Bringing Spain to life

My practicing digital fellows project this semester and beyond included experimenting with technology in order to bring material to life and into the classroom. I wanted to open myself up as a teacher to learn and experience material with my students and have fun. I wanted to liberate myself from the ways I used to teach history and civilization of Spain so that the course was fun and I could feel myself growing. I definitely have felt this and have had a very positive experience, both with my teaching and as part of our group of Practicing Digital Fellows.

Among the technology I have used are YouTube 360 videos in which students scanned a QR code in my PowerPoint with their cellphone and then were in Spain. They literally had Spain in the palm of their hand as we visited the Pyrenees Mountains in northern Spain and the massive Gothic cathedral in Burgos in northern Spain. These were diverse experiences that included the geography of Spain and Spain’s Gothic architecture. Both of these aligned with readings from our textbook and took us away from the black and white historical information to the colorful, real virtual world of Spain. I myself had fun as students moved around with their phones and got to experience the material and Spain itself.

I also became more comfortable with using Google Slides on a daily basis to present key point from our daily readings and also as a means to incorporate QR codes, video link and assessment questions. This allows me to bring in images, music, and videos to vary material and the learning experience for my students. And the teaching experience for me! One memorable exercise was a video we watched of a seventeenth and eighteenth century church in Seville after we had spent a couple of days studying the Reformation and Counterreformation in Europe and Spain. I had students anticipate what the church might look like and why based on what we had read and discussed. We then watched the video together, which was about 3 minutes. Students then reflected and wrote on what they saw, what they had anticipated and what had surprised them. I also had them write on how this video had impacted their impression and understanding of the Catholic Church in early modern Spain. This was an activity that brought in visuals and allowed students to engage with historical material in different ways. I think it also showed my appreciation for their observations and impressions.

This semester of experimentation and growth as a Practicing Digital Fellow also included more student-centered learning. Throughout the month of October, students worked in groups of two or three, presenting new material we were reading and studying for class. They had to prepare Google Slides, reading guide questions and a fun, creative activity for the class. This latter activity often included Kahoot or Quizziz to review material at the end of their sessions. Students were creative and were in a position of leadership and ownership of the class. This took pressure off me and allowed our class to be more varied and fun. It also gave students an active role in their learning through teaching. I did learn the importance of proofing their Google Slides a day or two before thy presented, as both content and grammar are important to their development.

Future steps include being open and continuing to grow in my teaching through technology. It is very important to me to be myself and be comfortable when I teach. I feel better and my students remain engaged and excited. I plan to continue to use these technologies and others at all levels of my teaching. I feel like I’m just getting started after 20 years at St. Norbert and 31 years teaching in higher education. I am very grateful for that. And for opportunities such as Practicing Digital Fellows that have allowed me to be a part of something that is meaningful, productive and much larger than myself.

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