Italian 101: il grande finale

I’ve seen the last few months trying to learn Italian using online resources and technology. I definitely learned some of the language, but more importantly, I learned A LOT about learning online. Here’s what I learned.

  1.  You simply cannot expect to learn online without doing some work offline. You would think this should be a no brainer, and for you maybe it is. But for myself, I had some weird thought that I would be able to learn everything I needed to learn online without using a pen a paper for example. I thought I would be able to learn it without practicing the language away from the computer. I was wrong. Yes you can find a lot of information online and yes a lot of it is helpful in teaching you something. However, you cannot forget about other methods that help us learn such as writing, underlining text, labelling pictures and reading. You need to use the offline learning skills you have to enhance your online learning experience. For my project I found that if I was struggling to remember a term that it helped to write the term down a few times so that I actually learned the spelling and what the term meant. I know other classmates have used post-it notes to label items around their house to help them learn. These are great examples of how offline strategies can help reinforce your online learning.
  2. There are hundreds of resources available online. Which ones work best? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I would recommend doing some simple searches online to try and find some resources that others recommend. Search for things like “best way to learn a language online for free“, “learn a language online” or “best apps to learn foreign language”. In order to find out what works best for you or which you like most you have to simply try them out. You can read reviews from other people but they might not feel the same way about a site that you will. For example, Vanessa found that she wasn’t too impressed with Duolingo and although I see where she is coming from, I think that it can be a valuable tool. It’a a matter of trial and error for you to find some resources that work for you.
  3. Connect with others and create a PLNThere are so many ways to connect with others online. For myself I used Twitter, Instagram and blogging to follow and connect with others. By sharing my blog I was able to connect with people who read my blog and commented on it. Through comments on my blog I was given suggestions for additional resources to check out for my learning project. I was able to connect with others on Twitter and practice some of my language skills as well. There are some great websites that allow you to chat or talk with others who can help you learn the language you are working on. Depending on what you are learning about your PLN might look different. You might connect with others by sharing step by step videos for cooking, or following an online Twitter chat. Everyone’s PLN will be different, but it’s important that you reach out and try to connect with people.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone.  There are so many beneficial things that can come from stepping out of your comfort zone. In my learning journey there were two things I did that really made me step out of my comfort zone. The first was reading a book in Italian. It was only a children’s book, but it was difficult to put myself out there and read it online knowing that I probably mispronounced a number of words. I practiced over and over but never felt confident enough that I was reading it perfectly. I decided to just record it and post it. It was a good opportunity for me to hear how I sounds when I speak and reflect on it. The second thing I wanted to do was have a conversation with someone online. I was hoping to have a Skype meeting with someone but I didn’t feel confident enough in my speaking skills, so I opted for the next best option and had an online chat with a couple of people through WeSpeke. This was truly a great learning experience for me as it gave me an opportunity to have an unscripted conversation with someone. I had to think about what I wanted to say and try to put the words together in a sentence. I found that I had to use a translator to help me complete my sentences but it was nice to connect with someone and practice what I had learned. Both of these situations caused me to step out of my comfort zone and I think I learned a lot from each experience. Had I not pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone I would have missed out on these great opportunities.
  5. Practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more. Regardless of what you are learning, you must keep at it. Learning a new skill does not happen over night. It’s important to practice and be consistent. Learning takes time. Even practicing for 15-20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Use the people in your network to connect and practice or ask for help. Watch a video while waiting for a bus, listen to a podcast in your car. Whatever you do to connect, try to do it every day. If you are involved in a MOOC, do the work that is required, check in when you are supposed to…participate. You get out what you put in, so if you are serious about learning, you’ll find the time.

In follow up to one of my first blogs showing the beginning of my learning journey here is some evidence of the progress I made. I’m happy to say that I reached 37% fluency and level 11 on Duolingo. On my placement test at the end of my learning journey I was able to place out of 4 categories so that was also great. Below are some photos of my progress and a video showing my final placement test.

Duolingo Progress

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Duolingo Placement Test – Post

Babbel Progress

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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.

Major Project Update: Socrative

I am happy to say that my final project is nearing completion. Okay maybe that’s being too optimistic, but it really is coming along nicely. I have spent this past week really looking into Socrative. I must say that I cannot wait to get back into the classroom to test this out with my students. The app is extremely user friendly and I can see so many uses for it in the classroom.

I recently came across this resource explaining 3 ways that open response questions can be used in the classroom with Socrative. I am a really big fan of gathering student questions using the quick response option. It would be an easy way for students to ask questions from their homework that they need help with. Once students respond with questions they are struggling with, students can look at all of the options and vote on the questions they want answered so that it prioritizes them for me allowing me to answer the question most students have. I really like the voting option for the quick response short answer questions.

I also like the idea of using the quick response short answer questions for brainstorming in class. It is a great way for students to get involved and provide answers as opposed to just shouting answers out. I like that you can have student names be anonymous so that they don’t have to be scared of sharing their answers. Names will appear for the teacher when you run a report so you can see who submitted each response.

I have been busy making tutorials for Socrative today and have a few more to go before I am done. I haven’t started my Explain Everything tutorials yet, but I don’t feel like they will be as in depth and hopefully won’t take me as long. I still have some Evernote tutorials as well. Hoping I can get things done within the next week so I can focus on my summary of learning.

Major Project Update

I took a break from my major project this past week as I was visiting family in Vancouver and had a hard enough time reading the articles and making sure I was available to connect in class this past Monday. Since being home I have had a opportunity to look at my progress again and reevaluate where I am at and where I need to be. Here is where I am at with exploring each of my apps.

Evernote – Done exploring the app as well as looking into ways it can be used in the classroom by both me and the students. I have also finished looking over and summarizing the terms of service and privacy policy. My look at ‘the medium is the message’ is also completed. I have made some tutorials, but I need to finish the rest of my tutorials.

Explain Everything – I have spent some time playing around with the app and thing I have the ins and outs figured out. I have learned how to upload documents from Dropbox to the app so I can write right onto the documents. I have created some videos to test it out. I will be working on my tutorials this week by using screen shots of the app. I need to look at the privacy issues as well as the message for this app.

Socrative – I have spent some time creating quizzes and checking out the other feedback options. I was hoping that I would be able to create my own question using the exit slip option but it appears that the three questions offered are the only questions that can be used as exit slips. If I want to do a short answer exit slip I will have to create a one question quiz for students to use. I haven’t been able to explore the whole app yet and haven’t created a student account to see how it works from a student perspective.

If I had to give each app a percent based on completion I would say that Evernote is 95%, Explain Everything is 40% and Secretive is 20%. There is still a lot of work to be done which makes me a little nervous as there is only a few weeks left in class. I will really have to focus and get things done!

My project will be presented in the form of a weebly webpage. You can check out my progress by clicking here.

Two Steps Forward…One Step Back

I have once again made a change to the apps I will be doing for my final project. I have been finding that a lot of the apps I have come across are not as user friendly as I thought they would be (although they had good reviews). If I want to find an app that I will actually use in the classroom it has to be user friendly no questions asked! I also found that a lot of the apps require you to upgrade to a paid version to really get a useful app.

After spending some time looking at BaiBoard I decided that it’s just not what I thought it was. I liked that you can share the whiteboard allowing more than one user to work on the whiteboard space at a time, but I was hoping you would be able to use real-time audio while working on the whiteboard. I thought that you could share the whiteboard and talk at the same time so that you and others could collaborate more easily. You can only record your voice by holding down the recording button which will then send a message to the user you are sharing the board with. I was hoping that students would be able to share the whiteboard and help each other out with math homework while at their own homes.  It looks like it would be a really good app to collaborate to make a poster or create a slide to share in class, but it just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. I think that I will be using Explain Everything instead of BaiBoard because it seems to be much more user friendly.

I also spent some time looking at Pear Deck. It is a great platform, but you have to make a slideshow in order to use the platform. You would have to develop your lesson using the platform or download existing presentations from Google Drive in order to use the interactive features of the site. Again, it just didn’t seem like it was user-friendly enough for me.

I was lead to Socrative and Kahoot through the Google+ community and comments from Amy and Rochelle. Kristina also shared a link on Twitter that brought me to Socrative. I think that I will spend some more time looking at Socrative to replace my original though of Pear Deck.

I know that time is ticking away and I need to make my decision and get started learning how to use the app. I also need to think about it’s use in the classroom and consider privacy issues. It is a little frustrating to have already explored quite a few apps only to find that they aren’t what I was hoping they would be. Hopefully these new apps will allow me to make a lot more progress. I don’t want to end up sticking with an app simply because I am running out of time and need to get the work completed. I want it to be meaningful. If I find that I can’t find an app that is useful in the classroom I will probably change my attack and focus more on social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram.

On a more positive note I have almost completed my Evernote exploration. I have a few more tutorials to make and then I need to finish off the privacy aspect of it. Here is one of my tutorial videos that I made. 

Major Project Update

Here is an update on where I am at with my final project.

I had originally planned on doing Evernote, Explain Everything and Snapchat for my app review but realized that I had somewhat randomly selected those apps. I thought I would do them because I had heard of them before and even have the snapchat app (although I certainly am no expert). I decided that it was silly to just randomly pick apps and did a little bit more research thanks to the help of classmates like Shaun who shared some great app review lists. After looking through the resources that were shared by classmates I decided that I wanted to stick with Evernote but drop both Explain Everything and Snapchat. I wanted to select apps that would help me in my flipped classroom and also allow students to work collaboratively with one another and engage in the lesson with a device.

Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

I have decided to replace Explain Everything with BaiBoard which is more of a collaborative whiteboard than just a screen capture. I went a completely different route from Snapchat and decided I wanted to focus on something that can be interactive and provide feedback from students during class. For my last app I have decided on Pear Deck. It allows students to anonymously answer questions using their tablet, phone or computer during class. I am really excited to use this one because I think it can be a great tool for students who are maybe too shy to speak out in class. It could also be used to encourage students to respond using their device as opposed to just blurting out answers so that everyone gets a chance to speak. There are so many other awesome features that I won’t get into right now because I don’t want to spoil it for my final project.

I am just about done with my first app review, Evernote, but still feel like I have quite a bit of work to do before the review is completed. I have started a Weebly webpage that I will be using to present my final project. The website is FAR from being done, but you can check out what I have done so far here.

On my website you will see a homepage with links to other pages on my website for each app that I will be reviewing. If you check out the Evernote link it will take you to my Evernote review. You should be able to see that I have a lot of video tutorials that I plan to make using a screen casting app. Those will be uploaded to the site and you will be able to see how Evernote can be used in the classroom.

I hope I am on the right track. The biggest issue for me right now is determining how to interact with others using the websites and apps. I have had to use my work email and personal email to see how things are shared with others within the app. I don’t know if I have provided enough information or if I should elaborate more. Obviously the tutorials will add a lot more to the page. Let me know what you think so far. Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

My major project dilemma.

I decided during the first week of class that I would be choosing option #2 for our final project. This option requires me to select some apps that students use and become more familiar with them. As a high school teacher I think it’s important to understand the latest trends with social media because a lot of the students I teach use some form of social media everyday. I found some apps that I think will be interesting to delve into, but I cannot decide which ones I want to do. I have to do 2-4 and it should be a mix of both social media and educational. Initially I had thought about doing instagram and snapchat for my social media apps as those follow directly behind Facebook based on the percent of teenagers using those social media according to this study.  However I use both of these so I don’t want to learn more about them because I feel I have a pretty good understanding of them already. I have also started using twitter and google+ so I think those are out as well. Which leads me to my next choices; Tumblr, Vine, and YikYak. If anyone has any experience with these apps or would like to learn more about them from my project I would love your opinion on which to choose. I would like to choose two of the three to focus on for the social media aspect of my project.

In regards to the educational aspect, the apps I am tossing around are Khan Academy, Evernote and screen capturing apps like Showme, Educreations and Explain Everything. I feel as though this could be beneficial to me and my students as an extra resource for the classes I teach. Khan is almost like an online tutor with different lessons and videos for students based on specific topics. I am also interested in seeing what Evernote has to offer. I know some students of mine were using it in the past and they encouraged me to try it out but I never really looked into it. I feel as thought it could be something I could integrate into my classroom with projects for my students. The next educational branch I am looking at is a screen casting app where you can record your voice and demonstrate things using your computer screen. There are three apps that are quite similar that I am trying to decide between: Showme, Educreations, and Explain Everything. If you have any experience with any of the apps listed I would love to hear from you. If there is something that really interests you or makes you curious about it please let me know. That might help sway my decision! I’m a terrible decision maker so any input would be greatly appreciated.