Monday, September 30, 2013

My first Online Conference!

Today I attended my first ever Online Conference! It was a little strange at first, because I've never done anything so professional-sounding before. Once I got started, I realized that it was more or less like watching an recorded online lecture--much less intimidating and scary sounding than "Online Conference". Currently I'm taking an online class at UNI called Emerging Instructional Technology, where we meet once a week online for about an hour and a half in the same way. We use Adobe Connect Room and we have the capabilities to chat, share our webcam, and speak through a microphone. 

I attended an Online Conference via Blackboard Collaborate called "Student-Generated Apps for Mobile Devices – can they enhance higher levels of understanding?" and it was about an hour long recording. Although I couldn't participate in the lecture because it wasn't live, it was pretty cool to see other people participating via chat and listening to Derek Barkalow, who recorded the lecture all the way down in Florida!

He spent the lecture discussing how students can enhance their learning by creating their own apps. I didn't have any prior knowledge about how easy it is for students to create their own apps--there are so many resources out there that are user-friendly but still promote higher order thinking. Some examples Derek Barkalow provided were:

And those are just a few!  The students he used in his examples created apps that promoted learning in the classroom; one student created an app that taught the differences between DNA and RNA, Plant and Animal Cells, and then gave a quick quiz at the end to check learning. I never really considered where our apps come from--as far as I knew, they are just constantly pouring in from out of nowhere. To my surprise, my future students have the potential to create the next super-popular app!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A,B,C,D,Q,R Codes

Screenshot of Welcome Letter
I'm in love with QR codes. I learned how to create them and use them when I took Ed Tech & Design at UNI last spring. I didn't really understand their purpose at first, but the more I learned about them, the more I liked the idea of using them in my life. I use QR Stuff to create my QR codes because it's very user-friendly! I also use an app called "Scan" or "I-Nigma" to access the web links to the codes. I prefer "Scan" because it gives you option to open the link on an application on your SmartPhone, if you have the app already. For example, a QR code linked to a Twitter account opens automatically on the Twitter app, rather than in a browser. It's wonderful!

QR code is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code and is an optically machine-readable label that is attached to an item and that records information related to that item. A QR code consists of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device (such as a camera) and processed using Reed-Solomon error correction until the image can be appropriately interpreted; data is then extracted from patterns present in both horizontal and vertical components of the image.

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I first started using QR codes as a Resident Assistant. I included a QR code in my Welcome Letter that linked the Bender Hall Facebook page and Twitter page so incoming residents could like and follow Bender to stay connected and be in the know about events and information regarding Bender Hall. I have the opportunity to control and update the Facebook and Twitter for Bender Hall and I've been working on gaining more followers since school started. I hung posters around the hall advertising with QR codes to make getting connected that much easier.

I'm excited to start using them as a teacher, once I graduate. I like the idea of having some kind of "mobile scavenger hunt" with QR codes posted around my classroom--but I'm being optimistic and imagining myself working in a 1:1 environment. I'm still brainstorming ways to subtly include QR codes into my lesson plans, but I could use some help. If you have any suggestions for me that you've heard of or (better yet) tried yourself, let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 27, 2013

¡Baila con tu cuerpo!

When I took language classes in middle school and high school, the things I remember the most came from lessons that were interesting and used different senses. There is scientific evidence that shows that students learn information better when it's presented in many ways--using all of the intelligences that Howard Gardner defined in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. I remember very clearly the information that was taught through songs, specifically. In my middle school French class, Madame Hopp taught us a sing-song chant of the French alphabet, and I can still recall it today. I remember learning about the body parts in Spanish through the song "Baila con tu cuerpo" because it's a catchy song and has some sweet dance moves that go with it. Not only does this work for foreign languages, but it can work for any subject!

I found a website online about Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory that gives teachers options to use technology to aid their lessons. She organizes all the technological resources by the multiple intelligence theory! It's laid out very nice and I suggest you take a look. As teachers, we have to assess our students to find out how they learn best and adapt our lesson plans to that. It's tough to differentiate for a larger size class, but it's possible! You can do it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

They say Resident Assistants make the best teachers...

Bender Hall Staff 2013-2014
...and I think they might be right. This is my second year as a Resident Assistant at the University of Northern Iowa. Being an RA has been quite an experience. I'm an RA in one of the more social residence halls on campus and I was nervous about it, because I heard rumors about how there is a lot of partying that goes on here. When I started the job, I was pretty scared. A year in, I absolutely love it. LOVE. IT. I kept telling myself I got placed in my Residence Hall because I was the pick of the litter, the cream of the crop, the best of the best.

Even though that might not necessarily be true, it was a good attitude to have going into the job. I'm a firm believer that teachers who were RA's during their undergrad years in college have a very unique set of skills (I hope if you're reading this you got my Taken reference there... shout out to Liam Neeson). Anyway, being an RA has really helped me develop my leadership skills; being a leader is literally going to be my career! I'm going to lead my students to acquire a second language.

Galatia House 2013-2014
As an RA I've used technology to connect to my residents. My house has a Facebook group that any resident can post on; I use it to advertise programs and house dinners as well as ask questions to take surveys and research what my residents need from me. Recently I've started using Google Forms to deliver surveys to my residents; it's so much more efficient than going door to door and asking all of my girls. I have a Pinterest board that I use to keep track of ideas I can use for programming and bulletin boards; I also have one that has all of the pins that I've completed so I can share my ideas with others Resident Assistants.

Being an RA has also helped my organizational and time management skills. It's helped my programming and planning skills. It's helped my interpersonal and teamwork skills. It's honestly the best job I could have ever asked for; I'm so lucky. How have your past work experiences shaped the kind of teacher you are, or will be in the future?

Tweet, tweet!

Kids these days use Twitter. I'm aware of this because, quite frankly, I'm still a kid. I keep up with technology right now because I'm young and I'm part of the 21st Century group. What I'm worried about is getting older and more settled into my career as a Spanish teacher and losing touch with the "youngins". How do teachers stay cool? How do they keep up with what apps are popular and what social media sites their students are using? 

I recently did a week of field experience at my former high school and I swear to you, I heard the phrase "Oh em gee, did you get my Snapchat?" at least once per class period. My hope is to stay connected with my students as much as I can. I don't want to seem like I'm trying too hard, however, because students think that's pretty lame (from my personal experience). 

Photo retrieved from Mrs. Leak's Twitter account
I really like the idea of interactive communication that occurs in forms other than lecturing and discussion. I think using Twitter as a communication tool is fantastic! I found an article online that gave me a substantial amount of ways to incorporate Twitter in the classroom! I also found a Twitter account for a teacher named Mrs. Leak, who communicated with students via Tweet. Now that's a cool teacher.

Another way to connect with students while they're in the classroom is through an online questions & answer service. I've had tons of teachers and professors who have used Poll Everywhere to ask students questions. There are tons of options to customize the questions you ask and how answers can be submitted. Students can use computers or SmartPhones to respond. The best part is that you can hide students' answers so students don't skew others answers.

I can't wait to have my own classroom and use these tools! How can you use them in your class? What's your vision for communication in the classroom?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What is the internet?

This semester I'm taking a couple of Educational Technology courses at the University of Northern Iowa. What's really fantastic is how to balance each other out and both feed ideas for me to share in each class! A couple weeks ago I saw this video in my Technology in Foreign Language Education course and I almost fell off my chair laughing. It's a discussion on the Today Show in 1994 about the internet and the @ symbol. I remember when the internet became popular, because I'm just on the cusp of being old enough to remember what life was like without the internet. My 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Moeller, taught me that the @ sign meant "around" and used it as such (she "corrected" me because I had been using it as a symbol for "and").

I learned in my class that day that only 27% of web users access the internet in English. I was astounded at that fact! We tend to think of English as the "lingua franca" and assume that everyone uses it around the world. This is true to an extent, but it's amazing how much is available for Language teachers in their target languages. 

We, Foreign Language Educators of today, have access to so much good stuff. Why are we not using it constantly? Most teachers (who are a generation or two older than me) don't know where to begin. Creating web pages is manageable but can be difficult. Google Sites is a great tool to help teachers who want to create web pages get started. It's easy because all the formatting is done for you; all you have to do is input your information! Using Java to add animation and sounds can be a way to spice up lessons. The best use of the internet for Language teachers is obviously the use of authentic materials in the target language. There are so many available. What's important to remember, when letting students use the internet, is that is needs to be facilitated well and should fit the interests of your students.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blogs about Blogging about Bloggity Blogs

Photo retrieved from Owen W Brown's flickr
There are so many blogs out there. Seriously! An infinite number of blogs. It's astounding! For these past couple of weeks I've been keeping up on two different language-teaching related blogs. The first one caught my attention because it's called Langwitches Blog. This blog has heaps of resources for me to use as a future language teacher--at first glance I assumed it was written and operated by a group of individuals, and I was incredibly surprised when I found out it was one woman. Her name is Silvia; she was born in Germany but grew up in Argentina. She blogs a lot about how to incorporate technology into learning, specifically globally connected learning and digital storytelling. What really makes the Langwitches blog useful is all the resources provided on the side bars; although it is a little bit visually overwhelming, after I took the time to read through each side bar I found a plethora of resources I could potentially use.

The second blog I've followed is called Senorita in the City. I liked this blog because the author is a young teacher in her fifth year of teaching in New York City. She sounded to me like a character from Sex & the City but in a more Spanish-teachery kind of way--which is right up my alley. Her name is Elouise Tomas and she hasn't updated her blog for about a year, which is sadly disappointing. I was expecting to see constant updates because she's such a young blog author, but I was incorrect. I did read most of her hold posts from 2012, however, and she gives a lot of fun opinions on the life of a language teacher. One of her posts is literally called "I'm tired of working for crazy people." If I ever met this Elouise Tomas in person, I think we would be very good friends.

What I'm wondering now is, as a future language teacher, how can I use blogging to my advantage? Perhaps I'll keep a semi-personal slash professional blog to document my journey as a teacher as I transition from newbie to veteran over the years. It would be a personal way to see how much I've changed and grown as a persona and a teacher. I'm also strongly considering using a blog as a means of keeping my students accountable for their own learning--I'll post my lessons so students don't feel like they're missing class if they physically didn't attend that day. I'll post homework assignments and exam review worksheets galore. It's going to be wonderful. So consider this--how will you use blogs to your advantage?