Taming the Technology Beast

Effective Use of Technology in the World Language Classroom

Angela Gardner, Spanish Teacher, Ross Local Schools, Hamilton, Ohio

With the constant barrage of new gadgets, gizmos, websites, tools, and other technologies buzzing all around us, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities for use of technology in the classroom. Using the tools effectively becomes an even greater challenge, as one of my wise colleagues, who will remain anonymous, more than once quipped “Why use the technology for anything that we can do as well or better without it? Technology for the sake of technology is not effective at all.”

There is a very valid point there. If the only reason you are utilizing technology is to check off a box on your evaluation or to impress an observer, that really makes the use pretty superfluous. But if you are using technology in a way that transforms your teaching, and more importantly, student learning, you are on the right track. Here are five things you can do to use technology effectively in your classroom.

1.  Use the right tools to find even more tools. For example, create an account on Pinterest. Search the many pins and ideas that other teachers have already collected, and make your searches specific to the tasks you are hoping to accomplish. Follow other teachers and native speakers of the language you teach to find authentic videos, quotes, infographics, and other materials you can use in your classroom.

Similarly, when you utilize YouTube.com, using specific search terms can help you to find the materials that are most effective, and following native speakers’ YouTube channels will help you to find more materials that are authentic and useful.

2.  Use videos effectively. If you are fortunate enough to work in a district where students can go to a language lab, use their phones to access video content, or otherwise interact individually with audio and video content, take advantage. In the classroom, when students are free to work with video and audio content one-on-one, they can re-listen to the prompts when needed, and skip parts that they understood on the first go. This control individualizes the learning experience for students, and empowers them to take charge of their own learning. I have seen a significant improvement in listening comprehension in my students since we have been able to allow them to access videos one-on-one through the technology we have available.

3.  Use editing tools effectively. Try screencast-o-matic.com or other such tools to take pieces of videos that are appropriate in terms of level and content for a task.  Rather than trying to pause and replay it, you can make the video an mp4 and share it through many platforms such as Google Docs, Schoology, BlackBoard, Angel, and more systems with your students. This way, you avoid the teeth-clenching moments of trying to skip a part you did not want included in a video, and your students can still access the content.

4.  Have students record and self-evaluate in the target language (TL). If your students have smartphones or other recording devices, the value in them is tremendous. Students can read aloud or record participation in a conversation in the TL, and then play it back and evaluate their work. The reality check that this provides for students is helpful, and they realize errors in pronunciation without having someone else point them out.

5.  Use data-collection tools in the classroom for formative assessments. Consider tools like those available for free at socrative.com, or at quizlet.com, where feedback is instant for students and data are processed instantly for teachers regarding student performance. These are fantastic with pre-lesson and post-lesson, quick evaluations of student work or grasp of new concepts, as well as with identifying for yourself different questioning strategies and what works most effectively within your teaching or lessons.

I hope that every teacher will find one or more tools or strategies here that they had not considered using before, that will enhance their classroom. Happy teaching, everyone!

This entry was posted in OFLA News: Association, Vol. 53, No. 3 - Summer 2015. Bookmark the permalink.

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