Access Your Memory First!

This morning I was listening to my favourite podcast – The Whitehorse Inn – as the hosts talked about a book released last year called “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr. It sparked my thinking a bit as I can relate to the general premise of the discussion – our attention span and ability to concentrate on doing one thing at a time is changing; diminishing. They also cited the article written by Carr in 2008 called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and I particularly picked up on the mention of memorisation and the idea that with Google and smartphones with us constantly, why bother memorising anything?

This discussion has caused me to reflect on my own students’ learning and especially my desire to have more technology in the classroom which is sometimes overshadowed by the fear that, sometime in the future, with so much technology, we won’t need to actually learn another language. I am finding this to some extent in my classes which have access to technology: the students are constantly lured by the ease of Google translate, not just for looking up words, but as a massive crutch when doing any kind of classwork. I don’t mind them looking up the odd word here and there and in fact, the ability to have the words spoken is a really useful tool in learning the pronunciation. What is more worrying is the students who sit with the computer open and constantly turn to Google before even having thought about what the translation is. They are accessing Google translate before accessing their own memories!

Moving on from this fear, I want to outline what my ideal classroom would look like with a pedagogy that works, coupled with the technology that I love (despite my fears). I am becoming more and more convinced of the success of the Flipped classroom model meshed with the MYP philosophy of Inquiry-based learning. It’s always been a struggle in teaching a foreign language to move away from the “sage on the stage” and become the “meddler in the middle” (thanks Erica McWilliam for those great descriptions). With the extremely practical Flipped classroom and the more conceptual Inquiry learning, I think there are exciting times for learning ahead in my classroom and indeed the teaching of languages in general. I plan to go into specifics in future blog posts, as I actually implement these practices more and more in my teaching.

Yay – success!

I managed to follow my plan to have Year 9 French write and create their own animations using Domo. See one here.

Despite some initial hiccups in actually getting the site unblocked (during the lesson) by the IT crowd, they worked quickly to produce the animations. I continue to be amazed at how these guys can be shown minimal instructions on using the tool and then have it up and running within minutes. This was a really engaging task that encouraged collaboration and creativity. It was also based on traditional methods in learning the vocab and structures and then applying them in written French. I am adding each of the animations to a wiki I’ve set up so that each student can view and comment on the work done by their peers.

Now, what’s next for this week? Year 8 are learning all about daily routines and reflexive verbs – they are going to create a ToonDoo. More to come on that…

This week

This week I am planning on developing my use of Audioboo and she my recordings with my Year 9 French class. I really love the sound quality of the recordings and the fact that it’s so easy to record and share each Boo.

I am a bit late off the mark, it’s true, but I have started making interactive powerpoints for Year 9 too. This means they are working independently on all four skills and it’s based directly on the coursebook we are using (Clic!). They are great at bringing in their own earphones too. So, do we need a class set of good-quality headphones?

And lastly (and again) with Year 9 (I do teach other years but these guys seem to be getting all the techie stuff this week) I am asking them to write a dialogue using the language from the current unit – directions. Pretty mundane, or so it seems? To make it a lot more interesting, they are going to put the conversations they write into an animation, created using Domo.

I hope to reflect on how it all went at the end of the week. This blog really needs to start happening!