Over the last few months, I’ve jumped feet first into using Google Classroom with my students.
It’s something that I haven’t done much of before only because I work in a pretty tech limited environment. Handing materials out and organizing my course in a digital space when my students rarely have widespread access to technology just felt pointless.
But over the last twelve months, I’ve bought, begged, borrowed and stolen a bunch of devices that I let my students use — and combined with the devices that they bring through our school’s BYOD program, I ALMOST have one device for every student. At the very least, I have enough devices for every student who WANTS to work digitally.
One of the things that I did first was show the kids on my team how to use the Translate feature in Google Docs to convert all of my digital handouts into the language that they are most comfortable with.
The process is pretty darn close to seamless. As soon as a user chooses a language to translate the document into, Google creates a copy of the document in that language. The only thing that I have to do as a teacher is remember to post every handout in my Google Classroom and remind students that they can translate anything as needed. When they turn in an assignment written in a different language, all I need to do is follow the same process to translate the document back into English.
While the translations aren’t always perfect — I’ve had several Spanish speakers review the translations made by Google and they’ve told me that about 90-95% of the content has translated correctly and the rest is close enough to understand — they are WAY better than the English only handouts that I’ve been offering for my entire 20 year teaching career.
That’s been a HUGE relief for me this year: I’ve got lots of students who aren’t comfortable working in English yet — and who have a wide range of language needs that I’ve never been all that good at meeting. Given the fact that the content is most important to me, I don’t mind if they work in their primary languages. What matters most to me is that they learn the concepts in my curriculum.
Another interesting side benefit of Google’s translation tool has been the impact that it has had on the parents of my bilingual students.
Often, the KIDS in our community are pretty fluent in English — so they didn’t really need a translated version of every document. Their PARENTS, however, are often not fluent in English at all — which made it impossible to participate in conversations with their children about class assignments or stay current with the content that we were teaching in class. One of the most heartfelt reactions I received after showing students how to translate documents was from a girl who said, “I can finally show my parents my schoolwork!” It was really beautiful — and something I hadn’t ever considered before.
Long story short: If you are working in a GAFE district and your bilingual students can access devices, providing translated resources has just gotten REALLY easy.
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