Application forACTFL Award for Excellence in Foreign Language Instruction Using Technologywith IALLT (K-12)Frances M. SiracusaMay 28, 2013Evidence of Objectives and StrategiesAs an educator, I read articles and attend workshops where people posequestions such as: How have I as an educator transformed my learningenvironment?Frankly, the answer to this question lies with how I as a learner wastransformed by my learning environment, and how I have been trying to replicate thesame experience for my Spanish students ever since. One year ago, I earned anEducational Technology masters degree, and learned first-hand “the ways in whichinnovative technologies and emerging physical, virtual and blended learningenvironments empower educators and learners and impact society”(http://education.ufl.edu/educational-technology/).My personal and professionalexperiences along this path continue to alter my thinking and teaching practice;however, I find my personal definition to be constant. I am a creator, collaborator, risk-taker, life-long learner, participant, critical thinker, initiator, director, organizer, producer,adapter, confidence-builder, avid reader and cheerleader. Most importantly, in thelearning environment I provide for my students, I am a communicator, innovator, andteacher-learner!
Similarly, my Spanish students are social butterflies and love to activelyparticipate in class. I afford them various opportunities to think critically andcommunicate efficiently when they create and share. Second, I challenge my studentsto succeed in the current global environment by interacting on the universal web as wellas in person with their worldwide peers. The learningenvironment in my classroomconsistently helps to prepare students to interact effectively with others in anotherlanguage, and especially in their development of communicative competence reflectingreal life communication.My passion is the Spanish language and culture, and my interest is technology; Ipersistently pursue new ways to utilize technology to enhance my students’ ability toacquire Spanish language skills. Seven years ago, the Assistant Principal of my formerschool had the first LCD projector in my school installed in my classroom ceiling, andurged me to “push the envelope” with technology and my curriculum. Since thosehumble beginnings, I have eagerly sought out new programs, websites, interfaces, andideas to empower my students to use technology as a learning tool. As Marc Prenskyexpressed, today’s students are growing up in a “digital age as digital natives.” To beable to work successfully with students and keep their interest focused on academics, itis imperative that I explore and experience new strategies to facilitate students’proficiency in the Spanish language, while at the same time delighting them in theprocess.Three years ago, I transferred so as to work at a small private Montessori schoolin Largo, FL where I could make a greater impact upon students utilizing emergingsmart systems.First, I was in charge of one Bretford cart containing 24 iPod Touches for
use with classes on a shared basis. That led to purchases of a MacBook, 20 iPads withsyncing cart, a Mac mini, a MacBook Pro, and then 60 (3rdgeneration) iPads for use ina 1:1 iPad program.In April, we moved into a new Middle School facility, complete withApple TVs in every room and an iMac in our production studio. From the start of thispast school year, I have transformed my class into a completely paperless classbecause of the incredible iPad apps available. My class has become streamlined,participatory, efficient and most importantly engaging.In fact, the iPad (as opposed to alaptop or desktop) makes our Rosetta Stone language learning program fun and easyfor our students, who enjoy the personal experience of tapping the screen while gettingcozy in a chair holding a small tablet while studying.Our students study both Spanish and Chinese utilizing a Rosetta StoneClassroom site license portal. With each lesson, I devise distinct work plans for studentswhich includegrammar and vocabulary practice worksheets. This year, because of the1:1 iPads, students download these worksheets to their iPads using the Notability appwhere they fill in answers and submit them back to me to grade. I also use Notability tograde theworksheets, write feedback, and email them back to them. Students accessassignments as well as learning videos, online quizzes and class calendar with ourEdline app. I create learning videos with the Educreations app in my hybrid “flippedclassroom.” My class works without paper because of productivity apps (Pages andKeynote), organizational apps (Dropbox and Google Drive), and educational apps(Edmodo, Educreations, Quizlet, Mango Languages and Rosetta Stone). These“children and future generations have tremendous opportunities in store for them, not inspite of the digital age, but because of it” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008, p. 9).
Our administration issued allMiddle School division teachersan iPad to use forlesson planning and collaboration with students. However, I figured out how to make allclass materials digital, therefore embracing change and adding to students’development of 21stcentury skills. I believe this leads to students’ increased productivityand retained knowledge. Correspondingly, Solloway and Norris expressed the samesentiment:“…when computing devices are used across subject areas, for substantialperiods of time (say, 70 percent) and when the curriculum and the software supporteach other, then increases in student achievement are indeed observed” (T.H.E.Journal, 2013, http://thejournal.com/).Today, a teacher should act as a facilitator/collaborator in a learner-centeredclassroom, and there should be an emphasis on learners as “doers” and “creators;”consequently, I examine my approaches to pedagogy frequently. Last year, under myguidance and participation, students from three school divisions learned alongsideinternational peers in three different global projects: Rock Our World, Flat ClassroomBuilding Bridges, and Flat Classroom Eracism. Owing to the iPads, student experienceswere dynamic and engaging. Their curiosity was piqued and the iPads were the perfecttool to foster their innate desire to learn as well as aid in their foreign languagecommunication development.I believe the iPad has already greatly impacted school andwork environments, and I observe how work processes are changing globally. It is myjob as a World Languages teacher to equip students to better develop theircommunicative competence as well as to succeed in their future environments.Over the last couple years, I have seen immense success with my learnersowing to technology integration in my Spanish courses. My Spanish students
consistently exhibit how they develop transferable knowledge and 21stcentury skills.Infact, my teaching practice so greatly impacts students in that many graduate 8thgradeand matriculate in Spanish high school courses (encompassed in Pre-IB, magnet, andcompetitive college preparatory programs) two levels above the average freshman aswell as attain highest scores in their class.Innovative concrete examples of facilitation ofstudent learning and creativity in my Spanish classroom include:--Utilizing the iMovie and Pages apps, I invented a project called “International FilmFestival” where students script, perform, and produce commercials in Spanish selling avariety of products. Later, students’ commercials were organized on our class Wiki and“nominated” for one of various theatrical awards that mimick a real film festival.Students viewed all videos (thus learning more grammar structures from peer work);voted for category favorites online; and participated in a mock awards ceremonycomplete with red carpet, Master of Ceremonies, big screen (iPad and an LCDprojector), secret envelopes and awards. All students increased accuracy of formalsingular and plural imperative grammar forms.--Using the Voicethread app, students completed a “When I was a Child” project.Students collected 10 photos of themselves as children under the age of five, and thendescribed their personality, physical looks, likes and dislikes, friends, where they lived,etc. in Spanish using correct Imperfect tense sentence structures. Second, studentsorally recorded themselves reading their sentences. Additionally, classmates wereasked to orally record commentary regarding their peers’ photos and comments ontothe projects. Finally, parents were invited to comment or record a memory (in English orSpanish) onto their child’s Voicethread.
--Employing the PuppetPals app, I fabricated a “Restaurant Skit” project where studentsauthor and perform scripts. To bring it to life, students photographed themselves and“inserted” themselves as characters as well as orally recorded their voices. Studentseffectively learned “dining” vocabulary as well as stem-changing verb conjugationgrammar.--Using the Tripline, World Atlas and Weather apps, students completed “World CapitalsAirplane Trip” projects. In Spanish, students interacted with geography, maps andtemperature exploration. They devised route and (clothing) packing plans whilespeaking and writing in Spanish.Other notable Spanish classroom tasks include a past-tense eBook project withthe Storybird app;designing the ideal classroom with the Room Planner app; “My DailyRoutine” project with the Keynote or Animoto apps; podcasting “My Spanish Rap” and“Betty la Bufanda” activities using GarageBand; online journaling with the Blogger app;and weekly interactive teacher-led lessons with the Nearpod and Edmodo apps.Mystudents crave the creativity of fun classroom tasks that are unique and challenging.They master written, spoken, and electronic communication skills because I choose tobe innovative in my instructional design.As an Educational Technologist, I support a 21stcentury readiness approach forall students. Specifically, communication, creativity and innovation skills are sharpenedthrough global projects and technology. My 4thand 5thgrade students collaborated withworldwide peers by mixingmusic tracks and songs within GarageBand; communicatedwith children and classroom pets using Skype; used iPad video recorders during PoetrySlam video creation; and excitedly interacted with students duringWorld Celebration
interviewswith FaceTime Theater. Kindergarten and 1stgrade students honedcommunication skills when they utilized Voicethread to create virtual handshakes. Theyspokelive with friends in Minnesota, Idaho and Turkey when they heard and saw theirclassrooms using Skype. They teamed up tocreate “Our School Day” and “The GamesWe Play” group projects. Seventh and eighth gradersdebated against global peers onVoicethread during the Eracism project. Italian students interviewed our students andthey jointly created podcasts.Ultimately, in order to positively influence the broader Foreign Languageeducation community, one needs to share his/her classroom successes. “Educatorsneed more training, through teacher preparation programs and professionaldevelopment, about how best to use technology to teach in the classroom and toanalyze student data,” according to a National Association of State Boards ofEducationreport (2012). I immerse myself in reading educational journals, attending andpresenting at conferences, discussing similar visions and ideas on Twitter and web-based professional learning networks, and interacting with global and local peers aboutmy passion.In May 2012, I presented my research and findings in a thesistitled Fostering IndividualGrowth in the Middle School Spanish Classroom: Improving Linguistic Fluidity andPronunciation. Taking a hard look at the current classroom experience and observingthat my students did not orally communicate enough in Spanish, I established that Iwould improve upon their speaking skills, specifically in the area of fluency. It is mystrong belief that an educator’s ability to design and manage multimedia tasks in theclassroom in conjunction with sparking a student’s passion is a great factor of student
success. Thanks to the MacBook and iPad along with Blogger and Vocaroo, my digital-era students channeled their creativity and combined academics with technology as anopportunity for learning, and increased fluency scores. I shared my work with workcolleagues, area Spanish teachers, my former mentor and friend Gillian Lord (Chair andAssociate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, University ofFlorida) anddiverse Spanish teachers through digital professional learning networks.In my professional experience, I have witnessed young people harnessremarkable talents evidenced by their creations, such as narratives, blogs, mash ups,videos and pictures. Ishared these learning experiences byfacilitating an educatorworkshopin June2012 calledCross the Bridge: Ensure 21stCentury Readiness for EveryStudent and Teacher. Under my direction, teachers utilized subject-specific “21stCentury Skills Maps” developed by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills in adherencewith Common Core and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). I leddiscussions of best practices in teaching and learning in order to aid educators tobecome comfortable co-learners in the digital age of today. I also added to their“teaching toolbox” and practice with web 2.0 tools such as Voicethread, Blogger,Wikispaces, and Edmodo. Teachers came withlesson plans in mind and walked awaywith creative 21st century concrete designs.In November 2012, my colleague and Ipresented a session called Go Global: World Collaborative Projects for InnovativeTeachers at the Florida Council of Independent Schools conference. Additionally inNovember, we co-presented at two more sessions called Apps Galore: Top Tools forGlobal Collaboration (iPad) andThe Connected Middle School Student: Fostering GlobalCollaborations through International Projects at the Global Education Conference
Network 2012 virtual conference. We shared our experiences, videos, pictures andprogram designs of collectively-built student digital artifacts, and demonstrated thevalue of networking. (In June 2013, my colleague and I will be presenting at a postersession at the ISTE conference in San Antonio. I will also be presenting Apps Galore atthe ACTFL conference this coming November in Orlando.) Finally we supported three8thgraders as they presented Celebrating Diversity: International Day of Peaceat theiEARN conference in November. Fundamental to any learning, I practice what I preachby sharing all knowledge, projects and examples on my professional website:http://exploramos.wikispaces.com/Sharing+Success