By: Hannah Lienhard
Ms. Abbott is a spanish teacher here at Burlington High School. Educated at Duke University, she has been teaching Spanish in Burlington for the past twelve years. Ms. Abbott was kind enough to sit down and talk to me about the many aspects of teaching at a “connected” (1:1) high school.
As a student in Ms. Abbott’s period two Spanish class, I have the opportunity to experience first – hand her innovative teaching style. Her willingness to adopt and incorporate technology in the classroom in a breath of fresh air to a student accustomed to more traditional teaching methods.
When / what made you want to abandon the textbook?
As soon as Ms. Abbott heard about the introduction of the iPad at Burlington High School, she sought a way to rid herself, and her students, of the textbook. She says that there are more natural ways to teach and to learn than from a textbook.
“The primary goal of everything I do is to help my students learn. If on a scale of one to ten the usefulness of the textbook is a three, then with the iPad I can hopefully put together something that is more on a seven or eight.”
Also, textbooks don’t update while the world around them is constantly changing. “The nature of our textbook is very different. With a history textbook, though you are learning broad topics, there are lots of facts and information.” She relates our Spanish textbook to a math textbook in and that “math is skill based”. There is a similarity between how to “differentiate an equation” and “how to read how to speak a foreign language”.
How do you go about finding credible information?
“I find credible information the same way I find it in my real life.” As for the students, she deals with the issue of finding credible sources by teaching her students to develop their skills in the same way and with the same mindset.
Doe this style of teaching take more time to set up and execute?
In an activity based classroom, it’s her responsibility to design and administer the tasks that will keep the students engaged, its an equal responsibility for the teacher as well as the students. The activities we do in class rely on the hope that the students did the work the night before. That work is all about them learning the concepts they will get to work with in class the following day.
“Its a learning curve for both teachers and students.”
Though the things that Ms. Abbott grades are involving, she maintains “it’s more about what the students do when they get out of the classroom and less about the grades they get assigned”. That said, the actual grades received have not fluctuated much.
How do you deal with the distractions the iPad presents in class?
“Adults are in meetings everywhere checking Facebook. Checking recipes. It’s a distraction across the board. People need to learn to handle the technology that they carry with themselves everyday. Once it becomes a normal part of life, people will learn how.”
She reminds us that with anything new, “There is always a pendulum swing. We are at an extreme right now – things will even out.”
Has the way you grade changed? If so, how?
It has “totally changed”’. The assignments she grades are more involved than before. Because it takes longer to prepare lessons, everything changes in a way. Even though this requires a bit more work, she says: “I like doing the work because I am interested in becoming a better teacher. If it helps me to become a better teacher, then it is worth the work”
Ms. Abbott rarely assigns worksheets now. “I always want homework to mean something”. She reminds us that worksheets aren’t the only way to evaluate a student’s progress in a class and beyond the class for homework.
Very much a two sided affair, grading has become more convenient in some aspects. When she has to grade something from Studyspanish.com, it is easier because the site does so for her. When she gives the students notes to take, she doesn’t have to grade anything at all.
How has using Edmodo benefitted your classroom experience?
When using Edmodo as a classroom learning management platform, kids are better off in two ways:
For one, they have all of the materials they need at their fingertips.
Secondly, they no longer miss class lectures. With the use of “Showmes”, they have the same access to the lectures that everyone else does. “Learning takes place everywhere” and now you can bring it with you wherever your feet take you.
Describe your experiences using the Show Me App in your class?
Ms. Abbott started using ShowMe as a tool about a year ago. She uses these “Showmes” to accomplish two major tasks. One thing she uses these showmes for are flipped lessons. She liked the idea that you could just record the audio, but more importantly she “really liked the idea of people being able to control the lectures”. Students can go over the material or the lectures as many times as you want. On top of that, the writing plus the audio works for both auditory learners as well as visual learners.
The second way she uses Showme is for students to create “oral” presentations for the class.
What did you discover you could do in your class with the Showme app?
Ms. Abbott found the use of Showme as a tool for something other than lectures: presentations. She found that using Showme was a way to ease the nerves of presenting students. If you can record the project ahead of time, there is no need to stand in front of you peers.
Another advantage she found is that the presentations are more interesting to watch as the teacher, even though assessing it is about the same as assessing a powerpoint presentation. Now, it is a more of an oral presentation, and less of just reading the bullet points off a slide show.
How has the iPad and the use of these apps helped your students when you are absent?
“It’s a drag calling in sick – it was almost a fifty percent possibility that the lesson plans would even reach the students.” Now with all of her worksheets being available online, “the responsibility is being placed more in the hands of the students: what they learn as well as the way that they learn it”
Talk about your experience using the Dragon Dictation app?
The goal of using Dragon Dictation is pronunciation. As a student in her Spanish class, I must agree with her sentiment that “it will lend you no favors”.
“I can tell you over and over that you are pronouncing the word incorrectly” but with Dragon dictation the feedback is immediate and honest.
The effect of Dragon Dictation is great – the pronunciation of her students has improved
Some of Ms. Abbott’s Favorite Apps and Online Resources:
– study spanish.com
– dragon dictation
– spanish newspaper websites