Brushes with Greatness…

Wow, it has been far too long since I have added to this educators’ blog. Now I know what my New Year’s Resolution will be!

Let’s catch up, shall we?!

I’ve recently presented with the New York State Reading Association (NYSRA), Niagara Frontier Reading Council, and Diocese of Buffalo. I’ve met so many impassioned educators around me, and made some wonderful professional connections. I was also fortunate to have my administrators attend the 2016 NYSRA conference, where I presented to a standing-room only crowd! I had conference attendees listening from the hallway! It was an incredible honor, and so affirming to the work I do in sharing my love for pedagogy, educational technology, and intrinsic motivation as an educator.

One of the highlights of my fall was meeting THE Nell Duke. She was a keynote speaker during the closing luncheon of NYSRA. Luckily, I had a spot up front and was able to hear her approach to usage of text in project-based learning, as it fits across curricula, and supports literacy skills.

After her keynote, she was gracious enough to let me have a moment with her. Here I was, rubbing elbows with a figurehead in education/literacy research… someone I quoted/referenced in many of my graduate school papers! We even managed a selfie and she asked me to tag her so she could retweet it! (And she did!)

Dr. Nell Duke is definitely someone I look up to as a source of knowledge and inspiration. There are two of her articles that particularly speak to me. One is regarding all the USELESS literacy instruction practices we should abandon. The other is in regards to vetting websites as viable informational text resources.

As a literacy specialist, the former particularly resonates with me. Having students look up words in a dictionary and write them out is a skill they should have, but only if the vocabulary is in their zone of proximal development. I use Words their Way (WtW) to fulfill the phonics/word study component of my Readers Workshop, and differentiate word lists and tasks based upon individual students’ needs.

(And I’d like to shout-out my son’s first grade teacher for giving me a treasure trove of WtW resources beyond the commercial materials!)

There is so much high-quality, research-based, accessible and useful information in Duke’s work. I savor it as much as I can! As a person, I found her so authentic, sincere, and dedicated to making sure the time we are spending with our students is being used as efficiently as possible. I know I have been inspired to use as much of my time in the classroom for instruction, discovery, and growth!

Happy Holidays to all of you. Thank you for continuing to read my blog, and I wish all of you a happy, healthy, productive 2017!

– Kirsten


Ed Tech: “Translated” to Teachers of Foreign Language (Pun Intended)

SUNY Binghamton Conference on Foreign Language TeachingSummer and Fall 2015 1002

At the beginning of October, I had the pleasure of travelling with a colleague who teaches French and Spanish to SUNY Binghamton. We attended the 3rd Annual Binghamton University’s Conference on Foreign Language Teaching. The two-day conference was headed by Dr. Chesla Bohinski. My colleague attended the conference sessions, garnering lots of ideas to add to her LOTE (languages other than English) pedagogy. I was fortunate to sit in on the keynote addresses, several breakout sessions, and present an hour-long breakout
session on educational technology.

The Five C’s of Foreign Language Instruction

During my time at the conference, I learned a lot about foreign language instruction  – namely the “5 C’s.” They are communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities.

6a0192ab445fcc970d01a5103f0c1c970cForeign Means Foreign

I gained a great deal of respect for teachers of foreign language. Teaching foreign language goes so far beyond vocabulary, conjugation, grammar, etc. Aside from teaching many aspects of literacy, in many cases having completely alternate grammar rules, these teachers work hard to build cultural schema. The whole idea of a language being “foreign” assumes that students do not know much background knowledge into the language, life, and cultural identity of the learned parlance.

What Could I Offer?

There are so many layers to what all teachers do within their four walls, but I realized more specifically about what some of those layers exactly are, and how different they may be from my instructional obligations.

My concern at the conference was that I wouldn’t be able to relate my expertise in literacy and educational technology. This ended up dissipating as soon as I had a computer lab full of eager participants. Using Nearpod, I was able to give a brief overview of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of educational technology integration. Then I was able to explain the tools that can elevate any pedagogical approach: Learning Management Systems, formative assessments, note taking, app-smashing, classroom management, etc.

PBS Learning Media for Different Cultures within Same Language Groups

I also shared the free, vetted, high-quality cultural archives on PBS Learning Media. The content available on PBS Learning Media is second-to-none.masthead-lm-bubbles-plain

One of the Spanish teachers asserted that in order for her to deliver high-quality instruction, she had to make distinctions to her students about the various Hispanic/Latino/Spanish cultures that all speak the same language. It “wasn’t on my radar” before this conference how important of a task that is for foreign language learners, but made perfect sense. (Especially for me, because I grew up on the Canadian border listening to CBC Radio in French Canadian, and I got to college only to conscientiously distinguish it from Parisian French.)

In the end, I was able to show her how to narrow language and cultural references based on geography, dialect, etc. on PBS Learning Media. Since it’s as easy as online shopping, one can narrow down archives and media types based on grade level, standards, etc. I feel I was able to offer foreign language teachers a value-added experience to amp up their classroom technology integration.

Again, thanks for having me, Dr. Chesla! And thanks to all the great, dedicated foreign language teachers out there!