COETAIL Final Project – IB French, Collaborative Writing

Posted on Updated on

cada macaca no seu galho
photo by mondopanno

FINALLY!!!! I am very pleased to announce that I got the COETAIL final project monkey off my back! I refer to it as a monkey in the most affectionate of manners. This was a really long process. The first step of just settling on a project topic seemed like an amazing accomplishment.

The next step was actually planning the tech integration project. True to the life of an educator, it just never seemed like there was enough time to get this thing done.

Then, the project was done. I had photos, video footage (MERCI Lissa!), student work, and student testimonial videos…which I sat on for too many weeks to count. It was tough work scripting and summarizing. Then the hours spent in iMovie seemed never ending.Until I turned that magical corner of no-turning-back. What a sense of relief! What a sense of accomplishment!

The COETAIL journey was well worth the time and effort. I now have a solid base of information on which to build my approach to technology integration. In addition, I have a phenomenal PLN to consult for further information, developments, advice, and examples. I am certainly a better educator as a result. 😉


Necessity, the mother of…flipping instruction?

Posted on

Call !
photo by redwood 1

The week of March 3…fully booked during teaching time to record Individual Oral Assessments.

The awkward part of a week of Orals is that only one or two students become the focal point of my attention during class time. This leaves the rest of the class to their own devices (literally and figuratively). Talk about a teacher’s worst guilt trip on so many levels.

This week through a combination of using Edmodo and Google Drive apps, I am going to attempt to flip instruction. Although, is it still flipping instruction if students are left to work independently during the regularly scheduled class time? 😉

The biggest challenge is that they are beginning a new unit on the environment. I have been scouring the internet for resources that they could use to independently learn the vocabulary and expressions necessary.

The first theme will focus on Recycling.

  • Preparation: I sent students a notification via edmodo to bring a device to class and to be sure that they have a Google account. I also posted a Youtube video for them to watch either before, or upon, arriving in class, their choice. The beauty of the Youtube video is that students can turn on the subtitles in French to follow the dialogue. They are not 100% correct, but should help to support students as they begin.

  • Class 1: Today’s success hinges on a couple of factors that I can’t necessarily control: student motivation/engagement, devices present, and internet connection. I was able to snag Lissa, the French speaking tech coach to support students and help them with troubleshooting.

I posted two flipped assignments and scheduled them to open just before class begins. One is a collaborative presentation in which student are to add 3 slides each representing a different vocabulary word or expression. The other is a document that students will copy to their own Google drive and use to work with new vocabulary. There are two internet-based reading activities linked in this document with simple comprehension activities. It’s a lot of learning for them to complete in 60 minutes, even if everything runs smoothly.


  • Class 2: Not convinced that too much is getting done during class time…
  • Class 3: First student shares completed assignment via Google doc. I notice that answers about reading article were often copied and pasted from said article. Not what I really wanted, but kids often answer questions by copying by hand from text. Maybe not the end of the world, as students also need to comprehend in order to choose the right text to copy/paste.
  • The night before class 4: Second student shares a completed assignment via Google doc. Not a total surprise that I am receiving requests from many students regarding sharing the Google Presentation with them so they could add their slides. Numerous edmodo messages asking for details and clarifications on various expectations. (Without technology, students wouldn’t be able to get answers from me outside of school hours.) I am compiling a survey in Google Forms for students to provide feedback after tomorrow’s written formative.
  • Class 4: Today students will complete a formative assessment based on the previous three classes of flipped instruction/independent learning.

Well, this was an experience for all involved. The majority of students did not complete/submit assignments in the time frame allowed. Flipping instruction. It’s like flipping a coin. Will they? Won’t they? On time? Late?

Is Handwriting Threatened by Technology?

Posted on

Handwriting! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing????? Well, it seems to be good for producing tears.

Crazy conversation this morning with a colleague that began as a discussion about my 10th grade son’s handwriting. It was his French teacher (a French native) who brought up the subject. We discussed and debated the subject all in her native language, my second language. Oh, là, là!

What is the Role of Handwriting?

Oh, là, là! I enter the French classroom and immediately recognize the handwriting of my 10th grade son.

Her concern was that his handwriting needs work practice. This was certainly not the first time I have heard this in the almost 16 years since my son entered my life. At this point, it’s hard to know if I am approaching the handwriting conversation as a mother, a colleague, a tech enthusiast, or an active member of the 21st century. Whichever hat I wear, I have some very strong feelings about handwriting.

Very quickly I sensed that the conversation was becoming a debate, mostly because she and I were coming from different vantage points. She began by seeking my support in handwriting practice, that having nice handwriting is important. She argued that handwriting is important and students should be required to first demonstrate neat handwriting before being allowed to use an iPad or a laptop. (Have I mentioned she is of a different generation than mine? A younger generation than the one I belong to.) She even complimented me on my lovely handwriting! <Blush> (At that moment, I slightly regretted handwriting those sub plans for her back in January.) I may have burst her bubble when I told her that I often prefer typing since I can type much faster than I can write (neatly) by hand.

Handwriting refers to a person’s unique style of writing characters created with a writing utensil such as a pen or pencil…Because each person’s handwriting is unique, it can be used to verify a document’s writer.

So, his handwriting is challenging to read, but by definition handwriting is “unique.” His just happens to be uniquely challenging to read. 😉 Because his penmanship style is not aesthetically pleasing, the expectation is that he change. I digress and head off into questionable territory here…The Land of the Mama Tiger! 😉

Kids These Days

Of course, it is important to note that technology was blamed more than once during this conversation as being the cause of the downfall of handwriting and of a growing inability to give handwriting its proper respect. It’s the age-old “kids these days” argument, that is rarely really about “kids these days.” As the BBC news magazine video above reveals, hanging onto handwriting may be more motivated by nostalgia than anything else. Is it more important for my teenage son to increase his fluency in the French language or that he write neatly in cursive? As a parent and and an educator, I know which one requires greater cognitive ability.

I know that I have very strong feelings about the role of handwriting and the role of technology in the lives of kids and how each enable us to communicate our ideas. Some of these feelings (o.k., maybe all of them) are definitely shaped by my experiences as a parent. My son’s handwriting has been a bone of contention with teachers ever since he began school at the tender age of four. Despite his manual agility with the tiniest of Lego bricks, the dexterity required for handwriting and using scissors has always seemed to elude him. We worried that maybe he just didn’t try hard enough, so spent summers forcing him to work in handwriting workbooks. He has suffered a few poor scores from teachers who couldn’t get beyond his handwriting to uncover the ideas that he was trying to communicate. Luckily this has been rare. Sometimes, he can’t even read his own handwriting. His handwriting has become a point of many jokes in our family. He owns that his handwriting is a cross to bear.

a handwritten note from my son, age 10
(I still carry this in my wallet.)

The biggest problem is that his handwriting only serves as a handicap to his ability to communicate his ideas. He is a fast processor with lots of creative ideas that come to him at a speed that his handwriting could never support. Technology has become his best friend in this regard. He is very passionate about writing and produces a daily average of around 2000 words between blogging, writing his first novella, and various projects and assignments for school. Most of his teachers over the past few years have been very understanding and he uses an iPad in class to take notes, produce journal entries, and complete assignments.

Without technology, I wonder how his life in handwriting Hell might have been different. Would his handwriting have improved eventually? Would he be in a constant state of frustration? Would he have creative ideas left unshared and undeveloped? Would he actually love creative writing and blogging?

Straddling Two Worlds

If we lived in the States, I’m sure we would easily be able to have an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) that allowed for the accommodation of technology to assist him in written assignments. That would be nice for the times when he has to write a summative essay by hand in class or when he has to write exams by hand. Using an iPad or a laptop is not yet accepted as a means for exam writing due to potential academic honesty hazards. That said, he never complains and his teachers seem willing (maybe even able?) to decipher his handwriting. Some even joke that it really hurts their eyes, but they make sense of it, and I’m sure that he is able to make the shift to writing as legibly as possible because he realizes the necessity.

Many of us, adults and adolescents alike, straddle two worlds. We live a hybrid existence in which we use technology to facilitate numerous tasks in our daily lives, while still reaching for a print copy and a highlighter or jotting a to-do list on a Post-it note. Yes, I believe in handwriting. It’s not as if we’re talking about the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, here. Handwriting exists, we learn how to do it, we teach children how to do it, we use it to communicate. However, it is not the end-all be-all format through which we must communicate our ideas. For that, I know at least one 10th grade boy (and his parents) who are very happy!

The evolving UbD plan for my COETAIL course 5 final project

Posted on

Flutter Workshop in Blackburn 8
©All rights reserved by lovebytes

I think that I have finally committed to a final tech integration project for COETAIL course 5. I feel like I have been flitting around from one idea to another really unable to settle on something solid. In this state of flitting around, I have managed to incorporate a few lessons that involved the integration of technology and learned some new things.

The beauty of the UbD Google doc embedded below is that it is not static. I will most  likely flit around a bit more, making edits, additions, and deletions. Even now I am wondering if collaborative writing should be the focal point of my project since time is running out for the Public Service Announcement assessment. This group of students will spend the last week of March out of regular classes as they write final/mock exams, followed by a week of spring break, and returning with only three weeks of regular classes before IB World exams begin. As of today, I only have 17 more class meetings with them. I think I may have my answer. 🙂

Ultimately my objective is that, as a result of this tech integration unit, students will better understand the power of Google docs and how technology can provide them with opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.


More Lessons Learned While Geeking Out

Posted on

All rights reserved by zacretz
© All rights reserved by zacretz

So, I was recently inspired. This inspiration led to the realization that maybe I haven’t been very inspired lately. I blame this recent inspiration on @klbeasley and @intrepidteacher (and, of course, the ever-inspirational PLN that can exist only as a result of the 21st century and Twitter). They recently shared (via Twitter) their recent addition to the iBooks collection entitled Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook.

I’m not really sure why I promptly downloaded this iBook. Maybe it was because these are two Twitter handles that I have come to associate with quality 21st century learning. Maybe it was because I was curious to see what others had to say about the Twitter experience. Maybe I was just avoiding something on my to-do list that day. Whatever the reason, I was led to an absolutely amazing example of what an e-book can be!

From the opening video sequence using the extended metaphor comparing the use of Twitter to the experience of traveling, to the interactive widgets to test knowledge, to the personal testimonial videos, I was in awe. Be damned the poor excuses for e-texts that are nothing more than flat .pdf versions of the original hard copy. In my opinion, Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook is the exemplar of the redefinition that technology can provide.

So, enter inspiration…I, too, would create an iBook that would support the next unit of learning for my DP2 French ab initio students! I shall outline the steps (and challenges) of my process…

It’s very cool to see your work in progress show up in iBooks on your iPad!
  • I began by searching out resources to support my independent learning using iTunes U. I found a series of 21 vodcasts in a course called “Creating Impressive, Interactive Books” from Michigan’s MI Learning by Craig Van Ham (@baldtechteacher). Each vodcast addresses a particular aspect of using the iBooks Author app. Most vodcasts are under 10 minutes long and provide straightforward explanations and examples of how to use the tools within the app. I watched the first five or six topics and felt that I was ready to proceed.
  • After opening iBooks Author on my MacBook, I chose a template and promptly got to work. “Getting to work” only served to remind me just how time-consuming it is to a.) grow technologically and b.) CREATE! Oh, and there’s that thing called copyright that gets in the way of putting an iBook together. Did I mention that I was also creating it for a French class? Because that means that I was writing and creating in my 2nd language. I’m fairly fluent, but that’s a far cry from being bilingual.
  • Pictures are key to any e-text, but visuals are really important in learning a 2nd language. Where would the numerous weather, environment, and natural catastrophe visuals come from? When considering copyright infringement, the obvious choice was my personal collection of digital photos. (Ummm, about those natural catastrophe shots…) I love using the Gallery widget where I uploaded photos from my personal collection to reinforce French weather expressions.





  • Text is another piece of the learning environment of an e-text. There are so many great resources that exist to support student learning. I never think twice about referring students to a website or printing and copying an article from a website for use in class. However, when considering publishing and distributing to my students via iBooks, I am confronted with copyright infringement. My intention is for this iBook project to be offered to my students (and anyone else in the world) free of charge. What are the implications of using sources that I would not really hesitate to share with my students in a resource packet of photocopied material? As a result, I began writing text. The problem? It’s not authentic. I’m not a real French writer, nor are the things that I wrote real in the way that the front page of the Actu Environnement website is.
  • I have currently abandoned the project.

This was definitely an example of the process being far more valuable than the product. I was reminded of the all-important planning process. I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do, but it turned out to be a bit fuzzy when I was trying to make it real. My goals were also unrealistic. I thought that I would accomplish the greater part of this project over a five-day holiday (please don’t laugh!). I now see that perhaps this project is really a series of smaller projects. In the end, however, what may be perceived by some as a colossal waste of time got me thinking about where I will be going and what I will be doing with this next unit. Ultimately, the iBook thing won’t be my COETAIL course 5 project. The creation of iBooks by teachers really is a viable option to feed the e-text revolution, if/when it ever does come to fruition.

On My Way to Tech Integration Nirvana

Posted on

© All rights reserved StellaMarisHH

It’s way past time for a brief update on my most recent forays into technology integration. I have not necessarily begun my full-on COETAIL final project, but since inheriting a section of DP2 French ab initio in November I have managed to integrate some forms of technology with my students.

I will give a brief description of what I am doing followed by my assessment of where the use of technology falls on the SAMR model of technology integration.

  • Edmodo. I regularly use Edmodo to record what we did in class, assign homework, and to share a variety of documents with students. As a former heavy Moodle user lover, I find Edmodo to be useful, but lacking some of the features that I loved in Moodle. Edmodo doesn’t seem to have improved on the “scroll of death” format, either. I can tag all of my Edmodo posts, but my students just broke it to me a few days ago that tags are personal, so they can’t search my tags…which are well thought so as to be helpful for students.
  • S? A? M? or R? Good questions! On the one hand, Edmodo is a technology that is simply a substitution for a teacher writing assignments on the board that students then copy into a paper agenda. However, due to various sharing and connectivity features, Edmodo is an augmentation that offers functionality that the student agenda does not: distributing paper copies, passing around a sign-up paper, providing feedback for students outside of schools hours.
  • Google Apps. I have created a couple of key documents for my students to use thus far. These are all in support of understanding an IB external assessment know as The Written Assignment.
    • One is a collection of linked sources that they can choose from for their upcoming Written Assignment, which is an external assessment required by the IB. I continue to add sources that I find or that students find and share with me. It would probably be easier to give them the rights to edit the document, but I’m being a bit controlling at the moment. I am considering sharing this document to the IB’s online curriculum center where other French ab initio teachers could have access. At that point, I would strongly consider allowing other teachers around the world to add to this collection of links. The biggest problem in doing this is that in Kuwait we deal with censorship issues and do need to be cognizant of what topics are being shared with students.
  • S? A? M? or R? This document of linked resources is a substitution for a hand-out with a list of articles or URLs. With the increase in functionality that the links within the document provide by taking students directly to an online resource, this document moves up to augmentation. If it were an open document that students could add to, it would become a modification since the task would be redesigned through the collaborative nature of the input beyond one person.
    • Also for the Written Assignment, I have created a practice template for notes and outlines. This is meant to help students to understand the format of the task and can be used throughout the program in order to familiarize students with the requirements of this assessment. My original intention was for this to be a document that students copied and saved to their own Google Drive. Then, at that point, students would create a written collaboration with a partner. This idea is still on the table, but I haven’t moved forward with it just yet.
  • S? A? M? or R? The way that I am currently using this template, it is purely substitution as students are using paper copies of the template that I created. They can follow the link to the template through Edmodo which is, perhaps, a higher level of substitution. If I were using the template for a collaborative brainstorming/writing project, then it would arrive at the modification stage. This would be a modification of peer editing that would happen in real time with the chat option used for discussion during the process.
    • Students also submitted their initial topics for the Written Assignment using a Google Form that I created. The beauty of the form is that the information submitted by each student populates a spreadsheet where I can quickly check everyone’s topics. This is really helpful as it allows me to provide individual feedback and to assist students as they seek resources to support their topics.
  • S? A? M? or R? The way in which I used the Google Form was simply a substitution for passing around a paper on which student would write the same information.
Nirvana Dr.
© All rights reserved by Donny Paulter

Arriving at redefinition is the goal to achieve meaningful use of technology to enhance student learning. However, this is no small task! I feel my examples of technology integration outlined here are simply small steps that will move me forward to achieving technology integration nirvana. 🙂

What to do?

Posted on

Some rights reserved by bob august

What to do? What to do?

Which direction should I choose?

As full-time Curriculum Coordinator, I am in a position that finds me in an office and in front of teachers far more than in a classroom in front of students. As a result, I initially found myself wondering what I might attempt for the Course 5 COETAIL project. So I wondered:

  • Should I rework a unit that I have taught in the past?
  • Should I work with a colleague who is in the classroom to support the rework of a unit?
  • Should I create a professional development unit from scratch?

After seeking Jeff’s advice, I opted for the second option mentioned above and have actually met with a teacher a couple of times to brainstorm a unit that would focus on visual literacy and include a graphic novel.

However, much to my surprise, I have regained a teaching responsibility due to the untimely departure of a French teacher. I now find myself with my very own laboratory for the COETAIL final project. My lab rats are 15 grade 12 students in a DP2 French ab initio course. This is very exciting, but I have felt mostly at a loss for just what I might do to integrate technology into this course. I have been humming along for the past six years as an English teacher. Returning to my teaching roots as a French teacher seems to feel somehow challenging from a technology standpoint. I’m not sure why exactly. I may just be feeling rusty.

What I do know

I am teaching seniors who don’t seem to possess a lot of practical knowledge and skills about how technology can support their learning in general, not to mention through collaboration. They will be sent off to university in a matter of months and, more than arming them with the ability to communicate in French, I would like to ensure that they have some tools that they can implement to support themselves as they embark on a new level of independence.

What I have to consider

I have a few key topics that I will need to cover with this class before their IB exam in May. They are:

  • health and health emergencies
  • environment
  • global issues

These are really engaging topics, but they are covered while building the language skills needed to work with and communicate about them.

There are also a couple of internal and external assessments that I will need to conduct with students:

  • oral activity
  • written assignment (a research-type essay)


I enlisted the help of a technology coach colleague (who has also been a French teacher) for a brainstorming session. Here is a list of various ideas, tools, and purposes that we talked about.

  • Google docs for writing
    • individual or group
    • creating pair work activities
    • writing conversations
  • Google site to build a portfolio of learning to review two years of learning French
  • Twitter pair up with a French-speaking class somewhere in the world
  • professions: Skype interviews with people who are French (personal friends), or use French, in a variety of  professions
  • crocodoc for group editing and commenting on documents (which reminded that diigo allows for the same)
  • inner circle, outer circle / back channel chat, discussion boards
  • movie/clip viewing using a back channel French chat to comment and discuss
  • connections outside of the class to use French
  • using the voice recording feature in Evernote to develop oral skills (which I have done in English classes); actually I would really love to explore the use of the numerous features Evernote offers…
  • We have shifted from Moodle to edmodo and I have yet to explore the full functionality of edmodo

Unit Upgrade Options

  1. Collaborative Writing
  2. Collaborative Document Annotation
  3. E-portfolio documentation of learning
  4. Voice/video recordings to improve speaking skills


  • Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

The upcoming units of study, all lend themselves to the Course 5 project. Because this is the last semester of the course, all aspects of communicating in French need to come together for students. Any of the integration options that are still developing in my head will require the use and implementation of technology tools that can really bring it all together for students. Since I have ended up with a teaching responsibility in the last month, I find myself needing to prepare 15 students for numerous IB assessments that will happen during the 2nd semester (just in time for the COETAIL course 5 project). Using any of these tools/options will provide students with opportunities to develop skills and practice tasks that will help them to experience greater success on the variety of written and spoken tasks required of the DP French programme.

  • What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

Probably my biggest concern is that this project is a one-off, meaning that I am filling in for the rest of the year, but will not be teaching it again. It will be an engaging challenge to create this unit, but I am not convinced that it has any staying power once the school year is over and a new teachers comes in next year. This is a single course that is only ever taught by one teacher, so there isn’t a collaborative team with a returning member to carry on the work developed for the project. As my full-time job responsibility, I am the Curriculum Coordinator which has me involved in a variety of projects, so the time investment compared to the return is a significant concern for me.

  • What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

I have been implementing technology into teaching and learning for a few years, so this won’t be a significant shift for me. The biggest difference will be that it will be an implementation over time, rather than a lesson here and there. Also this will be an opportunity to develop procedures for the use of technology with students which I haven’t given enough thought in the past.

  • What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

This is an area for attention. Most, if not all, of the students in my class have a device (or three) that would enable them to actively implement technology into their learning. To a certain extent, I do believe this project will require a shift in the mindset of the students. I know this may fly in the face of what the public is led to believe about digital natives, but technology to enhance and support learning is a realm of the digital world of which students tend to be unaware. I have seen students using all kinds of devices to replace their own thinking (e.g., Google translate, copy-paste in place of writing, Spark Notes) and to word process; however, using an app to show their skills and their own learning will be a new direction for many of them. I would like to build in their own reflections on how their learning changes and their skills developed in ways that were somehow different than their past experiences.

I still have a lot of thinking to do in order to clarify the details of this project. The upcoming break is a time during which I intend to spend some focused time thinking, exploring, and doing some backwards planning.