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High School Modern Language Instruction via the Internet

 

CLHS/CLMS/NHSA Summer Symposium  - July 13, 2001

 

Robert A. Morrey

3404 Merrimac Drive

San Jose, CA 95117-3624

Telephone/fax: (408) 379-5944

E-mail: rmorrey@pacbell.net

Web site: http://home.pacbell.net/rmorrey

 

Copyright ©2001 by Robert A. Morrey

 

Background

The Author’s Credentials. Robert Morrey has taught high school German at Cupertino High School since 1971 and has used computers in the classroom since 1979. Videotapes and laser discs and networked computers were added in the mid-eighties. In the latter half of the nineties Internet access became available in my classes. I have taught multi-level classes (German 3-5+) successfully since the mid-eighties by using computer and other technology in the classroom. Each year in the last ten years I have had up to 10% of my students on independent study because the students wanted to continue their study of German and were not able to fit the regular class into their schedule. These students worked extensively with the computer, video, and text resources in the classroom to complete the required work, and most of these students would then continue to the next level of German. I have regularly had six to ten percent of my student above the ninetieth percentile on the National German Test since the early eighties and a few of the more motivated students successfully completed the German AP exam in the last few years. In the last two years I have begun to migrate my classroom materials to the Internet in order to provide even more flexibility and access for my students. In the rest of this paper I will discuss changes, which are encouraging this migration as well as a number of elements, which I believe, are critical to the success of a course based mostly on the Internet.

 

New Student Needs. Since I work in a relatively small high school and have a relatively small number of students in my program and, therefore, only one class at each level, some students find it difficult to schedule themselves into the appropriate level class. In order to maintain my enrollment and keep as many classes as I can, I have allowed students to come when they can, and I find that the use of classroom technology and other resources has allowed me to let motivated and interested students enroll in any period of the day. In each of the last several years I have had 7 to 10% of my students enrolled in the wrong class, i.e. a level 3 student in the level 2 class, or vice versa, etc. In the last few of years I have had a couple of students who attended my advanced German program from another school and who were not able because of transportation or scheduling to come every day; these students needed to use technological resources available to them outside the classroom to continue their language study, including the Internet and e-mail to contact with me concerning their work. I have begun to receive requests from upper-class students to be able to learn some German on their own outside of any class – and this work is in addition to the 6 or 7 classes that these students are already taking. Last year a former student came to me for resources to learn enough German to be able to function in Germany in an intern program and the little sister of a current student really wanted to start learning German at home before she got to high school. All of these cases indicate that some students are already moving to new learning paradigms – they are ready to learn on their own time wherever they are while employing appropriate resources and guidance. Are we as teachers ready to begin to move in that direction to provide some materials, resources, and guidance to these kinds of students?

 

Changes at Cupertino High School (CHS). The demographics of our student body have changed greatly in the last five years so that over forty percent of our students are now from a variety of Eastern Pacific countries. These students are more interested in Japanese (introduced at CHS 3 years ago) and Chinese (introduced at CHS 2 years ago) than in German and this has led to a further decline in the German enrollment. This year was also the implementation year for our digital high school plan. Through this plan we want to begin to institute ‘anytime/anywhere’ learning and increase the integration of the Internet and computer technology into the curriculum; therefore I have started placing several elements of my program on the Internet to allow more flexible access to the information by my students, especially those who are working independently. As a result of these changes and the fact that I have now taught 32 years, I decided to retire from full-time teaching, but my principal did not want to terminate German entirely and wanted to ensure that my current students could obtain another year of German instruction so I suggested presenting the course ‘mostly on-line’.

 

Projected Program Design. This experimental ‘mostly on-line’ class would have a large component of the resources for the class located on a web site on the Internet, which would be available to the students anytime they accessed the Internet. I would continue to teach the class as a retired teacher on contract, but I would not meet the students every day after the first few weeks, but I would see them regularly on a limited basis and would provide a variety of resources for the students and a way for the students to contact me. Initially, certain resources in addition to the on-line materials would be available through the school library, e.g. Internet access, in-school networked computers with the computer practice software, video and audio taped listening materials and certain reading texts. I would also have a location at school where I could meet students, perhaps on a weekly basis, to do oral work and provide other needed support.

 

The On-line Program

Three Essential Areas

Instructional Needs. Since all the students in the program this year have completed at least one year of the previous German program, they have already developed the ability to say and read the language with an acceptable accent – to be able to use the sound system of the language. In order for an Internet-based course to be successful and for the students to continue to expand their skills in German, I believe that students need these elements in their instructional course:

·        a way to develop and expand their vocabulary,

·        a way to learn the grammar of the language under study and be able to practice the new material,

·        resources to allow students to review previous grammar and vocabulary,

·        practice listening to the spoken language at their level,

·        opportunities to read the language at their level,

·        procedures for producing reasoned written language,

·        procedures for producing spontaneous language, e.g.:

1) face-to-face communication,

                    2) telephone conversations;

                    3) two-way video discussions with sound,

                    4) perhaps Chat Room discussion with an advanced speaker or the teacher,

                    5) or maybe discussions via AIM,

·        access to cultural information through their reading and  listening activities.

 

The most critical element of this program is the instructional computer software that must provide an effective means for students to practice and be tested on the basic elements of grammar and the acquisition of new vocabulary. This software must focus on the core elements of the course in a manner, which is both fun and challenging, and it should contain activities at differing cognitive levels from the very easy to activities requiring the exact spelling of the element being learned. An extensive series of appropriate computer practice material for the first to the fourth levels will allow the teacher (and the student) to individualize work to fit the needs of the various students. All of this material will eventually be placed on-line with a testing mode that will allow the teacher to receive the results of the student tests.

 

To obtain listening practice during the initial year of this program, students will need access to the extensive library of listening and viewing materials, which will be available in the school library. These materials provide a sequenced set of materials from easy first-level, carefully structured, listening materials through extensive, unedited materials for the advanced student. These materials will not be placed on-line, but some listening sites have already been identified and more will be defined during the year, so that the students will be able to do more and more listening over the Internet.

 

Similarly, students will need access to the library of reading materials at all levels of difficulty that will be available in the school library, and they will be expected to complete and document their out-of-class reading. Here too there are already some sites for reading, which have been identified, and more will be screened and listed for various reading levels.

 

Throughout this last year I have required that all written language pieces be produced on a word processor. Most of these products were delivered to me on paper, but a few students sent me their work over the Internet or through the school network. This will become the normal way to submit written pieces for students in the on-line program.

 

Perhaps the most interesting area to examine throughout this next year will be oral language development. Since I will not see the entire students daily and perhaps not even weekly, I suspect that some students will not progress as rapidly as in the regular class. However, as noted earlier, I have had a number of students who have been on independent study programs over the last several years; all of these students have had relatively little oral language practice during their class time but have improved their oral production skill throughout the year. It is obvious in discussion with these students that they are mentally constructing their sentences using the grammar and vocabulary knowledge that they gained with the computer programs and their use of the language has usually been quite good. I believe that the important element in the development of this skill is the necessity to create ‘spontaneous language’, e.g., language that you produce ‘on the fly’ without an opportunity to do any extensive editing of what is presented. If this is indeed an important way to develop oral language skills, some of the practice can be done on-line with other ‘speakers’ of the language or with the teacher on-line, and not all of it will have to be done in face-to-face situations with the teacher. So the students may have some on-line communication activities that they will have to complete as well as oral work with me when I am at school.

 

 

Student Learning-Skill Needs. The experimental mostly on-line course will require an expanded set of student learning skills. No longer will it be enough to come to class, sit in class, listen to the teacher, go home and do the homework, and then go to class the next day. I believe that the acquisition of a new set of skills will be the most difficult aspect of this course for some of the students, particularly the younger student who has always been told what to do for the next class session.  I will spend a fair amount of time at the beginning of the course discussing with the students things that they will need to do to be successful in this class. I believe the student must:

·        learn how to determine what they are to learn,

·        learn how to keep track of what they have already done,

·        actually use the resources provided to learn the new material rather than wait for the teacher to describe everything,

·        personally seek help from other students or the teacher when things are not clear to them,

·        ask the teacher for alternative resources or procedures to learn something when the student is having difficulty,

·        be personally active in one’s own learning and not take short cuts such as copying from others or using reference materials while taking tests.

The teacher will also have to work differently. The teacher will not always be available to provide answers or clarify new concepts so more detailed explanatory material will need to be provided via the Internet and probably revised as students point out areas of uncertainty. The teacher will have to instruct the students where to find various resources and encourage them to use these resources to find answers to their questions. Since the course will have a more extensive requirement for using several kinds of technology, the teacher must show the students how to use these resources and what is available on them. Finally, the students must know that they can always reach the teacher via e-mail or on-line through some immediate messaging system as a last resort.

 

Administrative Needs. Under this new experimental mostly on-line class, I will not provide daily homework assignments as I have done in past years for the students in the first and second levels on instruction [during the last year I posted the German 1 and 2 assignments at SchoolNotes.com on-line]. Instead I will provide a semester by semester overview of all the work to be done during a semester as well as detailed outlines of the work that must done for each individual unit and substantial supporting information for the unit. such as I have done for the German 3 students during the past several years [See the NECC2000 link  and view the information under the German Program at CHS link on my web site for more detailed information concerning the structure and design of the German 3 program]. This material will now be available only on the Internet for German 2 and 3. Each of the set of unit materials will contain the unit outline, answers to the practice work for the unit, and links to Adobe Acrobat files for downloading; these .pdf files will be vocabulary lists, detailed grammar explanations, and practice exercise sheets for which answers will be available in the same set of unit materials. So that students can locate materials for review or advanced study, there will be a grammar reference index with links to each of the grammar explanations and to various practice materials that would normally be accessed through each of the units. This process will allow students to determine what they have to learn and by when, but high school students also need to be able to determine regularly what work they have already done. To that end, grades for individual students in German 2 and 3 will be posted securely on-line [I am currently using the grade program MicroGrade by Chariot Software Group –www.chariot.com].

 

The German 4 program has been quite different from a regular teacher-led classroom for a number of years in several respects. I no longer have defined a curriculum for this class, but require students instead to produce a certain aggregate amount of work in seven of ten currently defined categories for each six week grading period [See the descriptions of the ten categories under the link to German Program at CHS for German 4]. In this way students begin to think about what they want to learn; this is an idea which fits one of our school learning goals, Life-Long-Learning.. I continue to feel that we must provide a way for students to begin to plan some of their own learning if indeed we want them to develop any kind of skill at life long learning.. For this new Internet-based class, I will provide explanatory material for a number of advanced grammar topics as well as practice exercise sheets and answers; these will be accessed from a list of links to .pdf files for a variety of advanced grammar topics. The students will also have access to reading and listening/viewing materials in the school library, but they will be encouraged to do a lot of their work at various Internet sites and then communicate their findings and reactions to the teacher or others via the Internet..

 

 

Web Sources for Further Information about the CHS German Program

Detailed information about the German program at Cupertino High School as it was until the end of the 2000-2001 school year can be found at this web site:

http://home/pacbell.net/rmorrey

In the text of this paper reference was made in several places to the different activities for the different levels of German at Cupertino High School, in particular the German 4 program description mentions a number of categories and designing one’s own curriculum. The link to the German Program at CHS provides additional details about the 10 categories. Much of the information concerning the German 3 and the German 4 program will still be applicable to these levels under the new course structure.

The link to Conference Presentations connects one to the most recent texts of presentations that Dr. Morrey has made at local, state, and national conferences.

The Student Reference section of the web site currently contains material that I used to provide to my students on paper but which I will now have available only through the web site.

The link to German web sites contains many references to a variety of international sites where the German language is used. These references will be expanded and updated throughout the year and will provide reference material for the students who want to find reading, listening (and perhaps viewing), and cultural materials on the Internet.

 

Conclusion

 

Due to decreasing enrollment fewer students have requested German, and it appears to be no longer possible to maintain a normal sequence of classes. The new mostly on-line program, which I have outlined in this paper, has been designed to allow students who have already completed at least one year of study of German to obtain another year of language study. The course will depend even more heavily on the use of  computer technology and the Internet and it will require new learning skills for students who have not taken an active role in planning their instructional program. Over the last several years I have seen a number of students employ the computer, video, and textual resources in the class to successfully complete a year of independent language study. This new course has been modeled after the work that these students successfully completed. The information presented here is my current thinking concerning the structure and conduct of the class. Actual experience with the class in the 2001-2002 school year will certainly bring modifications and additions, but I believe that many students will have an exciting and successful year of study.

 

References.

Morrey , R.A. (2000). “Change The Traditional High School World Language Classroom Through Technology.” Paper presented at the National Education Computing Conference, June 28, 2000, Atlanta, Georgia [This paper can be viewed at: http://home.pacbell.net/rmorrey under Conference Presentations as NECC2000.]

 

Morrey, R.A. (2001). “Emerging New Student Learning Paradigms: Any-Time Learning Through Your Web Site.” Paper presented at the Computer-Using Educators’ spring conference, May 18, 2001, Anaheim, California. [This paper can be viewed at: http://home.pacbell.net/rmorrey under Conference Presentations as CUE5/2001.]

 

Author’s school: Cupertino High School

                                Cupertino, CA 95014

                                Fax: (408) 255-8460

                                E-mail: ramorrey@fuhsd.org

                                Web site: http://www.chs.fuhsd.org    (under Mr. Morrey)