Pinterest is my Interest

Pinterest is my Interest <———– Click here for the link!

I have created something using something as my final blog in CEP 812.  I used Jing to discuss:

  • How do I use technologies in ways that demonstrate my passion and curiosity?

  • How do I use technologies to inspire passion and curiosity in my students?

I hope I can inspire some love for Pinterest in you!


Needs in the my World Language department

This past week I sent out a survey to my colleagues asking them to take a closer look at how they use technology and to see what they would like out of it as well.  After looking over my results, here is my data summary:

While looking at the data in my survey, I really got a good look at how we are using technology in our world language classrooms.  I see that teachers are using the projectors, teacher computer, and document camera daily.  Four out of five teachers are using their sound system on a daily basis, and the other teacher uses it almost daily.  The aforementioned information is about what I expected from my department.   I found it interesting that when we receive computers in our classroom, two teachers said they would use the computers almost daily, two other teachers would use them about 50% of the time, and one teacher would use them occasionally.  After our numerous conversations about technology, I would have assumed that teachers would be using the computers on almost a daily basis.  This misalignment with words and the survey results sparked my interest, so I took a look at how they are currently using technology in the classroom.  Out of five total respondents, all five teachers are using technology to play movies, videos, clips, show documents, play games, and teach with learning activities. Two teachers record lessons and skits with the technology while one teacher indicated that they use the technology in another fashion. 

What I am seeing is that teachers are leading the technology in the classroom, but when it comes to giving some control to the students, teachers don’t seem to be as willing or don’t know how.  None of the teachers are using the technology to flip the classroom (i.e. making videos of lessons and then focusing more on practice at school), although the results indicated that a couple of them would like professional development on flipping a classroom.  Two teachers would like to see more resources to make the classroom more relevant and interesting.  Since technology is so new to us at school (we got rid of our overhead projectors and chalkboards this winter) we are still figuring out how to use it in the best manner possible, which one respondent indicated.

So how can we promote student learning where students take the lead from the teachers? It really looks like we need specified professional development where we can learn from other language teachers about how their students use computers daily in the classroom.  We are at a crossroads at the moment and without proper guidance, we just may waste a great resource next year.  We are all so new to technology in the classroom, so we will need to rely upon outside sources to help us move forward—to ensure that we are using it to its fullest potential.

Here is a link to the survey for reference:

My Information Diet – Bursting My Bubble


A photo by John B. Thomas on Flickr taken on 10/10/10

This week’s lesson was very eye-opening for me.  I never before realized how I was truly getting information nor what type of information I was consuming. After listening to Eli Pariser and Nicolas Carr, I was a little ashamed of myself.  I am basically consuming information junk food on a daily basis.  I check Facebook, Yahoo news, my local news website (WLNS 6), and Pinterest—that’s it.  All of these sites are tailored to my interests and beliefs, even WLNS 6 which is tailored for the community that I grew up in.  I hardly get opposing viewpoints and on top of that, I hardly get information that makes me contemplate the surrounding world or that challenges my viewpoints.  Facebook is usually pretty biased because I chose my friends and for the most part we have similar beliefs.  Yahoo news only shows me articles I prefer and Pinterest really only shows me information I’m interested in.  I like these junk sites because they are safe and I can continue on in my little bubble of happiness.  What is wrong with this?  Well, when it comes down to it, I’m not someone who can argue politics, share critical viewpoints on happenings in the neither world, nor am I someone who can focus on a deep intellectual conversation for hours.  I’ve always been a little ashamed when my parents challenge me to intellectual duels about politics because I don’t have a lot of information to back up my views and beliefs.  I believe a few major reasons why I don’t get more substantial information in my diet are: 1) I really don’t like to hear about sad things—I take them to heart and they truly sadden me; 2) It takes a lot more effort to think about the happenings in the world and the causes than Facebook; and 3) sometimes I’m just disconnected because I would prefer to play outside than on my phone or computer.

So to remedy this severe lack of connectivity with the news world, I have added several different viewpoints to my Twitter account: CSPAN, NBC News, Fox News, CNN, NPR, Education Next, UpWorthy, Conservatives, Lib Dem Press Office, and U.S. Dept. of Education.  I chose a lot of news sites (from both sides) and a couple political sites as well.  I really tried to branch out to get information that I would normally never see.

While perusing these sites and Twitter posts this week, I have found that I have been seriously out of the loop!  There was a lot of great news posted on my Twitter and a lot of depressing news.  I hate being out of the loop in conversations with family, friends, and peers, so I have been checking my Twitter more than I ever had.  I didn’t really see how Twitter could help me until this class.  I had a Twitter account before but I only used it when it was required for a class.  I want to have these great intellectual conversations with people, but I never really knew where to start.  Searching the Internet was always too much—too much information that is tailored for me without my knowledge and with no direction to obtain it.  Now that I’m checking my Twitter when I eat breakfast and have some down time, I have been learning so much about what is going on in my world.  I have seen opposing viewpoints from Fox News and CNN and it is great to be able to see both sides of something and still support my own views.

Dictation for the Visually Impaired

Since Michigan changed their world language requirement in schools, which requires all students to take at least two years of a foreign language, I have been seeing more and more students in my classes with learning disabilities.  Many students with learning disabilities were advised to not take a world language, especially French (since it is perceived to be harder than Spanish), by the counselors and the special education department.  Within the past two years I have seen a large increase in special education students, but none that I have not encountered before or have not done a lot of research on.  In the Fall I will be getting my first visually impaired student and I have been brainstorming how I could help her succeed in my classroom.  I am very interested in finding a technology that I will be able to integrate into my lessons to help this student and future students with visual processing disorders.

While reading several articles on visual impairment, a lot of the information seemed like common sense.  In the article, Essential Components of Educational Programming for Students who are Blind and Visually Impaired by the Alberta Education Response Centre (2006), they said, “Without vision, students cannot access information beyond those things that they can touch or hear” (p. 2).  This is something that most people would be able to figure out, but then the article continues:

Without this information, students are unable to organize their environment or develop concepts that are important in understanding connections in their world. Students who are blind or visually impaired need to access information through direct experiences and hands-on, tactile exploration facilitated by qualified professionals who can address these unique needs (Alberta, 2006, p. 2).

While this may also seem like common sense, it is not.  I all too often take my vision and the vision of my students for granted.  When I teach, I use a lot of visual cues along with facial expressions.  I am very sarcastic which I show with my facial expressions as well.  With a visually impaired student, I now have to think about how I am delivering my content and instruction to my students.  I do not want my visually impaired students to miss out on the concepts that are important to making sense of the French culture and language.  

    So what technology will help this student to be successful in a foreign language classroom? Well, in a world language class we are constantly using dictionaries to aid our everyday work.  The dictionaries I have in class currently are too small and hard to navigate for students without visual impairments, so a while back I looked into online dictionaries that had more vocabulary and were easy to navigate.  I found and had the students use it daily, but this website will not be the best for visually impaired students because it does not give an audio option in English and French.  I researched good audio dictionaries and I came across, which has both French and English pronunciations.  With a computer, smartphone or tablet, this dictionary can be magnified to aid the student’s vision.  According to the Alberta Education Response Centre, “Assistive technology, such as braille note-taking devices or computerized dictionaries, should be made available for use in school, with an appropriate level of technical support for students to use the technology in everyday activities” (p. 6).  Students with visual impairments can use computerized dictionaries, like Larousse, to learn using audio.  It will make it easier to pronounce French as well since they will be getting more auditory input than most students.  I really like this dictionary because it gives several options for the student to look through to find the right word or phrase and then, each word or phrase has a pronunciation in both languages to assist the visually impaired.

    Along these same lines, I found some interesting classroom recommendations for visual processing in Trutina Maria Sowell’s article, School psychologist interventions and recommendations for specific learning disabled students with visual and/or auditory processing disorders (2007), “Allow students to verbally articulate information whenever possible” (p. 59).  She continues, “Allow student to use a typewriter, a word processor, or a computer to complete assignments” (Sowell, 2007, p. 60).  This intrigued me, so I began to research technology that would allow students to give their writing assignments in verbal form.  I found Google Dictation which is an application that allows students to speak in many languages and have it dictated into writing.  By changing the default settings in Google Chrome, visually impaired students will be able to use Dictation, which is powered by Google, to respond orally in French instead of writing.  

Furthermore, Dictation will allow visually impaired students to respond in a timely manner and when they have all their assistive technologies at their disposal.  In Kelly’s article, Correlates of assistive technology use by students who are visually impaired in the U.S.: Multilevel modeling of the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (2009), she mentions, “Without the use of assistive technology in learning experiences, students without vision struggle to be independent,” (p. 14).  Teaching the content is important, but teaching students with disabilities to be independent is even more pressing.  Dictation will give some freedom and a choice for students who are visually impaired.  

Overall, I am excited to try Dictation and the online Larousse dictionary with my visually impaired student next year.  It will be an adventure and I hope that I will be able to accommodate her so she is successful in a world language.  Perhaps these technologies will also be beneficial for all of my students.


Works Cited

Alberta Education Response Centre. (2006). Essential Components of Educational Programming for Students who are Blind and Visually Impaired. Standards for Special Education. ERIC Clearinghouse.


Kelly, S. M. (2008). Correlates of assistive technology use by students who are visually impaired in the U.S.: Multilevel modeling of the special education elementary longitudinal study. Northern Illinois University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 112-n/a. Retrieved from (304540630).


Sowell, T. M.( 2007). School psychologist interventions and recommendations for specific learning disabled students with visual and/or auditory processing disorders. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 2814-2814. Retrieved from (621709851; 2008-99010-454).

Solving Big, Complex Problems

After reading through the first part of Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era, I had more questions than I begun with.  I never knew that I was part of a society that is so stupid and conversely so smart.  There are so many limitations that prevent humans from solving big, complex problems smartly—which is why they are wicked problems.  There are so many variables when attempting to solve these problems and they are ever-changing and evolving. 

One of the limitations that I see daily in school is “frozen thought” (Gee 85).  As a member of the school improvement team, I am a part of what I like to call, “fad jumping.”  It seems that like frogs, our school jumps from one pad (or fad) to another, looking for the one that we will benefit from the most.  Three years ago the school used data from students, staff, parents, and community to assess what would benefit our students.  They decided to implement a solidarity campaign to encourage students to feel like a Redwing (our school mascot).  We never followed through and it was quickly forgotten about.  The following year it was another campaign for teachers to bond with each student in the school.  We talked about it twice and it was also forgotten, along with what we learned from it.  Our school finds a solution to a problem, sometimes sticks with it, but when the data shows that we need to change what we implemented, the school continues to do the same thing.  It is just as Gee mentioned, “…they often freeze a solution to a problem.  The solution was good originally but gets to be less and less good as circumstances (and the problem) change.  Once a solution is frozen, it takes lots of work to unfreeze it…” (88).  Just like the QWERTY keyboard, it takes too much time, effort, buy-in from the consumers, and overall strategy to unfreeze a solution and to refreeze one in its place.  Change is not easily obtained from creatures of habit.

Additionally, humans have their own agendas and goals that often supersede those of the institution (school).  When the school changes what it believes in or how it does business several times a year, staff has a hard time buy-in to the new fad or craze.  Likewise, if staff feel as if they are being trampled upon, not listened to, and unappreciated, they will not be interested in the school’s goals. “People’s needs are regularly sacrificed in the name of efficiency and income or even just survival in a fast-changing, highly competitive environment that is often focused mostly on short-term gain,” (Gee 92).  When no long-term goal is visible, people will simply keep doing what they’ve been doing for several years and fad or trend that the school is currently working towards.  Why would they invest their time and effort into something that will change anyway and all their hard work will have been for naught? 

The limitation of “frozen thought” (Gee 85) will keep institutions like schools backpedaling through fads.  We need to unfreeze the solutions that are no longer working in today’s schools.  Ichabod Crane should not be able to teach in a modern school, like many say he would be able to do.  Our world has changed so much in the last 30 years and it astounds me that our schools have basically remained unaffected.  The way we teach and the way schools are run need to be rethought and acted upon.  Gee said that, “…the key reasons institutions so often seem dysfunctional are their inability to quickly unfreeze no longer useful or functioning aspects of their frozen thought and their inability to mitigate conflicts between local…goals and more global institution-wide goals” (92).  We cannot solve our big, complex problems smartly until we start working on our vision and then collaboration with all the people involved.


 I really enjoyed the first part of Gee’s book and I’m curious to see how he teaches us to get smart in part II.  I learned that it is imperative that I first know how and why I am doing something incorrectly before I can ameliorate my actions and learn from them.  This sounds like common sense, right?  Well, it’s surprising how often people, myself included, work towards a solution without trying to figure out the problem first.  The first step is awareness in any problem.  How can people work on a solution if we are not aware of the problem in the first place?  “We cannot learn how to get smart if we do not first understand what makes us stupid and how we can reverse it” (Gee 8).  So far, Gee’s book has raised many questions, but he is very helpful in talking about how awareness is where we need to start.