BIT 2016 – Day 1 – “Jump in the Pool”

Yesterday, my colleague and friend Bev Moss and I left London at about 6am, making it to Niagara Falls for our first session at the “Bring It Together” conference (aka BIT2016).

Our first session was “Tools to Develop Confidence in FSL” by Ashleigh McPhee and Philippe Croteau.  In the audience, there were Core French teachers, French Immersion teachers and teachers from the French First Language School Board.

I was interested because this is a subject closely tied to our current TLLP project on using technology to increase student interaction in French beyond the walls of the classroom.  We are hoping that these interactions will increase student confidence and are surveying students and teachers to determine this, amongst other things.

There was a lot of great conversation during this session about students in all French programs, not feeling confident to speak French in real life, beyond the classroom.  In grades 7/8 and beyond, it becomes a challenge because speaking French isn’t “cool”.

Some of the French First Language leaders were interested in connecting with our project.  What if we connected our kids.  Ours would feel good after speaking with real “French” kids and theirs would be in a less intimidating situation where they could feel like they are “helping” our kids learn French.  They also expressed how much all of our programs really have in common when it comes to the goals for our students and some of the challenges we are trying to overcome.  It was fantastic to connect.

In the session, we talked about the importance of updating the FSL learning environment.  I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that some of our Core FSL teachers no longer have access to a classroom, even in schools where there is space.  The classrooms are closed instead of using them to enhance French learning.  We learned and played with See Saw for student FSL documentation.  And I even learned that perhaps using Google Translate to improve oral communication may not be a bad thing… If done right!

One quote from this session that really stuck with me was by Ashleigh: “you can’t learn to swim without getting into the pool”.  This is true of learning French.  You have to use it in authentic spontaneous speaking situations in order to develop confidence and understand the value of learning a second language.

Learning French in a classroom with one teacher voice and only the voices of other French learners that are at about the same level as you is okay, especially if there is lots of social acting, interaction and authentic listening and speaking.  But in this day and age, we have the ability and tools to help us go beyond.  We can connect with other French speakers down the hall, at a school nearby, in another district, from another school board, in another province, in a French speaking province and in other French speaking countries.

My colleague Bev turned to me during the session and said:  “Our project is bang on.”.  It was a wonderful session that reaffirmed what we are doing.  She and I recently did a really non-threatening, familiar activity with her Grade 4 students via Google Hangouts.  Her class interviewed me, we played a numbers game and she and I modelled a little spontaneous conversation.  In that (day after Halloween) conversation she asked me what I was doing that afternoon and I showed her my kid’s Halloween candy, that I was eating while they were at school.  We had the kid’s attention!  She promises me that she will blog about it, so I won’t tell you too much except to say that her beginners to French had so much to say after the activity that she and I felt so inspired.  They were thrilled that they could understand me and got into a really specific conversation of the meta cognitive strategies they used to understand.

We will be presenting our project at BIT 2016 on Friday and hoping to recruit people that would like to join us on our learning journey.  Come and check us out at 2pm!

I explored a Media Centre, I met some of my “Tweeps” in real life.  It was a great day and I’m looking forward to Day 2 today.  Today, I’m going to delve into some robotics, PBL, coding and inquiry sessions.


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