Monday, March 30, 2015

Podcast Book Reviews

My students have been making recordings for a few years now. In my Spanish classes, I use recordings for voice assessments. I recently heard of an example of students recording book reviews and putting QR codes for those recordings on books in the library for others to access. This semester I have a new technology class and decided to try this out!

First my students chose a book from a list I gave them--mostly young adult fiction. All of the books had some form of technology in them, and these books have been part of the curriculum in my computer classes for several years. Students read the book and completed the Accelerated Reader quiz, aligning with my school's reading goals. 

I wanted all of the reviews to be similar in form and length, so I gave students a planning sheet to complete and told them their recordings had to be less than one minute. (No one is going to stand in the library and listen to a 5 minute recording. These had to be short and to the point!) I approved their planning sheets, which became the recording script.

After approval of their scripts, they made their recordings. I talk about how students can make recordings in this blog post.

My students uploaded their recording files to Google Classroom, the LMS I am using this year. (One change for next quarter will be requiring students to name their podcast files the title of the book they read!) From there I had to get the recordings to a podcast host site. I used SoundCloud. This was new for me. I had never used SoundCloud or any podcast site. SoundCloud was easy to use and now all of these podcasts are in one place. The technical side is that I had to download the sounds from Google Drive to my computer, then upload (in this case just drag) to SoundCloud. It sounds a little cumbersome but actually went very quickly. I wanted all of the podcasts in one place so I really did have to do this part myself, and with my account. 

At SoundCloud, I titled each recording the name of the book, and edited the privacy settings. I copied the link from each podcast and pasted it in the comment of the assignment in Google Classroom so each student had his or her link, and then the students created their QR codes

Instead of putting the QR codes directly on the books, the librarian and I decided small posters would be better. Students used this template to make the poster, which I then printed for the library.

Of course I am a tech geek and think that QR codes are fun in and of themselves. This was one of the most engaging projects that I have ever done. Students didn't necessarily like hearing their voices on the recordings, but enjoyed choosing a book, and the final outcome of their QR posters. We will be repeating this project next quarter. I don't plan to change anything about it and it should move along more easily now that we've all worked through it the first time!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

End of Quarter Reflection

I have a new class this semester called Digital Literacy 2, with sophomores. Digital Literacy is the term my school uses for all skills digital--productivity, safety, ethics, etc. Since it is new, a few ideas have been experimental and many of the skills and assignments are new to the students. Two of the skills we have incorporated are blogging and creating a podcast.

Most of the teachers at my school try to incorporate reading in many ways. Computer classes already typically have a lot of technical reading...but I also assign a book report-type assignment, and this quarter, that was a podcast. Students chose from a list of books that had technology in them in some way. These ranged from The Hunger Games series, to computer geek novels, to sci-fi thrillers. After they read the book, they completed a podcast script and recording. The podcasts turned out great and the students, although not always crazy about hearing their own voices, enjoyed the project.

The other major skill is creating and maintaining a blog. Each student has their own and it functions like a journal. I give students a technology article, current event, video, etc., and some question prompts. They then compose a short writing based on the topic. Nearly all students have commented on how they enjoy blogging and sharing their thoughts on screen. I enjoy reading them as well! Besides learning about the topics themselves, the students are also practicing writing.

Next quarter will include blogging, another podcast, and much more. I am excited to see what Quarter 3 brings for both my students and me!

Monday, March 23, 2015

#CSCTFL15 Conference Takeaways!

I was recently able to attend the 2015 Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in Minneapolis! I was vaguely familiar with this organization but had never attended one of their conferences. When this year's event was in my home state of Minnesota, I knew I had to go.

With more than 1200 registrants and dozens (hundreds?) of sessions to choose from, the #CSCTFL15 conference was an amazing example of excellent planning, hard work, camaraderie, and professional development. 

Over the past several days I have been reflecting on my experience and all of the incredible sessions I attended. I still have notes to go through and PowerPoints to review, but have started implementing some ideas already.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was our connectedness via technology. Attendees were tweeting messages during the conference and presenters were sharing and tweeting information. People were meeting up with Twitter friends they'd never seen in person! The "virtual" community was a mirror of the physical one. It was fun, engaging, and a practical way to share resources.

The other takeaway is for my classroom. I was reminded how so many authentic (and some non-authentic) resources are available to us via technology. Foreign menus, tickets, schedules, comics, memes, photos, videos...are all available to us with just a few clicks. Beyond that, sites like Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook help us share and curate those resources. Although it can be time-consuming to locate just the right materials, they are so beneficial to the Foreign Language classroom, and no one said they had to be perfect. Just get some real stuff into your classrooms! I have been re-energized to incorporate authentic media in my Spanish classes, thanks to Central States!