HOW DO WE INTEGRATE TECHNOLOGY IN MY SCHOOL? PART I – IN MY SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY IS THE TOOL, NOT THE FOCUS

After my blog posts on technology, several colleagues asked me how we integrate technology into our curriculum at my school. In this post, I will try to give some examples. I curated lists and information about different Web tools language teachers can use in their classes on Scoopit. There are hundreds of Web tools that teachers can use here but it doesn’t mean that they have to use all of them. I always remind my colleagues to consider the following questions before they try any of them in class:

1-    Is it going to contribute to improve the language skills of my students?

2-    Is it going to contribute to improve the 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity?

3-    Is it going to contribute to improve their metacognition and reflective skills?

4-    Is it going to provide them with the skills they need to survive in an increasingly interconnected and digital world?

SOURCE: MED KHARBACH EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND MOBILE LEARNING

In our increasingly interconnected and digital world, using technology is inevitable but our learning goals and pedagogy should determine the technology that we are going to use in the classroom. We should be active participants in a model where technology is the tool, not the focus. The entire focus should be on learning and the new pedagogy.

 In the introduction of his book English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work, Linworth Publishing 2010, Larry Ferlazzo says, as language teachers we should help our students:

  • Learn a new language of how to engage in the world and with each other.
  • Use their own traditions and stories to re-imagine themselves and their dreams.
  • Tap into their own intrinsic motivation and embark on a journey of action, discovery, and learning.
  • Develop the confidence to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them, try new things, and develop a discipline of self-reflection.

While we are trying to accomplish all these, we should carefully choose the tools that will help us achieve our goals and prepare our students for the future.

SOURCE: EDTECH REVIEW

 As for the examples about how we are integrating technology at my school, I would like to start with my Learnist board that I curated for the 12th grade persuasive essay unit. When one of my colleagues had to stay in hospital for 3 months, I took over his classes in the middle of the school year. Because I didn’t know the students well, I prepared a Learnist board for them on Persuasive Writing with videos, texts and interactives for different types of learners with different levels of English. In the first lesson, we discussed why it is important for the students to master persuasive style and writing and determined our learning goals. I asked the students to choose and watch/read the ones that were appropriate for their levels and needs at home. In the next lesson, we analyzed a sample persuasive essay on the Smartboard and the students told me how it matched with the information they learned at home. At the end of the lesson, I asked them to read/watch some more texts/videos at home as they were going to have a quiz on persuasive writing the following day.

The results of the quiz gave me clues about my students’ weak points. Some needed to work more on the persuasive style, while others needed to work on the organization of the essay, and so on. So, I grouped them according to their weak points and gave them essays that needed to be improved. Students were free to refer to the curated materials on Learnist while they were rewriting the essays to improve them. At the end of the task, each group presented the essays they improved to the class explaining what changes they had made and why. During each presentation, they received oral feedback from me and their peers. At that point, since I got to know them and their weak points and needs, I recommended each student to read/watch some specific materials on Learnist at home and asked all of them to write a journal entry in their reflection journals on what they have learned about persuasive style and writing.

After the presentations, I showed them the rubric I prepared for this task on the Smartboard, telling them that I was flexible with it and asked them to make suggestions to finalize it. Some students were really surprised and didn’t want to participate as they were not used to the idea of preparing the evaluation criteria with the teacher, but others with more open mindsets were willing to participate. We went over the rubric together, made some changes on it depending on the students’ suggestions and determined our evaluation criteria together. Then, the students chose one of the topics out of the ones that I gave them and started brainstorming and planning their essays. After that, they started writing their first drafts. The next steps were peer and self-review and editing. You can see the samples of peer and self-review forms on Learnist. As the last step, they wrote their final drafts and completed the evaluation forms for self-reflection. During the entire process, they received oral and written feedback from me and their peers at each step and were free to use their tablets or smartphones in the classroom to refer to the materials on Learnist and to use online dictionaries and other vocabulary tools. As a post-writing vocabulary activity, the students were given four choices and asked to do one of them.

Using 8 new words that you have learned in this task:

1-    Complete a vocabulary journal (Hard copy – for students who aren’t comfortable with technology)

2-    Go to Quizlet or Vocabulary Ahead, or a similar vocabulary tool to prepare 8 flashcards and a vocabulary quiz.

3-    Go to Quizlet or Vocabulary Ahead, or a similar vocabulary tool to make 1-2-minute vocabulary video for each word.

4-    Create a visual using Snappy Words, Graph Words, or a similar vocabulary tool.

During this activity, I reminded my students that they should be actively involved in and take the responsibility of their own learning process from determining the learning goals to determining the success criteria and reflecting on their learning to see where they are in the learning process and what steps they should take to reach their next goal. I noticed that because they are studying in a system where achievement is closely related to success on standardized tests, students were easily demotivated when they made mistakes. They had a fear of failure. I tried to explain them that we can’t learn anything or improve without making mistakes; so, they shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes.

SOURCE: WHAT ED SAID via TOONDOO

Students at all levels love digital storytelling as it gives them the opportunity to share knowledge and to express themselves freely and creatively in mediums they are familiar with and they think are cool. Our 4th grade students were asked to create their own stories using Voicethread after they studied Our Community unit. You can see two samples by following the links below:

https://voicethread.com/share/5197982/

https://voicethread.com/share/5115539/

We have a Prep class between 8th and 9th grades for students who don’t know enough English to be able to follow the high school program. The Prezis below have been created by two of our Prep students for the horror story task given right after the Halloween.

We believe that blogs are great tools to promote learning and improve the writing skills of our students. We have class blogs at all levels in middle school and in Prep. One of our purposes is to enable our students to connect to the wider world, share their work with a real audience and receive comments and feedback. This is a class blog for our 5th grade students who came to our school and started learning English for the first time this year.

We also encourage our students to participate in global collaborative projects to develop cultural understanding and global awareness by interacting with learners of other cultures. Here you can see the first posts of our 6th grade students participating in the International Cookbook Project on Edmodo which is about to start very soon.

We strongly believe in the benefits of game-based learning. Games are effective learning tools and an important aspect of our students’ learning adventures. We have a portal of online resources for our students and in one section there are games for students from K-9. Here you can see the grade 3 and grade 6 Games pages.

How do you integrate tech into your school curriculum? I would love to hear your comments and feedback.

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