Five minutes with Sarah Dolan
An itinerant LOTE teacher at Craigslea and Aspley State Schools, Sarah Dolan coordinates efforts to make ICT integral to learning in her Japanese language lessons.
A recent recipient of the Digital Pedagogy Licence, Sarah and her students are regularly found creating podcasts, blogs or working in Learning Place project rooms - concepts that help fine-tune their foreign language skills.
Already this year, her class has read the Japanese version of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, recorded their efforts orally and are now preparing to make them into podcasts.
How are you using ICT in class?
With no interactive whiteboard in the classroom, my lessons generally revolve around my Computers for Teachers laptop and a data projector. It's with the intention of complimenting this fact that I have produced my own digital keynote presentations to assist with introducing new students to reading Japanese.
So far this year, we have read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and reproduced the story orally. These have been recorded and will be made into podcasts for my Project Room in the Learning Place. These podcasts will be available for all the children to listen to and a blog will be created - enabling everyone to leave feedback for one another.
This term we will read a well-known Japanese fable with the intention of introducing aspects of cultural understandings and expectations. It will also introduce the students to the Japanese reading system (top to bottom, right to left).
The children will retell the story in Japanese through ComicLife (comic publishing software using original pictures), read and record their stories into GarageBand (audio production software). Pictures will be edited and combined in iMovie, and vodcasts will be created for the Project Room.
Computers are also used for research and production of weather forecasts, as well as research on Japanese cities for presentation. These presentations are also recorded and entered into the Project Room for reflection and feedback.
Why use ICT?
In the classroom:
Visual - students can see the written text in the target language as it is being read by the teacher. This is different from a text book in that the text is synchronised to appear as the teacher reads, enabling students to follow correctly. The accompaniment of pictures also reinforces understanding and learning.
Soundtracks - give students the opportunity to reflectively listen to themselves, editing errors in the spoken language, and adding sound effects and music to enhance meaning.
Comics - students need the opportunity to produce written work in Japanese combined with illustrations. They also reinforce the difference between narrative and direct speech and the level of language required for both.
For reflection, feedback, materials and data:
Vodcasts - both visual and aural presentations make students' understanding of each other's work simpler therefore enabling them to reflect and comment on each other's work.
Soundtracks and comics - facilitate constructive formative and summative assessment by the teacher.
Open-ended software facilitates the production of materials that can be presented to the students. This also facilitates language learning for beginners.
How is ICT impacting on you, as a teacher?
There is no doubt that my classes would not be as interesting if it wasn't for ICT. As is the case with many teaching methods, chalk-and-talk has been proven not to work with LOTE students.
In my case, using computers to enter Hiragana (Japanese letters) assists the students when it comes to learning that the script is made up of syllables. This system helps them to become proficient with the written text.
How are students responding?
The overall response so far has been very positive. I have found that my students are relishing the chance to view one-another's work through ICT.
This process also encourages constructive criticism rather than nervous laughter and not so helpful comments that can come along with 'live' performances.
Any lessons learned?
As an itinerant teacher, gaining access to school computers can be difficult. Whenever possible, I take in my Computers for Teachers laptop to work. This ensures that I can work at my own pace and can avoid having to work around other classroom teachers.
Initially, this worried me but I soon discovered that the children (a) love working on Macs and (b) loved being allowed to create cartoons, 'play' with soundtracks and create movies using the applications available.
Any advice for other schools?
Working as a LOTE, it is incredibly important for teachers in my position to be given a chance to improve their computer skills. I am of the strong belief that that open-ended software, rather than that that is language-specific, is more successful for classes learning languages. The students are then able to use the software for other purposes and find they acquire skills in its use much more quickly.
Language-specific software tends to either rely on interactive whiteboards to be interactive, or is not interactive at all. Language learning relies on peer interaction and feedback, and is much more successful with positive samples of both.