In a small, windowless room at Southview High School, Lisa Sobb’s Honors Spanish III students file into her classroom, grab Chromebooks and headphones, and sit at desks arranged in tables. They banter a bit as Lisa talks to a few, but each one seems to know exactly what to do. Many are logged in within minutes; a few lag behind. The bell rings, and Lisa begins calmly delivering instructions in Spanish. Her accent is true, but the unaccented phrases “Google Classroom” and “MoveNote” ring forth without it, cluing the language-challenged into the digital tools of the day.
Today’s lesson is the next step in a project that virtually transports students to the Spanish region of Castilla y León. Lisa has asked students to tour the region through the official tourist site, which not only features stunning 3D immersions in notable locations, but also reinforces the language and culture standards Lisa seeks to teach. Students explore the Spanish countryside, like the Sierra de Gredos, and classic sites, like the Basilica de San Isidoro in León. While exploring, Lisa asks students to imagine that they are actually traveling this countryside and producing a video blog. She does not give them a list of requirements for the blog. Instead, she provides loose guidelines designed to showcase the students’ mastery of last year’s and this year’s skills. As Lisa explains, “I want them to show me what they can do.” By today, the students have explored the site, taken notes, written a video blog script, and designed a Google Slides presentation. Now, they’re ready to record. It’s time for MoveNote.
Continuing to speak in Spanish, Lisa takes her students through the amazingly simple creation of a MoveNote account (It’s done with a Google login) and permissions for the camera and microphone. After seeing a model example MoveNote recording on the Smartboard, the students are ready to record. Lisa asks them to finish the recording by the end of the class period. This entire introduction has taken fewer than five minutes.
Once working, many students fine-tune presentation slides. Some review their scripts. Others continue to fiddle with MoveNote settings, becoming comfortable with the app. One student, Gracie, begins recording immediately. Despite the tight quarters, she notices nothing around her as she dives into her narration, smiling into the camera. She does so without a script. Once finished, she dons her headphones to review the finished product. Although she has plenty of time to re-record, she seems satisfied with the finished product, and she should be.
When asked about her work, Gracie admits that she practiced the presentation beforehand, as Lisa suggested. The resulting experience was easy for her. She likes that “You can see the slides at the same time as you see your face. It’s much easier than trying to create a video with words on it.” She also says that yes, she would probably use MoveNote to practice a presentation even if it were not an assignment requirement.
It’s twenty minutes into the class, and while Gracie may be finished, most are not. Regardless, they work happily. Some speak directly, albeit nervously, into their Chromebooks. Others talk together as they continue to complete presentations. Lisa floats around calmly, sometimes helping students, but most face no real challenges. More and more record, and it becomes obvious that Lisa’s requirement that they be finished before the end of class will be easily satisfied.
After finishing the recording, the students’ files do not become public (as Gracie anxiously asked at one point). Instead, students will share them directly with Lisa, as if they were Google Drive files. Lisa will then grade them, a process she admits will take some time, but she shrugs over that. “It takes less time than you think,” she notes. Rather than focusing on her grading time, Lisa notices her class time benefit. She will not lose days to live student presentations. The creation of a video blog may actually be a more authentic activity than presenting in front of a high school class, anyway.
The use of MoveNote today has never dominated the class, even though it was the centerpiece digital tool. Instead of agonizing over the use of an app, students worked individually and collaboratively on presentations, explored Spanish culture and language, and practiced speaking skills. Lisa has used the technology to support the learning of language standards in innovative ways not possible without the Chromebooks. MoveNote will most likely become a ready and available tool for these students, in this class and beyond. And Lisa’s mastery of the process and confidence in the students’ abilities has made that usefulness possible.