Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Virtual Classrooms for ESL Students

You can only push a kid so fast and so hard. I teach a challenging course in my Computer Education course. With no set curriculum, I can look at what classroom teachers around the school are doing, and try to compliment that in my classroom. But what about the International Ed. students and ESL students in my courses? Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Mainland China; these kids are from all over the globe, but they are still kids like those in my classroom. When things become too difficult, when the water rises over their heads, they drown. Just like anyone else.

I have used shown my students how to use google translate. That worked well, but for many 11 year old and 12 year old students, they don't always advocate for themselves. If I don't open google translate for them, they don't consistently go there to ensure they understand the lesson.

To better help the ESL students in my class, I found a bit of code from the google translate tools page. It allows me to embed google translate into my lessons. This, plus the written detail, and screencasts or other visuals help a kid to understand what the lesson is all about. Even if I screencast in english (sorry, my Icelandic is a bit rusty) the visual example of a screencast about a lesson is very helpful.

And it is not just the students that benefit. In an informal poll of my students, grade 8 students ask their parents for help with their school work 2-5 times a week. What about ESL students? Often their parents do not know english as well as the student does. Parents are smart, and love their children, and want to help. By putting a translate button on the page, criteria, due dates, and screencasts or other visuals about the lesson, parents can look at the lesson and then support their kids learning at home.

To that end, if you would like to read this post in another language, I have put the google translate button on the right hand side of my page.


A votre sante !



Friday, April 8, 2011

Everyone is doing the best they can

Today on the way to work I passed by a guy who is a plumber or electrician in his yellow, older model astro van. What was most noteworthy was not the guy, he was just another guy. The sign on the side of his van was also not really noteworthy either, as it was done with no graphics, and a single font, in red. Hard to read. What stood out was the fact that the van must have had a lot of equipment in the back because the rear suspension was sagging so badly, I am surprised I didn't see sparks coming off the muffler. Obviously he cannot afford or won't invest in a truck with better suspension. But he's up early, he's on the road, and he's going to do the best he can for the money you pay him.

I immediately identified with this guy.

This guy is all of us. He's got a job to do, and a heavy weight on him. Even though his ass-end is dragging, he is going to be there for you.

Everyone is doing the best they can.

Everyone? Yes everyone. Your laziest student is doing the best they can. They just believe that they can't do better, or that it is worth it to try. And that is where teachers come in. We have to get people to invest in themselves, so that someday they will have the skill sets and the belief that they can go out in the world, get what they need. And how to soldier on, even if you ass-end is dragging.