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Emerging New Student Learning Paradigms: Any-Time Learning Through Your Web Site

 

CUE Conference  - May 18, 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 Current Situation. The Fremont Union High School District and Cupertino High School are moving toward a program in which all students in the district will own and use their own laptop computer – and perhaps even a laptop with a wireless connection to the Internet for students within the school grounds. Today over 95% of our students have computers at home and about 70% already have an Internet connection. I also find that about 10% of my current students purchase a student/home version of the grammar and vocabulary practice programs used in the classroom in the first through fourth levels of language instruction. Many homework assignments are additional practice sheets and are often corrected in the classroom using answers, which are already stored on the computer. Even though a few students can and do practice the computer lessons at home, most students have to work on the computer lessons and complete the computer tests in the classroom. In the last few months some of the paper-based information and practice material has been transferred to the author’s website so that students can now check the answers to assigned homework papers before, during, or after they complete the work.

 

Changing Student Needs. Over the last few years the demographic composition of our school has changed significantly. The percentage of students who either come directly from Eastern Pacific Rim countries or have close family ties to this area has increased greatly. We have recently added Japanese and Chinese classes to our campus and each of these languages now enrolls significantly more students than German. French and Spanish are also taught in our feeder junior high school and in the high school. Although about 70% of the student body is enrolled in one of the language classes, the German enrollment has declined steadily as our population has changed and as the new language classes have expanded. At this point I have only three German classes – a first-year, a second-year, and an advanced class, and 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 allow students to come when they can, and I find that the use of classroom technology and other resources allows 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 couple of years I have had a couple of students who are attending my advanced German program from another school and who are not able because of transportation or scheduling to come every day; these students need to use technological resources available to them outside the classroom to continue their language study, including, by the way, e-mail contact with me concerning their work and Internet sources for listening practice. 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 over the summer. All of these cases indicate that 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?

 

 

Technology Resources for the Future.  In order to better handle the needs of these students and to encourage other students to become more responsible for their own learning, I believe that a variety of material that is currently available on the computer only in the classroom can be placed on a web site for easy access from any Internet-capable computer. Daily or unit work assignments, practice exercise sheets, grammatical explanations to help students complete these sheets, and answers for these assignments to allow students to immediately see how well they understand the work can be made available to the students, so that completion of homework and also correction of it can occur before the class begins. Also, a limited version of the grammar and vocabulary practice drills, which are employed in the classroom, can be placed on the web site. Students can access these, practice them, take a test, and send the result of their test automatically via e-mail to the teacher. Increasingly, Internet sites are becoming available to provide listening and reading material at several levels of difficulty (please refer to the last section of this paper).

 

My Philosophy of Teaching. The materials and procedures I have developed to change and improve my instructional program using technology during the last twenty-two years have been based on an overlying philosophy of teaching, which is built upon these two broad goals:

·        to use technology (including audio and video) to provide the highest quality program for the widest variety of students given the current class size limitation in California;

·        to maintain my enrollment from one year to the next by providing a means for students to continue taking the next level class even if they cannot fit that class into their schedule.

 

My language program is the smallest of the five language programs currently available, and in a smaller urban high school with a 32.5 to 1 student/teacher ratio it is difficult to have enough students to maintain separate classes, so it is important that I encourage as many of the students that start the language to stay in the sequence as long as possible. To me personally, it is also important to provide a strong academic program, which allows students to learn the language well. The students should be able to read well, write correctly, understand the spoken language, develop a broad vocabulary and master the grammar elements of the language. In all of these areas technology can assist students in many ways to learn in an independent manner. The improvement of speaking fluency is perhaps the hardest element to foster in large classes, in multi-level classes, or with students in independent or individualized programs. In my program at the upper levels I speak individually or in small groups with students to help them improve their use of the language. There is also research evidence that people who have extensive exposure to another language will improve their ability to speak it, so I encourage students to read and listen to a lot of German.

In order to encourage as many students as possible to continue in the language sequence, I have designed my program to facilitate success by the students in the following ways:

1)      in the beginning levels students are encouraged to review, relearn, and retake many small quizzes and tests so that they both learn the material that they will need later and thereby also improve their grade (much of the retaking of the small tests is done on the computer),

2)      at the upper levels students are able to influence the level of their grade even more, because there is an increasing amount of the course content that they can control (please refer to the next section of this paper),

3)      since I generally have only one section at the first and second levels and only one advanced level class it is difficult for all students to fit the proper class into their daily schedule at the proper time, so I now allow students beyond the first year to come into any class during the day and use the technological and other resources in the class to complete the material for their level – while this is certainly not ideal, it does allow the 7 to 10 percent of my students who would otherwise not be able to continue to complete another year of the language and to continue to the succeeding year as many students do.

4)      finally, I am placing more and more of the required work for any class on web sites on the Internet or I am having students use the Internet for listening and reading activities, so that students are less dependent upon in-class activities to succeed in the class.

 

In the next section of the paper I will describe my current instructional program, the resources that are used, and the responsibilities of the students in such a program.

 

 

Structure and Resources of my Four-Year Program

The Classroom Instructional Design.

First level. Here the class is teacher-led with extensive oral interaction throughout the year. There are daily homework assignments and the homework assignments are posted on the Internet as is an increasing amount of other practice and explanatory material. Each week the students listen to a video and audio selection and complete short quizzes on vocabulary words or grammar concepts using the computer. A few short stories are read during the second semester. Goal for the year’s work: to learn German and to begin to use the computer material to practice and take short tests.

 

Second level. The class is again teacher-led with extensive oral interaction throughout the year. Daily homework assignments and weekly video presentations continue. Now, however, the number of required small tests on the computer gradually increases throughout the year as does the amount of unstructured class time during which students have the opportunity to complete the computer work, and student are encouraged to record the results of each of their computer tests both as a backup for loss of result through the network and in preparation for more extensive record-keeping that will be required in the next level class. A class reader is used to help develop reading and speaking skills and from time to time the class is divided into groups with some students working on the computers while others discuss the stories with the teacher. By the latter part of this semester most of the material to be learned, explanatory material, and practice worksheets (with answers provided) for the rest of the year is available over the Internet. Goal for the year’s work: to learn German, to develop skill and confidence using the computer software as a learning tool, to begin to use unstructured time effectively, and to begin to use the Internet-based resources to learn.

 

Third level. The classroom instructional design is radically different from the first two years. Since students of various levels are in this class, teacher-led activities for the third level account for a much smaller amount of the class time. The curriculum presented in the text has been redesigned into 10 three to four weeklong units and is quite rigorous; this design allows for partial credit if needed. There are now only block assignments for each unit. The weekly video sessions and reading continue; this year, however, the students need to record what they have seen and when. They also may select the reading material from nearly a dozen readers with differing levels of difficulty for their out-of-class reading and they must record what they read and how long they read. This record of listening and reading is turned in as part of their grade every six weeks. The computer work is now much more extensive with all vocabulary tests and small grammar quizzes taken on the computer. In addition, in the first semester the students each receive and track an individualized, semester-long, review computer assignment to help them review/relearn grammar material from the previous year; this review work was developed from a pretest that the student took in the first week of class. Students must also schedule one to two oral discussions with the teacher for each of the 10 units. At this point in the year, the last two units of work have been completely migrated to a website. Here students can find the unit syllabus, explanatory material for new grammar concepts, practice sheets that may be downloaded, and answers to these sheets as well as to other work from their textbook. Goal for the year’s work: to learn German, to learn how to be successful in a much more unstructured environment (time management skills), to learn how to maintain certain records which become part of each student’s grade, and to use the Internet website as a resources for their work.

 

Fourth level.  While the third-level class exhibited a significant amount of unstructured time, it did have some teacher-led work, a very structured curriculum and only certain record keeping requirements. The fourth-level class, on the other hand, has much less teacher-led, full-class activities, no defined curriculum, and extensive record-keeping requirements. Here the students themselves prepare a six-week individualized learning plan within certain guidelines and utilizing the ten currently defined pathways - reading, speaking, listening, writing, vocabulary development, new grammar, old grammar, reports, Internet work, and Advanced Placement preparation [please see the web site listed in the heading for a detailed description of the Level 3 and Level 4 program.]. They then carry out their plan using the computer, video, audio, textual, and teacher-produced resources available to them in the classroom (or through the Internet). At the end of the six weeks they summarize what they have accomplished and turn this summary in. The summary along with grades I provide for written and oral work becomes their six-week grade. Goal for the year’s work: to use German and learn how to define one’s own learning goals, as well as to continue to learn German and to use resources available through the Internet to further skills with the language.

 

Resources.

Computer resources. These resources are the most important element of the program. A student version of the computer practice programs is available for purchase and about 10% of my students purchase the materials each year for use on their computers outside of school. Ideally the classroom will contain enough computers for 1/3 to 1/2 of all students, placed along the walls of the classroom (or maybe each student will have his/her own laptop computer with a wireless connection to the classroom network).

·        Level 1 - level 3. The computer software allows students to practice of all vocabulary items, which they must learn for each level. An additional 30 to 50 lessons are available to provide practice with the new grammar concepts for each level.

·        Level 4. More than 4500 vocabulary items are available in over 60 lessons at Cupertino High School. Another 30 lessons on advanced grammar topics are also available.

 

Video and audio resources. I have found it very helpful to have a large TV-VCR/Laserdisc setup for full-class video presentations and also a smaller TV-VCR setup to which I can attach headphones for individuals or smaller groups of students to use without bothering the rest of the class; this latter set is used regularly by the level 4 students for their listening activities. The video resources serve to provide the students with other speakers of the language under study, to review vocabulary and structures students have learned (or to broaden their language exposure), to increase the difficulty of understanding the language since visual cues may not be present and reproduced sound is often less clear, and to provide a cultural context for the language when videos are produced in the country whose language is being studied or if the videos present culturally interesting material. Today, an increasing amount of listening material at a variety of levels of difficulty is available over the Internet and a number of third and fourth level students regularly avail themselves of this resource [please see the website cited at the top of the paper for a detailed list of resources that are used in the class].

 

Text resources. In the first and second levels of language study students have a textbook and workbook and regularly receive grammar summary sheets from the teacher. A graded reader is used in the second level. Beyond this level the variety of text resources becomes much more important. I have attempted to collect two to five copies of many readers at a variety of levels of difficulty from simple texts requiring a 500-600 word vocabulary, through comic books, picture dictionaries, short stories, picture story books, popular detective and adventure series to classical literature and poetry and even Math texts in German. At this point I have three six foot shelves filled with these books and more in my closet. These resources allow students to select books that they can read and ones which are of interest to them for their outside reading [please see the website cited at the top of the paper for a detailed list of resources that are used in the class].

·        Level 4. Students at this level have over 50 various readers available to them from beginning level 2 materials to advanced literature. Grammar reference books with exercises and answers are also available to students as are a variety of teacher-made grammar reference sheets and an increasing amount of material at the teacher’s website and elsewhere on the Internet. At the advanced level I encourage students to begin to use various references other than the teacher to learn or review grammar elements with which they are having difficulty.

 

Student Responsibilities and Options.

What is expected of the student changes as that student progresses through the program.

·        Level 1. The student is asked to do the daily homework assignments and to make up a missed test or work, which he/she was unable to do on any particular night.

·        Level 2. Students have the same responsibilities as level 1 students, but they are also asked to complete and record certain computer assignments and are given time in class in which to do the work. Now students must begin to plan their work.

·        Level 3. The responsibilities of the students grow dramatically at this level. Students have to learn to plan their assigned work over a three- to four-week period. They have a first semester-long review assignment to complete, record, and turn in. They have two or three discussion activities with the teacher to plan every six weeks, and they have to maintain and turn in records for their outside reading, the listening they have done, and the work they do on their units.

·        Level 4. Students at this level are responsible for developing a six-week learning plan, carrying out the plan, recording what they do, and turning the completed plan and any supporting work in at the end of six weeks. This activity is in addition to all the things that the level 3 students do which they still must do.

 

However, along with increased responsibilities come more options for the students who really are interested in learning. These learning options are available only because the resources described above are present in the class or on the Internet. These options are not always suitable for all students, but they do allow the very interested students to continue their study of language even if they cannot be scheduled in the time slot where the appropriate class is taught.

Indications of Student Success.

The success of this multi-threaded program at Cupertino High School is ascertained through yearly student surveys, by observing the high percentage of students who continue from one year to the next, and in the scores on the National German Exam and the AP exam. On yearly surveys students continually express their satisfaction with the course structure and content, but they have also provided suggestions for changes in succeeding years. Quite a high percentage of eligible students continues on to the next level of language instruction even at the advanced levels including students with greatly differing language skills. It is astounding to me that students who get a low ‘D’ or an ‘F’ at the third level still continue on to the fourth level; yet, I have had four such students in the last few years. These students generally have low grades because they do not complete the elements I require as part of the grade, not because they cannot do the work. In discussions with them, I find that they are indeed learning a lot of language material and are generally personally reasonably satisfied with what they have done even if their grade is not very high. On the other side of the coin, I have also had two students in the last two years who have come to the advanced class with extensive prior language training, taken one year to prepare for the AP exam, obtained a 5 on the exam and then have returned to the class the next two years to continue to learn. One of the great strengths of this type of program is the fact that students with different language skills can find language-learning opportunities at their level of achievement. In the traditional program that I used to teach, the poorer students could not keep up and dropped out and the very good students were not challenged and also dropped out; now there is something for everyone. Since 1984 – five years after the first computer programs were developed - about ten percent of the students with no prior background in German who take the National German Exam each year obtain a score over the ninetieth percentile and there were no such students in the ten years prior to 1984 during which time I gave the same exam. In ten of the last sixteen years students have placed from second to fourteenth in Northern California through this exam program. Recently, I have been able to encourage a very select few students to do substantially more work in the fourth year to prepare for the Advanced Placement examination and these students have passed with 4’s or 5’s after as little as four years of high school German – a feat which had not been done previously. For all of these reasons I believe that the program I have developed does indeed provide for the needs of the widely varying clientele, which I now see in my classes. As improved computer technology becomes more available to this clientele, I am migrating my classroom-based computer resources to the Internet to further augment the learning options for the students.

 


Expanding Learning Options to the Internet

Is Student Access a Problem?

On a survey a year ago 95% of the students at Cupertino High School owned computers and 70% had Internet access. In addition, Internet access is available to students in every classroom in the school and in the library throughout the day, so students without a computer can access needed information before, during, and after school as well as through friends or at home.

 

Is There a Reason to Use the Internet?

I have begun to see both a need and an advantage to expanding to the Internet with material that I currently have on computers and computer networks at school. This year I have had a German 2 student, 3 German 3 students, a German 4 student, a German 5 student, and two students from another school who cannot attend the regular class and cannot in some cases come to class every day. I also have students whose parents wish to know regularly what their student should be doing, and other students who themselves wish to be able to do more work at home. I have even had former students come back from the university to seek resources for learning. More material on the Internet would be valuable in all of these cases. The increased use of technology of all types provides a basis for distance learning and virtual classrooms.

 

 

What Can Go onto the Internet?

The following activities either are already available or partially available or can become available over the Internet from materials already on computers in my classroom:

Computer practice materials. Already about 10% of my students purchase a student version of the classroom computer materials for use at home, because they want or need more practice than they can get in the classroom, they like to work at home rather than at school, and a few do not come regularly to class for various logistical reasons. A web-based version of the materials would provide a wider range of access options to all students and can be created so that test answers are e-mailed directly to the teacher – one does need to discuss an appropriate ethical policy and the expectation of individual, non-assisted work by the student (which has not been a problem on the in-class computer-based tests, because students can take these as often as they like until their grade is at the level they want). Existing web sites do provide some of this practice also.
Daily assignments. I currently provide a web-based listing of all daily assignments for the level I and II classes, which students and parents can access at home. The web-based daily assignment can also be expanded to include notes for in-class activities for those days when the regular teacher is absent; this process allows students to access an assignment during the class and it allows the substitute teacher to have easy access to the daily activities. The web-based assignment page could be altered by the regular teacher even from outside the classroom.
Website based grades.  Often parents are interested or concerned about the grades their students receive. It is now possible to upload password-protected displays of each student’s work, which students and their parents can see over the Internet. During the last grading period of this year, I expect to be able to implement this program for most of my students.
Various classroom resources. I provide a variety of explanation sheets on new grammar topics, homework practice sheets on these topics, and computer-based, in-class answers for these practice sheets. All of these items are now available to students as .pdf-files available for downloading over the Internet for the last units this year. The explanatory material is actually more effective at the website than on the previously used paper handouts because color can be used for emphasis and spacing and font sizes are not constrained by the 8.5 by 11 inch paper size. The availability of the materials through the Internet allows those students who want to work ahead to move forward, and, yes, I do see such students. Students who are absent can access material at home for the day they missed and bring it in when they return. At the German 3 level, students must complete and turn in a packet of material for each unit completed. This packet includes practice sheets as mentioned above and also work from a workbook, which students do not purchase, but may borrow. The students are asked to also correct their work before turning it in and answers are provided in the class, and are now also available to the students over the Internet so that the in-class time could be used for the kinds of activities that could not be completed at home working individually.
Some observations concerning website usage. Since the answers for the German 3 material have become available over the Internet, one of my students who comes from another school and cannot regularly attend the class is now able to complete even more of the required work at home, and most of the regular class uses the Internet to verify their answers. Another student in her fourth year who has been preparing for the AP exam accessed explanatory material for the third level on her own to help her review; she and another student accessed other websites where they could find practice material for the AP exam in German. Another fourth-year student who attends a different high school has been working almost exclusively with material on the Internet because he simply cannot attend the advanced class regularly.
Other Internet Sites. Students at all levels – even relatively inexperienced beginners – can find an amazingly large array of sites for listening and reading at several levels of difficulty on the Internet. Other sites provide culturally very interesting information. These kinds of sites provide access to current language usage often from the country where the language is spoken that the students are learning and are good sources for reading and listening practice.

 

While it is not an ideal learning situation for students to complete a significant portion of their work outside the classroom, it does allow hard-working, motivated students to develop skills for independent learning and to successfully continue their study of a language they would otherwise not be able to study. It has also allowed me to keep a significantly greater number of students in my language program for a longer period of time and to better meet their diverse learning needs and to some extent their various learning styles.

 

 

Conclusion

The range of resources, especially the computer and video materials, available to my students in the classroom and, increasingly, over the Internet has allowed me to provide a new instructional model for my students which helps students stay in the program longer and which is better able to meet the individual needs of the students than was the case 15 years ago. Those students with talent and high motivation are not limited to a one-year, one-level program, nor, indeed, are students excluded from having a successful experience who have a mild educational handicap. In the first case, the students may learn more rapidly or through an extraordinary schedule and in the latter situation, the students may need to cover less material in the course of a year. In this age of computer technology, mass-produced products are no longer our only choice; now we can order computers, cars, our weekly grocery order, and even jeans designed to our own specifications to be delivered to our own home. Isn’t it time now to customize our educational offerings to meet the needs and desires of our students?

 

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. [The text of this paper is available at the author’s website.]

 

Morrey, R. A. (1998). “Multithreaded Language Learning. Students at Different Levels Working Together in One Classroom.” Learning & Leading with Technology, 26(4), (Dec./Jan. 1998-1999).

 

Morrey, R. A. (1996). “Computers and other technology -- How is the classroom different?  Or, what would happen to your curriculum if the technology of the last twenty years would suddenly vanish?” CUE Newsletter, 18(5), 12-13.

 

 

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’)