Content + Tech = Learning

Reinforcing Your Bubble

In French, German, Misc, Tech on 24 November, 2009 at 21:18

I recently conducted a 3-hour tech integration workshop at TFLTA [Tennessee Foreign Language Teachers’ Association] in Nashville, TN.  The content was VERY well received, and I am thankful for that.  In this workshop my first stop was a big ‘why bother’ integrating technology into the foreign language classroom? This is the same and only question for this post but the entire outline can be found here.

We all know that if any teacher isn’t solidly convinced how your material is going to help them teach or help their students learn, it’s NOT going to be used in their classroom.  Foreign Language teachers could be potentially the worst because we live in a protected bubble – our classes are not tied to state end-of-course testing.  These classes are, however, required for graduation and university admission in the state of TN and most others.  This keeps us foreign language types from being “boat-rockers” and understandably so.

With this in mind, my target audience was not assumed to be a gung-ho group for this type of change.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the reality, I should note.  In fact, what I was initially told would be 18-25 people turned out to be 50+.  Not a bad draw – the pressure was on!

My defense of the integration of tech into our classrooms falls into several categories:

  1. Increased Relevance of You and Your Course Content
  2. Because we can and should!
  3. Facilitating Meeting and Surpassing State and National Standards
  4. Improving Potential for Cross-Curricular Integration

Let’s just face it – using technology is – dare I say it – cool and the epitome of a student-centered classroom.  This alone can make your class more relevant in the lives of the students – heaven forbid they LIKE learning.  EE-gad! And I understand that students liking teachers is not the ultimate goal, but it never has hurt anyone.

An article from eSchool News on Brain based research discusses how we learn and makes several important points. Most notably, the brain is far more flexible in learning than previously thought.  This debunks, at least in part, the adage that you can’t teach new tricks to an old dog.  This can also apply to teachers and their instructional methods.  We, too, can learn to teach with new ‘tools’ and as such should model such life-long learning for our students.

David Warlick : “For the first time we are preparing students for a future we cannot clearly describe.” We are not digital natives so teaching with technology is ‘not normal’ to us but we are not preparing them for our present or future, but theirs.

Despite tenure laws, budgets are being reduced and entire language programs are being targeted for extinction as many in our country, even those near the hub of world-power, continue to buy-into the notion that English is the only language that one need know to be a productive member of a professional community – or at least the only learning opportunity that school systems can afford to provide them with according to the Washington Post.

We should constantly strive to better ourselves professionally to be better teachers, and to make our programs and ourselves harder to put on the chopping block.

Kristin Hokanson, in her 10July blog on “The Connected Classroom“, discusses to or not to bring reluctant users into the fold.  Should we demand they integrate technology into their classroom or should we lead them through the process, step-by-step dissuading each fear and answering each question face-to-face. What type of self-motivated learners and user do we expect our colleagues to be? ..and our students?  This is a question that must be answered from system to system and even perhaps building to building.  As a parent, I know what kind of teachers I’d prefer my daughters have.

Last point in on this corner of my soap-box is the notion put forth so well by Kyle Pace of the importance of integration vs. utilization.  A teacher using a PowerPoint to show pictures is not a tech-rich environment; using Word to type tests in lieu of making copies of the pre-fab tests that come with your textbooks does not qualify either, although it has its benefits for the teachers and students alike.  Students using programs to learn and teach their peers … now that is good tech!  To this end I provided attendees with links to @rmbyrne ‘s 12 Essentials for Tech Integration, Tech4Teachers’  Great Examples and guidelines and some other guides to help them with their own seamless integration. This notion is purported many, many times over from Dr. O’Bannon of UT Knoxville’s Instructional Technology program where I completed my Master’s degree and in her book Preparing to Use Technology: A Practical Guide to Curriculum Integration, Second Edition.

Next point:  the dreaded standards.  The foreign language standards for the state of Tennessee include our imperative to Connect with Other Disciplines and Acquire Information.  The rationale being that foreign language learning expands the educational experience of all students by connecting with other disciplines in the school curriculum either formally or informally. The conscious effort to connect the foreign language curriculum with other parts of students’ academic lives opens doors to information and experiences which enrich the students’ entire school and life experience. Those connections flow from other areas to the foreign language classroom and also originate in the foreign language classroom to add unique experiences and insights to the rest of the curriculum.

Who could argue with that? Not me. I think it’s designed that way.

NETS Standards add to that that we should ‘Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity’, ‘Model Digital-Age Work and Learning’ as well as ‘Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments’.

Can anyone argue against that in any classroom?  I hope not.

With the fast pace development of technology, we really have no idea what their future will entail but we know for certain that it will include technology.  TomWhitby reminds us: “Educators [need to] remember the world we learned in is not the world we live in. The world we teach in is not the world we teach for.” [I’m so glad he’s in my PLN!]

If I had to summarize and translate all of this into plain English for Foreign Language teachers it would definitely include a reference to ‘our insulated bubble can be popped’.  Innovate, integrate invigorate! In doing this you will begin to structurally reinforce your bubble.

How-to accomplish this “without spending a fortune” info to follow.  Please stay tuned.

Until next time, Bonjour!


    “Unlearning How to Teach” by Erica McWilliam

  2. Your off to a great start.


    Here’s another blog that reinforces the notion of ‘integration’ not just ‘usage’ of technology.

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