Category Archive: Course 4

Jun 09

Course 4 week 6 Learning with Laptops/Computers…the saga continues


One to one

Having just completed a year with 5th graders piloting a 1:1 program with homerooms experimenting with iPads and Macbooks, it has been exciting, challenging, and filled with teacher and student learning opportunities.

When students brought their iPad or Macbook to class, it was important to be very clear when the expectation was for the students to use or be on their devices. It was especially important to establish the routine of having students keep their devices on their desks to help avoid any wandering off to e-mail or other more attractive applications. When calling the class’ attention, we made it a routine to turn off the iPad screen or shut the lid of the Macbook. This definitely helped to limit off-task behavior and the urge to surf the apps or the internet.

iPad, MacBook dongle 2

The dongle--A funny name, but it is never funny to be without one in today's classroom


 With students being able to store all of their work on one device and also be able to take the hardware with them allowed students to maximize their time and efforts on a given assignment or project.  With the connectivity provided with a dongle for either the iPad or the Macbook, students could easily bring their devices up to the data projector and quickly switch into presentation mode for the class.  For a teacher usually pressed for time, this was definitely a positive for me.

Summer Program

Now that the regular school year has ended, I am now in summer school mode.  I am very lucky to once again be able to teach social studies and geography utilizing the computer lab to access the resources available on the internet.

One surprise…

The shared drive for the elementary school was immediately taken offline once summer started.  As a result, I had a bit of a scramble finding an alternative for sharing files, hyperlinks, video clips, etc.  I know that I did not want to load each computer with the files using a thumb drive.  Thankfully, Josh Raub, our assistant head of technology came to a quick rescue.  We decided that Googlesites would be the way to go.  Josh gave me a crash course lesson on how to embed videos and some of the other related functions and then I was on my way adding links and content.


photo by Daryl Imanishi all rights reserved

While only a forty-five minute block of instructional time with 2nd to 4th graders, I work on mixing-up the class time so that we are not just heading straight for a computer and staring at a monitor for the entire class time. At the start, we all gather on the carpet.  We do a quick review of what we learned in the previous class.  In groups of two to three, students have to share their thoughts with their peers.  Everyone gets a chance to speak within their small groups, and then I ask for some sharing to the whole group.


using the data projector

While students are all together on the carpet, I may share part of a video and pause along the way checking for understanding and asking for students to turn and talk to their neighbor.  While on the carpet, I also can give an overview on a specific skill–how to important a picture into Power Point or how to add a text box in order to credit the source of information or media.




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Jun 09

Course 4 week 5-Badges and the Learning Community

Google starts badges

In the following video, you can see how Google is incorporating the badging system with Google Reader.

Badging is a way to document what types of articles you have read and to help customize the Google Reader experience (at least that is what Google says).

Below is the description of badging.

Electronic badge system = scouting merit badge system?

There is some debate about how the badging system works to promote extrinsic motivation and decrease the cultivation of intrinsic motivation.  Philipp Schmid, executive director and co-founder of Peer 2 Peer University, wrote about two key points regarding the badge system in his blog post, Let’s make badges not stink:

The issue is not, “badges or no badges” The issue is how we can design badge systems that foster great learning practices. 

1 – Use badges to define roles rather than as rewards. In many learning communities users take different roles. Mitch actually mentions the importance of taking roles within a community like Scratch, but he sees roles as separate from badges. I believe that by recognizing roles – for example a mentor role – through a badge will signal to a new members of the community that mentorship is a valued practice within the community, and helps  them identify those who can help with problems and questions. And finally it may encourage users to strive to become mentors themselves. So rather than give badges as rewards they can help diffuse awareness of roles within a community.

2 – Anchor badges within community. The relationship between issuer and recipients will influence perceptions and expectations around badges. Badges that are woven into the fabric of a community of learning will be perceived less as extrinsic motivators, but as representation of core practices within the community. When the badge recipient feels ownership of the design of the badge, because she fully considers herself a member of the community that defines and issues the badge, the badge can provide an effective marker of learning pathways that help the learner to orientate herself within the landscape, and can act as a marker and pointer for new members of the community following in her steps.

In my classroom

While far from perfect, I did work on an analog version of a badge system in my classroom.  Learning Japanese can be challenging.  Student motivation can be a huge hurdle.  My challenge was, “How do you motivate/keep students motivated to take risks and put forth the effort.  This is what I came up with for use in the classroom.

Name tag (front)

Promoting the stars or badges, I explained to the students that this was a goal.  If students showed mastery of hiragana, katakana, or a certain topic, students could earn their star.  The question was not if you were going to earn your star (for the appropriate topic), but WHEN you were going to earn the star.  Those students who earned their star early on were asked to mentor and help their fellow classmates out so they too could earn their star.  While at times management of the system became a challenge, the initial structure held and the culture was established.

Since participation and speaking Japanese in class was a key trait that I wanted students to develop, students could earn stickers for their involvement with the class.  Twenty stickers collected, students would then earn their belt (a colored strip of paper) indicating their rank.  Loosely based on the karate belting system, the idea was that the more practice that you completed, the higher rank you could attain.  In general, the system allowed students to help self-monitor their classroom participation and skill level in class.

Name tag (back) Homework-side

The preparation for class and homework sheet was another way of providing individual feedback in an analog info-graphic type form.  Students could easily check with a quick glance if they had been consistent with their homework completion.  I could congratulate students for having consistent lines of stickers, or ask students about the patterns that they noticed if the homework completion was not as consistent.

Where I was

With the star system, the questions that were being answered were similar to the following:

What do we want kids to learn?  What are the goals?  What is the content?

One downside with the star system, was the focus on the content.

Where I want to be

In the future, I want to be able to connect more with the student and their needs.  It would be nice to have an independent study component where students could earn specific badges for their efforts outside of class.  For example there could be a badge for taking swim lessons in Japanese, or a badge for talking to a friend or relative in Japanese (via Skype, on the phone, or in person).

I would like to focus on student leaders/mentors and develop those roles.  With students better equipped to create useful videos that I could share with other classes, I was able to share much more between classes than I had been able to do in previous years.  While student role-models and the student ability to impact the learning of students outside of their own Japanese class was definitely apparent, I did not get to the point where I could properly recognize those students for their contributions.  Students were given feedback at times about their projects via handwritten post-it notes.

Below is the list that Stackoverflow has to offer to its users.  It is a comprehensive list with a unique angle on the badge titles.

Extensive list of badges

Representing core practices within the community

Using our current mission statement as a guide, perhaps “stars” or badges could be included for the students attaining goals or showing exemplary behavior as these type of learners:



Globally responsible
learners prepared for global responsibility

As I come to the close of one chapter and I am about to start another journey at my new school, I look forward to learning more about the core practices and beliefs of RIS.  Starting my acquisition with a new language, I may have to come up with my own personal badge system to help keep track of my language learning.  But regardless of whether or not a badge system is currently in place at my new elementary school, I am excited to become an active part of a new learning community.

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Jun 09

Course 4 week 4-Game Based Learning

Big ball relay

Big Ball Relay---The object: roll a huge ball down the field and back with your partner as fast as you can without rolling over your teammates or getting "rolled" by the ball

Let the games begin…

Aka ganbatte (Go red team), Shiro ganbatte (Go white team)

Play hard

Play fair

Nobody hurt

These are the simple rules from the Japanese Sports Day event that happens in the elementary school every October.  Who wins or loses is not the important part of the day.  The important part is students doing their best to compete in order to bring out the best from their fellow classmates.  Every year, kids, faculty, and parents have a fun-filled, memorable event on this day.

Whether it be a physical game, a quiz game, a card game, an online game (the list goes on), when designed and implemented correctly, games are fun, motivating and engaging for students.  And yes, learning takes place.

I thank my colleague, Machi Nakamura for sharing with me a fun listening comprehension game used to reinforce the vocabulary for family members, and the counter for people.  This is how the game is set-up.  Multiple “families” are illustrated on strips of construction paper that has been laminated in order to take the abuse that usually occurs  due to overly excited students.  One family might have mom, dad, two older sisters, one older brother and me/I.  Another family might have mom, dad, one younger sister and me/I.  The teacher starts the game by describing who is in the family.  Students listen closely and once they have enough information, they reach for the illustration that matches the description.  The quickest student to touch the correct illustration wins that card.  Below is a picture of some students playing the “family” game.


Listening comprehension game-Listen to the family being described and then be the first one to grab the corresponding picture

Set up at the beginning of the game with the basic rules, students are provided an engaging listening activity that is relatively low risk for students to practice their listening comprehension.

Nobody hurt

Important when including games in the classroom is to make sure the level is appropriate for each learner.  Does the student think that they will be able to adequately perform?  There needs to be enough of a challenge without the task feeling too overwhelming.  Grouping the students with similar abilities helps challenge kids appropriately without feeling overwhelmed.

Like the popular game, Angry Birds, the replay button is easy to find.  Also, as you get better at toppling over the different structures, you unlock levels that get increasingly more difficult.

With Angry Birds, the replay button is large and at the top of the control buttons

With the game, students should have many opportunities to practice.  Also, all students should experience some degree of accomplishment.  Since it is a competitive game, it might be important for the teacher to have only certain groups of students participate until all students have at least one card.  If students are able to, they could be asked to describe the family in Japanese in order to “keep” the card.

Angry Bird-sensei

Aaron Biebert has a great post entitled, 12 Most Surprising Leadership Lessons Learned from Playing Angry Birds, Biebert writes:

The Angry Birds game has been downloaded over 300,000,000 times and more than 100,000,000,000 angry birds have been shot through the air.  That’s a lot!  In fact, every day people spend over 200,000,000 minutes playing this addictive game.

That is a lot of game time.  I have played Angry Birds and it is not easy–especially when you get to the higher levels.  That doesn’t stop my two boys (kindergarten and second grade) from playing the game, however.  I recognize their achievements with the game.  So despite the increasing level of difficulty, the draw and structure of the game nurtured their growth.

While leadership is included in the title, I believe students can relate to and take away similar lessons from the game.  Dr. Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania once wrote the following:

learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying — but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. . . .

For many, learning another language, especially Japanese can be a daunting challenge.  Emphasizing the fun and “hooking” the students into practice helps build the skills necessary for overcoming the challenges.  Cultivating the trait of grit in students is one overarching goal that I have for students in my class.

Because I believe in the power of games and I am excited about the possibilities that today’s technology has to offer, I have spent a considerable number of hours researching, investigating,  and testing applications useful in the Japanese classroom.  Below are a few of my favorite applications for the iPhone or iPad.

Kids Fun-Touch the hiragana characters in the correct order to spell out the name of the object. The characters form the word and then a kid's voice pronounces the word.

Hiragana Trace-Practice writing the hiragana characters (katakana trace also available). Make sure you write with the correct stroke order in order to advance to the next character



Japanese My Way-Practice reading/writing hiragana, katakana, and kanji with or without the tracing guide. Dictionary and flash card generator also available.

These games have definitely been a motivator for students.  What is even more exciting than the impact in the classroom is what has happened outside of the classroom.   There were several students (or their parents) that  downloaded these applications to their own devices.  With this occurring, students were making use of their commute time and other time outside of class to strengthen and improve their language skills.  It was fun, engaging, and self-directed.  This year, I even had one first grader move ahead of the class and learn katakana in addition to hiragana–wow!


Original board game (#1) designed by a student

For an advanced non-native Japanese class in the fourth grade, students went a step beyond game playing and into game designing.  Students learned vocabulary related to game playing, designed and created their original board game, and then played (in Japanese) with their classmates.  Here are a few students examples.  


Original game (#2) designed by a student

Next year as fifth graders, the students will once again bring out their game boards to review their game playing vocabulary in preparation for the fifth grade exchange visit with Katoh Gakuen.   For the next school year (and beyond) I encourage my students to keep “game playing” and follow the simple rules from Japanese Sports Day–

Play hard

Play fair

Nobody hurt

We did it!

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Jun 09

Course 4 week 3-Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project based learning or PBL is something that my colleague (Machi Nakamura) and I have been working to incorporate with our lessons.  While challenged by the minimum amount of contact time, PBL has helped keep students engaged and allowed for differentiation within the classroom.  A project requirements could be adjusted in order to accommodate the needs and abilities of learners on both ends of the spectrum.

Challenged Based Learning

While Challenged Based Learning is an exciting approach to learning, I see this being more applicable to older students with more sophisticated language ability.

Looking closer at the application of PBL in the language classroom, I was happily surprised to find that a Japanese language teacher won the ACTFL Teacher of the Year Award.  Yo Azama shows the viewer how he scaffolds the lesson and activities to provide meaningful practice.  Looking closer at Azama-sensei’s presentation notes, the reader can see the additional resources that support the students for their culminating project of creating a brochure and video.

Teaching Foreign Languages Library clip

When it comes to PBL in the classroom, Connie Weber who teaches in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is quoted in a Edutopia article on the importance of creating a classroom culture that is conducive to PBL.

What is essential, “is establishing the learning atmosphere, how the class feels.” Instead of generating rules with her students, she invites them to “generate tendencies, [and] positive ways to be together.”

Japanese Only

The Japanese Only sign allows students a time during class to try out their Japanese. Since the students are "forced" to speak in Japanese, mistakes are more easily forgiven..

“They (students) suggest that they want each other to be nice, honest, respectful, patient; to have integrity and perseverance; to be safe to make mistakes and safe to share their views.” She adds one more quality to the list: “It’s important to play.”

English Ok

The English Only sign allows students a chance to confirm their understanding by using English. Students who were unsure about the conversations that took place during Japanese Only time have a chance to reinforce their learning.

In the classroom, I too have found that creating the culture is key to increasing student achieve.  I strive to have my students feel…

  • safe to take risks and make mistakes without fear of what people will say
  • open enough to be able to share their personal stories in a foreign language in front of the entire class
Getting Around
One project that does get positive feedback from students is from the Getting Around Unit.  Students learn how to research train schedules and routes on the internet.  They then choose to research one travel destination near Tokyo (predetermined list with the possibility of accepting new proposals from students).  Students create a promotional poster that includes all of the relevant information (train route, entrance fees, operating hours, etc.) and then the final piece is making a field trip proposal in front of the class.

Field trip proposal poster

Telephone pizza order 

Another project that was a first this year had students “act out” the telephone pizza order in the Common Craft style.  While it was not required, I recommended for the students to try creating their “skit” in this new style.  I showed a Common Craft video (in Japanese) and then helped guide them along with the video creation process using simple story boarding, a digital camera, and Movie Maker.  The students were excited and worked hard to create a finished product that could be shared with the class and other classes.

As always, any feedback is welcome.

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Jun 09

Course 4 week 2-How Deep is the Integration?


The SAMR model

The SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, has been a useful lens for looking at tech integration.  In my language learning classroom, have I been merely substituting electronic flash cards for the hard tag version?

One example (for this post)

I still give out vocabulary flash cards printed on hard tag.  We do different activities and games with those sets of flash cards.  With the use of Quizlet, students have been offered another choice of study and another layer reinforcement for the learning.  Quizlet has allowed me to augment the learning experience for kids with the ability to add pictures and use games as a way to enhance the practice ritual.  In addition, for upper grade levels, I have had students create their own flash cards after evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses.

TPACK diagram

Once again, we have an additional acronym to add to our educational vocabulary.  Below is another example of the TPACK diagram.  This is the result of a group work exercise at one of our COETAIL classes.

From diagrams to reality

So what does successful tech integration look like?  Watch the video below.

A Commitment to High Tech Education

It is surprising that this article was originally published in 2003.  (The video was later added to Youtube in 2010.)  It was impressive to see the integration of technology at this high school redefining what students were doing.  The tasks were relevant and meaningful for the students.  With clear purposes for the use of technology (in this video), students were motivated and challenged to interpret and produce results for use in the community.

Reflective questions

In Jeff Utech’s blog post, Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom, Jeff presents four questions that could be used when observing a classroom activity, or watching a video such as the one from Edutopia.

  1. Is the technology being used “Just because it’s there”?
  2. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in Old ways?
  3. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in New ways?
  4. Is the technology creating new and different learning experiences for the students?
I like the way that Jeff has organized the questions starting with superficial use and gradually “peeling away at the onion”, digging deeper and deeper.  These are questions that I ask myself.  These are questions that I have had  my colleagues ask me.
Tech integration needs to start with the outer layers of the onion.  It is natural for us to explore and play with something that is new (just because it is there).  However, if I only tasted the outer skin of the onion, I do not know if I would continue to cook with onions.  The challenge is to continue to peel away at the onion in order to have a taste of the meaty, juicy part.


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