3 Things I’m Grateful For: Language Learning Edition

The Alps, fondue, chocolate, skiing and neutrality – these are some of the features of my new host country. Yes, my family and I have taken a great leap and moved to Switzerland. This is our first country move in 12 years, so it’s kind of a BIG DEAL!

With our kids, my husband and I usually spend a few moments each night sharing
3 things we are grateful for. I thought I’d share some ways I am grateful for technology making our lives easier as we transition to our new culture.
Today’s edition is all about language learning.

LANGUAGE LEARNING

We now live in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. Slight problem: I don’t speak French… yet! I am a firm believer that to know a culture, you must make an effort to learn the language. Enter Duolingo, Google Translate & the French keyboard on iOS.

Duolingo
My daughter (11) created a family French club on Duolingo, and each morning, we complete at least 3 exercises. It’s quite simple to motivate the littles – they aren’t allowed any screen time until they’ve done it, so it gets done in record time! They also love the club aspect – seeing where everyone is, smack-talking about who is taking over the leaderboard, and commenting on the activity.

Although Duolingo is brilliant (and free!), I am mildly frustrated that while I can tell you “The boy is calm,” and “The duck is eating a fly,” I don’t yet know the days of the week, or how to ask where the bathrooms are. Still! Great app, which has been super helpful so far.

French Keyboard on iOS
Adding the French keyboard to my iPhone has certainly helped too, particularly the predictive text feature. It automatically helps me spell words I am trying to type, and helpfully adds the right accents, making me feel more professional in my written communication. I do need to pay close attention when typing, because the placement of the letters on the French keyboard is a little different!

Google Translate
For everything else, there is Google Translate! I know, language teachers, I know! It’s not a long-term solution, but it has helped us find baking powder at the supermarket, decipher descriptions of everything from BBQs to cars, and tell the delivery people we are running late. We couldn’t do without it.

I recently downloaded French as one of my offline translation languages, which is helpful when trying to avoid over-using data packages!

I’m sure there are many other language learning tips you could give me! Any great apps I need to load right now? I am willing to give everything a go!


“Aletsch_36” flickr photo by Gipfelwanderer https://flickr.com/photos/150752905@N08/35375628573 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Documentation Using Technology

“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” 

– Loris Malaguzzi

Inspired by the work of Reggio Emilia, UWCSEA East infant teachers have been exploring documentation to make learning and thinking visible. The role of the teacher in this process is to observe the students carefully, look for those significant moments, and capture images/videos together with examples of student voice.

This documentation is brought to their teaching teams so they can interpret it, explore options for next steps for the students involved, and make connections to the curriculum where relevant.

My colleague Dave Caleb and I had the opportunity to present to the infant teachers about ways technology can help support the documentation process. As you can imagine, technology is a natural fit for this sort of process, so we had lots to share.

Our presentation is below. We would love to hear your ideas about ways technology can enhance the documentation process. Leave us a comment!

(Cross posted at GreaTechxpectations)

Classroom Design Matters

As a classroom teacher, one of the most exciting aspects of starting a new school year was organising the classroom learning spaces. Where would the desks go? Can everyone see the board properly? Can everyone move around the room easily?

While I took a great deal of time thinking about the physical objects, I didn’t spend as much time thinking of the use of display areas in my classroom – how students would learn best using the materials selected for display. The classroom environment truly is The Third Teacher.

As my love and appreciation of design has developed, I have noticed those who make a considerable effort to consider an holistic view of classroom design. Physical space, classroom displays, learning opportunities, student preferences, movement of people – all contribute to an engaging learning environment and a positive learning climate.

Flexible Learning Spaces

Effective teachers are catering for a rStanding up desks Jakiange of learning preferences in their classrooms. Jaki Graham, Grade 3 teacher has a combination of traditional group desk formations, standing up desks, low tables with cushions, and bean bags in her class set up this year. “I want students to be able to choose a space to work at which suits them best,” she said.

Standing up DesksFellow Grade 3 teacher Kim Duffy experimented with stand up desks last year, and she noted how much of a difference it made to her more fidgety students. “It really helped them focus,” she explained.

Nicole Tripp, who teaches Grade 4, has also provided the option of stand up desks for her students (see photo, left).

Comfortable Furnishings

Traditionally, a comfy chair was a privilege only given to teachers. Nowadays, we recognise that, like adults, all learners enjoy working in comfortable environments. Many teachers, like Anne Marie Chow, Middle school Literacy Coach, organise armchairs, lamps, or couches in their classrooms, which make them feel more like homes than classrooms.

FullSizeRender_3Heather Kingston, Head of Grade 6, has Turkish carpets, armchairs, as well as bright red couches and cushions, which gives her room an inviting feel.

If you were a student in these classrooms, you’d want to settle in some of these places, surely!


Theme for the Year

IMG_8943Some teachers select a theme which sets the tone for the classroom experience in the year ahead. Middle school English teacher Paula Guinto has taken this approach for a number of years. This academic year, her theme is “Level Up”.

Her classroom features retro-inspired game elements, from Mario Bros to Pac Man, and invites her students to level up their thinking. Paula shares that for her, the theme is a chance to set the tone and allow her to focus her energies on teaching and learning.IMG_8940

She explains,

“Big picture though, it’s really an act of love. I put a lot into it because I want the kids to know that I love them. That I value their space and the time they spend in it. That they inspire me. To be creative. To be a learner. To be better in what I do. It’s a way for me to say, this space is safe, that I have your back, that from the very beginning, they are the priority and yeah, we’re in this together.” 

Middle school English and Humanities teacher Miles Beasley has worked with themes for the past 2 years. Each theme was carefully chosen to pass on a message about the year ahead to the students he teaches. Last year’s theme was around Dr Seuss’s book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” which aimed to create a sense of excitement about the first year of Middle school for his Grade 6 students.

IMG_2378This year, Miles has selected another of his favourite books – Wonder, by R. J. Palacio – to set the tone. It says to students, in this place, we care about each member of our community. How we treat each other is one of the most important aspects.

FullSizeRender_2

His teaching partner, Trish Waszczuk, helped select some of the precepts that featured in the book, to be made into large posters to inspire the students.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 8.48.40 pm

Student Involvement

20654602841_44064e4c3e_kGreat teachers like to get students involved in design, rather than have it solely be a teacher-directed experience.

Middle school English teacher Jabiz Raisdana had his mentor class this year put together a shelf to put plants on. They planted seeds, and got their hands dirty, providing a real sense of ownership in the class decor. This community building, participatory environment reflects Jabiz’s approach to teaching and learning.

FullSizeRender_1

Miles’s Wonder theme also invites student participation. He plans to kick off the year by having students make Wonder-style self portraits using the iPad, so they can contribute their images to the blank walls, to make it really feel like their classroom.

Grade 1 Head of Grade Ben Morley and his team create inviting displays that will encourage student exploration and creativity in their shared Pod area. Each new unit gets a brand new display.

IMG_1388

IMG_1389These Reggio inspired pod displays spill over into the classrooms as well, with natural wood and other materials featuring.

Living Things

There is something about having living things in classrooms that make them feel more real. Increasing numbers of teachers include plants in their classroom design. Aside from their obvious decorative and aesthetic qualities, plants have been used as the inspiration for poetry writing, and lessons on responsibility.

As a parent and a teacher, I understand the effort that goes into the decisions around classroom set up, and appreciate the care and concern it shows for our children.
They are truly in great hands.

Additional Resources

IMG_894420 Classroom Setups that Promote Thinking – This blog post outlines a number of different approaches teachers can use to set up their rooms. There is something for everyone in here.

Classroom Makeovers to Engage Learners – This article from Edutopia shows a collection of 5 minute videos that show different classroom set ups.

Stephen Heppell speaks here about Space: The Final Frontier

Ewan McIntosh speaks about the 7 Spaces of Technology in School Environments.

I would love to hear your thoughts on great classroom spaces.
Have a wonderful year ahead.

Imaginative Play in Minecraft

My children Scarlett (8) and Griffin (6) have been really enjoying playing Minecraft together. On the iPad it is easy to share a world via wifi, so they can collaboratively build things in the same virtual space.

As a parent, I have really enjoyed seeing their imaginative play while in a virtual world. The short video below was shot while I sat nearby on the couch just observing them playing.

Together, they built a hotel, which (my daughter told me) charged rich people to stay in it, so that people with no money didn’t have to pay. You know your kids are getting a UWCSEA education when..!

I hope you enjoy this short video, as it really does show how Minecraft can foster imaginative play.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/79868954]

Twitter For Teachers #Learning2

Keri-Lee and Clint met on Twitter in 2008 and have since spent numerous holidays, along with their families, together across Asia. Cross posted at Learning on the Job.

To help facilitate our Twitter for Teachers session at Learning 2.011, we have decided to post the general outline of our presentation and any resources on both of our blogs. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you are using Twitter to interact with your PLN. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments as well!

(Mis)Perceptions of Twitter

We’ve all heard the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” diatribe against Twitter. We’re curious to know what the perceptions our participants have about Twitter.

How We Use It

Twitter, like anything else, is simply a tool. Use of that same tool will vary widely from person to person and Twitter is no exception.

Top Tips

For those just starting out in the Twitter game or for those that started an account years ago but never really got into it, here our some of our top tips for using Twitter to expand your PLN:

Public, Personal, Private – Just as we would tell our students, it is important to understand the distinction between public, personal and private information.

BPLBio, Photo, Link. It’s hard for others to separate the gold from the spam when you don’t fill these things out!

Tear Down That Wall! – Don’t protect your tweets! Again, it’s hard for others to decide to follow you back if they can’t see what you’ve added to the conversations.

Go Beyond Basic – While Twitter as a service is fantastic, Twitter as a website is less than desirable. Try a Twitter client like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Echofon (just to name a few!) that allows you to separate your Twitter feed into easy-to-monitor columns.

Lists Twitter lists allow you to create groups within your Twitter stream. You can even include people that you do not personally follow. Even better, you can follow lists that others have meticulously created. (Kim Cofino has a great International Teachers list.

Hashtags#learning2 #edchat #scichat #mathchat #kinderchat These are all examples of hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to group and search for tweets about a specific topic. Using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can even use a hashtag to create an easy-to-follow column in your client. @cybraryman has a comprehensive list of education-related hashtags.

Search For It – Is there something that you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others on Twitter who are passionate about the same thing. Use the Twitter Search function to find people who are talking about your hometown, your favorite sports team or anything else you might be interested in.

Lurking (aka Legitimate Peripheral Participation) – One of the best and easiest ways to learn Twitter etiquette is to lurk amongst some of your favorite lists or hashtags. Once you see how things work, it’s a lot easier to join in!

Retweet and Reply – For some, the highest compliment you can pay them on Twitter is to retweet them. For others, they prefer the conversation that comes along with an @reply. Either way, it is a great way to engage others and to add followers to your PLN.

Conversation is King – Twitter, first and foremost, is about connecting with people around the world who can help you grow as a teacher and as a person. This happens through conversation and through getting to know one another as you would a fellow teacher on your campus. Sometimes these professional relationships develop into personal friendships that last a lifetime!

While it is extremely well-used and on the verge of becoming cliche, the best metaphor for your Personal Learning Network is that of a garden. It takes time and energy and patience to cultivate a PLN. But if you stick with it, it can be a very beautiful thing!

 
Image Credits:
Squawk! by Kevin Collins licensed under†CC BY NC
Looking Up†by Louise Docker licensed under CC BY

Twitter For Teachers #Learning2

Keri-Lee and Clint met on Twitter in 2008 and have since spent numerous holidays, along with their families, together across Asia. Cross posted at Learning on the Job.

To help facilitate our Twitter for Teachers session at Learning 2.011, we have decided to post the general outline of our presentation and any resources on both of our blogs. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you are using Twitter to interact with your PLN. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments as well!

(Mis)Perceptions of Twitter

We’ve all heard the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” diatribe against Twitter. We’re curious to know what the perceptions our participants have about Twitter.

How We Use It

Twitter, like anything else, is simply a tool. Use of that same tool will vary widely from person to person and Twitter is no exception.

Top Tips

For those just starting out in the Twitter game or for those that started an account years ago but never really got into it, here our some of our top tips for using Twitter to expand your PLN:

Public, Personal, Private – Just as we would tell our students, it is important to understand the distinction between public, personal and private information.

BPLBio, Photo, Link. It’s hard for others to separate the gold from the spam when you don’t fill these things out!

Tear Down That Wall! – Don’t protect your tweets! Again, it’s hard for others to decide to follow you back if they can’t see what you’ve added to the conversations.

Go Beyond Basic – While Twitter as a service is fantastic, Twitter as a website is less than desirable. Try a Twitter client like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Echofon (just to name a few!) that allows you to separate your Twitter feed into easy-to-monitor columns.

Lists Twitter lists allow you to create groups within your Twitter stream. You can even include people that you do not personally follow. Even better, you can follow lists that others have meticulously created. (Kim Cofino has a great International Teachers list.

Hashtags#learning2 #edchat #scichat #mathchat #kinderchat These are all examples of hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to group and search for tweets about a specific topic. Using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can even use a hashtag to create an easy-to-follow column in your client. @cybraryman has a comprehensive list of education-related hashtags.

Search For It – Is there something that you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others on Twitter who are passionate about the same thing. Use the Twitter Search function to find people who are talking about your hometown, your favorite sports team or anything else you might be interested in.

Lurking (aka Legitimate Peripheral Participation) – One of the best and easiest ways to learn Twitter etiquette is to lurk amongst some of your favorite lists or hashtags. Once you see how things work, it’s a lot easier to join in!

Retweet and Reply – For some, the highest compliment you can pay them on Twitter is to retweet them. For others, they prefer the conversation that comes along with an @reply. Either way, it is a great way to engage others and to add followers to your PLN.

Conversation is King – Twitter, first and foremost, is about connecting with people around the world who can help you grow as a teacher and as a person. This happens through conversation and through getting to know one another as you would a fellow teacher on your campus. Sometimes these professional relationships develop into personal friendships that last a lifetime!

While it is extremely well-used and on the verge of becoming cliche, the best metaphor for your Personal Learning Network is that of a garden. It takes time and energy and patience to cultivate a PLN. But if you stick with it, it can be a very beautiful thing!

 
Image Credits:
Squawk! by Kevin Collins licensed under†CC BY NC
Looking Up†by Louise Docker licensed under CC BY

Self-directed learning with YouTube

This tweet from @pluke17 got me thinking…

pluke17_1

pluke17_2

He shared a link to this photo of his son Declan’s art work:

I thought it was a pretty amazing drawing, and I was equally impressed that this 11-year-old had found something he wanted to learn and knew exactly where to find the information that would help him.

I personally use YouTube a lot for learning all sorts of things, including new recipes, using new software, and looking for help with existing software. I remember when I first discovered how useful it was – it was a revelation!

I put the call out on Twitter to see what sorts of things other people were learning, and I got lots of interesting responses:

youtube_learning_1

This is just a sample of the suggestions my PLN came up with – the Tip of the Iceberg (if you will excuse the pun).

It’s obvious great self-directed learning is happening at home for many people, but are our students, parents and teachers aware of what can be learned through YouTube?

Jeff and Kim at ISB had parents search ‘how to’ videos on YouTube for things they were interested in during a parent workshop on Social Networking. What a great way of informing parents about the potential uses of YouTube!

It would be great to see students have an opportunity to use YouTube to help further their learning in a variety of areas too. There are videos about spelling rules, times tables, taking action, learning French, learning the recorder, learning punctuation, how to cook, throwing a rugby ball, how to draw cartoons, how to make stop motion animation… The list goes on. Why aren’t we encouraging kids explore ways to help themselves?

I suspect people are worried students might come across an inappropriate video in their quest for quality information. Even though this may occur in some instances, I feel it is a perfect learning opportunity for students. Two questions immediately spring to mind that I would ask the students before they even touched the computers:

1. What should you do if you come across something that makes you feel uncomfortable?
2. How can the careful selection of keywords help you find the most relevant content?

Here are some other ways YouTube has been used in classroom settings:

  • Hot DogsOur Grade 2 students inquired into the origins of food products for their unit From Field to Table, and watched YouTube videos of  how different foods were made (such as this one on Fortune Cookies) to augment their print research. It was especially good for those who had difficulties reading.
  • Kathy Epps at ISOCS has YouTube playlists for videos that highlight the PYP Attitudes, e.g. this playlist for Respect. There are lists of books suitable for the PYP out there, but it’s great to see YouTube being used as a resource in a similar way.
  • Many of us use the Common Craft videos on YouTube to introduce applications or ideas to students or staff. Their simple and effective method of explanation appeals to all.

How have you used YouTube as a learning resource? Would you encourage students to head to YouTube to learn more about things they are interested in?

I look forward to your ideas!