In which I declare unrequited love of Google+ and proclaim its renewed potential as my professional network

Posted By on December 20, 2012

The recent addition of Communities to Google+ has really won me over. I have always been a bit enamored with the service since it debuted and my crush grew deeper even more with the addition of  HangOuts which allows up to 10 people to have a video chat. That HangOut can even be broadcasted, recorded and shared on YouTube. Google has done really good work with the look and feel of the mobile platform on iOS and Android too.  When I view the site on my iPhone, the app feels so much more rewarding that anything Facebook has every given me. In fact, I unlike Facebook in any form and it’s terrible user policies so much that I refuse to link to it in this post. I feel forced to use Facebook because everyone I know is on it. If I want to share pictures of my kids with family and friends, for now, it has to be Facebook.

Google+, however, really is becoming my go-to professional learning network.

For a while I have secretly desired that all my friends on Facebook, all my Twitter followers or anyone I have every connected with on a Ning just move over to Google+.  The ability to place my contacts into circles and provide content to different audiences sold me on the network. Whenever I could I would use Google+ for classroom projects waiting for students to ogle at what Google has done. None of it every materialized. My love for the product remained and continues to remain unrequited. I cannot blame my family, friends and students for refusing to move to Google+. They have too much of a timeline on Facebook.

In some ways, it’s a  blessing they didn’t move because those who remained on Google+ and stuck with the product are those die-hard, tech-savvy, relentless pirates of the educational world that have contributed so much to my professional growth….

Then, all of a sudden,  the Communities feature appears on Google+ and  my professional network was on steroids. It turns out that Google has been reading my posts and those of the people in my circles. The day the feature launched the Google+ system suggested communities for me based on my interests.  I joined the Education Revolution, Teachers for Interactive Language Learning, Recursos educativos and MOOC . With those four alliances alone I opened up a rich learning experience that I have never experienced on any other social network…not Twitter, not Facebook and certainly not MySpace. In one swoop Google+ became more relevant to my professional growth than ever. So, in the spirit of being a quixotic adventurer and yearning to fulfill that unrequited love, I created a World A.T Ways Community on Google+. Perhaps I will find soon that it’s more valuable than even blogging… or perhaps I will remain a character trapped in his own hopeful narrative.


If you don’t know what the feature is, I’ve included Google’s promotional video on it.

In which I blog and 3 reasons why I did not for so long

Posted By on December 19, 2012

It has been quite a while since I blogged.  There are several reasons for this.


1. I tweeted, favorited, liked, blogged, uploaded, starred, shared, poked, +1ed, subscribed, tagged, clipped and even downloaded constantly. I didn’t have time to think about any of it. Well, I’ve given it all some thought.

2. I felt too obligated to blog and needed to break free. When I have something to say and feel it’s really worth saying to the world. I promise, I will say it.

3. I had children, three of them, three beautiful, curious, rambunctious boys. They deserve, when I am home and they are awake, my undivided attention. This takes time.


The good news is I’ve built quite a collection of things to say about tools, teaching, techniques, failing and, of course, living.


Stay tuned… but not too closely. Step away from the screen and take time to breathe.


In which #langchat connects our community

Posted By on April 21, 2011

Every Thursday night (8-9 p.m. EST: Time zone converter) for the past four months language educators across the United States have been meeting online to discuss and share ways to improve their professional practice. They do this using Twitter, the free online service that allows you to send out public or private messages of 140 characters or less and the hashtag #langchat. Based on the hugely successful #edchat movement started in 2009 by Steven Anderson, Shelly Terrell and Tom Whitby, language educators Diego Ojeda, Elvira Deyamport, Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell and Erica Fischer serve as Twitter chat moderators for these online sessions. Recent discussion topics addressed Differentiated Instruction in the Language Classroom, Teaching World Languages Without a Textbook and Using Music in the Classroom. Tonight’s session will be a continuation of last week’s chat: Standards-based grading in the World Language Classroom. Each week’s topic is crowdsourced in advance by participants and then voted on.

In a previous post we shared survey research results from both ACTFL and the NCLRC on which of the five standards language educators found most difficult to implement with their students. Both findings reinforce what most of us intuitively know: the most difficult are connections and communities. What was surprising were teacher elaborations on why the communities standard is so challenging—the limited resources available in local communities. In other words, teachers restricted their definition of communities to their local target language communities. And technology was rarely mentioned as a vehicle to connect students with language communities beyond the immediate geographic area. The conclusion at the ACTFL session was that the profession needs to do a better job at providing world language teachers with scenarios that demonstrate the kinds of community connections our students can make. What better way to do this than to participate ourselves in online communities? As more language professionals join #langchat, I am convinced this will be an important avenue for us to be able to experience, reflect on, model and implement extended communities of practice with our colleagues and students.

If you’re interested in joining this online community and would like more information have a look at some of these resources:

New to Twitter? Read our take on why and how to use Twitter. It includes some nice how-to resources created by fellow educators.

Need information on #langchat? The LangChat on Twitter wiki has it all, including an embedded livestream of tweets devoted to #langchat. Don’t forget to click on the LangChat Resources link where you’ll find an archive of past sessions.

Want a way to easily follow, filter and participate in #langchat? Use TweetChat. I’ve created a brief screencast to show just how easy and useful it is. Hope to see you Thursday nights for #langchat!

TweetChat Demo from Barbara on Vimeo.

We’ve shared how innovative educators are using online tools to crowdsource teaching ideas and how they are connecting their students with language communities in our interview series:

An Interview with Larry Ferlazzo
An Interview with Jon Pennington
An Interview with Enza Antenos-Conforti
An Interview with Silvia Tolisano

What are some of the ways you have connected with a larger community of language professionals? How have you connected your students to target language communities outside your local area?

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In which new courses are charted for languages

Posted By on April 20, 2011

In March I spoke at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenneesee about the future of language education and post-secondary education as a whole. Particularly,  I set out to speak about the ACTFL map for 21st Century Skills and how I designed and have been teaching for nearly a decade a course that attempts to fosters 21st century skills and language acquisition simultaneously. I hoped to elaborate on a new kind of language course that constitutes Spanish composition and conversation for an increasingly global and wired world. I ended up talking about the future of the university and the changing roll of the professor and colleges. The disruption that has happened to the music industry and that is happening to the TV/Radio/Film industry will happen to knowledge workers too including education. Which schools and faculty will survive the disruption and what kind of approaches will be valued by institutions of hired education and valuable to students after the dust of disruption has settled?  In this post, I provide the video shot during the presentation and my audiovisual aids as I pose these questions about the classroom of tomorrow. I would love to hear your thoughts on the future of language education and the university. Post a comment here or send me 140 characters of wisdom via Twitter and direct it @gaugler.


Dr. Kevin Gaugler: Charting New Courses in Languages toward the 21st Century from gaugler on Vimeo.


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In which Gapminder addresses the connections standard

Posted By on April 14, 2011

A great session I attended at NECTFL 2011 was The Impact of the National Standards on Language Education & National Initiatives with Marty Abbott, Eileen Glisan and June Phillips. Shared in this session were the results of a national (U.S.) survey of world language teachers on how and to what extent the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century shape classroom language practice.

When language teachers were asked to rank which were the most difficult goal areas to teach, Communities and Connections rose to the top. This supports findings reported by Anna Chamot and Sheila W. Cockey of the National Capital Language Resource Center. You can download their NECTFL 2008 presentation, “Communities and Connections: Hardest Standards to Meet or Greatest Opportunities” on the NCLRC NECTFL Presentations page.

Looking specifically at feedback regarding the Connections Standard, the NECTFL 2011 presenters shared that teachers felt there wasn’t enough time in the curriculum and that it was difficult to connect with other disciplines and other departments. They were also concerned that they lacked the necessary expertise to address other content areas.

But if we focus on creating those interdisciplinary connections for our students through the comparison and analysis of readily available data sets on a variety of global issues, then Gapminder World is an easy-to-use, online/offline (and free!) tool to do just that. Gapminder makes world data sets more accessible by presenting them in a visually compelling, dynamic, graphical interface. Information on all the data sets are available on the data tab and the creators intend to regularly update the data. If you have issues with internet access you can use the free Gapminder Desktop. In this video, Hans Rosling, one of Gapminder’s co-founders, explains why and how to use the free desktop version of Gapminder.

The site itself has a wealth of resources including two that I think will be very useful in helping to create target language learning scenarios that are authentic and address important global issues.

The ‘For Teachers‘ area offers a featured resources section with a variety of lesson activities and guides that you can use to get a sense of the many learning possibilities this tool has to offer. Don’t forget to view the video on this site to see how some students use the data to formulate interesting questions and hypotheses about Haiti’s life expectancy and income compared to other countries. Although it’s a small group at the moment, there is a forum where you can share ideas and learn from others. You can also adapt and use any of the featured resources, one of which—the Human Development Trends, 2005—is particularly interesting because it is available in twelve languages.

The ‘Labs‘ section has some pre-made sets of data to compare (no lesson plans included) that you could use as part of a lesson you’ve already created or as the basis for a new unit or activity. As with the charts you create, you can ‘play’ the statistics in chart mode, with or without trails, and/or in map mode. You can modify them by adding countries and then share your final chart via email or by posting it on a blog or other website. With the Gapminder USA lab, you can compare U.S. states on a variety of statistics with each other or with other countries of the world.

While I haven’t developed an activity yet using Gapminder, I will definitely be looking to create a professional development session on this for pre- and in-service language teachers. If you have used Gapminder with your students we’d love to hear from you!

Hat tip to Carl Anderson and Hubert Lalande who tweeted 10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics where I rediscovered Gapminder World.

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