Wednesday, March 9, 2022

My Distance Learning Experience During Covid 19

 I still remember the worry and concern in the leading months before our schools closed to send us into a journey no one had ever traveled before in education. We were worried, confused, and not sure what followed. Nevertheless,  I felt safe and reassured to at least being able to stay home away from the unknown and the dangerous when Covid 19 hit back in March of 2020. The months that followed were uncertain and difficult. Even though I have been a teacher for several years, I felt I did not have experience to take on distance learning. A lot of my teaching practices as a language teacher revolved around students speaking up and practicing the language. Language teachers heavily rely on strategies such as choral repetition, pair share, dialogue reading, answering questions, reading stories, walking around the classroom practicing vocabulary cards, etcetera. Being present in a language classroom is vital. In my case, having graduated from a Master's in Educational Technology Program in 2016, I had already been on a journey of integrating technology in my classes. It took some creativity to make distance learning work. 

Creating a New Normal Expecting Students to Be on Line 

For several months, students were not expected to show their face on Zoom meetings. Teaching became a daunting task because hardly anyone responded. I did not know who were my students, and there was almost zero interaction between teacher and students. I was not fully knowledgeable on Zoom tools. I got "Zoom Bombed" on a couple of occasions by "unwanted guests" drawing profanity on my screen and by another "unwanted guest" coming in with a plethora of inappropriate remarks and curse words. Those days were days in which I questioned everything I knew and did as a teacher. I have to admit they were very difficult months. I begged my students to show their faces on Zoom, to let me know who they were. Every day I needed to be extremely patient and tolerant of this new learning curve. Every day there was something to celebrate but mainly something to reflect upon in order to improve. 

Incorporate the Old into the New 

I was very fortunate to have a great school administrator that took the time to listen to my concerns and the concerns of our language department. We also had support from our administrators at the school level. We were all in the same boat navigating uncharted territory. We were given a lot of flexibility to incorporate whatever strategies we thought were helpful. One of our favorite phrases during distance learning and Zoom calls was: "Everyone is a new teacher now".  I tried something new and moved on when it did not work. Some of the tools I was already using in the classroom became very useful during distance learning. 

a) Class Dojo 

Class Dojo is a web based platform that allows you to create class rosters and keep track of positive behaviors and behaviors that need to be discouraged in the classroom. Initially, I only used this system as a very low grading category for students to feel encouraged to speak up. I would always show how many points each student had on our Zoom session. With this approach, I needed to come up with some solutions for students to earn points outside class hours. Students could make appointments outside class hours to engage in games, dialogues, and questions.

b) Quizlet 

Quizlet is a tool that allows students to practice vocabulary individually or in groups of four. Having this tool allowed students to feel they were collaborating with other students. Students were encouraged with the competition aspect of this platform. I awarded points to the winners which motivate them even more to remain engaged.

c) Quizziz 

Quizziz is another gamified platform that allows for competition when practicing vocabulary. The most useful tool from Quizziz is that it provides a percentage average as a class based on the answers. This is a great formative tool for the teacher to assess whether or not students are close to achieving proficiency on a given set of vocabulary words or terms. 

d) Blooket

I became aware of this awesome game platform to practice vocabulary during our distance learning Professional Learning Community. Collaborating with colleagues every week and sharing ideas about what each of us were doing that was working in the Zoom classroom was an amazing tool to get through teaching from home. Blooket turns any deck of vocabulary cards into very fun and interactive games. 

Covid 19 allowed me to experience growth as a teacher. This challenge made us all realize that we did not know everything there is to teaching even for seasoned educators like us. Our bond became even more solid as we listened to each other and encouraged each other. I still remember a well known phrase during these challenging times: " We are learning the art of building the plane while we fly it". I truly believe this rings true today as we learn how to teach post Covid 19. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Beware of Kancho: Sexual Harassment or a Game? Naruto the Movie

DISCLAIMER: The following post describes a very inappropriate game. No pictures were included to prevent spreading and promoting highly inappropriate content.

I have just learned about a horrible prank that some school kids are playing with others. Believe it or not, this game is called Kancho and it is very popular in Japan and South Korea. As wrong as it sounds, the game calls for kids to put their middle fingers together and shove them into someone else's anal area when the person is distracted.

Wikipedia describes Kancho as:
"Kanchō (カンチョー) is a prank performed by clasping the hands together in the shape of an imaginary gun and attempting to poke an unsuspecting victim's anus, often while exclaiming "Kan-CHO!".[1] It is a common prank among children in East Asia such as Japan,[2] Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. In Korea it is called ddongchim (Korean똥침)[3][4] In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, it is often referred to as Saca cacas.[5] In Taiwan, it is popularly called Qiānnián shā (Chinese千年殺),[6] derived from the full Japanese name of the skill "Leaf village's secret finger jutsu: A thousand years of death" (木の葉隠れ秘伝体術奥義:千年殺し Konohakagure hiden taijutsu ōgi: Sennen Goroshi); this term derives from the popular Naruto franchise, where Kakashi Hatake uses an enhanced version of the prank on the eponymous protagonist during his ninja training. The word is a slang adoption of the Japanese word for enema (浣腸 kanchō).[7] In accordance with widespread practice, the word is generally written in katakana when used in its slang sense, and in kanji when used for enemas in the medical sense.In Japan multiple people have died or been injured by having compressed air being blasted into their anus"

There is a popular Netflix movie called Naruto which is a Japanese anime that describes the story of a boy that wants to be a Ninja, In this anime movie, some of the characters use Kancho. This supposed funny harmless move of sticking middle fingers in someone's but is highly regarded as A Thousand Years of Dead.

I was completely in disbelief to find out about this game which is rather popular on a Japanese anime movie looking apparently so harmless for kids. It came to my knowledge that a child that was played this prank upon was so afraid and distressed when other kids held him down that I started researching this game.I am surprised to find out that while in Japan and South Korea these are frivolous day to day games, in America and other countries this may constitute sexual harassment at least and/or sexual assault, depending on the circumstances.  

According to FANDOM:
"In certain countries such as the UK, the act of Kancho may be illegal[citation needed] and considered sexual harassment, or even sexual assault, although children are given more leniency. While the practice is known in South Korea, there have been cases where adults performing it have been arrested. However, in Japan it is considered a childish prank rather than a criminal act. In February 2006, Nanmon Kaiketsu (Solving Difficult Problems), an NHK TV show about social problems, speculated that the long-term leniency of Kancho is an indirect cause of the rampant train gropings across Japan".

Some other blogs greatly expose cultural issues regarding sexual harassment in other countries and the conflict this creates when done in other countries where sexual harassment has many legal aspects to it. Some kids do not realize that the moment they get together and forcibly try to execute this game on someone else they cross a thin line as they attempt to make contact with someone's genitals. 

Please talk to your kids, beware of what they watch. I have never thought to be a great idea to have an "electronic privacy policy" with kids. Kids's brains are not developed well and a simple act of fun may become a run with the law. Teachers, remember, as mandated reporters sometimes games like this cross boundaries and we need to act. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Google Educator Certification Level 1 (UPDATE: I need to renew my Google Certified Educator Level 1)

Not a lot has happened in 2018 regarding my teaching or any other topics I am interested in. I continue to teach Spanish at the High School level while trying to always find ways to improve the use of technology. One of the most exciting events of 2018 in my professional development was that I was finally able to pass the Google Certified Educator Exam Level 1 in April of 2018.

I was very excited about this accomplishment as a way to motivate myself to keep growing professionally in order to better serve my students. In my situation, I tried a few things in order to be able to pass this test.

Using the Google Training Modules

I decided that I wanted to become a Google Certified Educator in the summer of 2017 when I attended a Technology Boot Camp. There was a session to help participants become certified but the presenter only showed us how to sign on to the training modules and after we practiced we signed up for the test. Even though this presentation ignited my desire to start the process it did not help to become certified. I studied at home and did all the activities in the G Suite Training Modules for Level 1 on my spare time.

Using G Suite In The Classroom

One of the best training opportunities for this test was to use all of the G Suite Google Apps in the Classroom as much as possible. I tried to use simple activities with my students using Google and when something I did not know how to do came up, we tried to figure it out in the classroom or by asking questions on Google.

Taking the Test 

After taking all the practice modules and using the G Suite Apps in the classroom I was very excited about passing my test. I took the test in the summer of 2017 and my disappointment was unbelievable. After sitting down for 3 hours, getting a failing result was a blow to my ego. Maybe it was just time to move on and do nothing about it. Nevertheless, goal setting has to be an important part of becoming a life-long learner and I am proud to say that learning has never stopped for me. I decided that I was going to pass this test somehow.

More Training 
Albert Einstein is broadly credited with exclaiming “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.
It was important for me to identify which areas needed to improve in my training. I decided not to re-read all the materials in the G Suite Training Website. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to retake all the quizzes and pass them with more than 80%.

Before retaking all the quizzes I enlisted the help of one of my favorite Google Apps: You Tube. I researched training modules and sat with pen and paper to watch and take notes on the materials  I found helpful. I have to give out kudos to Mr. Brett Petrillo for his Google Certified Educator Preparation Videos 

 I watched every single one of these videos and took notes. Every video lasted an average of 40 minutes but I committed to watch them all. I wrote 11 pages of  notes and once the test was successfully completed I wrote a nice note to my self in the same notebook where all my notes were.

Committing to Professional Development 

As educators, I consider it to be extremely important that we set goals to continue growing as professionals regardless of how many steps we need to climb in the pay scale. We need to set goals for our development regardless of what the system tells us we ought to be doing. I sadly come across many teachers who do not like attending conferences or presenting to others. Too many of them are too tired and too overwhelmed. Many believe there is not much further learning in their content areas because they have seen it all and taught it all. I hope this post encourages you to pursue learning beyond what is required of teachers.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Presenting at CVCUE Fall 2017

I am so excited to present at Central Valley Computer Using Educators Fall Conference. The CVCUE conference provides with some of the best technology integration tips for teachers, administrators, and anyone else working in the field of education or interested in applied technology. Educators from different content areas share their expertise about technology integration, issues regarding educational policy, and tools and tips to make technology use an enjoyable experience. As an avid technology integrator in a language class, I know that there is never enough I can learn about tools and ways to make my teaching experience more rewarding. From the novice teacher to the super techy educator, there is always something exciting to learn at CVCUE. Come and join us in Visalia this Saturday November 4th. I will be presenting a project based learning experience my language classes engaged in while researching a Spanish speaking city. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Technology in the Midst of Tragedy: Thumbs Up to WhatsApp Messenger

I became familiar with WhatsApp messenger several years ago on a trip to visit my family in Mexico City. I noticed that my relatives insisted on communicating through this app which sparked my curiosity. People explained to me that WhatsApp messenger was a way they could use instant messaging without the cost of expensive cellular plans and SMS services.

My family convinced me that this tool would allow for us to communicate internationally without expensive charges. Through this app we were able to have small groups of connected people. WhatsApp soon became one of my favorite apps. I started using the app when it was free but continued to pay for it when it became a paid app for only 99 cents a year because I saw good value in it. Through this app I have been able to chat with several family members at once while receiving pictures, videos, and audio. The latest version also allows for video calls when people use high end phones. 

In the past two weeks, WhatsApp became the tool of choice for people affected by tragedy. On Tuesday September 19th, several regions of Central Mexico were struck by a strong earthquake. Even before I was able to sit down down at home to watch the news or listen to the radio, WhatsApp allowed me to be informed about the severity of this crisis. Message, video, and audio conveyed the story of pain, suffering, anguish, and relief by connecting families little by little. Land lines were down, electricity and water gone. Despite the chaos, families affected by this tragedy were able to track their loved ones to make sure people were safe. WhatsApp is also being used to host important community services platforms such as a neighborhood watch.

The way social media and other connecting apps are being used in the midst of tragedies reminded me of the great uses of these tools available for free or for a small cost. People's lives have been spared by the ability to communicate with the entire world. Aide has been deployed where it is most needed and families can have peace of mind connecting with loved ones online. 


Sunday, September 3, 2017

A New School Year Begins: A Kagan Approach to Classroom Management

It has been some time since I sit down to write a post. Once I finish a school year I need to take a break to rest, reevaluate priorities, spend some time with my family exploring places, and taking time to remind myself who I am, what I want in life, and what is my plan to make my teaching experience better for the next school year.

Summer is gone... Image result for free clip art good bye summer

We are almost a whole month into the new school year and I am excited about my Spanish 2 classes. My district invested in professional development this summer and offered some training in the Kagan model for cooperative learning. I have found this model to be very easy to implement in the classroom. I have had group settings for the past 3 years in my classroom but the way Kagan structures work in getting everyone in a group involved has been a great addition to my classroom management skills. Some of the most useful structures that I have found from the Kagan method which I am currently using in the classroom are:

Management Mats 
When a group of students are seating together, there needs to be a way to assign tasks and responsibilities within that group. I used to ask volunteers to help pass and gather materials. I used to rely on students who liked getting out of their seats. Sometimes it was frustrating to not have any volunteers and have non enthusiastic students do the work. It was time consuming. With my management mats, I just call a number and the student knows they have a task to complete. No questions asked and they do it more willingly.

Positive Team Work & Class Management 
As simple as it sounds, creating a positive classroom environment has to be intentional, planned, and implemented accordingly. Kagan materials do an excellent job in providing activities for students to get to know each other and feel they are part of something bigger and better. I love the non academic for fun concept of short activities that students engage in to feel welcome in the classroom. It makes them feel that the are valued in the classroom and that their learning is important to others.

Pair Share 
As a language teacher, my students need to spend a lot of time practicing the language and interacting with others in non-threatening and comfortable ways. Kagan training reminded me that learning happens when students are the ones doing the work, not me being the one that takes the stage and magically transfers knowledge to students by just talking.

Even though I have been a teacher for over 20 years, I realize how easy it is to take teaching for granted and feeling that my experience is good enough to do my best in the classroom. Nope, not true.... a fallacy. Complacency in the classroom starts with me. When I stop challenging myself and continue to do things the same way over and over and pretend that time in the classroom equals best practices, I deprive my self and my students from engaging and rewarding learning experiences.

If you have not had a chance to explore the Kagan compilation of best practices and cooperative learning suggestions, I highly recommend that you take a look at it and see if this is something you can use in the classroom.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Using Class Dojo in High School Settings

I was very excited to receive this cute Classdojo mentor badge in my e-mail. I have been using this website platform in my high school classes for over 3 or 4 years now and I am proudly considered a Classdojo mentor. Classdojo is mostly used in elementary settings as a behavior and participation tool that allows the teacher to reward students for positive behaviors and discourage behaviors that interfere with the learning process.

Many teachers consider ClassDojo to be a tool that better suits the needs of elementary students due to the cute monster characters and stories. Nevertheless, I decided to integrate it in the classroom due to its great tracking functionality. Students have actually welcomed this tool in the classroom because Classdojo gives them immediate feedback about some areas of their social and academic performance in class.

The positive behaviors encouraged in my classroom include participation, teamwork, speaking in the target language (using Spanish as much as possible), helping others, being prepared with classroom materials, and demonstrating digital citizenship. Some of the behaviors that need to be discouraged in the classroom focus on talking out of turn, using electronic devices for non educational reasons, unwelcome and unnecessary disruptions, and disrespect. As controversial as it might sound, the points that students accumulate every 6 weeks become part of their overall grade. Academics and citizenship are an integral part of the educational process as we aim to prepare students to not only meet academic expectations but social norms and conventions.

I encourage other teachers to take a look at Classdojo or other tool to incorporate an element of character education in the learning process. Some times I bring small treats to class and actually give students a choice to get a treat or Dojo points when we play educational games. Needless to say, many times class ends with lots of treats at the table and several Classdojo points on the screen!