Monday, March 27, 2017

Authentic Language Learning Through Tech Tutorial Screencasts

Recently at Minnetonka Middle School West, teachers Stephanie Battista and Melissa DuBose had their seventh grade Spanish Immersion students make instructional technology tutorial screencasts. They purposely had the students make these videos to give them an authentic task to practice using specific instructional and technical vocabulary, in this case “mandatos” aka command verbs. This language practice was not something that would have been as meaningful or memorably practiced in a simple classroom discussion.

Student sample template
The students worked in small groups with two to four classmates and chose an app for their project, such as Pic Collage or Popplet. They then collaborated and created their plan and script in a shared Google Doc using a template (pictured) for their instructional screencast which was to last a couple minutes. They made a shared Google Slide show with screenshots and instructions to use in their Explain Everything video. Melissa and Stephanie are hoping that final screencasts will be used with our elementary Spanish immersion students as part of a tutorial library in the future so these younger students can learn how to use these apps as well as learn the language in an authentic situation, hearing older students as the teachers. 

Here is a student example (shown above). The basic summary of the project requirements are below:
  • Must include an introduction to the app: What is it?  Why is it useful? What are the benefits?  
  • Must include at least ten steps explaining how to use the apps. Instructions should be detailed and easy to follow for a new user.  Underline these words in the script!
  • Must include “mandatos” (the command form of Spanish).  Highlight these words in the script!
  • Must include at least five screenshots and an image of the app icon to help users follow along
  • All group members must contribute!  All group members must speak at some point during the tutorial.
  • Final product should be 2-5 minutes long.

When I asked Stephanie to reflect on the project and its outcomes, she said the following: 
I love this project because Google Docs gives students the freedom to collaborate and work together simultaneously on the same document. It does take students a while to get used to sharing and exporting Google Docs, but we have worked hard to get our students accustomed to the app, so much so that some students chose to present Google Docs in their App Tutorial.  The major benefit of this app is that when students are absent or need to work at home, they can easily do so using a Google doc.   
Additionally, using Explain Everything gives me the opportunity to hear my students use their presentational communication, which is an important skill that we are trying to improve.  Many of our students can speak “conversational” Spanish proficiently, but struggle to speak in a presentational manner for an extended period of time.  This project gives the students the opportunity to plan and practice those skills.  We look forward to the future and hope to pass on these videos to our elementary counterparts as an authentic resource!
Furthermore, Melissa adds:
I agree with Stephanie, that this is an opportunity  for a truly authentic experience and will create a great way to share with our elementary schools. I think the students enjoy the project and love picking out which app they would like to make a tutorial for. They struggle to find the vocabulary they need without using English but this a great opportunity for them to apply the vocabulary specific to a context they might not feel comfortable in. 
This is a great example of student collaboration, communication, and learning in an authentic and real world situation harnessing the power of technology in our 1:1 iPad program. It covers multiple dimensions of the Minnetonka Teaching & Learning Framework.

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