iPad Diaries: Volume 6

This is my sixth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5 as well.  In this post I'm going to share with you another project my students made using the Adobe Voice app.

You may recall that I did a project last year (well, two school years ago) where students created a video ad for a French-speaking country using a green screen.  I was really happy with that project, but I aimed to improve the project this year through the use of the iPads.

The objective was to have students demonstrate speaking skills, digital citizenship, and cultural knowledge, through a short "commercial" for a French-speaking country using Adobe Voice.

First, I showed students portions of each video from the playlist below, to get them acquainted with the scenery of each country they would have to choose from (I tried to pick a variety of countries all over the world).  We also pointed each one out on the map.

Next, in groups of three, students researched a country using both digital and print media.  This isn't a traditional research project, but students need to know about what kinds of foods one can eat there, what kinds of activities and traditions there are, what the weather is like, and what the major landmarks or cities are.  I gave students the following graphic organizer to prepare a script ahead of time (they also had a set of directions stating what information needed to be included) (click to see full size):

When students were done preparing the script, they got to start using Adobe Voice.  One of the requirements of the project was that they had to include at least three cultural photos (but most included more).  They could search in the app's library (which automatically uses Creative Commons photos and cites them for you), but if they couldn't find what they were looking for, they had to find an appropriate image to use legally and cite it properly, since these were being published to the internet.

Since most students (people in general, for that matter) are unaware that photos that you find on the internet are not free to use without permission, I took this opportunity to teach students about Creative Commons.  For those who aren't familiar, Creative Commons (or CC) is an organization providing a series of licenses that artists can apply to their work, giving permission for anyone to use it, as long as they follow the terms of the license (one of which is that credit must be given to the author).  There are six different licenses, stipulating terms like whether or not the work can be used commercially or whether or not the work can be modified.

I showed my students this video as an overview (the intended audience is younger than my students, but I appreciated this video's simplicity):

I advised students to use WikiMedia Commons to find their pictures, because most of the photos on there are either public domain or licensed through Creative Commons.  Additionally, the licenses are very clearly noted on each photo.  I gave the students another graphic organizer to note their photo sources as they went along.  They then typed them into the credits slide at the end. Again, click the image to view the full size.

Best practice attributions for Creative Common works contain the name of the work, the author of the work, and the specific license the work is under (which can be abbreviated; see above).  Yes, I even made them write the attribution in French!  It may look complicated and confusing, but almost all of the students did their citations correctly.  Now, I'll readily admit that many of the students were skeptical of the premise that not all photos are legal to use, and that they would have to do all this elaborate citing.  People rip off images all the time, and there don't appear to be any consequences (of course, sometimes there are, but rarely for personal use).  What I tried to impress upon them, though, is that although you're not likely to face any legal consequences by sharing a copyrighted photo in your online project for school, it looks unprofessional and unscholarly.  It's a good idea to start now leaving a clear footprint on the internet.

Above, when students hit the "export" button, they have an opportunity to add in credits.  Below, you can save a link to the video to your clipboard and email it to yourself, or save the actual video to your camera roll if you want the file.

I think this project improved upon last year's, and it once again turned the idea of a presentation into something more engaging. Below are some of the finished products. You can see more on my class blog.

Feedback from the Students
As I did last year, I asked students for their feedback about the project.  Here were some of the things they had to say, both about the project and the app in general:

• It was a cool program and fun to use.
• It was boring.  [I included this comment because it is honest; not every student will like everything!]
• There was a lot of background noise, but this was solved by talking closer to the mic.
• There were lots of buttons but it was easier to use than PowerPoint.
• It was sometimes hard to find photos to use.
• I learned about lots of francophone countries.
• I would like to be able to present to the class as well.
• I would like to have more time to have a deeper understanding of my country.
• Students could give each other feedback by stating two things they liked and one thing they would improve.
• The automatic citing feature was great.

Have you ever done a project like this or would you?  What would you, or did you, do differently?  Sharing our ideas and collaborating is what makes us better teachers, so please, share yours in the comments!

20 More Favorite Photos I've Taken in France

Some of you may know that my other passion besides teaching and French is photography.  I have a photography blog where I share many of my photos.  I like to share other culturally relevant materials on this blog besides just lesson ideas, so last year I shared 20 of my favorite photos that I've taken in France.  Since I have been re-editing some of my older photos I have come upon quite a few more that I thought were worth sharing as well.  So, here are 20 MORE favorite photos that I've taken in France.

Sacré-Cœur Sits Atop Paris, 2009
Sacré-Cœur Sits Atop Paris
This is a 560mm (35mm equivalent) field of view - or in other words, a very zoomed-in view from very far away, taken with my old Canon PowerShot superzoom compact.   The great thing about that camera was the ability to take shots like this without having to lug around a huge lens.

Looking Up at the Louvre - Pavillon Richelieu, 2009
Looking Up at the Louvre - Pavillon Richelieu
Although I.M. Pei's pyramids (including one of the smaller ones you see in this photo) were controversial when they were first added in 1989, I like the contrast of old and new.

My First Close Up of the Eiffel Tower, 2004
My first close up photo of the Eiffel Tower
I can remember the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower with my own eyes.  I took this photo not long after, and although I didn't have any special technical skills in photography at the time, it remains one of my favorites.  It was taken at a time of day when it was just starting to get dark, and the tone of the light was very pleasing.

Admiring the Mona Lisa, 2012 Admiring the Mona Lisa
I prefer shots like this to the standalone shots of the Mona Lisa, isolated with no context.  Here, you can really get a sense for how small the painting is, and also how popular.

Notre Dame la Nuit, 2012
Notre-Dame la Nuit
It is hard to capture photos at night on a bateau mouche while it is moving, but I managed to get this one blur-free.

Château de Chenonceau, 2012
Château de Chenonceau
This photo was my desktop all last year at school.

Musée du Carnavalet, 2012
Musée Carnavalet
You just can't find architecture like this in the United States.

Palace of Versailles in the Morning, 2012
Palace of Versailles in the Morning
There aren't a lot of buildings more impressive than this one.

Château de Chambord, 2004
Chambord is my favorite château in the Loire Valley that I've visited.

La Seine, 2012
This photo was one I took out a bus window.  Sometimes you don't have the luxury of stopping!

Inside Notre Dame, 2012
Inside Notre-Dame
Using a wide angle lens I was able to take in an expansive view of one of the world's most famous cathedrals.

View from Le Printemps, 2009
The best free view of Paris just might be from the rooftop café at Le Printemps.

The Fountains of Place de la Concorde, 2009
An early evening view of this Parisian landmark.

A Window on Château de Chenonceau, 2012
I love shooting through windows; they offer such a nice composition.

Quartier Juif, 2012
One of the things I love about Paris are the smaller streets that have such a wonderful European charm.

Gargoyle at Notre Dame, 2009
A cliché shot that's hard to resist.  I seem to remember climbing lots of stairs on that trip.

Windows on Versailles, 2012
Another window shot; but this time in beautiful Versailles.

Eiffel Tower and Palais de Chaillot, 2012
La Tour Eiffel depuis le Trocadéro
This is probably my favorite place to view the Eiffel Tower.

View from the Eiffel Tower, 2012

Probably one of my favorite photos from the Eiffel Tower.

Arc de Triomphe la Nuit, 2009

With just a point and shoot and a small Gorillapod tripod, I was determined to get a good night shot of the Arc de Triomphe.  The tilt is due to the fact that it was difficult to get the Gorillapod to hold the camera straight, but I ended up liking it.

iPad Diaries: Volume 5

This is my fifth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4 as well.  In this post I'm going to share with you a video my students made using the incredible Adobe Voice app.

Every year in June, I have my students make a video for next year's incoming students, showing them what they will learn in a fun way and sharing their thoughts on what helped them learn.  This year I decided to let students use the iPads to create the videos.  I allowed students who were all caught up to work on this while I worked with students who were behind, so they had very little guidance from me while they made this.  That being said, they really did a great job.

Adobe Voice is a video-making app that's sort of like PowToon but less comic-y.  It's only available for iPad.  Users make slides for each idea they want to present and then add text, icons, or photos, as well as record audio for the narration.  The photos are all Creative Commons photos and are automatically cited at the end of the video.  You can also upload your own photos.  The app has a number of songs you can use in the background as well as professional-looking themes and fonts to choose from.  It has just enough options to spur creativity but not so many that it's overwhelming.

I basically gave the students a list of all the topics we learned this year, had them open up Adobe Voice and make example sentences showing what types of things they will learn how to say.  They were also free to share their experiences in English using the iPad's camera in video mode.  I combined all the videos and edited them in MovieMaker to make one long video.  For this blog, I edited it down further and took out the student interviews.  The clip you see in the beginning was done by a student in his own time.  He was the one who brought the app to my attention and he made the video to show to incoming middle schoolers at our orientation night.  I thought it was perfect for this video as well. I cut off all the credits slides and put them all together at the end, which seemed more logical then putting them after each video, since it's supposed to play like one big video.


The students had a lot of fun making this and I think next year's students will really enjoy it.  In my next installment, I will share how students used Adobe Voice for another, much different project.

Passing the Baton: French Club Students Become French Teachers!

This year was the third year I was advisor to our school's French Club.  Each year since the club began, I have tried to find more service-oriented projects for students to do.  Last year we had a fundraiser to benefit the children of Haiti.  Earlier this year, students made a Moroccan couscous salad to donate to the local soup kitchen.  At the first French Club meeting of the year, I asked students to suggest activities they would like to participate in.  One student suggested that we go into the elementary schools and teach French.  I thought that sounded like a great idea, so that is what we did!

Students who participated in the project came in after school on a number of different occasions to prepare lessons and create visuals and examples.  Students practiced the lessons on each other, and we discussed some scaffolding and classroom management techniques.  For the first two lessons, my colleague and I developed the agenda, but for the third and final lessons, the students gave their input.

We went to the elementary school on three different Fridays right after school (while the elementary school was still in session).  Students were assigned to a second or third grade classroom in groups of four or five.  Lessons went for about a half hour.  For the first lesson, students taught the younger kids  colors and shapes, and played color and shape bingo.  For the second, they taught them parts of the body and learned the Alouette song.  Finally, for the last lesson, they taught them how to give their age and say their birth month.  The younger students then made a small poster with some of their information, drawing themselves in their birth month.  Above is an example one of the French Club students made, with some additional vocabulary included.

This was a very rewarding project for the French Club students, and the younger students enjoyed having their "French friends" come in on Fridays.  We are looking forward to repeating the project again next year, and hopefully expanding it to more lessons!

Have you ever done a project like this with your French Club?  If so, what was your experience?

iPad Diaries: Volume 4

This is my fourth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 as well.  In this post I'm going to share a few more activities I've tried as well as a great curating site my department head showed us.

Kahoot continues to be a smash hit.  Students inquire daily if we can play it.  One way to spice up Kahoot if you finish the game and have time to spare is the ghost round.  I first read about this on Maris Hawkins' blog, and decided to try it when I had a few minutes at the end of one of my classes.  Basically, you play the whole game again, but the students are competing against themselves from the previous round (the ghosts of themselves).  They try to see if they can beat their score.  This round goes a lot quicker because I don't usually stop to go over each answer, since I just did that during the prior round.

Another app I tried was Move and Match.  It's basically a way to make manipulatives that students can move around on the screen instead of cutting them out and sorting them and losing them.  This is a paid app, but you only need the paid version on one machine to make the projects.  The rest of the iPads can use a free version called M & M Lite, which allows students to play with projects but not make them.

Once you make a project, you need to email it to yourself and upload it somewhere like Google Drive or Dropbox.  Then students download it and open it in the app.  I made three projects:  one where students dragged and dropped adverbs into various sentences, one where students dragged and dropped words into sentences to describe pictures, and one where students were given a wide variety of words and were asked to make sentences based on prompts I had on the SMART Board.

Many students enjoyed using the app, and the main advantage is in streamlining the process of distributing the materials.  The other great advantage is being able to slowly scaffold and add more words with the click of a button.  The main concern that students expressed was that the app didn't offer instant feedback.  Groups were left waiting as I hustled around to verify their answers.  I'm sure there are similar apps to this that offer the ability to give instant feedback, it's just a question of finding one.  If you know of an app, please let me know!


Every year when we learn adverbs, I show students short clips of French music videos and the students offer their opinions using "bien" or "mal."  This year, I thought I'd try it with the iPads.  Having the source of input closer will positively impact their engagement.  Students watched one minute of each video in groups, then discussed their opinions.  I didn't have headphones, but I hoped that it wouldn't be too much of an issue if they kept the volume low.  I was wrong.  The interfering sounds made it very difficult to focus.  I do think using the iPads kept the students more engaged, but I'll probably just stick to the SMART Board next year unless we get headphones (or have students bring in their own).

The final tool I want to share today is EdShelf, which is a site for curating apps to use in the classroom.  My department head showed it to us at our last meeting.  You can follow other users, create "shelves" for different groups of apps, and browse apps by discipline, purpose, grade level, and other criteria.  I really like the idea of EdShelf, but I'm hoping to see more users adopt it.  I don't see a lot of language teachers on it as of yet.  If you're not a member, be sure to join!  Here are my three "shelves."

iPad Diaries: Volume 3

In my previous posts about iPads in my classroom, I've talked about the interactive game Kahoot, the whiteboard app Jot, the brainstorming app Lino, and using iPads in stations for quiz review.  In this post I'll share a project students did using Apple's Keynote app.

Every year I like to give students a project that allows them to use ER verbs in context.  I've done both individual and group projects, but I've found that this material can be challenging for students to work on individually.  This year I wanted to use the iPads.  I just wanted a simple app that could make presentations with text and pictures.  After playing around with the few, I came to the conclusion that Keynote was the best, due to its simplicity.

The main idea of the project is for students to state what various people do and don't do in a certain setting.  By anchoring the "story" (and I use that term loosely) with a specific setting, such as a place or time of year, the sentences have more context and don't feel like unrelated ideas.  First, the students choose a character (such as Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter) to be the narrator.  Then they pick the setting (at home, at school, in winter, etc.).  After that they write, as the narrator, what the narrator ("Je") does and doesn't do in that setting, what another person - a friend or family member of the narrator - does and doesn't do ("Il" or "Elle"), what the narrator and another person - could be the aforementioned person or a different one - do and don't do ("Nous"), and what two other people ("Ils" or "Elles") do and don't do.  Then they end it with a question.  It hits on almost every verb form, but it has a story-like feel to it.

First, the students brainstormed on paper so as not to monopolize the iPads, which are shared among the department.  Having it laid out on paper helps me more quickly assess whether they are on the right track as opposed to flipping through slides.

Next the students typed their text into Keynote.  When they were all done, they made original drawings in Jot to insert into each slide.  Many of them wanted to include pictures from the internet, but for copyright reasons I asked that the work be entirely original.  A few of them made drawings at home and photographed them.

Here are a few examples of finished products:

Most students enjoyed working on the project and I was pleased with the results.  Here are a few thoughts going forward:

Advantages of using iPads for this project:
-Ability to easily publish work on blog for a wider audience
-Possibility of narration (although that was not used in this project)
-Built in autocorrect actually helps students with spelling if the keyboard is set to French
-Work is preserved/archived more easily and doesn't deteriorate

-Work cannot be displayed in classroom
-Students get a little carried away on drawings because it is more difficult to make a good drawing in Jot than it is to draw it by hand

All in all, it was a good project, but I'll be looking for ways to further exploit the technology when I do it next year.

The iPad Diaries: Volume 2

Recently my department was given a set of 10 iPads thanks to a grant from the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning.  I previously blogged about the first couple of days we used the new iPads in my classroom.  Today I am blogging about the second round of activities we have been doing.

I was interested to try an activity with Padlet.  Padlet is a virtual noticeboard where users can add text and photos.  I wanted my students to draw pictures in the Jot app and then upload them and write a caption.  The problem was that Padlet does not work very well on the iPad when trying to upload photos (there's no app, and the site does not seem to be optimized for tablet use).  So after browsing through other similar sites and apps, I settled on Lino.  Lino actually has an app, so it is fully functional on the iPad.

In groups of two or three, students thought up a French sentence, drew a picture of it in Jot, uploaded it to Lino, and then wrote a caption for another group.  It was cool to see the board get updated on the SMART Board in real time.  That made it easy for me to see if groups were on task and address any major errors (although I was circling around the room, too, but the students zoom in on the board when they write the caption).  My only issue with Lino was that a lot of the posts kept appearing on top of each other, and I would have to go over and organize them on my computer.  Not really a big deal, but if I can find an app that organizes them more easily, I'll use that next time.

About halfway through the day, we ran out of space on the board (I didn't think it was necessary to use a different board for each class), so we ended up making a second board.  Above, a screen shot of one of the boards.  You can see the actual boards here.

Students who finish tasks early are allowed to play on the DuoLingo app.  I love the app, but because the iPads are shared and students are not logging in, they aren't able to make as much progress as they would at home.  I'm searching for other options for early finishers.  Having the iPads at their disposal gives us so many ways to use that leftover time more productively and keep them engaged in the language.

Finally, I also used the iPads for stations in a quiz review (pictured above).  I had never done stations before, but I think I'm hooked!  This was the first opportunity for students to have one on one time with the iPads.  At one station, students were writing descriptions on white boards of what was going on in a photo, and a "mini-prof" would go over the possible answers with them (the mini-profs were very enthusiastic!).  At another station, students looked at a paper with about 16 different images on it.  In pairs, one partner described what was going on in the picture, and the other pointed to the one they were talking about.  At the iPad station, students played games that worked with mechanics and grammar, most of them cloze type activities.  Some students really enjoyed them, while others felt they could have been more interactive.  I liked them because students got instant feedback on whether or not their answers were correct, without the teacher hovering over them the whole time.  That being said, I'm on the lookout for apps that are a little more engaging and allow me design a quiz where I can provide information on why an answer is incorrect as well.

The SAMR model, explained above by Jonathan Brubaker, complete with a coffee analogy, helps teachers determine how useful a certain technology is in conjunction with a certain task.  Click on the above graphic to visit Jonathan's blog and read his thoughts on the SAMR model.  I first shared this image on my post about the value of low-tech in a high-tech world, but I think it bears mentioning again.  Another iPad-loving French teacher who has blogged about the SAMR model is Mme Mallette.  She is further along in her iPad journey than I am, so be sure to read her blog for excellent ideas.

The SAMR model is always in my mind when conceiving tasks with the iPad.  That doesn't mean all my tasks meet the "redefinition" criterion though (hardly!).  In this first year of using the devices, it's natural that more of the tasks will fall under "substitution" or "augmentation," and that's not a bad thing, I've learned.  Sometimes, it's necessary to start there and see how the activities and projects play out before building up to "modification" and "redefinition" tasks.  Having the SAMR model in my mind, though, helps me stay mindful of trying to harness the most potential from technology.

Stay tuned for my next installment of the iPad diaries, where I'll share a creative project my students recently completed!

As always, if you use iPads in your classroom and have app suggestions (especially on the topics I mentioned in the post) or comments, please feel free to add them!

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