Welcome to Language Latte: a conversation about teaching world languages. We are on episode 2, and today we are talking about #edtech in the language classroom. Does it enhance learning? Can it make us more effective teachers? Which tech tools integrate well in language classes? Join our Language Latte facebook group to get in on the conversation!
Every episode, I look at a question that world language teachers have about how we can help our students’ achieve proficiency. First, I look at what the research indicates to be the best practices. Then I interview real teachers, and find out what they do in their classroom.
This episode is the first of several I will have this season to discuss #edtech in the language classroom. Educational technology is everywhere- but what does the research have to say? Does it help students to learn languages? In what way? Can #edtech increase teachers’ effectiveness and save us time? And perhaps the most asked question: what are some introductory technology tools that fit within the world language classroom?
Let’s first look at the research around implementing technology into learning, and then I’ll speak with with Rachel Lucas, a leader in educational technology who is an ed tech coach and also a Spanish teacher. Rachel shares what teachers should consider before deciding on which programs to use in their classrooms, plus gives excellent recommendations for specific tools that help teachers teach more efficiently, engage their students, and really revolutionize their teaching.
Does anyone remember playing the green and black Oregon Trail in computer class? It took a half an hour to boot up and when it finally started, we learned about some of the realities of 19th century pioneer life like dysentery, and hunting rabbits. Today, educational technology is more sophisticated, more readily available, and- some might argue- more engaging than Oregon Trail.
More engaging, and more ubiquitous. In fact, public schools in the United States now provide at least one computer for every five students. They spend more than $3 billion per year on digital content. Learning is extended as technology delivers instructional content outside of the classroom. As teachers, we know that technology is significantly impacting the way students learn but it’s also changing the way we conduct our lessons AND how we communicate and stay in contact with students… and their parents… and other teachers.
In a 2016 Digital Education Survey Deloitte found that
42% of teachers say that at least one digital device is used every day in the classroom.
75% of teachers believe digital learning content will replace printed textbooks within the next 10 years.
Everyone is jumping on the digital bandwagon. This Deloitte study surveyed 2800 teachers, parents, and students, and found 3 reasons why teachers are choosing digital learning.
- First: to engage students. We all know that today’s students are technology savvy and expect to be engaged.
- Second: to have fun material.
- And third- which might be the most important? to develop student skills.
How does #edtech affect our teaching methods and our delivery of our lessons?
Whether you’re a teacher or a parent- or just a rider on the subway, you’ve seen kids- and adults- get so drawn into their game or video on their phone, and their body language and facial expressions emulate their excitement or anger at whatever is happening on the screen. A study by Chrystalla Mouza substantiates this: in a low-income, urban school in NYC teachers got training in technology and created lessons on the computer for their students. They used project-based learning and construction of knowledge activities rather than recitation or practice drills. During the year-long study, students used laptops for activities that included written expression, preparation of multimedia presentations, and data analysis and interpretation. Mouza study concluded that this use of technology created enhanced motivation and engagement with schoolwork- this means kids were excited about learning and had a positive attitude about school. It also influenced classroom interactions – outside of the technology- and created a sense of pride and empowerment among the students in the laptop group.
Another study from Bebell and Kay analyzed 1:1 computer programs in middle schools in Massachusetts. And found increased student engagement and interest level, and measurable increases in student achievement.
Using #edtech in the language classroom is not limited to only having the students using laptops or tablets. The actual delivery of instruction by teachers has moved beyond chalk boards or white boards and into multimedia: we’re now including texts, spoken words, sound & music, graphics, animations and still pictures to enhance presentations, and grab the students’ attention- and it’s working.
Alongside multimedia lectures, teachers are using technology for cooperative learning, as students gather and share information seamlessly- for example in wikispaces or flipgrid. Some classes are experimenting with self-directed study so the students can learn language concepts at their own pace. Other teachers use technology for computer-assisted testing or assessments, to help spend their time more effectively. Or tools that improve communication among students, parents, and teachers like Remind, Edmodo, Google Classroom, etc.
EdTech tools can also help develop student skills, even in the world language classroom…. A 2017 study by Hassan Saleh Mahdi (plus many other similar studies) found that the use of mobile devices in learning vocabulary resulted in greater achievement than traditional ways, such as flash cards.
In another study, Tanner and Landon looked at the effectiveness of online pronunciation programs with speech recognition that provided feedback to students’ oral practices, like pauses and intonation- and found improvement in pronunciation in the ESL students.
Aside from practicing skills educational technology can also be fun. An educational computer game is defined as a technology-supported game that should result in a desirable change in the player’s knowledge. So first a game has to be fun, and then it should teach or practice something. Games have been shown to be effective in promoting learning and are more motivational for students than non-gaming teaching methods.
Dr. Jane McGonigal, in her TEDex talk explains that we like people better if we’ve played a game with them, and how- when playing a game with people- we bond with them and build trust. I argue that in a world language classroom, building a trusting environment and cooperating are key to minimizing our affective filters, so students can feel more comfortable communicating in their new language.
World Language teachers have been using technology in the classroom since I was a kid- what started with cassette tapes of native speakers speaking and film strips, evolved to rolling in a boxy TV and waiting for the VHS tape to rewind. Soon CD-ROM and video cameras were introduced, and students could play games in the computer lab. The internet advanced and youtube, Google Earth, virtual field trips and now augmented reality apps bring culture and geography alive as our classes experience them more vividly than ever. Presentations have moved from transparencies and overhead projectors to multimedia delivery.
Teachers are using tech tools to customize learning, provide differentiated lessons, to gather feedback and process thoughts with digital exit tickets and surveys, and digital portfolios. Collaborative projects and conversations allow our students to speak with peers around the world in authentic conversations in the target language.
While marveling at the infinite possibilities- it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Trendy software seems evanescent- disappearing almost a quickly as they became popular. But instead of just randomly picking the newest or shiniest program, teachers have to be prudent and choose tools that are proven to engage students, supplement learning, and save us time. Honestly, I like to ask my teacher friends which apps, web sites and software they are using with success. If you’d like to join in our conversation- to exchange ideas about what works, and what doesn’t work- join our Language Latte facebook group where we talk about tips and tools 24/7.
Interview with Rachel Lucas, Spanish Teacher and #EdTech Coach
We are so lucky today to speak with my guest Rachel Lucas. Not only is Rachel a long-time Spanish teacher in Florida, she is a leader in the field of educational technology. Rachel is passionate about integrating technology into the learning environment. As a Spanish teacher, she helped to implement the IB World Language curriculum at her high school. She runs professional development workshops, webinars, and trains teachers on how to integrate technology in the classroom in order to teach more efficiently and to build up students’ 21st century skill set. In her free time- Rachel runs a website (Tech4worldlanguageteachers.com) her facebook group “Tech 4 World Language Teachers for World Language teachers who are interested in learning to use technology in their classes.
In our interview with Rachel we learn all about #edtech in the language classroom:
- How she learned Spanish and why she wanted to started teaching it
- How she started to integrate technology into her class
- Her FREE ebook called “18 Must Have Tech Tools for World Language Teachers” with resource guides, and video tutorial links
- What to take into consideration before choosing educational technology
- Obstacles to using technology in class
- Her favorite tools for #Edtech in the language classroom
Research on #EdTech in the Language Classoom
Mouza, Chrystalla. (2008). “Learning with Laptops: Implementation and Outcomes in an Urban, Under-Privileged School.” Journal of Research on Technology in Education. v40 n4 p447-472.
Additional Resources for #Edtech in the Language Classroom
- Dr. Jane McGonigal’s TEDex talk on how a game can boost resilience
- Free ebook 18 Must-Have Tech Tools for World Language Teachers teachertechtools.net
- Rachel Lucas’ Blog: Tech4worldlanguageteachers.com, her facebook group “Tech 4 World Language Teachers
- A free Educator’s Guide to Flipgrid by Sean Fahey and Karly Moura