SnapChatting Assignments


SnapChatI’m surrounded by students with smartphones.  Not every student, but it seems like the majority.  It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times.  I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students.  I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.

The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio.  SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices.  They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user.  The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist.  Short shelf life, easy concept.

When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better.  I always include options in these types of projects.  Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc.  Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.

One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment.  Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me.  My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie.  I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed.  They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.

Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit.  The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it.  In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me.  Easy. Instant. Real life.

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I was extremely pleased with the results.  As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.

  • SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world.  That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”.  I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”.  By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
  • Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics.  Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
  • One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos.  Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?).  The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that.  The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary.  I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met.  And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
  • I don’t require this from students.  It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment.  I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option.  I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.
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Temple Run as a Teaching Tool


IPads and games go together better than almost anything.  And kids love it.  Teachers can harness that love and excitement by finding ways to use these games as teaching tools.  Almost any game that has scores, numbers and levels can be made into a math activity with a little bit of creativity.  I’ve seen examples of this using Angry Birds to study and practice vectors and velocity but I think something simple like Temple Run can be integrated into an elementary classroom with ease.

temple-run-trees-hurt-death-photo Each user or player runs through a course, picking up coins and attempting to travel as many meters as possible.  After each pass through the course (which could last a few seconds or a few minutes depending on the skill of the player), an end screen is shown with a list of statistics.  Anytime statistics and numbers are displayed, it makes for a great educational opportunity.

Here are some ideas for using Temple Run as a classroom activity:

  • Have students work in small groups, each taking a turn on the game.  After each player, record all the data on a chart:  Score, Distance, Coins and Reason the Run ended.  Compare data and/or make a chart with the numbers.
  • Play the game multiple times, recording the data after each run.  Figure out the average score, distance and coins.
  • Convert the distance traveled from meters into feet or miles.  Play until you reach 10 miles (forcing students to figure out how many meters would be necessary to reach 10 miles).
  • On the opening statistics page where high scores are stored.  Compare your individual scores to the high scores.
  • Create a class chart of the reasons each player’s game ends (tree, water, eaten by creatures, fire, etc.) and calculate percentages and fractions.
  • Test the score formula: (provided by Wikipedia)

Their score is determined by their distance, plus five times the number of coins collected, plus 600 times the ordinal number of the total number of coins divisible by 100. These three values are then added and multiplied. The value of the multiplier is 10 more than the number of objectives unlocked. The formula is s = (m)(d+5c+t); “s” being number of points; “m” number of objectives unlocked + 10; “d” being distance; “c” being number of coins; “t” being the coin multiplier of 600 times the whole number remaining of c/100.

  • Use it as a writing prompt.  What was your character doing in that temple?  Why were they running?  How did the run go and what did you see?  How did your run end?

Some upper level mathematical equations with Temple Run: http://www.mathematicalmischief.com/2012/06/its-calculator-time-temple-run/

Content Creators


One great advantage technology gives to students it the ability to take ownership in learning and assessment through becoming content creators.  Students have exposure to many different tools that allow them to customize and create projects for assessment.

The positive thing about this is that students will individually produce their own unique work, revealing a personal style and understanding of the material.  Gone are the days of cookie-cutter projects and strict parameters.  This can also be a struggle for teachers, however.  Teachers receive several different interpretations and projects rather than one standard.

Here is the goal in adopting Student Content Creation:  Teachers set assignment parameters and expectations and access the students meeting those standards using any method they choose.

Here are some example methods my students have used in the past when giving “generic” assignment guidelines:

Essay (Written):  Never underestimate the power of the written word.  Some students prefer to organize their thoughts in essays.  It doesn’t include a lot of visual elements, traditionally, but if content is your main focus, it will work.

Essay (Video):  One assignment I had students do last year required them to do a five part essay addressing specific questions and observations they had following a movie we watched.  I gave them the option of doing a video essay:  recording their verbal answers by recording video of themselves in PhotoBooth.  It was much more informal than the traditional written essay but gave me a very personal account of each student’s understanding.

PowerPoint:  It does it’s job as a presentation tool, allows students to add pictures and make is attractive and easy to read.  Slides cleanly present material.

Prezi:  Think of Prezi as a non-linear, spread out PowerPoint.  Instead of having “slides”, all the material is attractively arranged on a plane.  The presenter tools let you order material, creating zooming effects.  Also easy to embed photos and video content.  It’s a website and a log-in is required.

Poster:  Sometimes a nicely designed poster is the best way to go.  It allows students to be artistic and posters can also be used in your classes in the future.

Blog Entry:  Having the students add their thoughts to an online blog is like doing an essay but it’s an essay they can share with the entire world.  Blogs can be informal places to share general, personal observations related to class, or you can use it as a place to upload and share assignments and project.  Check out our ongoing Spanish 2 Blog here.

Baseball Card:  This works particularly well with personalities.  Students create a baseball card of a figure: picture on one side, stats and important information on the back.

Fake Facebook:  This also works well with personalities.  Students create a Facebook profile, friends and correspondence embodying the character.  Download the PPT Template here Fake Facebook.pptx.

IMovie:  I-Movie can be an attractive way to put together information, to narrate pictures or explain a process though demonstration.

Glogster:  Glogster is an online program that allows students to create online posters.  These posters (or Glogs) include text, animation, sound, video and hyperlinks.  You have to have a an account to create a glog.  Check out this Glog on the Human Brain:  http://tehescmarts.edu.glogster.com/parts-of-the-brain/

VoiceThread:  VoiceThread is an online program where students record narrations with pictures.  It moves like a slideshow but can be very effective for comprehension activities, definitions and demonstrations.  See our comprehension activity with a movie we watched in class: http://voicethread.com/share/2433985/

Timeline:  Create a timeline using an online timeline creator like www.timetoast.com.  Timetoast allows students to include photos and extra descriptions.

Twitter Notes:  Students create a list or a shot of recent Tweets that correspond to a class topic or trending topic.

YouTube Playlist:  Students create a playlist of videos from YouTube that are related to a class topic.

Infographics:  Students create attractive InforGraphic of information using a variety of online sources.  Infographics bring together text and pictures in a way that pleasingly and easily conveys information.  Sites that help create Inforgraphics:  http://www.easel.ly, http://venngage.com and a complete list – – http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/infographic-tools/.

Project Based Learning Experiment


Over the summer, I got an idea from someone in my Edmodo community in regards to project based learning and foreign language.  My friend Wikipedia had this to say about this new educational buzz theory called Project Based Learning: “the use of in-depth and rigorous classroom projects to facilitate learning and assess student competence. Students use technology and inquiry to respond to a complex issue, problem or challenge. PBL focuses on student-centered inquiry and group learning with the teacher acting as a facilitator”.

So with months of preparation, I created Misterios en Madrid.  This mystery project will serve as my concluding assessment project for Spanish 1 at the end of 2nd semester.  To test it out, I had my Spanish 2 class start the year with it.  I had the students working in groups of 3 or 4.  They would assess each other throughout the steps.

Misterios en Madrid had 4 parts, or pasos.  The first group to complete each paso received 100% and subsequent groups received a slightly lower grade than the group ahead of them.  This increased the urgency and brought a competitive component to the activity.  At the beginning of each paso, I presented the material and gave a final task that needed to be completed.  The paths each group took from the beginning to the correct completion of the final task varied.  The goal was for each group to complete that final task.

In order to complete the final task of each paso, students had to use a variety of materials.  Throughout all of the pasos, I used the following materials: written clues in Spanish, VoiceThreads in Spanish, Voki’s in Spanish, maps, pictures and other realia (authentic materials in the target language, such as party invitations, hotel information brochure and hotel receipts.)

Reflections:

  • I enjoyed the “hands-off” role I played during worktime on the Mystery.  The students had a lot of work to do during each paso.  I facilitated but did not lead.  The students really led themselves through the activity.  I was there, in the background, to catch them if they fell or to answer specific questions.
  • Students really had to think critically about the steps they needed/wanted to take in order to complete the tasks at hand, without me feeding them the steps and procedures.  I feel that in other contexts, teachers provide students with so many guidelines that they just move through the motions towards completion like widgets on a conveyor belt.
  • I had 17 different groups working on Misterios en Madrid and had 17 different projects or experiences.  Every group worked a different way and created their own path.  At first I worried that groups would try to hard to emulate each other (or the group they perceived as the most successful) but after the first paso was over, I felt that the students started just to do what worked for them and their group.
  • There were no “super groups”.  I was happy to see so much parity in Misterios en Madrid.  In one class, the groups that finished 1st and last during Paso Uno completely flip-flopped for Paso Dos.  I think that added to the feeling that anyone can and could be successful.  When I immediately split the groups, students expected certain groups to dominate and stifle everyone else, because in a traditional setting, these students do rise to the top.  But the variety of skills need to complete a Paso combined with the open direction concept left the door open for anyone to succeed.
  • I created a few extra credit opportunities for students to work on in addition to Misterios en Madrid to offset any bad days, miscues or unsatisfactory outcomes of the grading of each Paso.  One of the extra credit opportunities I gave was for students to Tweet with the hashtag #MisteriosenMadrid.  It created a social media conversation about our Spanish class activities.  I figured, I know some of my students are already Twittering, why not encourage them to Tweet about what we are doing?  It was a fun by-product of our activities and although it didn’t add anything academic to our class, it did add to our positive classroom culture and positive student interactions.
  • I’ve had successful students before but I never saw so many proud students at the completion of each task.  I would literally see sighs and smiles and looks of accomplishment and pride that I don’t normally see when someone does a super job on a worksheet.  (See more about pride below)
  • I asked some of my students to blog about their experience in our Spanish 2 Blog.  Feel free to read their comments.  One student, Brianna, writes an especially great blog about her group’s experience, recalling the steps, successes and frustrations they encountered.  Really, she says it better than I could.
Student Feedback:
I asked my students to sum up with Misterios en Madrid experience in one word.  Then I typed all of the words into a Wordle.  Common words used are displayed larger than words that only occured once or twice.
Student feedback regarding Misterios en Madrid
  • Other than the work “pointless”, I’m pretty pleased with the feedback.  The project based direction of the class was different, thus for some students, very challenging and frustrating and stressful.  It’s easier when the teacher can just tell you exactly what you need to do in order to get done with your work.
  • Although some of the feedback is quite negative (dumb, horrible, lame), I felt that each person at one point or another during the experience had a good moment; an ah-ha moment of pride.  While one girl told me that she had nightmares about this project and couldn’t stop thinking about it at night, I had another Tweet to all her friends about how “totally accomplished I feel having just finished 1st in #MisteriosenMadrid”.
  • But it was work.  Three weeks of non-stop work where there weren’t many places to hide or slink away and just hope the teacher doesn’t call on you.  You and your group were responsible for a task, and if that task doesn’t get done . . . completely on your shoulders.  That type of work is rarely welcomed by a fifteen year old, so I understand the feelings of “dislike”.
For a better understanding of what the students experienced, please read Brianna’s blog post on our Spanish 2 blog.  Like I said, she explains the student side of it better than I ever could 🙂

Twittering Students


My Spanish 2 classes have recently concluded a unit about the latin dances. We studied several different dances, talked about their characteristics and attempted to identify the dances. As a concluding project, I created a few different project options for my students to choose from. Since Dancing with the Stars is both a popular show that deals with this subject matter and since Twitter is becoming increasingly popular with my students, I created a project which combined the two.

Students could Live Tweet about Dancing with the Stars, commenting about the dances. It isn’t a project that involves a lot of higher order thinking or application of class concepts and skills, but it’s a project that connects our class material with “the real world”. I feel like that is rewarding enough. When teachers often complain about getting students to pay attention to class material for 50 minutes in class, it’s exciting to see them focused on the class material at home.

This is just another example of how technology can build a bridge connecting the classroom with the real world of students.

http://twitter.com/#!/KaitlynGebel/status/55094310789591040

http://twitter.com/#!/CassieVohsman/status/55311217014747136

http://twitter.com/#!/KaylaWilsonn/status/55089909559595008

http://twitter.com/#!/alex_place4/status/55060330329542656

http://twitter.com/#!/Gjdmann/status/55058627446312960

Popplet Mindmapping


I’ve had my students dabble in mindmapping before with vocabulary development.  I like them to think about how words are connected and hopefully those connections make the vocabulary more meaningful, thus they remember it.

At first glance, I thought that Popplet was going to be just another word web/mindmapping tool, similar to Inspiration or a few other word maps available online.  I discovered the following things while using this application:

The Popplet Bubble

1. Easy to use and maneuver: Each popplet, or tiny box, comes with very easy to understand options.  In each box, you can add TEXT, or draw a PICTURE or upload MEDIA.  After creating the content in one popplet box, you simply drag the grey connector dots out to where you want to make another popplet.  This grey line connects the boxes, thus building a very large web.

2. Media: When using technology, you have to ask yourself, “Why is this methodology better than paper and pen?”.  I like to justify my technology use.  I’ve had students make mindmaps before on paper and they are just fine.  But Popplet lets them add PICTURES and YOUTUBE videos to the map.  In a recent vocabulary section on adjectives, students took pictures of the words strong, beautiful and weak, and were able to incorporate those pictures into the map.  And who doesn’t love YouTube?  Students searched for funny videos that would showcase their Spanish vocabulary words.  For example, many students looked on YouTube to find pictures of clumsy people for the Spanish word “torpe”.  Or they used their favorite YouTube video (the Waffles video by Julian Smith was very popular) and tried to see how many Spanish words they could use to describe that one video.  Hands down this was the biggest plus for me and for the students.

3. Customization: Each popplet bubble can be made a different color, so students could color code the different levels or categories of their web.

4. Sharing: Popplet includes nice sharing options for a free application.  Students used the embed code to embed their projects on our classroom site at Edmodo.  They also used the links if they wanted to post it to their blogs.  You can invite others to share and comment on your Popplet and also post it directly onto Twitter or Facebook.

My students worked on these Popplets using the mobile laptops in my classroom.  Once they got started, you could have heard a pin drop.  There was a such a hushed enthusiasm to work that I haver NEVER experienced before.  They were very captivated by it all and worked so hard, so fast and with such effort.  I will definitely be revisiting this site again and I consider my use of technology well justified in this case.

Examples:

Right now, I’m unable to embed these lovely Popplet’s onto this WordPress blog for easy viewing, but I can include the links.  These are student created projects.  I gave them the bare minimum of requirements and they went with it.  Charlie Sheen was very popular in these, by the way.  Please check them out, share them and enjoy using Popplet! (I will be adding more examples in the next few days).

(Thanks to José Picardo for his inspiring ideas!  Visit his site @ http://www.boxoftricks.com)

Vocabulary Podcasts


Learning vocabulary takes a certain amount of time and repeated practice.  I can repeat words with the kids over and over again in class and I can also highly suggest they go over the words themselves.  Still I haven’t ever felt the students enjoy the repeating or fully embraced that concept.

I decided to have my students make vocabulary podcasts: recording of them pronouncing the words in Spanish, defining the word in English and then spelling the words letter by letter.  I had two goals.  1) Have them review the pronunciations and definitions of the words while creating the podcast, and 2) have the students create an audio file of the vocabulary words that could be downloaded and accessed on a portable electronic listening device (i.e., Ipod).

This was the first podcasting experience for nearly all of my students.  We experienced some equipment problems and time issues, but overall the assignment was a success.  The students all submitted their groups podcasts to a class created account on Podomatic.  From here, students are able to download any of the podcasts as a file that can be added to an Ipod or mp3 player.  They can also click a button and subscribe to these podcasts through Itunes.

Podcast Spanish 1 5.3

Today I showed the students how to access the podcasts and suggested that they use these assignments to prepare for next week’s quiz.

Please visit our Spanish Podcasts through Podomatic at: http://huffspan.podomatic.com/

XtraNormal Assignment Introduction


Saturday night, November 27, I developed a project for my Spanish 2 students to do using a program called Xtranormal.  The very next day while watching football, I saw a Geico commercial that features this movie making website.  I immediately felt as if they stole my idea.

I’m excited to get started with Xtranormal and anxious to see how my students respond to it.  I think it will be very interesting and useful.  I’m so grateful that the characters in Xtranormal come with Spanish languages programs and accents.

This is a quick introductory video I made for our Spanish 2 project using Xtranormal.  I thought:  what better way to explain the project than making an Xtranormal to explain everything I needed.  I’ll be posting in about a week with updates on how the project is going.

Map Making and City Investigations


My Spanish 3 students have been learning about places in a city.  Eventually in this unit, they will be learning how to give directions and read directions.  A map making activity seemed like a logical extension activity and I thought about how I could use modern technology to enhance that basic lesson.

I played around with a website called CommunityWalk where users can make maps using the GoogleMap satelitte images.  There is no log-in and no software necessary.  I researched about 25 cities in the United States: each was at least 25 miles from a major metropolitan area and each city had a Hispanic population of 50% of higher.  Students each chose a different city and looked for real life places in these cities.  For example, they had to find a hair salon, or peluqueria, in Odessa, TX or Salinas, CA.  This real world application made the map activity a little more relevant and I think made an impression.

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The maps that my students created are marked with Spanish vocabulary words of the places in a city we have been studying.  We will be using these maps later in the unit when they learn how to give directions.  They will be giving real world directions, navigating through the streets of Haverstraw, NY and Hollister, CA.

Voice Thread


Here are some voice creations my Spanish 1 students made using VoiceThread. Voice Thread is an online program where you can upload pictures and record voices reading and narrating the images.
My students first created these pictures using the online cartoon maker ToonDoo. They created a picture, saved it and uploaded it to VoiceThread. Then they wrote 10-15 sentences in Spanish about their image and recorded the Spanish narration. It was a great project for them and it was a nice way for me to evaluate their speaking skills and their comprehension skills.
Class Examples of VoiceThread
Here are the Web 2.0 applications