Sunday, November 2, 2014

Survival Skills for Digital Natives in the Analog Jungle

Part 1

Students in my class come with their own set of needs.  In this series of blog posts, I will be sharing some of the skills I am teaching them to help themselves in class.  I teach the whole class these skills because although they are targeted to some, they are beneficial to all.

Lost in Translation

Some of my students are newly-arrived from other countries, and they are paying a lot of money to attend our schools as International Education Students.  But, due to government cutbacks there is less support for these students, in class or in the form of pull out classes. 
I have a borrowed Surface Pro 3 tablet for my classroom, a 1st generation Surface RT and my own personal Windows phone.  All have the Bing Translator app.  This app allows someone to speak into the device, or hold the camera over some text, and the app will use the power of the cloud to translate.  There are offline translation packs available.  My most commonly used one now is Chinese (simplified)
When you use the translate app on the tablet, it allows you to easily toggle between translation direction.  I can ask a question, hit the switch arrow, and my Mandarin speaking student can answer back in his own language.  Below is a transcript of our conversation:
Back and Forth Conversation Using Bing Translate
Sometimes I needed to translate part of a sentence, sometimes we used it for the whole sentence in our conversation.  At the bottom is the two way arrows that we use to switch back and forth between languages. 
And on my Windows phone:
Bing Translate on my Phone

Wherever it is supported I use the speaker icon so that my students can hear the words spoken to them from the device.  This is because early in my career I read a book by Jim Trelease (the Read Aloud Handbook) which said that listening comprehension is higher than reading comprehension for children up to age 13.
I am told the translation is pretty accurate, and that the pronunciation is understandable. 
This is incredibly empowering for my students.  One student has now gotten his own tablet, and is writing Mandarin characters which are being translated into English.  He feels very proud to be able to communicate on his own while he is learning English as fast as he can.
It isn’t perfect, but it is one more way to equip kids with skills to advocate for themselves, and to be more independent in school.

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