Saturday, 11 April 2015

Reflection: World Congress of Modern Languages, 2015


What an event!  I think that should be the first line in any review/ reflection of this conference.  There were lots of people to meet; many organization and companies to talk with and items to look at; so many workshops it was difficult to choose where to go!  In all, I am very happy that I got to attend this conference this year.  I thought it would be good to share some of the things that I learned from the amazing workshops I attended.  

Roundtable Discussion- March 26

I went to the conference early to register, because I really wanted to hear the roundtable discussion about technology in the L2 classroom.  Since tech in FSL is kind of my bailiwick (yep, I just used that word) I knew that there would be some great information to glean from the address.  The presentations were moderated by Terry Lamb, and the speakers were Jacques Cool, Sylvia Duckworth and Jim Murphy.  

The last speaker, Jacques Cool (www.zecool.com-- wouldn't you love to be a teacher with this last name??! Mine's a fish.  Which the kids don't let me forget.  Or worse it has the word 'ass' in it.  ANYWAYS...) spoke about the responsibility of teachers to innovate in the classroom.   What I found most interesting, and something I've been working on in my teaching and learning are the redefinition or addition of  the "new competencies" that our students will need to compete and success in our technological world.   Students need to know have to explore, create, collaborate, debate, solve problem and so much more in order to use the technology effectively.  

I also like that he spoke to student motivations, and how technology helps teachers fulfill those motivations.  The 6 motivations he outlined were that students want to 1- do it themselves; 2- do it now; 3- with their friends; 4- for others; 5- for pleasure or 6- for an audience.  This was the concept that really resonated with me, as I see those motivations in the actions of my students daily.  So for me, the takeaway was how am I going to use the motivations to make my students succeed?  

Cool made many more great points in her presentation, and if you would like to read it for yourself, visit his blog at www.zecool.com (in French.)  He is also on Twitter, @zecool.

The second speaker was Sylvia Duckworth, who many French Teachers already know through her awesome teacher blog/ French teacher bible and resource E-tools for Language Teacher at www.mmeduckworth.blogspot.com.  She spoke about the importance of PLNs or Personal Learning Networks for Teachers.  Duckworth noted that technology make wider collaboration between teachers possible.  She outlined 6 main hurdles to teacher development 1-no time; 2- need access; 3- need training; 4-need tech support; 5-need confidence; 6- need conviction, to know this development is worthwhile.  I appreciated Sylvia's contribution that focused on how teachers need access to this technology too in order to improve their learning.  I think we often forget about how beneficial tech is to our own development since we are often focused on our student's learning.  She also included a bunch of sketchnotes-- which I appreciate because I love sketchnotes.  Generously, her presentation is available at www.bit.ly/sylviaroundtable  for download.  

First speaker was Jim Murphy of the Center for Distance Learning in Newfoundland.  The model for schooling in parts of NFLD are an amazing example of how technology has transformed learning for some students.  As many students live in remote parts of NFLD, the CDL provides courses and education, that would otherwise be impossible for students to access.  The CDL uses a synchronous learning model, meaning that there are teachers and students that interact in a class online.  This was the interesting aspect of the presentation for me.  I have done online courses myself, and had contact with my teachers only through messaging and feedback.  Students in the synchronous model get to know and form relationships with their teachers despite the distance.  

They were all very knowledgeable people, and I was a little stunned afterwards with all the new information to process.  It was a great talk.  A great kick off!

Workshops: March 27-28

A. Paula Capa- "Speaking Only in French: It Can be Done!"

The first workshop I attended was about working towards French as the only language of communication in the L2 classroom.  What I found most helpful was the approach that the speak outlined.  That is, that you start with what the students know for a small amount of time, and then build on that time as the year progresses.  I found it affirming that so many people have questions about using French as the sole language of class.  This presentation also affirmed for me that I was on the right track.  In my class I use the "Zone Francais" in which I have a time keeper track our time for speaking French-- and then we try to beat that time the next day.  

B.  Sylvia Duckworth- "Web 2.0 and Social Media Tools in the French Classroom"

Had to sign up for Sylvia's session on Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools in the classroom.  The problem with this session was that 45 minutes was just not enough.  Sylvia had so much information and so many great ideas that people left the room wanted to try something new that coming Monday. I know I did!  I especially liked how she shared multiple strategies for an application.  I new about Voice Thread-- but I had no idea about the potential for VT in the FSL classroom.  One other great thing about Sylvia is that she shares so many of her ideas on her blog www.mmeduckworth.blogspot.com.  So if you haven't already, check it out. She's also on Twitter @sylviaduckworth.

C. Bev Kukhta-Jackson- "Engaging your Core French Students"

One of my collegues in HWDSB, and a career-long champion of Core FSL, gave a fun presentation on how to engage core French students.  There were some really fun ideas like Movie Monday, and using music and other authentic media in French.  The crux of her message though-- and one that you could see she followed and felt herself-- was that the teacher needed to enjoy and love what they teach.  That is the most engaging thing you can do.  She showed a video that she made to futher her own PD, which just further exuded the love she has for her job.  She was also elected to the Board on the OMLTA- so a doubly successful day for her!

D. Bill and Hanna- "Go Digital! Supporting FSL with Digial Resources

Bill and Hanna lead the audience through the digital learning platform that is now available to all teachers in public funded schools.  The online education platform is an asynchronous learning platform, i think created by Desire2Learn.  Students are able to create and curate an online, multi-media portfolio for every subject.  Which is a pretty cool concept.  This presentation fell short of provide strategies to integrate some of these new technologies into the class.  More, Bill and Hanna were the bearer of the bad news-- National Film Board videos won't be available after the summer for school to use.  The liscencing was not renewed.  

E. Susanna Beatrice-Gojsic and Carole Knezevic- "Let Them Speak! Strategies that Maximize Student Talk Time in the FSL Classroom

Two more of my colleagues in the HWDSB presented this awesome, and helpful presentation, that was packed with strategies on making sure students get the most talk time in FSL class.  As always, Susanna and Carole provided fun, engaging and non threatening ways for students to participate in FSL class, and succeed.  The strategies they discussed allowed for maximum practice for students of their skills.  More, they explained how to implement some of their ideas.  Most generously, they provided a link to a wiki  https://letstalkinfsl.wikispaces.com Susanna is on Twitter @sgojsic

F. Katy Arnett- Designing Differentiation for FSL Students

Having read Arnett's book, Languages For All, I was looking forward to seeing what new understanding I would leave with.  Luckily, Arnett brought tons of ideas and examples of how to integrate almost any student into the FSL classroom.  Arnett brought a number of speaking and reading/ writing activities to share, and discussed how, and why they were differentiated.  I appreciated the discussions, for me it led to an even deeper understanding of how I could apply some of these techniques and activities I use in class.  I felt more confident in my differentiation abilities after listening to this presentation.  Dr. Arnett's Twitter: @KatyArnett.

G. Trevor Gulliver- "A Dozen Ways to Use Songs"

I use music in my class almost every day.  So learning about ways to use those songs more effectively was  something I really looked forward to.  Trevor provided literally 12 ways to used songs in class.  Some of them were too close to a word cloze activity for my taste, but there were some gems that stood out for me.  My favorite ideas were the word snatch activity: students lay out small card of word between them, and as the song plays students grab the word as they hear it.  It was fun!  The second idea I loved was the rearranging lyrics activity.  You cut up the lines of a song, and mix them up.  Student have to arrange the lyrics correctly as they hear the song.  I immediately thought of other ways to use those same cards-- use them as a prediction activity when student try to arrange them in order before they hear the song.  Or as a writing activity where student get to choose a line as a writing prompt for their own lyric.  The best ideas for me, launch my brain into new strategies, and this presentation did just that.
  
H. Stephanie Bass- "iPads and Cell Phones in the FSL Classroom"

Ha!  I had to attend my own session.  So instead of making a note of how great the info provided was (at least I think it was) I think I will reflect on my delivery, and things I learned about myself from presenting.
  1. I am too short to stand behind most podiums.  The microphone was set up on a podium, and the top of the podium came to my neck. From the front of it, I probably looked like a talking head on top of the podium.  So I scrapped the podium, and consequently the mic and stood beside it.
  2. I make a lot of jokes when I'm nervous.  I am pretty sarcastic generally, and when I'm nervous that is amplified.  And I was really nervous.  And from the laughter of the group, really funny.
  3. I make strange analogies when I'm nervous.  I actually said, "The internet is the Wild West, and you as teachers are the Sheriffs."  Yep.
  4. I have a loud teacher voice.  Apparently I can't turn it off.
  5. I have some really supportive colleagues.  They came to listen, and were available if I needed help.  They're super.
  6. People hate completing surveys.  They hate 'em. No matter how short.  Mine is like 2 questions.  Help me out, folks!
  7. People appreciated that my presentation was available for download to follow at http://bit.ly/OMLTApres.  The seating was not great, so I thought to give out the presentation at the beginning for the unfortunate short people in the back.  I know their plight.  So I will make sure to do that in the future too.
  8. It is fun to present.  It was fun to share what I knew with others.  
  9. My Twitter: @MadameBassHWDSB
I. Jennifer Lisi- "Using QR Code to Motivate Students"

Jennifer had a small group-- which was great for me, because I was able to ask as many questions, and make comments.  I was looking forward to learning more about QR codes; I use them sometimes in class, but after this presentation I was sure I was going to use them more often.  Jennifer offered many ideas and resources to use QR codes to support student learning.  She also offered great information that I had never thought of, like, using QR codes can make internet searching for students a little safer, as you have control of which sites students use through the code.  The one idea that I am excited to try is the QR code scavenger hunt.  I'm in the middle of creating an En route vers la Francophonie hunt for my 7s and 8s.  She is also on Twitter @Lisi_JE.

Phew! A long summary of the World Congress of Modern Languages.  I also stayed for the closing remarks which featured a great Brazillian band.  An upbeat, fun end to a great conference. 

If you are interested in more information that people have collected throughout the conference, there is a Twitter Hashtag for the conference #WCML2015, where people were Tweeting soundbites and ideas they learned.  I tweeted the ideas I heard in several workshops, and so did many others.  People are still using this hashtag to provide follow up information and reflections. So check it out! 

What reflections or highlights do you have from the WCML?  Feel free to leave them in the comments!

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