Newly qualified teacher, Gemma Dobson from Tiverton High School in Devon describes herself in her Blogger and Twitter profile as "an enthusiastic NQT keen to try out fresh, new ideas to get pupils excited about languages".
One such idea was to start an iPod Touch project with her Yr 9 German pupils to keep them motivated after their exams and engaged with their language learning towards the end of term. In the twenty minute interview included in this post, you can hear how Gemma has been encouraged by her assistant headteacher, Alistair Fitchett to try out different types of technology in the classroom and to reflect on her own practice via a blog.
Tiverton has been an Apple Regional Training Centre since 2006 and Gemma was lucky enough to attend this year's Apple Teacher Institute in Cheltenham where she learnt along with other educators how to use the iPod Touch, iPad and MacBook as learning tools in the classroom. It was here she found out about Puppet Pals, a free app for the iPod Touch or iPad which allows you to make a customised animation using your own images and audio recordings. You can check out examples her Yr 9 pupils produced in German during the project on their own blog here.
To give everyone a real sense of autonomy and ownership, Gemma decided to let her pupils select who they wanted to work with and how they wanted to employ the iPod Touch they were allocated. One group chose to use the multi-functional device principally as a video camera to make a film which they then edited and subtitled in iMovie. One group created a slideshow of images taken around the school to illustrate school subjects in German. Another group translated the song Friday by Rebecca Black into German and applied effects to it in GarageBand and finally a less keen group simply recorded an audio soundtrack and embedded it into PowerPoint to practise their German.
According to Gemma, the pupils liked being trusted to use the handheld tools to produce personalised resources in creative and independent ways and were almost unanimously positive about what they had achieved in the process. Following this success, Gemma is now considering new ways of using the iPod Touches as well as incorporating other technolologies into her lessons such as Edmodo.
Gemma has found blogging about her classroom practice a great way of reflecting on what she does and analysing what she needs to do to improve. Her honest approach has generated a lot of positive feedback from her readers which she finds motivating and encourages her to explore further possibilities. She also finds reading other colleagues' blogs and using Twitter fantastic for getting ideas and peer support.
"I think when you're writing online to a wider audience, you really think about what you're putting on there and you really think about what you've been doing in a different way and it's helped me to stay motivated by knowing that people have been reading my blog and I've got a lot of positive feedback from it as well, but also I think it's really good as a reflective practitioner in terms of writing down what you do and analysing whether it was good and admitting to yourself that you've made a terrible mistake for all to see and that kind of thing really. It's been a really good experience and it's something that I try to promote to other colleagues as well because I think it's something you can gain a lot from."
Considering Gemma is at the beginning of her teaching career, I think she has achieved a great deal so far, motivating her pupils and helping them improve their language learning with technologies they love to engage with in their own time. She also represents a new type of 21st century practitioner who is willing to blog about what she is doing in her classroom as a way of consolidating her own thoughts and connecting with a global audience.
Way to go GemmyDee!