Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Adiós Twitter, bienvenido Instagram. Why Instagram is the better social media tool for your classroom.

What social media are your students checking around 10x a day?  Middle School students are overwhelmingly using Instagram more than any other social media in their lives.  Instagram is powerful, financially it has powered the Facebook's earnings while Twitter's earnings have taken a nose dive.  Instagram can't seem to add users quick enough, while Twitter is running out of steam especially among millennials.  My generation of millennials, and whatever the generation after us is called  has decided that even 140 characters seems too long. The generation of take a picture of everything possible is overwhelmingly obsessed with Instagram.   There is simply no better way to get class information out to students than to post it on Instagram.

Last week I told my 6th grade students that I would be creating a class Instagram account to highlight student work and share class news.  The students were ecstatic with the idea of the class account.  The results so far have been incredible.  Class assignments and news is quickly getting out to students and I have had much less issues of "I forgot to check the school website for the homework." It has also added a level of fun and excitement to class activities that was not there when I was posting pictures on my school website or Twitter.  During class activities I will snap pictures of students working and learning.  The students are motivated to work knowing that they may earn a picture on the school account.  

Now down to the gritty details of how to Instagram can be used in the classroom safely and successfully.  In total more than 1/3 of my 90 6th grade students follow the class Instagram account.  My account is set to private, and I will only allow students to follow me if I am their teacher.  I do not follow any accounts as well.  This provides security and does not let any non students interfere with my account.  The posts have been of students working in class as well as screenshots of class assignments and announcements.  Instagram is the perfect compliment to Google Classroom.  When I post an assignment I can then take a screenshot of it on my phone and then post it on Instagram.  Students may not check Google Classroom every night, but they are definitely checking their Instagram feed.  I still like the Twitter widget in my school webpage and will now post on Twitter, screenshot the assignment and then post it on Instagram.  It is an easy and effective way to get classroom information out to the entire class.

Next step will be working on some #hasthtags for the class to use on Instagram.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How is your Spanish pronunciation? Try the new Google Docs Add-On, and see if it understands your accent.

I recently came across the Google Docs Add On Speech Recognition and have so far found it as an incredible tool especially for language learning. The Add On uses the same texhnology that Google uses on its homepage for speech recognition. This means that it is good and getting better each day.  What is most impressive to me about the Add On is the amount of languages and even accents that it has to choose from.  Go ahead and try it, I'm sure your curious about your own accent!  It has an incredible amount of accents to use, especially for Spanish.

This add-on has really helped me develop a whole new layer to my Spanish classes. My students can correctly answer questions and speak spanish. But now they can make sure they don't sound like Keanu Reeves in Point Break. (One of the great movies of all time none the less). The Add-On will not work if you don't put effort into your pronunciation, and this has really done an incredible job giving individual students valuable feedback to how they are speaking.  I have already noticed students who at first could not get a single word to work, are now after some practice doing whole sentences and really speaking with a better accent. 

The add-on also has an added bonus in that it will not spell out adult language!  This is actually a lot of fun and I recommend you give this a try with the same crowd of friends you usually play cards against humanity with. All you will see though is the first letter followed by stars like this s***  .So this Add-On will prevent foul mouth students from at least speaking any poor language on their docs.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  The Add-On is only for Google Docs and can be found at the bottom of the Add-On list.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Language teachers need to embrace, instead of fear Google translate.

Just recently Google Translate has released new, and exciting updates. The app can now translate written words by hovering the phone over the text. The app can also now listen and type out a translation to a conversation. Both of these features are incredible to witness and if you have not tried them out yet, you really should. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that this app will only continue to improve and innovate. As a language teacher I do not fear the app making language teachers irrelevant. Instead I see it as a way to make us more productive and increase how much our students can learn each class.  Instead of looking at the negative aspects of the App such as it's limitations with translating whole documents correctly and with colloquial phrases, here are some of the huge positives.

First of all language teachers should be rejoicing that we no longer have to carry around dictionaries for our students.  Dictionaries are an incredible tool to learn new vocabulary, but Google Translate gives you that and more. While I have very fond memories traveling around Valencia, Spain with my Spanish-English dictionary, I am well aware that I could have done so much more if I had my Google Translate app with me.  The app is far superior to your basic dictionary in so many ways.  It exists on my smartphone which means I carry it all the time and it weighs much less than a dictionary.  It allows you to save and star all important words for easy reference later on.  You also can hear back words or speak the word which allows you to practice your pronunciation as well as listening.

The App and web form allows students to access it in any classroom with internet access.  1:1 or BYOD settings now provide each and every student with a free dictionary to use at no extra cost.

The app teaches students how to use the latest translating technology as a resource to improve their learning.  If students use the app correctly for translating single words they can expand their vocabulary at a rapid pace.  Students can check their spelling, find out where accents go, as well as get a list of similar words all by using the app.

A quick dictionary, spelling, and thesaurus all in one app can now free class time up to more language practice.  Teachers have to adapt to how they can now use this extra time saved in class to expand on vocabulary and further challenge students.  The reality is that students are using the app, and they are going to continue to keep using it no matter how often we tell them "it makes mistakes."  Instead I believe the focus needs to be turned to how to effectively teach students how to use Google Translate as the incredible resource it is, one that can really benefit learners of a new language, and one that is not about to make language teachers irrelevant.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to learn coding and practice a new language with Scratch

Lately coding has become a buzzword in education especially in the community that I teach.  The parents are showing a lot of interest in their children learning how to code in schools.  One solution to this is through the web based program Scratch.  This program allows students to gain coding experience in a fun and interactive way.  The students may not be coding Java or HTML but they are coding their characters to do incredible things.  This is a great way to introduce students to coding, and I have seen many students extremely enthusiastic about the program.

At first I thought this is a great program, but I won't be able to use it in my Spanish classroom where speaking is the main focus.  After collaborating with a colleague I realized that not only could the entire scratch program website be in Spanish, but that my students could also record their voices right in the program.  We realized that this is a great way to have the students practice their language skills by creating, and coding a conversation between two characters.  The tip with this part is to have students insert code for one line of the conversation, then to put the code in for the other character.  The other character can have code inserted to trigger an audio response to the first character.  This creates a conversation in Spanish between the two characters.

My 3rd grade class absolutely loved using scratch!  The students picked up the program incredibly fast, and found it to be a fun challenge.  In the first class the students chose their "Sprites" which are characters.  They then chose the setting background.  We then had them use code to record their conversations.  The students would record and code one part at a time.  This takes a lot of concentration and precision, that being said, my class of 3rd graders was very capable of such a challenge.

The first class in the computer lab the students were able to begin coding and record some of their conversation.  The next class we will be finishing up and exporting the finished coded recordings.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Easy accents with Google Docs

When students are typing in my Spanish class it is really important to have the ability to type correctly using accents.  Luckily there is a new Google Doc Add-on called "Easy Accents."

This Add-on is free, and extremely easy to use!

1: Open up any Google Doc new or old.

2: Click on "Add-ons" at the top of the doc.

3: Search "Easy Accents"

4: Click "free" and then accept the Add-on.

5:  Return to your Google Doc and click on Add-ons  again

6.  Click on Easy Accents and find the language you are typing in.

Now on the right hand side of your screen you will have this menu with all of the easy accents.

The students love this Add-on!  It has been a big success, and makes typing grammatically correct in Spanish a lot easier!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Como Usar Super Quiz Para Comentários

Super Quiz para comentários  

Super Quiz dá-lhe opção de dar comentários a seus estudantes com so um click. Google Forms serve como exámenes e com o add on de Super Quiz você pode fazer a nota e a configuração para mandar um Google Doc e um email com ela e muitos comentários para ajudar a seus estudantes.  O add on permite-lhe fazer-lo em segundos.  Depois de configurar o add on e fazer um examen correto o add on esta pronto para fazer os comentários automaticamente.  

Muito fácil né? 

Bem, tenho algumas recomendações antes de usar-lo....
Aprende como usar-lo com o dever de casa ou algo que não conta oficialmente para a nota do estudante.  O problema e que precisa tem muito cuidado com a configuração em o Google Sheet e em seu examen correcto.  Se o examen "correcto" com as respostas tem um erro você vai ter um problema.  Todos os exames dos estudantes vão ter esse problema.  O bom e que você pode cambiar suas respostas depois no Google Sheet e escrever a resposta correta.

Uma coisa mais
Tenha muito cuidado com os comentários.  Usa a configuração para dar notas e comentários com muita concentração.  Se algo esta incorreto, todos vão receber um Google Doc com o erro.  

Algumas fotos de Super Quiz.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Benefits of an embedded webcam in student work

I have been have been really interested in imbedding a webcam into my students recordings this school year.  I first became curious about this idea while creating my video for the Google Teacher Academy in Mexico City.  I wanted people to be able to see that I could give a presentation in Spanish.  The video proved to be an amazing learning experience for me.  The far majority of our speech is done without seeing what we look like while we talk.  When you see yourself talk you instantly analyze and reflect about how you sound and look while speaking.  Doing this screencast with the imbedded webcam was an incredible experience.  It made me analyze  how I looked and sounded, and I recording until I found myself looking and sounding really confident in the webcam.  What I realized after was that this process was a great public speaking exercise.

 I instantly realized that this can be a very powerful tool for my students to practice their Spanish.

To have my students use the webcam they first created a Google presentation with their conversations in Spanish.  The next step would be to record a screencast where they would present their presentations right on their Chromebooks.  I chose to use the Chrome extension Screencastify because it downloads right to Google Drive and gives you the option to imbed a webcam.

The finished works came out great and now my students can reflect on how they look and sound when speaking in Spanish.  It provides a great opportunity for a digital portfolio where the student can now hear and see themselves speaking a new language.

Here is one screencast from a student who created an excellent podcast all done with Google slides and Screencastify on a Chromebook.