Thursday, 11 June 2015

Read&Write for Google - en français!

Great news!  TextHelp has given FSL teachers an end-of-the-school-year present, releasing an update to Read&Write for Google Chrome extension that includes full French functionality.  Tools include text-to-speech, speech-to-text, predictive text, dictionary, visual dictionary, fact finder, translator, and highlighters.  It's a great literacy tool that our FSL students should find useful.  It works best in Google Docs and on websites - just look for the puzzle piece in the address bar.

For an overview of the different tools, this Google Presentation may be helpful.  If you are not a UGDSB teacher, ignore the UGDSB-specific log-on information - although the reasoning may apply to your domain, too.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Inquiry-Based Learning in #FSL

I'm still struggling a bit with the idea of inquiry-based learning in the high school Core French class. What does it look like? How do I ensure that my students have a common base of knowledge to drive their interactions? How do I make this time-efficient when there are ever increasing demands on what needs to be accomplished in the classroom?  And, more pragmatically, how do I make this manageable for me as a teacher while still making it valuable for the students?

One idea I tried this year in my Grade 9 Academic French class was to use inquiry to develop the students' vocabulary list for our unit on "Le week-end."  Our inquiry question was "What vocabulary do I need to talk about my favourite activity?"

A bit of background: when I got to the culminating conversations with my grade 9s last semester, I discovered that often times they did not have the specific vocabulary to talk about their activities and interests. For example, they could say "J'aime jouer au hockey" but didn't understand the question "Est-ce que tu joues pour une équipe?"  I was frustrated and disappointed with myself that my students didn't know as simple and necessary a word as "une équipe."  I swore that wouldn't happen again!

This semester I decided that students would create their own vocabulary lists, centred around their interests. A student who likes hockey had to create a list of 15 - 20 words needed to be able to talk about hockey. A student who likes to cook needed to come up with 15 - 20 words related to cooking. And so on.  Students created their list in a Google Sheet and included a URL to a picture that would represent the vocabulary word.

Once each student had submitted their Google Sheet through Google Classroom, I collated the lists to make one HUGE master list. We then as a class decided which words every student should know, with criteria being the importance of the word to the activity but also the applicability of the word in other situations. We were able to narrow down our master list to a list of about 55 words, many of which they already knew. I then used to create visual flashcards so students could learn and review their vocabulary.  (Check out our list here.)

I liked how students were able to focus on vocabulary that was of interest and use to them, but that we were also able to create a base of common knowledge so that when students are talking to each other, they can ask follow-up questions using specific vocabulary.

The next step for me is to create some sort of an assignment where students use their individualized list.  This picture just came up in my Facebook feed, courtesy of the J'aime le français Facebook community via the French Teachers in the US Facebook group - I think I might try something like this, at least as a starting point.  Students could then use their poster to do a presentation to the class about their favourite activity.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

My Storify of #bit14

Bring IT Together 2 - Day 3

It's been a couple of days since Bring IT Together 2 ended and my brain is still spinning.  What an incredible 3 days of learning, collaborating, and networking.  A list of the workshops is here - for many of the workshops, a link to the presentation can be found in the right-hand menu.

Friday began with a keynote from Ron Canuel of the Canadian Education Association.  He reminded us that technology is an important portal for the imagination of teachers and that our students are on the other side of that portal.  He also reminded us that students are the constant (age, neurological development) and that teachers are the variable.  We need to be courageous for without courage, there can be no change.

I loved how the focus of Bring IT Together 2 was on pedagogy - how can we be better teachers? - and that the technology is there as a tool.  As a result, the workshops were, for the most part, about improving our teaching by reaching their students where they are at and through their interests.  I also loved how there was a workshop offered in French during each session.  Not all of the French-language workshops were useful for me as a teacher in an English school but the opportunity to connect with other French-speaking teachers and to have workshops that were geared to the different needs of a French-language classroom were invaluable.

Lisa Noble presented some Web 2.0 tools that can be useful in the FSL classroom.  In particular, I think I am going to give a try.  I like that it allows for students to contribute to a class discussion and then to be able to reorganize those ideas.

I really appreciated Lisa Unger's presentation on Twitter as a tool to practice historical perspective.  I think of all the workshops I attended the last few days, this is the one that I am most likely to implement in my class this semester.  Lisa has her students take on the role of a Canadian teenager and then tweet about their experiences during the different time periods studied in the Grade 10 Canada since World War I course.  It's too late for me to implement as a semester-long project, but I'm thinking that as a project for the post-war years, it has a lot of potential.  You can check out her students' work here.

Rodrigue St-Jean & Josée Hébert presented a "Matrice d'intégration des technologies" to help French-speaking teachers integrate technology using the SAMR model.  Lots of great examples for different types of learning situations (e.g. communicate, collaborate, etc.).

George Couros closed out the conference with an inspiring keynote on Leading Innovative Change.  I've followed George on Twitter for years so it was a highlight for me to get to hear him speak.

George Couros

A few highlights from his presentation:

  • The smartest person in the room is the room.
  • If you don't understand what a hashtag is / does, you are becoming illiterate.
  • Seth Godin:  Transformational leaders don't start by denying the world around them.  Instead, they describe a future they'd like to create instead.
  • Change is the opportunity to do something amazing.
  • General Eric Shinseki:  If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less.
  • Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.
  • To innovate, disrupt your routine.
  • Take risks.
  • Be uncomfortable.
  • Share your ideas.
  • Learning first, Technology second.
This was my first ECOO conference - it definitely won't be my last!  My notes from Day 3 are here.

If you attended the conference, what is your takeaway from Bring IT Together 2?

One last view of the Falls

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Bring IT Together 2 - Day 2

Another amazing day of learning at #bit14 - between a keynote by Richard Byrne, lots of incredible sessions, and a photowalk by the Falls, it's hard to know where to begin or what to say.

Some points from Richard Byrne's keynote:

  • We need to be preparing our students for jobs that don't even exist yet.
  • Google has a "search anthropologist" who studies how we do Internet searches.  Check out Daniel Russell's Search ReSearch page for weekly questions designed to help improve research skills.
  • Reframing our lessons:  "Today we will explore" vs "Today you will learn about."
  • Google is the biggest search engine; YouTube is the second biggest.
  • We need to encourage our students (and ourselves) to take risks and put our content out there - great things can happen!  For example, the theme song of the CBC show Mr. D came from a kid who posted some rap music on YouTube.
There were so many workshops today, I wished I could clone myself to be able to attend more.  Thank goodness for a spirit of collaboration among the presenters and the power of the Internet - most of the workshop presentations are available on line for all to learn from.

Workshops included:

  • Utilisations pédagogiques de codes QR
  • Citoyenneté et identité numérique
  • Google Tips, Tricks, & Tutorials
  • Digital Photography 101
  • « App Hour »: un cinq à sept techno
My notes from today are available here.

Photos from tonight's #bit14 Photowalk:

Bring IT Together 2 (ECOO & OASBO-IT) - Day 1

What an amazing day of learning at Bring IT Together 2.  This is the first year I have been able to attend the famed ECOO conference and, 1 day in, I am so glad I am here.

The day started with a keynote address from Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman.  Memories surfaced of a long-ago computer course held at St. Clair College in Windsor where my parents, brother, and I learned to move the turtle around this wonderful new device called a computer.  Brian Silverman demonstrated the newest version of Logo - that turtle from my childhood.  Thinking back to that computer course, I am amazed anew at how far technology has come in such a short time.

My morning was spent attending workshops put on by D.J. Cunningham and LEARNstyle.

A few interesting facts & reminders from D.J.'s keynote:

  • Globalization is fueled by the Internet.  8 of the 10 most visited websites are housed in North America and 81% of their traffic comes from within North America.
  • Our students' community is no longer their classroom, school, or town - it is the globe.
  • ¼ of all Tweets are education related!
  • 98% of college students own a digital device and 38% of them say they can't go more than 10 minutes without using it.

The Google Classroom workshop was a good introduction for anyone new to Classroom.

I got the most out of Lise Galuga's presentation (en français) on Google Chrome, learning a few new tricks and discovering some new apps & extensions that I am excited to try out.

The afternoon was spent discovering the power of Antidote 8 with Lise Galuga.  After a great explanation of the program and all it has to offer, Lise presented ways to incorporate Antidote into the French classroom using the SAMR model.  Antidote is an OSAPAC licensed software that, to reduce it to its simplest terms, is a French dictionary and correction program - although that description in no way does this program justice.  Dictionary, Synonyms, Antonyms, Proverbs, Conjugator, multi-word search, spell check, grammar check, visual verb tense summary, language register - this program has it all!  (If only it were cloud based . . . )  Lise's presentation is available here.

My notes from Day 1 are here.

The conference is being held in Niagara Falls so after a long, brain-tiring day, the chance to walk around outside, enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful scenery, was much appreciated!

Looking forward to more learning tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Experiencing History with the Canadian War Museum's Supply Line

If you’re looking for a hands-on opportunity for your students to discover the Canadian experience in the First World War, you need to check out the Canadian War Museum’s new program “Supply Line.” 

Supply Line is a discovery box of WWI artifacts that students are able to pick up, inspect, test, and even try on.  There are 22 objects from WWI (5 authentic artifacts and 17 reproductions) representing different aspects of the Canadian experience in Europe.  Some of the highlights for my students included a soldier’s dress jacket, a steel helmet, a trench periscope, a small box respirator (gas mask), and a gas alarm rattle. 

Also in the box are contextual photographs, artifact information labels such as you would find in a museum display, and a binder of teacher resources.  The teacher resources include additional background information on each artifact and a series of lesson plans, with student handouts, based on different themes, topics, and cross-curricular connections.  All information is provided in French and English.

Service Dress Jacket with contextual photos and information labels
Supply Line is a free program - the Canadian War Museum even covers all shipping costs.  Boxes are loaned out for two-week periods and there is a limit of 1 loan per semester per school.  While the Canadian War Museum is unable to guarantee a specific request, you can specify your preferred month when you submit your application.  I submitted my request in mid-September for delivery any time between October and early January.  I received an email 2 weeks later indicating a box could be delivered on October 15.  Demand for the boxes will likely grow as more schools hear about this great opportunity so get your request in soon.

My students really enjoyed this opportunity to interact with history and watching them try to figure out what some of the more obscure objects were used for (and which students already had the answer!) was a great opportunity for me to observe their thinking and analytical processes, too.

The Canadian War Museum has put in a ton of work to make this a really valuable resource and it is definitely worth checking out!