Extending Oral Practice Within and Beyond the Classroom

August 4, 2009 at 4:52 am 1 comment

First up was Steve Speier of the Language department. Here he shared about ways they extend oral practice within and beyond the classroom. It was wonderful as Steve made it clear he was not a technical wizard but rather someone who saw the possibilities. In fact, he said multiple times through his presentation, that the technology tools were secondary. It is funny that a conference on integrating technology would put technology in its place. I quote “the more we keep technology out of the picture, the better”. Sound strange? Well this is part of the transparency needed to make technology effective as a learning tool.

Now the goal of their language department is to get learners to move through the various levels of proficiency. That is to move a learner from an L1 where you simply memorize words, concepts etc to an L4 or higher where the student is able to demonstrate understanding of more advanced use of elements of the language. So how do you do this you ask. Well, it is not by focusing on the technology you are about to introduce. Rather, you focus on the goals and objectives of learning before you throw in the technology.

Now enter the laptop. What does this disruptive technology add to these learning goals and objectives? How does this technology possible enhance and support these goals? Here are a few idea that were presented.

  • Scaffolding and spiraling curriculum. This is enhanced through the archiving possibilities of the laptop and the school’s use of Smartboards (IWB-Interactive White Boards).
  • With the laptop, it is now easier to provide more opportunities for differentiate instruction
  • There is greater access to visuals which are used to make the learning of a language more authentic. Here Steve demonstrated how students and teachers could create image prompts linking them together to create meaning or a story. A more natural approach to learning a language.
  • Access to authentic voices is available when everyone has a laptop.
  • Collaboration and planning was key. This also a message we heard multiple times throughout the day. But more on this later.

Prior to the arrival of the laptop at Urban, Steve reported that little of this was going on. In fact, the only place where oral practice could take place was in the classroom. Now students can use digital recorders or their laptop to create audio responses to audio prompts while away from the campus. These can then be shared with other students all of which informs the work in the classroom.

One great site that was shared where you can get recordings of native speakers is http://www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/sup08.html. This is a free site that provides a small video of the speaker along with the text in the target language (Spanish). Steve uses these as prompts for language acquisition but keeps the focus off of translation. Since all students have laptops, they have access to this and many other resources at any time making the learning more student centered. Since this transition, they report greater fluency and fluidity in the speaking and listening by the students.

One particularly cool project consisted of students providing images of items and actions that they sequence into a short video with audio describing the items and actions. This is what I call an artifact of learning. Students are demonstrating their command of the language in a natural authentic way. Very impressive examples. Students then exchange these files which again extends the learning possibilities. The actual exchange of files is not really a tech skill that is taught but rather a natural shared literacy. It was reported that there was very little direct instruction on the tech skills.

In the end, the success of the use of the laptop in the Language program is largely by design of the lessons and learning activities. The focus is taken off of the technology, teachers and students collaborate and use all the resources you have. Remember that the technology department is a resource, other teachers are resources and most important, students are a resource. What I like about this as it starts to sound more like a community of learning rather than a community of instruction.

A couple other sites where shared as places where you can learn more about the natural acquisition of language and the use of technology to help facilitate.

Digital Stream Conference: http://wlc.csumb.edu/digitalstream/

ACTFL: http://www.actfl.org

During the Q&A, we learned that text books are only used as ancillary as most content is available online through the many resources available when everyone has a laptop. As you consider making this transition at your school, don’t forget to consider your own school’s culture. You can’t just take the Urban model and apply it to your school and expect it to work. You must get the teachers collaborating and always consider the learning goals first. Technology is always there to support the learning.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. SweetXOGrannie  |  August 4, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Another site for language learners is Mocha Live: http://www.livemocha.com/ It has over 2 million learners working on 25 different languages. Each learner is expected to contribute to the community by assisting learners of their own native language. This assistance can range from correcting written passages to evaluating recorded exercises, text chat, and even chat with audio or webcams. The site is free. Like any social networking site, you may wish to monitor what the students are doing when they are using the chat features.

    Reply

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