Sunday, March 17, 2013

Una Problema Malvada: A Wicked Problem Part A

The following is una problema malvada (a wicked problem) in Spanish classrooms.  That problem is getting students to communicate authentically and with confidence!  I have provide technology strategies, logistics of a solution, research, a plan, and indication as to why this will be a successful project. 

Educational Need
The educational need is students do not feel confident communicating in a second language, for my classroom the language is Spanish. Communication can include speaking, reading, writing, and listening.  The problem arises because students generally hear one speaker (their teacher) and it is difficult to truly immerse a student in a second language.  It’s easy to teach students phrases and rote questions and answers, but how do we get them to communicate as if they were really in a foreign country?  This becomes very challenging to do in a World Language classroom with limited time and few methods of authentic immersion.
My Technology-Integration Strategy
The effective integration of assistive technologies and Web 2.0 tools will help students have more real life experiences talking to native speakers.  Various authentic experiences will strongly encourage students to feel more comfortable and confident communicating in Spanish.
One tool that can help solve this wicked problem is an authentic pen-pal emailing website.  Students are able to write and receive e-mails from native speakers.  This will help them become more confident because they will be using their Spanish authentically.  They will be receiving letters from students in a Spanish speaking country and will hopefully continue communicating with them after the course is over.  In the future, if a student is in a Spanish speaking country, they will be more apt to communicate through writing because it is something they will have done before with a native speaker.
Many pen-pal emailing websites (the one I will be using is provided with the students’ online textbook, so it is safe and recommended) can lead to other things such as communicating verbally.  Normally, speaking and listening are two aspects of a language that my students struggle with the most.  Two great tools that can be used to increase students’ speaking and listening skills are Skype and Voicethread.  After developing relationships through emailing, it will be fantastic to Skype to have students practice speaking and listening with their pen-pals.  It will be authentic, they will be speaking and listening to a native speaker, and they will have a preexisting relationship with the pen-pal.  This will be a unique opportunity for students to use their interpersonal communication skills with confidence and with technology.  The technology aspect provides students a one-on-one experience using their knowledge to communicate with a native speaker.  That is as real as it gets, unless I can take my whole class on a trip to Mexico or Spain. (I wish!)
Voicethread will be the second means to getting students to feel more confident using their speaking skills.  Voicethread will be working on their presentational communication skills.  Students will be able to record their voices and be able to hear how they sound in Spanish.  They often don’t hear themselves speaking, making it difficult to improve their pronunciation.  I will be able to work with students one on one and help them with their pronunciation and fluency.  Also, they will be able to share their projects with their online pen-pals.  They will hopefully gain confidence while practicing their Spanish and will be able to use their voicethread projects as they advance further in their Spanish careers to see the improvement of their speaking.
Logistics of a Solution
First, I will make lesson plans that include the TPACK framework, so I can integrate technology to fit well with the content and pedagogy.  The technology for writing skills will be the online interaction with pen-pals.  The technology for interpersonal and presentational speaking and writing skills will be using Skype and Voicethread.  Next, I will need to schedule laptops that have Internet access and cameras.  I will need to check out headsets from the Media Center. Then I will contact our technology integration specialist to download Skype and Voicethread to prepare the laptops with those programs.  I would like to send a letter home to parents letting them the benefits of online pen-pals, Skype, and Voicethread. Finally, after the lessons are completed in class, I will assign homework where students try to use the tools outside of the classroom.  (If students do not have Internet access at home, computers are available for use in the Media Center.)
Research That Supports My Strategies
Research shows that when students use technology effectively in the classroom: 1. Are able to access more linguistic and cultural materials. 2. Can improve communication both written and orally or both at the same time. 3. Can receive authentic feedback from native speakers. 
Research from the TPACK framework shows the importance and effectiveness of integrating technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge together.  The assistive technologies and Web 2.0 tools that I have chosen will integrate the TPACK framework, so students are not only integrating technology into the lesson, but positive pedagogy and content.  This will allow students to gain confidence through real life experience that in turn will help improve their confidence communicatively with native speakers. 
My Plan

After researching information, I discovered three tools that best fit the solution of increasing students’ confidence of learning a second language.  Online pen-pals, Skype, and Voicethread are all beneficial programs to increase students’ communicative skills in Spanish. The first step will be getting students access to computers with Internet and correct programs such as Skype and Voicethread.  My school has laptops, computer labs, and headsets available during the day.  The Media Center is open before and after school and during lunch with computers that have Internet access for students that want to use these programs outside of the classroom.  (Students may also visit local libraries with similar tools if necessary.) 
The next step will be teaching students how to use these tools effectively to gain more confidence with communication.  I will give students writing prompts to use while writing to their pen-pals because Spanish 1 students have limited vocabulary.  After providing them with several writing prompts overtime, I will let the conversations with native speakers just take place because I want this to be an authentic experience for my students.  When they are finished with Spanish 1, I hope they will continue communication over the summer and will try to keep their same pen-pal as they move on to Spanish 2.
Skype and Voicethread will be used for speaking and listening skills.  I will share my main goal with students:  The goal is to communicate with native speakers authentically, not to finish the assignment!  Before Skyping with pen-pals, I will have students write out questions to ask and possible responses.  I want them to be prepared, but will let them know that realistically their pen-pal may ask question they don’t know answers to! (Therefore, I will provided them with the answer, “Yo no sé”.)  Voicethread will be used more for practicing presentational skills.  I will have students speak about themselves, describe others, and read Spanish paragraphs.  This will allow the students and myself to hear their pronunciation and practice their fluency.
The last step will be preparing students to use resources on their own to communicate in Spanish and use technology outside of the school environment.  I hope for students to gain enough confidence with their communication skills, that they will stay in contact with their pen-pal through emailing and skyping.
Indication of a Successful Project
This plan will be successful because I have a proper and well thought out plan in place.  My school has the technology to support my plan.  I have the knowledge as a teacher to implement lesson plans that follow the TPACK framework and the motivation to use technology in my class.  I believe using Web 2.0 tools and assistive technologies such as online pen-pals, Skype, and Voicethread are all authentic and fun uses of the Spanish language for students.  These real life examples and relationships will encourage them to communicate more with native speakers and feel more comfortable using the language.  Once they are feeling confident using the language, I believe that they will be motivated to try communicating and practicing Spanish inside and outside of the classroom. 
Resources and Citations
Punya, Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler. “Introducing Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge.” (2008): 2-14. 
Zhao, Yong. “Recent Developments in Technology and Language Learning: A Literature Review and Meta-analysis.” CALICO Journal. 21 (2003): 7-23.

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