Learning new technologies can be time consuming and challenging. I so frequently feel behind the times with technology integration in my practice due to issues of inconsistent access, insufficient tech support, and inadequate amounts of time! Yet, infusing technology into education is something that each educator must do to meet the needs of their students. A 20th century education is not going to challenge, motivate, and prepare students for participation in 21st century society.
I took this course to challenge myself to learn new technologies and find ways to utilize them in the classroom for the students. After all, I cannot expect them to produce something with technologies that I don’t understand myself. Now that the course is coming to an end, I must admit that I have learned quite a bit that is and will continue to impact my instructional practice.
First of all, the course really served as a reminder that the devil really is in the details. At times, I’ve had major difficulties with an assignment simply due to lacking pieces of knowledge that are taken for granted by the assignments sometimes. For example, the act of recording a video and uploading it to a blog isn’t as simple as it sounds sometimes. Many issues can complicate something that sounds so simple on the surface. One has to have a recording device. Then there is the matter of uploading it in a format that can be utilized by the blog site. There is the matter of uploading things on an unsecured site and then learning to embed them, etc. My point here, is that the course has reminded me how learning must be carefully scaffolded for the students in order for them to be successful. I’m reminded to break tasks down to the nuts and bolts so that the students can take them and construct some amazing learning products.
Second, as a teacher with ADD teaching four preps, organization is a constant challenge. The papers, the lesson plans, the meetings, etc can all added up to a harried existence at times. Exploring some of the tools I was exposed to in class such as Planbook.com really will help me keep myself organized and paper clutter down to a minimum. It might seem like a small impact, but I can assure you, it’s quite the opposite. When I can have things in one consistent place and not have extra papers to have to sort, it makes a huge difference in my ability to be focused and productive. This helps me create more engaging better-constructed lessons for the students.
Finally, I was able to get started learning Spanish as well as learning how to make a really delicious meal—paella—that I can share with others. While the paella might not necessarily impact my teaching (although it did help me build some rapport with a new student from Spain), the language skills are proving valuable in the classroom. I teach English language learners who speak numerous languages. In California, the largest percentage of ELLs are Spanish speakers. By knowing Spanish, I can help them learn English better by helping them compare and contrast their language with English and French (trust me that really does help). I can also help them with their Spanish. Heritage speakers are usually able to speak Spanish conversationally, but their written skills are usually not as strong. As a result, learning Spanish will help me build their literacy in Spanish and help them transfer that into English. That is no small matter!
However I do still have some lingering question. For instance, can I really expect my students to utilize technologies to learn outside of the classroom? While the answer at first blush might seem to be yes, we have many students that do not have technological access at home. How can I infuse the technology and scaffold it sufficiently so that students aren’t losing valuable contact with content? I feed into a high school program along with some teachers who are hell bent on focusing on quantity rather than depth. Can I do this and make sure my students aren’t behind their peers at other schools? I also still have questions about finding ways for students to record audio and video and host it on secure sites. Many of my students have smart phones but not all of them do.
In conclusion, I have learned to utilize a variety of new technologies from creating blogs and tweets to recording, uploading, and editing videos with YouTube. I would like to utilize these technologies to help me start creating more of a flipped classroom model where some introduction of material takes place outside of class so that we can actually focus more on actively using French in class or producing English for English language learners. I will continue exploring technologies that I can access my school for the betterment of the students’ instruction. If I can find partners at my district, I am confident that I can create a world language classroom that meets the needs of the 21at century learner!