As the final assignment for EDTECH537, we were challenged to design an activity that uses blogs in our own classrooms. To that end, I designed a series of lessons for German 5 focused on immigration in Germany. I chose to employ a class blog as the medium by which to engage students in the topic. You can find the details of my classroom blogging activity by clicking HERE.
EDTECH 537 – Summer 2017
PURPOSE OF MY BLOG
The MHS-GHS GAPP blog I’ve begun in EDTECH537 is intended to serve as an informational repository and promotional resource for the GAPP exchange I run at Memorial High School. Informationally-speaking, it will house background information about the GAPP program including the government agencies sponsoring it, a program overview of the MHS GAPP exchange, official rules and regulations of the exchange, program schedules both in America and in Germany, and official GAPP forms needed to participate in the exchange. I will also post updates to the blog regarding important GAPP reminders, meetings, and due dates, and include a FAQ’s question-and-answer page, so my audience can access key information about the program more quickly. Promotionally-speaking, the blog will include guest posts from previous GAPP participants (“Testimonials”), photos chronicling our GAPP adventures, and featured articles on the specific German cities/regions/sites/customs that our group experiences whilst abroad (“Spotlight on …”). I am also planning to eventually include a student blogging section, where current GAPP students will post while in Germany about their adventures, so families back home can have an up-to-date journal of events. This, however, is a long-term goal, as I will not be taking students to Germany until the summer of 2018.
I plan to post a minimum of 2 times / week and use the blog as a way to share information with parents/guardians/students who are interested in and/or participating in the exchange. The site will be a one-stop shop for guests to discover more about MHS’ GAPP exchange and get the information they need online. This will spare me the redundancy of sending out innumerable emails to parents/guardians and their students reminding them about the exchange and about important program updates/requirements (such as meetings, payment due dates, etc.).
August 21 – 25 (Monday – Friday): Blog Reorg
- After returning from family vacation the week prior, I will take this last “free week” before the school year begins to reorganize my blog and edit its existing content to focus solely on the MHS GAPP-exchange. This will include tweaking applicable EDTECH537 blog entry content to be more MHS-GAPP focused, moving existing posts into their correct pages (and adding pages where necessary), and hiding non-applicable material. This process will occur in the first half of the week. Mid-week, I will be researching best practices on how to display series of pictures on blogs and then setting up the photo section of the blog (I have hundreds of pictures to sort through from each GAPP exchange, and want to feature them by year in the most opportune and aesthetically-pleasing way). At the end of the week, I plan to complete the “Forms” section by uploading the necessary GAPP forms I use for the program, and I intend to set up the format of the “Testimonials” page, though I won’t be entering content into it quite yet, as those entries will form their own blog series every Tuesday. I also plan to flesh out the FAQ’s page with the most prominent questions I receive about the program and their subsequent answers. The goal by Friday, August 25, is to have the “bones” of the blog set in place before I officially begin my school year.
Monday, August 28: New Blog Update
- On Monday, August 28, I will be heading to my first official staff work day of the year. We get two of them (followed by three days of district meetings), so I will take the opportunity to post a GAPP update to the blog pertaining to my current group of GAPP’ers and their families. This update will include a welcome to MHS’ new GAPP blog and an overview of the content it features. I will also include pertinent program updates and a reminder of payment dates for the students currently signed on. After posting, I will inform participating GAPP families of the new blog by sending an email to the listserve I created in 2016 after they signed up. This will inform them of the blog’s address and encourage them to refer to the blog for future updates. For advertising purposes, I will also send a Skyward blast (Skyward is our district’s student information management system) to the parents/guardians/students in all of my courses welcoming them to the new school year and informing them of the GAPP blog (can’t start advertising too early!)
Friday, September 1: “Spotlight on…” Series (Germany)
- On Friday, September 1, I will begin what I intend to be a weekly “Spotlight on …” series. This series will focus on the cities/regions/sites/customs our group experiences whilst abroad by highlighting them one at a time. Owing to EDTECH537, I already have information written about the village of Oberammergau as well as the Königssee in Bavaria (which spawned the idea for this series, actually, and which will eventually become posts in it), but I want to begin with a broader topic, namely Germany as a whole. To that end, I’ll be posting a bit about the history of the country, its current demographics, and how much German has influenced the U.S. and, more specifically, Wisconsin. I will also include a quick nod to Wisconsin’s partner state of Hessen and our partner school, the Gustav-Heinemann Schule, in Rüsselsheim (saving the specifics of each for additional “Spotlight on…” posts, of course). I will include personal pictures/videos as well as a map of Germany to enhance the entry.
Wednesday, September 6: Welcome to the New School Year
- Though Tuesday, September 5 is the first official day of school, only freshmen come to our high school for orientation that day, so I don’t have a normal class schedule to see all of my students until Wednesday, September 6. For that reason, I plan to post a quick, encouraging “Welcome the the New School Year” message on Wednesday, after I’ve seen all my students. To get my GAPP’ers re-invigorated for the exchange, I plan to include a “Countdown to Germany” segment in this post to get them excited about the adventure to come (and thinking about next summer already!).
Friday, September 8: “Spotlight on…” Series (Hessen)
- On Friday, September 8, I will post a second entry in the “Spotlight on…” series. Since I briefly introduced the state of Hessen in last week’s “Spotlight on…” post, it will be the featured region in the series this week. Readers will learn more about the state including its geography, main cities, industries, cultural highlights (dialects, dishes, customs), and ties to Wisconsin (it is our partner state). I will include personal pictures/videos as well as a map of Hessen to enhance the entry.
Tuesday, September 12: “Testimonials” Guest Blogging Series (Kate L.)
- By the end of Tuesday, September 12, I plan to post the first of my GAPP testimonial guest blogs in the “Testimonials” section of the blog. Since I have the post already prepared from the EDTECH537 guest blogging assignment, I will only need to rename it, move it to the correct page, and include a photo of the guest blogger, Kate Lauer.
Friday, September 15: “Spotlight on…” Series (Rüsselsheim)
- Friday, September 15’s “Spotlight on…” post (the third in the series) will focus on Rüsselsheim, the city in which our partner school resides. The information I will include will pertain to how long Memorial has had a relationship with the city of Rüsselsheim as well as pertinent information regarding the city (its history, where it lies geographically, the most important industries in/near the city, how many people live there, what the city looks like, and what one can do there). I will include personal pictures/videos, a link to the city’s website (linked above), and a map of Rüsselsheim to enhance the entry.
Tuesday, September 19: “Testimonials” Guest Blogging Series (Matt D.)
- On Tuesday, September 19, I will add my second guest blogger post to the “Testimonials” page. Matt Delmastro will be my featured guest. I already have the content he wrote, but will need to copy it into a WordPress post, edit it, and include background about Matt as well as his picture.
Friday, September 22: “Spotlight on…” Series (GHS)
- On Friday, September 22, I will post my fourth feature article to the “Spotlight on…” series. The topic will be MHS’ partner school, the Gustav-Heinemann Schule. I will include information about the school’s location, size, class offerings, and student body and staff in this post. Additionally, I will link in GHS’ official website as well as its USA exchange page. Moreover, I will discuss the school’s complete renovation, which is on target to be finished by our visit in the summer of 2018. I will include personal pictures/videos of the school to enhance the entry.
Tuesday, September 26: “Testimonials” Guest Blogging Series (Kelsey B.)
- The third guest blog post featured in the “Testimonials” section will be written by Kelsey Beuning. I will post her guest entry to the blog on Tuesday, September 26. I already have the content from her, but will need to copy it into a WordPress post, edit it, and include background about and a picture of Kelsey.
Friday, September 29: “Spotlight on…” Series (Rhein-Main Gebiet)
- The fifth feature article in the “Spotlight on…” series will be posted on Friday, September 29, and highlight the Rhein-Main Gebiet (the Rhine-Main river area). This is the region our exchange takes place, so I will highlight it in all its glory. Key facts will include geographical features of the area, its main cities, the importance of the rivers, industry that survives off the area, and cultural tidbits such as dialects, important historical figures, buildings, and customs/foods. I will include personal pictures/videos of the region as well as a link to a prominent Rhein-Main Gebiet site (linked above) to enhance the entry.
AFTER TWO MONTHS
To continue my blogging process and further develop the MHS GAPP exchange blog, I plan to keep a regular cycle of the Tuesday/Friday series’ posts going throughout the year (Tuesday’s = “Testimonials” Guest Blogging; Friday’s = “Spotlight on…”). I have enough testimonial content to fill almost every Tuesday of the year. Once I run out, that series will be finished until I hear back from additional prior GAPP’ers (I have an active inquiry out, so testimonials keep filtering in from time-to-time). The “Spotlight on…” series will continue highlighting the cities/regions/sites/customs Memorial students experience during our trip to Germany. There are so many topics to fill that category that it won’t run out of content. I will also be updating the blog with pertinent GAPP-trip updates as our departure nears (final payments, meetings, trip regulations, flight details, travel insurance policies, etc.). Most of these updates will be in the spring of 2018. Also in spring 2018, I will include helpful posts in a weekly “Tips” series (slated for Monday’s, at present). These posts will include topics of the following nature:
- Tips for getting the most out of your GAPP experience
- Tips for packing smartly
- Tips for buying your host family meaningful gifts
- Tips for banking abroad
- Tips for cell phones abroad
- Tips for settling into a life abroad
- Tips for overcoming homesickness
- Tips for traveling wisely and respectfully
- Tips for handling re-entry shock
- Tips for using GAPP as a springboard into a life of increased global awareness
Moreover, I hope to involve the GAPP students in this blog when they are abroad next June (and every other June thereafter). I will assign each student a specific date, and by that date, they will have had to write a short guest post highlighting a snapshot of their time abroad and include applicable pictures/video. To keep students accountable, I will have pre-made a page on the blog for this series and included all the posting due dates along with the name of the student responsible for each post. I’ve seen this process unfold “live” this summer when a German-teaching friend of mine from the Pacific Northwest was abroad with her GAPP’ers, and it worked like a charm, so I’m looking forward to it for my students as well.
So, you’ve heard all about the GAPP exchange, read a testimonial from a former GAPPer, you’ve seen some pictures and videos of Germany, heard an audio file of the German language, and maybe you even took the poll of which German city to visit. What’s next??
Well….how about learning a bit of the language yourself?
It’s really not that difficult, I swear! As more and more user-friendly tutorials become available for free online, learning languages is ever-more accessible. In fact, one of my favorite places for absolute beginners of German to start is “Learn German with Ania” on YouTube. Ania is a native German who gives lively German lessons using English as the basis for explanation. She offers 50 free lessons that progress in novice-level difficulty, so nothing will ever become too complex. The beauty of Ania’s videos is that you have personalized lessons delivered whenever you want them, and you can go at your own pace! Before you know it, you’ll be able to have your own Konversation auf Deutsch!
So sit back, relax, and get ready for Lesson 1: Basic Greetings in German
I’ve lately been mulling over the benefits of audio-visual additions to blogs, and concluded that it’d be a wise choice for me to add a “Nice to Meet You” video to this blog. I am aware that I already have an “About Me” page, but desire the personalized touch of a video, seeing as I can’t always shake my viewers’ hands and introduce myself – or discuss the GAPP trip – in person. I want to show my viewers what GAPP “looks like”, as well as help them get a good feel for the person in charge of teaching their children and leading them abroad. Seeing is believing, right?
So with no further ado, consider this my digital handshake:
Germany: one of the most culturally influential centers in all of Europe. Also an economic powerhouse in the world. It wasn’t always that way, however, as this land-locked nation fought for centuries to find its sense of self and took on various reputations throughout the times. With a diverse population boasting hundreds of dialects, dishes, customs, and celebrations, Germany is a bountiful country of beauty, history, and lore; one that every traveler needs to explore.
If you’ve never been to Germany, you should go. If you’ve never been to Bavaria, you should go. If you’ve never been to a town with a tongue-twister for a name –
like Oberammergau, you should go (Bonus: Unterammergau is not far away!). If you’ve never experienced “Wandmalerei” (mural paintings) on buildings, Fachwerkhäuser (half-timbered houses), Alpenlandschaft (alpine landscape), or Holzschnitzerei (wood carving), you absolutely need to go!!
Oberammergau is a lovely, quaint wood-carving village on the Ammer river in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district of Bavaria. It’s most famous for the Passion play it has put on every 10 years since the year 1634 (as a result of a vow that the villagers pledged God when he spared them from the Bubonic plague). It’s also very well known for its wood-carving (watch out, though, many shops now sell cheap, Chinese knock offs. Thus, I highly recommend doing some “Holzschnitzer” research first and saving for works crafted by master carvers!)
Our GAPP group stays at the Hotel Wittelsbach in central Oberammergau every two years, using this town as a base from which we travel to local sites. Though the village is small in size, it lacks nothing in character, and the students ALWAYS find an adventure to be had. Whether it’s wending through the winding streets to locate a Döner kebab, savoring Italian-made gelato in a local shop, buying wood carving souvenirs for loved ones back home, hiking nearby “hills” (i.e. alpine foothills), braving the nearby gondola to enjoy new heights and stunning views, or playing at the local pool with native Oberammergau-ians, there’s something for everyone, and no one leaves disappointed.
Take a peek at this enchanting village from a “downtown angle” (i.e. the window of my hotel room in 2016). You’ll definitely agree that Oberammergau ist einfach traumhaft (simply gorgeous)!
Hankering to hear some German? How about in relation to vacation in Bavaria – one of my favorite German states? Well, you’re in luck. Here’s an audio clip of Christian from the Rheingau region discussing his favorite area in Bavaria (Bayern) in which to take vacation: the Allgäu. Even if you can’t understand the language, you have to admit, once you actually listen to it being spoken, it’s beautiful!
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).
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.