Königssee – a slice of heaven on earth


Aaaaahhh! Heavenly, isn’t it? Welcome to the Königssee: King’s Lake, in English. This is one of my favorite places on the entire planet. It’s actually somewhere I get to visit every other year, too, and I look forward to it as soon as I’ve left.

Königssee is a pristine alpine lake nestled in what’s known as “Berchtesgadener Land”, which is located in southeastern Bavaria near the border of Austria. This gem of a lake is over 600 feet deep at its deepest, though it averages 300+ feet deep in most places, and though exceeding deep and cold, quite a few of my students have been known to take a dip! It’s so tranquil and clear, who could say no?

We line up early with our tickets on the dock at the northern end of the lake – the students not quite knowing what to expect, but already amazed at the landscape – and when the time comes, we board a small electric vessel (only electric boats are allowed to keep the lake crystal clean) and relax as we glide across the serene, transparent water, through the mountains. About half way through the journey in the middle of the lake, we stop, and a thick-accented Bavarian trumpeter appears (in Lederhosen, no less) to play a tune that echos across the lake and through the valley. It’s magical.

After being serenaded, we continue on to the peninsula of Hirschau, where we step off and wander along the shoreline, through the woods, and around the chapel of St. Bartholomä (a pilgrimage church dedicated in 1134), all while under the watchful eye of the surrounding mountains. The air is crisper than crisp, the alpine water sparkles, the mountains are indescribably magnificent, and the sun always shines – even when it rains. This is truly one of the most majestic places under heaven. Perhaps that is why the Bavarian kings loved it as much as we do.

Check out the video below to experience the Königssee “live” and be serenaded by a Bavarian trumpeter (turn up your speaker volume to hear the “second” trumpet).



EDTECH537: The Digital Generational Gap: Does it Affect Learning?

This week’s prompt regarding digital natives and generational differences in learning has forced many an edit on this blog post – many an edit!

On the one hand, I don’t buy into the assertion that modern students (“digital natives” – those raised with technology) absolutely need to have instruction altered to accommodate their learning needs, as Marc Prenzky almost demands in this article. After all, learning styles is a thing of the past. On the other hand, I am a fan of modernizing the curriculum and keeping lessons realistic – it’s best practice in my field. So if having my students format written responses as emails rather than traditional essays means I’m speaking the language of my digitally native crowd, then pat me on the back. However, though I might alter the format of an assignment, the essence of what I want learners to demonstrate is still there (in this case, communicative reporting in the formal German voice), and sometimes I get the added bonus of a modern, relevant skill (here: writing and formatting an email in German).

Also, when utilizing technology in my lessons, it’s not the focus; it’s just the most convenient medium by which to convey the lesson. For instance, though I often present beginner-level German learners with crazy comprehensible-input based stories via PowerPoint slides, these stories are based in the centuries-old tradition of storytelling and using repetition for learning, not technology. And though I may introduce myself to new classes via a creative Animoto video, the technology isn’t the focus, it’s just the means to an end (an entertaining hook to begin the new school year) that has the added bonus of adding a bit of pizzazz to the lesson.

So I suppose you could say that I am amenable to keeping my students engaged and motivated to learn by allowing them to practice skills in meaningful, interesting contexts. Technology is sometimes a great channel by which to do this, sometimes not. Therefore, on the whole, I don’t believe teachers or instructional designers must bend over backwards or jump on the techie bandwagon to design tech-laden instruction and accommodate today’s plugged-in generation of learners. Creating video game after video game to motivate digital natives to learn – a practice Prensky (2001) practically elevates to cult status  – doesn’t always apply (in fact, many of his suggestions are delusional according to Jamie Mackenzie who published this post in refute of Prensky’s bogus claims).

If instruction engages learners by giving them opportunities to explore, debate, discuss, examine, defend, and experiment (moving all around Bloom’s taxonomy tonight!) with the concepts and skills they are learning, then we teachers have done our jobs and helped our digital natives emerge from their narcissistic cesspools to truly experience and learn from the world around them – using technology as the carrot or not.



Gray, P. (2014). Why is narcissism increasing among young Americans? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans

McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html

[No author]. No evidence to back learning styles (2017). The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/12/no-evidence-to-back-idea-of-learning-styles

[No author]. What is comprehensible input? Teacher Vision. Retrieved from https://www.teachervision.com/learning-disabilities-month/what-comprehensible-input

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from  http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf



Guest blogger – Kate Lauer, GAPP 2014

This guest post is contributed by Kate Lauer, a former student at Memorial High and GAPP participant in 2014. Kate is entering her senior year at the University of Minnesota, where she’s studying biochemistry, en route to pursuing a medical degree.

There are a lot of things in life you simply cannot learn from books alone, and German is one of them. From seventh grade through senior year, I studied German, learning to master basic verbs, all the der/die/das/den/dem/des rules, and every day phrases that would get me by in rudimentary conversation, should I happen upon a German speaker in the Midwest who did not speak English. These lessons formed a fantastic foundation for my German knowledge, but there was a part of my German experience that could not be fulfilled in a classroom. The GAPP program offered the perfect application of my German skills, allowing me to become acquainted with the culture by fully immersing myself in the German world for three weeks while also hosting the same student I would stay with in Germany. The two-way exchange made the experience even more genuine, and a close relationship formed between our two families. The trip itself was absolutely fantastic, providing ample stories and memories. Traveling as a small group, we became close-knit before we even landed in Frankfurt, having survived an impromptu detour to Norway and the ensuing luggage fiasco. There is nothing that warms you up to the German culture quite like a group of sleep deprived Americans wearing their host sibling’s clothes to their first day of German class. We visited during the World Cup, so the soccer fever and public viewings were certainly highlights, even if Germany beat the United States (as expected) en route to the title. Salzburg was a personal favorite, highlighted by frolicking around the Sound of Music fountain, posing by pickle statues, and summiting the mountains. Riding and navigating the trains became a hobby. Touring the Dachau concentration camp was one of the most eye-opening moments of my life, putting the events of World War II into perspective. And, of course, there was the food. A fine diet of Döner (cheap, delicious, Turkish gyros), Apfelschorle (carbonated apple juice), soft pretzels, Schwip Schwap (the end to the Pepsi vs. Coke debate), and Currywurst left me reluctant to leave Germany. When I returned to American soil with a backpack full of chocolate and Haribo, I knew there was truly no better way to end my foreign language experience. In the years since, I have realized my GAPP experience catalyzed my global awareness and left me curious about other cultures. Prior to the trip, I had never left the United States and thus largely assumed life was fairly uniform amongst developed nations. Discovering this was not the case left me more in tune with my assumptions about what is “normal,” an important awareness to have in the real world. The GAPP program showed me everything I learned in the classroom was similar to a black and white picture book. With the guidance of GAPP, the pictures came alive in vibrant color through lived experiences, adding invaluable depth to my foreign language education and world views. I would highly recommend the GAPP program, as life is a lot more fascinating in color.

EDTECH503 – “Making Interpretive Tasks more Authentic”: A commentary

As a German teacher who also leads trips abroad, it is critical for me to include interpretive tasks (reading, listening, speaking) in all levels of the German curriculum, so students get a sense of what “real German” is like (and/or understand what they will be surrounded by when they step off the plane in Frankfurt, Germany). When I’m not abroad in Germany with my students, however, this task can be daunting, because access to authentic resources is a challenge, and choosing how to best didacticize those resources to encourage higher-order thinking can prove difficult.

I recently came across a blog article by Kara Parker on the Creative Language Class regarding same topic, and it seems she has experienced a similar conundrum in her Spanish classroom, particularly at the lower levels, since the language production level is low at this stage, but the thinking capacity is high.

Parker begins by presenting the issues she has with traditional interpretive tasks as well as specific examples of them. She goes on to describe why those traditional methods are lacking. She then elaborates as to why she’s decided to change the manner in which she teaches and assesses the interpretive mode of language learning, which, at some point in her journey, included a key conversation with language expert Paul Sandrock, Director of Education for the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).

Finally, Parker reveals ideas for lessons she has migrated toward to increase the authenticity of interpretive tasks; most of which are based in real-world application to the scenario at hand.  Her post is a breath of fresh air, which inspires me to follow suit. No more spending hours finding and creating resources that are more meaningful to me than my students – it’s time to “keep it real”, as it were, and base interpretive tasks on authentic, realistic scenarios that students are investing in, as that’s where true learning takes place.

You can read Kara Parker’s post here: Making Interpretive Tasks More Authentic


EDTECH 537 Discussion – “Why participate in an international exchange?”

As the only German instructor and GAPP exchange coordinator at Memorial High School, I am the premier consultant on all-things German, including the topic of our trip abroad. In today’s well-connected world, I am often posed inquiries such as:

  • Why does my child need to visit Germany when you’re teaching German culture in your classroom?
  • The world is small, why can’t my child just go online and experience German-speaking countries?
  • What can this exchange offer my child in terms of his/her growth that s/he can’t experience at home?
  • What benefit is there to going abroad in high school as opposed to college?

I am able to answer these questions, of course, but instead of listening to me wax on animatedly about a culture I have facts, figures, and an obvious bias towards, I like to pose the following questions to my audience to help them think more broadly about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:

  • If you had the chance to be unencumbered and take an adventure, where would you go? Why?
  • If you had to choose one, would you rather experience another culture first-hand or watch a documentary about it? What do you think the advantages of each are? And the disadvantages?
  • How do you think daily immersion in another language and culture differ from a single 53-minute class per day? What would be the benefits of immersing yourself in the daily life of another language and culture?
  • Think about your adult life: What are your daily responsibilities? Whom/What do you have to care for on a daily basis? Do you ever wish you could escape the daily grind – even for a brief moment in time? Do you think it’s easier to travel as an adult or as an accompanied teenager?
  • Did you take a world language when you were in school? Do you think it would be easier to learn another language as an adult or adolescent?
  • How do you think participating in an exchange trip increases cultural awareness? Do you believe it’s important for today’s youth to be exposed to new cultures? Why/Why not?
  • How does taking leaps at a younger age opens up opportunities for people?
  • How is your child differentiating him/herself on college applications? If you were on a college admissions committee, how would you view a high school applicant who had been abroad prior to college?

And finally, the most important question I pose for consideration:

  • Pretending the financial aspect of the trip is taken care of, why not participate in an international exchange??

Inspired? Read more about experiencing Germany first-hand!


EDTECH 537 A list of important faves

Many people ask: “Why German? Aren’t we past that language? Don’t more people take French and Spanish? Spanish makes more sense in America.” And while I don’t disagree with all of their points, I get a bit itchy at how unaware the vast majority of Americans tend to be when it comes to just which languages in the world have the best ROI. With that in mind, here’s a list of my favorite informational articles that shed light onto the issue followed by a written section answering the question: Why German?

If you teach your child these 3 languages, you’ll basically be raising a CEO published in the Reader’s Digest.

6 business languages that all global minded managers should learn published on languagelearningportal.com

What is a foreign language worth? published in The Economist.

Why we should learn German taken from a speech by John le Carre published in The Guardian.

Top 10 reasons to learn German from Fluentin3months.

Why study German? from the University of Iowa.

Why German?

Language: German is the language of Goethe, Marx, Nietzsche, and Kafka, of Mann, Brecht, and Grass. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler, and Schoenberg spoke and wrote German, as did Freud, Weber, Einstein, and Heisenberg, Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger.

Publishing: Germany is ranked number 5 in terms of annual publication of new books. Knowledge of German therefore offers you extended access to information. Considering the importance of the German language in the fields of publishing and research, it’s not surprising that many graduate schools want their graduates to have at least a reading knowledge of German.

Economy: Germany is the world’s second-largest exporter. The German economy ranks number one in Europe and number four worldwide. Its economy is comparable to that of all the world’s Spanish-speaking countries combined. Investment by Germany in the United States is over ten billion dollars.

Science: German is the second most-commonly used scientific language. Germany is the third largest contributor to research and development and offers research fellowships to scientists from abroad.

Global Communication: German has the largest number of native speakers in the European Union. German is among the ten most commonly spoken languages in the world. It is also a lingua franca of Central and Eastern Europe.

Business: German is a key language in the European Union and the new economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Learning German improves your chances of success in today’s global job market.

Engineering: Germans are world leaders in engineering. They also lead the world in both green energy research and technologies


EDTECH 537 Helpful Links

The following links will provide you with further information regarding GAPP as well as some of the specific agencies MHS-GAPP uses for travel planning.

GAPP Insurance: Bernhard Reise. This page provides our travel insurance information, or “Facts at a Glance” in English. If you have specific questions regarding the travel package I purchase for each student, please contact me.

GAPP on Facebook. Want to learn more about GAPP via social media? Click on this link and be brought to GAPP’s official Facebook page.

Goethe Institut: GAPP Exchange. The official site of GAPP, you’ll find all the information you need about the German American Partnership Program here.

Icelandair Flight Status. Check for updates on our Icelandair flights here.

Our partner city: Rüsselsheim. Welcome to the city of Rüsselsheim. This site will give you an overview of the most important aspects of our host town → in English!

Our partner school: Gustav-Heinemann Schule (GHS). If you can read German, this site’s for you! Get updates from the German perspective regarding our exchange.

U.S. Department of State: GAPP Exchange. Need an official “At a Glance” into GAPP? Look no further than this brief overview from the government department that runs it.

EDTECH537 – Thoughts on “RSS: The Next Killer App for Education”

As part of my “EDTECH537 – Blogging in the Classroom” course, I have been given a plethora of academic texts to peruse to gain more insight into the benefits of blogging for the classroom. One text I found particularly interesting was “RSS: The Next Killer App for Education” (Harrsch, 2003). If you aren’t sure what RSS is, in simple terms, it’s a technology used to easily keep track of one’s favorite published web content – all in one place. RSS readers distribute news and web content through a feed – much like a newsreel, so one can have access to many headlines from various sources all at once. Digital Trends gives a great explanation here. Though the technology is “old” (in terms of when it was first introduced to the scene), thereby making the title of Harrsch’s article a tad misleading 14 years later, RSS still remains a formidable means by which people can gain access to a broad range of web content from around the globe at the click of a mouse button.

In terms of Harrsch’s article, she defines “a killer application as a program that provides the capability for an average person to use technology to solve every day problems and enrich their lives” (2003), and mentions Email as the first of such apps. She says that RSS takes the “paradigm of one-to-one messaging one step further and provides the ability to efficiently communicate information to not just family and friends, but anyone on the internet who may be interested” (2003).

In thinking of personal usage, I find my RSS feeds to be particularly useful at organizing the various websites I refer to all in one organized spot. Since I teach German using no textbooks, keeping all the websites I utilize for my job in my working memory is next to impossible. Having an organized feed where applicable sites are saved, and where the latest posts on each site automatically come up, saves me time and sanity.

Classroom-wise, Harrsch provides a perfect example of subscribing to applicable RSS feeds in order to save time searching out “timely examples” on the web for the content one wants to incorporate in class. Personally, I view this as a godsend, as I have five different preps in a single day, which equates to 25 individualized lessons / week. As I try to incorporate more and more authentic materials in German into all five levels, having an RSS feed set up for German news and media saves me hours upon hours of digging around the Internet for relevant materials.

Though I haven’t used RSS extensively as of yet (I tend toward relying on my social media feeds on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), I can see it as yet another arrow in my quiver of beneficial teaching resources.








Hallo und Willkommen auf meinem Webblog des Memorial High GAPP-Austausches!!
(Hello and welcome to my blog of Memorial High’s GAPP exchange)

My name is Kerri Patton – otherwise known as Frau Patton – and I am the GAPP-exchange coordinator at Memorial High School (MHS) in Eau Claire, WI.  I took over the MHS GAPP exchange when I became the new German instructor at Memorial in 2010.  Over the past seven years coordinating the exchange with my German counterpart at the Gustav-Heinemann Schule (GHS) in Rüsselsheim, I’ve learned a lot about navigating the waters of international exchange, both domestically and abroad.

As a seasoned GAPP coordinator, I am known to provide: domestic and international travel planning services, GAPP program management, host family coordination, translation services, tour guide dexterity (artistry with bravado!), crisis negotiation, medical liaising, travel counseling, gummy bear advising, souvenir-shop speculating, and the list goes on. One never knows what might come up while hosting domestically or traveling abroad, but you can be guaranteed, I’ll do my best to figure out an answer!

I’ve created this page as a simple way for you to get the most updated information about the MHS-GHS GAPP exchange as well as access important forms, see what we’ve been up to all these years (check out the photo section!), and get your questions answered.

I hope you enjoy the website, and thank you for trusting me as your fearless GAPP exchange leader!

Kerri “Frau” Patton
MHS Deutsch / GAPP Coordinator

UnicornIndeed, that is me on a unicorn in Salzburg, Austria 😉