Friday, June 26, 2009

Powerpoint is not dead

Powerpoint is not dead!!

Funny that I read heaps of people saying that Powerpoint is not a 21st century tool in ICT. Well I disagree.

With my first computer I used Powerpoint like a Overhead transparent, of course like every body did, but now I make my presentation so interactive and so engaging that students are very enthusiastic in their French class ( especially in a country where languages are not valued at all). And I have to admit that my imagination is my only limit regarding presentations.

I don’t want to sound French ( you know complaining and arrogant) but I have seen a lot of powerpoint online that look very dated although they have been produced last Monday. Powerpoint is not about little animation that fly on your screen ( things like that do not make students interested, they are not mentally retarded, at least not all of them).

The best tool for me in Powerpoint is the trigger button - you know this word will appear when I click on this picture ( or something like that). This is where the presentation becomes interactive, and not because you have chosen a pretty background.

As you know (because of course you read my post regularly waiting for the next one with impatience!!) I have a Mac (yes a Mac with a capital letter) since ...I think May or something like that. I was so excited when the school gave it to me, I almost made the wheel. (because I am very flexible). But then I realised that in the Powerpoint which is supported by the Mac, there is no Trigger!!!! Catastrophe. I cried and I almost gave the computer back because for me Powerpoint is so powerful that I could not live without the trigger thing. (later we found a solution and now I have Virtualbox installed).

For me Powerpoint is not to be used as a slideshow. Do you use your computer only for word? Have you spend your school budget buying a data projector or an interactive whiteboard and you use them only to project Word?? For me it is exactly the same thing for Powerpoint. If you use PPt as a slideshow (I mean pictures move, slide change and youpi students should be excited) no wonder that you think that PPt is not a 21st century tool.

Ps: I don’t get paid by Windows to promote PPT (unfortunately!!)

Pps: If Mr Gates is reading this post ( I know he does coz he is very interested in what we do at Matamata College’s French department!!) I would not mind to be paid to promote your products :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

enjoyment in teaching

I have just read Sonja’s post on e-learning Research,”Learning-the question of enjoyment", and a million of thoughts are running into my head ( I actually didn’t think my head was big enough but obviously it is).

My first reaction on why learning is sometimes no more enjoyable for learners is maybe because Teachers don’t enjoy what they are doing. How can you make people excited about something you are not even enthusiastic about??

Why are teachers not enjoying what they are doing?? This I have got no answer for. Have they chosen this job only for the holiday? Are they in front of the class for the security of the job ( no recession in teaching)? Are they not paid enough? I have to admit that maybe the fact that teachers get paid peanuts might make the sparkle of teaching leave pretty quickly, but really it is the main factor, or could it be??

I do believe deeply that if you are having fun you will learn better and faster. It is why I try to make lessons varied and I make a point of having a good relationship with my students. I make fun of them, a lot!! (dead easy though!!). But I also have noticed that if what you are asking to the kids is too easy they do not have fun finding the answer. They like finding it hard. For some kids, fun means thinking and being challenged. Do we challenge them enough??

One thing I am sure about is that to have enthusiastic students we must enthusiastic ourselves. ( Oh so profound!!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

rethinking my teaching

Je n’ai peur de rien

This year I have been rethinking totally my teaching. I feel like a rebel on my harley scared of nothing and nobody.

So instead of teaching year 9 what I should teach them, I started to teach what comes up in class in our daily conversation.

It doesn’t make any sense, does it?? Well let me explain.

I am supposed to teach them about introducing themselves, numbers, months, family etc… sometimes I was coming into class with a lesson plan, what are we going to learn today “family”. But then John ( I actually don’t teach any John, but sounds so likely I could teach one!!) comes in and is eating chocolate. I could scream at him and tell him that he should not eat chocolate in class, but why would I do that when I can ask him for some chocolate instead? So here we are I ask him in French (of course), and I help him saying that he had some chocolate but he ate it all. So of course I am very upset because it means I will not get my usual dose of sugar ( I steal a lot of lollies from the kids, they are stealing my youth I steal sugar from them!!) but instead of crying out loud I start to teach them to say “je l’ai déjà …”. ( I have already…)In a previous lesson they had learned how to say what they did the night before (it gives me a good occasion to bully them about the programs they watch on TV. :-) ) so now we can combine the both.
E.g. Qu’est-ce-que tu as fait hier soir?
J’ai lu Harry Potter
Which becomes je l’ai déjà lu

So after 2 terms of French (well not really coz they miss a lot classes due to sport and other commitments) the little year 9 understand heaps of French. They actually ( yes I mean ACTUALLY) understand questions in present tense but also in the past tense, then they can give me compliments when they want something from me.

So far I have noticed that their French is well advanced compared to previous years. I might be a bit late in my curriculum but the benefits are extreme!!! I will reassess things later and see if it is worth it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

learning for the pleasure

Et la culture alors on en fait quoi?? Des confettis??!!!!

I am a teacher of French and (unfortunately for my accent when I speak English!!) I am French. I live in an English native speaker country (New zealand) and I have to answer all the time why should we learn another language. ( this need another post)

In NZ, the languages which are taught are generally French, Japanese, Spanish, German and Te Reo (Maori).

First I hate when I tell people that I am a teacher of French they answer straight back that the students are “SO lucky to have me as a teacher”. To that I ask “Why?” ( is it because I am extremely pretty? Or because I have a high sense of fashion? Or is it because I work like a slave for peanuts, literally ??) people answer it is because I am a TRUE French and when I speak French I obviously don’t have a kiwi accent.
To that I want to answer bull**** but I am too polite. Yes I am French but it does mean that I am a good teacher, I could be very crap while a kiwi could be a fantastic and motivating teacher.

So this is my first “coup de gueule” !!!

Then next one. Languages here are not compulsory at school. I hate when people tell me that they would like their kids to choose French as an option so they can go to France on holiday. Do you only pick a language so you can spend 2 weeks in your life ordering a Coca Cola or a meal at a restaurant? I think this is wasting a lot of your energy.

I have learned English at school for the pleasure, I never wanted to actually go on holiday in England or in NZ. But not only English. I learned science and maths until last year at school and I never use science in my job. However, I am extremely happy to be able to place the liver and to roughly understand the theory of relativity (I think I do anyway!). I love learning just for the pleasure, and why can we not teach at school just for the pleasure, just for cultural purposes and nothing, not for your 2 week holiday in Brazil??

When I learn something, I feel so happy and proud of myself in the evening when I go to bed. I go to bed a bit less dumb than in the morning when I got up, and it feels so good. Learning a language is the same, your learn it for pleasing you, not for your exam, not for a job.

Voila!! I feel relieved that I got that out of my chest :-)

Monday, June 8, 2009

twitter again to the rescue

Yes another one!!!!

Bon alors ok you have heard it from so many sources that you know it by heart now. But because I am so egocentric I am going to tell you about my experience.

A few months ago, @tonitones introduced me to twitter and what a bless. Since then my life has changed, well maybe not that much but it sounds so dramatic and powerful when one writes it down. So I have been twittering heaps since then ( and not only about me drinking a cup of tea as my lovely husband thinks I do). One day ( can’t remember when exactly as time is so relative!!) I wrote on twitter that I was studying Le Petit Prince with my year 13 French. At that point @tonitheisen answered and told me that she was studying it as well with her class in Loveland-Colorado. Long story short, @tonitheisen decided we should create a common wiki. In a week-end she created it and sent me the address on the Monday.

Then the fun started… @tonitheisen put some resources and I did the same ( I have to admit that she put much more than I did). Later my class had the fantastic surprise to find on the wiki some videos of their american friends introducing themselves and their school. So of course we had to do the same. From then started a ping pong game with videos until the summer holidays started in the US.

Well this would have never happened without twitter. Really what is my chance to meet someone from a country on the other side of the world who teaches the same book as the same time.

Merci monsieur twitter

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

online collaboration

Comme le monde est petit

I am really happy to be 32 in 2009 ( did I say 32? I meant 21 of course!!) for one reason : the Internet (with a capital letter to show how much respect I have for it). You are going to ask me why I like the Internet so much. I will answer to you in only a few words (you see I am not so boring after all!), it is because it makes the world very small.

Although I live in New Zealand in the middle of nowhere ( my neighbors are cows, literally speaking) I feel in the center of the world, thanks to the Internet.
I would say a month ago (maybe 2) I met @msfrenchteach on Twitter. An one day I asked who wanted to work on an online work using etherpad. @msfrenchteach answered quickly and after calculating the difference between our times ( oooops I have forgotten to say that @msfrenchteach is in the US) we made an online appointment.

I picked my year 12 French (their 4th year of French) and told them roughly what we will be doing (couldn’t tell much because I wasn’t sure of what will be happening). So here they are at school at 8 am (we start usually at 8.30) ready to work. Skype and etherpad are on. So after a few minutes giggling (teenagers the same everywhere!!) they were ready to work hard. We spent one hour online asking each other questions. I was just here to help them in case of emergency, like a dictionary. I have to admit I was so proud of them. I was looking at them working with pleasure, they were so excited to speak with other people so far away. And I know they were not lying because at the end they asked me when we will do that again.

When I said to people about this experience they all asked why I didn’t do that with a French school. Easy to answer. When you are 15 or 16 you don’t feel very confident and you know that your level of French is not very high. Why would I have put them in front of kids who speak fluently French. Realistically we all know how boring it is to speak with people who just start to learn a language, it requires a lot of patience that you don’t have when you are 16. But I do believe that you feel ok when you speak with people who have the same level of language as you ( hope that what I write makes sense!!, bloody French can’t even write English properly ☺ )

This experience was wonderful for me and the students and we can not wait that @msfrenchteach has finished her summer holiday (we are so selfish) to have another online collaboration