Felices Navidades – The White’s Christmas Missive, 2015

Greetings and salutations from an unseasonably warm Maine!  I am getting close to missing the Christmas season, but … here is a re-cap of the highlights of 2015.  Let’s travel in reverse order:

Elf Weekend –  December 11-13.  Now in its fifth year, “Elves” was an uproarious success, with Catherine, Tommy, Thomas, Inae and, from across the pond, my sister Annie and her hubby, Chris.  We felled our previously-tagged tree in a local Christmas tree farm, a holding that has been in the owner’s family for over two centuries (though farming Christmas trees is a new venture). We have made such a ‘splash’ that you can now see us featured on the Old Christmas Tree Farm website; news is in short supply in Cape Elizabeth!  They now expect us every year, and we do not desist from bringing good cheer and unabashed silliness to bear!  This year’s elves had a definite purposefulness in their gait. See them striding up the hill à la Katchaturian, though the Montagues and Capulets are superseded by determined Elves!

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The highlight of the weekend, however, was Thomas’s successful proposal to Inae. Here is the happy couple on the left, err…, or on the right?  You decide.  They do not have definite dates/locations, but a late autumn, Maine event may be in the works. Stay tuned! 

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October, 2015   After my quick trip to San Diego for a college counseling conference (lovely sunny place; wouldn’t want to live there), and a paddle in the Pacific Ocean, I joined David in singing the Berlioz Te Deum with the Portland Symphony.

September, 2015  saw the beginning of school, another shift of focus in my work at Waynflete: less classroom teaching and more college counseling, oh, and a new title for me – Associate Director of College Counseling:).  September also brought an ending of a chapter in family traditions. Buzzie, David’s mum moved from New Hampshire to Vermont – from Lake Wentworth to Lake Champlain.  Here are Buzzie, Marilyn, and yours truly sorting and cavorting:

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David’s lovely photos taken over Lake Wentworth one autumnal evening seem an apt pictoral farewell to a place that was the backdrop to years of family gathering and vivid displays of natural beauty…

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IMG_1858And while we are on the topic of moving and transitions, Thomas and Inae moved from their Queen’s NY apartment (adequate, but dark and damp) to…well…a rather spectacular apartment in Long Island City, just across the East River from Manhattan. They needed enough income to pay the rent, but not too much to surpass the rent abatement cap.  So, now they have a relatively moderate (for NY) rented apartment with a multi-million dollar view, long may it last:)) 

August, 2015  We had a gathering of the clans, including Chris from the sunny UK, in New Hampshire in mid August, a lovely respite before the yawning imminence of another academic year.  One of our favourite dinner dishes is my Paella – a strong link that I keep with my love of things Spanish. Not bad, hey?  ¡Buen provecho!, they say, and we did!

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June, 2015  School was no sooner out than I was off to Tacoma, Washington, to attend a     conference at the University of Puget Sound. It was a gob-smackingly beautiful spot, an excellent conference, and a source of new friends, Tim and Hank, who then met up with us a month later during their visit to Maine.  The real high point of June was our trip to the North Fork of Long Island to spend a long weekend with Catherine, Tommy, Thomas, and Inae, imbibing the fine wines of this most unlikely of viniculture regions.  This was our Christmas present to them and to ourselves, given that we do not need more things, but rather more time with family.

April, 2015   This was a month of travels:  to Washington DC to see our dear friends, Frank and Kathy, now happily ensconced within the city limits of Washington, not too far from Georgetown University, versus commuting from the ‘burbs. We popped up to Pennsylvania for our second cousins’ once-removed wedding, then spent two glorious spring days in DC, just happening to land on Cherry Blossom weekend:  ありがとうございます  Domo arigato gozaimasu, Nihon:

photo (2)IMG_1085David et moi at Eltham Palace, Kent….and in Washington DC on Cherry Blossom Weekend.    Then off to the UK to spend time with family in Kent, a cradle of English history and, somewhat idealistically, the Garden of England. Still, we had spectacular weather and went on a number of excursions with my lovely Aussie sister, Helen, and my sister-in-law, Sue.   It did not hurt one bit that David and I were upgraded on BA to Business Class both ways to/from the UK – ah, one could get very used to such luxurious space; never have I asked that a flight last a few hours longer so that I can enjoy the comforts of flying!  This was an ephemeral moment, I am sure, but I shall savour it until I must board a plane again! 

March, 2015   The long slog through one of the snowiest winters in Maine for a long time ended with a school trip to Vieux Québec. I was one of three chaperones taking some 20 high-schools students on a French immersion weekend.  They students were wonderful – engaged, gracious, solicitous, and curious; what more could one ask for from traveling companions, let alone homo adolescentitus?  Here they are listening attentively to our guide, an hilarious chap, in the Martello Tower. I will make no comment on what the teachers are doing on the right…. “Corporal” punishment, redux?

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January and February, 2015.  “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it Snow!”  may be a lovely concept during the Christmas season, but we could not find the pause button this year.  We had to shovel up to four/five feet of snow off our roofs at least three times during these first IMG_0883two months. David on the roof, moi playing catch and pitch below.  Great for the shoulder muscles, but rather taxing on the back. Then….we would snow blow/shovel our 500 foot driveway.  Looking on the bright side, we do not need to invest time or money going to the gym….

 

 

 Back to the Present.  So closes another year of memories, transitions, ushering in 2016.  We already anticipate a wedding, more sojourns to Europe, more singing with Choral Art, and never-enough time with beloved family and friends. As we head down the path to new delights, challenges, and opportunities, we send you our love and best wishes for a  joyful and peaceful New Year.

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                  Breda and David  oxoxoxo

 

on the path through our woods.

Thing #23 – Crossing the Finish Line…To Begin Again….

I have learned an enormous amount over the last ten weeks. I still have many questions, particularly about which tools best will serve my needs, e.g. to what extent to use blogs vs. wikis, or wikis linked to blogs, in my teaching, or whether or not I will give up Quia.com as my students’  ‘mother ship’ in favour of blogs/wikis. Which audio tools will bring the best results, etc…;  the answers will probably come as the year progresses…..

I have been working on my course outlines for next year’s classes and have set up and will use many new tools I have discovered thanks to the course, trying to match the power/efficacy of the tool with the appropriate level/age of my students and the skills on which I am focusing in each class – Wall Wisher, Stixy, Intervue, Google Art Project. One of the reasons that I kept very detailed blog/wiki responses to our weekly assignments is so that I could leave a clear ‘virtual paper trail’ of all the tools that we were asked to explore. My hope is that that  will help minimize the amount of detail that I will forget as the year progresses! I do hope that the K12learning2.0 wiki will remain open/accessible so that I can refresh my memory as to how to use many of the new tools!! Alumni follow-up?

I met today with a colleague who will be covering two courses for me for one semester. I shared with her some of my newly-enhanced wisdom:  I got her to open a G mail account, showed her how to access documents I shared with her on Google Docs, and how to embed lectures that I had created via Voice Thread onto the class webpage…not bad for a 1-hour session. Podcasting and WallWisher may be next!

Some self-control is clearly in order; I do not want to blow colleagues or students out of the proverbial waters, nor do I want to burn out, or create structures/projects/protocols that I cannot meaningfully sustain. So, moving forward, I want to be sure to strike  the balance between my irrational exuberance – wanting to do it ALL…NOW and orchestrating measured, well-paced, relevant, and effective learning experiences for my students – mastering Spanish, becoming adept users of technology to that end, and delighting in the possibilities for continued and collaborative exchanges of ideas.

 

Thing #22 – Twitter

I have had a Twitter account for over two years and quite honestly have never actively used it. I did follow Danah Boyd re Social media etc., and several other people in relevant fields…my pursuit did trail off. Heaven knows why 15 people are “following” me.  I resuscitated my account because of this course and have added several people working actively in Web 2.0. I also have many of them in my Google Reader and suspect that that is where I will keep track of their comments, etc. vs. Twitter. Diigo has become a major tool in my bag; I have been adding and tagging important webpages that I will be using this year in class, plus other articles of interest. I get daily updates on my email from Diigo of pages tagged and commented upon by others. THAT is really helpful; the prompt comes right to might active email, is rich in detail/commentary.  At this stage, I do not see Twitter being a major player in my life given the other tools that I have discovered over the last 10 weeks. I will keep it going for a while to see if it does become indispensable.

A side note, Ihave already set up a reminder to be part of a Twitter discussion #langchat, and appreciate the link to cybraryman foreign language. I will dip into the suggestions here and, perhaps, contribute!

Thing #21 Google Maps (or, in my case, Boggle Maps!…Plus Google Art)

This was the only ‘thing’ that was frustrating for me. I had to make several attempts to produce a final ‘my map.’ Quite why it was so hard for me, I am not sure.  This week has been a choppy and busy one timewise – frankly, more like a normal school week , in terms of responsibilities and multiple focii. For that reason, I do not see me using Google Map apps in my classes. I found that there were too many wriggly things that could go wrong and which would really derail a class or diminish the focus of my lesson if I were to be managing kids’ issues with their maps; students are not the fool-proof, omniscient technocrats that they are purported to be. Here is my Walking Tour of a Day in the Life of a Waynflete Student map. This is my fifth effort, and the perfectionist in me is not happy with it, but I must move on! Take a look…. I did a simple walking tour in Portland; I abandoned driving tours of Italy and other high-folluting ideas. I played with icons, links to webpage and photos on labels for stops on the tour.

I certainly can see benefits to Google Maps; the Literary tours are phenomenal for bring alive literary texts. I might break down and try to use Google Maps in teaching asking/giving directions in Spanish; I could see this as an engaging in-class activity where the final product would not matter so much as the actual drawing of routes in response to oral directions, then comparing maps….

HOWEVER, a fairly new Google tool that I WILL be using in my art history class – a different type of INTERIOR tour  – is the Google Art Project. Here is a quick ‘tour’ that I put together on Renaissance Art. This is going to be a tremendous resource for teaching and assessing students in my fall Renaissance art history course. It will allow kids to explore, select, investigate and present their understanding of the art. I am very excited by this tool.

Thing 20 – Google Docs

I have used Google Docs a lot over the last few years :

a. Committee work – working on drafting Reaccreditation documents:

b. in my classroom – working with students, or assigning group work during which my students have to collaborate (terrific for expanding beyond classroom walls);

c. personal life, looking at drafts of letters my daughter was composing when looking for a new job, and now on wedding planning stuff.

I was fascinated to see new tools available on Google Docs – eg. the chat option – I still have to figure that out. I did upload a .ppt file and noticed that I could use the ‘view together’ option once I had invited people to share the document. I see this a potentially very useful in my fall art history class – I could very well have kids work together on discussing the slides as a homework assignment and then bringing their shared discussion back to the classroom next day. They also could create their OWN .ppts of other works by given artists to expand the scope of their understanding and familiarity with an individual artist or period….

I also played with publishing and embedding a new Google doc into my class web page. That was an exciting discovery for me – I am not sure how I might use that tool at the moment, but it is neat to know that it exists!   I had never explored the Google Drawing option…. Could be useful for having students in my Community Service Activity make neat posters to print AND to share with the whole Upper School advertising upcoming events….

Finally, I completed Shelley’s Form, then began to mess about with creating a questionnaire draft for the Community Service Activity 2011-2012 year – polling returning and new members as to availability for projects, interest areas, etc… I will very likely use this tool this year…it really could be useful.  We DO use Facebook to confirm attendance at events, and have used Google docs to share kids recycling times…. Exploiting Google.docs more really could be a real bonus to effective admin of a big group of energetic kids! I just have to train them to consult their email regularly…. Is there a texting notification option?!!!

Thing # 19 YouTube

I LOVE YouTube and have used it actively in my language and art history classes for several years. I always embed into my class webpage the specific video that I want my students to view.  YouTube has often given me access to foreign films that are either not available at all, or only available after jumping through an inordinate number of hoops!  Of particular value are super new ‘cortometrajes’ – short films by independent film makers that never make it into the US market.

By having my students watch videos on YouTube as HOMEWORK assignments, particularly in my language classes, I can devote valuable classtime to actually speaking about the film; they also can re-view the film, or sections of it, more than once, and in their own time. This was particularly useful this spring in my advanced Spanish Film elective.

Here are a couple of videos that I love and have used:

1.  For fun – The 1970s “Smash” Instant Potato ad from the UK…. Definitely nostalgic!:

Smash Potato

2.  A “How To” video in Spanish – Great vocabulary and listening comp practice for my students, PLUS learning how to cook “Tortilla española.”  This is a video stream to which I am a subscriber:

Cocina A2 – Tortilla española

3. Content-specific. An example of a ‘cortometraje’ or short film that I have used in my Spanish III classes. The whole thing lasts under 8 mins and brought forth all sorts of discussion and grammar practice opportunities. (I found the script on another site and used it for fill-in listening comp activities).

El Columpio

4.  Here is a student-produced and performed version of Lorca’s “La casa de Bernarda Alba.” They have done a fine job – linguistically and production wise…. I have done shorter dramatizations of sections of Spanish plays in the past, but never posted them on YouTube or TeacherTube.  I think I have a class of students who would LOVE to produce a film that we could the ‘screen’ – based on their performance of a Lorca play

AP Student Performance \”La casa de Bernarda Alba\”

So, YouTube is a constant companion, professionally and in my personal life!

Thing 17 – Podcasting

Podcasting is a tool that I value enormously given my foreign Language focus. I have not implemented it fully in my classes yet. I am delighted to have a potential one-stop, go-to site to help me set up a sustainable system. In the past, I used MP3 players, or pseudo audio tools, not real podcasts – e.g. VoiceThread or Vocaroo (which is no longer free….).  MP3s often had technical difficulties that took away from the actual language learning goals; are MP3 really now obsolete as production tools? I think so.  VoiceThread has been a faithful friend. I have spent about two hours exploring this possibility and am feeling overwhelmed! I need to step back and stop following every single lead I find!!

I already had subscribed to a couple of podcasts via ITunes sometime ago – Notes in Spanish, MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and through Google Reader – NPR podcasts, for example.  Today, I subscribed to several more – The History of English in 10 Minutes from The Open University, a brilliant site for Art History – produced by Art Education for The Blind – “Samples of Verbal Description” For curiosity, I subscribed to the European Council of International Schools “Getting Started with ECIS ITunes U” another way of ‘slicing and dicing’ the topic….,and finally Coffee Break Spanish….

I would love to set up podcasting as a core method in my language classes. I played with Garage Band to that end and a honestly a bit fearful of how quickly I can become a good enough master of it to be able to to teach it and use it effectively with my students.

Thing 16 – Social Media and Classroom 2.0 Ning

I had stumbled onto this site a short while ago and promptly signed up for Steve Hardagon’s email newsletter.  There is more information there than I can possibly absorb, so judicious selection will be the order of the day!

Today I joined the Teaching Spanish with Web 2.0 Tools and immediately was guided by a posting to  a tool that I think I can use immediately in my Spanish classes – It is Intervue – a self-described site that ” is a quick and easy tool for publishers who are looking to gather short video responses online from anyone with a webcam.”  I am also considering signing up for Epals…we shall see.

So, the purpose and product of Steve’s site are being realized in spades! There are so many tools out there and so many teachers doing extraordinary things with them. I am resisting the temptation to give in to being overwhelmed…just…. This site and several others are now on my RSS feed and I will keep checking back to see what is new and valuable to my teaching; this is a great way to continue my own prof. dev. in the technology/teaching field.

My interest in such tools is and always has been to work towards having my students not be limited by the four walls of the classroom and the schedule; foreign language is a skill and practice is essential on a daily basis… Now, of course, the question is how to get the kids to do the assignments on a regular and deep basis; “procrastination is the thief of time,” said Samuel Johnson. I would add “…and learning.”

Fortunately, at my school, the is ample use of message boarding, blogging, etc.  I absolutely agree with the findings of the National School Board Assoc article – Creating & Connecting, I hear students all the time discussing how they will collaborate via the web on homework assignments; my assumption that they will underpins many of my longer-term homework assignments. As leader of our Community Service Activity,  I have found that Facebook is THE way to communicate with the members of the activity. They respond to Facebook; email is passé in this regard! (I use Facebook and LinkedIn all the time to stay connected with far-flung family members and friends; I have rediscovered/reconnected with quite a few recently!).

But, lest we forget the value of balance and moderation in our use of tools, here is an amusing video that linked to the Classroom 2.0 Video list: “It’s A Book!”

Thing 15 – Diigo

Well, bang goes my plan to use Delicious (see my last post #13 in which I was trumpeting the joys of that old site!). I just transferred my whole Delicious library to Diigo. I also began to set up Lists of like screenshots, commentaries, etc. that I created as part of Task 15 for this course. Diigo is very easy to use, I must say.  I confess that I was skeptical at first, wondering how this bookmarking site was different or better that Delicious. I LOVE the ability to annotate, make comments, and share. This tool truly does make a paperless classroom more viable: I doubt I will make hard copies of web-based articles anymore….

I think will try to use Diigo in my advanced Spanish Lit class this fall. My concern at this moment is how to have kids actively access the annotated documents that I send them, and how they can annotate and comment further on them. Will they need their own account, or can they write on my proverbial coat tails?

I like, when looking at community libraries, that you can see how many people have tagged a particular site; may help in weeding out or homing in on options as I do my own research. When I searched for art history, I did notice that the top sites (with 300-450 tags) were sites with which I was already familiar…. It was far quicker to reach that conclusion via Diigo than via my old route…

Clicke here for  the link to my Diigo account/Library.