Language Learning Leaps Ahead

Today we hear from Claudia Loewenstein, Middle School Spanish teacher, about the advances in technology she has incorporated into language learning and their enthusiastic use by teachers and students alike.

Validating Greenhill’s vision for our future, technology has changed the way we educate students in the Middle School Modern and Classical language department.
The multi-media e-portfolios are a cornerstone of the language department digital initiative, and excitement is building for all of us as the portfolios are taking off. I was especially eager this fall when my last year’s eighth grade Spanish portfolios followed our students to the Upper School. For the first time, every ninth grade Spanish teacher received the individual digital portfolio of each of their incoming students, containing eighth grade assessments, recorded interviews, and video clips documenting students in action, essays, projects, goal-setting and self-reflection components – all in one place with a click of the button. It was a thrill for me when I could sit down with the ninth grade teachers and, in a sense, digitally introduce them to their incoming students. Consuelo Buxton, Upper School Spanish teacher, commented that, “When I hear the interview, I know exactly, perfectly, what level they are … in one minute.” After viewing some of the portfolios of her students, Upper School Spanish teacher Mary Tapia summed up the beauty of the portfolio use: “This is great documentation –you simply couldn’t reproduce this with pencil and paper.”

The portfolios are being expanded this year by Pam Giraudon to include seventh grade Spanish and by Joan Romanosky who is developing the e-portfolios for Latin students.

Recently eighth graders had a lot of fun using the classroom web-cam to capture their glory moments as they led the class and presented their projects. My students loved the fact that these moments would be archived in their e-portfolios. When they exit the Upper School language program, they will have their language life captured forever. Ahh! Nothing like being an 18 year old and looking through his/her Middle School Wonder Years!

Another great hit is the eighth grade Spanish Community blog on the Portal. As their teacher, I can post study-tips, communicate with my students, and give frequent reminders on how to prepare for assessments, very much like an extra, at-home study hall. Also, for my students’ convenience, on-line practice links are posted with electronic flashcards, games, practice and tests so students can just click directly from the blog without having to search on-line for all these helpful features. It’s obvious to me that eighth grade students love thread communications as is evidenced by the unparallel participation in this blog. They can help one another with homework or study questions. Virginia Leopard’s comments reflect the opinions of her peers:

“I love the blog! I check it almost every day. The most useful thing I found on the blog was the wonderful study websites. Other students also create practice test and quizzes and may post them on the blog. Whenever I make/complete a practice test/quiz, I also do great on the assessment. When I started using the blog, it improved my overall score by at least two letters. I think it’s a great way to connect with other students and the teacher outside of class.”

Another technological innovation is the Avatars created by the seventh grade Spanish students. Pam Giraudon and Keith Nannie are teaming up to have their students create a fanciful character, one that best suits their personality. Through use of sound files and microphones, their Spanish speaking alter-egos will be used to send e-mail messages, work into language projects, chat with younger grades and follow them to the eighth grade. The avatars will create an engaging platform from which students will apply vocabulary and grammar concepts.

Trevor Worcester, Modern and Classical Languages Department Chair, has had a blast walking through Middle School to get “snapshots” of the students’ language life. “What I’ve come away with is that our department is using integrated technology more and more. This is what our kids know and want. I like the idea of how all this technology allows us to assess our students from level to level. We can virtually see what they can do, and this is as important, if not more so, than traditional assessment.”

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