Useful Tech Tools for Teachers of World Languages


by Mary Beth Corey and Courtney Gilday

Engaging online resources can lead to deeper learning in the world language classroom.


Some teachers find today’s ubiquitous technology to be exciting and invigorating, but for others it can be overwhelming.

Apps, tablets, and smartphones did not even exist not too long ago. Now electronic devices can be seen in the hands of young children. Technology gives us accessibility and the opportunity to adapt to the current trends in our classrooms. With new and innovative technologies, world language teachers can provide opportunities inside and outside of the classroom that we adults never had as students. We can condition our students to make connections between the world language and the actual world. Through technology, our students can become true global learners. Yes, it can be exasperating. But for our students, it can be inspiring, eye-opening, and useful. For world language teachers and our students, there are numerous technological resources that are free, easy, and accessible.

In order to use technology in the world language classroom effectively, teachers must first start with the computer keyboard. Adding a language to your computer is a simple task that can be completed by going to the control panel and adding the target language. By having students do the same to their own computers and by doing this in your school’s computer lab, not only will your students be able to add tildes, accent marks, and umlauts, they will also be able to take advantage of spell check and grammar check features in most word processing programs.

Another useful tool on the computer is a feature called “snipping tools.” Snipping tools enable users to capture any part of a desired image from their computer screen and either save it as a JPEG or copy it to a document. Mac users can snip by holding command + shift + 4 on their keyboard and command + v to paste the snip into a document. PC users can access the tools by using the computer’s search feature. There are many ways to use this feature. In particular, our students like to use it when studying terms for fashion and clothing. One of their favorite activities is snipping a photo of a clothing item from a favorite store’s website and writing a descriptive paragraph about the item. Snipping tools enable the students to personalize their learning and use images to enhance the learning process.

The internet provides innumerable opportunities for students to make connections from anywhere using technology. Once the world language is added to the keyboard, both students and teachers can use any search engine in the target language. For example, typing in what you are looking for in Spanish will produce authentic resources in Spanish. Some examples of authentic resources include newspapers, magazines, online television programs, radio stations, and YouTube videos from around the globe.
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), world language teachers must align their curriculum with the 5 Cs, which are communication, cultures, communities, connections, and comparisons. Many of the following free resources can help us teachers ensure that we are enhancing all of our students’ learning of world languages through technology.

Do you like music in your classroom? Try using lyricmatcher.com to find phrases in the target language in the form of a song. It is great for introducing and reinforcing new vocabulary and grammar concepts. Just type in the phrase or word you would like your students to learn. For example, typing conmigo into the search bar of Lyricmatcher will result in a list of hundreds of songs from various artists from around the world. By narrowing the search to a more specific phrase, such as cuando estás conmigo, results will be narrowed to only four songs. Print the entire song to be translated, and then find it on YouTube and karaoke. Many videos on YouTube have lyrics that are perfect for sing-alongs. To access these videos, simply type in the search box the phrase in the target language that means “with words or letters.” In Spanish, for example, the phrase con letra will result in Spanish music videos that are karaoke-ready. It is a fun and engaging way to learn a language.

Not wanting to go through the trouble of finding the perfect song? The website zachary-jones.com/
zambombazo is a great website for teachers of Spanish and French to teach through pop culture with printable activities ready for use. Clozeline is a feature of this website, offering a collection of songs and activities for students to learn by listening to music and reading lyrics. The site provides numerous other activities featuring cultural resources, including tweets, songs, music videos, comic strips, interviews, and ads.

As any world language teacher knows, communication begins with correct pronunciation. As teachers, we are constantly assessing pronunciation with informal formative assessments in the classroom. However, trying to find the time to get an accurate summative assessment can be difficult. By implementing the record feature on PowerPoint presentations, students can record what they wrote and hear themselves speak. Doing this, students will be able to recognize mispronunciations. Another way to add sound and video recordings is through the use of cell phones. Many, if not all, of our students have access to cell phones to record themselves speaking. By uploading these recordings to embed in a PowerPoint or Prezi, teachers can access these documents for assessment. By identifying mispronunciation, students are then able to recognize their mistakes and make corrections. It is helpful to have students provide hard copies of their scripts. This allows you to identify errors in pronunciation while listening to a recording or watching a video. This is also a useful technique when students are performing a skit in front of the class. As students read from their scripts, you can circle or highlight the mispronunciation errors for the students to review.

The internet also provides many useful websites for assessing pronunciation. Blabberize.com is an easy application that allows students to speak through a picture. The process begins by uploading an image. Then users select the area of the image that is the mouth and record a message. This is |a great tool for talking about famous historical figures. Students are sure to remember a talking picture of Joan of Arc as she explains in French how she helped inspire the dauphin of France to defeat English forces. Another online resource for assessing pronunciation is Pixton.com. It is an online tool that creates comic strips and enables the student to create unique, expressive comics with voiceover recordings without having to draw. The program allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the target language’s grammar and vocabulary in a creative way. It is flexible, and helps motivate students to personalize the comics to reflect what you want them to talk about.

As we know, review and practice are important components of second language acquisition. Quizlet.com and conjuguemos.com are both great tools for vocabulary review. With Quizlet, students and teachers can create and edit online flash card sets or use sets created by other users on the site. With each flash card set, students can engage in numerous review activities that not only assess their knowledge of the meanings of words and phrases, but also the correct spelling and pronunciation of each. Quizlet also offers two review games that can help enhance the students’ knowledge of vocabulary. The assessment feature of the site allows the user to create tests that include matching, multiple choice, true/false, and short answer for each vocabulary set created. Teachers can also quickly generate a printable version of a test and flash cards for classroom use. For practicing grammar, conjuguemos.com is a fast fun way to practice Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and Latin verb conjugations, grammar, and vocabulary. Like Quizlet, Conjuguemos has printable flash card sets separated by book and chapter. It also has a game that allows students to choose any verb tense to practice their conjugations. Both Quizlet and Conjuguemos have many free features but provide options to pay for more advanced features such as detailed grade reports, online grade books, and the ability to create your one’s activities.

Edmodo.com is an educational website that combines social networking and learning. It is similar to Facebook, but it is an invitation-only, secure website that is used exclusively for educational purposes. With Edmodo, teachers can connect with other teachers from around the globe as well as share with their class by inviting each student (and the student’s parents if necessary) to the virtual classroom using a group code. Students can create and comment on posts, pickup and turn in class materials, and communicate with the teacher and classmates regarding assignments through Edmodo.

There are many more free resources available to the world language teacher. To name a few: Jeopardylabs.com for creating review games, Aniboom.com for engaging animations that when muted are a great tool for storytelling, and powtoon.com which allows students to create animated videos and presentations. And there are many more. If you like some of these ideas, we suggest joining Edmodo, Pinterest, Tumblr, Pearltrees, or any of the many other social media platforms for world language teachers. It is certain that ever-changing technology will continue to help world language teachers create authentic learning environments in which students are communicating in the target language and making connections in their school, community, and the world.

 


 

Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, March 2015
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