Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

December 15, 2015
by leesensei
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Best of 2015! Top 5 Posts of the Year: Number 3 (Key Tech ‘Bits’)

As I count down the ‘Best of…’ this year it strikes me that the top posts – like our teaching practice – reflects a combination of the old and new. The top post drew on a classic game, and the second most popular on a philosophical shift in my ‘practice’. The third draws, not on major technological changes, but three small tech bits that work well in my class…and perhaps yours.

 Three “Small But Vital” Tech Bits for My Language Classroom

freeimages.co.uk techonology imagesThere are lots of technology ‘tools’ and ‘apps’ out there to make our teaching lives easier – and enrich the learning experience for our students. As I was uploading a file to my Evernote yesterday I thought about 3 ‘tech’ bits that are vital in my classroom.

Tiny Scanner App for my Phone –  I admit that I got this because Joe Dale posted that the “pro” version was free one day on his amazing blog. Wasn’t sure I’d use it but if Joe says its good – you get it. Well – with my use of Evernote for my school planning it has been an absolute winner. I use TinyScan to take pictures of my board before/after class. Often I don’t need a full ‘photo’ but really am just looking for a ‘record’ of what happened. Tiny Scanner turns my phone into a portable scanner. It will upload directly to my Evernote in formats from ‘photo’ to ‘black & white’ and can also directly link to other ‘cloud’ storage programs. It is an essential app in my daily teaching. (Joe has already let me know that if you are an Office user then Office Lens might be a more ‘seamless’ app for you to directly integrate with the Office suite of products.)

Keynote Export to Video (even HD!) option – I’m big on unit slideshows. I use them for teaching/repetition of ideas all the time. But a nifty feature I have been using more and more is the ‘export’ to video function. An example of its impact is going on right now in my class – we review ‘class language’ at the start of the year. I use my Keynote slideshow for that as I take kids through our key phrases. I also have the video file (set to about 8 seconds per slide) ready to go – it plays before class starts, it plays while the are completing work…it rolls whenever I need it. It’s a great way to reinforce key points, or introduce ideas in an indirect way. You can even export the audio from a presentation to the video as well. And yes you can also create videos via PowerPoint….

SaveFrom.Net – Easy Youtube Downloading –  When the internet at school is shaky – or even non-existent – you can’t stream anything in class. So downloading a video from YouTube or another source becomes key. There are some great programs out there – including KeepVid.com – but my current fave is SaveFrom.Net. Why? Because you don’t have to copy/paste the YouTube URL to use it. Just type “ss” between the ‘www.’ and the ‘youtube’ in the URLusethis  – then hit ‘enter’. When you do this you go directly to their site. Don’t click on any links there for other products – but download your video when it shows up as ready to go! It will handle YouTube, Vimeo and many more formats. No more ‘buffering’ …..

What are your ‘small but vital’ tech bits that enhance your teaching life?

Colleen

September 19, 2015
by leesensei
0 comments

Three “Small But Vital” Tech Bits for My Language Classroom

freeimages.co.uk techonology images

Image: Morguefile.com

There are lots of technology ‘tools’ and ‘apps’ out there to make our teaching lives easier – and enrich the learning experience for our students. As I was uploading a file to my Evernote yesterday I thought about 3 ‘tech’ bits that are vital in my classroom.

Tiny Scanner App for my Phone –  I admit that I got this because Joe Dale posted that the “pro” version was free one day on his amazing blog. Wasn’t sure I’d use it but if Joe says its good – you get it. Well – with my use of Evernote for my school planning it has been an absolute winner. I use TinyScan to take pictures of my board before/after class. Often I don’t need a full ‘photo’ but really am just looking for a ‘record’ of what happened. Tiny Scanner turns my phone into a portable scanner. It will upload directly to my Evernote in formats from ‘photo’ to ‘black & white’ and can also directly link to other ‘cloud’ storage programs. It is an essential app in my daily teaching. (Joe has already let me know that if you are an Office user then Office Lens might be a more ‘seamless’ app for you to directly integrate with the Office suite of products.)

Keynote Export to Video (even HD!) option – I’m big on unit slideshows. I use them for teaching/repetition of ideas all the time. But a nifty feature I have been using more and more is the ‘export’ to video function. An example of its impact is going on right now in my class – we review ‘class language’ at the start of the year. I use my Keynote slideshow for that as I take kids through our key phrases. I also have the video file (set to about 8 seconds per slide) ready to go – it plays before class starts, it plays while the are completing work…it rolls whenever I need it. It’s a great way to reinforce key points, or introduce ideas in an indirect way. You can even export the audio from a presentation to the video as well. And yes you can also create videos via PowerPoint….

SaveFrom.Net – Easy Youtube Downloading –  When the internet at school is shaky – or even non-existent – you can’t stream anything in class. So downloading a video from YouTube or another source becomes key. There are some great programs out there – including KeepVid.com – but my current fave is SaveFrom.Net. Why? Because you don’t have to copy/paste the YouTube URL to use it. Just type “ss” between the ‘www.’ and the ‘youtube’ in the URLusethis  – then hit ‘enter’. When you do this you go directly to their site. Don’t click on any links there for other products – but download your video when it shows up as ready to go! It will handle YouTube, Vimeo and many more formats. No more ‘buffering’ …..

What are your ‘small but vital’ tech bits that enhance your teaching life?

Colleen

August 18, 2014
by leesensei
2 Comments

Lose The Word “Chapter” – Gain a World…Freeing Yourself Up to “Change”

losing chapter word

 

It started with my Evernote daybook – I was editing and reviewing my classes and I thought “Why do I have units by ‘chapter’ and not theme?” Indeed – why? If you’re already here, and this is long gone in your teaching then these musings may cause more nostalgic thoughts than insight. If you are like me and gradually, sometimes it feels glacially, making lasting change in HOW you do things – then perhaps you have found what I found. What have I learned as I organized by ‘thematic unit’ and NOT by ‘number? Well…

You’ll See What Your Focus Has/Hasn’t Been – Wow – does my Yr 2 class need work. When I erased the chapter titles I saw that what I thought were ‘themes’ weren’t. Instead I had disparate grammar points held together by previous textbook/workbook support. Did I feel awful – all this talk about meaningful learning and it sure wasn’t here in this course. But – what I did have were some great interactive inter-personal orals – that I can see are the ’emerging’ themes for this Yr2 class. For my other courses I did finally “see” my thematic units – now without a meaningless number in front of them – and it shows me that I am on the right track. I’m even abandoning a thematic unit I attempted in my Yr4 course in the past because I see how it no longer fits with my other units (and frees us up to spend more time on them!)

You’ll Open Yourself Up to “What They Really Need AND When They Need It” – So if you are no longer ‘bound by the book’ then you can give students what they need – when they need it . This is a great ‘aha’ moment when it happens and I wrote about it last year with regards to vocabulary. But this year it really allows me to look at all the incidental language my students asked for in a unit and work in pop-up grammar lesson points when needed. I started doing this last year as well but now with the words gone I’m free to add as it works and finally answer the question “Why can’t my students express an opinion until Ch. 7?”!

You’ll Find New Resources to Enhance Your Theme – So no more textbook to march through. I will still use some of the dialogues or stories in my teaching – in part as they provide reading with equal opportunity for student access in my character-based language (something Authentic Resources are challenging for as I’ve written before). But I’m now able to supplement with other visuals, video clips, infographics etc. It allows me to ‘step sideways’ from what the unit focus was dictated by the text to be – and really find the ‘hook’ that the unit should be.

You’ll Find More Meaningful Ways to Check For Learning – No textbook – and therefore – no workbook. Okay – there will be some use of some of the exercises, especially as my students learn any of the three orthographies we use in Japanese. I may also find some readings or listening parts that are ‘authentic’ and fit a theme but I decide when/how to use them – the ‘number’ doesn’t! It also means that I, okay we as a class, can get more creative, and more varied in how learning is demonstrated. Imagine a class where we decide as a group, or small groups, how understanding of something will be shown, do that, and share. Wow…and I’ll not need to write “Workbook Chapter 4 Exercise 2, 5, 9” on the board ever again.

If you are moving along on the road to no textbooks, or workbooks, as I am – it can be an unsettling thing. Certainly the encouragement and leadership of the #langchat PLN has helped immensely. I look forward to the day when all of my courses, and classes, are where I want them to be. In the meantime I am revelling in, and feeling a little bit of ‘good nervous’ in erasing the word ‘Chapter’ from my class vocabulary. Onward!

Colleen

PS – I work a lot with an Evernote and my daybook in the cloud. I’ve put together a collection of my posts on using this to organize my teaching life if you are curious!

January 4, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Evernote – A Teacher Learns from a Year in the Cloud

evernoteLast year I spent time converting my ‘teaching life’ to the cloud. My aim was to increase my ability to access class information and improve the way(s) that I record what goes on in the room. I posted throughout the year – my observations, frustrations and outcomes. Many other teachers are expressing an interest in cloud based organizing so I thought I’d group all of my posts together for those looking at this option.

I must point out that I don’t use Evernote with my students as yet – my district requires parental permission for that and I’m not ready to ‘require’ it and deal with all of the issues that may arise.

A Year with Evernote…A rookie begins…  the start of my year in the cloud (setting up/rationale etc)

Giving a Voice to My Lesson Plans… – using the audio recording function in Evernote

My New Evernote Notebook Stack… – figuring out how to organize my class notebooks

The “New” Lesson Plan – Pre and Post class! – using photos etc (uploaded to my notebooks) to record what happens in my classes

Tagging with Evernote – No spray paint required! – one of the most useful Evernote features – tagging websites (and successfully finding them when you want to!)

Evernote “Growing Pains”..the journey of an newbie to on-line organizing continues… – the challenge continues

Documenting Learning – Mine Not Theirs! – more thoughts on recording the what/how of classes

A Year with Evernote – Update #3 – an update on the journey

Printing Out My Evernote Daybook…My Solution… – the ultimate Evernote challenge and my solution for it

My Year With Evernote Experiment Take-Aways… – what I learned – and why I still use it!

My Storage Solution: Using a Photo to PDF app  – saving storage space by converting photos to pdf  before you upload

If you need any further information or have any ideas to share please let me know and I’ll share what I can!

Colleen

June 20, 2013
by leesensei
1 Comment

Printing Out My Evernote Daybook…My Solution…

evernoteI know –  all that effort to be “paperless” and in the cloud as it were. But I still like to have a copy for me – a hard copy. Call me old fashioned but if anything went wrong in the digital world, and any of my 3 backups failed I’d have ‘something’ of a roadmap to go by.

However those of you that have tried it know that printing out a unit of notes – especially if you save each lesson as a  particular note – is not as easy as it looks. It took me a while to figure out what worked for me and I thought that I would share. Basically it involves copying and merging groups of notes together. Here’s how I did it:

1) Create a notebook called “Printing Notebook” (or some such title)

2) Select the group of notes that you want to print and Copy them (Note>Copy to Notebook) into that notebook

3) Ensure that the group of notes is in the order that you want them to be. When Evernote ‘merges’ notes it will do so in the order the group of notes is in. I like mine to be in the order of Unit Handout, Lessons, Tests – so it took a bit to fiddle with the titles to make certain that the notes were in the order that I want them

4) Select the group of notes and then look to the right – there will be a ‘merge’ optionMerge

5) Hold your breath and press it!

6) Rename the ‘merged’ file to indicate it’s status (Eg “Chapter 1 Unit handout, lessons merged”)print notebook

It’s not super elegant and may take a bit but I have a copy of each of my chapters…and if you are looking for a solution this might be one for you!

Colleen

 

June 11, 2013
by leesensei
2 Comments

My Year With Evernote Experiment Take-Aways…

evernoteIt’s been 10 months since I started my journey with Evernote.  In September it was my goal to document my units/lessons as I went along and, hopefully, end up with my courses ‘consolidated’ in one location. I chose to use the “Premium” option to ensure that I got full access to what Evernote could do. At this point I know that I don’t use Evernote to it’s greatest capacity but so far I am really pleased with what it has offered me:

notebook and notesAll Organized and Easy to Follow: For me, its an incredible organizational tool. All my units, lesson plans, handouts, audio, video etc in one place. I’m a person who likes to ‘see’ a unit laid out before me and with each lesson labelled “Unit X – Day Y” it gives me a sense of direction. I learned early on to not only organize by day but also to put a brief description of what I cover in the title. It is easy to see how long a unit typically takes me and what I cover each day. If I deviate from a past lesson I either change the entire note or create an “alternate” lesson note for that day.

Cross-platform and Multiple Device access: To me this is the huge advantage for trying this program. My schoolnote data has a desktop PC stuck in my classroom and I use my personal MacBook Pro for my lessons etc. With Evernote I can take audio of class activities and photos of my boards etc and upload directly to the appropriate note from my iPhone using the app.  I can preview lessons from home using my laptop and transfer files created on my school PC directly via Evernote Web. Of course it’s equally handy to use to grab files I created ‘on the fly’ for my classes and uploaded via the Web function so they can be stored/backed up using my school server.

Tagged Sites Using “Clipper” Add-On: This has been a great tool for me combining my use of Twitter etc with the organizing ease of Evernote. Being able to click on the ‘clipper’ icon on my browser (Firefox for me ) and then tag the site for future reference is so useful. When I finally get my iPad this summer I will be able to search my tags for all of the iPad info I have found along the way. Tagging sites has meant they are much easier to find and actually use.

What I Learned to Do:  Back Up –  Okay – the great Evernote password scare made me learn to do this. I did learn that files created in a non-local notebook are always on your computer and in the Evernote cloud but I wanted to make sure I was protecting all my data. I don’t use a third-party company for it as I didn’t like the cost. I do use Time Machine to back up my MacBook so now when I am prompted to back up my Mac, I back up Evernote (exporting the notes in the .enex format to both my Mac and Dropbox). Yes I know that I can’t just go retrieve one lost note but I do like to know that all of that hard work is now securely stored elsewhere

My Two Wishes: While it may seem to be counter to my paperless purpose – I would like to be able to print out a unit ‘plan’ in the form of all the lessons (notes) for that unit. I have yet to try merging them all and printing but wouldn’t it be easier just to be able to highlight several notes and hit “print”?  My other wish would be to be able to put the items in the note where I want them – not where either my cursor is or Evernote wants them to be.

I don’t use Evernote with my students at this point (School District issues of privacy etc. there) but I’m sure that ‘s where I am headed next. Meanwhile if you know of a way to print those multiple notes…let me know!

Colleen

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2013
by leesensei
2 Comments

A Year with Evernote – Update #3

This post is an update on my year-long experiment using Evernote as my personal organization program.

9 months into my Evernote experiment and, as I look back I have learned a lot. As I noted before it took a while for me to form just how/what my Evernote use would look like. My stacks have undergone some editing but mostly it is my ‘notes’ that have changed. Here’s what I am liking about the move to ‘paperless’:

Integration – with Evernote on my phone and personal computer (that I use in class) I get a seamless integration of my files. I access them from anywhere and love that capability. I also like that I can upload the photos I take in my class directly to Evernote for later reference. Love it.

Photos/Audio Notes – It wasn’t until I started using Evernote that I thought to document what I was doing in class. Being able to ‘see’ what happened is a big help in recreating a lesson at another time. Also the ability to record an audio attachment to my notes has been very useful. Often I put my lesson plans in advance things don’t always go as planned. If I don’t have time to manually edit the plan then the chance to record a quick voice memo is a great option.

Evernote Web – although I use my own computer/phone with Evernote my school district doesn’t support it for my ‘class’ computer. At the start of the year I was emailing or using a flash drive to manually copy things to my personal computer and then upload. There had to be a better way and, voila, I finally found Evernote Web. Now I quickly load any documents need from my school computer easily and quickly. Love it.

The “Password Scare”  – I liked it? Well not really- but it served to remind me that if everything is in the cloud – then how is it being backed up in case something goes wrong? Or the cloud ‘goes down’? For me it forced me to learn where my data was on my Mac. But individual notes? The most popular option- seems to be to pay to have my Evernote synched to my Dropbox via CloudHQ. I haven’t done that yet but the scare has made me consider my options.

The move to less paper and more documenting of what goes on in my class continues – any tips from more experienced users?

Colleen

December 19, 2012
by leesensei
0 comments

Documenting Learning – Mine Not Theirs!

There is a lot written about documenting student learning. How do we capture what happens as they acquire knowledge? But these days there is another person who is learning in the room – me. With a new focus on authentic learning – and the push to incorporate technology –  I am often ‘learning’ more than they are. So how do I record, for me, what is happening?

Organizing –  This year, as I have blogged, I am trying out Evernote to capture my own learning. The ability to access my files from anywhere has been great. Not only do I put the initial lesson in – but I now often go back and update to ensure that I am ‘up to date’ on what happened.

Photos – I have become a big proponent of visually capturing what goes on in class. For me this is as basic as a photo of my board (if I choose to use it) and what it looks like at the start and end of class. Sometimes it is an ‘action shot’ of kids in an activity. What was going on in the room when they were working?

Audio – Audio clips of students at work are being added to my ‘files’. In a recent Yr2 group oral I used the clip to record 2 student t0 student interactions. Not only is it a ‘record’ but it is also a prompt for next time as to what students might need in the way of extra language support.

PDFs – I use my computer as many do to teach/review content.  This year I automatically open a blank document and save it “Course/Date”. Then it is ready for any ‘extras’ that aren’t planned for  but are needed for that day. Sometimes its extra vocabulary, or a structure that they need.

For me, the portfolio approach of audio, visual and written lesson documenting is invaluable and provide a better experience for the next group of students.

Colleen

December 4, 2012
by leesensei
0 comments

Evernote “Growing Pains”..the journey of an newbie to on-line organizing continues…

This is an occasional update as I endeavor to use Evernote for my teaching this year…

I am into my 4th month as an Evernote-r and the journey has not been without its ‘fits and starts’ as I adapt to an on-line/in-the-cloud way of organizing myself. So what have the challenges for a paper-rooted newbie been?

How to input my lesson plans? One of my struggles has been how to input my daily lesson plans. Initially I started by creating a lesson plan in Word and then uploading it, 3 times for the 3 different classes I teach, into the 3 notes I had created. This got to be cumbersome for me and seemed to creating more work than not. Solution? I now input directly into the note for that specific class – I know…duh… but I needed to make that mental shift to the cloud.

 How to organize my lesson notes – by day or by unit day or by… ?  One of my struggles has been how to label my daily lesson plans. Initially I started by date. Then I wondered how that would make it easy for the next time. So I switched to ‘Date=Day of Unit’. That went well for a while until I tried to find an activity that I had done for a class. What day was that? So now it is by “Unit – Day of Unit – Major Item” (eg. Unit 4  Day 3  Oral Story Discussion). Perhaps by the end of the year it will be a whole new way!

Keeping a daybook?  I am required by the Education Act in my province to have a physical daybook available. What if you are trying to go ‘on-line’ to save paper etc.? Initially I was printing out my lesson plan done in word and then taping (yes taping) into my book.When I stopped doing my Word lessons and inputted directly into Evernote what to do? Now I just jot down the basics onto the page for the day (wasting ink but not paper) to satisfy the requirement.

Photos – how to get them in? One of the beauties of Evernote for me, and an initial selling point was the ‘multiple platform’ idea. I use my phone to record not only what is going on in my class, but also to record my lessons as they unfold. Then I would send my photos to my email and then upload to that day’s note. Really? It suddenly dawned on me that I could add it directly from my phone to the note..wow!

Oh I know that more learning is to come – I haven’t even tried to print out a .pdf from a note yet…but I am on the journey now and into the cloud!

Colleen

 

 

 

November 14, 2012
by leesensei
0 comments

From “Learning To” to “Loving” the Phone in Class

Last spring I wrote about “Learning to Love the Phone” in my Japanese MFL class. It has been a journey for me from banned item to ubiquitous tool. As I wrote before I have a simple rule. It is out on the desk, upside down unless being used. Your phone is on mute and if it goes off, you apologize and rectify it immediately.  If you are caught sneaking texts or Facebook updates you will not be using your phone for the week.

My students use dictionary apps that are free to download and provide character readings.  They also use the phone to record quick conversations to show mastery of a topic. With 5 minutes to record a conversation that utilizes the  particular point, they can immediately send me their ‘proof of learning’. My senior students also use the phone to access Edmodo as a class discussion tool. They are quick to respond to posts using their phones; much faster than if I relied on them being at a station. Next semester I am branching out to use polling and other phone based options – like Socrative.

However it isn’t just my students that have their phones at the ready. Mine is now out on my desk full-time. My phone is a great tool in documenting my classes. What do I use it for?

Activities in Progress – Photos and video of activities as they unfold are great. They give life to the ‘word based’ lesson plan and add key details into  ‘how it went’. I not only use the visual option for my own records, but also in promoting department activities (note: student faces/identifying features are always blurred – I use iPhoto/iMovie options for this). It’s not only the sights but also the sounds of the room that are important. I take advantage of the recording function, and the ability to discreetly hold it in my hand to sample student interaction.  It’s quick, easy and when I collect enough snippets – easily merged into an ‘audio collage’ of the activity. My students know that I do record on the fly and will never publish anything that identifies them.

Final ‘boards’ – My language lessons can be quite organic – driven by thematic topic, or student need. Sometimes, instead of the computer, I use the whiteboard for these kind of notes. My phone helps me to quickly capture what the boards end up looking like. I have a record of not only what happened but information for the next time that I plan to do the activity.

Evernote Access– This year I am committed to using Evernote to record my year in teaching.  One of the reasons is the ability to use my mobile to access and add to anything in my notebooks. Photos from class can quickly be added to notes. My audio clips are also easily added to my daily lesson plans. No need to load/transfer etc. Simple and effective for me – and one of the selling key features for me of Evernote.

Leading by Example – I have my phone out and open on my desk. I use it just as the students are asked to do in my class. My phone is out and upside down unless its being used. What I am not doing is texting or checking Twitter or Facebook during class time. Perhaps the most powerful thing about using my phone – modelling proper etiquette and use in the class environment.

There are many more phone possibilities that I hope to explore in the future. What do you use your phone for?

Colleen

 

 

 

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