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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Purposefully Using Technology in a World Languages Classroom (Guest Post)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2016-2017 school year.  I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

When I decided to become a TUSD Tech Fellow I really did not know what to expect from the program, nor did I fully understand the magnitude of the impact it would have in my class and myself as an educator.  What I did know was that I wanted to implement the use of technology in a purposeful way to take my Spanish classes to another level.  Essentially, I was looking for ways to  make meaningful connections between my students primary language and Spanish to help them increase their development of a second language.  Incorporating technology into my classroom has allowed me to develop an efficient way to cover more content while spending more time practicing the use of target language.

Let’s take a look at some ways in which technology has impacted my classroom.

Adobe Spark- Part of the curriculum that we have at the TUSD Foreign Language Department requires that we read children novels in Spanish to help develop vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension and speaking fluency.  Last year I began to tinker with the idea of incorporating technology to help elevate the level of my students proficiency by using Google Drawings to help my students develop sequence maps to help them review the reading and practice engaging in using the target language as they shared their maps in groups. (See a post about this lesson series from Jose's class here.) This year I took this idea to a different level by having my students use Adobe Spark to create a presentation with images and a voice over recording to show to the entire class.  This was an amazing idea as I was able to not only facilitate student engage in making connections of concepts presented in the novel with their own background knowledge as they created their presentations but it also helped me make sure my students were practicing the use of the target language.  The best part of it all was that I was able to present the sequence maps to the class and have the students listen to each other’s work, reflect,  and give each other feedback. Thus, ensuring that the students not only got feedback from myself but also from each other.
Click here to listen to a student presentation of a summary of one of the novels we read in class
Click here to listen to a narration of sequence of events that take place in a bullfight).

Let’s Recap- If you’ve ever attempted to learn a second language you would agree with me that you need to engage in continuous practice and receive feedback to be able to continue to develop fluency and pronunciation.  Let’s Recap allows my students to do just that in a one on one setting with their webcam which helps reduce the affective filter (barrier that we create that interferes with the reception and processing of comprehensible input).  In the past students were required to present one on one in front of myself, the class, or a partner to practice speaking in the target language.  Let’s Recap allows my students to independently answer prompts that I provide and it allows me to review their work instantly and provide feedback.  I like to draw comparisons of the use of Recap to an athlete watching tape of themselves and going over it with a coach or on their own because it allows my students to hear themselves and see my notes to identify what their areas of improvement are.  Thanks to this tool I have seen my students increase fluency and pronunciation in the target language and it has reduced their affective filter during presentation as the practice makes them feel more comfortable when they are presenting.  In addition to that, the use of Recap has increased participation in the target language in my class as it’s help develop self confidence in my students

Click here to see a screenshot of an image of the responses I receive from students
Click here to see a screenshot of the feedback I provide to my students

Looking Ahead...
Part of my teaching philosophy is that you never become a finished product, hence, I´m always looking for ways to improve my lessons and my approach to teaching.  One of my goals for next year is to continue to explore ways in which I can incorporate technology in an impactful way for my students to increasing reading comprehension.  In order to do that I look forward to incorporating many reading comprehension activities for our novels in different ways including using Actively Learn to ensure all of my students have an opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other.  I believe that working with Actively Learn has a variety of tools that will allow me to spend more time facilitating class discussions to practice the use of the target language, as well  to help me understand my student´s way of thinking when it comes to annotating the reading and answering comprehension questions (click here to see a sample of student work i.e. annotations, student answers, and teacher feedback).  

Another goal that I have for next year is to dedicate some time to screencast (record) grammar lessons so that my students have access them at anytime during and after the unit.  Screencasting lessons will provide another platform for my students to learn and review independently, thus, giving me more time in class to design more activities to practice the application of grammar in written, auditory and oral forms.

Looking Back...

Being part of the TUSD Tech Fellow Program helped me identify ways in which I can incorporate technology tools in a constructive way to challenge and help my students reach their academic goals.  The thing that I liked the most about being in this program was how it challenged me to reflect on teaching in so many different levels.  It was surprising to me to realize how engaging in deliberate reflection has helped me grow in so many aspects of teaching i.e. delivery of content, informal formal assessment, incorporation of technology, and pedagogy.  Essentially what I realized is that sometimes just thinking of ways in which I could incorporate technology in meaningful way as part of lesson led to a thorough reflection session which at times ended up without the incorporation of technology into the lesson; nonetheless, going through the reflection process allowed me to evaluate the lesson and make changes based on the highs and lows from that particular lesson from a year ago or from a previous lesson that I may have taught the week before.  

Post Author: Jose Miranda
Mi nombre es José Miranda y soy maestro de español en Beckman High School.  I’m in my second year of teaching and have absolutely enjoyed every bit of my it.  I love teaching Spanish because it reminds me of myself at a young age as I was learning English.  It wasn’t something that happened right away nor was it easy, but when I look back I realized that I had lot’s of fun doing it. As a teacher it’s unbelievable to see a student breakdown the barriers of language and fully engulf themselves in having fun with the language as they continue to develop it.  

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