Going SOLO

Here is a link to the article I wrote for SecEd.

http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/going-solo-with-ict/

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More flipping

Today I taught my top set Year 9 class after having set them my flipped video on the preterite tense and asking them to complete a Google Form series of questions so I could assess their learning. This has been one of the most valuable elements of flipping the classs room that I picked up at #ililc4 – that and using Flubaroo to mark the answers!

The pupils started the lesson on a red, green or amber table, depending upon whether they had scored above 70% (green), less than 70% (amber) or not done it at all (red). This was very similar to the lesson I blogged about last month, but I tweaked it for the needs of this class. I also considered some of the feedback I got from my Year 10s who did this, and added in some paired speaking tasks. At the end of this lesson I again asked for feedback and most pupils really enjoyed what they did. Any areas for development included having a variety of activities (somehow I need to move out of my comfort zone and do reading and listening things too!), and putting a table copy of the lesson plan out (instead of just displaying it on the board).

I was talking in the classroom today about flipped learning and a lot of teachers, particularly those in Humanities, are quite keen on developing their flipping lessons, so I hope to recruit them into a bit of a research group next year where we can run an action research project on the benefits of flipping the classroom, so watch this space!

If you want to read more about flipping the classroom, then have a look at this: http://fln.schoolwires.net/cms/lib07/VA01923112/Centricity/Domain/46/FLIP_handout_FNL_Web.pdf

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My focus this week is…..

….EasiSpeak microphones.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I plan to finish off a unit of work with my Year 8 class. They are mixed ability, and it is only their first year of Spanish, so the activity plans to show off the skills that they have learnt so far which include basic personal descriptions including personality, age, name, birthdays etc and classroom language.

The task will be to record their own descriptions using the EasiSpeak microphones, and then we will upload the audio to use with a Voki. They will have to design their own characters, and we will display them in our class blog and give individual feedback.

What I need to do now, before the lesson, is to create a pupil sheet explaining what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.
I then need to actually create a blog for the group that will be accessible in school as well as ensure that Voki.com is unblocked, and make sure I know how to use the EasiSpeak mikes properly, so that I can demonstrate.

This activity should challenge them to be creative and to use all the language they know so far, it is relevant to the pupils as they will be talking about themselves and using current technology, they have an audience because the whole class will get to see it, it is personal to each pupil and there is an incentive to do well  as the top three of the group will earn merits. This activity is also open ended as it allows a variety of responses, thus differentiating the task by outcome.

Later this week I will update my blog with some feedback on the task and how the pupils do on it.

Here are the resources I have made so far:

Recording with EasiSpeak

Instrucciones para hacer un Voki

NB – Voki states in its terms of service that users must be aged 13 or over. As I am using this with Year 8 (who are between 12 and 13 years of age), only the pupils who have turned 13  (‘Challenge Leaders’) will access the site, therefore pupils will work in small groups and the Challenge Leader will create the Voki for their group. Thanks to @amandasalt for the heads up!

Half Term Top Five

This half term I have been able to get a lot done – not only have I been abroad (to Bilbao – a place very dear to me as I lived there for two years), but I have also had the chance to catch up on lots of paperwork and get to grips with a few more online tools, plus I have changed the them on this blog. So here are my recent top 5 from Twitter:

1. The first is Google Wave. I was able to get an invite and after a few days of waiting, here I am, with my very own account. Except I have very few people with whom to try it out! Luckily, as always, my Twitter network came to the rescue and @josepicardo and briefly ‘waved’ at each other – (h)ola – before agreeing that for now, Twitter is more suited to our needs. I am gradually adding other educators and I have bookmarked a few articles to read, but I reckon this tool will really take off when more of us are able to enjoy it.

2. Another tool that I really like the look of is Xtranormal, which (again, thanks to @josepicardo) looks as though it has massive potential in the classroom. See an example of the animated videos created by his Spanish 6th form students on his department’s website.

3. ImageChef is a wordle-esque tool that @icpjones has recently blogged about. It allows calligrams to be made (an image of a word made up with the word) and as Isabelle writes, it can be adapted, embedded and/or downloaded. I think the Word Mosaic tool and the Visual Poetry tools look the most exciting. Enjoy!

4. I have recently tweeting and blogged about a website called YacaPaca. It is a free website, where pupils log in with a given name and password, and teachers log in with theirs. Teachers can make interactive exercises and assign them to pupils so that when the pupil logs in, they see just the exercises they need to do. One or more attempts can be given to the pupils, and their results are recorded in the online markbook. It is also possible to look at the results in-depth and display the questions on-screen in ‘whiteboard’ mode. A pretty useful tool for independent computer room work or for homework – and not just for MFL!

5. The last of my top tools for now will have to be Storybird as my PLN has been talking about it over the last few weeks. See some exemplar stories from Dom, Clare and Lisa and now one from me too! For now stories written in a foreign language are not public, but you can access the ones you have made from your account of from a link, for now, just English ones are embeddable.

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It is also definitely worth mentioning the many CPD opportunities that are coming our way this month. The first is this weekend at the Languages Show, Olympia London with its own Show & Tell session, followed by MFL Flashmeeting 4 on Monday 2nd November.  Saturday 14th November is the MFL Show & Tell event in Coventry. I am also doing two sessions for the University of Cumbria for the MFL PGCE students on using Spanish in the classroom and have set up a wiki for them where I have stored the session’s resources and where I want them to hand in their homework on the merits of learning Spanish. Fingers crossed the session will be enjoyable!

Did you know?

Many thanks to Chris Betcher for posting this video on his blog where he says “

I wonder if Karl Fisch knew what he was starting when he made the original “Did You Know?” PowerPoint file for his staff at Arapahoe High School back in early 2007.  Fisch just wanted to share a few thoughts about a fast changing world with his fellow teachers, but by posting a copy to his blog it got picked up by others who found it fascinating, it went completely viral, has been made into several versions, has been remixed and modified many times, and its many incarnations have now been viewed many millions of times on YouTube and other online video sites.  All of this really speaks about the power of the web to help spread ideas…”

Here is version 4.0, enjoy:

LanguagesResources Wiki

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Today I happened to log on to Twitter at around midday and came across a message from @kvnmcl:

kevin mc laughlin (kvnmcl) on Twitter - Windows Internet Explorer 20052009 223707.bmp

This, along with a previous tweet from @bellale regarding the use of web 2.0 tools in the MFL classroom, has prompted me to write up a copy of an overview of the Spanish course that I will be implementing from September at school. I have had to do this for two reasons 1) we are returning to a four year Spanish course (instead of the 3 we currently have  to get them to a good GCSE standard) and 2) to incorporate the new AQA GCSE specification into the department’s overview. I have also taken the opportunity to re-vamp the content of some schemes of work, and although this is just an overview of what could be incorporated it is certainly a working document, and one will evolve over time.

When I did my PGCE course we were taught to look at the end in order to know how to get there. The end ‘objective’ for this four year curriculum is to have covered all the necessary language for GCSE, plus any other relevant language such as body vocabulary and daily routine (which, bizarrely are no longer part of the AQA GCSE). And of course, I wish to teach all of this whilst building in opportunities for pupils to learn about Spanish-speaking countries and Hispanic culture whilst still leaving time for assessment and my beloved use of ICT.

With this in mind I would like to write the complete schemes of work with ideas for activities to be done at the end of a language topic, giving pupils the chance to use all the language they have learnt over the previous lessons. Ideally, I would like to CRAPPI check activities (an acronym left over from my PGCE days whereby we checked that the following criteria were met when thinking through a classroom activity). So, rather than using Web 2.0 tools for the sake of using Web 2.0 tools the activity that the pupils will undertake will Challenge them and be Relevant to them. There will be an Audience who will see the final product giving the task a sense of Purpose. It should be Personal to the students and should also involve an Incentive to engage them in the task. The activity can revolve around any skill or any combination of skills and a CRAPPI check can be done on any activity with any amount of language scaffolding, however, if it is an end activity then pupils should have minimal language support to complete the task.

The link to the Wiki is here. Please access it and contribute any ideas you have! You can discuss things in the discussion page and access any of the year groups via the links on the right hand side, or from the home page and only the Year 8 – 11 pages are changeable.

Twitter

I first joined Twitter back in February 2008, but for such a long time it seemed slightly pointless, and ever so slightly overwhelming. A few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge again after having seen a little bit more about it in the press and in the forums that I regularly read.

I now follow about 100 people and about 80 people follow me ( @spanishsam). My favourite ‘tweeters’ are those in a similar position to me, ie. MFL teacher in the UK with a passion for ICT, however I follow a range of other relevant professionals and the odd real life friend. Oh, and Stephen Fry ( @stephenfry)! I got a good tip-off about who to follow by reading Joe Dale’s blog entry on how to create a PLN (Personal Learning Network) using twitter as it has the names of many MFL teachers. Furthermore, over on the TES website, in the MFL forum there is a whole thread devoted to saying who you are on twitter. This is definitely the key to making twitter work for you. If you don’t have anyone to follow then you can’t get much out of it. Likewise, if you have something to say then you want a decent amount of people to follow you that might be interested in what you have to say.

The second thing I did was download TweetDeck from http://tweetdeck.en.softonic.com/ . This allows me to (very quickly) open my recent tweets list on my home PC and see exactly what has been going on throughout the day. I can easily search, send direct messages (private messages to people – put a ‘d’ before your tweet), or re-tweet a message that I like and want to re-transmit to my followers (RT in front of a message). TweetDeck also has a separate column on the page for me to see messages that have been aimed at me without losing them in the stream of tweets that are regularly being updated, and there is a column for the direct messages I have sent and received that no one else can see. TweetDeck also offers the added advantage of being able to display my Facebook updates on the same page. I guess this is where my professional and my personal worlds collide!

I have also fed my recent addiction to twitter by making use of my lovely BlackBerry Storm by downloading TweetBerry. I can read all messages and update my own status from it very easily. There are various other options open to BlackBerry users, and I chose this one after reading a blog post where various applications were discussed, as it seemed the most user friendly.

So, what have I gotten out of being on twitter? Well, apart from having a reason to be on my computer all evening long, I have actually learnt a lot. Many of the people that I follow are respected members of the MFL/ICT community and apart from being completely in awe of being able to communicate with them directly, I have been able to be on the receiving end of so much information. I have actively read many people’s blogs over the last year or so, but it is often hard to know how to find them and I have normally stumbled upon them as a result of surfing the net with no real purpose. Since joining twitter my list of RSS feeds at home has almost doubled with updates to blogs that I now subscribe to so there is always something new for me to read when I have the time. I suppose that what makes twitter useful (and at times frustrating) is that you can only post a maximum of 140 characters, which means that your message has to be short and sweet. It must get straight to the point and it is therefore very obvious as to whether it is something that could be of personal use to you.

This week, the top 5 things that I have learnt/found out about/been told about via twitter are:

  1. There are versions of twitter in a closed group setting, such as yammer or edmodo but they have other uses as well such as file sharing
  2. I know know what a flashmeeting is (video conferencing at its best)
  3. The MFL teachers on twitter have set up a flashmeeting here for next Monday (4th May 2009) at 9pm, you can sign up for it here by clicking on the ‘edit’ button
  4. Speed dating to practise MFL orals in the classroom