Friday, February 13, 2015

Día de San Valentín

Valentine's Day with ninth graders. Is there anything more festive, more exciting, more annoying? I am fortunate to have an excellent group of freshmen in my Spanish 1 class and we had fun celebrating today.

For Valentine's Day I typically do low-tech activities. We make cards with Spanish phrases, and students get really creative even though they have only been in Spanish about a month. One of my students made a lovely valentine for his girlfriend, who is not in Spanish class, and later in study hall she painstakingly translated it using Google...then asked me for the real meaning, since the Google version didn't make any sense. It was fun and a great Google lesson besides. I love seeing students having fun with the language.

Finally, sometimes I talk about piropos. Students get a kick out of the funny phrases. I found some on the site 1000 Piropos Románticos, and there are lots more. Be sure to filter first for your students. This is where technology plays a role. I am not a native speaker so how would I have access to piropos? Before the internet, culture like this would be challenging or even impossible. We have all kinds of resources at our disposal to make our classes more engaging.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Student Reward Systems--Yay or Nay?

Bonus points, candy, prizes, stickers, badges, gold stars...what do you use to motivate and reward your students? For me, until recently, I didn't do much of anything. I put stickers on perfect quizzes and occasionally threw out a small candy to a student who won an activity or game, but I had no formal system in place. There was no consistency.

I attended a workshop a few weeks ago and a fellow World Language teacher presented on student reward systems, which she had researched in graduate school. I went in a little skeptical. I think, at times, we reward our students too much. Shouldn't they be intrinsically motivated? Shouldn't they WANT to do well? (Aren't grades enough?) The presenter showed research and examples of how reward systems don't have to be bad, and reminded us that we are all rewarded for things in life, such as pay for jobs, or bonuses for working extra, and so on.

So, agree or disagree, I decided to try a consistent reward system. Then, because I am a little particular, I decided to try two systems, one in Spanish class and one in Digital Literacy class.

My system in Spanish class is low-tech. I have little "peso" coupons that I pass out for different achievements: perfect quiz, outstanding homework, game winner, group leader, etc. I have a big list of qualifications. Then with their pesos they can buy things: candy, prizes, a homework pass, even an excused low quiz if they really save up. This system is very reminiscent of my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Olson.

My Digital Literacy class system is of course, more techy. I have been researching Badges lately, and wanted to experiment with them. A few articles that helped me get started are The Teacher's Guide to Badges in Education, and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Badging in the Classroom. I have also participated in a couple of #BadgeChatK12 Twitter chats.

I started an account at ClassBadges.com and worked from there. How I used this account will be in another blog post. Stay tuned!

Do you use reward systems in your classroom? I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kahoot! for Incredible Student Engagement

Kahoot is not brand new in the Ed Tech arena but I recently started using it with my Spanish class. Students are typically engaged in technology but in the years I've been teaching and integrating tech I don't remember anything eliciting a response like this.

I'll admit that I was the first teacher to use Kahoot with this particular group so the novelty was over the top. They were participating, competing, laughing, cheering, and most of all, LEARNING.

Kahoot reminds me of sports bar trivia. (Yes, really.) Questions are posed, and students choose their answers. Points are awarded for correct answers and how quickly you chose your answer. Students can play on ANY device--a huge plus for a BYOD school like mine. Teachers can prepare their own games or choose from thousands of shared Kahoots that can be edited or used as is.

I like that Kahoot lets me download a summary of responses to see how the students answered. Although I don't think Kahoot should be used for formal assessment, it is certainly a valid source of formative data for the teacher.

Kahoot is the easiest and most engaging quick response tool I've used so far.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A New Chromebook in My Family

A sucker for all things technology, I've wanted to get my hands on a Chromebook since they first arrived. However, owning several devices already made it difficult to justify buying one more just because. I kept hoping and waiting and on CyberMonday last November, I spied a Chromebook with a deep discount and snatched it up.

I was completely amazed at this slim, streamlined device. I quickly added my teacher Google account and everything was there. I set up a second "personal" account as well. I was easily able to create accounts for my children, adding or blocking websites as needed. I love how they can do school work or play web games and I don't have to worry they might accidentally share my Facebook status or delete tax files.

I have been making myself use my Chromebook for as much as possible, to learn more and find out what it can and can't do. The truth is, it can do a lot. Of course you need to be connected to the internet for most tasks, and you can't download programs such as Microsoft Office or PhotoShop, but the Chrome Web Store is populated with apps and tools to help you be productive and so much of what we do as teachers or families is in a browser already. My Chromebook came complete with all the ports you'd expect from a full size PC: SD, HDMI, USB and of course audio.

Not long after my purchase I noted this article online at EdTech Magazine that said Chromebooks are now the best-selling K-12 device. I was surprised, since my school--among many--has been stockpiling iPads over the last few years. With a price point of around $200, this technology is within for more schools. I am curious to see where Chromebooks go in the next 5-10 years. I am certainly impressed with mine!