Friday, January 1, 2016

Virtual Postcard Project Connects Student Around the World @Padlet

reposted from Graffiti, the Padlet blog on 12/10/2015

Fran's example of a virtual postcard using Padlet, Google Maps, and Photomapo.

Fran Siracusa is an educator and educational technologist living in Clearwater, Florida, where she works with teachers on projects that center around technology in the classroom. She was an early adopter of Padlet, and has used it as an interactive tool for language lessons. We talked with Fran over the Thanksgiving Break to find out about her plans to encourage students from English- and Spanish-speaking countries to write letters to each other this holiday season.

Briefly, what is your background in education?
I was a Spanish teacher for 20 years and I’m also an educational technologist. While I was getting my educational technology degree, in addition to being a Spanish teacher, I managed a 1:1 iPad program at an independent school.
About a year ago I decided to venture out on my own and do stuff outside of the classroom. I wanted to get into presenting at conferences, publishing – that’s where my passion was. I thought I could reach more children by getting out of the classroom and working with teachers.

We featured your cofounder Jennifer in September. What do the two of you do at Calliope Global?
We work with teachers, and then students, with our focus on global collaboration, digital literacy and learning spaces. If it happens to be consulting, teaching students how to use the newest tools, or teaching students and teachers how to be innovators and creators in any realm, we help them to do that.

How did you find out about Padlet? How long have you been using it?
I found out about Padlet when it was Wallwisher, at a workshop, many years ago. I learned from a woman named Michelle Olah – now she’s the president of the Florida Foreign Language Association. She introduced it to us, and we loved it, and it just became part of my toolbox.   

How does Padlet facilitate language learning?
It provides an avenue for the kids to communicate. They’re so interested in getting away from textbooks and worksheets. You can bring in so many different elements, the photos, the links. All you have to do is click. And anyone could contribute. As a teacher, I would start the board, and [students] would add to it. I like that I can curate anything on the board as I wish. I can have anyone in the world contribute to it. If we were working with Spain, they’re six hours ahead of us, but if we’re working with Puerto Rico, they’re on the same schedule, so we can work together in real time.

Tell us about the Virtual Postcard project.
Initially, it was just an activity – an exercise to utilize the past tense authentically. A little postcard for the students to share what they did over the holidays.
They can create a little postcard in the target language. It’s really humbling for our students to see that the other students – although they’re speakers of Spanish – their English is very good. It encourages the students to step it up a notch, so they can communicate with their friends. It’s kind of neat to have the students make the connection with other kids around the world.
Right now it’s a teacher sign up board. With teachers signing up, with little activities like this, sometimes they become friendly, and that builds another piece to the community.

How can other teachers around the world find out when you create a project like Virtual Postcard?
I try to be active on Twitter, and tag different organizations. And because I have different contacts in Edtech and world languages, I can tag them.