Friday, February 20, 2009

A Department Meeting to Remember

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with our world language teachers. They had invited me to talk and share some “technology” with them. I decided to solicit some of the WL teachers who are already on the edge to share some of their successes. Fellow department members have much more street-cred than I do. This was important since (like many groups of teachers) there was a wide range of ages, experience, and tech know-how.
I gave these volunteers one “rule”: Show the success, NOT the tech.
What followed was an incredible sharing of learning successes I have not seen in a long time.
Bob, a Spanish teacher, and a fellow tech guy, shared wikis that students created on Aztec and Mayan culture, complete with text, images, multiple pages, and hyperlinks. Bob went on to tell how the research generated by students was then used by the entire class. Yes, that’s Jon’s fist pumping in the back of the room. Another teacher commented, “Wow, it looks so professional…like a real web page!”
French teacher Isabelle showed “group blogs” where students wrote stories in French, then commented on each others’ grammar, diction, and syntax. One observer noticed “Reading this is like getting inside the kids’ minds.”
German teacher Trish uploaded segments of a story her kids are reading as mp3 files. After listening in class, students can go home, log on, and replay the segments in case they missed something. Next step? Download the files on the iPod…so they can listen to it again, and again.
Sarah shared how her students used goanimate to create simple stories in German. The advantage was that kids had to sync movements with words, thus demonstrating their vocab skills. Sure it is a “fun” tool, but colleagues were impressed with the level of sophistication of diction.
Jennifer shared how her ELL kids complete a Digital Story using Photo Story 3, describing a “real” or “make believe” vacation and classmates need to decide if it was real or not. Aside from the obvious creativity unleashed, Jennifer was impressed with the way that kids have the ability to speak, listen immediately, process, and rerecord better. All of this can be honed without fear of embarrassment, since there is no other audience during creation. Then when the final product is finished, it’s a matter of hitting “play.”

The buzz that these presentation created was palpable…excitement, confusion, and clarity permeated the room—not to mention the pride that the “expert” teachers clearly had.
I gave the group a single charge: make the effort to use ONE technique this year, just one.

From the reaction, I think they will.


J. Gallagher said...

Outstanding! I am not only impressed with the quality of the conversation, but the quantity of teachers prepared to share their successes! Kudos to you and the WL Dept! I think it sends a wonderful message to your staff that the department chose to focus on this for their meeting. How we all LONG for substantive department gatherings like that!

I loved the description at the end of your post, "...excitement, confusion and clarity..." All are such important steps to sound risk-taking. Being excited to try new things, being comfortable with the confusion that must be a part of it, and feeling a sense of accomplishment once the clarity sets in...WOW!

Curious about your institution's climate. Did you request this of the WL department chair? or vice versa? or were you collaborating together for a while and this meeting occurred organically because it was simply the time for reflect and sharing?

Amor8 said...

Congratulations to your WL department for making fun, engaging assignments that focus on learning the language & culture through the use of technology. And congratulations to you for energizing your faculty and challenging them to embrace new ways of reaching 21st century learners.

jorech said...

Thanks Joan...It was special. Actually, I went to a meeting of department chairs and asked them When they would like me to come in. I've been to 5, but by far this was the best. Hopefully this will continue!

mlpomerantz said...

I really liked the rule: Show the success, NOT the tech.

Sounds like you had an amazing meeting. I don't think we have time for such a meeting because of other priorities during our release time.

Wonderful to hear how well it worked.

Our Communication Arts (district wide) has had some time for the tech intensive teachers to share. That's great, but it's kind of preaching to the choir. We do get ideas from each other, but it would be nice for others to see as well.