Last November, while the streets of Des Moines were icing over, I was enjoying ACTFL’s annual convention in sunny Orlando. The weather was just one of the many highlights of this year’s convention. The four days that I spent at ACTFL included a productive Assembly of Delegates, an inspiring keynote address, and sessions full of great ideas.
On Thursday, I attended the Assembly of Delegates where we spent most of the day discussing advocacy. As IWLA’s new advocacy chair, I was especially interested to see what is going on in other states, and what we might be able to do in Iowa. The delegates went through a list of action items, and I’m proud to say that IWLA is already doing so many of the things that were on the list. For example, we have a teacher of the year award and we’ve established relationships with many of our representatives. Another item on the list was to create PK-16 standards for world language education, which some of our members are currently working on. Many of the action items concerned meeting with administrators and legislators, which we will continue to do.
I’d also like to share with you a few documents that we went through at the Assembly. ACTFL has revised their standards to make them easier to understand and implement. The PDF can be found here:
I know that many of us are interested in using ACTFL’s “Can-Do” statements, especially after attending sessions with Paul Sandrock a few years ago. A booklet of these statements can be downloaded here:
ACTFL Executive Director Marty Abbott recently interviewed Rosetta Stone CEO Steve Swad. They had a very interesting conversation that you can read here:
On Friday morning, the ACTFL convention officially kicked off with a keynote address from Tony Wagner. I was excited to hear him speak, as my coworkers and I had read one of his books as part of our professional development a few years ago. Much of his address focused on the seven survival skills that he discusses in detail in the book The Global Achievement Gap. If you haven’t read it yet, I would highly recommend it. Wagner’s thesis is that the culture of schooling is radically at odds with the culture of creativity. One of his questions for us was this: what must we do to develop creative problem solvers? One idea that I found very interesting comes, not surprisingly, from the offices of Google. Google employees spend part of their work week on what they call “20% time.” This means that 20% of their time is spent pursuing their own individual ideas and passions. In this model, their work does not necessarily have to fit their job description, and there is no penalty for failure. This idea might be one part (albeit a fraction) of the answer to Wagner’s overarching challenge to teachers, which is to inspire play, passion, and purpose in our students.
The sessions this year covered many languages. The Asian languages were well-represented, as they have been for the past few years. However, there seemed to be more Spanish and French sessions or sessions that were intended for all languages than at last year’s convention. This may be because the focus was on technology, as the theme was New Spaces New Realities: Learning Any Time, Any Place. Going into the conference, I hoped to find new ways to use my SMARTboard and my iPad in class. Last year, ACTFL board members promised that the technology sessions would really focus on technology as a means and not an end, and that really was the case. . I was not disappointed by any of the sessions that I attended, but my favorite session was one that focused on how to implement Google’s 20% time in a world language classroom. Everything I attended left me feeling very motivated to find new ways to allow my students to be creative and pursue their interests while using all of the amazing technology they have at their fingertips.
If you are interested in attending ACTFL in the fall, the convention will take place from November 21-23. It’s another chance to escape the cold of Iowa for warmth, as it will be in San Antonio Texas.
Finally, I would like to thank IWLA for giving me the opportunity to be your representative for the past two years. I have learned many things that I hope will make me a better teacher, and I’ve been lucky to meet some inspiring colleagues along the way. In two years, IWLA will be looking for a representative again, and I would truly encourage anyone who’s interested to run for this position. I can’t even begin to express how wonderful it has been and how grateful I am.