I am a huge advocate of using technology in any classroom but in particular in the foreign language classroom. I frequently blog about my blended class, and I have presented twice about technology tools that facilitate my foreign language class. However, using technology can be daunting, and I keep seeing a lot of questions pop up in various teaching groups about how to teach with technology! I wanted to offer some tips that I have learned in the past few years.
First, don’t be afraid to tell students to put away their technology! (I know, I just told you how great technology is- and I am telling you to put it away!) Just because your school is 1:1 or your students have iPads does NOT mean that they have to always use their computer. I believe that teachers think that once their students get a computer or iPad that everything MUST be done with technology. That is not true. There have been many studies done saying that if a student is just using a computer throughout class to take notes, he or she will likely get distracted easily. I struggle like many teachers to encourage students to use an online dictionary and not to rely on Google Translate. Typically, my students blog and do a lot of writing on Seesaw, but many times, I would have them write on paper. I gave my students a topic, we brainstormed important words as a group on the whiteboard, then I let them look up 5-6 words that they personally wanted to use. Then, the students put their computers away and wrote. Also, I make sure that all students put away their technology in the beginning and end of class when I am introducing/reviewing topics. You are the teacher, and you know when they are using their technology effectively by using the programs below or if they are watching YouTube videos.
In addition, think about the value of working on an assignment individually versus full class. Will technology ALWAYS make things better or is it nice to just interact with one another in the class? For example, I am a huge EdPuzzle fan. It is great for listening to videos, and it allows students to replay sections as many times as they need to really differentiate for each learner. However, I rarely have students listen to music or watch music videos on EdPuzzle- even though they easily could. I like this to be a whole class activity- especially watching the music videos. I enjoy seeing the reactions by students for videos such as Soy Yo or my C Block’s personal favorite Tú. Same thing goes for Flipgrid. I am excited to continue to use Flipgrid next year to have students record themselves speaking in Spanish, but many times, my students need to talk to each other face to face. Just because it can be done with technology doesn’t mean that it always should.
Be choosy about what you use with technology as many pre made materials for teachers are not necessarily made by teachers with the most recent pedagogy in mind. I have been playing around with Duolingo to learn some Greek. I have completed the first lesson, and I don’t think that I have learned much. Luckily, I was in a sorority in college which helped me eke through the alphabet unit (barely)! In the program, you can hover over each of the words that you have to translate, and it displays the English translation for you! Then you just type that into the box. Also, I HAD to do that when as I have been learning Greek because I barely remember any words from the previous units. Is this really the most effective way to learn a language?
With that being said- let’s get into the great aspects of using technology! If you are going to use pre-made materials via technology (and I totally suggest it and use it myself!), use pre-made materials from other teachers. You can typically find these in many programs that I have included below. To use teacher made materials, do a search on EdPuzzle for MANY teacher edited videos. You can find videos on any topic that you want to teach! And you can still edit their questions- so save the ones that you want and change the others. It is easy and quick! Or, use Quizizz to search for pre-made questions on a variety of topics or novels in Spanish. I was able to create Quizizz practices for homework in about 5 minutes max.
Additionally, make sure that you try the program before you assign it to your students. Although your students may be digital natives and can figure out how to add filters to their snaps that does not mean that they know how to edit a video in EdPuzzle that you assign them as a project. (I particularly like this article on EdSurge that debunks some of the myths that we have about our students and technology.) I practiced on Flipgrid before I assigned it to students. That does not mean that I can troubleshoot everything that happens to them, but I have SOME idea of how it works. Once you can give students the basics, they can normally trouble shoot on their own. If not, I like tweeting to ask for help because so many tech companies respond quickly on Twitter.
Finally, find some basic programs that you like to reuse and can be used in multiple ways, so students are used to them. While I will throw a wild card at them from time to time (like Triventy when we have played too much Kahoot or a fun Goosechase scavenger hunt!), stick with similar programs, so students do not have to worry about the technology side of things too much. Also, I like these programs because they enhance my lessons. Technology should make your life easier- don’t use it because it is fancy or flashy. Below is a brief overview of my go to resources and why they enhance my classroom:
- Seesaw is an online learning journal for writing/some speaking: students can upload their writing, and then others in the class can leave comments for some nice interpersonal writing. This is one BIG reason why it is better than traditional paper writing. Students have an audience (the class) and can practice both interpersonal and presentational writing. Or students can upload a picture and talk about it. They can also leave voice comments or listen to my voice comment. Again, this is a more efficient way to provide feedback than traditional feedback.
- Flipgrid is a quick and easy way for students to record speaking videos or interviews with their classmates. It is really fast to record, and it does not require a log-in which I really like. I am also hoping to connect with other classes this year to have students communicate in this way. While face to face speaking is a big goal in our class, some students feel more confident speaking to a video instead of each other. This can support students to feel more comfortable.
- EdPuzzle allows teachers to embed questions within a video, and as I have mentioned before is great for differentiation of videos. When we would watch videos as a class and students needed to listen one more time to a certain section, we had to rewatch the whole video, and many students were already done (and bored). This way, everyone can listen as many times as he or she needs. Also, it is easy to grade to give feedback. If you choose a few multiple choice questions, students can get instant feedback.
- PearDeck allows you to embed various questions/drawing etc into a presentation and is great to jazz up my presentations. Students can see others responses if we go through a presentation as a class. I am able to see where everyone is with the material, and it is anonymous for the students. Again, PearDeck is a great tool for students who typically would not always speak out in class as it allows everyone to participate at the same time instead of having one student give an answer.
- Finally, ActivelyLearn is great for interpretive reading. Students submit their answers to questions or polls that I have embedded throughout the document, PDF or website then the class answers are displayed. Students can resubmit their answers and learn from their errors (instead of waiting for me to go over it). By inserting the questions throughout the reading, you can also support students who struggle with reading.
With these programs, I encourage you to choose ONE to start. Think about what you use most in class: reading? Choose ActivelyLearn! Videos? Try out EdPuzzle. Again, remember while technology is a great support for the classroom, as the teacher, you know and understand what would help your students.