March 30, 2008

I'm Back!

After sadly (and apologetically) missing two presentations while I came to terms wih my new Type II diabetes, I gave a keynote last Friday at the NECTFL (Notheast Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) conference in New York City. As I am both a former French teacher and a native New Yorker, this was like a homecoming for me

Many in the audinece called the talk "wonderful" (in person and by email) and even the trechnician called the audience "mesmerized." I say this not to blow my own horn (other than to let people know I'm back in form) but rather to illustrate the power of new ideas, whan presented in a context that teachers can understand and appreciate

In this case I was talking about language learning, and as always, I looked at it from the kids' point of view. My message was that today's kids learning languages already have experience communicating with the world, and if they are not doing that in the language they are learning -- as an integral part of their classwork -- there is no point for them. Technology is incredibly important in language learning becuase it allows this worldwide communication to happen. The students in the student panel that accompanied the talk backed this up -- they want to use the language they are learning to communicate with their peers arund the world who speak that language.

It is, of course, up to each teacher, worrking in conjunction with his or her students, to actually set this up. and use it But an important point is that the teachers don't need to know how to actually use the technology, unless, of course, they want to. This is because, in almost all cases, we can turn over the actual setup and use of the technology to the kids, while the teacher fills the role he or she does best: assuring contrext and quality, filling in the blanks, and correcting mistakes. Knowing often helps teachers calm their fears about using technology they don't totally understand. In a workshop, several teachers confirmed that they are extensive users of teachnology, but turn over all the technical details to their students.

Another key point I made was that, as teachers, we have to do a better job of sharing with each other what we do successfully. It is disappointing to me when a teacher has figured out something realy great, but other teachers, whether in the same shcool or around the world, can't easily learn about it and use it if appropriate. My strong ecommendation to teachers is that whenever they come up with somehing that works successfully, they make and post (with the help of their students if need be) a 2 minute You Tube video describing it. Some of these already exist on You Tube (I showed a couple in the presentation) but not nearly enough - there should be thousands, even millions. So if a teacher were to type "teaching Spanish ser estar" into the You Tube search box, they would find a dozen innovative ways to teach it, described by the teachers who invented them.



Posted by Marc at March 30, 2008 04:02 PM


I just finished reading "Don't Bother Me Mom..." and what an excellent read. It's great to see someone put into writing what I've been thinking for the past ten years as both a gamer and an educator. Video games have largely served as a bridge between me and my students allowing me to not only have a common ground for discussion but also providing an opportunity for me to connect with them both in and out of the classroom (many of my students and former students are in the guild I lead). Thank you for forging ahead in this "new" arena for education.


Posted by: Lucas Gillispie at April 3, 2008 10:22 AM

Hi Marc,
I really agree with you about the fact that teachers don't really share good practice. That even happens where I teach. However, I try to share a bit and would like to point out to you a great web tool that I am just starting to use
I learned about this from a class teacher in New Zealand who saw my class blog (I'm an Australian living in Indonesia). He and I now collaborate with our Grade 5 classes through blogging. Check out my class blog at
Thanks for your great articles. I will be doing a presentation tomorrow in Jakarta for school principals using your Digital Natives 1&2 articles as well as your recent one "Turning on the Light". I'll be speaking in Indonesian my second language. I plan to show the Frontline videos of "Growing Up Online" as well as they really connect with what you have said.
Thanks for your inspirational work.

Posted by: Jane Ross at April 25, 2008 06:23 AM

I quite agree that its hard for teachers to share experiences both within a school and beyond. I see this time and time again as I deal with 1,000's of schools in the UK. Our organisation (non-profit making) is trying to help teachers do just that, but going one step further. We pay teachers who find or own great resources and make them avaiable in a fun and interactive way (with games as rewards) for the children, but also for other teachers by adding assessments, reports and super search element which link to learning objectives but is specific to the topic & subject they wish to teach. Our problem is similar to teachers...spreading the word!

Posted by: SUE WALLER at April 30, 2008 10:26 AM