31 August 2007


Over the past few weeks, especially the last 3 days, I am finding myself going through a professional transition. I am no longer just a French teacher who uses technology in her courses. I am now a French teacher who is quickly (too quickly!) becoming a leader in the area of technology in education and professional development. My colleagues are now coming to me with technology questions and not just the World Language department members. Teachers school-wide are approaching me and wanting me to help with their transition in becoming a proficient 21st century educator.

I just received word that my school district will receive double the funding expected through Pennsylvania's Classrooms for the Future Grant. I have already been identified as the person who will be the Coach for the district. That means that I will now be supporting double the teachers, students, and amount of equipment than expected. I will also be a full time teacher for the first semester. I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.

Now I know how the teachers in my district feel! They are also going through transitions. Each educator in my district was just handed a beautiful new macbook 3 days ago. Then, they were introduced to our new district Moodle and instructed briefly on how to join and begin using it. Then, they were trained on a new Student Information System and grade book that they are expected to use right now. Then, they have me present an hour on Web 2.o and its importance in today's schools. Whether they want to or not, they are going to make transitions they don't yet even know about, and, I'm the one they will go to for help and guidance.

I worry about how much time I will have for my courses and my students, not to mention my family! I think this year will be chock-full of transitions for everyone in my life: colleagues, friends, family, students and especially me. But, I am so excited I can't wait!

25 August 2007

New tool: VuVox.com!

Check out the newest cool tool I am experimenting with... Vuvox! You can create a variety of slideshows/presentations with images, video and audio. It is a pretty cool way to present online. Here's one example that I created in about 10 minutes.

23 August 2007

Next Steps

I am heading for a career change, whether I'm ready or not! Yesterday, as I was walking down the hallway in school after a technology training session, my principal asked if I had a few minutes to talk. As we walked, we talked, and he broached the topic of a new job for me at the high school. Once we arrived in his office, he asked me if I would like to be the Classrooms for the Future Coach for my district, if we do indeed receive the grant money. A bit hesitant, and not sure what I was getting myself into, I accepted the offer. Then, he and I tried to figure out how it would work out and we came up with a plan that I would teach 3 classes and they would hire a long-term sub for my other 2 classes. Although this would work, It was not the best option for the district, the students, the CFF program, or me. After talking a bit with a fellow CFF Coach Kristin Hokanson (thank goodness she happened to be training in my classroom yesterday!) I found out how much time I would be expected to be out of the school and in training. I went home last night stressed out and totally overwhelmed.

I went back to school today and met with the principal. He proposed a new plan. I will teach full-time French first semester of the year and then second semester, after the computers get here, I will be a full-time coach. They will get a long-term sub for all my classes for the second semester. That seems like a MUCH better plan and I am very very much looking forward to it.

This is going to be such an exciting year!!!


18 August 2007

Disco Fever!!

Check out this new dance video starring Dianne & Benjamin! A cool new tool I found at jibjab.com, thanks to my friends on Twitter!

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

11 August 2007

The New Year

As the new school year rapidly approaches, I am constantly thinking about how this upcoming September will be quite different than the 10 previous ones. Here's why, and how I think I'm going to cope...

Firstly and most importantly to me, I will have new tools. My classroom now has a SmartBoard 680i and I now have a new macbook. I also have a new 30GB video ipod and a recorder for it. I can't wait to use my new tools! However, innovation takes much motivation, thought, time, and effort. This I have already discovered in my hours' worth of work for one day's lesson plan. I realize now that I will have to spend a LOT of time if I want to take the units and lessons that I have created over the years and change them into meaningful learning situations for my students. Luckily, I have already started this transition in the past few years, but now I have the tools to REALLY make the shift. I am ready, but are the 49 other teachers in my district who are also starting this new school year with the Smartboard? I hope that they realize that they are now responsible for changing the look and feel of education in my district. I hope that they are ready to embrace emerging technologies and work to integrate them into their curricula.

Another difference this year is that every single teacher in my district will have a macbook. This will absolutely change the way we communicate and operate on a daily basis in school. In-service presentations can now be hands-on workshops. Department meetings can now be collaboration sessions. Meetings can be held online and communication can be instant and constant. Again, I am skeptical that the general faculty populaton will be as motivated to use the tools as I am. Some people just hate change!

Yet another difference will be the impending decision on whether my school has received the Classrooms for the Future grant. If the grant is awarded, we will receive funding for 7 1:1 classrooms in the building. This change would be HUGE for the students and for the teachers. Although I could not receive one of the 7 classrooms from the grant, I cannot wait to collaborate with the teachers who are chosen!

What else will be different? Clear Backpacks! The students are already outraged and school hasn't even started yet. I just can't wait to see what they will be up to once school starts...

08 August 2007

I got tagged! 8 Random Facts

So a few days ago I was tagged by my new friend Kristin. As I was in the thralls of dealing with my first macbook falling down the steps and breaking, I was behind in my blog reading. I am just about caught up with everything now and after being tagged by Scott last night, I feel it is my duty to complete this post...

Here we go!
  • Post these rules before you give your facts
  • List 8 random facts about yourself
  • At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  • Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

My Facts:

  1. I lived in Mulhouse, France during my sophomore year of college, 1992-1993. It was the most life-changing experience of my life.
  2. I loved science and math in high school, especially Chemistry.
  3. My dogs Dolittle and Deanne became proud parents of 8 puppies on my 9th birthday, under my parent's bed.
  4. Besides my son Benjamin, I am the proud parent of many pets- Maggie: standard poodle, Sequoia: tabby cat, Bink (aka Bunny): mutt cat, Charles: Iguana, Jacob: African Sulcata tortoise, Lenny & Larry: Schneider's skinks (a type of lizard), Herbie: hamster and Tropical & Freshwater fish.
  5. I started playing an online game called Medievia in 1995. Two months later I met my husband Mike on the game and now we run it together.
  6. I absolutely love creating web pages and finding out new cool things to put on them.
  7. I have one true sister, one half-sister, two step-sisters, a step-brother, and many step nieces and nephews.
  8. The first concert I attended was the Jackson 5 Victory Tour. The second was Debbie Gibson. I'm not sure if I'm proud of that or not.

Ok, as for the tagging 8 people, this is the hard part. As I am brand new to blogging and the only bloggers I know are the people I met at KTI, you are already all tagged! I promise when I meet more bloggers I'll tag them to keep this going!

07 August 2007

Que savez-vous? What do you know?

Check out this new video I made! I made it as a practice of 2 new applications for me: Keynote and iMovie. Finding the images took the longest. It was a cinch to put together and figure out. I will play the video for my students as they enter the first day. I will also have it playing at Back-to-school night for the parents. I've already started working on an answer key, which I will post to my wikispace for anyone who would like it!

03 August 2007

My Macbook

I finally got it, my macbook! It is a nice little thing that is perfectly easy to use. I love the way it works and the way the files and programs are organized. Of course it took us a bit of time trying to find the WEP password for the wireless router, but once we did.. I was good to go! (Thanks again to Brandon for all his help).

How I got the mac was a pretty cool experience too. I was gathered in my classroom in the high school with many principals, administrators, fellow trainers (that's me) and even the superintendant. Our tech director took us through what the mac looks like, what all the ports mean, how to maneovre the operating sytem, set up email, set up internet and showed us cool programs we can use. It was 3 hours of pure learning and I loved it! I sucked it all in and suprisingly remembered most of what I was told. Now I have to teach the same 'meet your mac' workshop in a few weeks. I hope I remember it all!

I love fun new tools :)

02 August 2007

Putting it all together

So I've had loads of fun checking out all the new links, resources and tools that I learned about at the Keystone Summit. Now, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty and think about how I'm going to actually use what I have learned. How am I going to get my students to use the technology without even realize it? How am I going to teach them how to use the tools and learn the curriculum along the way? How am I going to seamlessly integrate all this great technology!?

Here are a few of my general ideas with questions and calls for help!

Wikis -
I've already created my own, and one for the students, but what about the students creating them? Where do they fit in? Taking inspiration from Kristin Hokanson's Learning Latin America project, I hope to guide my students in creating a wikispace for the Regions of France. I have an existing project that involves a webquest, a powerpoint, and a sample recipe. I plan to modify the project in such a way that the students will be creating a wikispace about the Regions, with each group creating the page for their region. Each group will have to present their page and create an activity to go along with their presentation. I still have a lot of thinking, organization, and planning to do, but I've created the wikispace for it already!...http://regionsdefrance.wikispaces.com/

Now, for French 5, I am thinking about using the wiki as the 'home base' of all online work. And as mentioned below, I'm considering using the wiki for the discussion board too. French 4... not much room in the curriculum for a wiki construction project but I'm still thinking on it...

Discussion Boards-
Last year I used eSchoolbuilder for my French 5 discussion board, and although it worked well with my students, could there be something better out there for me to use? I've considered using just the discussion tab on the French 5 wiki page, but that isn't as secure as eSchoolbuilder was. I have also created a Google groups account for French 5, and that's another way to go. I would really love to use the wiki though because then everything can be all in one place. I have to still decide on this one.. any suggestions?

I also have an issue with how to provide valuable feedback to my students with their discussion board entries. Last year they just got a grade and hardly any verbal or written feedback from me. The class surveys at the end of the year told me that they wanted and needed feedback from me. I'm struggling with how to give my students feedback in such a way that it is natural for me and not too time consuming. Any ideas?

As you've seen if you visit my pages, I love Voki. I want my students to all make at least one this year. I'm trying to work out when is the best time in the curriculum for each of my courses to do this. I am absolutely going to get the French 5 students to create them as introductions of themselves for their epals. French 4 - probably during the unit in which they discuss relationships and getting along with people.. maybe as a 'video-dating' thing where they describe themselves. Forum - Probably during the Quebec unit where they discuss what sports and activities they like to do. It's just a really cool tool that I think the students will really get into. And if they are writing their scripts and speaking in French, they are learning along the way!

Comic Life-
I already have my Forum students create a comic strip during the Belgium unit in which we study the popularity of comics in Europe. The project currently involves Power Point. I have had students use Flash and other software in the past, but I would love it if this year's students used Comic Life. I could offer them a variety of tools to use and have them choose, but Comic Life is very cool and I think the students will love it. I just have to get them all to DL and install it... that may be an issue.

I will absolutely be having my students all create at least one podcast this year. I have already begun to restructure a French 4 project to include a podcasted advertisement for a hotel. Last year they presented their advertisement to the class, but next year they will be scripting and recording a podcast advertisement along with a brochure made in publisher. The students told me they really liked the project last year so this year has one more added element that they will love! (I hope).

I think French 5 will have multiple opportunities to record podcasts but I need to figure out when they best fit into the curriculum. I think I will have them use podcasts a lot for their epals, instead of letters. We will still do both but I think that the addition of audio and maybe even video will create deeper exchanges for the students. The students last year really enjoyed their epals and having a connection with someone in the world who actually speaks this language they are learning. If we add pod and vodcasts to the exchange, I can see these feelings of connection only get stronger.

I have also found and subscribed to several French language learning podcasts through iTunes that I will share with the students on my wiki. I may even challenge the students to find more and post them to the wiki for extra credit!

For the past 8 years or so of my teaching, I've had my students create video skits in which they demonstrate communicating in French using vocabulary and grammar they learned in class. Over the years the final products have become better and many students now edit their videos on the computer and are really good at adding music, transitions, titles, etc. But, I still get some videos filmed on VHS with bloopers in the middle, missed lines of dialog, horrible shooting techniques and so forth. This year I want to REALLY teach the students how to make a video. Of course the French and the curricular value is important, but so is creating a great final product. So, instead of just assigning the project and telling the students it is due in 3 weeks, I plan on guiding the students to better resources about making videos and giving them at least a day's instruction on good techniques and tips on how to create a good video. I also plan on taking more class time to collaborate on the projects instead of just having them do it all outside of class. This way I can guide and help my students not only with the French aspect of their creations, but also the video-creation aspect and their pride in their final product.

Hrm, this one I'm still trying to tackle. I know it would be an awesome learning experience and opportunity for each of my French students to maintain a blog in French, but the thing that gets me is how I will keep up with it all. Currently I have epal letters and discussion board topics to read and assess. How would I do it with a blog for each student too? And where would they put their blogs? Google? Blogspot? Wordpress? Others? How to assess & give feedback?

I would also love to use tools like Slideshare, Flickr, Jing, Box, VoiceThread and so forth with my students. I figure the best way to teach these tools is to just use them and show how to get them as I go along. I learned about them by seeing them on wikis and blogs and clicking and researching. I will encourage my students to do the same. I know that I do not have enough time in the curriculum to TEACH the technology and teach French, but I can guide my students and give them plenty of resources to help them out.

But as I sit here, I know there are a lot more things out there that I don't know about yet. Anything I've missed?? :)