This week our guest faculty blogger is Caroline Beeland from the French Department.

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I attended the College’s Faculty Training Institute in June 2012.  One of the most important lessons I took away from the training was that letting students, or rather encouraging students to use their personal technological devices in the classroom can be beneficial to the learning outcome.  It has always been our department’s policy not to allow students to use their cell phones or any other personal devices during class.

Over the last year since the workshop, there are at least a few occasions during each week when I ask the students to do some quick research on their cell phones or laptops.  I used to try to foresee every question that might come up during a culture lesson, for example, and do some research so that I could answer questions and add in various tidbits.  Now, I try to create at least one opportunity for students to do some research during culture lessons, and then share what they find with the rest of the class.  We have probably all seen the statistics indicating that what a student learns from a peer is much more likely to be remembered that what s/he learns from that “talking head” (the professor).  Professors talk so much; this is an ideal opportunity to give someone else the opportunity to teach.

In my classes in the fall, the students also created short films.  They were divided into groups of three or four students each with the goal of producing a film of a café scene in French.  One of the students acted as the server, and the others were customers.  The students were overall very excited about this assignment, and their videos were overall very good to excellent.  Moreover, I was able to show them how to incorporate some fun stuff like music and graphics, thanks to my FTI training.  To be able to help my students in this way was definitely something new for me.

The outcome for most students was that they did learn more thoroughly the lesson associated with being at a café in a Francophone country.  This includes important aspects of language acquisition such as how to use (and the importance of using) terms of politeness with strangers and with people in cafés, stores, ticket booths, etc.

There were some difficulties along the way.  A few students in some groups were not very good participants which created stress among the other members of the group.  I also had a few students who did not live on campus or even in the near vicinity.  This also was stressful as it made arranging times to get together with other members of the group challenging.

I would definitely classify these two additions to my methodology and syllabi as very positive.  I feel very pleased and fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the FTI