After you’ve decided which research-based book to read, how about resolving to collaborate with another teacher on something? My second suggestion for a 2014 resolution is:
2. Collaborate with another teacher on a project.
One of my mottos is that collaboration is the 21st-century skill. Wow, what a wide world is opened to us now! My first three years of teaching (2002-2005) I was the only teacher in my school in northwest Texas and “social media” wasn’t even a term. We didn’t use technology and I couldn’t have named another Spanish teacher at another school, anywhere. What a change in a few short years! In the years since I moved to where I am now, joined the country’s best world language teachers’ association, and heard the words “Hey, have you heard about Twitter?”, some of our favorite classroom experiences have been collaborative. I remember the students in Brasil who exchanged video Photopeach slideshows with us. We Skyped with Honduran students and they participated on our blog. We emailed international students in Venezuela. We started AmigoWeb on Edmodo. We recently did a fundraiser for a school in North Carolina to help them ship school supplies and clothing to children in Colombia. We’ve brainstormed options for our student choice in homework until it’s become a terrifically effective way of motivating students to learn and connect with the language and its people on their own. It’s been a blast. It’s helped us make connections we never would have. Without a doubt, collaboration did more to drag me out of mediocrity than anything else.
Whether you’re fighting the good fight completely alone in your school, or you’re part of a thriving PLN in a large school, or you’re part of a group of teachers but no one else wants to be innovative, determine this year that you’re going to find a way to be collaborative. Here are some ideas.
- For the love of all things innovative and just plain awesome, JOIN TWITTER. Or dust off that Twitter ID you got two years ago for some grad class and you sent out five obligatory tweets with and do something. Feel apprehensive? Overwhelmed? Confused? Check out my cyberfriend Colleen’s excellent introduction to how to jump into the world language Twitter conversation. For an instant Twitter PLN of amazing language teachers, follow the 363 teachers on my “language” Twitter list.
- Here’s an easy one – join our YouTube commercials cloze quiz project. This Google Drive document now has dozens and dozens of commercial scripts and dozens of teachers on it. You can do a search for something you’ve been doing in class lately, or just pick one that looks fun, and present it as a listening quiz to your students.
But… frankly, the document is a mess. Many of the links are for videos that don’t work anymore. Is the same commercial available elsewhere? There are very few that have subject tags. There was no table of contents. It’s not paginated by commercial. There’s no consistent formatting. There are very few scripts with suggestions for more critical thinking or cultural connections.
Not long ago I took a few minutes to format the first three quizzes, and I put a template of this format near the beginning of the document to make future additions easier. Could you help reformat the existing scripts? Help us correct some possibly mistaken words? Add some cultural connection or deeper thinking ideas? Find new videos for broken links or separate out ones we can’t find replacements for?
- Join #Langcamp. This wiki has teachers collaborating on everything from AP to PBL to Genius Hour to curriculum maps. Join in the conversation and see what you can learn and contribute.
- Join Edmodo. If your students have consistent internet access, contact me for the group code for AmigoWeb on Edmodo and get your students talking with other students learning Spanish. This group has never really taken off, and I’m not sure why – I love seeing my students negotiating meaning with others across the internet! While you’re on Edmodo, join a couple of really rocking language teacher collaborative groups: the 1500+ teachers in Spanish Teacher Share are sharing and organizing ideas for specific textbooks, readers, movies, music, grammar points, and so on; and the 120,000+ teachers in the World Languages community share… well, you can imagine. Everything about everything in world language teaching!
There are a lot of teachers out there waiting to learn from and share with you. How will you and your students learn collaboratively this year?