My reason for taking the opportunity to learn Spanish was deeply rooted in personal connection to the language. Spanish is my husband's first language, and we hope that our daughter will be bilingual as well, so she can meaningfully communicate with both sides of her family, as well as open up opportunities for her future. Prior to this learning experience, the responsibility for ensuring our daughter develops her Spanish language fell solely on my husband, as I would have been more harm than good in trying to teach her Spanish. I wanted to play a more active role in raising our daughter to be bilingual.
At the beginning of this learning experience, my Spanish was extremely poor, and it was because of this project that I actually said this out loud. I knew within myself how poor my Spanish was, but I felt very ashamed for others to know, as I lived in Mexico and have been married to my husband for over 5 years, and I knew I should have had a more solid foundation of the language. Through the process of this learning journey, I discovered that the biggest obstacle to my Spanish learning and growth was ME... because I let my shame and self-consciousness dominate and I didn't even try to speak. Having this opportunity in EC&I 831 to learn anything we wanted was a gift; I felt empowered to finally be given the time and space to work on something so in need of my attention and effort.
I started with Duolingo, a language learning app/site. Duolingo helps you with goal-setting, increases your vocabulary, and gets you to focus on comprehending phrases (as opposed to just singular words on flashcards). I also loved how "convenient" it was, that when I had some moments of down time, I could practice my Spanish, as the lessons were short and sweet. I was really motivated to see my scores climbing rapidly at the beginning. About 5-6 weeks into the learning project, however, my score was plateauing, even though I kept working on the app and meeting my daily targets. Although I know it's not about the score or number, I can admit that I was getting frustrated, but I stuck with it. I definitely say that the app helped me, but I needed to engage with more than just one tool to keep propelling my learning forward.
I also changed the language setting on all of my technology (my PC, my MacBook, and my iPhone) to Spanish. I felt this was a good option, since I am on my technology so much, to immerse myself further in the language. It was quite tricky at times, and I had to refer to translators from some things, but i do believe it benefited me in this process.
Next, I decided to label a bunch of objects in my house. The rule was, that if the object was labelled, my husband would no longer use the English word with me. At first I was incredibly frustrated, as it slowed me down immensely (i.e. cooking dinner and he tells me the "cuchillo is in the lavaplatos"). However, with time, I relied less on the visual supports (post-its) and started to pick up on the words because I was using them more regularly. I also found myself using those visual supports to give my daughter basic directions in Spanish, which is something I've never done before (i.e. "Mayte, put this in the basura, por favor." The Post-its are still up in my home (good job, Post-its on your adhesive technology!), and I think I will keep them there until I no longer need them.
Up until this point, I was still too self-conscious to speak out loud in Spanish, especially so publically through YouTube or a blog… then I found myself admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with a terrible and debilitating neurological disorder. I couldn't see my daughter while I was in the hospital, as I was unable to care for her and my husband needed to be at work. Thank goodness for my amazing parents, who cared for Mayte in Moose Jaw during the time I was in the hospital. I found myself very down in the hospital, not being able to hug Mayte, read her stories, or put her to bed. It was likely the high dosage of morphine and other pain killers I was on, but I asked my husband to bring Mayte's Spanish story books to be one evening when he was done work. I had never read these books to her, as I was always scared I would confuse her or do more harm than good in her Spanish language development, but since I missed her terribly, I wanted to record a video of myself reading these books to her. While I know my speech was slurred and I mispronounced words, it was so heartwarming to hear that Mayte was watching the video again and again in Moose Jaw. That risk I took, combined with the motivation of the learning project, connected us when we couldn't physically be together.
I engaged with another language learning tool created by the BBC, called "Mi Vida Loca". The interactive video program consists of 22 episodes that are divided into specific topics. The videos make you feel like you are a part of the action. I managed to finish the program during the course of the past 10 weeks. I can definitely say the program enhanced my vocabulary, which is key to improve my Spanish speaking.
There were some low points during my journey where I just felt like I wasn't meeting the expectations I had upon commencing my learning project. I just hadn't had that experience of fluency in my speech--it was so choppy, lacked subject/verb agreement, and had so many mispronunciations. When expressing my upset to my husband one day, he responded by saying something very obvious, yet profound… he said, "Genna, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason." He told me to consider our daughter for example, she is admittedly behind other children her age in terms of her verbal fluency in both English and Spanish. He said that she's still taking it all in, processing it, testing it, and in time, she will find her voice and develop her fluency. I had to sit back and reflect on this for a bit and think about how I could use my two ears to develop my Spanish fluency. I started reading about how singing in another language can increase fluency, and I then came up the crazy idea to try it myself. I was extremely nervous about posting this online for others to see, but that's part of what this open learning process is about. My highlight from that "risk" was that, for the first time in my entire life, I got to experience verbal fluency in another language. Granted, the words were not mine; but I've never been able to speak more than one very basic sentence fluently. Through singing, I was able to speak fluently for three and a half minutes…multiple sentences--it felt so empowering and I was able to let go of some of my self-consciousness!
After the first week, I realized that I couldn't just learn on my own--I needed to get connected. From the onset of my learning project, I began to build a PLN for my Spanish language learning. I used a variety of networking tools, but my favourite were Mixxer and Linqapp. They are free platforms to make connections for language exchange. From the connections I made on these platforms, we connected on Skype, which has been an incredible tool for language learning. I've had rich learning conversations via text chat and video chat with native Spanish speakers around the world who were also interested in learning English. It was a great experience to learn one language and teach another simultaneously.
I also used Twitter to connect with others. I added certain hashtags to my TweetDeck and HootSuite, including #educachat, which is conversation and sharing space about education (like #edchat) in Spanish. It was pretty amazing to get some of my tweet retweeted in this space! My highlight was connecting with a Spanish speaker who has the same Tech Coach role as I do. It was awesome to not only be learning a language, but be able to discuss a shared passion for educational technology in Spanish as well! It took our interactions beyond "basic" conversation.
Motivated by Roman philosopher, Seneca, who said, "While we teach, we learn," I decided to apply this concept to my learning project. Research supports the idea that teaching is a powerful and fruitful way to learn, so I decided to "teach" something in Spanish to support my learning of the language. I decided to do a recipe video, but give all the instructions in Spanish. This was an incredibly difficult task, in terms of translating and targeting my speaking, pronunciation, and pacing. I was able to draw upon the help of my PLN to support me in this undertaking. I was shocking to see all the hours of work condensed into 3 minutes, but it reaffirmed why the process is infinitely more important than the final product, which is something we need to continue to instill in our classrooms.
I've learned so much through this process! My Spanish has drastically improved. Am I fluent? No way! However, this project has given me tremendous confidence to keep going in my language learning journey! I've also learned that open/visible learning keeps you accountable. I appreciated this, as I have given up on learning Spanish many times before out of frustration or a sense of hopelessness. Open learning also allowed me to connect with others who could truly support me--which is something I hadn't tried in previous attempts to learn Spanish. I got to drop that sense of isolation in learning a language, and feel like a true member of a Spanish learning community. I also learned how reciprocal open learning and PLNs can be, as while in the process of learning Spanish, I was also able to help others with their English. I learned a ton about strategies that support language learning, that I wouldn't have otherwise learned, as I was previously so focused on learning "Spanish", that I didn't delve into learning the process of language learning. In essence, this project has allowed me to learn how to learn. This learning project allowed me to focus and reflect on process, which is a rarity in graduate studies. We are always so focused on our end-products (the research papers, the presentations, etc.), that we often neglect to spend time reflecting. I appreciated how open-ended this project was, as I wasn't trying to carve my end-product to be just what the instructor wanted, but rather, my project got to be whatever I wanted, and most importantly, the learning was truly for--and driven by--me.
It's hard to believe that the semester has come to an end already! When pondering how we could summarize our vast amount of learning in this course, Kristina and I decided to create a newscast. While we couldn't squeeze all of our learning into 11 minutes, we chose the themes that stood out to us the most and had the greatest impact on our learning. We hope you enjoy and stay tuned for the end of our newscast, which features our #viralvideooftheweek!
Facebook - Snapchat: http://bit.ly/1MkiiYl & http://bit.ly/1PYJbvF
Messy Learning Project: http://bit.ly/1qydWTD
Digital Divide: https://flic.kr/p/b7T48M
Open Education: http://bit.ly/1UNuS4W
Online Identity: http://bit.ly/19bXqQt
Alec Couros: https://flic.kr/p/6TNsa
Like Button: http://bit.ly/1pD5b6r
Mouth with Tape: https://flic.kr/p/eG227n
Filter Bubble: http://bit.ly/20ehu9M
Social Media Magnify: https://flic.kr/p/fQ6CnH
Introduction “Spinning Globe” Background: https://youtu.be/6CPAhx3rqX4
Newsroom Background: https://youtu.be/_m4-iyQYpuk
Breaking News: https://youtu.be/e-rtpHV8CIU
Alec Couros: http://bit.ly/1SUXpCr
Dave Cormier: https://youtu.be/LceRGrwwfkU
Urgent News: https://youtu.be/9DgT4SC83N8
Aaron Swartz: https://youtu.be/vXr-2hwTk58
Introduction Music: https://youtu.be/aeZdSpex95I
Let’s Get Digital: https://youtu.be/877AZKRWehY
Just kidding! (And yes, that really is my middle name)!
Roman philosopher, Seneca, once said "While we teach, we learn." Research proves that "teaching is a fruitful way to learn", and it was this logic that motivated the next step in my learning project. I wanted to "teach" something in Spanish in order to support my learning of the language. This endeavor proved to be much more difficult than I originally expected, but I can say with certainty that the results were much more fruitful than I expected!
A couple weeks ago, I took a big step in my learning project by singing in Spanish. It was an awesome experience, and this time I wanted to challenge myself further. While singing, I memorized lyrics written by someone else (which was no easy task); but this time, I created my own script, which proved to be much more time-consuming and challenging (hence why it took me almost two weeks to get this post together). I decided to create a script about something I know. Inspired by classmates Ellen Lague and Justine Wheeler's cooking/baking blogs, I decided to create a script about one of my favourite recipes: Agua Chile. Agua Chile is a Mexican ceviche with a spicy kick.
First, I decided to write out the script in English. I then created a table and began to translate all the words that I knew in Spanish. I was surprised by all the words I could recognize due to my work on Duolingo (a leveled language-learning site/app). I was also surprised that I was able to conjugate some of the sentences for subject/verb agreement from one of my Spanish books I bought and gave up on (out of frustration) many years ago. I then drew upon the expertise of my PLN that I have developed through networking tools such as Mixxer (a language exchange website), Linqapp (a language exchange app), and Skype, to help me piece together the (many) sentences I was struggling with. After a lot of consulting and collaborating with my PLN (and a final read-over from my husband to be sure), I came up with the following:
I wanted to accompany my speaking with a video of me preparing the recipe so that even if you aren't a Spanish speaker, you can still follow the recipe. It took me a considerable amount of time to work on my pronunciation for this video. For pronunciation, I referred to Rocket Languages, my PLN, and my husband. My speaking is still quite choppy, but I'm pleased with my progress. Below is the result!
It is still quite shocking to see two weeks of work condensed into a mere 3 minutes and 16 seconds. However, it illustrates why the process is infinitely more important than the final product!
This past week our theme was trolling online, with a focus on theplight of marginalized groups--namely women--who participate in online culture. I call this post "trolling 2.0" because I believe the issue of trolling isn't something that has emerged in a digital age. Trolling exists in our offline culture, stemming from the root issues of oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc), which have a long, deep-rooted history of plaguing our society. These plagues have now spilled into digital spaces. In our digital age, trolling and harassment can be more rapid and far-reaching through technology. That being said, many people to rush to blame technology for trolling and harassment… but let us not forget that technology is just a tool; oppression is the real weapon… the real underlying societal issue. My classmate, and good friend, Kristina Boutilier, echoes this in her blog as well.
To take a step back for a moment, I think it is important to explore what trolling is and what it is not. I think there tends to be some confusion about this as well. Trolling is not someone disagreeing with a viewpoint of another. I think occasionally, when someone comments on another's blog post or social media post and the commenter disagrees with the original poster, the original poster is quick to claim it is trolling. We have to be okay with the fact that not everyone will agree with our views, and if we post them on public platforms open to comments, that others may disagree. So when is it trolling? I think it becomes trolling when the person neglects to respectfully disagree. I think it becomes trolling when the person throws insults, threats, oppressive undertones, or becomes relentless. It is certainly trolling when a person is virtually cyber-stalking someone. I think it is also important to consider that sometimes the "trollees" can become the "trollers"… which can evoke a vicious cycle of venom that doesn't belong in online or offline spaces. Essentially, two wrongs don't make a right. It is up to us to create positive spaces online, even if others are intent on the opposite.
How do we address trolling? Perhaps my thoughts differ from the norm on this. First of all, I think we have to behave ethically and model this for others. If we have a problem with what someone has said online (i.e. Twitter), I think the best way we can respond is by talking to the source directly. This can be done by direct messaging (if possible) the person one is in disagreement with. Much like our STF code of ethics calls upon teachers to speak directly to the person they have an issue with before involving others, arguably, the same should be followed online. Sometimes (and in speaking from previous experience), the issue can be resolved by chatting 1:1, as opposed to having an audience. If you can't directly contact the person, then I think good digital citizenship is to respectfully disagree with a person, no matter how infuriating their comment may be. Fighting fire with fire and spitting venom back and forth, I believe, is immature and counterproductive. If the trolling is serious and relentless, perhaps the best course of action is to report it online (if possible) and/or consult knowledgeable authorities instead of taking "justice" into our own hands.
One strategy suggested in our readings this week, is to respond to trolls by exposing and shaming them… calling for a "culture that shames the perpetrators". While I respect the writer's viewpoint, I'm not in agreement that shaming is a productive way to address trolling. I'm a pretty firm believer that socially shaming others is wrong, as it rarely ever carries context with it, and in a way, it is a form of bullying as well. This shaming can spread so rapidly with the simple tap of a share or retweet button… the receiving person gets upset, and the cycle continues. Furthermore, I'm not an advocate of shaming others because, again, we can't possibly know the full context… their story. How did this particular person grow up? What belief systems was this person raised with? What was modelled for them? Was this person afforded opportunities to challenge their thinking in safe spaces? I think educated people, particularly those that can afford post-secondary education, must not be ignorant of their privilege, and the fact that they have had the opportunity to get educated and expand their thinking about these issues. Perhaps some trolls are trapped in their own unrecognized filter bubble. This is NOT excusing trolling behaviour, but rather, just adding some context if we are to ever get past being infuriated by them, and instead, advance change.
So what really makes a difference? Well, I believe that if someone posts something online that you find offensive, and respectfully disagreeing does not work, then write and post something on an alternate space (i.e. your blog, your social media, etc) that highlights the issue you are passionate and want to raise awareness about. We can be activists without stooping to a trolling or social-shaming level. This does not mean that I believe in inaction--quite the opposite, actually. I think each situation needs to be uniquely assessed, and one ought to ask themselves, "is this particular space a cesspool where my comments wouldn't make a difference anyway… and if so, can I find another space where my thoughts could have a greater effect?"
It is understandable that people (particularly marginalized groups) tend to feel nervous or scared to post online. In all honesty, I do too at times. I mean, who wants to receive a deluge of negativity, insults, and/or threats? What makes it even worse, is that the internet is still largely misunderstood by many authority figures (educators, law enforcement, parents, etc) who can help protect and/or guide those who find themselves trolled. As John Oliver states, it is woefully unacceptable for the response to be "what's Twitter?" or "what's trolling?". We need to continue to educate those in positions of authority about the web and how to protect others in online spaces.
If you feel comfortable speaking out publically about any issue, then I commend you! Being a mother, a teacher, etc, I feel that I sometimes have to weigh the cost/benefit to being public on the web with my opinions. Essentially, I'm reflective on what I feel comfortable with to battle outright and what I feel comfortable with to battle from behind the scenes. It's up to each individual's conscience. So... how can we reclaim space on the internet and exercise our voice, while taking extra precautions to protect ourselves from trolls and their harmful effects? I think finding the best space for our voice is often a good start. As stated above, posting our voice in a comment section that is contaminated with hate and/or oppressive rhetoric would not be as effective and far-reaching as creating a blog or posting on our personal social networks. If trolls find their way to our blog, then I believe it could be okay to moderate the comments, so that the we can have some control as to what the tone of our space will take. I think we should approve comments that respectfully disagree and engage in meaningful, productive dialogue, but I don't think we should even give the trolls a platform on our space to purge their hate. One may find that exercising their voice in their own social network, wherein they approve their friends/followers is the space where they feel most safe/comfortable, and that's okay too, as they are still getting their voice out there. Or, one might personally find that online is not the right space for a particular subject/issue to be voiced for whatever reason… that is okay too. We can still exercise our voice offline too.
Ultimately, we must address the offline, deeply-rooted societal issues of racism, sexism, classism, etc if we are to ever see it disappear from online spaces. When it comes to addressing online harassment and trolling, it also comes down to digital citizenship. It is imperative that youth learn how to engage with technology and the web ethically, so that they may develop good habits in the future, creating a web where everyone is welcome and treated with dignity.
Since I started my learning project, I have been connecting with people around the world to practice and improve my Spanish writing and speaking. What follow is a summary of where I established these connections:
In today's age, children don't just inherit genes from their parents, many inherit a digital identity as well. While social media and digital technologies have changed over the years, the parental responsibility to protect the dignity of our children has not. Parental influence on their child's identity is not new; let us not forget about the identity we inherit from our parents offline as well. While some may express concern about digital identities being created for children before they can create one of the their own, I would hope that they have the same degree of concern for the offline identities parents shape for their children as well. The obligation parents have to protect the dignity of their children is imperative both offline AND online.
I'm a parent. I post a lot of pictures of my child on Facebook, and therefore, her digital identity has been developing. I can say that it is a digital identity that I personally believe she can be proud of, as it respects her dignity. She's not yet old enough to understand what a digital identity is, and therefore, my husband and I make loving and responsible decisions about what we share and what we do not share. That being said, as our daughter matures, she will be 100% involved in the decision-making process concerning her digital identity. I believe that this proactive approach models good digital citizenship for children from their earliest years, which in turn forms natural habit.
Consider a scenario where a parent does not create a digital identity for their child; never posting a picture, a story, etc. I wonder what the impact of that decision would be in our digital age. Would the child question why the vast majority of their peers have a digital identity and they do not? Would a parent miss valuable opportunities to model and engage in conversations with their child about digital citizenship from a young age?
Returning to the responsibilities of parents, the practice of seeking permission before posting a photo/story, which KJ Del'Antonia discusses in her blog post, I believe is very important. Not only does it involve children and allow them to exercise choice concerning their digital identity, it will likely instill in them the courtesy to ask others for their permission as well before sharing on their social media. I think it is also important to allow children "veto" rights… if my daughter ever asks me to remove a picture I have shared of her, I will always respect that decision. Ultimately, as parents we need to understand that we "are creating a digital history for a human being that will follow him or her for the rest of their life." Key questions to ask are, "What kind of footprint do you actually want to start for your child, and what will they think about the information you’ve uploaded in future?" My classmate, Adam Scott Williams, expresses similar sentiments, in saying, "We as parents just need to be careful and considerate of our children and their future selves." In actuality, this all boils down to good parenting.
Transferring this concept to the classroom, George Couros has written an excellent blog post about the importance for teachers to have student permission before sharing photos on their Twitter accounts about the learning that is taking place in their classrooms. This is something that I strongly believe in, and it was affirming to see someone post such a well-written article expressing the same sentiments. As teachers, we often think that the simple media release form signed by parents is enough… but is it? Perhaps legally it is, but what about ethically? For instance, as Couros points out, "Each day is different and there are days where maybe a student is not up for you sharing their picture to the world." Furthermore, we generally don't allow students to snap pictures of us without our permission, so why should it be any different for them? As Jimmy Casas (as cited by Couros) says, "What we model is what we get."
Ultimately, we, as teachers, must model and teach about sound digital citizenship, as this is not always modeled and taught at home. Perhaps our modelling and educating about digital citizenship in schools will empower children whose parents have not been very responsible in forming their digital identities to have discussions with their parents about what they are comfortable with sharing.
What follows are more questions than answers...
Search engines and social media sites play a central role in building one’s reputation online. This statement is all the more evident in our current provincial election. To date, there have been four candidates that have been dropped, including a campaign manager. I will not get into naming parties, as if you are interested (or haven't already heard about the events below), that information is readily available online. This post is not intended to be partisan.
Undoubtedly, it is the responsibility of every person to demonstrate good citizenship. Notice I did not specify "digital" citizenship, as those who wish to lead our province ought to being upstanding citizens regardless of the spaces they find themselves in (online and offline). However, what is becoming more and more apparent in the first week of this election season is that online behaviour is deriving higher consequences than offline behaviour. For example, candidates with DUI convictions (sometimes multiple convictions) are being supported in continuing their campaign, while others who have posted questionable or offensive remarks online are being dropped from the race. Why is this the case? Is one behaviour worse than the other? Certainly one behaviour put the lives of others at risk, but the consequence in this election is less severe. When we consider supporting a particular candidate, do we assess their online and offline citizenship equally? As Nathan Jurgenson says, the two are inherently enmeshed.
While we tend to be forgiving of past offline behaviour (i.e. a DUI conviction from 10 years ago), the Leader-Post reports that "Saskatchewan voters aren’t so forgiving about offensive or embarrassing posts made by candidates on social media, according to new poll numbers from Mainstreet for Postmedia." Why do we not extend the same forgiveness to past online behaviour? Should the life expectancy of accountability/consequence be any different? According to this survey, "59 per cent of respondents would be less likely to vote for a candidate with a questionable social media history." When it comes to questionable social media history, do we consider the time, context, and social conditions in which the post was made? Do we consider whether there was one post demonstrating misjudgement or a pattern of posts that demonstrate misjudgement? If someone is remorseful for a mistake made online--particularly when it was just one post/tweet--is it reasonable to hold that person accountable for a lifetime? Are we really to believe that the candidates who run their campaigns the full term of the election have demonstrated perfect citizenship during the course of their lives? I think it's more likely they just didn't get caught. We all make mistakes… if one is remorseful and positively evolves from them, then that ought to be taken into consideration--don't you think?
I'm also wondering why the questionable behaviour of these candidates is only exposed after the election is officially called. Why the wait? If a party is genuinely concerned about the integrity of a candidate in an opposing party, why wait until the election starts to bring it out in the open? Personally, I believe it is less about genuine concern regarding a leader's integrity and more about using someone else's transgressions for personal/collective gain. It sounds more like a competitive political game of who can dig up the most dirt… a social media witch hunt if you will. I also assume that some candidates are more savvy than others when it comes to "decontaminating" their social media (i.e. filtering through and deleting everything that one does not want to surface during an election).
Leaders are talking about robust vetting processes... so I'm wondering what an ideal vetting process looks like. What does an intelligent and fair vetting process look like to you?
It's now March… that means we are two months into our learning project. The past couple weeks had left me feeling a little upset with my progress. While I have undoubtedly improved on my vocabulary and subject/verb agreement, as well as my reading and basic writing, I have been very disappointed with my level of verbal fluency. I suppose I expected to be much further ahead in this aspect than where I am. When I speak, it is still very much broken, delayed, and conveys how unsure I am of myself when speaking. It's as if I have to rehearse what I want to say in my head before I speak it… which is less than ideal to be conversational in another language. In a small group setting, by the time I figure out how to phrase something, the conversation has already advanced to the point where my contribution sounds out of place or irrelevant. I had a little cry in the car a couple weeks ago while explaining my frustrations to my husband and confessed to him that I feel like my brain just isn't wired to speak another language with fluency. It hurts, because my main motivation for choosing this particular learning project is for my family. My husband responded by saying something very obvious, yet profound… he said, "Genna, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason." He told me to consider our daughter for example, she is admittedly behind other children her age in terms of her verbal fluency in both English and Spanish. He said that she's still taking it all in, processing it, testing it, and in time, she will find her voice and develop her fluency. I had to sit back and reflect on this for a bit. How could I use my two ears to develop my Spanish fluency?
I began searching the internet about the importance of listening in learning a language. I then came across a blog post by Benny Lewis, wherein he contends that listening to music and "singing is an amazing way to dramatically improve your language learning strategy", and lists 7 benefits to singing in another language. Intrigued by this, I began to explore deeper. A research study out of the University of Edinburg found that adults who sang in a foreign language were twice as good at speaking it. One of the conclusions of the study was "that by listening to words that are sung, and by singing them back, the technique takes advantage of the strong links between music and memory." This got me to thinking about my experience in French class as a child. I still remember the words to the songs we sang, like "Je Suis une Pizza" and "La Belle Pieuvre". Because of the first song, I am certain I could order a pizza in French with relative ease. It's interesting how words/phrases (language) stick to us through music! Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if I could find a copy of those songs today… and I was pleasantly surprised to come across students "remixing" those songs today! Below are two examples:
I then revisitedLewis' blog, wherein he bravely posted a goofy video of himself singing in German. I admired his approach to visible learning, and it got me to thinking…
Reflecting upon how singing in another language can improve fluency, I decided to embark on the most risky part of my learning project yet: learn a song in Spanish and sing it. Seeing as I am not a singer, nor very musically inclined, I decided that I needed to clearly focus on my goal, which was to improve verbal fluency. For this reason, I decided that I would pick a song I was already familiar with in English, as I would not have the added burden of learning a melody and meaning of a song, which could distract me from my main focus. For this reason--and due to being a Disney nut--I chose to learn "Let it Go" from the Frozen soundtrack.
My first issue was trying to find out what the song was entitled in Spanish. I discovered that there are, in fact, two Spanish versions of the song. One is entitled "Suéltalo", which I learned is something like "drop it" in Spanish. This version was produced for Spain, and the movie name was "The Ice Kingdom". The second translation of the song is entitled "Libre Soy", which translates to "I'm free". This version was produced for Latin America, and incidentally, the movie had a different title as well: "A Frozen Adventure". Seeing as I am focusing on Latin Spanish, I chose to learn the latter. As I was reading and practicing the lyrics, I began picking up on some words because my vocabulary has improved over the past two months. What I noticed is that some of the words/metaphors appearing in the Spanish version differed from that of the English version. This caused me to actually examine the translation of the song, and what I noticed is that while the theme is the same, the selection of metaphors differs, which makes the narrative unique in its own way. Up until delving into this endeavor, I had never given any thought to the translation of beloved movies, books, songs, etc. In these cases, direct translation is not possible… translation is always an interpretation. So, while the storyline can be very close, each translation takes on its own unique figurative meaning, which influence our understanding of these narratives. Even when looking for a translation of "Libre Soy" back to English, I saw different interpretations. After I developed my own 'interpretation of the interpretations', I also consulted my husband, a native Spanish speaker, who helped me draw out more sense of the lyrics. Once I rewrote the Spanish lyrics in English, I was able to learn the song better, as I had a full understanding of what I was saying... and within a couple weeks, I know it by heart. You will notice in my video that I have included my English interpretation of the Spanish translation, so that you can also observe the differences in the song.
I'm very nervous about posting myself singing, as I am not a good singer (which is why I'm singing with the original artist, Martina Stoessel) and likely opens me up to judgement and/or criticism… however, singing well was not my goal; building fluency was. I want to make my learning progress visible, so this is the best way to share this learning experience with you. If my video gives you a laugh, then great--I'm glad you are able to derive enjoyment from the experience like I did! My highlight in all of this is, for the first time in my entire life, I got to experience verbal fluency in another language. Granted, the words are not mine; however, I've never been able to speak more than one very basic sentence fluently. In the video below, I was able to speak fluently for three and a half minutes…multiple sentences--it felt so empowering! In previous posts, I have discussed how terribly self-conscious I am to speak Spanish out-loud (even to close family members)… in many ways, this experience liberated me from such a profound self-consciousness. While I may continue to struggle with nervousness and uncertainty while speaking… I'm not going to let self-consciousness stand in the way of me trying! In a way, I'm "Libre Soy" as well!
Does copyright limit creativity?
Can you still be creative when integrating the ideas of others?
How can we, as educators, support remix as a literacy?
In what ways is sharing and open access a moral imperative?
Media is part of our everyday experience; remix can become a powerful tool that allows users to engage simultaneously as consumers and creators. Remix can be defined as taking "cultural artifacts and combing and manipulating them into new kinds of creative blends." Inherent in the conversation of remix is the conversation of copyright and all its legal implications. Larry Lessig, argues that "digital remix constitutes a contemporary form of writing on the scale of a mass cultural practice and raises issues demanding serious reform of current copyright law." For instance, when 10-year-olds are being sued, (as opposed to being encouraged to create and remix culture) a serious problem exists.
Kirby Fergusson, in his TED talk, very eloquently illustrates the idea that everything is a remix. He references a compelling quote from Henry Ford, who once said, "I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable." Fergusson argues that copyright and patent laws are running counter to Ford's notion that we build on the work of others. These laws tend to ignite debate and cultivate standpoints that ideas and works are property to be owned and secured. This is extremely problematic, as it neglects to view ideas as entities that evolve from the minds of many. Fergusson encourages society to embrace remix as a form of creative expression, as "our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another, and admitting this to ourselves isn't an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness. It's a liberation from our misconceptions" and an exciting realization that we can be readers AND writers, consumers AND producers.
It is imperative that society comes to understand that remix is not piracy. Remix is not stealing content from others and disseminating it without the permission of the creator. Remix is not claiming ownership over someone's ideas (whose ideas really only exist from the evolution of other ideas). As Lessig says, remix is about "people taking and recreating using other people's content,using digital technologies to say things differently." In fact, remix has become a means ofcreative expression among youth of today. Remix has empowered voice and has, in essence, become, as Lessig says, "a literacy for this generation… [for people to] participate in the creation and recreation of the culture around us." Furthermore, remix is inherently endless "in the sense that each new mix becomes a meaning-making resource for subsequent remixes… [and, therefore] expands the possibilities for future remixes."
Jonathan McIntosh created a very popular remix entitled “Buffy vs. Edward”. He used the power of remix to expose gender representation in media. He mashed together scenes from Twilight, featuring a creepy, possessive, and domineering Edward, that tends to perpetuate gender stereotypes of women in passive, dependent roles; in contrast, he mashes scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, featuring Buffy in an independent, powerful female role. In essence, McIntosh was able to challenge culture through the powerfully contrasting remix. If you are interested in reading more about McIntosh's purpose and his reflections for this digital remix, you can read more here. You can also check out the video below:
Brett Gaylor's RiP! A Remix Manifesto, explores the "war of ideas" and the Internet as the battleground. It examines the creative process over the product and the divide between those who view their ideas as personal property and those who want to share their ideas to contribute to, and enhance, the creative process. It's an incredibly informative and eye-opening video to check out:
This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the story of Aaron Swartz. Normally my husband is rather disinterested in the material I read and the videos I watch for my grad courses, but he, too, was captivated by this tragic story. The thing that stood out most to me throughout the documentary was when Swartz was talking about his experience with the education system. I think educators (and those who are major decision makers in education) need to sit up and listen. This caused me to dig deeper and read one of Swartz's previously unpublished essays entitled Against School. Swartz argues that schools have "never been about actual education", but rather, they have been about memorization, regurgitation, and no real deep thinking about what has been learned… in fact, the love of learning and natural wonder is essentially stripped from children. What he describes still exists in many classrooms, and that's a frightening reality. As Vanessa discusses in her blog post, we certainly are in need of a revolution in schools.
The effect on the students is almost heartbreaking. Taught that reading is simply about searching contrived stories for particular “text features,” they learn to hate reading. Taught that answering questions is simply about cycling through the multiple choice answers to find the most plausible ones, they begin to stop thinking altogether and just spout random combinations of test buzzwords whenever they’re asked a question. “The joy of finding things out” is banished from the classroom. Testing is in session. - Aaron Swartz
The other phrase that stood out to me in watching the story of Swartz was "sharing is not immoral… it is a moral imperative." I certainly agree. If our society is to improve, if our world is to become a better place, ideas (and access to ideas) cannot be restricted. Restriction can breed social inequality, as Swartz's best friend, Ben Winkler, says, "Poor and rich people pay taxes for the research that goes into these journals. Only those wealthy enough to pay for subscriptions or go to universities can reap the fruits of their funding... It reinforces fundamental social inequalities.” The story of 15 year-old Jack Andraka is another example of the dangers that restrictions can have on human potential. Andraka's "breakthrough pancreatic cancer test would have never come about were it not for access to online journals -- what Internet guru Aaron Swartz was promoting before his death." This openness of information brought about positive change in our world that may have otherwise never been realized!
If you have time, I recommend watching Andraka's talk, entitled Tapping into the Hidden Innovator: An Open Access Story.
There’s been a lot of talk about building walls in the media as of late… and the issue of “firewalls” in schools also continues to be raised. Logic: block bad things, then kids can’t look at bad things, and therefore, we protect children.
Is it really that simple? Is it really even effective?
We all know this is a game of whack-a-mole. Does it make sense to block one app/site? I mean, there will be 10 more where they were. - CBC
Many schools now ask students to “bring your own device.” Which means kids on the school wireless might be blocked by firewalls but those who use a data plan aren’t. - John Himanen via National Post
Why are we so consumed with blocking and so reserved when it comes to educating? Do we remain behind the rolling fires with our fire extinguishers or do we get ahead of the fire, being proactive by educating students how to prevent fires of their own and how to COPE if/when they find themselves faced with a fire? I argue that schools need to TALK, not block; educate, not abdicate.
I find it interesting that society tends to look at the internet as this dangerous place where kids have access to explicit material. I would argue that yes, the internet does have a plethora of explicit material… but so does television, magazines, radio, etc, and even our modern culture in general. The material exists even if we irrationally took the internet away. We can’t block kids from it all, but we can definitely educate them about how to navigate a world infiltrated with this kind of material.
This ultimately boils down to not just digital citizenship, but citizenship in general. How do we educate children to become good citizens at school, at home, and in the world? It certainly does take a village. Classmates Nicole Reeve and Kyle Webb ask very important questions as educators: “How can we help? What can we do?” As far as school goes, I think citizenship and character education need to be infused into curriculum and be reflective of our modern, increasingly digital society. I believe this will empower children to develop robust coping skills (and hopefully, skills to influence change) in a society where explicit content is all around them (digitally and non-digitally).
We can’t be afraid to talk about what’s out there, nor can we instill fear in children that the world (particularly the digital realm) is a dangerous place. I think schools should provide ample opportunity for students to experience the positive power of the digital (and non-digital) tools that students have access to and reclaim these digital (and non-digital) spaces for making a difference. The internet can be considered the home of explicit content (if we allow it), or it can be considered the home of social action, open, connected learning, networking, leadership, inspiring creation and change, etc.
We can no longer ignore the opportunities that exist for our learners today. Our job is to create an education system that is better than the one we grew up in, as will be the duty of the next generation of educators. We must embrace what is right in front of us. - George Couros
The meaningful integration of the Ministry’s digital citizenship continuum where possible should not be a choice… it ought to be mandatory. It’s simply good pedagogy. We are not doing students any favours by ignoring the world they live in; students need to be prepared to be citizens of tomorrow. I believe it starts very young, and I am increasingly hopeful, as in my role as a Teacher Technology Coach I see so many primary teachers leading the way. From the time children are first learning to read and write, teachers are modelling all the positive ways one can consume, contribute, and create online. Call me an eternal optimist, but I believe that this truly does make a difference. I think a significant portion of youth missed these opportunities as a young child, as the internet wasn’t fully understood, digital citizenship wasn’t a priority in education, etc. When the internet is left as digital Wild Wild West, of course issues of cyber-bullying, trolling, cyber self-harm, explicit content, forums like 4chan, etc. are encountered and often spin out of control.
I would argue that children engaging in the behavior mentioned above lack skills (coping skills, social skills, self-control skills, communication skills, etc.), virtues (respect, kindness, empathy, dignity, conscience, etc.), knowledge/education, and likely lacked positive opportunities to engage with the internet in meaningful ways as young children. I don’t think it’s the internet that can be fully blamed; I think the root issues exist offline. So, instead of asking “what sites/apps do we need to block?” we ought to be asking “what skills, virtues, knowledge, etc do we need to develop?” We also need to have robust support for the mental health of youth. If these skills, virtues, knowledge, well-being, etc. are developed, I think the internet (and the offline, which is undeniably interconnected) will flourish.
I have been spending quite a bit of time using BBC’s language learning program that I began once I decided upon learning Spanish for my learning project for EC&I 831. This week I would like to share a little bit about it with you and also formally recommend it to other classmates who chose to learn a language for their learning project, or who are simply interested in language learning.
The BBC offers their interactive program in several languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Greek, Portuguese and Chinese. Of course, I have been engaging with the Spanish program, entitled Mi Vida Loca, which happened to be the 2009 winner of Interactive Innovation in the British academy of Television Craft Awards. The interactive video program consists of 22 episodes that are divided into specific topics. The videos make you feel like you are a part of the action.
Each episode is a combination of real-action video with language teaching and practice, focused on developing communicative skills. The language is presented in small bitesize chunks… Learners are encouraged to practice and to speak out loud to the characters they encounter. - BBC
Each episode has a narrator on the side that introduces the story and also quizzes you throughout the episode on your knowledge. Through the course of the lesson, you engage with the interactive video/story that brings you into the action. Below you can watch what the first episode looked like:
Each episode is also accompanied with supplementary materials that include the key vocabulary, an explanation of the grammar structures, and extra practice.
The site even discusses how this program can be used in the classroom and they have a site dedicated to Teaching with Mi Vida Loca. The site says, “If you have the right set-up, such as an interactive whiteboard or a projector with speakers, you could use it for whole class teaching… If you don't have access to a computers or whiteboard, then Mi Vida Loca can be used as homework to either prepare for or reinforce classwork.” While I’ve never taught a language class, I could see how this program could be integrated into the classroom, particularly through role playing.
I’m now almost half way through the program. I am definitely enjoying it, but one thing I struggle with is that the program is only offered in European Spanish and not Latin Spanish. My learning project is focused on Latin Spanish, so sometimes I find myself missing some of the words, as the accent is considerably different on certain letters i.e. the “c” is pronounced as “th” in the program, while “c” is pronounced as “s” in Latin Spanish. That being said, I’ve adapted to this and just listen more carefully. I can definitely say the program has enhanced my vocabulary, which is key if I want to improve my Spanish speaking.
Does it have to be one or the other? I believe there is a time and place for both...
In today’s increasingly digital age, young (and not-so-young) have a plethora of digital networking tools at their fingertips. Felicity Duncan, in her article Why Many Kids are Leaving Social Networks, discusses how many teens are increasingly picking up more intimate networking tools such as group texting, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.
Duncan highlights three main reasons for this increase in more intimate networking tools. What follows in my insight on each of these reasons.
If we feel the need to perform a “perfect” identity, we risk silencing non-dominant ideas. A pre-service teacher might be hesitant to discuss “touchy” subjects like racism online, fearing future repercussions from principals or parents. A depressed teenager might fear that discussing her mental health will make her seem weak or “crazy” to potential friends or teachers or employers and thus not get the support she needs. If we become mired in the collapsed context of the Internet and worry that our every digital act might someday be scrutinized by someone, somewhere, the scope of what we can “safely” discuss online is incredibly narrow… - Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt
Duncan then explores the implications that moving from broadcasting to narrowcasting has on business and the public sphere. One thing she mentions is that “parents who may be accustomed to monitoring at least some proportion of their children’s online lives may find themselves increasingly shut out.” I only partially agree with this statement. While I think it is definitely important to connect with your child online, I would hope that the monitoring of their child’s online life isn’t restricted to online monitoring. What I mean by this is that parents MUST talk to their children about what they are up to BOTH offline AND online. We can’t rely on digital tools alone to monitor the online lives of our youth. We can never diminish the value of talking and being actively engaged in our children’s (digital and non-digital) lives.
Another implication that Duncan cites is the increase of group text and Snapchat (and the perceived exodus of young people from broadcast social media) will decrease the opportunity for new ideas to enter their networks. While Duncan has a very good point here, I would argue that we can’t rely on social media alone to expose us to new ideas that challenge our current beliefs, as those tools, too, have algorithms that can, to some degree, satisfy our filter bubble as well. Furthermore, people may only friend and follow others with similar interests and beliefs… or block or turn off notifications that misalign with their personal beliefs. What I am getting at is that narrow/partisan views aren’t caused by intimate networks like Snapchat and iMessage… what they are caused by is a lack of skill in developing one's open and critical lens. Navigating the World Wide Web (as well as televised, radio, print, blogs, Ted Talks, etc) requires this open and critical lens, and can also allow us broaden our exposure to new ideas and challenge our current beliefs. Yes, we have social media (which I am a definite advocate of), and it does create a “powerful and open public sphere, in which ideas could spread and networks of political action could form”; but that being said, if youth are never taught or granted opportunity on HOW to leverage social media TO spread ideas and network with others for action, then it is not Snapchat nor iMessage that is the culprit. This is why we must cultivate contemporary skills in our youth, preparing them for the world before them and not the world that was once before us.
Duncan also discusses that broadcast social media has turned into merely consumption for teens. Again, I have to wonder if this is a result of what has been modelled for them and a lack of purposeful opportunity both at school and at home to move beyond consumption and into creation. That being said, I think we have to be careful about this idea that consumption is inherently bad. The key is BALANCE. If we don’t at least consume a little, how are we to create? We need to build upon the ideas of others, and we do that by first consuming their ideas. For example, each week in this class, we are consuming… we read articles, watch videos, and attend a 1.5 hour virtual meeting… these things INSPIRE us to create blog posts, videos, etc. Classmate, Logan Petlack, is a great example of this, as, through his consumption of this information, was inspired to create a Snapchat story the next day at school. If we do not engage in the consumption process, our creation process is likely to be less informed. Another example is the whole remix culture; from consumption comes an incredible amount of new creativity inspired by the creativity of others. Again, it is all about balance; if students are more concerned with keeping up the Kardashians than keeping up with the wider public and political sphere, there is a problem. We (as educators, parents, and society) need to empower youth to take interest, broaden their [dare I say it] consumption, and inspire creation.
Ultimately, there is a time and place for networking through broadcast social media and through narrowcasting social media. Some stories are more suited for an intimate audience, while others can inspire a larger audience. If educators, parents, and society can educate about and model appropriate and effective use, perhaps we can empower youth to capitalize on the benefits of both modes of networking, to both serve themselves and others.
For a comparison of broadcasting and narrowcasting, click here to view an infographic on Flickr.
I write this post from the fifth floor of the Regina General Hospital on the Neurology ward. How quickly life can change. When February began I was a healthy person, enjoying life, and very happy as a wife, mother, teacher and grad student. Then, Sunday, February 8th struck with a vengeance. On that day, I began to have the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I confidently make that statement as someone who went through a very difficult childbirth my with my now 3 year-old daughter. I was promptly admitted to the hospital and am currently under the care of a great neurologist, Dr. Rehman. I have received the diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia, which is known to be one of the most excruciating pains known to humanity. For a professional explanation you can watch the video below:
While my future is a big question mark at this point in time, as doctors continue to develop a plan for pain management (and possible pain elimination through surgery), presently I am taking anti-convulsive (anti-seizure) medication and heavy narcotics to manage the pain. As a high achiever, I have been very worried about my two graduate-level courses I am taking this semester, but I feel fortunate to have such kind and understanding professors like Alec Couros, Katia Hildebrandt, and Fr. John Meehan, who are willing to work with me and my condition to see me succeed. Thank you... my gratitude is beyond what I can adequately express.
While the pain has no words, the most difficult part of this whole ordeal has been being away from my daughter. Going days on end without hugging her is the greatest pain of all. That being said, I am eternally grateful that my parents in Moose Jaw have been able to take her and care for her while my husband, Luis, balances his busy job and spending time with me in the hospital. Although I continue to be very weak, to demonstrate progress on my learning project this week, I decided to make it both practical and personal. As you have read in my previous posts, I am extremely self-conscious about speaking in Spanish. This week (maybe it's the drugs that the nurses are putting in my IV that gave me a confidence boost), I decided to read some picture books to my little girl. While I read to my daughter every night, I have never read to her in Spanish... ever. This is a big step for me. Coincidentally, the literature on language-learning also promotes reading children's books as a way to increase fluency. What you see below is a video of me reading bedtime stories to my little girl, as I am unable to be there in person to read them to her. Please forgive my delayed/slurred speech... some of it is the Spanish and some of it is the pain medication. My parents tell me that my daughter continues to watch the video on repeat, which melts my heart. I continue to be amazed by the way technology can bring people together and enhance relationships.
Sorry for the short post this week, as I regain my strength, my posts will improve. Thank you for your understanding. I hope to get released from the hospital this week as well!
I'm happy to share that I have made more progress this week on my learning project! I continue to use Duolingo, and have now reached 46% fluency (according to the app). I'm not at all pretending to believe that this is an accurate measure, as there is no way I'm 46% fluent, but I don't pay attention to that... for me it's just about progress and documenting my learning. What I appreciate most about this app is the ease of doing a lesson here or there on my phone when I have time in my day... it doesn't require me sitting down for a set amount of time; I get to define when, where, and how I use it. My speed of progress on the app has slowed down as the lessons have become more and more difficult, but nevertheless, I continue to plug away. Why? Well, ultimately, I ask myself if the tool I am using is helping or hindering my personal learning. I can definitely say that it has expanded my vocabulary, so therefore, it is helping. That being said, I do not equate "helping" to be the same as "enriching". I personally choose to continue with the app in order to expand my vocabulary. Again, I stress that the numbers the app produces are not what's important, nor are they representative of my true learning journey. This app is but one small strategy in a gradually increasing mix that will support me in my journey towards Spanish fluency.
As per my original post on my learning project, I have taken on two more strategies to support my learning of the Spanish language: 1) setting the primary language as Spanish on all my digital devices, and 2) labelling things in my home to help build my vocabulary.
Changing my Devices to SPanish...
Below you can watch how I changed the language on my PC, MacBook, and iPhone from English to Spanish. I think this is a good strategy for me because I spend so much time on my devices, that it's another way to immerse myself in the language. I will also note that both videos I made this week were made iniMovie using Spanish as the default language! It was tricky in spots (i.e. remembering what menu item was what), but I am proud that I managed to do it.
One thing that has always driven me bonkers about Spanish is the masculine and feminine aspect. What makes a table feminine?!? What makes a refrigerator masculine?!? Why?!? I decided to colour code all the items in my kitchen and living room to help me grasp the feminine/masculine head scratcher (knowing if the word is preceded by "la" or "el", "las" or "los", "una" or "un", etc)...
Although the video below is only 4 minutes, the time it took to look up each word, determine if it was masculine or feminine, sort the words, write the words on Post-its, memorize the words, and then post them around my home, took considerably longer than four minutes! In any case, I hope you enjoy my fun little Post-it video!
“Altogether, we compose some 3.6 trillion words every day on e-mail and social media”. A common question I’m often asked is: why should I blog, join social media, or even create a digital footprint? Some people doubt that their online presence matters and believe the cybersphere is already too abundant with information. Others think that online spaces have an impenetrable dominant voice, deeming online participation pointless.
Because Okolloh was thinking out loud, and because she had an audience of like-minded people, serendipity happened.
The story of Ory Okolloh disproves these notions that online presence doesn't matter. I am also reminded of the profound words of Mother Teresa, which I believe apply to the story of Okolloh and many others who have put their voice out there:
We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
The ocean truly is less without our drops. As Clive Thompson says, “The fact that so many of us are writing — sharing our ideas, good and bad, for the world to see — has changed the way we think… and that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge.” This is why it is imperative that we, as teachers, provide opportunities for our students to develop their voice and media literacies so that they, too, can meaningfully participate in our connected world.
Thomson mentions that historically, literacy has been focused on "reading, not writing... consumption, not production." Dave Cormier elaborated on this during class on Tuesday night, saying that “knowing” has erroneously become “content”. In an age of digital communications, our role as educators is to transform this simple way of “knowing”. It is imperative that “knowing” be flexible, embracing of diverse ideas and perspectives, adept at making valuable connections between ideas, adaptable for changing ideas to fit new contexts, able to create new meaning… and most importantly, to be a complex, lifelong process wherein the “community becomes the curriculum”. If we believe in this way of “knowing”, we create fertile soil for rhizomatic learning to bloom.
Keeping with the theme of learning’s continuity with nature, I also came across an intriguing article in the New York Times this week, wherein a German forest ranger contends that trees have social networks as well. In some ways, we can look to trees as a model of learning in a globally connected world.
Every voice, every idea matters, even if the audience is small. The audience effect is a facinating phenomenon. I created a dragontape (below) of a few quotes that I think illustrate the importance of moving from consumers to creators and sharing our ideas with an authentic audience:
As Adam Bellow says in the clip above, students are infinitely more motivated when sharing their ideas with an authentic audience, as opposed to a single audience: teacher. In fact, there is research to prove that there is a significant shift in performance when students know others are watching, as it compels them to pay greater attention, and consequently, learn more. Furthermore, an authentic audience can take us out of ourfilter bubbles because it can clarify thinking.; as Thompson says, "It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing." What's more is that the audience effect does not necessitate a large audience:
The cognitive shift in going from an audience of zero (talking to yourself) to an audience of 10 (a few friends or random strangers checking out your online post) is so big that it’s actually huger than going from 10 people to a million.
When I began to flatten my classroom walls, I truly grasped this idea. The audience does not need to be massive to be authentic, nor to have an impact. During the past couple weeks, I have realized this all over again. A teacher approached me before Christmas to chat about her upcoming unit in Grade 2: sending and receiving messages. In past years, her students would get designated a pen-pal from across the hall, and they would exchange letters (messages) back and forth. This year she was looking to enhance this unit by incorporating 21st century literacies. Enter FlipGrid! We decided to extend communication beyond the school walls as well, by connecting with Grade 9 classroom in the city. Although the audience is small (two classrooms who can see each other’s collection of messages), the teacher has already observed a significant difference in the quality of the messages and student motivation. When I went to the high school to help the Grade 9 students get started in responding to the messages from their Grade 2 e-pals, I was in absolute awe at how excited and motivated the students were... they genuinely care about the project! An "authentic audience", along with meaningful BYOT, enhanced the students’ engagement and sense of empowerment. You might be wondering how this can relate to Christian Ethics for the Grade 9s… The students are exchanging messages back and for the entire month of February and a portion of March, three times per week. Each week, the Grade 2's will receive a Christian challenge from their Grade 9 e-pal, and the subsequent messages will involve dialogue about faith and service, as well as getting to know their e-pal on personal level. Using digital communication, students (as young as 7 years old) are learning how to connect and communicate with authentic audiences in online spaces, in positive ways. This activity integrates some the knowledge and skills of the Ministry’s Digital Citizenship Continuum as well. I am so excited to be supporting this project and I am looking forward to watching it unfold. I have included two videos below (using just the audio), where you can hear the initial message from one of the Grade 2 students, and the response from their Grade 9 e-pal. I have also included the Grade 2 outcomes that we are targeting.
The project may seem small... however, if students are not afforded opportunities in school to use digital technologies in positive ways, to authentically connect with others, and to develop their voice, then I contend that we have failed to set them up for lifelong learning and success outside of school walls.
The above story is tragic, indeed. Because Duchesne was young, he really had no way to get his ideas out there. Now, with digital technologies, young people CAN get their ideas out there, and are able to have a voice in a way they once could not. We need to embrace this new reality and what it affords our learners. It is largely up to educators to develop students' capacity to authentically connect with others, share their ideas, invite response, and collaboratively create new ideas, because students are not digital natives.
But it's not only students who need to get connected and share ideas... in today's globally connected world, all educators must as well. "When inventive people aren’t aware of what others are working on, the pace of innovation slows." Just consider for a moment the impact that this slowing pace of innovation (as a result of disconnected teachers) can have on education. As Clive Thompson says, "Failed networks kill ideas, but successful ones trigger them." The impact is profound.
Ideas flourish and multiply for those educators who are making efforts to build their PLNs. It is imperative that teachers get connected; and this is what our EC&I 831 course with Alec and Katia is empowering us to do. So... back to those questions at the beginning of my post: why should I blog, join social media, or even create a digital footprint?... because the Internet is now "the world’s most powerful engine for putting heads together"... and we MUST use this powerful engine to connect minds if we are to provide the best possible education for youth today and tomorrow. Ultimately, as Michael Drennan reminds us, "schools are for preparation to enter a wide world of possibility."
Our world is connected in ways that were once inconceivable. Digital technology and social networking is transforming the way we learn, and consequently, transforming the role of the teacher. While some teachers may feel as if their role is becoming obsolete, I would argue that our role is now more critical than ever... it just looks different.
"Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime"; it does not stop once a piece of paper is handed to you during a graduation or convocation ceremony. Connectivism in a modern theory of learning that educators must embrace. As my classmate, Nathan Bromm stated, connectivism is the new lifelong learning. In order to learn authentically in our contemporary society (and be prepared for tomorrow), students need to be able to develop 21st century literacies, which include connecting and collaborating with others, as Howard Rheingold argues in his article. We, as teachers, have the opportunity to make a profound positive impact on the futures of our students if we choose to embrace this change... otherwise, we leave our students prepared for the future that once awaited us, but unprepared for the actual future that awaits them. This requires us to ditch the idea that learning is a transaction between the teacher and the student… it requires us to regard learning as the meaningful interaction between the student and their evolving Personal Learning Network… cultivating lifelong learners in a world where, as George Siemens points out, "Knowledge is growing exponentially… [and] the life of knowledge is now measured in months and years".
But how do we get their attention?!? As Rheingold states in his article, he used to feel as if attention was compromised when students were not looking at him while he was talking to them; but then he realized… "If I can't compete with the Internet for their attention, that's my problem." Not accepting this reality, schools (and even post-secondary institutions) have even gone so far as to ban technology in their classrooms because they think technology is inherently distracting. A Forbes article on the issue says that, "some professors feel they need to create engaging presentations to compete with technology for students’ attention." Does it have to be a competition? I do not believe so. We, as teachers, have had it engrained in our minds that in order to have students' attention and make learning meaningful, we need to be "engaging"… but this pedagogical mindset is flawed. George Couros talks about the importance of shifting from engagement to empowerment. I believe empowerment is what truly captures the "attention" of students.
A participatory culture of connected learners is empowerment. Rheingold's article illustrates that engagement is not the key to attention… nor is it the key to authentic learning. He, argues that a commitment to developing 21st Century literacies is the key to authentic learning. Rheingold, too, advocates for empowered learners, in saying "participating, even if it's no good and nobody cares, gives one a different sense of being in the world. When you participate, you become an active citizen rather than simply a passive consumer of what is sold to you." I know people share concerns that there are dominant voices in online spaces; while that may be true, how will that ever change if we, as educators, don't do our part to change that status-quo? During my schooling, my voice went as far as the teacher's hand-in basket. Today, we have the opportunity to empower student voice. As for concerns about those students who live on the margins and may lack access to technology, that is even MORE reason for us to have them exercise their voice with the technology available to them at school. As Rheingold says, "The technologies that we have in our pockets today are powerful engines for participation… simply participating is a start." A "start" is all we need to influence change... and it is certainly the seed to have students discover they have a voice in the first place. This begins in schools... but if we don't embrace it, students will have a more resonant intellectual and creative life outside of school than inside it. Students deserve both environments to provide fertile soil for learning, and for those students who come from disadvantage, it is even more critical that schools are environments for rich intellectual and creative opportunities afforded by the capabilities of technological innovations and participatory culture. Furthermore, we need to enhance this participation to ignite collaboration, as "doing things together gives us more power than doing things alone." As my classmate, Vanessa, said, "Connectivity does not need to be the perpetrator; it can be a gift, but only if we do allow it be."
Lastly, just because we live in a networked society, we cannot make the erroneous assumption that since students were born in the age of digital innovation and possess these technologies, that they are digital natives. "No one is born a native speaker of 'digital' the way no one is born a native speaker of any language". Being on Facebook or Instagram does not in any way correlate to possessing essential 21st century skills for participatory and collaborative culture. The deceiving term of "digital natives" coerces comfort into knowledge, and those are two fundamentally different things. A better term for many youth would be what David White has termed "digital residents". You can watch an excellent video that Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt introduced to us last semester regarding the fallacy of digital natives and the more appropriate descriptor of digital residents. Twenty-first century skills must be cultivated in schools and educators must do their part to provide context, immersion and practice for students so that they will learn how to navigate our connected world and becoming authentic and particpatory lifelong learners.
Week One. Download apps. While I was familiar with what Duolingo was and how it worked, I had never used it for my OWN learning. Instead, I set my husband's family up with an account a couple years ago to help them with their English.
In the post above, perhaps I did have the spirit of a teacher (in a sense); but I did not have the spirit of a learner. Really and truly, teachers should be facilitators of learning, as well as learners themselves. In hindsight, I can see that I was unintentionally sending a message that they had something to learn, but I didn't. That evening, I should have been modelling what I was encouraging.
Here I am now: both ready and committed to improving my Spanish speaking/listening capacity. Over the past week and a half, I have been engaging with DuoLingo. I am typically not the biggest fan of "drill and practice" apps; I believe more in the "creation" apps/programs, where people can create new meaning of their learning to share with others. Like Michael Welsch says in his TED Talk, we need to move from being simply "knowledgeable to being knowledge-able"; I truly want to be knowledge-able in the Spanish language. Nevertheless, I am starting at ground zero here, and decided to give the drill and practice app a shot for my own learning. After engaging with the app, I can say with certainty that I have been improving. Over the past week and a half, you will notice that I have made it from ground zero to level seven! I still have a long way to go, and this will be just one of the many learning strategies I engage with to support me in my ultimate learning goal.
Duolingo helps you with goal-setting, increases your vocabulary, and gets you to focus on comprehending phrases (as opposed to just singular words on flashcards). I love that when I have down time, I can practice my Spanish, as the lessons are short and sweet. I'm also happy to have connected with other Spanish language learners, including my classmate Vanessa, to engage in the social aspect of learning a language. While I am enjoying seeing a visual progression of my learning using Duolingo, I am still not comfortable speaking in Spanish, as the program offers very little to develop this. That being said, the app will definitely help people with their writing and listening, but my ultimate goal is to develop my capacity for verbal expression. I have already been seeking ways to tap into that goal as I progress on my learning journey, and you will be hearing about it in later posts. In the coming weeks, I would love to make videos of my speaking in Spanish... but that will come as soon as I feel a bit more comfortable.
Below is a video of me using Duolingo.
A week ago, I was both excited and overwhelmed by all the potential project ideas that were flooding my mind! A few days ago, I wrote my first post for this course, in which I had narrowed down my options to what I considered to be my top potential passion projects. After much contemplation, I have come to a decision… to improve my Spanish.
What's My Purpose?
My reason for taking this opportunity to learn Spanish is deeply rooted in personal connection to the language. It started when I met a "muy guapo Mexicano" while on vacation in Mexico. It may be cliché to say, but I knew I was going to marry him one day.
Fast forward to the day that Luis asked me to meet his family… while I knew not one person in his family could speak English, it was never an issue until I was about to meet them. It then clicked that I needed to start learning Spanish, so off to Chapters I went to buy several Spanish Language workbooks that would help me pick it up in no time. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong…
I had always prided myself on performing well in school; things always came rather easy, I performed well on tests, and always had good grades. I learned the hard way that to be good at "school", did not necessarily mean I was good at "learning". I didn't accept this reality right away, however… for a while, I let this truth deeply impact my pride. Truthfully, I became so insecure about the fact that I couldn't just pick up the language after spending hours with my workbooks. I also felt ashamed at the time that I had a university degree and was struggling with learning Spanish, while my boyfriend didn't have a day of post-secondary under his belt (he went straight from high school to working), yet he kept getting better and better at English… WITHOUT expensive workbooks! The sketchnote below by Sylvia Duckworth, based on the thoughts of George Couros, really dispels the myth "schooling" being superior.
Fast forward to meeting the family… while they were all so welcoming (which I felt tremendous gratitude for), I felt extremely uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than being in a room with a bunch of people and not understanding even one word they are saying. Worse yet, is when someone says something funny… you're in a stressful [awkward] predicament:
A) Do I smile/laugh too... and look foolish because they totally know that I don't understand what they are saying? or
B) Do I keep a poker face... and look foolish because I'm the only one in the room that isn't laughing/smiling? Ugh… it's the worst.
When my traditional, structured, sequential approach to learning Spanish failed miserably, with my pride still wounded, I changed my approach and found a crutch: Luis. Luis was not only my boyfriend, but my personal translator. The poor guy went back and forth translating everything. The problem was that I became dependent on this and he ultimately became my lifeline in Mexico.
After applying for Luis to come to Canada to visit, and being rejected twice because we (in the eyes of Citizenship and Immigration) failed to prove that he would return to his home country (even with a return ticket), the wedding needed to be in Mexico. Recently, Trudeau has committed to lifting the visa requirement for Mexicans to travel to Canada. This is great news for our family!
Standing in front of a priest, it was time for me to say my vows to my husband. Since the wedding needed to be in Mexico and we got married at a local church, I was required to say my vows in Spanish… I stumbled all over them. Nerves combined with total Spanish illiteracy was quite the combination! I hope to have the opportunity one day to renew my original Spanish vows and do a good job at it!
My Baseline & My Goal...
You need to know where you are in order to know where you need to go! My understanding of the language has improved little-by-little over the years, but after recently returning from a 2-week visit in Mexico during Christmas, it is becoming more and more evident that I need to invest time and effort into this. I still rely on my translators (Luis and Google), and I genuinely want to rely on them much less. In terms of my speaking... I know single words, but I cannot speak in sentences. Shamefully (I hate admitting this publicly), my speaking is terrible, and I'm actually quite self-conscious about it, which has impacted my chances to practice and improve. My learning goal is to improve my speaking over the next 10 weeks.
I am ditching the "school" method and embracing the "learning" method that George Couros speaks of. My learning Spanish is going to be creative, explore my interests, ubiquitous, social, personal, non-linear, and about making connections. I notice that my classmate, Vanessa, has also chosen to learn Spanish--perhaps we can support each other a bit during this process!
I came across an infographic on Pinterest the other day that inspired me (see below)! It is entitled "How to Learn Spanish in 10 Days"... for my project, I am going to adapt this to "How Genna Will Improve her Spanish in 10 Weeks". I love the ideas, and I plan to make a video hopefully each week that shows me doing most of these ideas (not necessarily in the same order). While I am feeling vulnerable and very likely to make a fool out of myself publicly, I am eager to embrace this approach to open and social learning!
My blog posts about my project will mostly consist of home videos, but I will share them via Twitter as well. If you are interested in following my learning journey, follow the hashtag #GennaLearnsSpanish
I'm really looking forward to another semester of learning with Alec and Katia! While I haven't made any final decisions on what I'm going to explore for my major digital project, the open-endedness of it excites me! As of right now, I'm considering an e-pal video message project connecting classrooms, taking the opportunity to greatly improve my Spanish, learning the ins and outs of photography, learning how to make quality sketchnotes like one of my fav sketchnoters, Sylvia Duckworth, or perhaps a project around connecting Catholic faith and identity to social media consumption and contribution... many options that I need to let percolate for a little bit longer before I make my decision!
This week we were asked to introduce ourselves and share our experiences and frustrations with technology (in 90 seconds or less). Below is my short response:
Teacher & Tech Coach with Regina Catholic Schools. Passion for EdTech, 21st century student-centered pedagogy, connected learning & differentiated instruction. Grad student.