Sunday, November 20, 2016


I started having my students write Twittertales several years ago, as an exercise in getting them to understand that they can tell stories in the Target Language - sentences that go beyond simple subject and verb -  even at the Novice High/Intermediate Low Levels by focusing on specific pieces of information:
  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
The beauty of this platform for lower level students is the 140 character limit. By using the simple formula of including those five elements, a complete story can be told basically in a single sentence. The other, perhaps more obvious advantage, is that Twitter allows students to write for an authentic, global audience.

I give students a visual prompt, usually in the form of a thought-provoking photo, often from the French Facebook page Les Photovores. The curious nature of the photos serve to spark students' creativity, though they may be using very basic language (dates, family members...) to address most of the elements. I've also used candid shots of students, which really gets the creative juices flowing!

Twittertales may stand alone, or for students capable of more advanced writing, serve as a starting point for expansion with connective phrases and detail.

Give this new twist on storytelling a shot, and let me know how it goes!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Haven't Tried This Yet, BUT...

So, my good friend Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur shared this post on Facebook.

Now Chino Otsuka is a photographer, who no doubt has better PowerPoint skills than I, however, once I got the idea in my head, I thought this could definitely have some really cool applications in the WL classroom using a site like or a tool like Google Drawings, albeit with much less panache.

So, I've never been to Paris with my daughter, but don't we look nifty? I used fotoflexer to edit the photos, because while it's a bit more robust than Google Drawings for that purpose, it's not as frightening to me as Photoshop. I layered the two photos in Google Drawings. The Eiffel Tower shot came from a simple Google image search (noncommercial use with modification).

Play a little Where's Waldo?

I've really always wanted to show a gargoyle who's boss

Zombies are everywhere else, why not the Louvre? (Yes, I went there. I Snapsmashed. I can't help myself.)

So, again, I haven't tried this, and therefore I'd LOVE to hear some ideas from you!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Google Hangouts/Video Calls

So this happened.

My Spanish 3 class (I am having severe guilt over my Spanish 2 classes and my Frenchies, because all the good stuff seems to trace back to my Spanish 3 classes!) did a Google Video call with Venezuelan "artivist" Daniel Arzola. Wow. The story behind our serendipitous connection is pretty fantastic (one well-placed, well-timed #jealous on a FB post) but Daniel's story of how he has turned his trials into meaningful art and social justice is unbelievable. And my students were able to read about his story, analyze one of his poems, as well as some of his artwork, and pose questions to him in Spanish in real time.

As with all Google Apps, Google Video Calls and GHO (now connected with YouTube Live) the whole experience was free! (You know how important that is to me!) If you have a Gmail, you have access to all of the things I just mentioned. Did I mention free?

Here's how a Google Video call works:
  • Log in to Google
  • go to your "dot grid" in the upper right hand corner next to your picture
  • Click "more"
  • Click on the green "Hangouts" icon
  • Click the "video call" button
  • When the new window opens, you may either invite someone by name, by email, or copy & share the link
That's it!  That's all! It's just that easy.

Google Hangouts on Air, now connected to YouTube Live are somewhat more complicated, but allow for features like screensharing, muting participants, etc.

Here are the steps provided by Google.

Here is a video tutorial by Rachel Pierson (STEM teacher in Minnesota) and Justin Schleider. (PE/Health teacher in New Jersey).

I have not yet done too many of these with my students, but I am hooked! Not surprisingly, the greatest challenge is making the connections...but that's a project in progress...(stay tuned!)

Here are some ideas for when you connect:
  • Mystery Hangout (also known as Mystery Skype)
  • Connect with experts in a particular field - have students prepare questions
  • Connect with an artist/author/activist - have students prepare questions
  • Play Simon Says in the TL with other WL classes, or classes in the Target Culture -  take turns leading and following
  • Ask your students for ideas!
The possibilities are mind-boggling, so if you have a possible connection, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??

Monday, September 26, 2016

Let's Recap

I realize I've probably said this before...probably more than once...but I really think this app is a game-changer. That's what's so fantastic about being a tech blogger - the game is changing almost constantly. That also brings its own type of challenge, wherein as educators in the classroom, we need to be very selective and intentional with our choices of tools. In a way, the ubiquity of the tech and the volume of new that appears makes it so impossible to "keep up" with all the new that it is easier to focus on the pedagogy and learning goals - which is where our focus belongs.

So...Let's Recap. Part of what drives me to keep seeking out new tools, is the fact that to be perfectly honest, I'm cheap.  I can't (any longer) say that I will not and have not paid for an app or for a premium subscription, but those occasions are few and far between.  In fact, it's kind of a fun challenge to me to see how much I can accomplish without paying for a darn thing! With that said, I dabbled in Flipgrid last year as a way to document and archive student voice. I had looked into it a number of years prior, but it has limited functionality in the free version (billed as a trial). What made me dive in a bit deeper last year, was the willingness of our school librarian to pay for the $65 annual subscription from her budget.

Cut to EdCamp Mville. As if EdCamp isn't amazing enough, (It is. If you've never been, GET TO ONE!!) EdCamp Mville takes place in Reid Castle. Yes, it's a real castle. And I'm addicted to EdCamps. It is true that EdCamps always have the best swag. Believe me, everyone says so. (bazinga) Still, it's considered a tad gauche to declare that the swag is the best part of any EdCamp. Except this time, it was SO true! My swag was a T-shirt donated by Let's Recap. I had never heard of Let's Recap, but it was literally a takeaway that I put into action first thing Monday morning. The PD dream of all teachers, but how often does it really come true?

Like so many apps now, Let's Recap allows you to set up classes that students can join with a code - privacy. Teachers pose questions either in text form, or via short video recordings. Assignments can be single questions, or multiple questions strung together. Students access their assignments from within the class, and then make 15 second to 2 minute video clips of themselves answering the questions. #love

My first task to my Spanish 2 students was to describe an illness or injury they had suffered using the preterite tense, and answering the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? I opted to use text, which several of my fellow EdCampers thought was fantastic, because they dreaded the thought of being on camera themselves. As expected, some of my students felt the same way, but they simply adjusted the angle to shoot video of a desk, a wall, or an unsuspecting classmate. (Yes, once even of me, and they thought my yelp of horror was hilarious. #freshmen) My Spanish 3 class was given 5 prompts after which they were expected to respond using the subjunctive. After viewing, the teacher can go in and provide feedback to the students in text form.

I have used Google Voice in the past to review for speaking exams, but I just might make the switch to Let's Recap for a large portion of that. I also considered Voxer, but having students download an app is so much more cumbersome than sharing out a link via Google Classroom - not to mention that they frequently bristle at the thought of teachers having any control over what goes on their phones.

So this one is a winner. If you're still reading, you really should be checking out Let's Recap. And then typing me a comment to let me know how it goes!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Power of Periscope

If you haven't heard of Periscope, it just might be time!

Periscope is a live broadcasting app (think Facebook live) that is connected to Twitter.  It allows users to broadcast live from wherever they are with their device, or to watch live broadcasts streamed by users from around the world.  Frequently, there are live broadcasts of historic events as they unfold, and what enhances the authenticity is that these broadcasts come from the average citizen, not filtered through the lens of a media conglomerate.

Periscope broadcasts used to disappear after 24 hours, but fairly recently they added the option to archive broadcasts - which means you can preview broadcasts before showing them to your students for added safety.

One of the great features of Periscope is the fact that it maps where live broadcasts are occurring. on an iOS device, click on the globe, and a world map appears with the number of broadcasts in progress shown in each region. In just a couple of clicks, authentic, up-to-the minute video resources are available.   As I am typing this, there are 30 live broadcasts from South America listed, 7 from Mexico, and 11 from the Caribbean.  38 live broadcasts from Africa, and 57 from France.

It goes without saying that not all broadcasts will be school appropriate.  It pays to take the time to get to know regular scopers from regions of interest. Start following scopers who do quality broadcasts, whose language tends to be clear, and whose content is school-appropriate.

Broadcasting the amazing things you do in your classroom is another way to make global connections. I have done this twice so far with my Spanish classes and once with my French class.   One of my Spanish classes participated in the Global Collaboration Day sponsored by GEC. They were able to share a global service project they have been working on, and try to get other schools involved.

That Spanish class and my French class participated in the International Day of Peace edition of #passthescopeedu (check out my other blog for more information about that event). My Spanish class again shared their project, which is on Water Scarcity, so we scoped from the perspective that much violence has erupted in the battle for potable water. Some of my French students as well as some of my colleague's students performed the Gr├ęgoire song Toi Plus Moi. (I have to say, when I found out that song was part of the curriculum in my new school, I instantly knew that would be our scope - what a perfect fit!)

As part of the event, I was able to share scopes that came from Catherine Mongis in Martinique via Stacy Lovdahl with my classes, and I am looking forward to connecting our classes (something that would never have happened without #passthescopeedu)

Two "safety controls" that I highly recommend if broadcasting with students are:

  • keep your location turned off
  • only allow comments from people you follow
Both of those things have eliminated the issue of "trolls" making inappropriate comments during your live broadcast. A great feature of Periscope that I discovered when I forgot to follow those tips (things got ugly fast!) is that when trolls are blocked - even after the fact on replay - their comments do not show in future replays. 

This app is definitely worth a look. The applications for WL teachers are exciting!

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ignite Sessions: Its All about the Ideas

So for my first time really being an active participant in the #notatiste community, I decided to go all-in, no holds barred. (If you know me at all, that will not come as any sort of shock.)  Without really having any idea what I was getting into, I signed up to host an Ignite Session. Then I decided to investigate and see what I had gotten myself into.  Here is the official site, although the #notatiste sessions were not hosted in conjunction with the official site.  Rapid-fire, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide.  I knew it was either going to be a perfect fit for my fast-talking self, or it was going to be a complete disaster due to my tendency to ramble.  In the end, I really liked the format, but would definitely use it very sparingly and for very specific purposes.

In my last post:  SnapSmashing:  (not just for kids anymore) I posted the end result -- you can judge the success (or lack thereof) for yourself.  :)  As I built the presentation, I knew I needed to be mindful of the focus, and stick to the apps and examples of how each could be used.  With the exception of the explanation of filters v. lenses, I left the mechanics and processes of the apps alone.  I think the format worked very well for that type of presentation.  Any kind of tutorial would be ineffective, I think, due to the speed of presentation.  I also liked the fact that we archived them via YouTube, so on replay viewers can pause, reflect, take notes, etc.

Would I use it to introduce new material to my students? Probably not.  I think the level of frustration for students trying to process TL at that speed would be disastrous.  What would be interesting, however, would be to have students collaborate on an Ignite session to present to their classmates as part of the year-end review process:  each pair or small group could be assigned a review topic, slides divided among the group members (I used Google Slides to create mine, and then Screencastify to capture the video).  Archiving to YouTube would then provide the class with replayable resources for review.

As with all things (IMHO) the Ignite Session is simply another tool in the arsenal.  As a presentation tool, it's all about the ideas:  throw a bunch out and hope that your audience is sparked to think of even more.

If I have ignited any ideas for you, leave a comment!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

SnapSmashing -- Snapchat (not just for kids anymore!)


Obviously I am a hardcore techie (see blog title), but when I first heard about Snapchat, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that there would be no way to apply it in the classroom, and furthermore, I wanted no part of an app whose popularity was driven by the fact that the Snaps disappear in short order.  It just seemed like a recipe for disaster.  Since then, with regard to Snapchat, I have had an Eric Sheninger-like epiphany.  Thanks to an enthusiastic and uber-talented Voxer group dedicated to using Snapchat in the classroom, I have come to find limitless possibilities for using Snapchat to teach World Language.

The possibilities so excited me, that I volunteered to do an Ignite session (my next post will be on Ignite sessions, but the link below is an example) on "SnapSmashing" -- like Appsmashing, but with Snapchat at the heart.

Just imagine the possibilities in the World Language classroom:

  • Interpretive Listening -- via 10 second video clips (and it doesn't get much more entertaining than seeing your teacher lensed like a dog speaking Spanish. -- Trust me, they'll replay it.  CI on the edge.
  • Interpersonal Communication -- drop the snap videos into a Voxer chat, and have students respond via text or voice.
  • Presentational writing -- Still Snaps can be created by teacher or student to use as writing prompts -- students take on more of the creation responsibility rather than simply curating and consuming pre-existing images.
  • Presentational speaking:  students can start small by recording their own video snaps in the TL
What are you waiting for?  Get snapping!

Hot off the presses: Snapchat has just released a new feature called "Memories" which allows snappers to archive & organize snaps on the Snapchat server - a useful tool for teachers just got even better!