Vision for the Future

collaboration 2

With the year 2020 just around the corner, I don’t see any wide sweeping changes in education as we currently know it.  So if we extend the range another ten years to 2030, this will make my scenario a true prediction.

Because my school district is very pro-Google, I expect that Google products will take on an increasingly important role in the delivery of education.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Google Classroom is implemented as an Educational Management System, possibly in tandem with our current PowerSchool.  The reason that I feel that PowerSchool will still be around in the future of my school district is because we’ve had it for over a decade, and district IT personnel have customized it for the needs of our schools.  Getting rid of PowerSchool would be like throwing out a ten-year investment, and since we haven’t discarded it yet for other options, I believe that it will survive additional transformations.

With free training through Google for Education, I foresee that my school and many others might look to Google (and other big tech entities) for professional development.  This would allay the rising costs of creating professional development modules, and ideally, the big tech companies would also offer incentives for free/reasonable hardware, software, and upgrades.  Of all of the big tech conglomerates, Google seems to me to be the one that is making the biggest strides to win over schools and young people.  Their user-friendly, highly functional products are ubiquitous and oversaturate the current landscape in educational institutions.  We currently use Google Drive and Google Docs, and some educators are incorporating Google Classroom into their daily routine.  Whether Google Classroom will become mandated or remain a matter of personal preference remains to be seen, however, I predict everyone will be using Google Classroom (or some future version of this) by 2030.

Much like Karl Fisch predicted, I believe education and business will partner more and more closely to shape how learners are prepared for the future.  Like that of Germany and many highly successful European countries, a dual system of apprenticeships and classroom education will bring business and education together (Wikipedia).  Currently, companies complain that graduates lack essential skills to enter the working world.  If private firms team up with schools, future employees will have the training and education needed to move seamlessly from school to the workforce.  Universities will be reserved for specific majors that require longer sequences of study, such as medicine and law, while subjects such as engineering and finance will be better served with a dual system of apprenticeship at a company and theoretical study at a technical school/community college.

In addition, secondary schools will redirect focus towards basic life skills that previous generations acquired naturally, but that Net Gen learners lack.  In a recent blog post, Annie Holmquist enumerates eight abilities that Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims has identified which no young person should be without.  “Managing assignments, workloads, and deadlines” (Holmquist, 2016) is a common item in many classroom rubrics, and certainly something which educational institutions can continue to help students master.  As technology continues to depersonalize connections between people, schools will need to pay special attention to items 1 and 5 in the list: “ the ability to talk to strangers and the ability to handle interpersonal problems” (Holmquist, 2016).

Schools of the future will also offer more and more support online, especially by placing key materials such as screencasts, tutorial videos, study guides, syllabi, and worksheets on a school server.  This shift towards Open Content will make learning accessible 24/7.   What schools must make a priority, though, is to teach students to construct meaning from these materials in ways that might not be the fastest or most high tech.  In a study conducted by researchers from Princeton University and the University of California in 2013, “taking notes by hand is better than taking notes on a laptop for remembering conceptual information over the long term” (Mueller and Oppenheimer, 2014).  These findings illustrate a key truism that schools of the future must incorporate, namely, that technology in and of itself does not ensure that students will internalize and make meaning of information received.  In fact, schools must guard against the ability of technology to mask or obscure an general lack of understanding.

Furthermore, writing skills will need to be sharpened so that writers of the future do not simply copy and paste what they find online.  Instead, young writers must learn to compare and contrast source material to support their own suppositions.  Managing the massive amount of material online will require different skills than those of precious generations, and young people must learn how to argue effectively using factual evidence and not personal derision like they see among current politicians (Garza, 2016).  Failure to effectively defend a point of view leaves students grasping for schoolyard tactics such as name-calling and personal slights which garner little respect in arenas outside of reality TV and political debates.

I don’t believe, however, as so many skeptics claim, that the youth of today is less kind or more ill-mannered than their predecessors.  If anything, through numerous initiatives and programs to promote tolerance and eliminate bullying, young people might be less overtly cruel than prior generations.  What may need more focus, however, in schools of the future, is accountability when using technology as a means of communication or publication.  As we infuse education with technology, we must also make these 21st century tools transparent.  Future generations must learn to develop an online presence that displays thoughtfulness, responsibility, and discernment.  I foresee that this task will become a major focus of schools of the future.

Overall, education in the next two decades will mirror a great deal of what we currently espouse.  Character education and personal accountability will remain central themes.  Text books and pencil and paper exams will make way for open content and products that display mastery.  Managing information through modern and traditional means will be crucial.  Face-to-face learning will not be replaced, but it may be supplemented with blended learning opportunities.  Students will continue to recognize and seek out experts in a given field, especially if these experts combine subject-area knowledge with tech savviness.  The private sector will dialogue and partner with educational institutions to better prepare students to enter a global workforce.  Practical experiences will gain more importance.  And hopefully we’ll be able to balance the privileges that this fast-paced world offers with commensurate maturity and responsibility.

Dual Education System, last modified 12 Apr. 2016, Wikipedia.  Retrieved from on 18 Apr. 2016.

Garza, Cynthia Leonor.  09 Mar. 2016.  The Presidential Campaign and Its Lessons on Bullying.  The Atlantic.  Retrieved from on 18 Apr. 2016.

Holmquist, Annie.  18 Apr. 2016.  Stanford Dean: 8 Basic Skills We’re Failing to Teach Young People.  Intellectual Takeout.  Retrieved from on 18 Apr. 2016.

May, Cindi.  03 Jun. 2014.  A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop.  Scientific American.  Retrieved from on 18 Apr. 2016.

Mueller, Pam and Oppenheimer, Daniel.  16 Jan. 2014.  The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard.  Psychological Science.  Retrieved from on 18 Apr. 2016.


Google Docs – Simplifying Collaborative Publishing


One of the main advantages that the Google Docs web application has is its ability to allow groups to work on a single publication from anywhere.  With its easy editing features and tracking of who adds/changes what, Google Docs is both student and teacher friendly.

For groups working on a collaborative project, be it an essay, presentation, or multi-media product, Google Docs (along with Google Slides) couldn’t be easier.  In the article  52 Secrets Students Should Know About Google Docs, tricks to make using Google Docs even easier and more efficient are listed.

In Module 8’s key information, Microsoft Office products were portrayed as the gold standard for office functions.  With developments in Google’s offerings, any preference for Microsoft options seems to be one of habit rather than actual convenience or efficiency.

For Net Gen students who prefer easier, efficient ways of working together on a project, Google Docs is a no-brainer.  Classmates can sit at their own device and offer input into group work.  The final product is then publication-ready, and can be sent to an audience or the teacher using the share feature.

Through personal experience using Google creations, I have become a firm believer in the advantages that these products provide for education.  Rarely have I come across more useful and user-friendly technology that simplifies the process of sharing information from teacher to student and student to teacher, while at the same time expanding the possibilities for what the final product can be.

Paperless Classroom


My first inclination when I think about a paperless class is joy at not having to schlepp papers back and forth from school.  My desk would look a lot neater, too.  And philosophically, I’m all for a more sustainable option.  That being said, I wonder if the ability to work with a print text BY HAND, including underlining, highlighting, making notes in the margin, etc. would get lost when these skills are done on a computer screen.  Now I have Diigo, and I’ve highlighted and taken notes with it, but somehow, those notes and highlights don’t seem to make as much of an impression as when I do this myself.  I also think about my book club, where I can much more easily find a certain passage when I have the book in my hand than I can with my Kindle.  And not only that, I retain much more when I read a paper version of a book than when I’m paging through an e-Reader.  But that’s my reality, and maybe not one shared by the Net Generation.

As for assessment, grading papers is a much reviled task, but my eyes and neck don’t ache as much after an essay-grading session as they do when I sit at my computer for this online course.  And to be honest, I’ve never misplaced student work when it’s handed in, but I have had students submit items online that I didn’t know about and had trouble finding later or couldn’t open because they had worked on a Mac at home.  I will add, though, that Google Docs and Google Slides have really helped in this regard, since we rarely have Mac/PC issues anymore.

From the perspective of students, I think they would love the idea of decluttering and having only an electronic device to carry around from class to class instead of a heavy backpack filled with binders and books.  Maybe they would be excited at never losing a paper since everything is online.  But…would things get overlooked in the influx of so many online resources?  Teachers can arrange wonderful shared online folders and detailed syllabi, but would those items become commonplace and removed from students’ immediate attention since they are remote?  Would engagement with online resources become boring?  Would students view working online as a way to do the minimal work as fast as possible?  What about students with inconsistent or limited access to devices or Wi-Fi?

I don’t think my role as a teacher in a paperless class would change drastically.  I would still plan lessons with multiple activities and assess students based on a combination of written, oral, and project-based tasks.  I used a Google Folder for every class first semester (although I still continued to make copies for each student), and I didn’t notice a great reduction in requests for additional papers or in the overall satisfaction of students who were able to access material at all times.

In building a learning network, I believe that a paperless, online-only scenario leaves a great deal to be desired.  Connections are for the most part fleeting and impersonal, despite attempts to bridge the gap with group work and personalized discussions.  By meeting with students every day and providing access to materials online 24/7, however, paperless and paper scenarios could come together to maximize the learning community for students.

Maybe for me, finding a way to use less paper might be the way to go.  I think there are times when students need hard copies, and times when an online version might be better.  One example of this is for charts and graphs that rely on color to convey information.  In this case, it would be better for students to view an online version instead of a black and white copy.  For a text that we want to analyze and pick apart, it would be better for students to have a copy to annotate in a way that makes sense to them, which might be online or a hard copy.  In any case, I am convinced of one thing.  Creating a better framework for students online and providing access to materials outside of class would definitely aid students in becoming more self-directed and engaged with the material.

Big Shift – Readers Are No Longer Just Readers

media literacy

In a world where everything under the sun can be published to the Web, it is even more important to teach young people to be critical consumers of this information.  As Will Richardson points out, “in the era of textbooks…we could be pretty sure that the content we consumed had been checked and edited before being published.”

What’s interesting to me is that even though resources of the past may not have contained errors in grammar, spelling, or “facts”, they quite often had a hidden agenda that no one questioned.  What we’re learning today, thanks in great part to the massive amount of information online, is that we should question EVERYTHING, even those resources we thought were above reproach.  An example of this unquestioning acceptance is how so many textbooks view history through the eyes of white male America, despite the fact that other races, ethnicities, and genders played a role in shaping the past.

In recognizing this, my teaching has changed drastically.  I constantly push students to find multiple sources with differing perspectives so that they can view topics from differing angles before coming to a conclusion.  When presenting new material, I  also provide multiple viewpoints so that students must consider their own views in relation to others when forming an opinion.

The Web has made finding opposing source material much easier, and this has helped me to become a better teacher in regard to critical thinking and media literacy.  Every time we dive into a new source, our first questions are always:

  1. For whom was this published?  Who is the intended audience?
  2. Is the source credible/reliable?
  3. What is the tone of the source?  Is it factual/emotional/funny/satirical…?
  4. Can we find additional material to corroborate this?  To contradict this?

Technology has aided in making this shift, since resources have taken on greater variety and breadth.  We are now able to consider source material that is not just print material.  In addition, we can pair different sources (print, tabular, video, audio, visual/art, etc.) to engage different types of learners and to make meaning through various media.

While my online course hasn’t exactly changed how I teach, it has highlighted the need to include media literacy skills in instruction with a more direct, transparent focus.  As I proceed in my career as a German teacher, I feel that technology will continue to provide students with impulses that require discernment and analysis.  By learning how to do this, they will be able to make sense of the world around them and to arrive at informed, educated conclusions.

Skype – Bringing the World Together


Skype has opened up more options for foreign language teachers than practically any other technological advancement of the 21st century.  With Skype, I can discuss details of my student exchange program with a partner teacher in Germany in an easier manner than using email or even phone calls.  What we are able to discuss and agree upon during a short Skype video call saves time and prevents misunderstandings that occur when using other means of communication.

In addition to using Skype as a logistical, planning tool for exchanges, I am able to bring our German partner school into the classroom.  This is a wonderful option for those who are unable to take part in the head-to-head exchange.  Through Skype, we can engage in discussions with our friends in Germany, and students benefit greatly from these encounters.  Moreover, those taking part in the exchange often use Skype to get to know their hosts before we travel to Germany.

Additionally, I’ve used Skype to prepare a presentation with colleagues from other parts of the country, and I’ve taken part in a Webinar using Skype.  For the top prize (an all expenses-paid trip to Germany for four weeks!)  of the National German Exam, qualifying students must take part in a Skype interview.  Through Skype, the job of the Testing Chairperson has become much easier, and for qualifying students, there is no longer the need to travel across the region to interview.  As a tool for professional development and for professional endeavors, Skype is a must-have.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Skype has made communication with loved ones while traveling abroad simple and cost-effective.  Now my husband and I can talk daily through Skype and avoid the big phone bills of the past.  And with students in daily contact with their parents, the exchange develops an added transparency.

Connectivism – An Instructional Method Rather Than a Learning Style

Although I don’t dispute that we live in a digital age which relies heavily on networked contact to others, I don’t feel that connectivism is a valid learning theory.  I prefer to view connectivism as an instructional strategy.  As such, I believe that technology and networking can enhance how students process knowledge.  I don’t, however, believe that students gain knowledge purely by connecting information through technological networks.

When I observe students comprehending new material and developing the pattern recognition needed to process subsequent information, it may or may not involve digital means.  More often, students construct meaning out of stimuli through engagement, experience, and reason.  Especially in foreign languages, it’s important for students to engage, experience, and make sense of first-hand, face-to-face encounters while using the language with native speakers.  This non-digital, personal interaction supersedes any contact through electronic means.  While it can be improved with access to digital media, nothing can provide the long-lasting effects of learning that take place when one is physically within the target culture.

While I agree with Group A that connectivism (as an instructional theory) can enhance learning, connectivism itself does not define how students learn.  Technology has changed the ways that students interact with information and others, but processing and collaboration have always been a part of instruction and learning.  Connectivism simply illustrates 21st century ways for making meaning and developing a personal connection to new input.  In the end, connectivism seems like a newly-packaged, high-tech version of previous learning theories such as cognitivism and constructivism.

See Group A’s wiki for more information on their viewpoints: Group A’s Connectivism Wiki.

Podcast – Slow German

tolerance clip art.jpg

Slow German PEGIDA

Slow German is a podcast by Annik Rubens, and German teachers everywhere are grateful for her culturally relevant topics and clear, deliberate enunciation.  Because she includes a transcript of her podcast, students can follow along and get the most out of her recordings.

The episode that I have included (link at top of post) is especially important for upper level students, because it’s about PEGIDA, a movement that was started in Dresden by Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamification of the West.  This group, coupled with the an increase in the number of refugees pouring into Europe, has caused great tension in Germany.  Since WWII, Germany has made great strides in promoting tolerance and reeducating citizens about the need for a multi-cultural country.  With the founding of PEGIDA in 2014, many fear that the improvements over the last seven decades are slipping away.

Annik Rubens shares a German perspective on PEGIDA, and this podcast is a great springboard for discussion, either in class, through a blog, or through other social media.

Weihnachtsmarkt Chicago

Dad with son at Weihnachtsmarkt Chicago by Tomas

Image Citation:

Flickr Creative Commons.  (2015, December 22).  Happy Holidays and happy celebrants… Photographer TomoŜius (Tomas Petkus).  Retrieved from

This fantastic black and white photo has a lot going on.  The expressions on the main characters’ faces tell a story, as does the setting, the Christmas Market in Chicago.  After learning a good bit about the cultural phenomenon of the Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany, I would ask students to write a paragraph about this picture from the perspective of the father, the son, or a bystander.  I would encourage students to include cultural aspects of the Christmas market, but rather than just describing, they should tell a story.



Study Abroad: Do Benefits Outweigh Risks?

Lebo Girls in DresdenPart Two – Summary of Comments

Thank you all for your thoughtful posts on Should Your Kid Study Abroad in an ISIS World?.

The stats:  Five of you didn’t have personal experience with travel abroad, but four of those five wished they had.  Ten people felt that the pros outweighed the cons for travel abroad.  Three people expressed hesitation about travel abroad or wouldn’t want to send loved ones abroad at this time.

Most of you stressed that with well informed pre-travel preparation, safer destinations, and a good support network of respected programs/chaperons, study abroad is a valuable option for learning about cultures, languages, and people.

One of you brought up the very valid point that study abroad is a personal choice, therefore, not for everyone.  In addition, cost may make study abroad prohibitive for some.

And one person commented that study abroad for students is so well organized and carefully planned that adults later in life wished they could have access to this.

Thanks again for your feedback!

Wiki Girl in a Wiki World


Am I a Wiki Girl in a Wiki World?  Considering the number of times I answer mundane questions that arise with a quick search in Wikipedia, that would be a resounding YES!  I find that the majority of information in Wikipedia is accurate, and I often cross-check facts to ensure veracity.

I really liked the wiki used by Mr. Driscoll’s students in gathering information about climate change, since this is really applicable to my AP German 5 class in our unit on sustainability.

While I think a wiki is useful, it would definitely be easier to create a shared Google doc for groups.  I’m not resistant to using Wikispaces, but it’s just so much more convenient to use the technology at hand in my school.

I still have some concerns about responsible use of resources gathered in a wiki, so that’s something I’ll have to improve on as my students embark on projects with new technologies.

public_domain_xl                 2000px-cc-public_domain_mark_white-svg