I just returned from my first ever iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium. It was an eye-opening experience! From the opening key-note to the final sessions, the themes of blending on-line instruction with classroom instruction, competency-based learning, online and personalized learning came through loud and clear. President Susan Patrick reminded us (in her opening remarks) that education can occur anytime, anyplace. Students live in an online world, and it’s our job as educators to tap into that world in our classrooms.
Coming from a World Language vantage point, it was amazing to me to discover how we are all saying the same thing—across disciplines, grade levels, states. We all face the same challenges with our students and society as a whole. We know traditional delivery of education has to keep up to avoid becoming obsolete and meaningless. This symposium brought together over 3200 people dedicated to creating and learning about systems designed to help us all avoid this obsolescence. Rich, thought-provoking discussions and presentations took place over the span of the symposium to teach, challenge, inform and inspire all who attended over 200 sessions, exhibits, luncheons, keynotes and the multiple networking opportunities.
For World Language, it is no longer possible (or acceptable) to isolate ourselves in a classroom, with an outdated textbook, teaching about what happened culturally in France, Spain, Germany or Italy in the last century. Not only are our students not interested, but they will check out (literally and figuratively) from our classes. It simply holds no relevance for them. We must show them what to expect when they travel to the countries where our languages are spoken. They must be able to communicate effectively (on all levels) with the people who live in those countries. It has to be more than what they know when they leave us—it’s truly what they can do with the language that will make them successful.
We owe it to our students to provide them with 21st century skills and opportunities for learning. These students are constantly plugged in, connected and engaged with the online world. If we don’t respond to their experiential needs, they’ll replace us. They crave interactivity, they are able to quickly read visual images, are amazing at parallel processing, and want to discover their world inductively. We must take advantage of their abilities to respond well to technology, and the fact that they are visual and kinesthetic learners like no generation before them. They want to know they are learning things that matter now and will continue to matter in 5 or 10 years from now.
Personally, I was privileged to help address some of these themes (in a very small way). I presented information from my little corner of the educational world about how Pueblo City Schools is blending technology with our World Language classrooms. Our students spend time every week, using technology to reinforce their skills and further their knowledge of the world we are supposed to be preparing them for. (Our advantage has become synonymous with the Rosetta Stone Advantage. We are fortunate enough to have found an innovative program that puts students at the center of learning. If you have not yet been as fortunate, I strongly urge you to look into what’s available to help reach today’s learners in a way that benefits you, your classroom/programs, and your learners.)
My biggest take-away from the 2015 iNACOL symposium is to keep reaching. I must remember that every child deserves the opportunity to learn, and if I truly believe the premise that all children can learn, then I must keep providing them with opportunities to do so. I have to work to discover what best fits their profile as a learner and plug in programs and resources which will make them successful. It doesn’t matter what we teach, or where we teach, because we all teach kids. That common denominator is what ties us together and makes our collaboration even more vital. The ideas, solutions and discussions begun at iNACOL must be continued and proliferated throughout our profession.
Pueblo City Schools World Language Liaison
Deb Cody has been a teacher with Pueblo City Schools in Pueblo, Colorado for 30 years. She currently teaches French (full-time) and coordinates the district’s World Language programs as District Liaison. Her passions are her five beautiful grandchildren and traveling.