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Google Apps for Language Teaching

14 Sep

workshopphoto Below are the slides from my presentation at the Google in Education Vietnam Summit. It is always a great opportunity to gather as a group of educators, to reflect on the latest technological tools and to share ideas and strategies of effective technology integration in the classroom.

Google Apps offer teachers the necessary tools to give learnerGoogle Apps in Language Teachings opportunities for critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration – essential skills needed for every learner in today’s digital age.

To learn more about Google Apps in Education, check out Google in Education.

Google in Education Summit is coming to Vietnam

25 Aug

My school has been using Google Apps for its administrative and educational needs since it started out two years ago. This year it is hosting the Google in Education Summit on September 14 and 15, 2013. This will be the first time that a Google Apps event comes to Vietnam.

Teachers, IT specialists, administrators and anyone who is interested in teaching and learning at any level and to any age group would benefit from attending the Google in Education Summit in Hanoi. For more information on the sessions and presenters and to register for this event, go to:

Vietnam Google SummitGoogle in Education Summits are held all over the world and usually include Google certified engineers, teachers and trainers. In addition, teachers who use Google Apps in their classroom will also be presenting. I will be one of the presenters at the Vietnam Summit.

I have been using Google Apps in teaching and for collaborative projects with English language learners of every age and level. This has enhanced my teaching and communication with students, families and colleagues. It has also resulted in an instruction that goes beyond the classroom.

Google Apps in Action

In a Flipped Classroom environment, learners do the learning at their own pace, from anywhere, and do the practice and application of the learning with their teacher and classroom peers. Using Google Apps, this is how a Flipped Classroom learning experience would look like:

  • The learner watches a video or listens to a lesson on YouTube or reads an article shared on Google Docs.
  • The student then answers some questions and records them in either Google Docs or Forms. He/she can also work collaboratively with another student on a shared document to prepare an in-depth response.
  • In class, the teacher responds to inquiries. As such, the time spent in the classroom is more about interaction with the teacher who can then address personal learning needs and styles by giving students one on one time and by providing them with different methods of showing their learning.
  • The student has an opportunity to reflect on his/her learning through sharing and collaboration with other classmates. He/she may also ask classmates to edit their written work. This collaboration can take place with classmates not only from their classroom but also with students from anywhere in the globe.
  • The final learning product is then published in an e-portfolio in the form of a blog, a drawing or a recording.

It is easy to see why a Flipped Classroom environment is sweeping the education community worldwide. It is a versatile, engaging manner of teaching that gives students control of their learning and uses teacher contact time more efficiently. Plus, it is inexpensive for schools to implement especially when schools adopt Google Apps.

In my next post, I will share some of the highlights from the summit. In the meantime, you can read more about the summit by visiting the event’s website.

The Powers of Photography

18 May

Where memory fails, Google remembers! In today’s technology driven world, search engines dig out information about us even when we no longer have a recollection of them ever taking place. That is how I came across a project I took part in, while teaching English in North Carolina, entitled CommonVisions.

Essentially the project consisted of taking pictures using disposable cameras. (Do these even exist now?) There were 20 participants from 8 different countries. The youngest was 12 years old and the oldest around 60. We met twice a month.

It was 2001. At that time, taking pictures meant using film photography and one had to wait about a week to see their ‘developed’ pictures. We were so filled with excitement upon receiving the envelope with our name on it. We would open it hastily and go through our pictures choosing one to share with our group that evening and leaving the rest to savor later.

This was not a photography course. For most, like me, we had no prior lessons on photography nor were any techniques taught. We were told to simply click when it felt right. We were given the medium of photography to capture that which we deemed important and to then use the photographs to dialog about race, ethnicity and culture.

As the English as an Additional Language Specialist, my job consisted of teaching English to Hispanic children of migrant worker. To achieve this goal, I worked at bridging the gap between parents of these children, the mainstream classroom teachers, and the school administration.


America: the land of opportunity, the paradox of our time-
                                                                               George Carlin

During my time with CommonVisions, I took many pictures of my students, their families and their homes.  These photographs allowed me to share and discuss the realities of migrant workers living and working in the States with project participants and co-workers, resulting in a much more profound understanding of the students I teach, their language needs and daily challenges.

CommonVisions is one of the many projects that exist where photography is used to bring about social change and to remind us of our unity as human beings. Kids with Cameras and PhotoVoice are the other two projects that I know of with a similar vision and mission.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom - Marcel Proust

Let us be grateful to people
who make us happy.
They are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

With today’s ease of capturing photos, doing a project along these lines has a worthy place in any type of classroom, regardless of age and level, and especially in an English Language Learner setting, where students’ background and diversity lends itself to an array of discourse.

Whether you use the pictures for students to tell a story, give an opinion, or simply as a starting point to discuss issues  that unite us as a race, this type of activity will build connections that will once again leap out of the classroom, breaking all barriers, while forming responsible global citizens along the way.

Photography is an effective tool that can ignite a child’s curiosity, give an outlet to a young struggling student, build communities of learners and artists, and even transform lives. I would encourage each teacher to experiment with photography in his or her classroom and each parent to give his or her child a camera.  Why not pick up a camera today and start your own dialogue!


ACAMIS EAL Spring Conference

24 Apr

I have just attended the ACAMIS EAL Spring Conference held at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is a modern vibrant city located in the southern part of China, about an hour away by ferry from Hong Kong.  Shekou, where the school is located, is a green expatriate residential area in Shenzhen known for Sea World – a large French cruise liner cemented into the ground and around which one can find many ethnic restaurants and a lovely open area to hang out. As this was my second year attending a conference there, I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones.

ACAMIS EAL conference attracts teachers from all over China who are either classroom or English as an Additional Language specialists as well as administrators at different levels.  This year, there were also a good number of technology experts to share in their knowledge and expertise on successfully integrating technology into teaching and learning.

From the onset, this conference proved itself to be one that utilizes social media and technological tools for communication, collaboration and co-creation.  From the moment I stepped into the school, evidence of the latter was to be found everywhere. It began at the social hour with a glass of wine and the bar coding of each other’s nametags with the use of a QR (Quick Response) reader and scanner application, to the very last instant, while sipping champagne and waving goodbye, as pictures of that day were brought to life with the help of Aurasma, and through it all with tweeters keeping us all informed and connected.  Each participant was led to take one step further on their journey of truly integrating technology in their teaching and in their daily living.

The conference theme was around literacy and more specifically on elements of literacy to support English language learners.

Participants were introduced to numerous IPad applications to support teaching, learning, creating and collaborating. In addition, components of the Reading and Writing Workshop were examined and the use of World-class Instructional Design and Assessment  (WIDA) for the assessment of English Language Learners was discussed in grade level focus groups.

In its endeavor to ‘go green’ the conference was a BYOD (bring your own device) event where if you did not have a tablet to use, one was signed out to you, fully charged and with tech support for the whole duration of the conference. In addition, a designated hash tag (#SISeal) was created for speakers and attendees to communicate, collaborate and create.  All handouts and material used at the conference were shared on Dropbox and a designated padlet wall to post questions was available.

The keynote speaker was Jill Bromenschenkel. Jill introduced us to many applications that can change the way we teach and learn as well as the way we, as professionals, communicate and collaborate. She reminded us to think about whether we are digitizing our teaching with a purpose and asked us to rethink the way we learn and teach and communicate.  She went on to say that simply introducing the tool does not create the interaction. She urged us as educators to reflect on what tools we choose to use and to ponder the so what of it all. Jill introduced us to some applications that can transform the learning and aid students to move from being consumers to becoming creators in the world of technology.  Using some very memorable images and short clips, Jill made an impact on the way we view technology in education and left us with worthy thoughts to ponder.

Two of the workshops I attended were on the Writing Workshop model and English Language Learners. Suggestions on using the Workshop model for vocabulary teaching were shared and ideas for implementation were presented.

Another workshop which also dealt with writing and which was filled with ideas that can easily be implemented and used with students at every level of proficiency presented the Gretchen Bernabei philosophy on teaching writing and suggestions from Barry Lane, an author who has some very interesting videos on YouTube that discuss different aspects of writing. The ideas were practical and can easily be incorporated into the Reading Writing Workshop model. I personally cannot wait to put some of these suggestions into practice.

The workshop Making Thinking Visible with Digital Resources showcased some of the ways that we can give English Language Learners opportunities to demonstrate their learning and where teachers can assess the students’ abilities. Skitch, Educreations, Socrative, Popplet were some of the suggested applications. Using TitanPad to share comments, teachers were given opportunities to share ideas and classroom usage for these applications. The presenter used SurveyMonkey to receive feedback on the workshops.

Of the many things I heard and saw, one video in particular summed up the lessons that this workshop left me with!

All in all, after all that was said and done, what I was left with is a reminder that I do not have to be stuck on an escalator. I can use the necessary tools to move forward in my own learning and in so doing, I impart on my students strategies and opportunities for them to get unstuck and move forward in their learning.  So the next time you are about to use that application or that tool, ask yourself these questions:

Is this the best tool for this task?

Is this beneficial for my students?

Am I teaching my students to be creators instead of merely consumers?

Have I simply digitized the same teaching I’ve been doing all along or am I utilizing technology to improve collaboration, delivery and instruction?

Ask yourself the so what question. You will be amazed at where your thinking will take you!

To read some of the social media comments made by conference attendees, check out my Storify post.

Vietnam Tech Conference 2013

8 Mar

Last week I attended the Vietnam Technology Conference in Saigon where teachers and technology savvy eagerly shared the latest buzz in technology and education.  Using Storify, a service which enables one to collect comments and information from different social media to create a story about an event, I have gathered information about the conference to give you, the reader, a picture of all that transpired throughout the conference. All in all it was a good conference, which offered food for thought for all teachers, no matter where they are on their journey of integrating technology in their teaching.

You can view the complete story here on my Storify Page.