Looking back to the beginning of the Innovative Learning journey, I decided to join the program because I wanted to improve my pedagogy and enhance learning by implementing technology, my goal was simple. However, now as reflect on my experience with TU, my goals have broaden, and it’s called TPACK. In addition, I now have a global perspective in the importance of instilling 21st Century skills to students and how I can support them to be college and career ready. I do feel that our goals are aligned when comes to 21st century learning and teaching, but the TU's Innovative Learning Program is providing the background knowledge, tools, and the practice in order to understand and implement the goals.
Challenge Based Learning:
Apple Incorporated and educators created a new approach and guide to teaching and learning called Challenge Based Learning. In short, is a multidisciplinary approach that starts with standards-based content and allows students to be creative with the technology to solve complex, real-world problems.
My thoughts to CBL:
This approach to teaching and learning is ideal for any classroom because it promotes collaboration, innovation, creativity, engagement, and critical thinking. Plus, students are getting their content through real-life contexts. However, for my situation, teaching first year of Spanish, I try to find characteristics of CBL/PBL or forms to incorporate to my classroom. My dilemma is finding a balance and what works best for SLA (Second Language Acquisition) and what parts of CBL will work best for my students because at the end of the day, I want my students to be able to communicate to native speakers, and in order to do that I must build a foundation with their language before I begin an open ended learning environment for them.
A flipped or inverted instruction is a teaching method where the teacher provides content for the students to review before class such as a recorded presentation and then require the students while they are in the classroom to engage more actively applying newly learned information on tasks.
My thoughts of a "Flipped Classroom"
This concept is something that I am trying to implement into my foreign language classroom. My goal is for my students to able to converse and interpret in the target language, and teaching grammar can often take a lot of time and consequently affect time for my students applying new information. I believe grammar is important, but not at the cost of exposure to the target language. I believe creating some form of accountability and brief review of lesson that was learned at home will be a support and really make the “Flipped Classroom” effective so that my students can be engaged applying new information on tasks than listening to lectures.
Asking radically different questions in a non-linear way is the key to creativity:
I think about this a lot when I teaching Spanish. My credential program and mentors taught me how to teach languages in a linear step by step way (traditional), but, it was not engaging for me or the students. I am always asking myself, how can I make it better? At times, I have to “unlearn” the way I was taught and find new ways through asking questions. I encourage my students to try new ways learn new words and making sense of the target language by finding their own way that makes sense for them.
We don’t learn to be creative. We must become creative people:
Experience is essential to becoming creative. 70 % of the time I am experimenting new strategies and tasks that will engage my students. If I give a solution to a problem, for example, conjugating verbs, it may be engaging the first time, but by end of the unit it won’t be, and the process and result will be the same. However, if I give them a real-life situation, students investigate the solution to the problem. The goal is the same, however, the process of finding the solution to reach the goal is different. Transforming my students to become inquirers of the target language is my goal.
Hang around with creative people:
Creativity in my classroom is important, and in order foster creativity in students I must provide them with an idea or materials and support them. Recently, I told my students they were entering in a contest for Kellog’s, I told them what information was needed, but never told them how it should look like or what materials were needed. I had some students who didn’t organize the information the way it was suppose to, however, I did not penalize them. I encouraged them that it was okay because they were creative how they designed it. I think encouraging students doing things differently should be rewarded than chastised. Also, the peer to peer interaction in exchanging ideas and finding solutions to a problem makes learning more fun and creative.
Permission to be wrong:
This is probably the most important key for my classroom in order for my students to learn the language. It’s okay to make mistakes, keep trying. This is what I always tell my students. I don’t correct them for making mistakes, but encourage them to keep practicing and reflect their learning. If I would correct a student for every mistake they make, they will never participate in my classroom and probably hate Spanish. Motivating my students to try despite making errors encourages them to be creative with the language. It is because they know they are in a safe environment and making mistakes is part of the classroom culture.
Treating the impossible as possible / Never quit:
Resilience is part of my classroom culture, even though it is hard to see my students fail miserably, and at times I wonder will they ever catch up. I have had students who would cry and say learning Spanish was impossible and too hard. However, those attitudes changed over time. I would tell them not to give up, and that they can do it. For example, I had a student who had a difficult time learning new words in Spanish, but she created a strategy after failing many times. For every new word she learned she would connect a word that sounded like it. After she found her way learning the words. If we create an environment of grit, students will reflect on their learning and create new ways to learn.
Overall, creativity is not learned, it is acquired through experience and opportunities to fail and experiment new ways to solve problems.
In chapter 9, Darling-Hammond argues five key elements in creating a high-functioning learning and teaching system, and they are:
I agree with the author’s policies about creating systems that allow students, teachers, and schools to grow. if the United States wants to continue to be a global leader, they can not continue with their current educational policies. we must invest in our teachers, students, and schools equitably and adequately. Create standards and meaningful curriculum that will prepare students to be globally competent with 21st century skills.
I learned a lot from this book and made me reflect on my teaching practice and how to make meaningful curriculum that will instill 21st century skills for my students. One thing that stood out in this chapter was the importance of keeping an open mind of a variety of instructional practices that best benefits the students individual needs, and prepare them for the future.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a case study that demonstrated good practice using 21st century learning in a foreign language classroom; however, I found a skill map created by Partnership for 21st Century Skills, that reintroduces standards teaching languages using 21st century skills.
In these new National Standards for National Languages, it focuses teaching foreign languages through the 5 c’s: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. The 5c’s are divided in three ranges, novice, intermediate, and advanced. It also explains what a student should be able to do in each range. In addition, it puts emphasis in commutative competence, in other words, speaking the target language to communicate and interact with those who do not speak English.
The map also compares traditional teaching methods with how it should look today in a classroom using 21st century skills, plus, provides examples how a language teacher would use them in a classroom. For example, learning about the language (grammar) versus learning to use the language.
This guide was absolutely useful because it provided specific examples in how to implement 21st century skills into a language classroom. Moreover, the skill map supported my belief that speaking and using the language is more important than learning about the language (grammar). I will definitely use the skills map in my into my classroom, and use this as foundation creating my units and pedagogy.
"It is about learning about something you really care about" (Falk 21). In the first few chapters it talks about researching a question that will improve your teaching. Finding a question that will give you direction and a foundation to your investigation, and your research may not always be quantitative but qualitative. The first few chapters helped me think about what keeps me up at night regarding my teaching. My passion is second language acquisition and watching my students develop their language proficiency. As I think about my question, I think about my students, technology, students with learning challenges, engagement, and immersion. As I continue to read and reflect about my research, I hope I can discover an inquiry question that reflects my concerns and my passion.
As I read through Darling-Hammond’s “The Flat World and Education” I realized what our school is trying to accomplish as we transform into a International Baccalaureate school. We have been going through endless professional development for the last two years trying create curriculum that can prepare students for the 21st century. Here are few things that we have been implementing:
"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."