My Life Untranslated

The Secret Adventures of an ESL Teacher in NYC

Archive for the category “technology”

Tech and Teaching

There are a zillion posts about the different technology that can be used in education that only go further to show me how backwards public schools are. You want kids to be college ready but there aren’t enough working computers? Or you want to insist staff use their personal time to get used to or incorporate new tech (like smart boards), because you want to criticize or bore us during professional development instead? Puhhhlease. But I digress.

I was just reading this post by Cassy that asks the simple but so important question of what we could do when the technology is in our students’ hands. Also today, Langology posted a link to a new iPhone app that let’s you check class participation. It’s called My Class Talk. It offers a possibly useful service, but try telling your principal THAT was why your phone was out during class time. I often have considered getting an iPad to make taking small group and individual conference notes easier, convenient, and more fun. But, aside from the cost, I’m sure I’d be asked for my old-fashioned binder anyway. (side note: I used google docs last year for my conference notes. Since I was preggo, they were pretty lenient on me carrying heavy binders around. But all of the teachers I mentioned it to either didn’t know what docs was or thought it was just easier to paper & pen everything).

A colleague of mine recently suggested proposing to our principal to popularize some technology in our school. This is a school where teachers cringe at having to check their emails and prefer to waste oodles of paper because they don’t want to deal with google docs. They never even go to the school blog unless given no other option. (not that the blog offers much reason to visit).

Our principal would no doubt support the use of new tech by teachers. She and an AP fought to get Internet access to portable trailers back when I was in one because I said I would use it to make podcasts with my then-third graders. She has also been supportive of a teacher who has been working to secure a grant to get some laptops for kids to take home. That’s because it doesn’t require her figuring any of it out. To really do a project to really get teachers using new tech in our school, you would need a team of teachers using their own time to create plans and actually train and support their colleagues to not just learn the tech themselves and find uses for it, but to integrate it in meaningful ways in their classrooms. I’m never pessimistic (ok, rarely), but I feel most teachers I know are so burned out by bullshit, they have to be the type to get REALLY excited about new things to even be willing to give it a try. The promise of new ideas won’t be inspiring enough for most of the teachers I worked alongside these last few years. With the current atmosphere, I don’t blame them for being cynical. If course, as Mr. Foteah points out here, there are always teachers looking for new avenues of inspiration, too, as many do with twitter.

If I didn’t have a new baby who has given me new passions and responsibilities (I have typed this all with one hand on my phone as she napped on my shoulder, in between having to tap her back or feed her), I’d probably welcome the challenge of connecting with the few still-excited, non-Luddite teachers at my school. Then again, many of them are now pregnant or moms themselves. So, for now, I’ll just be planning on bringing kid blogs back into my class this year and making my smart board use more interactive. I have other non-tech visions and plans this year. And you will hear all about them as they fail or succeed. :)

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Understanding Videos in Your ESL Class Made Easier…

Some of you may already be familiar with using video in your lessons. I usually incorporate it through online read alouds like this one, that incorporate closed caption text so kids can follow along that way if they want to. But, what if you want you’re hesitant (like me) about using videos because you’re worried your Beginner/Intermediate ELLs may have trouble following along? Well, Mike Harrison, an ESL teacher in London, writes about a great find that his students discovered to help make videos easier to understand…Read about it at:  Techno Tool Tames Transcription Trouble.

I think this is great whether you use videos in your own class or if you are a learner of languages yourself! How many times have I watched an ASL video and wished the person demonstrating the signs would go just a little slower! The video player he links to has a version for PC or Mac and, as Mike points out, can be saved to your thumb drive, making it a great resource for cluster or push-in teachers, as well.

I also like to download YouTube videos as a way to get around the fact that NYC schools block it. I use the Firefox Add-On, Better YouTube. I then save them to my iPod and just hook it up to a TV. If you save the videos to a thumb drive instead, you can then save them onto the school computers, allowing students to watch them independently.

I almost never blog about technology, but I realize it’s something many teachers are trying to incorporate in new ways, and I want to support that. I haphazardly use it when I can, so I’m inspired reading about other teachers who have more experience bringing it in. It’s funny – technology runs my life out of school, so I really ought to be more forward-thinking about bringing it into school.  Perhaps once we each have a SmartBoard, it’ll be easier to have technology more front and center. Right now our computers are so slow that the kids can’t watch the videos they created for the Online Dictionary Project! Luckily some have computers at home, so they watch them there.

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