Under construction… and making #Lemonade

It’s time to dust off this old blog and get some ideas flowing again. When I think about all that has happened since my last blog, it kind of blows my mind. I have a second prototype for my Au Bear app, an app that gets strapped to your child’s favourite stuffed toy that is geared toward creating a foreign language environment you child so they can learn a language naturally yet not be glued to a screen.

My partner @echellew and I embarked on a two-year renovation of our home, and did a lot of the work ourselves. We gutted out house which was built in 1875 and was the barrel makers cottage and added a two-storey addition. We learned a lot throughout the design and building processes and in all of this the idea of feedback was front and centre. I joke that we might have actually rebuild our house twice because of all the mistakes made along the way.

And then the pandemic hit and my role at Program Area Leader of Communications (English and Modern Languages) blew up as we scrambled to make the most of a terrible situation… what I’m called making #lemonade.

I teach French with a focus on interaction and listening skills, which requires students to work together and help one another. Here is how I’m making #lemonade

We start every class with Temps pour jaser (Time to chat) which is a time to share something interesting, ask questions, and as they chat or listen, they are writing words they want to use but yet know. Afterwards, they have time to ask friends for vocab, or look it up. Sometimes this leads to a 7 minute grammar on demand lesson or time to make a quizlet based on the week’s individualized vocabulary.

Temps pour jaser

On demand vocab & grammar

I have made use of Jamboard and Google Docs for visible thinking and dialogue prep and use FlipGrid regularly to offer asynchronous conversations about student-led themes or authentic situations.

So this is nothing new, however given that I have some remote students who can make class and another who doesn’t always, it proved to be tricky. I have to say that I am very lucky and I have access to an Ipad as well as a laptop and here is how I ensure collaboration and time to chat with a group of remote students.

As a French student, headphones are a natural part of their kit as they have a lot of choice of what they listen to or read. So we create breakout rooms for all students, whether they are in class or remote. Once in the breakout rooms, they connect their headphones which eliminates background noise and allows them to focus in on their group. This is how we do Jamboard and Google Doc work as well and it seems to be going well.

I have connected with my remote students every week to discuss the work (synchronous is a little different than asynchronous) and I ask for feedback on making their experience better. They like PearDeck – particularly the student-paced selection. They feel as though they’re a part of the class, and they love the speaking and listening focus. If students can’t be involved in the lesson, I make a video via Loom to walk them through the week’s work.

Another #lemonade trick with the grammar on demand is having the Ipad signed into the Zoom (The best flow is muted mic on the Ipad, volume turned to lowest setting. Then mic activated at the computer, and volume at a reasonable level. ) I have tried two tricks – first – set the iPad to show the board (this is a student’s role – monitor the chat, make sure the viewing is good, pointing at the person who is speaking), and go through it with a marker and whiteboard. I then take a picture with the Ipad or phone and add it to the Google Slides presentation in real-time. Or I use the Share Whiteboard feature under Screen Share on the Ipad and use the Stylus – students in class can see via the projector and students at home can see the whiteboard.

The feedback on this is positive and according to the class, they don’t have a preference over how it’s shared. They say my stylus notes are messier but legible but that the picture creates something they can go back to. Often they are taking the note by hand in a cahier where they keep their personalized vocab lists.

This was meant to be a way shorter post and something I will continue to work on. “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” Blaise Pascal.

How are you making #lemonade while teaching through a pandemic?

5 Replies to “Under construction… and making #Lemonade”

  1. Thanks for this post, Derek. The feedback part you mention is key! Mistakes will be made on both sides and being open to feedback so you can serve your students better is so awesome. Sounds like a great start to the year, even with the stresses of teaching through a pandemic!

  2. Welcome back @ddoucet! It’s great to hear about how you are structuring your classes. I thought concurrent hybrid teaching was tough, but throw in a different time zone and I don’t even know how I would manage! I definitely find that the second device is key to doing the concurrent lessons — I usually carry around my iPad (connected to the Meet with mic ON) while I move around the room and keep the mic and speaker muted on the computer that’s screen-sharing the presentation. This allows the remote students to hear more clearly anything that’s happening in the class. When students in the room ask or answer a question, I can move nearer to them so the iPad picks up their voice better than it would on the laptop at the front of the room. That has been working for me so far!

  3. Hi Derek,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences over the last year – it sounds like you have had your hands full too! I hope the reno is going well, the house looks amazing.

    I am intruiged by the idea of using Jamboards and Peardeck. Have you had any lag issues with using Peardeck? Our IT team has advised against adding too many add-ons to chrome, so just wanted to check. I think Jamboards will be my next experiment (not sure why I haven’t used it already?!), looks like a useful way to get groups brainstorming. I have been using Padlet, but am finding it a little clunky.

    For note taking, I have been using a group tracker and allowing students to collaborate on shared docs for most activities. I have also created a Google site for each student to upload all their docs to a digital binder / notes website. This has been working well so far. I was wondering how you have been archiving all these different docs? Via Google Classroom or Drive?

    Thanks for the interesting read,

  4. Awesome to read your words @ddoucet, smothered with your infectious positivity and enthusiasm for innovation. So great to see you again in this venue. It is not surprising that your endless empathy for your students is driving your approach. There is no doubt that your classroom is the best place for their learning, and it’s awesome that you’re searching for the right way to bring them in.

    Hey, this is going to sound like a deflect, but in response to your question… the students always make the #lemonade, we just have to find the right way to affect, inspire and facilitate. Now I’m inspired to write a post of my own. Thanks brother!

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