Learning, unlearning and relearning

“Los analfabetos del siglo 21 no serán aquellos que no saben leer y escribir, sino aquellos que no pueden aprender, desaprender y reaprender” – Alvin Toffler

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”

What a powerful, inspiring concept! As teachers, we’ve been used to transferring skills and knowledge to learners and to testing their knowledge with exams at the end of each unit or course. But learning goes beyond that and it has no boundaries. We’re more interconnected than ever before. We’re sharing, collaborating, inspiring one another. Everyday I find powerful messages, blog entries and articles in Twitter and LinkedIn that inspire me to keep searching for ways to reach students. We have the chance to learn from our own practices, from others, to select what works best and to change what doesn’t, to experiment with new ideas, to improve and get better every day.

That’s learning, unlearning and relearning. We’re doing it. How can we encourage students to do it as well?

Please comment directly on the Padlet wall or on the comment section (Inglés o Español). Thank you very much!
You can move other people’s text boxes just by dragging them around the wall, in order to fit your text box.

Preparing students for the global workplace

NOBLE – Network of Business Language Educators – has put this series of webinars together for language for specific purposes teachers and professionals from different fields who support interdisciplinary studies: language, culture and specific disciplines.

You can register for the webinars for free and the recordings will be available on YouTube shortly after the presentations. This is an amazing resource for educators who are looking for innovative ways to create global connections for their students and to integrate areas of study. What’s great nowadays is that we can access these valuable resources for free and we can learn from the experiences and tips of professionals in the field who are going beyond typical approaches to create lifelong learning opportunities for students! Thanks so much for sharing!

List of webinars:

December 10, 2013. Connecting Students to the “Real” World. Annie Abbott, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

January 14, 2014. Developing A High School “Spanish for Leadership” Course. Cristin Bleess, Castle View High School, Colorado.

January 28, 2014. “Students’ Own Careers as a Specific Purpose”. Darcy Lear, Career Coach, Chicago.

February 11, 2014. Building a Career Abroad: a Visual Approach to Creating Opportunities. Leslie Forman, Universidad del Desarollo in Santiago, Chile.

February 25, 2014. Medical Spanish – Moving from Rote skills To Practical Application in the Secondary Classroom. Melissa Swarr, Hempfield School District in Lancaster, PA.

March 25, 2014. Using Case Studies in the Foreign Language Classroom. Margaret Gonglewski and Anna Helm, George Washington University.

April 8, 2014. Spanish for Healthcare In the USA. Berta-Isabel Cuadrado Álvarez. 4:30 p.m. EST

Preparing students for a global community: Leadership & Language

Nice initiative from Rosetta Stone. They’re partnering with school districts in the US to offer an alternate, complementary method for teaching foreign languages, where students can work from home or independently in class – in work stations – and develop their language skills in a personalized way. They’re offering free webinars such as this one to present success stories from schools that are implementing their language programs.
The webinar had such as powerful title that I wanted to participate. This is such an important aspect in education and language teaching, and a key concept in Language for Specific Purposes (LSP) classes such as Business Spanish: To prepare students to be active participants of our global society, to develop “global mindedness” and become “internationally-minded students.” Language is an important aspect towards reaching this goal. 61% of US companies need employers who can speak Spanish, followed by French and Mandarin. Take a look at the graphic below:


Language skills: a global competency?

The relationship between global competency and language skills remains an unmet need. Fewer than 10% of Americans are fluent in more than one language while about 50% of Europeans are. One of the main barriers is limited funding in language learning in K-12 education. Schools and colleges/universities need to explore new ways to deliver language teaching, to develop self-paced learning methods, and to incorporate technology for blended and online courses.
Nakia Douglas, Principal of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas, Texas presented interesting aspects of his school’s language program, that offers three languages: Chinese, Latin and Spanish. Latin remains a popular choice for the students who want to pursue a career in medicine or law. They offer a blended program with Rosetta Stone as partner. In addition, the school offers exchange program opportunities for students in Taiwan, Spain and Costa Rica among others. This is a unique opportunity for students, of course.

And what do students think?

What I always miss from this type of webinars or conference presentations is the students’ perspective and seeing the students in action. What do they think? How do they perceive language? For students to be internationally-minded and become bilingual or multilingual, they not only need to develop a variety of skills, they need to care about our changing world and have a love for language learning. How can we – their teachers – help them? Exchange programs are a great way for students to be exposed to the target language and to the people who speak the language. If they are able to stay with a host family and experience the language, the culture and school life or professional life 100%, that’s the best scenario of course, to be totally immersed. However, although ideal, it’s not always possible to get funding to offer these opportunities to students when they’re in school. But there are other ways to expose students to language, through service learning, community partnerships, internships in multilingual organizations, etc. And that’s something that we can definitely promote. Here’s a great example of a teacher that’s doing that: Ann Abbott who gives a “Spanish in the Community” class at the University of Illinois. I discovered her blog only a week or so ago and loved it. In her blog you can find many ideas to involve students in serving the (Hispanic) community. What’s also great is that you can read many students’ reflections to get a feel of what they think, how they develop empathy and understanding for others and other culture, how they connect to language and “how they begin to love language”.

So we need to be on the same page…

Preparing students to meet the demands of our global society is an important task. In most cases, we only have a semester to work with a group of students and there’s always so much material to cover. That’s why it’s important to transfer not only knowledge to students but lifelong learning strategies and to expose them to experiences they will remember. Finally, it should not only be the task of language teachers to promote language learning. If the principal of a school or a future employer requires students/employees to speak foreign languages but he or she himself/herself doesn’t, there seems to be a gap there… but it was different when we went to school. There were other priorities. If this is a priority now, then that’s basically the task: To prepare today’s students, so that when they become future professionals, they can indeed lead by example.

Are MOOCs really for everyone?


María Dolores Castrillo started her presentation at the UNED in Madrid on 13/12 “How to run an online language course from a massive perspective” with her translation of the following quote from Thomas Friedman’s article “Revolution hits the universities” (New York Times):

“Nada tiene mayor potencial para liberar a más gente de la pobreza. Nada tiene mayor potencial para poner en marcha a miríadas de cerebros…”

“Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC…”

She chose to include the first part of this quote “[the] potential to lift more people out of poverty” since MOOCs are free and open for everyone to take. Someone in the audience added to the quote “intellectual poverty then”, given that, it’s true that MOOCs are free but let’s not forget that they are to be taken totally online and although the digital era in education seems to have expanded across the globe, “the happy few” are the ones who are fully taking advantage of all these changes and many people in developing countries continue to have limited or no access to computers or internet, and even education. So, who takes MOOCs then? Are they really meant to be for everyone or just for an elite group?

Two studies from the University of Pennsylvania reveal that 80% of the people who take university MOOCs already have a degree of some kind and only 4% of them actually finish the course. MOOCs are university level courses so they have a rigorous syllabus and expected study hours and assignments. Of course MOOCs are still a recent movement so there’s a lot of room for improvement in their development, delivery and completion rate.

Dr. María Dolores Castrillo has won a prize for a MOOC she delivered: Alemán para hispanohablantes: Nociones fundamentales. She shared some statistics with us from this course and the MOOC-COMA initiative from the UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) in Spain that revealed that most people who take MOOCs do it for instrinsic reasons: “por amor al arte”. From all the people who completed her German for Beginners course, only 2,2% requested an optional official certificate for the course for which they had to pay. People who take MOOCs may already have a degree of some kind but they simply want to learn a new skill, satisfy their curiosity or take that course they never got to take in college.

When someone asked the speaker for her point of view regarding MOOCs being just for an elite group, she gave us a really interesting answer, what drove me to write this blog entry. MOOCs are there for everyone to take. It’s not that the university’s admissions office will check your file and even reject your application in some cases. MOOCs are open, free. “Es una selección natural”, a natural selection process. Nobody will tell you not to take the MOOC…

… but the MOOC can drive you away on its own of course. It’s true that the completion rates are really low in this study I mentioned but considering that many of the people who took these MOOCs already had a degree, then many of them are probably finding MOOCs where they can explore a topic of interest or refine a skill and they just sign up. Since it’s so simple to sign up. It’s not that they need the certificate in many cases, so the content of the MOOC is open for them to explore during the length of the course, even if they don’t complete it or turn in the assignments that are mandatory.

So not all MOOCs may be for everyone but this is something the student has to judge for himself/herself. MOOCs may be attracting just a certain group right now but the idea is there and it can potentially reach other groups in the future, with the right implementation of technology when needed. They are free after all and they certainly offer high quality education. The MOOC phenomenon has the potential to make higher education more accessible & affordable and therefore to open new doors for future employment.

For more info on this presentation by María Dolores Castrillo, click here.

The digital revolution: The constant need for educators to reinvent themselves

During the last seminar I attended on ICT in Language Teaching and Processing at the UNED in Madrid, there were two presentations by editors of Cambridge University Press and Macmillan. They gave a brief timeline of the evolution of the publishing world of textbooks and didactic materials for language teaching since the appearance of the web and the digital revolution. Fascinating topic!

We’re experiencing what Thomas Kuhn would have called a paradigm shift (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) or a change in our basic assumptions: A teacher teaches. Pupils learn from their teacher. Books carry the meaning and knowledge. Teachers who have been in the profession for quite a while are now questioned about their methodologies and the way they teach. Along with them, editors and authors of didactic materials need to constantly reinvent themselves, all to keep up with the digital era we now live in. Since 2001, the appearance of the CD-ROM in language books determined which books were to sell and which not. From books with ‘additional online resources’, minisites, and web links to the boom of online courses, enriched PDFs, e-books, tablets and digital & interactive books, platforms and materials, there have been exciting changes but a lot of pressure and frustration behind the scenes as well, the threat for the editors and the changing roles of teachers and students.

The speakers, José Luis Belderrain (Cambrigde University Press) and Richard Shepherd (Macmillan) couldn’t be better. With rather sarcastic figures (see below) and comments such as “I’m not complaining, I’m just explaining”, they led the audience to a moment of reflection and made us question our own role as educators once more.



So what is the way to go nowadays? Can we keep up with all these changes? Do all these wonderful additions guarantee an impact in learning? The (funny) thing is that although many educators feel that all these technology additions are getting out of hand, many of them actually do want to become that networked teacher, who can work it all. That may be the burden for some and the drive for others to keep learning. A couple of professors mentioned how they are MOOC fanatics. Too many great MOOCs out there to miss! And that is an example of that intrinsic motivation to learn and keep learning.

A twitter from Sophia.org on 15/12 said:

87 retweets, 161 favorites and the retweets from @sophia keep coming from the teachers who have started the Flipped Class course during the holidays and announce it via twitter. Or check this recent article “There are No Long-Term Relationships in EdTech” which points out that once you like a program or tool, there’s no room for loyalty just like we do with food brand names, for example, because there will be a new one just like it next week or month and therefore the constant need to keep updating yourself and the more difficult it gets to stick with just one or a few techniques. Take gamification as an example. Teachers have been doing it forever: Contests, posters, sticker charts, stamps, certificates, rewards, etc. But now it has a fancier name and it’s another skill to add to the networked teacher.

It’s hard to keep up with all the changes. But it’s not going to stop. Editors and authors want to implement the latest techniques in their didactic materials. Teachers want to be up to date and become technology pros. But why? Because above all, educators want to have an impact on students’ learning. And many educators are convinced that technology can offer them promising tools that can lead them into that direction, that can help them customize student learning. However, technology in itself remains a tool as well. It’s important not to forget all the elements and the harmony of it all. There are excellent digital materials out there for educators to use. But that’s where the teacher’s role comes into place: Getting to know the students and their goals for the course, building a learning community, carefully designing the plan of instruction and selecting meaningful technology tools that will indeed personalize the students learning experience.

Top 10 eLearning stats for 2014: The future is bright for eLearning

This brilliant infographic designed by elearningindustry.com outlines the top 10 elearning statistics as we enter 2014. Very impressive stats that confirm how e-learning, ed tech tools and ed tech innovation and integration are advancing at a high speed and transforming our educational experience in a way we may have never imagined!

E-learning has boomed in the last 10 years. Back in 2002 when I was in college in PA, I took some distance learning courses because of their flexibility. I was working and pursuing my studies at the same time. Back then I still had the feeling that a distance learning course was only for when the class meeting hours were impossible for me. I remember getting a bunch of VHS videos for my American History class. We had to watch them, write papers about them and participate in discussion forums through Blackboard.

Back in 2003, 16% of US undergraduates were enrolled in at least one online course. If we see the stats below, about 5 out of 10 college students are taking at least one distance learning course this year 2013. The numbers are growing rapidly, not counting how many private institutions are offering online courses for all kinds of subject areas.

The massive open online course (MOOC) movement has also revolutionized education and major universities are now offering free courses for the masses. The topics or subject areas, you name it, they’ve got them all. All those ed tech tools & programs we’re curious about, web design, business strategies, anything really, we can learn it.

Companies are investing more and more in online professional development. It’s the perfect way to stay up-to-date. To keep employees motivated. Nearly 25% of employees leave their jobs because there aren’t enough training or learning opportunities. The message is clear: We want to learn.

Learning is more than ever in our hands. Anytime. Anywhere. Free even. We continue to learn ourselves; we encourage students and employees to keep learning: Leading by learning is the future.

For further info on this infographic by elearningindustry.com, visit

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Create Google Drive Forms and let Flubaroo grade them for you!

Google Forms are just great! They are fun to make and students love them. You can use Google Forms to create surveys, questionnaires, quizzes, self-evaluation forms at the end of a unit, etc. So far I’ve basically used them as self-evaluation forms or as questionnaires to collect data from the students about a certain topic we’re covering in class. The nice features are: 1) you get all students’ responses on an excel sheet that you can then easily manipulate and 2) you have the “summary of responses” option, which gives you a visual overview (tables, graphs, pie charts) of all responses that you can always discuss in class and let students see. You can see some of these examples and the explanation on how to create forms on my previous post.

When I gave a workshop on Google Drive tools last Saturday and we were discussing Google Forms, someone asked me if there was some sort of self-correction tool integrated into Google Forms. I wasn’t sure. I’ve never used them to give formal quizzes or tests to students. And I’ve been using Google Drive in my classes since last school year so there’s still lots to discover for sure. Well at that moment during the workshop, we all thought that such a tool would be ideal!

The good news is that nowadays when we wish that some kind of ed tech tool existed to perform some kind of task, that tool is very likely to exist!! And in this case, that tool is called Flubaroo!

How does Flubaroo work?

1) Create your Google Form as usual.

Here’s the one I’ll be using:

2) Submit a response yourself that will serve as the answer key later.

3) Send the form to your students via email or post the link in your class website.

4) Install Flubaroo and let it do the work!

As you can see, not all my questions were multiple choice and it still worked perfectly! You have now a nice summary of total points per student, their percentage, the total average and average per question, the questions where more than 40% scored low, etc.

Under the Flubaroo menu on the spreadsheet, you have now the option to view a report and also to email the individual grades to your students (with an answer key). To be able to send an automatic email with the grades, you need to include a question on the original form which asks students to enter their email address.

So that’s Flubaroo: a great tool that will grade your Google Form quizzes, create grade reports, and email your students their individual grades. If you’ve used Google Forms + Flubaroo or are planning to use them, please share your ideas or comments below.


Google Drive for foreign language learning

I prepared this prezi for a seminar I’m giving on 23/11/2013: Interacción y colaboración en tiempo real: El uso de Google Drive para estimular la comunicación fuera de clase. = Real-time interaction and collaboration: The use of Google Drive to promote communication outside of the classroom.

Conference: “La web 2.0 en la clase de ELE para todos” – “Web 2.0 tools in the Spanish as a Foreign Language class” Organized by: KATHO / KULeuven / Consejería de Educación

Of course all these ideas can be applied to all foreign languages and other subject areas as well! It gives examples on how to incorporate Google Drive tools in your lesson planning:

  • Google Documents, Presentations, Forms, Spreadsheets
  • Kaizena (Voice Comments) : It’s a really cool tool to insert voice comments into your students’ documents. It would be ideal to be able to meet with all students every time they have a project, to discuss their progress, etc. but this can’t always happen. Kaizena is perfect to give individualized feedback and suggestions to your students! You just have to connect this app to your Google Drive.
  • RealtimeBoard : Another great app you can connect to your Drive. It’s a virtual board. Great to collaborate in the creation of visual projects (e.g. virtual trips) by adding video, pictures, comments, stickers, figures, documents, etc. Like with everything in Drive, students can interact through chat and collaborate in real-time.

If you’re using another app in Drive that’s working really well for you, please share!
Thanks for reading!

Here are some forms:

RealtimeBoard for Collaborative virtual trip projects:


Digital portfolios and collaborative presentations:

I have some great ongoing e-portfolios from my students, using presentations as well, but I’m not posting those since they have personal pictures and information of the students. I do plan to show some samples at the seminar. Google Presentations is a great tool to have your students create personal digital portfolios for the whole year, where they can keep adding content as they learn. Like with all GoogleDrive tools, you can easily insert comments and give feedback. At the end of the year, they have a valuable resource to always look back to. If you agree with other teachers, they can continue expanding on their portfolios throughout their language learning experience at the school!

Students can also create ongoing collaborative presentations of a specific theme. Same concept, at the end of the year they have a valuable collection of what they have learned. Portfolios are fantastic to archive not only content knowledge related entries but reflections on language, cultural issues and students’ own learning process.

Here are some collaborative presentations from Pilar Munday:

Instructional Design 101: The role of technology


During a staff meeting, the principal says: “Some of you are using social media in your classes. Twitter. Facebook. Some of you are using cellphones and apps in your classes. Talk to your colleagues, see how you can use them too.”

Many of us, teachers, feel pressure to incorporate technology to every single one of our classes. Principals and administrators may walk in your classroom anytime to observe you, and what if you didn’t use technology in that particular class? Is that such a crime nowadays?

Well, the real answer is no. What technology allows us to do these days is just amazing! No doubt about that. But the thing is: Integrating technology in your lessons goes beyond simply saying “I’ll use mobile devices next week. There’s this great app my colleague is using so I’ll just use that.” The truth is, this happens all the time and we all need to do that once in a while, to experiment with different sites, apps, online resources, etc. However, the only way that technology integration will be successful and will actually enhance learning is when it goes hand by hand with our curriculum planning, with the design of our instruction.

How does this specific mobile app fit within my lesson planning? How does it help me reach my instructional goals? This all takes careful planning. Careful design. It’s something to think about.

Instead of overwhelming yourself with trying to use so many different e-resources at once, concentrate on one or two. And try not to design around them but see how they can be built into your lessons to support the activities you’re designing. That’s key. Technology will be more meaningful that way. It’ll have more impact on the students.

Now, this seems like a lot of work, I know. Take one step at a time. You can suggest to your department for each of you to experiment with one or two tech resources. Talk to your students as well. What do they think? Meet after a couple of months or more and share your findings with your colleagues.

Just remember: Technology is not to override curriculum planning. It should be carefully planned into the design of our instruction.