It is my goal that by the time I go on Christmas vacation I will have cleaned out my file cabinets. The catalyst for this purge is the fact that my file cabinets live in an after school room and because of where they are they create a little cubby area where students like to try to test my one butt per chair rule.
On day 1 of the Great File Cabinet Purge I got through two drawers and threw out two bags of trash.
Then and Now
I started teaching in 1999. It was fluke that I got my job as a French teacher. I’m pretty sure after my interview they would have hired a French bulldog to teach the classes had they been able to find one. Lucky for me they couldn’t and I stepped into the classroom, with a degree French and in Linguistics (English as a second language emphasis) and having done my student teaching in English.
As I was throwing away papers I was struck by the most significant change since I started teaching: technology.
When I was doing my studies in language acquisition, the professors emphasized the importance of our “image bank.” This was the collection of magazine pages that you kept in labeled files: girls, boys, weather, activities, etc. In my first year teaching, someone gave me a book of black line masters that had illustrations of most words you would need for teaching. It was revolutionary.
The Google Image Search could possibly be the biggest technical advance in my career. It’s something I use daily. Multiple times. Need a picture of beach? No problem. In fact I’ll choose a French beach. Two seconds later…done. This is so simple and yet so impactful. Project it on the board and suddenly the whole class can see it. With the Google Docs, share it with students and suddenly they’ve got a colored culturally relevant image with which to use some language.
Even yesterday I was grateful for this, maybe more so because I was feeling nostalgic about what it was like before image search. Yesterday I pulled up an image of une chaîne-stéréo which is a completely stupid word in the textbook. I don’t even know what une chaîne-stéréo is in English. Stereo system? Stereo? I don’t know and I don’t care because it doesn’t matter. I tell students it’s a like radio. But yesterday I needed a picture and so voilà I pulled up a photo of une chaîne-stéréo. Last week in class in one of the activities there’s an illustration of a guy who looks like Sloth from The Goonies. A student used image search and on his slide deck inserted the image. He also didn’t like that one of the girls looked sad, so he gave her a happy face. We talked about it for five minutes in the target language.
There are lots of other important technological advances, but the image search I think is the one I appreciate the most. Simple, yet impactful.
Yesterday I also threw out a lesson from 2002 on internet translators. In 2002 the conversation was about how crappy the translations were. Don’t use this kids, look how terrible it is. We can’t say that anymore because like it or not, the translators are pretty darn good. Our conversation has to change. How do we use them and why would we use them? Why wouldn’t we use them? Language is innately about human connections and nobody is going to meet, fall in love and create a family with an internet translator.
Going through the first of my files yesterday reminded me how lucky I am to have all of the technology that I do. I’ve realized in the past few months that what I like best about using technology is that it allows me to be creative. I can create the lesson I envision in my head for students. The time I used to spend combing through magazines for less than perfect images large enough for students in the back of the room to see, is now spent differently.
One last share from yesterday: The overheads from my very first CTLA statewide presentation ever. Overheads!!