…and Recommendations to Implement
Gabriela Linik, Virtual Community School of Ohio, Spanish Teacher
Last spring, I researched how technology tools were being used in world language classrooms. About 80 teachers in Ohio and a few more across the country participated in the study. In this article, I share what I learned and recommendations to continue to incorporate tech tools into the curriculum and in the implementation of Integrated Performance Assessments.
Why Technology? From my personal experience, teachers in all learning environments face similar challenges and look forward to the use of technology as a means to bring the language and the target culture to their classroom. Adair-Hauck, Willingham-McLain, and Youngs (1999) affirm that technology can bring a myriad of authentic materials to the foreign language classroom. For instance, websites, online newspaper articles, e-mail exchanges, and video-conferencing give students access to authentic vocabulary and products; but most importantly, they familiarize students with social behaviors of the target language culture and “provide a context in which students can interpret the behavior of the target culture inhabitants” (Lafford and Lafford, 1997, as cited by Adair-Hauck et al., 1999, p. 273). In addition to illustrating vocabulary and structures used in context, videos of native speakers expose students to non-verbal expressions native speakers use (Adair-Hauck et al., p. 273), giving students a taste of the culture and encouraging them to more deeply assimilate the target language. Students participating in a study conducted by Bailey (1996) indicated that active use of technology contributed to success in language learning. Bailey declared that it is important to utilize technology not only to learn the language but also to learn about the role of technology in the target culture. In both environments, the challenges professionals must be prepared to overcome seem to be similar.
While online students have devices for personal use available most of the time, slow Internet connections and limitations set by vendor-provided curriculum are common obstacles for online teachers. Technology usage is highly encouraged in the profession; however, time constraints are still an impediment for full implementation. To successfully integrate technology in brick and mortar schools, given that it is available; teachers must first combine technology with traditional school materials, master the technology, troubleshoot software and hardware, train students to responsibly use the technology, be available to provide technical support (Adair-Hauck et al., 1999, p. 291), and provide accommodations, among many other teaching tasks. When done successfully, by incorporating technology into instruction, the foreign language classroom becomes a builder of computer literacy (Bailey, 1996), a much required skill in the 21st century.
What’s going on in the classrooms? A survey was sent through the Ohio Foreign Language Association listserve to foreign language teachers in the State of Ohio. Of the seventy nine high school teachers who participated, 91% had administered at least one IPA last school year; 52% had administered two or more. Almost all the respondents, 98%, taught in brick and mortar schools and only one teacher taught in an online environment. Data regarding languages taught was not collected. The data collected indicates that technology is a tool about half of the teachers rely on for the administration of all three portions of the IPA, being used the most for the Presentational portion and the least for the Interpersonal portion. About 42% of the teachers that completed the survey said to have used some type of technology for the Interpretive portion of the IPA. Only 17% of the professionals used technology for the Interpersonal portion and 61% of them used it for the Presentational portion. The most common resources used to administer the Interpretive portion of the IPA were found online; either in the form of a video, a website, or an article (see Table 1).
Among the 17% of the teachers surveyed that used some type of technology to administer the Interpersonal portion, applications that allow students to record conversations seem to be used the most. However, there isn’t a clear trend on the use of a particular technology. In regards to the Presentational portion, PowerPoint showed to be the most popular tool, followed by video recording, and Prezi. In this case, it is important to notice the variety of technology tools being used. Google applications seem to be commonly utilized. In general, slideshows are chosen more frequently; either in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, a Google presentation, or a Prezi (see Table 2). Voice or audio recordings were popular choices as well.
The majority of teachers responded that technology has a positive impact on the administration of the IPA. Accordingly, very few teachers selected that the use of technology impacted the assessment negatively, as shown in Table 3.
In general, and including my own experience, technology made the administration of the IPA more time efficient for teachers and students, facilitated access to authentic resources, and allowed for creativity and flexibility. Thanks to technology, conversations could be recorded and presentations could be watched in or out of class. Making up assessments was less time consuming since all was available online. It was easier to grade and to administer the assessment. Specifically, a teacher said that he could administer a portion of an IPA in the classroom while other students recorded another portion in the hallway. Other teachers said students were able to complete the IPA on their own time using the tool of their choice. Several teachers mentioned the ability to access authentic videos or authentic resources in general as one of the benefits. In terms of presentations students created, technology allowed students to demonstrate what they know in a variety of ways, not limiting all students to one single tool. It also enabled students to be less exposed, therefore, alleviating the pressure of an exam. A teachers explained, “I got very good results from even my shyest students”. Among the many positive contributions of technology to the administration of the IPA, it was mentioned that technology allowed educators to save samples of assessments to share with future classes. Also, a professional explained how she had students circulate and listen to one another’s recordings. Then, students asked clarifying questions, shared corrective feedback, and learned from one another. While this opportunity for sharing knowledge was valuable, it was also time consuming.
Some of the negative consequences of using technology were the use of technology issues as an excuse for not turning in work in time, and the lack of access to proper technology. Specifically mentioned were the following:, limited access to the computer lab, not having enough computers, slow servers that prevent online presentations from being downloaded, and not enough headphones or microphones were mentioned. Student access to technology from home, coupled with students forgetting passwords, represented more impediments. One teacher suggested the creation of a shared folder where students could upload their presentations as a possible solution.
While there were many comments regarding the positive and negative impacts of the use of technology in the administration and completion of IPA, most of the negative ones seem to circle around the lack of proper or enough devices; while the positive ones are related to the quality of the IPA in terms of authentic resources and student-created products.
Now what? As Adair et al. (2006) affirm, “The IPA is an area ripe for future research” (p.15). I thank all teachers who participated in the survey last year and invite all World Languages educators to try a new technology this year by visiting the wonderful compilation of OFLA’s IPA TECH INTEGRATION samples.
Adair-Hauck, B, Willingham-McLain, L, & Youngs, B.E. (1999). Evaluating the Integration of Technology and Second Language Learning. CALICO Journal, 17(2),269-306.
Bailey, J. (1996). Teaching about technology in the foreign language class. Foreign language annals, 29(1), 82. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/1311701620?accountid=9783. Foreign Language Annals, 29(1), 82. Retrieved from https://calico.org/html/article_509.pdf.
Adair-Hauck, B., Glisan, E. W., Koda, K., Swender, E. B., & Sandrock, P. (2006). The integrated performance assessment (IPA): Connecting assessment to instruction and learning. Foreign Language Annals, 39(3), 359-382. doi:10.1111/j.1944-9720.2006.tb02894.x