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.