Week 8: CEP 810 Course Reflection

This summer has been a wonderful experience of professional and personal growth due to CEP 810.  My head is swirling with new knowledge, new ideas and new ambitions for the school year.  I am actually still digesting it all, waiting for the dust to settle so to speak. There are so many things to consider.

I think the biggest impact this class has had on changing my professional practice is by bringing me to better understand the importance of a PLN and embracing the mindset of “sharing your genius.”  I realize that during the many years I spent as the sole Spanish teacher in my division I had very little opportunity for in-house professional development.  I did not see this as a terrible thing.  I enjoyed the autonomy actually and was quite content.  And for specific PD related to my discipline and age group, I sought out plenty of opportunities to learn on my own or from school visits, local workshops and national conferences (thank goodness I work at a fabulous school that is very committed to supporting outside PD).  But during those years on my own little island, I probably spent (i.e. wasted) so much time recreating the wheel instead of connecting and collaborating with others.  I did not often reach the “share” stage – the stage that consistently marked its importance in CEP810 as our final weekly task.  So now that I am building a stronger PLN, I see its immense value.  I will now have way more opportunities for professional growth which will open up many possibilities for my students to build connections beyond our school community also.

Other big takeaways from my work this summer?  Well, I could rattle off a dozen or so new technologies that I have become more familiar with and/or rediscovered in a new way such as Popplet, Twitter, WordPress, Scoop.it!, Google+, Edmodo, Skype and my new bestie again, Evernote.  But what is more important to communicate is another key mindset that has been reinforced along with learning about all of these wonderful new tech tools.  It is the mindset of being thoughtful of the “how” and “why” of integrating technology while remaining open to the idea of “repurposing” technology to fit our teaching and learning needs.

I came into CEP810 with a concern for management of personal/professional time when it comes to being a more connected individual.  I still have not exactly resolved this dilemma and have actually added MUCH more to my professional plate.  However, I have also acquired some new strategies to help in this area. The most important of those strategies though does not have to do with some latest and greatest, super cool tech tool.  It once again goes back to new mindsets.  CEP810 has helped reshape my attitude towards being connected and being a learner, and I feel more positive about investing the time to figure out how all the pieces can fit together. 

Tomorrow I return to school for our opening days of faculty meetings and room preparation.  I am excited to dive right into the school year with all of my renewed energy.  But I will do my best to pace myself and be considerate of how I approach incorporating these new practices into my teaching life… especially with all the tweet talk about technology one day replacing teachers.  Even though I’m not so worried about this theory (at least in my teaching lifetime), I at the very least know that I don’t want to face the possibility that twitter user @tonyvincent presented: “Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who don’t.”

Thank you CEP810!

Week 7: Networked Learning Project – Final Post


Wow, what a fulfilling learning project this has been for me!  I finally after many, many years have been able to realize (or at least put into motion) a personal and professional goal of learning some basic sign language to integrate into the classroom.  Not only was I able to reach my goal of learning at least fifteen words and phrases in ASL.  I was able to surpass it by quadrupling my projected outcome!

I am extremely excited about the prospect of using this new skill in the fall to accomplish three things: (1) facilitate student comprehension of the target language and help students avoid the use of English, (2) promote community spirit and reinforce a positive, respectful learning environment, and (3) use ASL signs as an additional form of classroom management.  I also love the fact that this can serve as a way to explore and create an awareness of a type of diversity that we do not have represented in our school.


My Popplet of ASL Signs

My Popplet of ASL Signs

I am very happy with my project choice.  It was a natural extension of my love for languages, and the nuances of learning ASL actually motivated me.  The backwards syntax (in comparison to English) of questions, no problem.  The formal versus informal signs, makes sense.  The more-than-one-way-to-sign-it dilemma, but of course.  To further complicate things, there are signing programs for babies and toddlers that offer less complicated versions of ASL to be more age appropriate for their motor skills.  So there was a lot to consider and be aware of when learning the signs, especially in a self-guided way.  I had to think very carefully about selecting those that would work best as a visual prompt to aide student comprehension of the target language, not complicate it.

Since I could only rely on YouTube and Help Forums throughout this project, it was particularly difficult for me handle all of these signing variations.  The conflicting signs suggested in different videos were sometimes a bit frustrating.  Discussing my doubts or questions in a written format was not such an effective option due to the visual nature of ASL, but I eventually chose to stick to just a few resources for consistency which helped.  It obviously would have been ideal to learn from someone in person or at least via video conferencing.  But take a look at my video below to see the progress I was able to make.


Through the blogging of this project, I recalled personal experiences as a child that helped me understand the natural curiosity of ASL that I have had for sometime.  And by tapping into these memories of long ago, I think I made a stronger connection to my goal.

I really hope to continue growing with this learning project after the end of CEP 810.  Perhaps I will find ways to explore it further with my students.  Optional extension activities?  Community service project?  (I do not think we have ever specifically incorporated a service project that directly worked with the deaf community.)  I am also eager to share this project with my colleagues at school.  Who knows, maybe others will want to learn with me.  You can too by watching my video below!


Week 6: Cooking With TPACK Project

“There is no such thing as educational technologies.  There are a variety of technologies that we must repurpose appropriately and customize for our needs.”  ~ Dr. Punya Mishra

(21st Century Learning Conference, Hong Kong 2012)

Week six of CEP 810 is a learning project called Cooking With TPACK.  The TPACK theory, developed by Dr. Punya Mishra and Dr. Matthew Koehler at Michigan State University, brings focus to the important intersection of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge.  These three areas must work together to create the best possible learning outcomes for students.  In this TPACK activity, I am exploring the idea of repurposing, using a tool outside of its intended purpose.  Repurposing engages learners in a way that sparks creative energy through exploration and experimentation and can inspire innovation and new creations.

So instructions for this quick fire activity are…
(1)  Write down the five cooking choices for the activity on slips of paper and put into bowl (or hat, cup, etc).
(2)  Have a family member/friend randomly chose a task for you out of the bowl.
(3)  Without any explanation, also have the person choose three kitchen items:  a plate, a bowl, and a utensil.
(4)  Now with your activity choice and kitchen items, record your efforts and explain your observations and thoughts on accomplishing the task.

My task, cutting vegetables for a veggie platter, did not exactly fit well with the chosen kitchen items.  However, I did my best to repurpose my tools and even got a bit creative with the outcome.  Take a look at my video!

P.S.  I’m an iMovie fan so I had a little fun with that, too!

Week 5: Networked Learning Project Update #2

ASL + L2 = Signing Fun in the Language Classroom


Photo courtesy of All-Free-Download.com

Many years ago during a PD visit to an independent school, I observed a language teacher using ASL in the classroom.  It was amazing to see her kids responding to her not only in the target language but also sometimes with signs.  I found myself completely intrigued by the idea of using sign language to facilitate learning a spoken language and even looked into opportunities to take a class.  Ever since that school visit I have wanted to learn ASL for teaching purposes.  I have even gone so far as to make it one of my professional goals at the beginning of the school year.  I just for whatever reason(s), was never able to make much progress with it.  Thanks to this learning project for CEP 810, I am finally realizing a goal set many moons ago.  As the saying goes, better late than never.

I am actually beginning to feel that this learning project may develop into a full-blown study of another language.  I am pretty confident that this is a genuine extension of my love for languages, being that I am already proficient in Spanish as a second language and have had some exposure to some French and Portuguese language practice.  I am also a very visual learner, and I am finding that I can commit new signs to memory after seeing it just once or twice.

I teach elementary school Spanish, and even with students this young I use the communicative approach in the classroom speaking entirely in the target language.  This type of immersive setting not only delivers the targeted vocabulary and language structures in a meaningful context.  It also allows students to achieve different levels of language acquisition, to learn at their own pace.  I discovered a YouTube channel that teaches ASL with this type of immersive experience.  The instructor is himself hard of hearing and gives lessons completely in ASL.  There is absolutely no audio.  My goodness, it is challenging and I love it!

The other fabulous and unexpected outcome of this learning project is that I am using it with my kids and they are enjoying it along with me.  Surprisingly, it is even helping me incorporate more Spanish in the home environment (something I struggle with for many reasons, but that’s a whole other story).  It is a bit ironic to think that this nonverbal language is helping us focus on a second spoken language at home!

If you have any interest in learning sign language, here are my recommended YouTube channels that I have found to be helpful so far…

For easy, a-few-signs-at-a-time learning.  This channel is good for very specific sets of words, such as clothes and family.  The instructor is pretty humorous and has tons of videos:
Sign Language 101  https://www.youtube.com/user/SignLanguage101/videos

For a conversational style of signing but with audio to help process.  Not a ton of videos but this is an ASL teacher and I really like her organization of videos:
Mary Herr  https://www.youtube.com/user/mlherr100/videos

For an immersive experience, no audio included to help.  These are full lessons as if you were enrolled in an ASL class.  Videos are quite long, most are 30 – 40 minutes in running time:
Bill Vicars  https://www.youtube.com/user/billvicars/videos

Week 5: 21st Century Lesson Plan

Although I have for many years been in charge of curriculum creation for my Spanish classes, I work in an independent institution that does not require actual lesson plans.  Now before you become green with envy, I do have to admit that this is both a positive and a negative.  Yes, there is the positive of not being bogged down by weekly paperwork which does free me to be more creative and spend my energy on the preparation of the actual in-class materials.  I have heard time and time again the frustrations of family and friends in public education that spend oodles of time on lessons plans and do not feel it is always valuable time spent.  On the other hand though, I have learned over the years through classroom experience that lesson plans give you needed direction and purpose.  If well designed, lesson plans can help you trouble shoot beforehand and work out many kinks to make for a smooth, engaging classroom environment.  Plus, you have documentation of your efforts to reflect on and refine for future years.  No need to reinvent the wheel each time!

I will openly admit, again, that I do appreciate the aforementioned positive, and I do not regularly write out lessons plans.  However, I can proudly report that I have spent countless hours creating, writing, and tweaking my entire K-2 curriculum from start to finish.  Over the past three years, using the backwards design method of Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins I have developed a curriculum that is based in the communicative approach to language learning (one that emphasizes the goal of communication) and is aligned with the Standards for World Languages by ACTFL, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.  This curriculum includes all the pieces of well-prepared lessons, such as student objectives, content alignment, materials and resources, cross-curricular and technology integration, etc.  It is a constant work in progress for continual improvement and updates.

So writing lesson plans for this week’s assignment for CEP 810 were new for me in the formal sense but familiar at the same time.  I am extremely excited to have these plans for the opening days in the fall.  It is one-third of my planning that would need to take place anyway at the end of this month.  To give you a bit of background, these plans initiate a year-long curriculum designed around the essential question, “What are my routines?”  The students focus on home, school, and weekend routines throughout the entire year, making comparisons to their lives here with the lives of children in various parts of Mexico.  One thing to keep in mind as you take a look is that even though the plans are written in English, my classroom environment is almost always conducted entirely in the target language.  Although my students are only ages 5 – 8 years, an all-Spanish learning environment encourages meaningful use of the target language and promotes their comfort negotiating in Spanish.  Another helpful thing to remember is that I luckily have my students for three consecutive years.  This allows me to jump into a new school year with what may seem to be an aggressive set of lessons with such young students.  I do a lot of scaffolding of lessons from unit to unit and year to year which allows me to creatively use my students’ previous experiences and knowledge to continue their learning.  Believe me, they can handle it.

Click here to see my lesson plans for Elementary School Spanish!

Week 4: Managing Professional Workflow

Finally!  In our EdTech class we arrive at the topic that has long been on my list of things to explore – using technology to manage and increase the efficiency of my workflow.  This is also known as GTD, Getting Things Done.  From week four of class we learned that David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (2001), suggests that in order to become a more productive and organized individual “you need no new skills to increase your productivity — just a new set of behaviors about when and where to apply them” (p. 80).  He even speaks about these new behaviors in a TED Talk YouTube video (http://youtu.be/CHxhjDPKfbY) as ones that will most likely feel “very awkward, very unnatural, and even unnecessary” but that with practice, just like with anything else, these behaviors can become second nature.

We also learned from our online lecture that Allen’s framework for GTD is organized into five stages:  collect, process, organize, review, do.  I can totally wrap my head around this organization and can quickly identify where I fall short.  My weakness is found in the last step, “DO!”  I have been a long time master of making lists and organizing to-do’s but sometimes I find myself creating and revising them more than GTD!  I really appreciate Allen’s suggestion of not even writing down a to-do item if it only should take you a couple of minutes to complete the task.  Unfortunately though, I have a horrible memory.  So lots of lists for me are the best option.

So with this information in mind, this week’s assignment was to explore several different productivity tools and share my insights on the usefulness of a favorite tool.  For this, I will give a short review of 200 words or less of Evernote.

Evernote Overview:
Are you a constant list maker?  Do you have a list for every category of life – home, kids, work, groceries, grad class, etc.?  Do you sometimes jot down a list on paper only to then forget where you put it?  Well these are all characteristics of my list-making habits, and Evernote has been a life saver.

Evernote Pros:
Wow, Evernote has endless choices for functionality.  By far, the biggest organizer for me has been the option to group notes into notebooks.  So all the categories listed above get neatly tied up together in a notebook for me to easily reference.  There is also a shortcut tab to put quickly access your favorites, a search bar, and a feature to tag notes.  For simple word processing purposes, it’s genius!  Keep all your docs synced on all devices so you can list away at any given moment.  This was unbelievably helpful for grad class while on vacation with my family last week – laptop, iPad, or phone I was GTD with ease.  I have not even explored much of the other features such at adding images, audio notes, and FaceTime recordings.  And this is not even the premium account which offers more!

Evernote Cons:
Not sure I’ve come across any yet.  While there are limitations from a creative standpoint, Evernote gets the job done when it comes to organizing.  Give it a try if you are not already a user!


Allen, D. (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York: Penguin.

Week 4: Networked Learning Project Update

ASL + L2 = Signing Fun in the Language Classroom

When I was in elementary school, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, I remember one of my teachers showing us the finger formations for the alphabet in American Sign Language.  I have no recollection of the purpose of the lesson, but I vividly recall that I was instantly intrigued.  I saw it as the perfect way to communicate with my friends secretly.  You know, like from across the room while the teacher was writing on the board or something like that.  So my bestie and I practiced together, learned the alphabet, and used it whenever we wanted to communicate.  It totally worked!  But we eventually got caught.

In middle school, I actually had a classmate that was hard-of-hearing.  She wore hearing aides in both ears and spoke a bit differently and was rather shy.  However, we both played the clarinet in band and instantly bonded.  She taught me some new signs and we had fun with it.  But this time, the signing was meaningful.  It was authentic and I loved it.  We became really good friends in and out of school.

I have not thought about these childhood memories in a long time, maybe even since they happened.  They literally just came to mind as I sat down to write this blog post to give an update on my Networked Learning Project.  I sat at the computer for a moment thinking to myself, when and how did my interest in ASL even begin?  I have always had a fascination with ASL, but not until this very moment had I connected the dots of my past.  Wow, my interest in ASL makes much more sense to me now and gives me more motivation to make my Networked Learning Project for CEP810 a reality.

As stated in a previous post, I am a huge fan of using gestures and movement in the classroom.  The more exaggerated, the better.  The kids love it and it keeps my days interesting for me also.  In second language education, this is referred to as TPR (Total Physical Response) so to incorporate ASL seems like a natural fit.  I am hopeful that signing with students will be a way to aide and increase their comprehension and participation as well as support classroom management and community building.  My commitment for my class project is to learn at least 20 signs that will be of benefit to my students and me.  I first began by brainstorming a list of words that are most frequently used in my K-2 classes.  I then broke down the list into three categories of teaching and learning:  kindness and manners, classroom management, and participation.  As I am discovering videos that include my target signs, I am marking the words with an asterisk to show that I am confidently able to sign it.  I am also editing my lists throughout the process.  Please have a look at my Popplet that shows my progress so far.

ASL Words for the K-2 Language Classroom

ASL Words for the K-2 Language Classroom

The tricky part of this assignment is that the learning can only happen via YouTube and Help Forums. My initial reaction to this requirement was one of excitement, thinking that the resources on YouTube alone would be more than sufficient.  A search on YouTube for ASL graciously delivers well over one million results!  Yikes, that’s a lot.  And as you can imagine, they are not all quality videos or do not really fit my needs.  Nevertheless, with more specific searches I have found several promising YouTube channels and am making progress.  I am finding that the videos that are geared toward signing with infants and toddlers are the most helpful to me.  So far I have learned from ASL for Infants and Toddlers (http://youtu.be/d1P6IxBSwMc), Two Little Hands Productions (https://www.youtube.com/user/SigningTime/videos), and a set of videos by a user named Mary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx2Tk2ZfM4Y).  My favorite by far is the last.  Mary is a teacher of deaf students, and I absolutely love her style of videos.  She organizes signs into useful categories, she signs conversationally throughout the entire video and narrates to explain, and she includes receptive and expressive quizzes at the end to make you practice what you have learned.  Her videos may be overwhelming for some, but I find them to be brilliant.

It has only been two weeks, and I am happy to report that I am already approaching my goal of at least 20 ASL words.  I have two more weeks to go.  Perhaps I will be able to double my initial goal!

Week 3: PLN Reflection Post

So if I “like” your post, I need to use FaceBook.  If I’m looking to “hangout” with you, I need to be on Google.  If want to include you in my “stream”, I must be on Instagram.  And if I “@you” or “#you”, I am likely using Twitter.  I know this all sounds very, very basic to many and the list goes on much further.  But I’m playing catch up here.  Am I at least on the right track?

The online networking options (and jargon) are a bit over the top in my opinion.  I have avoided much of it (intentionally) for some time now.  I don’t really need to be connected and consumed with the digital world ALL the time, do I?

Well, apparently I do.  At least a little bit more than I do currently.  In my EdTech class last week, we focused on identifying key mindsets that teachers need in order to successfully meet the needs of our 21st century learners.  One of the mindsets discussed was that teachers must accept the importance of becoming more connected and building a wider PLN (professional learning network) using a variety of technologies.  I consider myself to be fairly tech savvy when it comes to engaging my students and using tech to create classroom activities.  However, I do realize that there are ways that I could indeed be using technology more effectively for professional gains.  With the surplus of online networking opportunities available, why am I not more connected!?

Don’t get me wrong.  I spend lots and lots of time online.  But it’s not necessarily in a connected manner.  By that I mean that I do a ton of searching and browsing and gathering info as a consumer but not so much interacting and contributing as a producer of web content.  I’m kinda missing the mark when it comes to building a PLN that offers a give and take experience.  So it’s time to GOI and stop feeling like a 4NR out there on the WWW of WTMI.  There are options for EVRE1, including me.  Plenty of EZ opportunities for PD that are accessible 24/7.  I just have to first get used to the lingo, LOL!  TFLMS!!

(P.S.  I know that ending was super cheesy, but I couldn’t resist!)

Week 3: Popplet PLN

Check out my Popplet! It is a visual representation of my current PLN (Professional Learning Network).  Many of the popples in the area of online connections are new beginnings for me.  I definitely want to expand the ways that I am connecting with others and continue edging my way towards becoming more of a contributor and not just a consumer of online resources. 🙂

popplet pln

Week 2: Networked Learning Project

ASL + L2 = Signing in the Language Classroom

I am very much a hand talker. It is a habit, a reflex if you will. I often can not control it or am even aware of it. Half of what I communicate is likely to be in gestures and facial expressions. With my hands and my face and no words at all, I can get you to sit down, laugh at me, or engage you in a tall tale… that is if you are one of my elementary school students.

For my Networked Learning Project for CEP 810, I would like to take this natural affinity I have for exaggerated body language one step further. I would like to literally learn to speak with my hands. I have always been interested in incorporating real sign language to support language learning with my students. It would be an excellent way for me to facilitate my students’ comprehension skills and allow them to similarly use signs to increase their confidence with exclusively using the target language. How cool would that be for the students to not only be learning Spanish but also some common signs that would be effective in the real world (not just in Super Señora sign language!)?

I have taught myself over the years a handful of signs that I use regularly so I am confident that this learning project can work. There are tons of resources available for learning sign language… books, DVDs, online courses. Oh wait, I just remembered that the requirements of the assignment are as follows, “You are going to learn to do something using ONLY YouTube and Help Forums on the Internet as your guides.”

¡Ay, caramba! This will be interesting. In fact, in today’s world of technology I even think this will be great. So, this is my commitment. By the end of CEP 810, I am confident that I will be a user of at least 20 words and phrases in ASL that I will proudly fold into my teaching in the fall. These will be high-frequency words and phrases that help with transitions, classroom management, and connecting personally with my students while sticking to the target language. I have a few ideas to get started but please let me know if you have any suggestions for me!