Distance Learning Litmus Test

Apparently, I picked a good time to start blogging again. I planned to share the piece I submitted for the We Are Teachers blog regarding classroom observations, which seems to be currently irrelevant. Instead, I'll share ideology and a few online tools I've used over the past decade or so that have passed my litmus test

When it comes to using technology as a learning tool in a public high school setting, here are the criteria:

1) Is it widely accessible/reliable and free? 

  • Ideally, it should be functional on a phone, since that is often the only accessible device in lower socioeconomic households. (Of course, even that is not an option for many. At this point in the school year, an instructor would be aware of individual student limitations.)
  • DOÑA KAREN’S CHOICE: Google Classroom. There are many other cool platforms, but in this case, ubiquity wins. For both teachers and students, assigning, tracking, submitting,and attaching ANY kind of digital information is streamlined and relatively simple. It is also usually connected to the most commonly used student information systems, like Aeries

2) If it's a skills-based practice activity, is it simple enough, singularly focused, with immediate feedback?

  • If the directions are too complicated, or there are no reference materials or initial lessons included, they won't be useful. In general, a student should be able read or watch a BRIEF presentation before attempting, submitting, and correcting errors independent of teacher consult. DOÑA KAREN’S CHOICES:
  1. Study Spanish The grammar section divided into units provide introductory notes to each concept, and then the BASIC QUIZ provides the guided practice for free.

  2. Quizlet  Create your own or look up any subject vocabulary for content to borrow, share, modify.

  3. Profedeele An amazing site with anything a Spanish teacher could want from native speaker including grammar presentations and practices, songs and video(mostly authentic materials) with ready-made interactive practices, cultural information, ANYTHING. 

3) Does it provide something that a live instructor can't, or shouldn't spend their time providing?

  • In almost any subject, there are elements of "drill practice" necessary to mastery. This is the very thing that technology is good for. An instructor's time and energy shouldn't be spent of something a computer can check, like spelling, a correct conjugation, etc.. 
  • In world languages, comprehensible INPUT, INPUT, INPUT is the name of the game. Songs, games, books, children's stories, articles, infographics, movies, shows at varied comprehension levels are available ad infinitum online. It isn't instructionally sound for a teacher to be the only source of target language input under ANY circumstance. The more interactive the input, the better. DOÑA KAREN’S CHOICES:
  • Mi vida loca (BBC) An interactive drama that places you as a direct participant. Includes episodes and practice companion activities. Uses flash, so it's good if you enable it until December 2020.
  • Tío Spanish It's a ridiculous finger talking with props, but has a lot of useful input on vocabulary, grammar, and culture. High schoolers find it entertaining. 
  • Reading A-Z en español This link takes you to the levelized readers. You can open a level, search through the books. The key to using it for free: just magnify the screen to actually read the book. Students can switch back and forth between Spanish and English to translate unclear sections. 

There's always more, but teachers know that the real gold is ROAD TESTED materials. I dabble in a lot of other resources, but these are the proven ones. 


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