Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Part Three: Visiting some more classrooms

Languages learning

I've been in Spanish and French classes lately too, seeing how the teachers incorporate digital technologies to help students deepen their language learning. One teacher is hugely experienced, and the other has been teaching for less than five years. Both however, are finding ways to use readily available tools to enhance learning, and push their own boundaries. I'd like to share a bit of that with you, by focusing on one part of one Spanish lesson.
      The teacher of Spanish has been using four digital tools in particular : Google Classroom, GoogleDocs, Story Bird and Padlet. The day I observed her however, she was mainly using Google Docs.
      The class had recently been introduced to the preterite (one off actions in the past) and imperfect past tense. Her aim was to get students to use these to tell a past tense story, in groups. To do so, she created a template document sent to each group of 3. This template included images for a comic strip construction. In other words, the page was set up as two-column, six-row table, with an image in three of the six lefthand blocks, so that the story could unfold on the right. Chromebooks were available for each student to accomplish this as part of their group.
      The task therefore required students to wok out together what part of the story they were to focus on, after having worked out a basic story line that would sensibly carry over into each block. Students were also advised to use the resources in the room as well as online, to address vocabulary and image needs. This is what they were using:

So this photograph shows how the document looked. The images were intended to provoke some thinking among each group member and provide scope for each person to contribute to the task. Once students got going and worked out their plan, the rest of the lesson consisted of some concentrated thinking and support.

Adaptive help-seeking

An intriguing aspect of this class was the level of adaptive help-seeking. There were two really clear examples of this, where students relied on each other.
The first occurred right near the start of the lesson, when the Chromebooks were issued. When opening the device to log on, one student exclaimed, "It's in Korean!"The teacher's first response was to say 'grab another one then' but the student and his buddy decided against it, deciding instead to problem solve themselves. They solved the language problem by the girl opening the preferences tab on her device, and, because it was in English, using the cues to help her partner find the parts to change the default language. This was really creative problem-solving and demonstrates how well students can co-operate to change things.
      The second example is when some students complained that they were having trouble adding the appropriate macrons or tildes or accents to words. Another overheard and demonstrated how to use the Special Character function in Docs to solve this problem. This was then viewed by the teacher who, by sharing the strategy, made it easy for everyone to properly accent the words as needed. The image below demonstrates:

This photo shows that by drawing the letter and the macron by hand using the touchpad, the program recognises the letter and makes one available to insert in the word as required.

A third very interesting point about this class is that few had experienced collaborating on GDocs before. so there was learning  about the program, online collaborating, and specific ways of solving problems while completing a shared task.

Not bad for one lesson! Have you struck some similar problem-solving skills?

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