it, and why they are learning it. The goal is for students to develop a critical mind and to approach media and information critically. They need to be able to creatively solve complex problems arising from new situations they encounter while navigating the digital world.

Impact of the use of new technologies on learning in my classes:

  •  Greater collaboration
  •  Increased motivation and engagement
  •  Increased oral and written language proficiency
  •  Increased confidence to present and share
  •  More display of creativity
  •  Visibility of thinking
  •  Autonomy and self-directed learning

Evaluating my tech integration using the SAMR framework

Jeff Utecht states that for effective tech integration, the question teachers need to ask is: is the technology creating new and different learning experiences for the students? My answer is yes. Modern technology allows my students to be motivated and engaged. Technology makes project-based and authentic learning possible. Technology promotes authentic learning, related to real-life issues. Authentic learning requires students to research, investigate, understand, make connections, create and reinforce what they learn in other disciplines. Students are engaged in performance-based tasks that mirror real-life situations and demonstrate what students can do in the real world. Easy and rapid access to multiple forms of resources and information helps my students be independent language learners. Technology promotes collaboration and sharing in my classroom.

the_samr_model

Based on the SAMR model, I believe that I am at the Modification level, and steadily moving towards the Redefinition stage, towards truly transforming student learning. I am continuously thinking about creating and redesigning tasks for my students “that were once unimaginable”. Two ideas I would like to implement this year:

  • Creating and publishing: I need to establish learning opportunities that encourage “geeked out” participation where students are involved in fun productions and use digital tools to develop sophisticated skills and share and publish their work. Engagement is greater when student work can reach a larger audience. I need to reinforce blogging in all my language classes (writing skills), and published Podcasts (speaking skills). Students are more engaged when they can produce, create and share.
  • Connecting and collaborating: extending learning from the language classroom to the multicultural community. I want to identify community-engaged learning experiences for students through online service projects and virtual class exchanges. I intend to find virtual classrooms where my students can connect with French native speakers to reinforce their language skills, collaborate and develop new friendships. And I will encourage more instructionally-appropriate use of social media in class to support friendships, interest-driven activities and collaborative learning.

To use Beth Herts’s 4 levels of tech integration, I aim at moving from comfortable to seamless. To use Jeff’s words, I would like to move from “Doing Old things in New Ways” to “Doing New things in New Ways”. As I reflect on my tech integration story, I realize that learning is ongoing and change is inevitable. My story as an educator is continuously learning about effective teaching practices that can enhance 21st century learning. Tech integration is part of the learning journey. Inspired by Mark Church’s workshop today, I have a dream. My dream is that my classroom becomes a culture of thinking and developing habits of mind that would help students learn effectively in our fast-paced, globally connected world.

What is the story in your classroom?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visual Literacy: Samples of Student Work

CC Jakerome via Flickr
CC Jakerome via Flickr

 

To apply my learning and understanding of Coetail Course 3, I have made a conscious decision to integrate principles of visual literacy in my instruction and assessment. I have particularly focused on the use of images, presentations, infographics and digital stories to teach content and skills as well as to check for students’ understanding and transfer. My students have been learning about the meaning of visual literacy and ways in which visual literacy skills can help them expand their knowledge, reinforce their French language skills and enhance the communication of their ideas and message. Using visuals is a meaningful way to create with language, which is an essential skill in second language learning.

 

 

Sample 1: Infographics

This week, my IB French students are learning about Health and Well-being. As a formative task, students had to design infographics to demonstrate their understanding of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.

la-sante

Sample 2: Digital Stories

Last week, my French Intermediate High students finished a unit on the impact of new technologies on friendships. As a performance assessment, students had to create a video in French to talk about the role that technology plays today in connecting and communicating, and to explain the importance of finding balance online and offline in our technologically-driven society.

Sample 3: Presentations supported by a visual stimulus.

In my IB Higher Level class, students have been exploring the theme of “Global Challenges”. Following class discussions, research and reading, students had to present one global issue. There were two assessment criteria involved in assessing the oral presentations:  Language and Message. Students had to speak with fluency and accuracy, and had to use technology (visual support) to effectively communicate the issue at hand and the necessary concepts. During the formative period of learning, we discussed the elements of an effective presentation, and I had the chance to introduce and explain some presentation Zen skill ideas to help students prepare, design and deliver an effective oral presentation.