Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cultural Comparisons and Contrasts: Utilizing Google Voice

As a teacher on a 4x4 block system, I typically have about 90 students at a time. As a teacher on a traditional 7 block system, one can have about 150 students at a time. It is a slice of my proverbial work pie that I must work to know, see, speak with, and hear all of my student every day to the best of my ability.
How I view my role as an educator, 2014
Additionally, as a modern language teacher, I need to assess my students' speaking production on a regular basis. I have experienced that with a classroom of 25-30 students, it is difficult to give up that precious learning time, so that I can hear each student speak and give feedback. 

This year, I experimented with a new tool that I believe will free up some of that time formally spent on speaking assessment. Much less often will my students sit and patiently (passively) wait for their turn at the language steering wheel. That new tool is Google Voice

Old teaching practice: assign students a guided conversation task to role play with a partner with a set amount of time to prepare, assess their progress by having them perform that conversation in front of the class, enter grade in gradebook

National Standards for Foreign Language Education
Standard 1.1: Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions
Alabama Course of Study Languages Other Than English
Modern Languages Level 1.3.: Present oral and written information in the target language using familiar vocabulary and correct structure in the present time frame.
New paradigm: assign students a guided conversation task to role play with a partner, give students an allotted amount of time and then WHEN THEY ARE READY, they submit their speaking sample IN A PRIVATE SPACE with their cellphones using Google Voice, return to the classroom to WORK ON ANOTHER TASK while other students finish, assess their speaking samples when I choose, FORWARD STELLAR SAMPLES to parents of students using Gmail with a note of encouragement (Look! Your student is speaking German! Prima!), enter grade in gradebook

Last year, I was able to do this type of activity twice with German 2 students. Both times, it went so well, that it seemed too good to be true. Only a couple of technical glitches occurred, and I just asked those pairs to resubmit their speaking samples with no penalty. No complaints, no resistance, and the students were all engaged using the target language and technology. It's truly an administrator's dream. In fact, I tweeted about my first run with Google Voice on February 5th, which was Digital Learning Day (#DLDay). My instructional partner retweeted that, which then got retweeted by the Alabama State Superintendent of Education, Tommy Bice. (Apologies for the tooting of my horn, but I thought it was nice to having world language learning recognized at the state level!)

Screenshot from my Twitter @frauboynton, 2014
I'm now considering ways in which students can use Google Voice at another level. I'd like to see them use it for culture discussion, for example. Maybe at the end of a unit of Austrian culture, like this one about the city of Salzburg, students could speak for 2-3 minutes about the similarities and differences between Salzburg and their own hometown. For novice learners, I believe that this can totally be done in English. For intermediate to advanced learners, this can be done in German. For those students at all levels, who are continuing on to Advanced Placement, this is an excellent activity to prepare and vertical team for the Spoken Presentational portion of the exam.

Google Voice also allows opportunity to do collaborative work with other subjects and classrooms. At the end of the day, building COMMUNICATION skills should be a primary objective for all educators.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy. CCRA.SL.6
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
For a clear and concise perspective on the value of podcasting and students submitting digital work, watch this video. I believe that it applies to this arena of students using Google Voice, as well.

During the past two years, I have developed several interdisciplinary units with colleagues in my building. What if at the end of a lesson, we assessed our students' understanding of the connections between the world language and culture class and the other subject area (science, math, ELA, music, art, etc.) using Google Voice? I think that it could be even more powerful than before.

I presenting to at my school district's professional development day on this topic, so I've created a Padlet wall with the resources that I have found to be most helpful with getting ready to use Google Voice in the classroom. If you know of any others that are good, please leave a comment and share!

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