The new tools of our trade?

I want to start by saying hats off to my peers, Amy, Krista, Luke, Elizabeth and Rochelle who presented on the topic of educational software and media. I have to admit that although I am familiar with a lot of different great software and media tools I don’t often integrate them into my classes (insert red embarrassed face here). I can’t say for sure why I haven’t integrated the tools in my classes yet, but a big part of it is the fact that I was out the classroom on mat leave all of last year, so having just been back to work for a month and a half I still feel as thought I’m adjusting to the new routine. When I’m talking about not using the tools, I guess I’m talking about tools like Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet or Explain Everything. I do use other media in the classroom so I will talk about the tools I do use as well as touch on some of the tools I have spent some time exploring in hopes to integrate the into my classes in the future.

One of the tools I use is Edmodo. I enjoy using Edmodo for a variety of reasons. The first is because the interface is similar to Facebook and students so it’s easy to navigate and students feel the same way. One of the biggest benefits is the increased level of communication between students, parents and the teacher. I’ve made a screen cast of my Edmodo page that takes you through some of the features as well as discusses some of the pros and cons of using Edmodo.

I have some EAL students in my class and they spend time working with a language app called Duolingo. I was introduced to this last year when I used it to try and learn some Italian. It has a gaming feel to it and makes learning fun, but the quality of the learning isn’t the best. I used it a lot, but I wasn’t able to actually remember or recall much of the language when I wasn’t using the app or website. To get a feel for how the program works check out my screencast from when I did my post-assessment. During the video you will hear the chime when I respond correctly and a green banner appears. Duolingo is very stimulus-response based lending itself nicely to the behaviourism theory. When I played it was really motivating and the game like features kept making you come back. You can earn badges, points and your progress is tracked making it rewarding to play and learn. The downside to the app is that although there is a lot of repetition it doesn’t allow for deeper connections and learning. To truly learn a language I believe you must converse with people using the language and Duolingo doesn’t provide these types of interactions. Users may chat with others on a forum, but there is no opportunity to speak with others and practice.

Duolingo is a great tool for EAL learners to get additional practice as it is engaging and fun. In order for students to practice outside of the classroom, students need to have access to the website or app. This makes it difficult for students who don’t have access to technology to practice when they are not at school. As a mentioned above, the app itself is not enough for students to master a language, but it is helpful. Language Surfer provides a great list of ways to get the most out of Duolingo and most of them go beyond just playing “the game”. Students who use this need to go beyond the app by writing down new word they learn on paper, writing sentences that they struggle with, reading the hints given by the program and working with others to practice speaking the language they are learning.

Other tools that I have explored for past classes with Alec are Socrative and Explain Everything. Socrative allows you to create quizzes and use exit slips to assess student understanding. I don’t think I would use this tool for summative assessment purposes but I see it as a great tool to get some feedback of learning throughout the unit. Students need to have access to computers, tablets or phones in order to participate so it is difficult to use in a classroom like mine where some students don’t have a phone. I feel like getting computers for everyone would be a lot of hassle to complete a short exit slip or a quiz that will give me some feedback. It is much easier to do a paper exit slip and have students complete it…however not as fun. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app and I have thought about using it in my math classes. I see students using it to walk me through a question while they explain the steps they are using to solve the problem. I see it as an excellent tool to evaluate deeper understanding however it takes time for students to learn how to use the tool so that is something that would need to be considered before it is used in the classroom. You can check out my youtube channel to find the video tutorials I have created for both Socrative and Explain Everything. The videos will give you a better idea of how they work if you are wanting to learn more about them. A few classmates have included great reviews of Plickers and Seesaw; both tools seem beneficial in their own ways. Be sure to check out Plickers as reviewed by Liz and Seesaw as reviewed by Erin (great job guys!).

As I stated earlier, I tend to stay away from many of these question-response type tools because I don’t see a whole lot of value in them for the amount of time it takes to implement them. I do see it as a fun way to review and see the value in using these tools to differentiate the teaching methods. How often do you use these tools? Can you sell me on the value of these tools? I’m not saying I will never use them, but I don’t see myself using them on a regular basis…but maybe I should? Are these the new tools of our educational trade?

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Itlaian 101: And the award goes to…

This semester I was given the opportunity to learn something – just like I am given the opportunity in any other class. However the opportunity was presented much different than it has been presented in any other class. I was given the opportunity to pick something that I was interested in and learn about it using technology and online connections to help me along the way.

Obviously when you are given the opportunity to learn about anything a lot of possibilities run through your head. I wanted to choose something that I would enjoy learning about. I wanted to learn something that I could use at some point in the future. I would have loved to pick something creative like sewing or knitting, but I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money purchasing materials along the way (especially with my limited income on maternity leave). So I decided I would learn a language.

The language I decided on was Italian. Why? Well I didn’t want to do French because I already have some experience with speaking French having gradated with a French 30 credit (even though that credit is from way back in 2004). I wanted to start with a clean slate. In my travels I have spent some time in Italy and I just love everything about the country. The food, the culture, the scenery, the cities and of course the language. I have always thought that it would be great to learn a language and be able to travel and use it someday. Now that I have been learning some of the language maybe it’s time to go back.

Throughout the semester I found a lot of resources that are very useful in learning a language online and found even more that seemed to be of little help. If you want to check out all of the resources I  reviewed in detail look back at some of my previous posts. But here is a quick list of my top resources for learning Italian online broken down into categories.

To practice site words, memory work and phrases.

WINNER: Duolingo – great tool for rote memorization and practicing words & phrases. Uses audio, text, written and spoken language. The biggest negative is the sentences that are used to practice sometimes – they don’t make a lot of sense and you wouldn’t use them in daily conversations very often.

RUNNER UP: Babbel – similar to Duolingo but is a paid service. This focuses on themes for each lesson and can be helpful in learning phrases for basic conversation or travel. Uses mostly writing and listening to complete the lessons.

Honorable Mention: Mango – A free online service provided by the library in Regina. Similar to Babbel in the sense that you practice basic phrases and conversation by listening and repeating the audio.

To listen to audio.

WINNER: News in Slow Italian  – provides slower audio with text to read along. The text is also translated into English to help with further comprehension.

RUNNER UP: The Italian Experiment – this site is good but provides limited resources. There are three audio books you can listen to and follow along with text. The text is also translated into english. It is a great site but would be nice if new material would be added.

Videos

WINNER: Learn Italian with Lucrezia  – most of her videos are fairly short and very informative which make them really nice to watch. The lessons range from beginner to advanced. She also has an instagram and twitter account that I would suggest following.

RUNNER UP: Learn Italian Words App – this app works offline and has a large variety of video lessons ranging from beginner to advance.

Social Media

WINNER: Twitter – @italianlanguage Instagram – italianwordoftheday – both accounts provide you with one word a day to practice and learn. The Twitter account gives you a word and a sentence most days to learn. The Instagram account gives you a word with a picture each day, but no sentence.

RUNNER UP: Twitter @ItalianLearn this account also gives you a word a day and you can click on a link that will take you to a sentence that uses the word and audio for the pronunciation.

Speaking with Others

WINNER: WeSpeke – a great tool to connect and chat with others online.

 

 

Italian 101: Italian on the go? Not so much.

Just realized I never published this post! Yikes!! I found it in my drafts. I think I was hoping to add to it but I will share now so that it’s included in my major project progress. It was from March 12th.

I didn’t have a blog post last week reviewing my major project progress because there wasn’t a lot of progress to talk about. Last week I was in Florida with my family taking in Disney World. I thought that I would be able to get a lot of practice in during the flights and layovers heading down and back but that wasn’t the case. On the first flight from Regina to Toronto I quickly discovered that my go to apps Duolingo and Babbel require use of the internet to use them. So on my first flight I wasn’t able to do any practicing.

When we landed in Toronto I used the free Wi-fi to download some lessons from Babbel so they would be available to use on the next flight. I was able to make it through only one lesson with a very poor score I don’t remember it exactly, but it was something like 40/78. I found it very difficult to concentrate when flying. It might be from having my son right beside me who seemed to need something from me every few minutes, or all the background noise, or maybe just because I have a fear of flying and get extremely anxious on flights. I was hoping the lessons would help me relax a bit by distracting me, but I think it created more stress haha. Maybe my next online learning journey will be participating in this Fear of Flying Course. 

If you read my blog post about my detox with technology you’ll know that I was rarely on my phone during my trip. I was far too busy and exhausted by the end of each day so thinking about practicing was even too much to handle. I decided to take a few days off and hopefully my skills wouldn’t decrease too much in the days I wasn’t practicing. I was mistaken. When I got home, my fluency on Duolingo was only 13% (down from my previous high of 16%) and almost every one of my skills was missing strength bars. It was overwhelming and a little discouraging to think I would have to go back and redo all of the lessons to strengthen skills. But after seeing another classmate, Amy, with a very high fluency percent in her language she is learning I was determined to bring my fluency up. I practiced quite a bit in the few days I returned home and was able to bring my fluency up to 20%. You can see that on Sunday I did 24 lessons to get 240pts in order to bring my fluency up to 20% from 13%. I am still trying to refrain from being to caught up in the fluency percent as I think it varies a lot and to be honest I don’t think that I became 7% more fluent on Sunday from doing those 24 lessons, but I’ll humour myself and the app.

You can see in the picture of my activity that I have 13 hours left before I complete all the lessons. With about 30 days before class ends that would mean I have to practice about 25 minutes a day to complete the course. I know that 25 minutes a day doesn’t seem like a lot, but some days I don’t have the time to practice so it does seem like a challenge to find 25 minutes for the next 30 days to complete it, but maybe I can do it.

 

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at using different apps and websites to learn Italian. I will try to read one book in Italian and also connect with someone online to communicate with.

Italian 101: New School Requires Old School

I feel like I have so much to talk about when it comes to my learning project. This weeks focus will be on my experience using Twitter, Instagram, blogs and Facebook to connect with others in order to learn Italian. I am also going to talk about my progress with Duolingo (which is still my go to app). The last thing I will talk about is how new school learning requires old school methods. I have included a few videos reviewing the accounts I follow. They are quite long and not very polished unfortunately (it wasn’t a good day for vlogging in my life but I had  been trying to get these videos done since last Thursday so I just wanted to get them finished finally).

Twitter

I started following a variety of accounts on Twitter. I have found that of the accounts I follow very few seem to be very helpful in learning the language. I have attempted to tweet a few times in Italian but most of the time I need to use a translator to help me form a complete sentence.

A tweet to classmate Elizabeth who is also learning Italian

A tweet to classmate Elizabeth who is also learning Italian

I feel as though I am on the right track with using Twitter to learn a language but I need to find more accounts that are useful to follow. I took the advice from my feedback by Katia and decided to create a list on Twitter of the people I follow to learn Italian. It will be much easier to locate and focus my learning on Twitter now.

My learning Italian Twitter list

My learning Italian Twitter list

In the following video I take you through some of the Twitter accounts I have recently followed and give you a brief overview of each. Some of them are much better than others and I will continue to follow them after this class, but at the end of class I will go back and delete some of the accounts that I have found are less useful.

Instagram

I have found a few accounts to follow on Instagram and also created an Instagram account that I tried to use to share some of my learning. I say tried to use because I haven’t really kept up with it. I found that I wasn’t able to attract any followers and because of that I quickly lost interest. It is something that I should reconsider however because I think that a photo blog or flash card type posts are a great way to learn.  I have actually also had trouble locating my account to share on here. My account name is AshleyLearnsItalian and it was created as a second account on my phone. I have taken a few screenshots to share so that you can see what I had done.

I have also reviewed all of the accounts I have followed. I would love to find more to follow and will keep an eye out for more accounts that I can learn from.

Blogs and Facebook

Through my blog I was able to connect with Stephanie who had commented on my blog. She was able to suggest a Facebook page for me to follow – I’mpariamo l’italiano. Unfortunately I found the page to be beyond my current level of understanding but maybe someday I will be able to use the site. Stephanie also recommended iTalki which I had heard of before but after having her recommend it I am making it a goal to use it before the end of class. I of course started following Stephanie’s blog and have found it quite nice to read and learn from. I also started following the Conversational Italian blog through the @travelitalian1 twitter account. Here is my review of Facebook and the blogs I follow.

Duolingo

I have decided the reason I keep going back to Duolingo is because it is just like a game. It makes learning a little more fun. But I have also discovered that because it is like a game I often don’t focus as much as I should when I am using it preventing me from actually absorbing the material at times. I am wondering if it has become a way for me to procrastinate or kill some time yet still learn something.  I have also added the Italian keyboard to my phone to help me with spelling Italian words when using Duolingo. Check out this video on my progress and experience this past week using Duolingo.

New School Requires Old School

This whole time I have been so focused on using online tools to learn that I have assumed I would be able to learn a language without writing anything down. I know I said in an earlier post that one of my goals was to write down words that I was having trouble remembering but I never stuck to that (it seems to be a reoccurring theme for me…setting goals only to forget about them). The problem is that learning is tough, especially online independent learning. There are so many goals I could set and so many different things that I can be working on that would be helpful. The trouble is knowing which goals I should continue to work on or which methods will help me the most. I was emailed a few articles that have some tips for learning a language on your own and although I am using technology to learn online, that doesn’t mean I give up traditional ways of learning completely. For example, when trying to memorize words it is useful to write the words down on a flashcard.  It’s also important to organize your time, make it fun and stay focused.  And if all else fails guess or make up the words you are looking for. You just might surprise yourself.

I am happy to say that my scores on my reflection rubric for this week have improved since last week so I obviously feel like I am making progress.

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Italian 101: Social Media and the World Wide Web

I don’t have much to discuss this week as I haven’t tried out any new methods for learning Italian. But I did want to write so I can reflect on the last week and how I did with meeting my goals. Here are my goals from last week.

  1. Practice using Babbel or Mango at least once a day completing a minimum of two lessons per day. This should help me gain some speaking confidence and learn some useful things as well. I want to try stay away from Duolingo for a lot of the reasons that Vanessa discusses.
  2. Look for a Facebook group to join.
  3. Check out the pen pal exchange group I came across on Twitter to see how it works.

I practiced daily with Babbel, but didn’t use Mango because I didn’t have the app on my phone. I finally downloaded it so will use it from time to time from now on. I didn’t do more than one lesson most days and that’s because the lessons took me longer to complete than I had originally thought. I wish I could devote an hour each day to practice, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day so I have to make do with what I can fit in throughout the day. I also managed to work with Duolingo on an almost daily basis even though I said I would avoid it (I just can’t seem to escape it haha!). I think what keeps brining me back to Duolingo is the simplicity and the repetition. When I work with Duolingo my confidence seems to be higher and I feel like I actually know some Italian even though I still just know words.

I did look for a Facebook group to join and joined it but nothing has been posted since February 13th, so it’s not a very active group. I will keep an eye out for posts and see how it goes, if it doesn’t pick up then I will try find another group to join. It seems that there aren’t many groups that would be worthwhile to join but I could be wrong. After searching on Facebook I decided to try and expand my PLN on Twitter and Instagram. Here’s a list of the people I am following on each platform:

Twitter: @MargieMiklas@travelitalian1@ItalyMagazine@italianvocvoc@italian_easy@ItalianLearn@Turismoromaweb@LucreziaOd

Instagram: lucreziaoddone, italianwordoftheday, italian_teacher

I didn’t look into the pen pal exchange group either. I guess it’s because I still don’t feel confident enough to be a pen pal and communicate without the help of my resources. I suppose that any conversation will be better than nothing even if it is with the help of resources. My goal is to have a conversation by March 7th, so that gives me next week to attempt to connect with someone.

I was catching up with the forum/chat I was part of on Dulingo and I found some great websites that can help me learn some Italian. I plan to spend some time on these sites this next week while using instagram and twitter as well. I will continue to use Duolingo, Babbel and Mango when I can. I will be travelling this next week so as long as the kids can stay entertained or sleep on the plane I will have a few hours to practice.

The sites I was introduced to are: The Italian Experiment and Italy Magazine. I also found online radio stations that I can listen to and News in Slow Italian. I’ll try to find some time to work with these as well.

After reading Amy’s blog I thought I would try to list some of the words I know in Italian. The blue is my original spelling and the red is the corrected version. I have a lot of learning to do with word endings…does it end in e, i, o, a?? It all depends on the context so it can be tricky. I have some work to do with the spelling, but hopefully if I do this more often I will get better at it.

IMG_8133

 

I should also mention that I tried to do a placement test for Duolingo and Mango and didn’t place any differently than I did at the start of the class which is a HUGE disappointment. But I know that I am learning. With some more practice on Mango I should be able to place further than Unit 1 Chapter 1 and as for Duolingo my fluency is up from 9% to 16% so I am making progress.

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Italian 101: It’s a Roller Coaster

Life is full of setbacks. I am going to be brutally honest here. There was nothing out of the ordinary or drastic this week that happened to me (unlike Genna…who by the way is still rocking her major project!), I just didn’t make an effort to find the time to work on my learning project. I usually try to do a lesson or two before I go to bed each night, but this past week I couldn’t really be bothered. It got to a point where Duolingo sent me a notification to my phone that said it looked like their reminders to practice weren’t working so they would stop sending them. This was after three days of not practicing and to be honest it felt like a relief that those notifications weren’t going to be sent anymore. I wasn’t going to write a reflection this week because I didn’t have the best week and didn’t accomplish a whole heck of a lot. This past week has certainly been a low in my learning project. But I thought that it’s important to reflect on weeks like this especially so that I can learn from them and improve. I don’t have any particular reason for my lack of effort and motivation this past week, but here are a few things that I can say have probably affected it:

  1. I am having trouble feeling like my learning has a purpose. I don’t have any real reason for wanting to learn Italian other than the fact that I have travelled there and would love to go back. With no plans to go back in the near future it makes it more difficult to stay motivated to learn the language.
  2. I feel as though I continue to learn words as opposed to the actual language. Using Duolingo allows me to practice a lot of words, but they are just that…words. Sometimes the sentences I practice are practical and sometimes they are not. For example, these sentences aren’t really practical.
    Screenshot from Duolingo

    Screenshot from Duolingo

    Kitchen Bowl

    Screenshot from Duolingo

    This sentence seems a little more practical but it still doesn’t make me feel like I am learning useful aspects of the language. I guess anything is better than nothing though.

    Screenshot from Duolingo

    Screenshot from Duolingo

  3. I am having trouble retaining the information I am learning and I think it is because I need to practice speaking more. In order to practice speaking more one of two things needs to happen 1) I need to connect with people who also speak Italian. 2) I need to use the tools I have found that focus more on the speaking as opposed to reading and writing. I have tried to find people to connect with on Twitter but have been unsuccessful. I may try find a group on Facebook to join (hopefully there is one out there). I need to use Babbel and Mango way more than Duolingo to practice the practical parts of the language as well as the speaking.
  4. As a follow up to 3, I know of places that I can reach out to such as forums and discussion groups on Duolingo, but I don’t feel confident enough with my speaking to use them.
  5. I feel as though my learning is hard to gauge. It isn’t tangible like knitting or sewing. I can do some placement tests to see where I sit but I don’t know how accurate they are.

My goals for the next week.

  1. Practice using Babbel or Mango at least once a day completing a minimum of two lessons per day. This should help me gain some speaking confidence and learn some useful things as well. I want to try stay away from Duolingo for a lot of the reasons that Vanessa discusses.
  2. Look for a Facebook group to join.
  3. Check out the pen pal exchange group I came across on Twitter to see how it works.
    Screenshot of Twitter

    Screenshot of Twitter

    4. Take the placement test on Babbel, Mango and Duolingo at the end of the week to see if I have improved since the start of my project. I will use this as a midterm assessment to see where I am at.

Here is my self-assessment on my project this past week.

Reflection Feb 9-16 Screenshot

Reflection Feb 9-18 Screenshot

So now that I have my bad week out of my system, I hope it is only upwards from here. I think I lost some motivation because I felt like I wasn’t gaining any ground for the amount of work that I had been putting in. I need to remind myself just like Kristina that it is all about the process and this whole online learning thing is new to me. More important than the learning itself is the reflecting aspect of this.  If my Italian language skills don’t grow a whole lot by the end of the semester my growth in terms of how to approach learning something online certainly will.

I thought I would finish off by sharing a few clips from a Friends. Sometimes I feel like this is me trying to learn Italian haha.

This one especially makes me think of my experience with the voice recognition software. I often feel like what I am saying sounds different than what it should sound like, but I get it correct. Other times I feel like I am CERTAIN I am saying it correctly but it tells me I am wrong. Guess I need to work on some of the pronunciations more.

 

Italian 101: Week 4

This week I spent my time focusing on Babbel while continuing to use Duolingo. I had to pay for the course on Babbel and it was close to $20CA for a one month subscription. I decided to do a month because it was the cheapest option in order to test it out. I didn’t know if I would like it enough to use it longer than one month so I thought I would test it out and cancel before the month is up and my subscription renews automatically.

For something that is a paid service, it is VERY similar to Duolingo. Although there is more structure for each lesson and lessons are geared towards a specific topic. I like that the lessons build on skills similar to Mango Languages. I created a few videos to share my thoughts on Babbel and show some of my progress.

This first video shows you the homepage/dashboard and explains some of the features that I like on Babbel.

In this video I show you how a lesson works. I tried to skip through the lesson in order to make it quicker for the purpose of the video, so it’s not a full lesson length but it takes you through the whole thing.

This last video shows you how to review your vocabulary using the built in review feature.

I feel like I had a really successful week. I was able to keep a streak on Duolingo achieving 50XP for six days. The picture shows only a one day streak and that’s because I finished my practice yesterday after 11pm which is after midnight on the website.

My streak on Duolingo this past week.

My streak on Duolingo this past week.

I moved up in my fluency by 5% moving to 9%! Although I don’t want to judge my skills based on that. I find that I am getting better at speaking Italian and reading it. I still struggle with the writing part but I think that will start to come.

Finally moved up from 4%!

Finally moved up from 4%!

Some new things I tried this week:

  • I branched out on Duolingo and tried to connect with others learning/speaking Italian. I attempted to read some comments and also tried to join in but I learned quickly that I still don’t have enough skills to fully participate. I’m hoping in another couple of weeks I will be able to make more use of the chat.
Screen Shot of my chat

Screen Shot of my chat

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Screen shot of my chat

  • I tried a few podcasts but didn’t have a lot of luck with them. I thought I’d be able to find some that I could listen to while running or while in the car but after skimming through 5 or 6 of them I wasn’t able to find any. A lot of them were free and had a lot of “infomercial” type dialogue at the start that really turned me away from them.
  • I have added the #italianlanguage to my hootsuite feed. I am hoping to find some other useful hashtags and people to follow. I haven’t found a whole lot to be useful on Twitter yet.

My weekly assessment/reflection:

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From here I plan to focus on Mango and Babbel a little more to see if I can improve my skills a little more before attempting to have more conversations with others online. I may also try to find some youtube videos that might help me.

Overall I would say it was one of my most successful weeks. I’m feeling good about my progress so far. I’m branching out and trying to connect with others who are learning Italian which is taking me out of my comfort zone a little.