Perseverance Through Tech? Possible?

Today I sat in a 7th grade team meeting where we briefly discussed teaching our students the theme of “perseverance.” I admit that I had been spending most of the meeting unable to stop ruminating about my totally-not-finished COETAIL project that is due this weekend. I had half a dozen tabs open on my computer from the night before— a blog entry from Ross, one of the other teachers at my school, that linked to an article about some of the major downsides of teaching with technology in math education. This article discusses almost exclusively “software” type programs to teach math, and I realize that those programs are not what we are learning in COETAIL to be transformative or meaningful integrations of technology. That said, I think the article makes a lot of really valid points. Konstantin Kakaes writes that “The proper job of a teacher is not to make it easy, but to guide students through the difficulty by getting them to practice and persevere.” In this regard, math and foreign language have a lot in common.

My students are spending a lot of time right now practicing, practicing, practicing. And they need so much more practice. Speaking French isn’t a lot of fun when you have to pause for 10 seconds to rack your brain for how to say “I have.” Of course, we can gain practice through technology as well, but I worry about the message that technology can make learning generally “easier”— as if my students do my one VoiceThread activity, and they will have mastered the irregular verb avoir. I think what technology is best for is making us more connected, and giving us new ways of expressing what we know and think. It gives us access to a wider knowledge base in many disciplines. It is great for exploring ideas. But what about the factual knowledge or skills that come only from practice? Right now my students need that practice. They need practice to build fluency with the words that are already in their French vocabulary, but that don’t yet come to their tongues easily. And I’m coming up short in ways that I can use technology in a transformative way to help them get an adequate amount of practice. I am able to see ways to use technology to showcase their skills after they have acquired the skill, but not really to help them much along the way.

When my team was discussing “perseverance” as a theme for the 7th grade advisories, I remembered another tab was open on my browser to an article about the Nobel Prize winner for medicine. He says his bassoon teacher was his most influential teacher. Not exactly the teacher I’d expect someone to name after winning the Nobel Prize in medicine! He credits that teacher with teaching him perseverance: “Herbert Tauscher, who taught me that the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours.”

I want to integrate technology. But I also believe in the benefit that comes from practicing and listening, sometimes for hours.

5 thoughts on “Perseverance Through Tech? Possible?

  1. Misty Skidmore

    Hannah,
    I would have to agree! Although I am eager to jump on the technology bandwagon, there are also many obstacles that present themselves and I could totally see that through teaching a foreign language. I learned how to speak Spanish in high school and always wanted to try out my “donde esta el bano” or “quiero una cerveza” with the local English speakers, but it wasn’t until I moved to South America and was IMMERSED with Spanish that I was forced to figure out how to enunciate the syllables so that I didn’t sound like such a GRINGA! It was through hours and hours of practice and lots of mistakes that I was able to feel comfortable – none of that was with technology! 🙂

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  2. Danieta Morgan

    So I see your frustration Hannah and I have been thinking about you. I believe that technology can teach our students how to persevere. You should really watch the Ted Talks video in the Week 5 with Dan Meyers. He discusses how to create challenging math problems that are real world using technology. I was thinking, what if you show a conversation taking place in French? You could show a commercial or a clip of a dramatic scene in a French movie. Then you can ask your students what they believe the clip is about. Ask them to translate what they have seen. They will surely have to persevere and it can create conversation from your students who are not yet comfortable with the language. As a class, you can work together to try and figure out what is going on. You can simulate the immersion of being in another country by showing them footage online. I believe this is very rigorous and real world. You can see how students can use problem solving skills to understand a scenario. Students may even pick up the idea that communication is 90% physical and 10% verbal. Just some ideas, tell me what you think.

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  3. serge nicolai

    Hi, i like the title of your blog because the skills of concentration and perseverance are certainly under attack in the West. But i would put the blame on TV watching habits, which are totally passive. On the other hand, the technological tools that we use in class can promote more practice in all language skills with the advantage of a self-paced approach. For example there are many quizzes online where the students can just drill themselves. For oral practice, some students are inhibited in front of others, but when they do it at home, with the option of recording themselves, they suddenly bloom.
    So, where i am now right now, would be to encourage the students more use of technology outside the classroom, to practice and apply, and, like you, more human social interactions, within the classroom.
    Cheers.

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  4. Lucie Jean

    Hi,

    As a first year World language french teacher, I am also struggling and juggling with the classroom balance of using technology to engage the students in their learning of a foreign language and getting the mechanics of grammar and verb conjugation well intergrated to be able to move on in their learning. I know that there are on-line quizzes and different websites that are quite useful, but still I am more interested in the human social interaction. As I am embarking with the Futur tense with my students, I start with a review of the Passé composé and the Présent in a very ‘tradionnal’ way, but am pushing it further with voice recordings and filming conversations in french. I am also hoping that my Google+ exchange with a group of second language french students will not only engage my students but empower them to improve their french. Fingers are crossed.

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  5. Lucie Jean

    Bonjour,

    I really enjoyed reading your post because it resonnated with me. I am also a MS world language french teacher and I often struggle and juggle with the fine balance between technology and the more tradionnal practising and listening. How does one improve grammar or verb conjugation without practising and lots of it? I know there are on-line quizzes and web sites that can be quite helpful but the human social interactions are what are going to make students want to develop their language skills. Who wants to speak french to a computer program? It may help, but the real way to engage and hopefully empower out students in their learning is to develop real life learning situations. Can this be also done through technology? As I am about to attempt a Google+ group including my students and a class of second language students abroad, I will be able to taste those waters…cross my fingers!

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