Virginia High School Teacher Utilizes CN for Spanish Courses

Neil Fencer (https://www.thecn.com/NF45), an instructor at Douglas S. Freeman High School, in Henrico, Virginia, shares his personal experiences, both as an instructor and as a student, and those of his students (grades 9-12), as he uses CourseNetworking for his Spanish courses.

Neil Fencer, Spanish instructor
at Douglas S. Freeman High School
Neil Fencer is one of few who has had the opportunity to be both a student and an instructor on the CN. He took two of Dan Kulmala (https://www.thecn.com/DK94)’s courses taught on CN while earning his Master in Liberal Arts and he enjoyed the site as it was used for distance learning. He then decided he would be a good fit for his students to have the distance learning, online aspect to complement their traditional class time.

Fencer uses a number of tools on CN but the task tool, like most, is the backbone of his courses. He uses the task tool to outline the week’s work and content for students and uses subtasks to outline specific assignments, readings and more. Neil likes the idea of using CN as a repository for assignments and files and referred to CourseNetworking as the “foundation of his courses”.

As a high school teacher, Fencer teaches Spanish 3 and Spanish 5 Advanced Placement (AP) on CN and utilizes a number of the features on CN while tailoring them specifically to his foreign language courses. “Students want to be social”, Fencer stated, he then elaborated by describing the atmosphere on CN as a very social process. He has his students create posts in Spanish and reflect on their peers’ posts as well, he referred to this process as “semi-organic” because the students are able to learn through social conversations in an atmosphere they’re comfortable with, social media. In Neil’s Spanish 3 course, his students have created over 3,000 posts and polls since February of 2016.


The Anar Seed requirement in Fencer’s course has also shown to be a good motivator by creating a competition among the students, while at the same time providing him with a concrete participation grade measurement for his courses. They are required to earn 100 Anar Seeds per week within their course, however, Fencer observed students going above and beyond the requirement and earning more seeds by branching out and posting interesting or fun content in the courses. Neil even tailored assignments using CN for his foreign language courses by having them record themselves speaking Spanish on their laptops and then create a post with the attached recording file. This allowed students to practice listening, speaking and critiquing each other all while using the CN platform. When asked about his feature use as a whole, Fencer specified his use and listed: Post/Poll tool, Task tool, Anar Seeds, Quizzes, Events and Dropbox as his most used CN features.

Most of the faculty at Douglas S. Freeman High School use Google Classroom for their classes and many of Neil’s students have courses where they use Google Classroom as well. Yet, in Fencer’s experience, his students have favored CourseNetworking over Google Classroom and other applications because of its interactive social networking aspects.

Neil Fencer’s active use of CourseNetworking in his courses at the high school level enabled him to relay feedback from his students. Starting with “the students are very receptive,” he then elaborated by detailing their involvement and went on to say,

 “Using CN increased interest and interaction in my courses and some students even developed certain abilities in Spanish more quickly.”

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