Oculus Magicus

Oculus_Rift_development_kit_2

This is how they look

Magic comes to class when you pull out those bulky, cool, trendy Oculus Rift. As soon as I found out that we got two of those in my school, I knew that I had to use them in class. It turns out that it can be a great tool for the Foreign Language course, and many ideas come to mind as to how they could be implemented in the classroom, so here I am sharing it with you!

But, first things first, some of you may have never heard about this. What are the Oculus Rift? According to their Website, the Oculus Rift is a new virtual reality headset that lets players step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds. A gamer’s dream, as you may think, but what about a learning motivator to add some spark to your course?

Certainly, the Oculus have plenty of potential. In my case, I have decided to make them become my own “language lab”. Since I do not have a language lab close to my room, I think that this tool could be a good temporary solution.

It is quite easy to start using them. Check out this link for a step by step explanation.

Tuscany Demo

Tuscany Demo

The Oculus come in with a Demo. In my case, I had the Tuscany Demo already on them. I have not downloaded any other game yet, but I am sure that there is a world of possibilities out there if  you decide to go over the options provided in their system.

So, given that this is a house and you get to walk in it, what can we do with it in the Foreign Language class? You got it, house vocabulary, prepositions, directions! That’s what I did.

When wearing the Rift, you can turn and look around, but you cannot walk. In order to do so you must use the keyboard in your computer. So, I used this to my advantage requiring students to indicate the directions they wanted to go to next. Yes, an excellent way to apply the command tense (L’impératif) and prepositions. This is how I proceeded:

1. Teaching the impératif.

2. Reviewing prepositions.

3. Reviewing the parts of the house.

4. Multiple exercises in class prior to using the Oculus.

5. Oculus listening and speaking!

* Since I only have 1 oculus, I made sure that my other students had exercises to work on while I was conducting the speaking assignments.

In #5 these were the requirements (all in the target language, obviously):

1. Students describe the scene.

2. Students respond to teacher’s questions: Where are you? Do you like it? How is the weather? What is to your left? What is in front of you? etc.

3. Students direct the teacher to wherever they want to get to in the scene.

4. Toward the end of their experience, student locates an item in the house.

5. Student explains to next student how to get to the item that he located (scavenger hunt type of way)

6. Next student tries to find the object and confirms with previous student if it was the item that he had selected for the “scavenger hunt”.

Note: When using this demo, I highly advise you to limit each student’s intervention to a maximum of 4 minutes. Most of us (including myself) get motion sick after 4 or 5 minutes. I do not know if this happens with all games in the Oculus, but this is my experience with the Tuscany Demo. Also, please make sure that you tell students to let you know if they want to stop at any time if they are feeling sick.

Do you want to see it in action? Check out this video created by my favorite Educational Technologist, Lee Howell, and check out her blog here.

And you, have you ever used the Oculus Rift in your class? If so, what did you do with them? If not, how would you like to use them? Please, share and comment below.

Have a wonderful, oculus magicus lesson!

Mr. Mme. and their personality traits in FLE

Have you ever heard about the Mr. Mme. series? It basically consists of a bunch of cute little books about a monsieur or a madame that has a certain personality trait (i.e. bizarre, gourmand, bavard…). These books are read by little kids in France but I was sure that my Middle Schoolers would totally love using one of these books for a project. And they did.

Mr. Mme.

So, I gave them the choice to work in pairs or individually. I really like to give them choices so that they start to learn to be independent thinkers and problem solvers. I made it very clear, if they were to work with a partner they had to be responsible and choose wisely; I don’t like the excuses such as: I couldn’t work with my partner, my partner didn’t call me, etc. Since I was very clear about this I didn’t have any problem when the project was due, everybody turned it in on time.

Each student or group of two students was assigned one little book. They could swap it with others if they didn’t like the title. Once they had their book, they had to complete three different sections:

1. Verb conversion. Most verbs were in passé simple or even future. We have not learned these verbs in my 8th grade French class. I told them not to even worry about them and just understand with the context. However, they had to select two pages of the book and transform the verbs to present tense, and include them in a sentence created by themselves.

2. Vocabulary. They had to select 10 vocabulary words learned with the book and create ten complex sentences applying the words to their lives (personal connection, very important!).

3. Summary. My favorite! Because this section was the most fun; creativity was highly encouraged and they could choose any way in which they would like to summarize the book to me and to their peers. Once again, I like to give an open-ended direction so that everyone is comfortable with what they are doing and taking advantage of their strongest skill. The good writers may choose to just write, the artsy ones may just choose to do something with their hands, and the good speakers may just want to give a speech (differentiated instruction, everybody!).

So, the results were outstanding. Some students turned in movies that they created with iMovie or Movie Maker, another girl, very artsy, created a comic (a BD in French) illustrating the story, another group decided to reproduce the little Mr. Mme. with clay and create a skit about it, while some other students wrote a letter to the author in French.

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If you want to find out more about the Mr. Mme. please check out their website in English or in French. You may also want to watch some movies about them here!

I was very satisfied with this project, as well as my students, and I will be repeating it again. What about you? Have you ever thought about using the Mr. Mme. collection in your language classroom? See some pictures below:ImageImageImage

Learn about ePals in this free Webinar

Do you know ePals? Most likely you have previously heard about it. If you haven’t, or if you have but  do not know very well how to implement this tool in your classroom today is your lucky day. Come and join us in this free Webinar for ideas and tips on using ePals in the language classroom! 

Since I found ePals my teaching methodology has been transformed. It was so hard years ago to find a partner in another part of the world. With ePals that is not a problem any longer. What an incredible tool. Incredible and… free!

Please preregister here: http://bit.ly/1b9itPl and be ready to learn from my experience using ePals in my French classroom. This will be wonderfully useful for any Foreign Language teacher. See you on Tuesday, August 13th!Image

Narrable your stories

Narration and storytelling are key components of my course. When I found Narrable I could not wait to use it. Not only it is a very user friendly tool but it is ideal for storytelling. What really excited me was the fact that it is all based on pictures and audio. Great opportunity to teach Creative Commons usage, and to practice speaking skills in my Foreign Language class.

First off, I created three Word Documents including the rubric, a cheat sheet, and instructions on how to use images from the Web. Please find these documents below:

NARRABLE RUBRIC

NARRABLE cheat sheet

USING IMAGES

I tried to make sure that students had a clear and neat instruction about what they were expected to do. As usual, I also did my best to make sure that they would work on their story line and ideas BEFORE working with the technology tool. Very often students just want to jump into technology. When this happens the project might look beautiful and really techy, but the body of the project is missing. I make sure that I stress the importance of having a well structured story. This is what I asked them to complete at the top of the Narrable Rubric document.

Narrable is quite an easy tool to use. Additionally, it is free! However, in the free version you can only create a maximum of 5 projects. This was not an issue for me, I just made sure that I told the students. Projects are very easy to delete, so whenever they created too many that were just drafts they could easily delete them in order to remain in the free version. I think that this is a great tool for Foreign Language courses. Narrable becomes a mini language lab.

Once they completed the assignment they had to embed it in Schoology. This way students were able to see each other’s projects, and even comment on them.

Another very important thing that we learned with this project was how to use and cite online images. Our wonderful Educational Technologist, Lee Howell, shared these with us:

Easybib – It creates MLA Citation automatically!

CC Search Engine – We won’t be using Google Images as an image search engine any longer. From now on, students will have the habit of accessing this great site, and selecting the engine from there. The CC site filters the Creative Common licensed images. It offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations.

Here are some of the beautiful Narrables that my students came up with. Enjoy!

Spanish 1 Example 1

Spanish 1 Example 2

Francais 1 Example 1

Francais 1 Example 2