I’m excited to share some projects that I’ve had the chance to work on with the French teacher at my school as part of their preparation for an exchange with students in Toulouse! The below was originally posted on the Bullis Tech Blog, where I highlight some of the projects that I am able to work on in my role as technology coordinator.
Our language classes are not restricted by grade level at Bullis, which gives students a unique opportunity to meet and interact with peers of different ages and experience levels. Language teachers always strive to create a relaxed and friendly environment where students feel comfortable communicating with each other; however, fostering this interaction can sometimes be challenging because these students might not normally socialize with each other outside of class.
Ms. Andrea Martin carefully infuses technology into her classes to deepen understandings and create authentic learning tasks. In a course where conversation and dialogue is key, tech tools can particularly enliven and enhance activities.
One such innovative use of technology used is VoiceThread, a web tool that allows students to add multimedia comments (through text, voice, and video) on a presentation that has been shared with them. To create conversations about activities her students participated in over the school holidays, Ms. Andrea Martin asked students to select five photos taken over the break and to add them to a VoiceThread to create a digital photo album. Since VoiceThread facilitates written and oral comments on images, students were able to document a conversation about the photos they chose to share. Furthermore, students were able to easily share their work with the class. Here are the steps the class followed to create conversations about our VoiceThread photo albums:
- Students created a new VoiceThread and added five photos from their spring break.
- Students shared their VoiceThread with the class and chose a classmate’s VoiceThread photo album to observe.
- Students looked at that classmate’s photos and added written questions in French for each one.
- Students returned to their own VoiceThread photo album and answered their partner’s questions by adding oral comments in French. Students were required to speak for 30 to 60 seconds, depending on their language level, which challenged them to give complete and detailed answers.
- For homework, students watched and listened to all the photo albums and descriptions. For each classmate, they added a spoken reaction and comment in French to one photo that interested them.
Athena Skoufias ’18, a student in French IV Honors, showcased her Spring Break trip to Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah in the example below . She explains in French about her third photo, “This photo is in Utah. I went there with my mom, my dad, my sister, and my grandmother. In Utah, there are a lot of mountains and natural monuments. It wasn’t too cold or too hot.” Her classmate Ianthé Humphries commented, “I like this photo. It’s breathtaking! It’s really similar to the Grand Canyon.”
Check out Athena’s VoiceThread!
“Students appreciated this engaging, friendly way of sharing about their holidays,” said Ms.Martin. “By sharing photos, students created connections with their peers, talked about topics that are important and relevant to them, and spoke and wrote so much French!”
Another innovative and exciting use of technology in the French IV class is put to use in their partnership with a school in Toulouse, France. Students are communicating with their French peers via blogs and Skype sessions in preparation for an exchange next year. Bullis will welcome students from Toulouse to campus in October and our students will travel to Toulouse during Spring Break 2017. One project Ms. Martin created for her students to post involved describing ways we use technology in the US and its impact on our lives. Students have been studying new methods of communication in a Science and Technology unit, and so they were excited to explain their experiences and ask questions of their French peers.
Ms. Martin and I teamed up to create an interactive experience within the students’ video, using Zaption, a web tool allowing users to add text, images, and quizzes to a YouTube video. Here’s how the class created a two-way dialogue within their video recording:
- Students created a video explaining what technology they use at school and at home.
- Students thought of 3 questions they were interested in asking their pen pals in France.
- Students used Zaption to:
- add clarifying text to highlight or expand upon the dialogue in their video
- embed their questions at the appropriate point in their video
- add images to enhance any parts of the video that would benefit from additional visuals
Check out Antonia, Alexa, and Emily’s Zaption!
Ms. Martin notes that “students produce much better language when they have a real audience with whom they’re communicating. Because they knew that these videos would be published on the internet and shared with French peers, they were even more motivated to explain their ideas clearly and thoroughly. I was so impressed by their final products!”
“Our teachers have been assigning us Zaption lessons to learn from all year long,” said French IV Honors student Antonia Avila ’16. “It’s cool that we get to be the author now. It will be really interesting to see how the students in Toulouse respond!”