Teaching with Technology 2015: Language Educators Talking Tech
Written By Marie-Lynda Akono, Melissa Horn & Stephanie Bennett
Edited By Dustin De Felice
Copyright 2015 Marie-Lynda Akono, Stephanie Bennett, Melissa Horn & Dustin De Felice
Cover Design by Dustin De Felice
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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The work within this text originated in a course on teaching with technology at Michigan State University. This course is offered yearly as part of the Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching (MAFLT) degree, which is supported by the Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA). For more information, please visit or
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.
By Dustin De Felice
Not a day goes by that a teacher isn’t faced with a challenge, a hurdle or a surprise in trying to help a student become a better learner. Through the process helping students, many teachers look to technology to help alleviate, solve or remove obstacles. This intersection between teaching and technology is the focus for our work in this volume. Contained within these virtual pages, you’ll find the words and stories of educators who are adapting to and working with technology to make their classrooms better places for all stakeholders. Each of these educators works in unique locations and they have needs and perspectives that drive them to find solutions that make sense for their daily practice. One of the more endearing traits of this technology journey is the fact that it is so personalized and adaptable. I had the distinct pleasure of working with these fantastic, dedicated educators as they sought to personalize and adapt their own tech use through the use of journal articles, practitioner pieces and blogs. Our final result is this volume of work on technology and classroom use and we hope you find something to add to your own classroom practice. We recommend perusing the table of contents for topics that catch your eye. We also highly recommend visiting the original works from our tech talk reviews. These resources may hold the key to improving your own daily classroom practice.
In the first section, you’ll find persuasive arguments for specific tech tools or specific approaches to classrooms as they relate to technology. Marie-Lynda Akono starts us off with a discussion on the effectiveness of hybrid classrooms for language teaching. She details a number of key considerations for moving language learning into a hybrid environment and she also includes a number of best practices for working with a hybrid classroom. Stephanie Bennett discusses a similar environment for language teaching with her focus on blended learning. She writes about a language classroom that combines the best of traditional face-to-face practice and that of technology mediated instruction. Much like Marie-Lynda, she focuses on a number of best practices for implementing a hybrid model in a language classroom. Lastly, Melissa Horn shows us how technology can support teacher-led initiatives in developing an inclusive classroom environment. Her approach moves us into an important and timely discussion on meeting the needs of all our students. All three essays provide guidance for any language instructor looking to improve their daily classroom practice through technology.
By Marie-Lynda Akono
Even though learners are often times exposed to a traditional, face-to-face, teacher-centered classroom, they should also be exposed to online, distance learning, student-centered classroom. Online learning provides more flexible access to content and instruction and may be more cost-efficient, enabling instructors to handle more students while maintaining a learning quality equivalent or comparable to traditional teaching. Online learning also enables learners to be autonomous, to collaborate, to develop their communicative skills; at the same time, it promotes their technology abilities. However, learners should not solely be exposed to either the traditional or the online classroom because there has to be a middle ground. This is where the hybrid or blended classroom emerges. The hybrid classroom is a new approach in higher education. It uses both web based and face-to-face teaching methods. While some educators continue to question the efficacy of learning in an online environment when compared to face-to-face or hybrid environments many are finding there might be a good balance between online and in-class activities. The principal idea here is to hybridize the language teaching to satisfy the needs of educators who are hesitant towards a non-traditional classroom so that a portion is still dedicated to face-to-face learning. In the hybrid classroom (which contain a mixture of face-to-face and online learning), learners would significantly benefit from the further use of the second language at their own pace and adapt to improved technology tools. As teachers commit, receive the appropriate training, consider the context, analyze data, etc. the hybrid classroom can be effective in second language teaching and acquisition. In other words, hybridizing the language classroom alone does not improve second language teaching and acquisition. However, designing principles that would help develop, understand, the hybrid classroom and adopting the student-centered method can make it effective in second language teaching and acquisition.
The Hybrid Classroom as a Tool to Enhance Second Language Teaching and Learning
To start with, the assumption that all learners are technology literate should decrease so that the hybrid classroom is designed based on context and available resources. According to Murray (2005), “even in nations with high technology uptake, access may be limited for a variety of reasons such as socioeconomic class or cultural usage patterns”. If we take a broader definition of digital literacies, we find that access to not only the computer and the Internet but also to their various functions is limited for many learners” (p. 190). According to Murray (2005), the fields of ICT (information and communication technology) and CALL (computer-assisted language learning) are different environments. Given that the ICT “provides a context for human-human and human-machine communication, and provides a context for information production, delivery, and sharing” (p.189), it is more interrelated to the hybrid classroom. It uses both the face-to-face and the online approaches. The hybrid approach is essential for second language teaching because “new technologies facilitate acquisition of L2 literacies and L2 literacies are needed for learners to participate in an increasingly digital world” (p. 189). Through the online portion of the hybrid classroom, learners are exposed to technology products that push them to work at their own pace, independently, and acquire input in the second language to develop their reading and writing abilities. The technology-based learning is “essential for competence” (p. 190) and learners are able to work through difficulties.
Communication and the negotiation of meaning are fundamental and beneficial to second language acquisition. The hybrid classroom thus provides learners with opportunities for informal conversational practice and facilitates fluency, rather than accuracy Even though learners are working independently outside of the hybrid classroom, the technology based and online portion of the hybrid classroom can potentially engage and interact with learners at a distance. More recently, research has moved away from comparing online and face-to-face interactions and has focused more on examining literacy uses using computer-mediated communication (CMC) or students’ use of the Web for information gathering (Murray, 2005). CMC allows learners to communicatively interact with native speakers and “can be used as a means in learning tasks and projects or can be used instructionally as a goal in itself” (p.192). The new technologies provide opportunities for learners to interact with native speakers at a distance through a variety of different online tools such as Google tools, chat programs, and discussion boards. However, because learners go through their individual second language developmental stages, CMC can only contribute to acquisition. According to Murray (2005), “synchronous CMC such as chat and teleconferencing have also been found to be effective in language teaching and learning, although because of the synchronous nature of this medium, there are overlapping turns, with little time to compose messages reflectively” (p. 193). However, Asynchronous CMC such as Google Doc, because of its time delay, gives learners the opportunity to produce more syntactically complex language. In addition, learner output increases.
Murray (2005) also argued that “second language acquisition research has shown that collaboration among learners facilitates language acquisition. Such advantages in collaboration have also been noted in online activities, such as project-based learning or other task-based activities that require collaboration” (p. 194). Collaboration at a distance via technology tools such as Skype and WordPress may be efficient and “provide an opportunity for cultures-of-use to co-evolve, just as other researchers have identified the evolution of hybrid discourses” (p. 195). The “World Wide Web” provides opportunities for language learners to access authentic materials in the target language. However, this very authenticity can be problematic for learners, in terms of the level of the language they access, the genres with which they are unfamiliar, and their ability to determine the reliability of the source (Murray, 2005). In order to avoid assigning activities to learners that may be difficult for them to tackle, teachers should design level appropriate work and projects. In addition, they can include a wide variety of web tools with the same activity so that learners have a choice. In order to promote learner’s autonomy in the hybrid classroom, “teachers needs to support learners’ progress toward autonomy; that is, teachers need to scaffold instruction using technology” (p. 196). Both the cultural and linguistic aspects of the second language have to be examined then applied to the hybridized design to influence language learning and acquisition.
The Effectiveness of the Technology Based Language Learning in the Hybrid Classroom
A question often asked is what has the research shown about the comparison between classes in which CALL is used and those in which computer technology is not used for language learning? To answer this, there is another analysis of the hybrid classroom to prove it effective in second language teaching and acquisition. According to (Grgurovic et al., 2013), teachers and researchers in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) are frequently asked about the value of technology for second language learning relative to the classroom instruction that they see as traditional. Therefore, “CALL specialists aim to create ideal language learning conditions through strategic use of pedagogies developed around interactive video, learner-computer interactions, corrective feedback, tasks with linguistic support, and intercultural communication, for example. They seek evidence for the effects of these innovations on learners’ interactions, attitudes, and outcomes; and they design research to be informative to the community of specialists in CALL” (Grgurovic et al., 2013). Some results have shown the median effect of CALL programs in all seven studies was an increase of language test scores of 0.6 of a standard deviation, which indicates a moderate to large improvement in student performance (Grgurovic et al., 2013). This demostrates the positive effects on language learning associated with technology. As shown in Table 3 (p.176), language instruction with computer technology was more effective than instruction without it since CALL groups showed better performance than non-CALL groups. The mean effect size of 0.2353 is small, indicating that scores of CALL groups were 0.23 standard deviations higher than scores of non-CALL groups. Moreover, the upper level of the confidence interval shows that scores of CALL groups can be up to 0.33 standard deviations higher than those of non-CALL groups. Even though further investigation across different aged groups and levels of language learners should be conducted, the results in this article showed that “across the various conditions of technology use, second language instruction supported by computer technology was at least as effective as instruction without technology”. When comparisons between CALL and non-CALL groups were made in rigorous research designs the CALL groups performed better than the non-CALL groups (p.191). Nevertheless, learning face-to-face is important to study to be aware of the effects of real CALL use by real classroom learners whose purpose is the second language acquisition. It is also critical to learn how new innovations and new methods to teaching affect learning.
Issues Related to the Hybrid Classroom
Dooey (2008)’s article focuses more on English as a Second Language and not a foreign language in this context; nonetheless, his article can be relatable to the analysis of any other second language as the primary notion is second language teaching and acquisition. Language testing is a component of the hybrid classroom aimed to measure learners’ proficiency level, give them feedback on their progress towards acquisition, and also to help teachers know of areas that need improvement. These tests are normally online-based tests. The basic questions in the article are: in what ways can computerized-tests improve traditional test methods? And to what extent are the abilities tested on computer-based tests comparable to their pen-and-paper counterparts? (p.23) To tackle these questions, Dooey (2008) examines a number of issues related to the design and application of computer-based tests, with particular reference to construct validity, computer familiarity and practicality. The lack of appropriate assessment tools for online language learning (and for many other disciplines that have rushed into online teaching without reflecting nearly enough on student readiness / capability and instructor protocols), and they develop several scenarios for studying the online learning environment. The use of language tests has always been important because “the results obtained may serve to enhance and promote the learning process; there is increasing pressure to achieve desired results, because such success provides gateways of opportunity for ever-growing numbers of learners” (p. 22). Any language competence is beneficial to “information, educational opportunity and employment”. With a high growth in developments in information and communication technology (ICT), computers are also playing an increasing role in language teaching and testing. Additionally, “with an increasing demand worldwide to learn English, it is not surprising then, that language test developers are taking advantage of the available technology to capture, store, process and retrieve the enormous amount of information needed to efficiently run a range of different language tests” (p.22). Therefore, technology can be incorporated into different language tests to validate results on appropriate levels of competence.
According to Dooey (2008), there is some concern that the validity of computerized language tests may be compromised, as the second language field has long promoted performance based assessment, a form of assessment that does not lend itself as easily to computer administration as do more traditional test formats (p. 24). For example, computers may not be able to offer open-ended communication, which demonstrates characteristics that are as closely related to real-life situations. However, this is false. If the tests are formatted either synchronously or asynchronously with the options that learners would audio-record their answers / conversations organized by topics, write paragraphs inspired by can-do statements, comment their opinions on a task-based activity, etc. computers can indeed offer open-ended communication that may enable learners to communicate in the second language in real life situations. Another issue raised is that learners during a test “may experience fatigue when reading extended passages on computer” (p.25). This is debatable because as long as traditional classroom methods, such as grammar based teaching, memorizing, fill in the blank, etc. are not dragged into the online portion of language teaching and learning, learners may not experience as much fatigue. The goal is to design tests that exclude reading and writing long paragraphs but those including communicative task based assessments. One important issue for language test designers planning to use computers in testing is that of attitudes in general to computer use (p.27). This is another issue that should not be an issue because hybrid classroom, especially the online portions are meant to increase both teacher and learner expertise through training, tutorials, etc. It is also most likely that learners would need facilitation given the increase of technology tools and ease to use them amongst today’s generation. As far as cost goes, it depends on the education level. In most college and higher education settings, where second language acquisition is more prominent, there are technology settings such as computer labs available for learners who may not have personal access to the Internet and its products. The most important characteristic to computerized tests is to ensure that individual students can receive detailed diagnostic feedback on their performance, and that greater accuracy is achieved on scoring selected-response items.
The Implications of the Hybrid Classroom in Second Language Teaching and Acquisition
Although, a great challenge pedagogically and technically, the hybrid classroom makes learning flexible and empowers teachers to diversify the learning environment. The aim of this paper was to determine how the hybrid classroom influences second language teaching and acquisition and give a look at the role technology could play in furthering language learning. The use of an online learning makes learners less anxious about their competence, autonomous, collaborators of post class assignments, and thus more active and partially responsible for their learning and acquisition. Teachers and learners are also free from rigid time constraints. This is by no means a method to make learners outperform those who are only educated through the traditional, teacher-centered classroom because the goal is for teachers of hybrid courses to focus their efforts on quality course design rather than the environment in which it is presented. As relevant teaching techniques are effectively applied, students may exhibit significant gains in their learning experiences.
Dooey, P. (2008). Language testing and technology: Problems of transition to a new era. ReCALL: The Journal of EUROCALL, 20(1), 21-34. Doi: http://dx.doi.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1017/S0958344008000311
Grgurovic, M., Chapelle, C. A., and Shelley, M. C. (2013). A meta-analysis of effectiveness studies on computer technology-supported language learning. ReCALL: The Journal of EUROCALL, 25(2), 165-198. Doi: http://dx.doi.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1017/S0958344013000013
Murray, D. E. (2005). Technologies for second language literacy. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25, 188-201.
By Stephanie Bennett
Blended learning is defined as “ the combination of instruction, methods, and media from two archetypal learning environments, the traditional face-to-face environment and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-mediated or e-learning environment” (Gyamfi, 2015, pg. 81). Essentially, it combines the best practices of a traditional classroom where the teacher controls the learning, with an e-learning environment where students collaborate electronically and work at their own pace. With current advances in technology, students are able to take more leadership in their own learning, but often are not sure where to begin. The blended learning environment allows students to learn independently and collaboratively while receiving guidance and assistance from the classroom teacher. Because of the widespread availability of internet access in public schools and universities, foreign language courses should shift to a blended learning environment. This shift in learning environment would increase the interactivity of the student, leading to better foreign language mastery.
Gyamfi cites the three models of blended learning by Sharpe, Benfield, Roberts, & Francis (2006) as transmissive, transformative, and holistic (2015). The transmissive model relies on instruction to take place in the classroom while supplemental material is placed online for additional student practice. The transformative model changes the course design to encourage students to no longer be “recipients of knowledge” but actively be part of the “construction of knowledge through dynamic interaction” (Gyamfi, 2015, 81). This type of learning is nearly impossible without the assistance of technology. The holistic model is the most recent model of blended learning where “most learners do not distinguish between learning with or without technology” (Gyamfi, 2015, 81). This model heavily utilizes the technology of the students to support learning anytime, anywhere.
When first transitioning to a blended learning environment, the transmissive model is a great place to start. The teacher would teach a normal lesson during the allocated class time. After class, the teacher would upload the lesson notes, activities, homework, or extra practice to a specified location, allowing the students to practice and study at their own pace anywhere they have internet access. Once the teacher feels comfortable with the transmissive model of blended learning, the next step would be transition to the transformative model. In such a course, the students would often begin by researching a particular topic or watching assigned videos explaining a topic. This would occur outside of the classroom. When the students meet during the dedicated class time, the teacher is able to help guide students for further exploration and answer any questions students had while learning or researching the material. This model of blended learning gives more responsibility to the students and encourages the teacher to provide support and clarification. The final, and most comprehensive, model of blended learning, the holistic model, should be utilized by any teacher who has mastered the first two models. In the holistic model, there is no distinction between using or not using technology. The teacher will require students to use their own device, such as a cellphone or laptop, frequently throughout the lesson. The teacher may use an interactive website during a lecture for guided practice and a communication program that will allow students to converse with native speakers of the language. Assignments will be posted in the online platform, allowing students the ability to complete them at their own pace. In their personal and professional lives, students are required to seamlessly transition between not using technology and using it when it is appropriate. The holistic model of blended learning most closely resembles the way that jobs are performed using technology. It also gives students access to learning inside and outside of the classroom.
Foreign language courses are unique to other courses because they require interactivity to be successful. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and Lantolf’s Sociocultural Theory for language learning state that “learning occurs during interaction and collaboration with human beings…which can stretch learners’ abilities to accomplish tasks which are beyond what they can achieve alone” (Tudini, 2015, 4-5). The role of the teacher is to scaffold learning to support student interaction with more “competent peers” (Tudini, 2015, 5). Tudini encourages human interaction through a computer as opposed to interaction with the computer, while the teacher provides direct instruction to support communication (2015). The Interactionist Theory also supports the need for learners to interact in the target language because “negotiation is crucial for learners’ interlanguage development” (Tudini, 2015, 5). Authentic interaction cannot occur in a normal classroom setting. On the other hand, if students are placed in a fully interactive setting, such as studying abroad, they will feel lost in a sea of language. The blended learning model allows students to receive direct, appropriate classroom instruction, while giving them opportunities to authentically communicate and interact with their peers via the internet. Tudini concludes that “language learners are more likely to make progress in their linguistic proficiency if they receive feedback in real time” (2015, 8). She also states that using technology encourages learners to “take more initiative in learning than is possible in the face-to-face classroom, thus better preparing them for real life communication (Tudini, 2015, 8). The primary goal of foreign language teachers is to help students learn to communicate in real life using the target language. Having online applications or programs where students can communicate in real time with native speakers or advanced learners of the language is invaluable. Each student can schedule their conversations at their own time, and may often desire to communicate more than the required number of times. Students are able to see results of their language learning, thus encouraging them to continue learning. This allows the teacher to provide additional scaffolding to support the real life communication of the students. Using technology personalizes learning and the blended model of teaching a foreign language benefits the learner as well as the teacher.
Despite the magnitude of research in support of blended learning, Chatterjee and Kothari point out that online delivery methods are “unable to recreate a good teacher’s intuitive understanding of each students’ learning” (2014, 2). They take a “one-size fits all” approach that is unrealistic for today’s learners. Many students come from poverty or are the first generation in their family to receive education. Asking a student to sit still and focus on content delivered online is often difficult. These students require a more interactive learning environment. Chatterjee and Kothari recommend that any technology used for learning needs to be adaptive in nature, where “ the learning path is dynamically modified based on data of [student] performance” (2015, 3). While adaptive learning technologies do exist, they are often costly and only support learning in English. This excludes populations in poverty, native speakers of other languages, and foreign language learners from being able to use these technologies. Chatterjee also cites that the implementation of technology in education has largely been limited to “digitizing content and hardware” such as Smartboards and tablets (2015, 7). The results have been mixed, providing inconclusive results if these methods are beneficial or not. Ultimately, the technology cannot do the teaching or learning, but it should be used as a tool to enhance the teaching and learning process.
Even considering the negative evidence about blended learning not being suitable for learners in poverty or who speak different languages, the blended learning model of foreign language learning is the most powerful method of delivery available. Students are able to benefit from classroom instruction as well as real life communication. Taking the pressure off of the teacher to create arbitrary conversations with each individual student allows the teacher to serve as a mediator between the cultures. Tudini cites a 2005 study by Ware and Kramsch, where the teacher was required to mediate misunderstanding between language learners in the United States and Germany. The study concluded that misunderstandings are “the most valuable learning opportunities….because they cannot be avoided” (Tudini, 2015, 7). The students are able to benefit through real time communication, which includes feedback and error correction. The negotiation of meaning is one of the most powerful aspects of foreign language learning, and using communication technologies allows every student to have individualized conversations and feedback in real time.
The majority of students now have access to technology either at school or at home. It would be a waste of available resources to not utilize the technology that students already have to enhance the teaching and learning experience. The holistic model of blended learning allows students to personalize their learning anytime, anywhere, without having to purchase additional materials. It also allows students to receive the necessary direct instruction during class time, and use what they have learned in a meaningful way outside of the classroom. Ultimately, to ensure increased linguistic competence in foreign languages, the blended learning model should be used to give students teacher direction and support in authentic communication tasks.
Chatterjee, A., & Kothari, P. (2014). Bridging achievement gaps amongst school students through a technology-based blended learning model. 2014 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) Proceedings. 1-8.
Gyamfi, S. A., & Gyasse, P. O. (2015). Students’ perception of blended learning environment: A case study of the University of Education, Winneba, Kumasi-Campus, Ghana. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT), 11(1), 80-100.
Tudini, V. (2015). Interactivity in the teaching and learning of foreign languages: What it means for resourcing and delivery of online and blended programmes. The Language Learning Journal. DOI: 10.1080/09571736.2014.994183
By Melissa Horn
In the current climate of K-12 education, it is commonplace to have a class where differentiated learning will take place. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children with varying disabilities are educated within a regular classroom 61% of the time (nces.ed.gov). Of this number, children considered to be on the autism spectrum account for 39% (nces.ed.gov) of the students found in inclusive classrooms. As inclusive classrooms continue to be the normal practice in K-12 education, it is to be expected that within foreign language classrooms teachers need to be prepared to teach students who are on the autism spectrum and thus learn in a different manner than traditional students. The challenge facing foreign language teachers in teaching autistic students is that autism is inherently a behavioral issue surrounding social norms. In 1943, Dr. Leo Kanner defined autism as “the fundamental inability to relate to other people, a failure to use language to convey meaning, and an almost obsessive desire to maintain sameness.” (Kientz, Goodwin, Hayes, and Abowd, 2014). In the years since, it has become clear that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) fall within a broad spectrum of abilities, from “severely affected to high functioning”, according to Kientz et al. who go onto say that “despite the heterogeneity, all individuals on the autism spectrum disorder are characterized by qualitative (i.e. abnormal and not merely delayed development) impairments in social communication and restricted and repetitive interests, activities, and behavior.” (2014). Considering the social nature of a foreign language, coupled with the current practices of task-based learning (TBLT) and project based learning, there are many challenges for both the FL educator and the autistic student tasked with learning a new language. When faced with this challenge it is important to note that students with ASD are not static in their abilities to “grow, learn, and develop” (Kientz et al., 2014). Technology integration and computer assisted language learning (CALL) has presented itself as a tool for the foreign language classroom. In the following pages I intend to highlight the benefits of using technology to assist students with ASD within the foreign language classroom. Specifically, the use of virtual classrooms and games can help to engage learners with ASD and lead to successful outcomes with positive social interactions.
Technology use has become an integral part of our society. From smartphones to computers, it is almost essential to have some familiarity with a form of technology in order to move through your education. Children with ASD are no different, and in fact, computer use has proven to be an effective method to instruct students towards greater success (Kientz, et. al. 2014). The following is an abbreviated list of benefits of computer use to students with ASD:
1. Students with ASD have difficulty filtering sensory information…computer screens allow information to be abstracted or limited to only the relevant information.
2. Computers are much more predictable than humans and do not require social interactions.
3. Computer interactions can be repeated indefinitely until the student masters a task without the stigma of the class knowing the frequency of attempts.
4. Computers can provide routines that are explicit, have clear expectations, and deliver consistent rewards or consequences for responses…which can encourage engagement…and allow the student to learn at their own pace.
5. Content can be selected and matched to an individual’s cognitive ability.
6. Computers can allow for content to be broken down into small, logical, steps.
(Kientz, et. al. 2014)
Two ways to incorporate the use of computers into the FL classroom is the virtual classroom, such as Google Classroom, and games, such as Quizlet or other similar software. Google classroom is a virtual classroom environment created by the teacher to engage students inside and outside the classroom. Within a foreign language classroom, Google classroom has many uses. The teacher can use the space to post assignments, create discussion boards that garner student responses, or allow a space for students to upload audio and video and have others respond accordingly. The use of online discussion boards within foreign language classrooms has proven to be successful. In a brief article in The Language Educator, participation in discussion forums was proven to garner less anxiety in foreign language (FL) students, increase confidence and motivation, as well as improve the overall attitude. (Sherf & Graf, 2014). In a similar study Nguyen and Kellog sum up the benefits of online discussions boards by stating that “The CMC (computer mediated communication) environment offers unique affordances for language learning, notably with respect to the use of the written mode of on-line bulletin board postings to strategically focus on form, to engage in less frequently used speech acts, and to negotiate meaning.” (2005) Applying these principles again to the FL classroom, a teacher can set up a virtual classroom via Google classroom, or other application, and create a virtual environment for all her students to engage in using the target language (TL), with the added benefit of successfully integrating a student with ASD. The virtual classroom will allow a student with ASD to engage with his/her classmates and allow them to practice their emerging skill – that of using the TL – in a low-pressure setting. In their chapter entitled, “Virtual and Augmented Reality” Kientz et al. discuss the positive teaching opportunity a virtual setting provides the student with ASD. Some of the reasons listed include: Virtual spaces are carefully selected and controlled, enabling tailoring of content to meet individual needs; virtual spaces circumvent face-to-face interactions, which might be overwhelming for students learning a new skill; and perhaps most importantly-individuals with autism appear to learn how to use and interact with virtual environments and avatars quickly and have shown significant improvements. (2014).
In practice, the FL teacher can post discussion questions with the objective of a targeted response, such as in the case of a Spanish class: ¿Cuál color te gusta? [What color do you like?] Or more open ended questions: ¿Cómo están? [How are you?]. In teaching towards the student with ASD it is critical that the experience with the virtual environment be based on a structure, ensuring their virtual learning environment stays the same from school to home. A process that should be repeated when integrated games into the FL classroom.
The use of online games has also proven to be a successful strategy for children with ASD, and I feel games can also be applied to the FL classroom for improved proficiency. In a study published in 2010 entitled, “Teaching Children with Autism to Play a Video Game Using Activity Schedules and Game Embedded Simultaneous Video Modeling” several authors set out to prove the benefits of teaching children with ASD how to play a game, Guitar Hero. (Blum-Dimaya, Reeve, Reeve, & Hoch, 2010). The purpose of the study was to improve motor skills and prove the benefits of using a game to increase social skills and peer interactions. Participants in the study were trained on how to play the game (which incorporates mimicking musical notes on a plastic guitar) based on an activity schedule and video modeling, which proved to be an effective method given the positive results. While the study was conducted within a school, an interesting finding was the ‘on-task’ behaviors conducted within the game stayed consistent once the students acquired the skills to play the game from school to home. (Blum-Dimaya et al, 2010). The authors of this study concluded, “because the same game materials were present in both settings…the arrangement may have functioned as programming for common stimuli, thus increasing the likelihood that generalization of game playing occurred in the home. The generalization of game playing to the home setting in the current study increases the functionality of the leisure skill.” (Blum-Dimaya et al., 2010). Remembering that students with ASD require consistency and structure, in this case the virtual game setting stayed the same from school to home, and the steps to complete the game stayed consistent and the students achieved success. Applying this study to the FL classroom, game programs such as Quizlet or Kahoot can garner similar success if approached in a similar manner as within this study. Using Quizlet as the example, the FL educator should first create a ‘game’ based on vocabulary or phrases being used in the current lesson. Quizlet will interpret the lesson into various uses: flashcards, a scatter game, space race, etc. Next, create structure with a step-by-step process: from registration, username, password, to finding the games created for your particular classroom. This allows the student with ASD to be able to engage the game within the classroom and take this same skill home and use the game in the same way. Despite his/her environment changing, the virtual environment and structure remain the same. Additional benefits would be the social aspects of playing other students virtually, free of social distresses, as well as the ability for the educators to track student progress, which Quizlet allows for. This in turn creates a formative assessment opportunity without the pressure a student with ASD may face by a formal in class assessment.
There is one overall issue with using technology to teach students with ASD, and it is discussed numerous times in various articles. Autism is a disorder that is unique to every individual. What works well with one student does not always work with another. Tailoring must happen to the individual student’s needs. (Kientz et al., 2014). This brings up a problem that is twofold: how to incorporate technology with varying degrees of functionality within a FL classroom? Can a teacher realistically teach to multiple levels of functionality and how best to adapt? In discussing the many positive aspects of using technology in an inclusive setting, Kientz et al. also discuss some of the issues, covered most explicitly the chapter entitled, “Video and Multimedia”. Discussing the issue of adaptability, the problem lies in the very nature of autism: “…customization might be required for the video-based tools to provide this same level of support. This customization may include changing elements in the video to match the context of activity for that student…these customizations require substantial content generation and can be challenging.” (2014). This being said, the authors do maintain that any technological interaction can be positive given the right instructor support. The benefits of using virtual classrooms or games may not occur instantly, but for the student with ASD the learning process must be looked at with a different objective. In a foreign language classroom the objective is increased proficiency, and I contend that while this must hold true for students with ASD, the FL teacher must adapt daily objectives and gear tasks to the individual needs of the student. In the case of Quizlet, it may take the student with ASD a few attempts to learn the routine of logging-in, finding their game, etc. but once those steps are achieved, they can proceed with language learning. Utilizing a virtual classroom allows the student with ASD to engage with his/her classmates in a socially structured environment they are familiar with, which will lead to increased proficiency in the target language. The negative aspects of using technology in a FL inclusive classroom are not inherently tied to the technology, rather the nature of the disorder. The vast evidence supports the fact that adapting to the general needs of the students with ASD will result in a positive learning experience, as long as the instructor is willing to adapt to what results they are looking for.
Blum-Dimaya, A., Reeve, S., Reeve, K., & Hock, H. (2010). Teaching children with autism to play a video game using activity schedules and game-embedded simultaneous video modeling. Education and Treatment of Children, 33(3), 351-370.
Deitchman, C., Reeve, S., Reeve, K., & Progar, P. (2010). Incorporating video feedback into self-management training to promote generalization of social initiations by children with autism. Education and treatment of children, 33(3), 475-488.
Grynszpan, O., Weiss, P., Perez-Diaz, F., & Gal, E. (2014). Innovative technology-based interventions for autism spectrum disorders: A meta analysis. Autism, 18(4), 346-361.
Kientz, J., Goodwin, M., Hayes, G., & Abowd, G. (2014). Interactive technologies for autism. San Raphael, CA: Morgan & Claypool.
Nguyen, H., & Kellogg, G. (2005). Emergent identities in on-line discussions for second language learning. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 62(1), 111-136.
Sherf, N., Graf, T. (2014). Using social media to create community within the classroom and beyond. The Language Educator, 9(4), 27-30.
Tetreault, A., & Lerman, D. (2010). Teaching social skills to children with autism using point-of-view video modeling. Education and Treatment of Children, 33(3), 395-419.
Thompson, G., & Nutta, J. (2015). Trying to reach more children: Videoconferencing in the Spanish foreign language elementary school classroom. Hispania, 98(1), 94-109.
United States Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Fast Facts [Data file]. Retrieved from
How often do we take a moment to reflect on an ideal situation in the course of teaching? Or how often do we visit a classroom or language laboratory and reflect on how that space works/functions? Given the demands and rapid pace of today’s classroom, educators are often pressed for time and are unable to sit back and reflect on what it is they would need or like to have to ensure their students reach their objectives. In this section, you will find educators who have taken the time to visit a classroom or language laboratory and/or reflect on their teaching and imagine an environment where they could achieve their objectives with the use of a tech-infused classroom (whether virtual or traditional). They had no limits and their imagination served them well. Marie-Lynda Akono visited a language laboratory at a large university. This particular language laboratory served multiple programs and departments and it was an opportunity for Marie-Lynda to explore how such a space can best fulfill the needs of its participants, its programs and its university. Stephanie Bennett envisioned an ideal tech-infused classroom that was firmly grounded in Google technology. In both of these environments, the enthusiasm and passion for teaching in these educators’ words is contagious. Please enjoy their musings!
By Marie-Lynda Akono
A language laboratory is a location where an audio or audio-visual installation is used to aid in modern language teaching. They can be found, amongst other places, in schools, universities, and academies. In the 1950s up until the 1990s, they were tape-based systems using reel to reel or (latterly) cassette. Current installations are generally multimedia PCs. They allowed a teacher to listen to and manage student audio via a hard-wired analogue tape deck based systems with ‘sound booths’ in fixed locations. These original language labs are now very outdated .
Language learning can be fun yet challenging because it takes time and practice to achieve acquisition. Garza (2014) argues that The Foreign Languages Lab focuses on listening, speaking, correct usage and cultural awareness to prepare students for careers in a multicultural world. Lab activities also reinforce speaking and listening skills through small-group conversation sessions, one-on-one tutoring, audio-visual media and computer software (Garza, 2014). A great deal of Foreign Language learning depends on the learning environment. This implies that besides the traditional instructor centered and grammar-oriented classroom, another way to learn a new language is the [hybridized: technology and human interaction] Foreign Language lab. This paper thus focuses on whether language labs are an effective resource in Foreign Language learning and acquisition and on suggestions to improve its effectiveness.
The language lab examined in this paper is located in a university in the Midwest and this particular language lab generally allows students to complete their language assignments or to study or instructors can reserve it for classroom use. The facility has two rooms. The first one is set up as a traditional computer lab, with a projected screen up-front, and may be used as a classroom. The other space is an open lab space for student and instructor use. These labs are highly advanced in technology and they are well equipped in terms of tech items. The lab has Macintosh desktops, headphones, digital recording tools, satellite distribution television, among others. Furthermore, students and instructors have free access. Therefore, it meets the needs of what a language lab should be as it has most tech items a learner and an instructor would need. The issue is that despite the advanced, modern, appealing setting of this lab, it is not effective in language acquisition and may not be in language learning either because the human presence is very minimal. As Blake (2008) argues, it is not about what tools we’re using but about how we use them.
Students each have their own developmental stages; therefore, some may be able to learn on their own in the lab in comparison to others. Nonetheless, the factor of acquisition is not guaranteed in the setting of this particular lab. As an undergraduate student and now a graduate student, I have had experience with this lab under similar circumstances. That is to walk in when it is open and watch assigned films for French class. The only advantage I had as an undergraduate is that I am a native speaker and my language skills were not affected by the lack of human resource. I was able to work with the headphones and the computer but at the same time, I was very bored and less motivated. For instance, this semester, my professor has been frustrated by the fact that we, as graduate students, had to watch films for our class in a timely manner and complete papers. However, the lab was not successful in having the films ready for us nor did the staff have the competence to fix the technical issues. Usually, the receptionist desk or staff on duty are students and the room layout has a window that often blocks any interaction between working staff and clients, i.e. students and (instructors). In addition, the individual workstations also have a limitation in their design because students cannot openly interact in the lab due to the dividing wall between each computer. From my personal experience, the lab is not very socially/communicatively oriented or helpful.
As a language instructor, I have had to refer my students to this lab to complete required proficiency tests including the ACTFL OPIc (Speaking), ACTFL LPT (Listening), and ACTFL RPT (Reading). The majority of the students returned to the next class after their visit to the lab and reported back with negative feedback because they did not know what they were doing and were by often misguided by the lab staff. It seems the testing required a great deal of self-discipline and while the goal is to never assume are ability to carry out these assessment procedures, the ideal situation would have been to have individuals in charge such as a project manager, etc. present and ready to guide and facilitate. Unfortunately, students were simply referred to the lab once they arrived and were left to work on their own. The point here is that the lab’s personnel have not always been active. The fun of a group effort and the expertise of an instructor are very crucial in the productivity and effectiveness of a lab. There are also no volunteers in this lab. Perhaps there should be recruiting of native speakers to volunteer in the lab as the language center, in the same building, that sponsors the lab does. Perhaps, graduate students who have advanced skills can spare time and volunteer; possibly for extra credit in their graduate courses, so that when undergraduate learners visit the lab, they have human presence to assist them. The student workers that “hide” behind the reception window cannot meet the goal of assisting in language learning because they are simply there as receptionists or sometimes as resources to quickly fix a technology issue. The presence of language lab tutors, native speaking volunteers, etc. can benefit the language program overall. For example, if students knew what they were doing or had some guide during last year’s proficiency tests, they may have scored slightly higher by completing tasks in appropriate manners. Some students, for instance, thrive on repeated drilling and memorization; others learn quickest when immersed in conversation. Although student-centered, to make learning meaningful, language labs should still have human resources, be hybridized, so that students have the options of working independently or working under instructor’s guidance.
Blake, R. J. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Foreign languages lab offers help. (2014). UWIRE Text, 1. Retrieved from [+ http://go.galegroup.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA385812224&v=2.1&u=msu_main&it=r&p=ITOF&asid=240b7645eb8f70e2da2315f3f88940f0+]
By Stephanie Bennett
In a 2003 study by Pittard et al., they found that using information and communication technology (ICT) in the classroom was positive for the students as well as the school. Students were motivated to learn the subject matter when using ICT, and the perceptions of the course and school were higher for students effectively using ICT (as cited in Evans, 2009, p.11). Since 2003 the popularity and accessibility of ICT has risen while student motivation and school perceptions continue to fall. In order to effectively teach a foreign language, technology must be integrated into the classroom. Instead of creating my ideal tech-infused classroom, or critiquing the one I currently have, I decided to create my ideal tech-infused classroom based on my current classroom and what I think can realistically be achieved.
The classroom would be complete with one desktop teacher computer, twelve Chromebases, five Chromebooks, five tablets, one projector, one audio sound system, one printer, and thirty headphones with attached microphones. Because my school has Wi-Fi internet access throughout the campus, students would be able to connect to the internet from any device, including their own. My school also provides each student with a Google e-mail account, which gives them access to all of the Google for Education Apps. This eliminates the need for desktop computers and laptops, allowing the school district to save money by buying Chromebases and Chromebooks instead. I would place each of the Chromebases on the student tables around the perimeter of the classroom. These would be set up for students to freely use them as needed. In the corner, I would securely store the classroom Chromebooks and tablets in a locked charging station. During class time, students would be able to access these devices as needed. I would also store the headphones in a designated location for students to use for listening and speaking practice assignments. I would still keep the textbooks, workbooks, and Spanish language children’s books and novels I already have in the room. I would create a space for students to work on choice assignments after they are finished. They could read a Spanish book, practice a topic they are struggling with in a workbook, read an e-book on the tablet, or listen to Spanish music on their iPod. This space could also be used for students to work together or play vocabulary games such as memory. Although I would like a digital projector to present videos, notes, and photos, I would also like to still have a marker board for writing announcements, the daily agenda, and to show examples. I would keep the traditional seating of student desks in rows because I find that students are able to pay attention to direct instruction when they are not in groups or behind a computer screen.
I would continue to use Google Classroom and all of the Google for Education Apps because my school provides that resource to me and my students. These tools are also accessible from any device, including a smartphone, making it possible to have different types of devices in the classroom. It also eliminates issues with formatting or compatibility between programs. Students would also have choice in using websites like Quizlet, Conjuguemos, Memrise, Duolingo, and StudySpanish. These sites give students individual practice and tutoring at their desired pace. Although I encourage daily communication in the target language, I cannot always listen to students and give them individual feedback, so my ideal tech-infused classroom would need a voice recording application, such as Vocaroo, that students could easily send to their peers and to me. This would allow me to give individual attention and feedback to their speech and it would also allow students to be more aware of their accent and errors they make. In an ideal world, all students would have internet access and a device at home, and I could host Google Hangouts in Spanish periodically. I could have digital tutoring or simply a place where students can converse in Spanish. In my current situation, I could host Google Hangouts during study hall period once a week. I would also like to explore a class blog using WordPress or a class Wiki. I want students to enjoy writing and creating content in the target language, but want the content to be meaningful and read by an audience. We could follow bloggers from other classes in our school or from English learners in Spanish speaking countries. Either situation would give the students an authentic audience for their writing.
In my ideal tech-infused classroom, I would still begin every class period with the students in rows without technology. At the beginning of class I need their full attention to make announcements, explain assignments, and teach concepts. Although students do have access to all of the information I could teach them online, I think that most students benefit from direct instruction. After teaching a concept, such as adjective agreement, I would then allow students to move to their preferred location to complete an assignment. The assignment, which is to create 10 descriptions of 10 different people with illustration, could be carried out several ways. A student could draw their people on construction paper and write their descriptions below, create a Google Slides presentation using images found online, or create a photo album on social media describing their family and friends. Students could elect to sit at the student tables and work on the Chromebases, take a Chromebook back to their desk, or sit on the floor using a tablet. Frank (2014) argues that students with “increased motivation, and increased options for self-selecting study activities will [have a] deeper engagement with language, more time on task, and thus, increased proficiency” (p. 92). My primary goal in the classroom is for students to be on task and engaged in Spanish as long as possible so that they can receive as much input as possible. This can be achieved by allowing students to select the format and tools they use to complete an assignment while staying within the required parameters.
Ultimately, my ideal tech-infused classroom would not use technology to replace me as the teacher. It would also not use technology for the sake of using it. To me, an ideal tech-infused classroom presents students with multiple tools to enhance their learning experience. Technology makes it easier to collect learner data, assess speaking and writing skills, and deliver content to students with differing abilities. Technology does not replace the role of the teacher, who should explicitly teach content when appropriate and facilitate student-lead learning as well. My ideal tech-infused classroom includes all of the resources I need to enhance the learning experience of my students.
Image: Layout of my ideal tech-infused classroom
Evans, M. (2009). Education and digital technology: Foreign language learning with digital technology. London: Continuum International Publishing.
Frank, V. M. (2014). Technologies for foreign language learning: A review of technology types and their effectiveness. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27(1), 70-105.
The one hallmark of the information age is that there is seemingly no end to the amount of information available to us as educators. In this section, you will find reviews by educators who are finding ways to engage with technology in their classrooms. They searched the Internet, current research journals, and library databases to find articles that would inspire, motivate or engage them in some new outlet for making their classroom a better place to learn.
Some of these articles look at the connection between technology and experimental classrooms. Other articles focused on specific tech tools or applications (specifically YouTube, ClassDojo, and wireless technologies). Lastly, you’ll find topics related to culture, assessment and social media. While these are very different topics, the one common denominator within all of these reviews is that there is a succinct overview on the usefulness of the particular article according to these seasoned educators. Take their advice and visit the original articles that captured their imagination or interest.
Starting us off on this focus on apps is Stephanie Bennett who reviews an app called ClassDojo () that has been mostly used for behavior tracking in younger students. However, Stephanie found that this app could be useful to all kinds of teaching situations, including a language classroom (with twenty languages available). Continuing with a focus on cloud based tools, Stephanie Bennett also reviewed an article on the benefits of using YouTube (). She finds a number of ways for connecting language teaching with resources found online from a video clip a museum in Spain to Flamenco dance lessons. In both article reviews, Stephanie finds ways of connecting these tools to her classroom in creative ways.
Knott, J. (2012). ClassDojo: More than simple behavior tracking. Educational Technology & Change. Retrieved from: [+ http://etcjournal.com/2012/01/19/classdojo-more-than-simple-behavior-tracking/+]
[Review by Stephanie Bennett] This article discusses ClassDojo, an app most commonly known for behavior tracking for elementary teachers. Teachers can set up an account, add their students, and create a list of positive and negative behaviors. If the student participates in class, the teacher can give Johnny points for class participation. If he speaks out of turn, she can take points away for not raising his hand. This is all done on a cell phone, tablet, or computer, making it easier for the teacher to instantly update each student’s profile. Students are able to see their progress in real time and parents have access to it as well. The app will create data reports by student, class, and behavior, allowing the teacher to see trends in student behavior.
The biggest advantage of ClassDojo is the ease of use for the teacher. Many teachers already use classroom behavior management systems, but have to spend time writing down behaviors and contacting parents. ClassDojo allows the teacher to document behavior and contact parents with just a few clicks. The article also suggests that because ClassDojo is flexible in terms of entering in behaviors, the app could be used for university classes, department meetings, or even formative assessments. One downside that the article discusses is that reward based behavior management systems are largely extrinsic while the goal of teachers should be to help students become intrinsically motivated to do well. Teachers can display the class roster through the project, and students can watch the class earn and lose points in real time. While this could be motivating for particular students who earn points, it could also be embarrassing or demoralizing to students when they lose points.
At first glance, I did not think I could incorporate ClassDojo into my classroom. Many of my students would laugh it off, and it would not be very effective. However, as I was browsing the ClassDojo blog, I noticed that they had the app available in 20 languages. I decided to sign up in Spanish and see what it looked like. The sample positive behaviors listed were “La Tarea” and “Trabajando duro.” I think this would give a great reinforcement of Spanish vocabulary while trying to sneak in some positive behavior management. I think it would be effective when collecting homework to add points for “La Tarea” immediately to praise my students in Spanish. The main screen also features a countdown timer, which I think would be helpful to use in class. I often require my students to be quiet for 15 seconds before moving on because they can become so chatty. I would like to use the countdown timer and if it is successful reward the entire class a point. Even if I did not use it for individual student behaviors, I could use it for overall class behavior. Although it may seem elementary, I think using it in Spanish could be effective for my high school students.
May, O., Wedgeworth, M., & Bigham, A. (2013). Technology in nursing education: YouTube as a teaching strategy. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 28(4), 408-410. DOI: 10.1016/j.pedn.2013.04.004
[Review by Stephanie Bennett] Nursing programs were faced with the challenge of not being able to deliver adequate opportunities for clinicals, especially in specialty areas such as pediatrics. To give students a more comprehensive education, nursing programs are turning to YouTube. YouTube is a video sharing website, which can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. Students are able to watch educational videos from larger universities, testimonial videos from real patients, and real footage from real procedures and problems that nurses face. The article warns that while many YouTube Channels, which are created by reputable organizations, provide accurate information, any user can upload a video, and the validity of the information is not guaranteed by YouTube. It is vital that teachers preview any video they wish to use in the classroom to ensure that the information presented is accurate. The article explains that YouTube videos are visually and verbally engaging for students, allowing them to interact with the content being presented.
There are numerous strengths that YouTube provides for education. First, students can learn from larger universities or cities that have more information than their current area or university. Nursing students can watch videos from medical mission trips, which will teach them about healthcare and diseases in other countries that they may never be able to travel to. Students can view real world experiences from any content area from native speakers of a language talking, to watching a science experiment in real time. Second, students can access YouTube from any mobile device. A teacher can show videos in the classroom, but can also assign videos to be watched for homework. Students who need extra explanation can watch videos at home to ensure they are caught up for the next class session. Finally, YouTube is more engaging for most students than traditional lectures. The “Millennial Generation” craves innovation and engagement, which is not always possible for a teacher to provide in a traditional classroom. YouTube provides information in a more engaging format than lectures.
I have found that students often need to hear the same material presented multiple times in a variety of format s. Although I explain grammar concepts to them, it is usually not sufficient for most students. I can use YouTube videos of grammar explanations to provide an alternate delivery of the same information. YouTube videos can also be more engaging and interactive than my explanations. I can also use YouTube videos to share parts of the target language culture that students may never get to see. I cannot take all of my classes on a trip to Spain, but I can show them videos of the Prado Museum, a bullfight, and a flamenco dance lesson. These experiences are not available where I live, but with YouTube, I can share them with my students. YouTube can also be used to differentiate instruction based on skill level and interest. I can offer videos for students that need extra practice or reinforcement on a vocabulary or grammar topic and videos of cultural experiences that students would be interested in such as a sporting event or eating in a restaurant. YouTube also allows users to upload content, giving my students an opportunity to create content and share it with others.
Starting us off on this focus on experimental classrooms is Marie-Lynda Akono, who reviews an article on the use of a flipped classroom. She finds the article is full of information on flipped learning and it includes multiple examples of commonly implemented practices. Along similar lines, Marie-Lynda Akono also reviews an article on blended learning. Her overview includes a discussion on blended learning and she ties this approach to language learning. Both types of experimental learning are being used and implemented in many classroom environments today. Marie-Lynda gives us a good start to learning more about blending or flipping a language classroom.
eSchool News. (2012). How to implement the ‘flipped Classroom.’ Bethesda, MD. eSchool Media & eClassroom News. Retrieved from [+ http://www.eclassroomnews.com/2012/05/21/how-to-implement-the-flipped-classroom /+]?
[Review by Marie-Lynda Akono] This article talks about flipped learning. According to this article, flipped learning is designed so that students watch instructional videos for homework and use class time to practice what they have learned. However, the in class portion of the model is more beneficial and effective if students complete the online activities. The in class portion also has the benefit of direct instruction, where the teacher facilitates discussions on what the students watched and helps the students to tackle the videos better. In addition, students utilize what they have learned in class when completing their homework.
A strength in this article is that it gives various examples regarding how flipped learning has been implemented in different subject matters, such as math and physical education. It also states that flipped learning is beneficial because it helps teachers to have more valuable and fun class sessions. In other words, teachers are more successful with class time management. The example of flipped learning in a foreign language classroom is notable because the teacher affirms that students use the target language more actively since class time is not devoted to grammar. Furthermore, the article reaffirms that technology is not only effective in the foreign language classroom, but teachers from any subject area can implement technology into the classroom routine to enable students to be successfully self-sufficient.
One way to incorporate flipped learning in my classroom is by using the majority of class time for output activities and communicative tasks. For input on grammar and other aspects of the target language, my students would then refer to recorded videos outside of class. These videos can be organized in a way that they include repetitions, gestures, etc. Even though the video portion may include grammar, input, etc., students may tolerate it because they won’t feel as if I am physically talking “at” them. They would rather feel as they’re watching something informative and beneficial to their acquisition. This way, class time is used to practice and work through what they have learned from the videos, will be more of me talking “with” them. Flipped learning is definitely a great teaching strategy.
Kish, M. (2015). Building a blended learning classroom that works. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from
[Review by Marie-Lynda Akono] This article talks about blended learning, which is primarily “mixing technology with classroom instruction to keep students engaged”. Although blended learning has various definitions, the one Kish puts emphasis on is: blended learning is an approach to teaching and learning that leverages online resources to create a personalized learning experience over which students have meaningful control. Kish also argues that blended learning “can significantly improve student learning and growth”. This means that the traditional classroom, which is normally teacher-centered, transforms into a student-centered learning environment. However, for the instructor to achieve significant results, he or she should familiarize him or herself with enough strategies to make it work. In that regard, blended learning is also time consuming; therefore, the instructor would have to be dynamic.
Putting emphasis on the ways to make blended learning effective is a strong point in this article. Kish’s article is noteworthy because she does not only introduce the reader to a technology based teaching method but she explains how this method can be effective and successful for both the student and the instructor. For instance, she demonstrates that through the blended learning model, students have different learning choices or strategies. They may be guided by the instructor through online modules, videos (ex: Zaption ), group work, etc. and work at their own pace. Additionally, students can choose where to work from as long as they have access to the Internet. Then the instructor can measure students’ progress based on results and data. Data is highly important in the blended learning method because it helps the instructor to determine whether he or she needs to modify the online learning to help students reach their appropriate competence level.
In the case of L2 acquisition, blended learning is an effective method because it would enable students to be responsible for their own learning in a non-traditional context. Since the Internet is accessible and there are various free or affordable online resources such as Google Drive tools, BlendSpace, polleverywhere, etc., to create and organize lessons, I see myself adopting this method. In fact, I already teach hybrid courses that include a significant amount of Internet / technology use. Therefore the blended learning method would help me give my students an even greater space to be independent learners. I can continue to have resources ready to guide their learning.
Starting us off on this focus on the interaction between technology and culture is Marie-Lynda Akono’s review of an article on the importance of cross-cultural communicative competence. This particular article provides a working definition of culture and the author connects this definition to classroom practice. Marie-Lynda continues this discussion by focusing on how she could incorporate this information into her own classroom. Melissa Horn reviews an article on the use of Pinterest () to connect students to the culture present in what people post to Pinterest. This article provides an interesting lesson plan for making use of Pinterest to stimulate a students’ interest in a variety of topics. Melissa also offers up an additional lesson plan that would work offline. Melissa Horn also explores an article on the use of social media as a way of extending the classroom culture and interaction. The authors of this article explore a number of popular social media apps and discusses a few ways to make use of them in a classroom situation. In all of these article reviews, the use of technology is found to be useful in improving our students’ skills in many areas that include culture.
Sehlaoui, A. (2012). Crossing the cultural divide. Language Magazine. Retrieved from
[Review by Marie-Lynda Akono] This article talks about the demand for cross-cultural communicative competence in language professionals. This is due to various reasons including that of the current increasing number of culturally and linguistically diverse students. To develop effective and critical cross-cultural communicative competence, language professionals must foremost have a good understanding of the concept of culture in order to unravel the hidden curriculum. In this article, culture is “a dynamic process within a given social context in which individuals are in a constant struggle for representation and the need to have an authentic voice”. In a social context such as the classroom, language educators have to develop a socially constructed curriculum to better serve their own interests and those of learners.
Even though Sehlaoui is attempting to break the cultural divide in pedagogy, she quickly jumps to other topics including immigration. She gives an overview of how literacy can empower teachers and learners regardless of their educational level or purpose. She then gives an example of a scenario where kindergartners helped their teacher’s get new classroom furniture simply by voicing their observations and opinions about the matter. However, to develop cross-cultural communicative competence in the language classroom, teachers “should be able to connect the language they teach and how they teach to the socio-cultural context of their students”. This argument does not thoroughly or necessarily relate to the kindergarten scenario Sehlaoui explains because the children were not expressing themselves in a second language. The primary idea is that in SLA, teachers should generally ensure that their students could use the language they are learning in different social contexts and communicate it in the real world.
To incorporate this information into my teaching, as Sehlaoui proposed in the beginning of her article, I would need to grasp an understanding of the L2 culture and in the L2 in comparison to my own culture, which goes beyond nationality or ethnicity. Culture also means understanding societies (through the target language), reflecting, and being able to communicatively contribute to the development of such societies. This approach may also help in diminishing stereotypes and assumptions in and out the language classroom. For instance, Stromae is a French artist that most people in French [language] contexts are aware of. However, this is an assumption. When Stromae came to Detroit last month and I brought it up in class, very few of my students knew of him and mentioned they were attending the concert. I myself have just learned through FLTEACH that his father is from Rwanda and that he performed in the country recently. I initially assumed he was originally French. Generally, being aware and comprehensive of what I teach, why and how I teach it, would help me connect it of the socio-cultural context of my students so that we can all find the value of the language and make sense out of the cultural information in the L2.
Mitchell, C. (2015). Pinterested in culture: Using the digital world to explore diverse cultured perspectives. The Language Educator, 10(3), 42-43.
[Review by Melissa Horn] Pinterest may commonly be known for its ability to provide endless amounts of ideas for party planning, recipes, and mason jars. Within education pinterest is a useful application to find and share resources for classroom use with other educators from all parts of the world. In this brief article, Mitchell presents an ingenious way to use pinterest to develop an intercultural lesson within the foreign language classroom. Rather than using pinterest to develop her lesson, pinterest is actually the basis for the lesson. Presented in a series of steps, the lesson involves students who are on a fictional journey: they are going to audition to be on the television show House Hunters International. Students need to identify what they like in a house in their assigned Spanish speaking country. The method for collecting ideas is to search the web for images and ‘pin’ images to a pinterest board. Step two in the lesson is to look at the pinterest board created and write a ‘script’ in the target language based on what they would be looking for in a house. Step three is to record each group ‘auditioning’ in the target language and discussing what they would want in a house. The entire lesson was supplemented by journal entries with teacher driven prompts related to why living in another country is important.
This article is successful in the way it identifies why pinterest and similar apps are successful. People like to discuss what they like. Mitchell takes this aspect of human nature and translates it into a language lesson concerning what people do when they like something. They try to convince you to like it as well. In this case, the fact that students are finding houses within Spanish-speaking countries boosts the intercultural lesson in the way it forces students to take the perspective of someone from within that country. The ‘audition’ nicely ties both the ability to use the target language to persuade others to not only like them as people, but also to convey what they would want in a house in their assigned country. Mitchell continues this aspect of using persuasion to convey intercultural awareness in the follow-up journal entries where again students are convincing others to study abroad, flipping their perspectives.
From a technical standpoint, I think it is clear this specific lesson is intended for an older classroom. Mitchell does not discuss the need for log-ins, passwords, etc. with pinterest. That said this type of activity could be easily replicated for a K-12 audience by copying and pasting pictures onto a document or even an actual bulletin board, the antiquated origins of pinterest. Overall the idea of persuasion to convey an intercultural perspective is a lesson that can be translated into many different lessons: for instance an activity where groups need to plan a vacation, with itinerary of what they would want to do, and subsequently convince others to visit their country. This would firmly place each group not only in a country speaking the target language, but also in the position to defend what is good about where ‘they’ virtually are.
Sherf, N., & Graf, T. (2014). Using social media to create community within the classroom and beyond. The Language Educator, 9(4), 27-30.
[Review by Melissa Horn] As language and language learning are essentially social actions, exploring the use of social media within the language classroom is a natural extension worthy of exploration for use within classrooms. Sherf and Graf’s article is an investigation of four different social media tools: Schoology, Twitter, WeSpeke, and Facebook. Examples of how each was used within real classrooms are described and results and student feedback interpreted. Overall, using each form of social media proved to be a positive learning experience in which a greater sense of community was gained from the exercises.
The strength of the article lies in its thoroughness. The authors make their purpose clear: their objective is not to give you clear cut instructions on which tool to use and why, their argument is that all social media if used facilitated correctly can benefit a classroom if you select the correct one to meet your needs. Each subsequent section consists of overviews of each product. Schoology, similar to Google classroom, can be used to create an online classroom where students can post and react to teacher driven prompts and interact with each other via message boards in a low-pressure setting. Similarly, Facebook is presented as a way to bring the class together by means of a Facebook page. Generating a class specific (yet public) Facebook page gives the teacher a space to generate assignments and look for reactions. In the article the example given is a French class who had to use YouTube to find a popular French song and accompanying video. They were to post their find to the class Facebook page and others had to react in the target language. Student safety is also discussed with each product and it factors most in the use of Twitter. Twitter in the classroom seems like a daunting task in terms of safety, but Sherf and Graf present a way to incorporate twitter-using hashtags. The teacher observed created a hashtag specific to their class, and every post had to include the hashtag. For students to participate, they simply needed to enter the hashtag, read, and respond to their classmate’s posts. I thought this was a very clever way to use Twitter, however they do mention that of all the methods examined, this one has the least amount of safety, as once you enter the ‘Twittersphere’ it is easy to find tweets that are not specific to your classroom , leaving students susceptible to the public. The last tool, WeSpeke, is an online tool made specifically for language learners that allows you to chat with anyone in the world by means of a written or video chat. It is a relatively simple and easy way to get in contact with speakers of various languages who are often eager to practice speaking in their target language as well. There are many perks to WeSpeke, including registering and finding partner classes, or having access to how often students are chatting. WeSpeke does require registration, and for safety the company provides parental consent forms as well as quick ‘flagging’ options if someone acts inappropriately.
The constant presented in this article is that social media was beneficial to the language learning classroom because it gave students a casual outlet to practice the target language without the pressure of speaking in front of their classmates. As students became for comfortable writing in the target language, their confidence was boosted and they were more motivated to speak in the target language during classes. Sherf and Graf present a strong case in favor of being acquainted with one or more forms of social media and to make them an integral part of the language-learning classroom. The only downside to this article is the constantly changing pace of a technology such as social media. This particular article is only a year old and there are countless new social media outlets that are not discussed, such as: Google classroom, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, or Periscope. Regardless, the teacher invested in using social media effectively in the classroom is most likely unafraid of exploring new social media outlets as they gain popularity.
Starting us off on this tools’ focus, Melissa Horn reviews an article on the new assessments for English language learners (ELLs) in US and the challenges with the use of such tools in a school system. She compares the implementation of such a system against her own current classroom practice and the importance of testing speaking in a language classroom. In our last piece, Stephanie Bennett reviews an article that looks into the use of handheld wireless technologies in classrooms. These types of devices show great promise for helping to individualize instruction and for connecting students to valuable resources. As Stephanie notes, these technologies come with a number of challenges that are clearly laid out by the authors. Both article reviews demonstrate the promise held in new technologies while ensuring that the challenges/disadvantages also receive a similar amount of attention.
Mitchell, C. (2015). As ELL tests move online, educators hope for better gauge of skills. Education Week, 35(5). Retrieved from [+ http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/as-ell-tests-move-online-educators-hope.html?tkn=UONF%2BxAdbWK5pu1ZknZLeSQx8623P3g6rYVb&print=1+]
[Review by Melissa Horn] In 2015, both the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium (WIDA) and the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century consortium (ELPA 21) will be rolling out new online assessments for English-language learners (ELLs). Funded in part by grants from the U.S. government, the new online assessments were created to meet the needs of states and school districts within each consortium, to better gauge the proficiencies of their ELL population in all four competencies: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Considering WIDA consists of thirty-six states and ELPA 21 ten states, each official online assessment rollout was preceded by a field test to better prepare for the actual assessment. The field test was a way to provide those taking the tests and administrators not only some information on test format, but more importantly, insight into the technological needs of each district , as well as the technological skills needed to complete the exam.
The focus of Mitchell’s article is on the two field tests performed, and the article’s strength lies in how he thoroughly addresses some of the major problems with rolling out a new online assessment. Specifically, Mitchell discusses the ‘digital divide’ that occurs during these types of assessment. He is correct in saying that when the majority of the student population taking the exam feels comfortable with technology; the remaining group is faced with an assessment that has turned into “a test of both English proficiency and computer literacy.” (Mitchell, 2015). While I think he is saying the field test is a way to prevent some of this from happening, he does not explicitly give solutions to this type of scenario. For elementary educators, Mitchell rightly points out the challenges of assimilating to online technology, where some young ELLs may “struggle with manipulating a computer mouse.” (Mitchell, 2015) To this fact he does follow up with a bit of a solution, in that at least ELPA 21 officials have stated administrators of their assessment have been trained on how to provide technical assistance without giving answers. Lastly, I like that Mitchell discusses timing, however I wish he had specifically discussed the effect on class time in general. For instance, he states that pencil/paper assessments administered averaged two weeks to complete, where online versions would take one week. Also, new online tests would need to allow for ‘practice time’ prior to beginning the actual assessment. I wish Mitchell could have gone into a bit of discussion regarding so much class time, for either type of exam. The online tests save a week of time, but considering the need for practice and the technological needs of the districts, how much time is being profited? I’m not sure of the answer; I just wish it had been addressed.
The size and number of students I teach is very small, and I feel a full-scale online assessment would take more time to develop than necessary. That said, I am always looking for ways to incorporate more efficient speaking assessments. Borrowing from the ideas Mitchell discussed, I struggle with finding methods to assess speaking that will be user friendly for 10-13 year olds. I currently use power point to have them record their own voices, and even this requires a few minutes of training, albeit once a year. Make-up speaking assessments have also given light to an interesting situation. For students who have had to perform ‘make-up’ speaking assessments time constraints make it is easier for both of us to have them speak in front of me and me grade from this, rather than be recorded. I have noticed these students always perform better than those recorded. It leaves me wondering if, like Mitchell stated, I am not really assessing just speaking, but speaking and technical know-how.
Morgan, H., & Maldonado, N. (2010). Technology in the classroom: Using handheld wireless technologies in schools. Childhood Education, 87(2), 139-42. DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2011.10521462
[Review by Stephanie Bennett] The disadvantages and advantages of using handheld wireless technologies such as tablets and smartphones are explored in this article. The author cites multimedia access, communication with peers and teachers, the ability to capture images, and the “green” nature of these devices as advantages for students and teachers who have access to these devices. On the other hand, disadvantages include cyber bullying, developing a dependency on technology, and the opportunity for distractions. The article concludes that while these technologies offer valuable tools and resources to students and teachers when used appropriately, they are unable to take the place of a teacher or human interaction. The author recommends having a handheld device for each student and having control measures in place to maximize the success of these technologies in the classroom.
The biggest advantage of a handheld personal device such as a tablet or smartphone is the ability to personalize instructional tools and strategies. The article mentions having ESL students listen to audiobooks on an iPod. Allowing students to select their audiobook based on their interests and Lexile level will encourage students to listen to audiobooks beyond the class requirements. Another advantage of personal handheld devices is the cost. Typically, schools cannot afford a desktop or laptop computer for each student. Handheld devices cost less, allowing more devices to be purchased. Increasingly, students now have their own personal device that they can bring to school, requiring the school to only purchase enough for those that do not have one.
Incorporating personal handheld devices into my classroom instruction is an obvious first step, as the majority of my students already have a personal device. That would require me to check out a smaller number of devices from the school media center instead of a class set. I am also interested in the personalization of instruction that the personal handheld device gives each student. I teach a wide variety of students, from students with learning disabilities to students who were educated in Spanish speaking countries, and it is often difficult to teach a single lesson that address all of their needs. Sending differentiated practice activities to the students’ devices would allow extra vocabulary practice for the students who need it while the more advanced learners complete real-world tasks based on the targeted vocabulary.
As the diversity of articles, essays and tools demonstrate, there is no one answer to technology use in education. However, all of the above discussion points to three unavoidable conclusions. First, the biggest issue facing current technology use is no longer on what to use, but on how to use it. Second, there is no right answer to which tool is the most effective. In fact, a student-centered classroom would be best served by allowing multiple entry points for technology use and inclusion. Finally, technology is absolutely worthless unless the educator has taken the time to understand it, plan for it and reflect on it. Thank you taking the time to read our work. You are welcome to contact each of us or contact the editor directly. You will find that information in the following section on the authors and editor.
Thank you for reading our work. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave us a review at your favorite retailer? You can also contact each of us if you have any suggestions, comments or praises!
Marie-Lynda Akono was born in Togo and moved to Michigan by way of her parents. She received a B.A. in Comparative Cultures & Politics from Michigan State University. While completing her degree, she interned with the American Field Service in France. She has served the Lansing School District for a year as part of the Greater Lansing AmeriCorps program. She is currently teaching French and completing her M.A. in Romance & Classical Studies – French at MSU. In her spare time, she loves traveling abroad, gardening, dancing, watching soccer games, and hanging out with her sisters.
Stephanie Bennett graduated from Valdosta State University, where she earned a B.A. in French with an emphasis in Foreign Language Education. She also studied Spanish and English as a Second Language. She is currently teaching Spanish at Coffee High School in Douglas, Georgia. While pursuing her undergraduate degree she studied at La Universidad de Cádiz in Cádiz, Spain. Stephanie enjoys exercising and travelling with her husband Andrew.
Melissa Horn is currently a graduate student in the MAFLT program at Michigan State University. Prior to joining the program at MSU, Melissa received a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Iowa. Originally from New Jersey, she currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire where she teaches Spanish to an enthusiastic group of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.
Dr. Dustin De Felice has more than a decade in the fields of Adult Education, Applied Linguistics and language teaching. He has taught in East Lansing, Michigan, Tampa, Florida, Chicago, Illinois and Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his current position, he is a proud faculty member in the Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching program at Michigan State University () and is constantly amazed by the brilliance in his students and colleagues. You can find more of his work at and
In this annual volume, you will read the words and stories of educators adapting to and working with technology in ways that make their classrooms, whether virtual or traditional, better places for all stakeholders. As a professor in the Masters of Art Foreign Language Teaching Program (MAFLT), Dustin De Felice had the distinct pleasure of working with a small group of dedicated professionals who were interested in discussing, experimenting with and critiquing technology use in their classroom as well as in classrooms-at-large. The final result of this time spent together is contained in a freely available etext downloaded to most tablets, handheld devices or traditional desk/laptops. The overall volume is organized into four sections beginning with persuasive essays on specific topics within technology and classroom use and ending with reviews of technology oriented resources/article. Within the etext, these educators talk about preferences, experiences and, ultimately, classroom practices from a broad representation of languages. This broad representation of languages helped us to see practices through the eyes of our colleagues and led to greater and more inclusive discussions. Additionally, these professionals work in unique situations and they have needs and perspectives that show through in their technology choices. In fact, one of the most lasting and enduring features of the current tech explosion is the ability to personalize or individualize one's experience with electronic devices from computers to tablets to Smartphones.