Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bilingualism has its benefits

Interesting article from the Globe and Mail this morning about the benefits of knowing both of Canada's official languages:

Bilingualism pays

As someone living in the ROC (Rest of Canada) I definitely have benefited from knowing both official languages.  I was hired for more than a few of my summer jobs growing up because I could speak both French and English.  Most of the comments posted on G&M articles I find pretty inane in general, but in the case of this article there is a point to be made about how being bilingual pays most often when working for the federal government.  I would agree that this is true, but there are multitudes of other jobs where it is beneficial to speak another language.

At least a few times each semester I do have this conversation/argument with my students.  Invariably there is a student in the class because their parents wanted them to take French, not because they have an interest in it.  So at least I have a bit more fodder for why they should stick with it!  (A second language is no longer required to graduate in BC, but is required for some universities as an entrance requirement to specific faculties).

Other than as a teacher, where have you used your second (third, fourth, fifth) language skills?  Is a second language required for graduation in your province/state?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Starting a new blog is daunting

The most intimidating factor in starting a new blog is not the writing. It's not the ideas.  It's not the design. It's not trying to get readers.  It's not finding your "niche". It's not learning the new programs and apps.

It's that so many other bloggers have so many other great things to say!

How do I keep up with reading it all?  How do I contribute something new that hasn't already been said?

A few other blogs' posts that have made me really think about teaching and education this week:

1 in 2 Americans will own a smartphone by Christmas 2011

Not That Your Kids Care about Labor Negotiations...


Thursday, August 26, 2010

New school year prep...

As cheesy as it sounds, when a new school year rolls around I try to make a few "new year's resolutions" for things I want to try and implement or learn during the year.  This year is no exception!  One of my pet peeves last year was technology-related, so I will try to rectify it this year with some new technology! 

My pet peeve was the following:  I have MS Office 2007 on my computer at home.  At school we have MS Office 2003.  (I'm sure you know where I'm going with this).  At the beginning of the school year issues with the .doc and the .docx extensions were a pet peeve; remembering to save as a .doc instead of .docx did not always happen at 11:30pm, which caused a few glitches in my lesson planning!  Then my peeve was with the following events that happened every time I prep'd a document at home.

1. Write new doc/file/worksheet/W.H.Y. and save to C drive.
2. Upload doc to file folder on district's web-based email program.
3. Arrive at school at 0800, login to network.
4. Wait for slow computer/network to login. (it's now 0805)
5. Open internet browser (which unfortunately was not firefox...)
6. Login to email. (it's now 0807)
7. Download doc I wrote last night.
8. Open Word and document (it's now 0809)
9. Print.
10. Run to photocopier and pray that there is one free. (it's now 0812)
11. Copy enough copies for class set.
12. Bell rings for first block.

And that was if I only had one new document.   The length of this process annoyed me, both in number of steps and time that it takes.  Yes there were a few steps I could have saved myself but for a variety of reasons did not.

So my resolution this year is to try and get onto the GoogleDocs bandwagon and see how it goes.  I started playing around with it yesterday and here is what I've figured out.
Pros: only ever have 1 version of a document, don't have to upload and download said document multiple times, don't have to open district email program, don't have to deal with incompatibilities between .docx and .doc files...
Cons: not so many formatting options, but then again, I think I spend too long on formatting anyways.  Haven't found any other cons yet.

I've written a few course outlines (well, actually, uploaded a few .docx course outlines and tweaked them a bit) to GoogleDocs and so far so good!  I particularly like the ability to insert an image from it's location on the web without having to save it to my computer first. 

Have you tried GoogleDocs?  What are the best features of it that you have found so far? Any cons to it that I haven't discovered yet?

I'll update you on how it's going once we are a few weeks into the semester...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"there's an app for that..."

In less than 2 weeks (eek!) I will be starting my 5th year of teaching, and my 4th year of teaching french as a second language.  I have only taught French 9 to date, and this year I will be teaching both French 10 and French 11 as well.  As you can imagine, dictionaries are hot commodities in class!  Last year I only had 5 good, extensive dictionaries and despite telling students at the beginning of the year that they should also get their own good, extensive dictionaries, many either did not get one at all, or went to their local office supply store and got the $5 version.  So with 27 students there was a lot of sharing and a lot of "Madame, comment dit-on (blah blah blah) en français?".  It was not ideal.

A couple of weeks ago I found that Larousse offers both an online dictionary and an iPhone/iPad app!

Larousse French Dictionary

The iPhone app is $5.99 which is both significantly cheaper than the paper version, and much easier to lug around in a backpack.  I know that not all of my students have an iPhone but many have an iPod touch so if I could get at least a few of them to get the app then that would free up some dictionaries for the other students.

This does bring up a question though for all of you:  do you let your students use their iPhone/iPod touch in class?  Would you let them use an app like this one?

On commence!

A bit of background:  I'm a teacher at a smallish high school in British Columbia.  I am relatively new to the profession and have been a keen blog-reader for a while now.  Most of the blogs I follow had been about my hobbies and interests, but in the past year I've started reading a few other teacher blogs and have been inspired to start one of my own.  I teach math and science and french.  There are more than a few math teachers blogging out there who write insightful, interesting and funny blogs, but I had yet to find any similarly interesting blogs about teaching modern languages.  So I have decided to jump in to blogging with hopes of filling in the gap a little!

My goal is to blog about teaching a modern language in this new era of web 2.0/technology/smartphones.  There may be some interludes to discuss the state of teaching in the public system today too.  Being a french teacher, there will be some posts in french, and about french language and culture.  I hope to integrate some web 2.0 tools into my teaching bag this year and look forward to hearing feedback from other teachers about integrating technology in the modern language classroom.

Alors, commençons!