Language Sensei

Thoughts on The Journey of Teaching Languages

April 4, 2012
by leesensei
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My Tech Setup…(“More with Less!”)

Although I am passionate about integrating technology in my work you may be surprised how much I personally have access to in my classroom. Funding priorities in my school and district have not expanded as quickly as my desire to be more tech-savy. So it’s a surprisingly simple setup…

  Macbook 2007:  Yes you read that   correctly. My interest in expanding my ‘tech footprint’ didn’t coincide with any funding from my school/district. Along with 10 other teachers in my school we decided to forge ahead anyway and use our personal laptops. Curiously we are all Mac users….

Wacom Tablet: When you can’t afford a tablet computer you make one yourself. Investing in a medium Wacom tablet, and using Photoshop and .pdf’s of documents,  I can review work, make videos of my lessons, create class notes for my website etc. Next up – Google docs for everything?

Logitech Speakers: Under $75 at the time…. playing Japanese pop-tunes, YouTube clips and whatever we need to hear…

Benq LCD projector: Funded 3 years ago by school funds, it’s old but it works for anything from the wide variety of programs I use, for polls, Google Earth tours of Kyoto, Quicktime clips etc..

I dream of a class set of iPads and enough enough bandwidth to allow kids to access their computer wirelessly in my room. But I don’t let that hold me back…

Doing more with less,

Colleen

 

April 2, 2012
by leesensei
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Why Twitter?

I’ll get right to it. I’m 50 and of a generation where Facebook is seen as a way to connect with long lost ‘friends’ or play scrabble. Mention to many colleagues of the same age that I am on Twitter and I am met with a slight look of disbelief. Add  that I actually ‘Tweet’ and I can see them thinking “Does anyone really care what you are doing right now?”.

Twitter is some of the best Pro-D that I have participated in during my 16 year teaching career. Why?

It’s informative: The generosity of those I follow has contributed so much to my teaching ‘repertoire’. They share ideas, thoughts and results of their efforts. Many have answered direct messages when I had a particular question about what they were doing.

It’s current: People generally are tweeting about the ‘new and now’. That is inspiring as they become my personal ‘leaders’ in Ed. Tech and Second Language learning. I’m not waiting for a Pro-D day to learn something new.

It’s manageable:  At only 140 characters, information is short and sweet. I also have a limited set of people so my feed is not so ‘full’ that I feel overwhelmed with the number of tweets.

It’s remarkably easy: I signed up for an account and made sure my bio indicated why I was on Twitter. Then, using Google, I started looking for hashtags and directories of the topic that interested me. I asked to follow a few and some, reading my bio, asked to follow me.

It encouraged me to contribute: I started as a ‘passive’ reader but, as with any learning, realized that it is being active in the process that brings that rewards.  I don’t feel compelled to tweet all the time – just when I have something to say.

You can find me at @coleesensei and maybe I’ll see you on Twitter  too.

Colleen

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March 29, 2012
by leesensei
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Worksheet or WordCloud?

I recently looked at a new way of doing an “old” thing. My Japanese 11 students typically read an article (in English) on Haiku and answer questions about this poetry form. Admittedly it is a pretty dry, and not necessarily engaging, activity. This year I changed it up and used a program called Wordle (wordle.net)  to make word clouds about poetry. It is a web-based program that is easily accessed from any computer in my school. It works in English (and even Japanese with a few tricks).

How does it work? Basically you enter English words directly in to the create ‘field’. The size of a word in the visualization is proportional to the number of times the word appears in the input text. So, for example, if you type “apple banana banana grape grape grape” into the create page’s text field, you’ll see that banana’s font size is twice apple’s, and grape’s font size is 3/2 that of banana’s. When a particular word doesn’t show up in Wordle it is probably because it thinks it is a “stop word” (a frequently-used word  such as “the”, “and”, or “but”) . See the “Language” menu for a setting to turn off the removal of such common words.

Key elements composed by Alice Han (Jap. 11)

To keep my students on track the criteria for the work included required elements such as a title “Haiku”, demonstrated knowledge of topic via choice of words and at least 2 ‘prominent’ elements – words selected due to their relevance to the topic. Marking was done in a holistic way using a criteria referenced scale (‘word cloud rubrics’ are easy to find on the internet). If you are interested in using Wordle and have questions, I am happy to send you the assignment that I gave – or talk to you about it.

Colleen

March 27, 2012
by leesensei
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Helping Students Learn Vocabulary – On Line…

Every course has vocabulary specific to it that we ask kids to learn. In my subject I am always looking for new ways to help kids “learn the words and what they mean”. I have recently been using an online flashcard program called Quizlet (quizlet.com). I am enjoying using it, and so are my students, for a number of reasons:

Convenience: Search cards already produced in almost any category such as AP History, Geography, Canadian history, AP Chem. Solubility Rules etc

Easily practice vocabulary - on your computer or phone!


Ease of Use: Easily import vocabulary from word (or have a student assistant help?). Can also export into Excel from site. Supports written text and audio in a large number of languages – including Chinese (simplified and traditional), Spanish, French and Japanese

Accessibility: Students can access from any computer. They can also access using smart phones via free flashcard apps. Have your own site? You can even embed links to specific card sets into your current website.

Its More than a Simple Flashcard: Offers a variety of ‘testing’ for comprehension including matching, spelling, multiple choice etc. Can even say the word to have student hear as they read.

Supports Review: It’s a way to post unit vocabulary – once – and then it is done. Students can use to study for finals or unit tests.

No it won’t be used by all – but it may support learners who don’t benefit from traditional ‘studying’ methods and allows us to expand how we deliver info to them. Give it a try!

Any questions? Just ask!

Colleen

March 27, 2012
by leesensei
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Why? Why? Why!

Age and experience. Used to laugh about that but now I realize that indeed I possess both. I used to think that teaching would be less involved the longer I did it but it seems to be the opposite. With my knowledge of the curriculum (mostly) secure, I find myself looking to alter, expand and enhance what I have always done. New twist on an old style of evaluating? Yes. More use of technology in the classroom. For sure! Join me if you’d like – as I reflect on the ‘old’, implement the ‘new’ and integrate the ‘tech’.

Colleen

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