Should’ve Been an Epic Fail…

My classroom observation, during which I was encouraged to use available technology resources, did not go as planned.  Oddly enough, when my professor was discussing the objectives a few weeks back I vaguely remember her chiding, “…don’t worry if your Internet is out.”  Maybe it was I who said that?  At any rate, of course it would really happen to me!!  The last five weeks have been a nightmare as volunteer IT workers have been perplexed by our Frankenstein of a network, servers that are functioning at partial capacity, and a mysterious router that no one could find but was blocking all network signals on the third floor.  The network went down almost two weeks before my observation and with as many good luck dances that I did while chanting my own invented language, nothing brought my Internet back.

Fast forward to the day of the lesson.  There were only two things about that day which provided me some relief: I would only have four students in my class, and I could always connect my iPad to a VGA cable to project onto my screen.  When the boys came in the classroom I was told one was absent, so that meant we were down to three.  Thankfully my professor was able to connect with me on Skype and watched the lesson from home.

My classroom is a fairly casual environment but is still structured.  When the students sat down I gave them each an iPad (student three was in the restroom) and I began reviewing the food vocabulary we had been studying.  I started out the chapter with the Spanish way to say common food we eat. Soon I will introduce authentic Hispanic cuisine, many items of which are quite different from what we’ve ever eaten or presumed to be.  I laid out the objective to the students, that they would draw on the iPad an aerial view of food as if they were sitting at the table.  The students certainly don’t have access to iPads outside of school (or in any other class!) nor can they always count on their cell phone provider’s connection to be consistent.  Therefore, handing over my babies is a risk I take to see the curiosity and excitement on their face.

The activity started out with me naming a food at a time.  I quickly moved into the part where they had to draw everything on a plate.  They both became so immersed and wanted to make their food art look delectable, and I was told, “hang on a sec” many times as they tweaked their color and shadings.  For the most part the students (even when we were a group of four again) made minimal errors.  There may have been some confusion on a beverage, but other than that, the activity was an enjoyable one and sparked their interest at the beginning of class.  Luckily I had been using my iPad in class and letting students play with them at the end if there’s time to address any learning curve there might be.  Plus, I think that they hold themselves more responsible knowing that I’m taking a big risk to just hand out my personal equipment to a class of all boys who at times like to be rough and tumble.  I try to encourage them to explore technology so they’re not confronted with an inimitable task once they get to college.

The next phase of the lesson was to watch a short, 7-minute video dealing with a family in Costa Rica.  I broke out the old and trusted TV/VCR combo and popped in the VHS tape.  Still works like a charm!  I prefaced the video by writing a few statements on the board in Spanish about stereotypes other countries hold against us regarding our diet and eating habits.  Each student read one out loud but I didn’t discuss meaning and then they placed a check next to the ones with which they agreed.  It sparked a discussion that led naturally into the video as it dealt with the same situation.

Once the video was over I asked a few quick comprehension questions and together we did two activities on a worksheet.  It really wasn’t anything fancy or technologically superior, but instead acted as a portal to a part of the world of whose name is the only thing they knew.  Aside from all the technological gadgets I may try to bring into the classroom it’s really the content and the developmental appropriateness that makes a lesson succeed or fall short.  Because my students and I have genuine conversations with mutual interest and respect I can trust their answers to be true and not something they think I want to hear.

Doing the lesson over I would have liked to have more students in the room.  I couldn’t have used my iPads because that would incite a tug-of-war over who gets to use them.  Had I more resources it would’ve been great to bring in an authentic food or beverage that’s unique to Costa Rica, even if it’s a drink I have to make from a packet of powder.

Given the anomaly of a circumstance I was in the lesson went pretty well.  That class period itself is pretty bright once they settle down and realize we can get much further without any classroom management issues, but that doesn’t happen too often.  It was enjoyable, I’m glad I didn’t crack under pressure, and I was so proud of my students when they were told they were being observed along with me because they were the caring, honest students they always are.