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Keywords: Flip Video, German, German grammar, Adjectival Endings for German, German Pronunciation
Subject(s): Video, Grammar, Foreign Language
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Clyde A Erwin High School, Asheville, NC
Planned By: Gordon Brown
Original Author: Gordon Brown, Asheville
Tech-tonic Shift

Let’s face it, most teenagers know far more about new technology than their respective teachers. Whether it’s Facebook, picture/photo technology, cell phone capabilities, I-Pad, Internet, gaming devices & skills, etc… in short, technology is their life. Therefore, if we as teachers expect to connect with them, to speak a language that they both understand and are defined by, then why not embrace these tools to teach? The key to new age learning is using new age tools, or at the very least, recognize that there is indeed a new age. As Marshall McCluhan famously put it: “The_medium_is_the_message.htm.

Is it really a mystery as to why our population is still dropping out at an alarming rate, and that most of these kids are really quite familiar w/any number of technological tools that are integral to our current system? Two years ago we at Erwin High School were dubbed “a dropout factory”. Many say it is due 100% to the low socio-economic status of our community. Of that plays a significant role, however, I daresay were we to infiltrate their world with the proper tools, our numbers would dramatically change.

My name is Gordon Brown and I have been teaching German, Latin and English for 11 years to the single most diverse population of high school teenagers in North Carolina. Moreover, we are the have the lowest socio-economic status in all of Buncombe County. Foreign languages lend themselves wonderfully to differentiated instruction, specifically, using varied types of techno tools. If there ever was a common denominator for a diverse classroom, it’s technology.

Last semester, Fall 2010, I purchased a simple flip camera, and with the help of a crash course in other tech tools, was able to single-handedly turn my German class around. Second level German deals HEAVILY with grammar. In one fell swoop I went from a drill and kill teacher to a facilitator. Allowing the students an opportunity to use the tools of their choice made learning exciting, and perhaps most importantly, meaningful. Teaching grammar is a tough nut to crack, but with the right tools, it is a veritable pleasure. I had one group become so enthralled with this new yet familiar avenue to learn, that after only a couple of trials w/the camera and proper instruction named themselves “the A-Team”---and for the rest of the semester churned out fabulous work, usually silly skits, on how to make videos that teach grammar. Unbelievable!!!!

I promise you, there is 21st technology in 99% of our student body. Let them learn through teaching. We facilitate. It’s the process, or, as Sylvia Plath would say, “The path is all, the target is nothing.” Offering rich or poor an opportunity to learn/teach in their world is, frankly, the only way to go.

The following is a lesson plan that is a gift that keeps on giving. Of course, the flip camera is the main tool:

OBJECTIVES: Students will recognize and learn adjectival endings for words following “the” and adjectival endings for words following “a”.
STANDARDS FOR Foreign Language Learning are: 1.1; 1.2; 1.3; 2.2; 3.1; 4.4; 5.2.

TEACH: The plan itself is rather loose, in that there is a good amount of “wiggle-room” for the students. The assignment is to form a team of not less than 5 members. Each member is responsible for contributing a teaching aspect in one of three levels to that particular unit.

A skit will be written by the students w/ help from the teacher when needed. Upon completion the students will act it out and film it. An interesting and unintended aspect of this assignment is that through the process of filming, the group will invariably make mistakes, therefore causing remakes. If the teacher understands the art of art of grouping, he/she will always put some of the slower students in with the faster pace, possible more creative types. Thus, you will find that through bloopers the ‘slower’ kids will learn!!! Through repetition, as B.F. Skinner maintains, students learn. (That is not to say there are no other strategies for those kids, however this particular strategy really works.) I was honestly amazed.

Upon completion of the video the group will present it to the class, explaining both the point(s) of the video and any/all vocabulary necessary for understanding the video. Oftentimes various and sundry charts are needed for proper explanation of teaching points for video. Many situations have required another ‘adjunct’ group for the sole purpose of creating the necessary charts relating to the teaching points of the video. The charts will either be in the video itself, before the video, after the video or all of the above. In the following video, a team of 6 has taken on the usually boring and quite difficult task of recognizing and learning adjectival endings for words following “the” and adjectival endings for words following “a”.

Assess: Prepare a quiz with various sentences employing both “a” and “the” followed by adjectives.
I am very hopeful that we can win funding for these materials as our school, Clyde A. Erwin High, is the lowest socio-economic status of all six (6) Buncombe County High Schools.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
We will often include historical facts and/or episodes from novels currently used in various English classes for the material in our videos. e.g., We had two groups who chose sentences from Franz Kafka's "Metamorphasis" as examples for adjectival endings. ---it was really fun to act out a student playing a bug!!
With practice we were able to work out the logistics of just 'how' the flip can teach, as opposed to simply create a video. The students learned how to use it to teach, rather than to simply entertain. Iniitally, the students wanted only to show off their creative impulses, often ignoring the element of becoming teacheres. With time, however, the majority of students actually loved the notion of becoming the best teacher possible using the flip cam.
Materials: Flip Video
Other Items: 5 Flip Cams, $150 each, total of $750.00
5 Poster Board, $5 each, total of $25.00
5 Colored Sharpies, $5 each, total of $25.00