Saturday, January 25, 2014

#eduPLEmooc, working on the course

I have enrolled on the open course #eduPLEmooc and I have tried to catch up with the activities in this busy period of the year. So far, I find very interesting two ideas that have been discussed in the course:
  • Learning never ends and we are responsible for organizing our own learning in a time of  dramatic changes in education. Learning has changed and thanks to ICT we can and should be in contact with other teachers to share our expertise and knowledge and learn from their experience. Learning collaboratively is essential to build up our PLE, our Personal Learning Environment, which will enrich us professionally and personally.
  • Building our PLE is essential but we need to be aware of the image we project online and how this image is going to be used by others. 

These are the main two ideas so far in the course. Another important aspect of the course is the fact that there is an incredible number of teachers from various backgrounds, countries and areas of expertise who have been actively working together since the course started. To me this has been incredibly valuable since I am taking advantage of  my peers' expertise to improve my digital competence and to learn, first hand, about numerous tools which are available online both for improving our PLE as well as for working in the classroom.

In the next weeks I'd like to start contacting some of the teachers in the course who are currently working on language programs so that we can exchange ideas and, hopefully, come out with some projects to use in our classrooms and continue our personal development.

From the very beginning of the course I have been considering how the concept of PLE can be used with our students and by our students. Although our students use ICT every day, every single moment, it is surprising that they are unaware of the possibilities the web offers them to improve their knowledge, and help them with their learning especially if they work collaboratively. On the other hand, most students also may not realize the importance of creating a consistent self-image online and also its implications this image may have to them. Naturally, my first thought was try to build awareness about our personal image with students in the Internet and also help them create their PLE.  And to do all this in Spanish, as part of the Spanish courses in high school. How can we integrate this? This is what I would like to start discussing.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blogs to get resources about films for the Spanish class

Today I'd like to talk about  websites or blogs which contain information about films and how to use them in a class. Some of these resources were created to teach Spanish as a second language so most of the films and shorts come from Spanish speaking countries. In other cases the blogs or websites are from schools and teachers who use the resources for the subject of cinema studies in Spanish speaking countries. In the latter, over 50% of the films studied are originally in a language other than Spanish. However, all the attached resources are in Spanish and based on the dubbed version of the films. is a social network which has over 10,000 Spanish teachers as members. Their main goal is to share resources and strategies to teach Spanish as a second language. The website also gives information about courses, masters and even job opportunities. In the section about cinema there is a list of films with lesson plans created by different Spanish teachers. The activities are organized in levels that follow the European framework of reference. Almost all the films are from a Spanish speaking country an the activities focused on linguistic and cultural elements. The lesson plans were created for adult Spanish learners but many of these films and their lessons plans can be used in a Spanish bilingual or IB program.

Redele is an online magazine published by the Ministry of Education of Spain specialized in teaching Spanish as a second language. It's published annually and everyone working with Spanish programs can send an article to be published. The magazine started in 2004 and in the 25 published numbers so far we can find interesting articles about how to introduce films and short films in the Spanish class. All the previous numbers are available and all articles can be accesses easily.

Con "C" de Cine is a blog dedicated to all the teachers teaching Spanish as a second language who want to use films in their classes. The blog's author regularly introduces films that can be used in the classroom with suggested activities.

Cineele is another blog that also offers suggestions to use films in the class and provides us with different lesson plans ready to be used and organized by levels. The blog also offers a list with links to lessons plans based on films available online under the section "Actividades en la red".

Cero en conducta is a social network maintained by a Spanish teacher, which has the goal of supplying resources and information about the cinema ("the seventh art") to teachers. Teachers can register and participate on the existing working groups or start a new one. Some of the existing working groups are about specific films that can be used in a classroom; some other groups are exploring themes like how to use short films in elementary education. This website is a good tool to contact teachers who are working in similar fields to ours and start a collaboration.

These are some links to find information about films and how to use them in the Spanish class. Naturally, we all need to build up our own list of short films and films, create some activities and share them with the rest of teachers.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Spanish Civil War 3, Novels and a Short Story

I have been introducing resources on the Spanish Civil War. In this post, I'd like to suggest three novels and a short story which give us good insight about that period of time in Spain and its repercussions.

Some of these readings were written by members of the International Brigades or the journalists who covered the Spanish Civil War. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell and For Whom the Bells Toll by Ernest Hemingway are unique resources because they provide readers with an analysis of Spain from the perspectives of foreigners who witnessed the civil war in Spain. I particularly like the reflections of Orwell , and how he felt at lost many times with the unruly ways everyone in Spain had. Despite this, he also praises the generosity of the popular class in Spain and their kindness towards him. These two novels were written in English so they can be used in any Spanish program as suggested texts to learn about the Spanish Civil War.

For a bilingual or IB program my suggestions are: the novel Requiem por un Campesino Español by Ramón J. Sénder and the short story La Lengua de las Mariposas by Manuel Rivas.

The novel takes place in a small village in Aragón, north-east Spain in 1937, a year after the coup d'état led by General Franco and the breakout of the Civil War. Mosén Millán, the parish priest is getting ready for the Requiem Mass which he is going to celebrate in memoriam of Paco, a young peasant from the village. Paco was killed a year before, just after the start of the Spanish Civil War. While his sits in the vestry praying, Mosén Millán remembers various stages of Paco's life. He recalls his birth, his baptism, the fondness they felt for each other when Paco was a child. Later in life, he blesses Paco's marriage in church but their friendship falls apart when Paco gets involved in politics and tries to improve the lives of the poorest in the village after the arrival of the Republic. To achieve this he clashes with the wealthiest landowners who don't  in the village but own most of the land. Mosén Millán disapproves of Paco's behaviour and his support of the Republican government when the Civil War starts. Soon the insurgents take control of the village and Paco flees the place and hides in a farm armed with his gun. Mosén Millán convinces him to give in because he was promised that Paco would be given a fair trial. Despite the promises, Paco is executed without a just trial and a year after only don Gurmensindo, don Valeriano y Cástulo, the 3 people who were responsible for his execution come to his Requiem Mass.

This very short novel depicts the situation in many villages in Spain at the beginning of the Civil War very accurately. In many cases, atrocious murders were committed in the name of political stability when really, they were motivated by old resentments. The author uses symbols to represent the different parties involved in the conflict. On one side don Gurmensindo, don Valeriano represent the old traditional Spain, that is supported by the church, Mosén Millán, a Spain who does not want any changes. Cástulo is the new rich, the bourgeois, who supports the Republic at the beginning but soon changes sides for the winners. Numerous other symbols appear in the novel and students can track them and discuss their meanings. There are numerous proposals to work with the novel are available online. This link offers some resources that can be useful.

La Lengua de las Mariposas is one of the 16 short stories in the book Que me quieres Amor by Manuel Rivas. It is set just before the burst of the Civil War. Moncho, known by the name of Gorrión, tells us about his childhood in a small village in Galicia, north-west Spain. He remembers his fear before going to school because his dad told him about the harsh methods used by the teachers in his time. His first day at school ends in disaster and he runs away after peeing his pants. However, there is new political system in Spain which promotes a different approach to education and tries to give everyone a good education,  regardless of his or her social class. Don Gregorio, the teacher, takes Moncho under his protection and soon an intense relationship begins between them. Don Gregorio visits Moncho´s house and together they go on excursions where Moncho discovers the mysteries of Nature. Moncho and the rest of the students are fascinated by Don Gregorio who teaches them to be free and treats them with respect.

Moncho´s dad supports the Republican government, the same as Don Gregorio. As a token of gratitude for his kindness with Moncho, his dad, a tailor, makes Don Gregorio a suit for free. However, something is starting to change, new people come to the village and Moncho sees that nobody trusts anyone any more. It is the coup d'état. Moncho´s mother takes the initiative and burns all the books spouting ideas in support of the Republic. She also takes her husband to church and tells Moncho that her dad never made a suit for Don Gregorio.

A few days later while all the villagers gather in the main square to support the new regime they witness that the new authorities are taking the Republican supporters away to prison. Among them, Don Gregorio is hardly able to walk. The crowd calls them traitors and reds. Moncho wants to insult his old teacher but he can only utter the names of birds and butterflies that Don Gregorio taught them at school.
This is a beautiful story that deals with values such as tolerance, freedom, the role of education in society. It also shows how these values are fragile and they can be taken away from us and make us hate  what we love best out of fear. These activities based on the short story by Marita Lüning, Landesintitut für Schule, Bremen, can be a great tool to work with our students. The short story is also available in a mp3 file online.

These are suggestions of texts that can help students to learn more about the Spanish Civil War and understand how the war affected people's lives in a tragic way.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#eduPLEmooc, an opportunity to meet teachers in Spanish

I have just registered in the eduPLEmooc course. It is a mooc (massive online course) in Spanish for K12 teachers organized by INTEF but which is also open to anyone interested in education and learning technologies. INTEF stands for Instituto Nacional de Tecnologías Educativas y Formación and it is the branch of the Ministry of Education of Spain which offers online professional opportunities for teachers with the goals of generalizing the use of ICT in K12 education and showcasing best practices. 

This is the first mooc organized by INTEF and I project that it will become useful for North American teachers wishing to connect with colleagues in Spanish speaking countries while brushing up their own Spanish language skills. 

My main goal for this course is to meet and share experiences with teachers working in bilingual programs and learn from them how they cope with the challenges they face everyday at work. I am particularly interested in how others are integrating ICT in second language and bilingual program classes and how they are using ICT to improve students' production in the target language and to increase their learning autonomy. I would also like to explore how ICT can be used to initiate joint projects with other schools.

In addition, I am sure that meeting with other teachers involved in developing a new educational paradigm for schools will be a very rewarding experience. I want to hear about experiences in flipped classes and personalized teaching.

The course starts on the 13th. All the information about the course, its goals and the people conducting it is in available on this website. Because the main goal of the course is to increase teacher collaboration, the course offers several mediums to keep teachers and other participants connected: a blog, twitter #eduPLEmooc, #minubedeintereses etc.

For those in Canada interested in joining in but who are not familiar with the registering system in Spain, contact me and I'll try to help.