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This article is a translation of a text first published in Eductive’s French edition.

Acknowledgements

This article would not have been possible without the precious collaboration of 2 interns from the University of Montreal (UdeM): Rubén Pérez, now a Spanish teacher at Ahuntsic College, and Marie-Noëlle Bourque, a master’s student in Hispanic Studies and future Spanish teacher.

In 2019, I co-taught with Rubén at Collège Montmorency as part of his Spanish teaching practicum. It was during this time that many of the project ideas I’m sharing with you in this article came to fruition.

For her part, Marie-Noëlle guided me on new avenues to explore during the courses she took as part of her master’s degree at UdeM in 2021 and her observation practicum at Collège Montmorency in the winter of 2022.

I would like to thank them very sincerely for all the inspiration they provided me and for all the great ideas shared.

Whether in face-to-face or online teaching contexts, Rubén, Marie-Noëlle and I are constantly looking for new strategies to engage our students in their learning. One approach that we have been using for several years now is to propose motivating projects that will highlight their progress throughout the courses we offer.

In this article, discover some of our favorite projects. You can use them as inspiration and adapt them to your own educational context.

Digital technology and project-based pedagogy

Project-based learning is the process of inviting students to carry out tasks that lead them to transfer their learning. It is one of the types of learning activities that guarantees a high level of motivation in the classroom (Howe, 2017, p. 7 [in French]; Viau & Joly, 2001, p.4 [in French]).

In this context, digital technology not only facilitates the realization of these projects, but also the dissemination of the results obtained. Thanks to digital technology, all of our groups, our teaching colleagues, parents and friends of our students can see the creations produced during our courses. This is another important motivational factor.

Our projects

Digital magazines

As a portfolio to illustrate the skills developed at the end of the course, students produced various digital magazines. We then posted them on the Department of Modern Languages’ social networks so that new students could see the accomplishments of our graduates. To produce the digital magazines, we suggested that students use Genially or Flipsnack.

Screenshot of the Revista cultural magazine made using Flipsnack by Spanish 4 students at Collège Montmorency in Winter 2019.

Whether produced by beginner or advanced students, the content is very varied:

  • recipes (the best, but also the most disgusting!)
  • descriptions of monsters and mutant pets
  • childhood memories
  • biographies
  • advice
  • greeting cards
  • legends
  • podcasts (created with Spreaker)
  • memes (created with imgflip)

Digital magazine created for the Spanish 2 course at Collège Ahuntsic using Genially. See also an example of a magazine created by students in the Spanish 4 course!

All of these creations are engaging tasks that have been proposed to our students to help them integrate the different notions and themes studied during the course. Vocabulary, grammar, communication and culture, everything is there!

Humour is also omnipresent in order to create an even more motivating learning climate. A winning strategy when it comes to involving students in demonstrating, among other things, their use of the subjunctive in Spanish, one of the many grammatical challenges that await them in languages.

Editor’s Note

Is integrating humour into your teaching something you would like to try? Eductive suggests the webinar hosted by Saul Bogatti [in French], an Italian teacher at Cégep Garneau, and organized by the Association québécoise de pédagogie collégiale (AQPC) in November 2021. You will find some good tips to make your students laugh and smile.

Virtual walls

Given the inability to travel due to the pandemic during the Fall 2020 online session, we wanted to bridge the distance by creating a blog in a collaborative Padlet so that our beginner students could interact with Spanish students learning French in Alicante, Spain. This project allowed them to introduce themselves and interact with real people, as well as make connections with people abroad.

Made with Padlet

The Spain-Quebec blog created in collaboration with students from Alicante, Spain, as part of the Spanish 2 course at Collège Montmorency.

Back in the classroom in the fall of 2021, we adapted the project so that our students would get to know their peers by exchanging information on the Padlet that we made available to them. To do this, they created a class scrapbook in which we asked them to, among other things:

  • introduce a student from the course
  • describe the city they recommend us to discover
  • create a dictionary of their favorite Spanish expressions

There were also preparatory steps, including conversation workshops in which they recorded themselves using a cell phone application (e.g., Easy Voice Recorder or Voice Record Pro). They then sent the recording to us via Teams so that we could provide feedback as part of a formative evaluation.

Students also listed museums, parks, markets, and subway stations that they recommend visiting after browsing the Zambombazo website. This site makes it possible to take immersive tours of different cities in several Spanish-speaking countries. In addition to making it easier to describe their favourite city that would become part of the class scrapbook, describing these places allowed them to break down the walls of the classroom and travel a bit.

Made with Padlet

The Collège Montmorency students’ class scrapbook made with Padlet.

At the end of the course, as a final project, the students created a directory of Spanish and Latin American restaurants near their college to continue their learning outside of class and thus learn by doing. In fact, several of them visited the locations to confirm their research data before presenting their findings to the rest of the class. The pictures they took could not be more authentic!

The directory, which is posted on the college’s social networks, is not only available to all students in the department, but will also be offered to Martha, the Mexican tutor that Collège Montmorency will welcome in the fall of 2022.

Made with Padlet

The directory of Spanish and Latin American restaurants created by Collège Montmorency Spanish 1 students.

Events

At Collège Montmorency, we have been using Facebook since 2015 to better connect students and teachers in the Modern Languages Department, such as during language immersion trips in Spain and Germany. It is also a space used to share photos taken during events that are important for the students:

  • open house
  • back to school festivities
  • scholarship ceremony
  • graduation ceremony
  • etc.

Using a Google questionnaire, we surveyed Spanish students to ask them what platforms we should be putting this kind of information on. In addition to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube were the most often repeated responses. So, in the winter of 2022, we decided to improve our visibility on social networks by creating our space on Instagram and TikTok. Our Youtube channel will be available in the fall of 2022.

In preparation for working with Martha, we asked the intermediate students to design a list of recommendations with Canva, which we put on the TikTok page of Collège Montmorency’s Department of Modern Languages so that she could discover our beautiful province upon her arrival in August. This project was designed to involve the students in order to facilitate her integration, her sense of belonging to the college and to help her build close ties even before her arrival.

This Mexico-Quebec collaboration favours project-based pedagogy, because the presence of a guest in our courses makes it possible to create cultural activities, such as

  • conferences
  • exhibitions
  • more authentic written productions

An example of this is the workshop on dance in Mexico that we held in March 2022 as part of Arts Week.

Video Danza en México presenting the workshop on dance in Mexico organized at Collège Montmorency in March 2022.

Each year, we strive to ensure that projects can engage students in experiential learning and we try to provide tasks that are both engaging and immersive.

Such is the case with the QR code-based rally we offered them in 2018, one of our signature fall activities related to the Day of the Dead. The project aimed to better introduce them to the objects surrounding the Día de muertos altar, a colourful tradition that is very present in Mexico.

To do this, we took them on a tour of the altar that we displayed in our department’s English and Modern Languages Help Center and to make the observation more active and authentic, we used QR codes to immerse them in the symbolism surrounding 10 objects that are very often found on the altar. To complete the experience, students were asked to use the other QR codes to experience the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico and discover a legend related to this tradition.

For the more advanced students, we asked them to post their “literary skulls” (calaveritas literarias) on our social networks—satirical poems they wrote and illustrated as part of the Mexican culture week. Their posters were even used to decorate the walls of the Modern Languages Department during the event.

“Literary skull” written by 2 students of the Spanish 4 course at Collège Montmorency.

Comments from our students

Did our students appreciate the project-based approach we offered them?

Although the number of respondents was limited, all of the students who completed the Google Forms questionnaire responded in the affirmative, which allows us to believe that the content of the questionnaire aligns with the positive feedback we received in class throughout the course.

91.7% of our survey respondents strongly agreed with the statement “I find it important to complete projects to learn.”

It is also interesting to note that they appreciated being able to share their results with other students.

91.7% of students agree or strongly agree with the statement “I find it important that other students can see the activities we do throughout the course.”

 

In addition, we received a lot of positive feedback from the anonymous questionnaire we sent them after the course.

I had a lot of fun doing the Spanish projects since they were entertaining and interesting, like creating a monster or making a Tiktok video about a conversation in a restaurant. Doing projects that I wanted to do and that I was interested in helped me learn a lot.

[our translation]

I loved being able to develop my creativity during the session. The activities we did taught me a lot, and allowed me to have fun at the same time ^-^

[our translation]

I thought it was really fun to be able to see what the other students did and to be able to put everything together in a magazine so that you could really remember everything you did during the session.

[our translation]

I really enjoyed the course.

[our translation]

Our teaching strategies

Digital technology allows for a variety of teaching strategies and the large number of free tools available means that students can be given different options to be creative. This allows us to better take into account their needs, goals and learning styles, and therefore, to better engage them in class.

In this sense, the projects we are presenting here are flexible and can be adapted to any pedagogical context. They allow for the involvement of students in an introductory course as well as last-year students of a given program. The tasks are modular and can be:

  • collaborative or individual
  • in-person or online
  • presented at a specific point in the session or at the end of the course or program

The topics that are covered and the concepts that we have integrated can also be adjusted according to the objectives of the course.

Another benefit to consider is that these projects promote

  • the creation of links between the different cohorts
  • communication and collaboration within the department
  • learning that goes beyond the classroom

These projects also give greater visibility to the students’ creativity, highlighting their progress and underlining their accomplishments.

Under these conditions, these digital projects motivate students to engage in their own learning, while confirming the development of the targeted skills as well as the process they took to get there.

Do you have any projects that incorporate digital technology into your courses? We look forward to reading your ideas in the comments section!

Editor’s Note

Are you curious to discover the digital tools used by Karine Jetté and her colleagues? Karine Jetté has listed a host of easy-to-use and free tools and applications in a directory that she has shared on the Eductive site.

References 

Howe, R. (2017). De l’approche par compétences au projet par compétences. Pédagogie collégiale, 30(3), 5-8.

Viau, R. & Joly, J. (2001). Comprendre la motivation à réussir des étudiants universitaires pour mieux agir. ACFAS conference talk.

About the author

Karine Jetté

She has been teaching Spanish at Collège Montmorency since 2007 and is also a lecturer at the Université de Montréal where she trains future teachers of Spanish and French as a second language. By integrating digital technology into her courses, she seeks to engage her students and offer them a contemporary vision of teaching.

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