Why you need plan and SMART goals to successfully integrate technology in the forieign language classroom

Why you need to have a plan and SMART goals when integrating technology in your classroom

Technology integration planIn this second part of the series on “5 Steps to Incorporating Technology into your Foreign Language Classroom“, we will talk about how to create the plan to successfully integrate technology in your classroom.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it is all about “redefining your teaching“. On this note, we will take your current lesson plans and fine-tune them to integrate “meaningful use of technology”.

 

Let’s get started then….

 

Creating the plan to integrate technology in your foreign language classroom:

1. Analyzing and prepping your lesson plan: grab a lesson plan that you want to work on. Print it so that you can annotate and highlight.

Traditionally, lesson plans (with more or less fields) have formats like this one. Where the objectives are placed at the top.

Traditional lesson plan foreign language class

Technology-integrated lesson plans should look more like this. Where objectives are aligned with every activity.

Technology Integration Lesson Plan

 

You want to make sure you can subdivide your lesson plan into sections and distinguish separate activities. Each activity should have its own objective/s (two at the most).

Take your traditional lesson plan and decide:

  • Which activity could be your introductory activity? The purpose of introductory activities is to build the ‘knowledge base’ needed for the lesson/unit. This is where the topic is introduced (of course); previous knowledge is linked; and key terms, elements and necessary vocab are introduced. Usually, introductory activities have a component of collaboration. This is to leverage students’ previous knowledge allowing them to use the language to share what they know and at the same time expand the knowledge of others.   
  • Which activities could be your follow up activities? You want to make sure your activities are not too long. It is better to have several specific activities with a precise outcome, than one large activity with no specific outcome. For example, having students write an essay as a single activity is too large and broad. You and the students will have a better grasp of the writing process if you incorporate and design several activities to lead to the completion of the essay. Therefore, if you do not already have a group of activities leading to a final outcome, make sure you find the way of dividing up this big activity into smaller meaningful ones.
  • Which activity could be your concluding activity? The concluding activity is not the final piece of work students hand in. What I mean is, that if you were having them write a ‘How to guide‘, the guide itself would not be the concluding activity. Here you should design an activity that will let you, and each student, specifically define what it is they learned from the assignment and how they can demonstrate that knowledge.

 

2.Tweaking and “IMPROVING” your existing lessons plans:

  • The lesson goal

Now that you have given your lesson plan a first look and revision (first read, ha!) it is time to think of the goal. A traditional lesson plan has general goals at the top. We will need a general goal in our tech-lesson plan as well. This general goal needs to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time based.

Why goal and not goals? One, to make the lesson more meaningful. Two, to ensure students are clear on the purpose and what it is they will gain out of the lesson. Put yourself in their shoes: you walk into a classroom and you are introduced to a lesson and a series of activities that you will be carrying out. What specific goal would help you understand what you are doing and why? What will you learn/gain at the end of the lesson after completing the series of activities?

Some tips to tweak the general goal:

  • Make it SMART
  • It helps when you start with “At the end of this lesson you should…” – This helps students know what to aim for when completing each activity and will help then show their knowledge at the end. Make the goal for the student, not for you.

Here is a short video about writing SMART goals by Jeff Everhart:

 

Let’s see an example of a lesson plan goal before and after the tweak:

Foreign language technology integration goals

Foreign language technology integration SMART goals

 

  • The activities and their objectives (goals)

Each of the activities that you outlined previously, also needs a SMART goal/goals. Here you can include more that one, but I would suggest no more than two. Think about what you want students to achieve with that single activity? What is its exact purpose?

While you are thinking of these goals you might find that an activity is redundant or not necessary (a “filler”). Make sure all activities are helping the student follow a path where they build on previous skills and knowledge. Is one activity properly leading to another? Does each activity have a meaningful outcome? Is it really needed?

Take out any unnecessary activity and write out SMART goals for each of the ones you keep. Students should know what to aim for and what they will obtain by completing each activity.

This is a great video on setting learning goals – Five keys to comprehensive assessment:

 

  • The concluding activity and its objective

The concluding activity is not the completion of the essay or the submission of the project. Yes, students should have a “physical” item at the end of the lesson and yes you will grade it. But this will not be our concluding activity.

A concluding activity allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and reflect upon the lesson journey. How will your students demonstrate what they have learned? How will they show they achieved the objectives? How will they show they are aware of their knowledge and can now use it outside of the classroom? Knowledge should not simply stay in the classroom and die with the completion of the lesson.

These concluding activities are excellent for student reflection. They will also help you reflect upon the lesson, how it has worked out and how you can improve it.

Don’t worry, these concluding activities are usually simple. Some teachers use exit tickets, others use a final guiding question, post it walls, etc. Check out this list for ideas – 53 ways to check for understanding.

OK! We have come to the end of the prep stage. Notice we have not talked about tools yet. This will come in the next step. It is important to first define meaningful tasks and specific objectives, so that you can select the best tools to accompany your lesson.

 

On the next post, and before we move on to the third step, we will take a lesson plan and go through this process of tweaking it to incorporate technology.

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