Teaching with Technology 2016: Language Educators Talking Tech
Written By Mariela Andrade, Hanh Do, Carmen Durham & Paul Nitz
Edited By Dustin De Felice
Copyright 2016 Mariela Andrade, Hanh Do, Carmen Durham, Paul Nitz & Dustin De Felice
Cover Design by Dustin De Felice and the tools available in
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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.
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By Dustin De Felice
What teacher doesn’t face a hurdle, a surprise or a challenge in helping students become learners? Many teachers often look to technology as a way of alleviating, solving or removing the obstacles. This volume focuses on the intersection between the technology out there for language learning and the teachers who are using them. Within these pages, there are numerous stories, ideas, strategies and words from educators who are wrestling with how to best make use of the constant change in technology. These same educators teach a variety of languages and they come from different backgrounds. Because these educators work in unique locations and they have specific needs, they are driven to find solutions that makes sense to them and 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 with 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. Mariela Andrade starts us off with a discussion on the issues of using Google applications in a language classroom. She details a number of key considerations for working online and she discusses the pros and cons of creating digital communities. Hanh Do discusses the larger picture of the Internet and language learning. She writes about how language classrooms have embraced the Internet and how it applies to distance learning. Much like Mariela, she focuses on a number of opportunities and challenges for teachers in online environments. Carmen Durham looks into the use of Social Media as a way to support language classrooms. She ties her discussion to the iGeneration (those born after 1990) and the importance of Social Media in their learning. Lastly, Paul Nitz shows us how digital vocabulary flashcards can support teacher-led initiatives in Communicative Teaching of Ancient Greek. His approach moves us into an important and timely discussion on meeting the needs of all our students including the studies of Classical languages like Ancient Greek. All four essays provide guidance for any language instructor looking to improve their daily classroom practice through technology.
By Mariela Andrade
Nowadays, technology influences every aspect of life and teaching and learning has carries that imprint too. Web 2.0 in particular has been in use since the 90’s in regards to incorporate technology to the classrooms (Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J., 2009) but it seems that today there is a sense of emergency to use new tools for making the curriculum more appealing and accessible to students as well as to prepare them for the future. As Adams, 2008 says, “the migration of online educational needs to tools like Google applications (…) forces educators to find ways to use technology to enhance traditional curriculum” (Adams, 2008, p. 96). This transition from traditional to XXI century classroom is occurring at a rapid pace and much of it can be the result of who the current students are: native digitals. Even a growing number of teachers are, if not native digitals yet, they are certainly from a generation that if not born, grew up knowing how to use and interact with technology.
For this paper, three articles were considered for taking a position for or against the question: What are some of the issues in the use of Google Applications in the Foreign Languages Classroom? By trying to answer this main question this paper inevitably treats extensive concerns regarding technology use in the classroom in general. Some people argue that it is not correct for students to spend so much time in front of a screen (Manzoor, 2016), but if it results on effectiveness in teaching, is it worth? Is it real that using technology in the classroom, like Google applications, loads our students with tools for the future? And finally, when learning a new language students are passing out information about themselves and possibly browsing the web, therefore, how do Google apps deal with online safe use issues?
Gaga for Google
This article discusses the migration of student communities from their former online services to others more complex, flexible and user oriented like Google Applications. This article presents age gap as a concerning topic within use of technology in the classroom. He describes three generations coexisting in schools nowadays: Native Digitals (ND), Gen-X and Baby boomers. The last two represent the educator’s generations and ND would be represented by the students. The author recognizes the need for the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and his constant struggle to keep the technology pace with Digital natives. One gadget he ventured to try in his Advanced Placement Class was Google an all its applications. In this article he discusses his findings whether they are pro the applications or against them.
Could Steiner schools have a point on children, tablets and tech?
This article antagonize all the mainstream discussion regarding technology when it proposes that schools should not use technology at all. In this case, it is supported by the Steiner pedagogy, suggesting “young children naturally learn to learn, and of providing educational experiences which build on their natural interests and curiosity” (Manzoor, 2016). The article suggests that technology leaves no place for imagination to naturally expand.
Boost Online Safety in K–12 Schools with the Help of Technology
This article focuses mostly on how schools are being held accountant of the extended use of technology and its safety concerns for children and their families. It presents the case of a school that teaches online safety. The article presents a new Google tool that could be the answer to these concerns: Chromebooks. These are laptops from the Google family that are specifically built for education purposes and have built in security settings “so that no additional security software (has) to be purchased” (Bogardus, 2016).
Implications for the practice
There are common points within these three articles that can help solve three big issues regarding the use of Google Education products within the FL classroom. On one hand, there is a big concern coming from a new trend in the population proposing that students spend too much time in front of the screens. On the other hand, it is a fact that learning languages in general is a long process, where the most effective tool is to increase the contact with the Target Language (Blake & Chun, 2008). Going to a place where the language is spoken could be a solution for those unwilling to be exposed to screens, but reality shows that it is far from happening. Blake, 2008 shows that “less than 3 percent of our university students go abroad on either academic or internship programs. What happens to the majority of our nation’s L2 students who are unable or unwilling to take advantage of study abroad?” (Blake, 2008, p. 2). A feasible solution is seen in the use of technological tools like the ones offered by Google Education products and applications. These allow students to engage in Virtual Exchanges and long distance collaboration, for example. Collaboration is a skill that definitively calls to be encouraged in any course during school years, not just in the effort of learning a new language. Using Google applications “not only allows students to continue discussion outside of class, but also encourages collaboration and discussion with students in different sections in the same course” (Adams, 2008, p. 98).
The safety issue
As a tool for learning languages, google applications “can be fantastic for encouraging collaboration and accessing resources, but it can also be ripe with threats.” (Bogarduz, 2016) For this reason, this topic still creates skepticism among the population. By going into the web, students inevitably will be sharing information like passwords, or even more personal if they are engaging in a virtual exchange. This information sharing is very appealing in the process of learning a second language because “Language learning is assisted through social interaction of learners and their interlocutors, particularly when they negotiate toward mutual comprehension of each other’s message meaning” (Blake, 2008, p.3). Good news is that Google Education has made efforts towards enhancing security and products targeting educational needs that are safe have been launched: Chromebooks. These are devices that claim to “keep students safe from malware, hackers and inappropriate websites” (Bogarduz, 2016), solving the issue of internet safety.
Tools for the future
Many teachers and educational actors claim that students shouldn’t be neglected from access to technology because it would jeopardize their ability to engage in the labor market. While it seems evident that the jobs our students will work on will necessarily mean they know how to relate with technology, there is also the idea that “With technology growing and changing at the rate it is, imagine how it’s all going to continue to accelerate in to the future. Anything we teach them now will be outdated” (Weale, 2015). As a High School teacher though, I believe that the big majority of the people involve in education (from students to teachers to guardians) would steer towards loading students with technological tools in order to help them with their future. As a matter of fact, in the article Gaga for Google the teacher convince his reluctant students to open a Gmail account by telling them that “more universities, colleges, and high schools move their online communication needs to Google” (Adams, 2008, p. 96).
When using technology in general, issues will arrive. Using Google Applications is no different. While there is no evidence that Google Education designs products specifically for the learning of a Foreign Language, FL teaching occurs also in the classroom and therefore the use of their products for this end comes as a natural consequence. Google products represent a great advantage in helping shorten the exposition time that is needed to acquire a second language. Collaboration is also one of the competences that these tools seem to improve and learning a FL is all about being able to exchange information and be able to engage in collaborative tasks.
It seems that by using Google products we are loading our students with XXI century skills like collaboration and tech savviness. Teaching collaboration directly or indirectly as in this case is excellent since our students will be able to capitalize on that knowledge same as if they familiarize themselves to using electronic platforms for learning. It is very likely that today students will face a learning and working environment surrounded by technology once they finish school and therefore it is desirable that these institutions prepare them to know how to manage it by incorporating it in daily learning.
As for safety issues, teachers should always be aware and loaded with tools that allow them to be ready to face vulnerability challenges. If a school is willing to invest on technology tools, they should also consider a budget for training teachers in the correct use of it. Even in the quoted Steiner schools that do not use technology, they are aware that their students will likely face it and therefore “pupils do not use computers or the internet when in school but staff have ensured that they have learned about internet safety” (Manzoor, 2016).
Adams, D. C. (2008). Gaga for Google in the twenty-first century advanced placement language classroom. The Clearing House, (82)2, 96-100.
Blake, R. J. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Bogarduz, M. (2016, November). Boost online safety in K–12 schools with the help of technology. TechEd. Retrieved from [+ http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/11/boost-online-safety-k-12-schools-help-technology+]
Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age: Web 2.0 and classroom research. What path should we take now? Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246-259. Retrieved from
Gϋtl, C. A. (2013). Technologies, flexible and affordable foreign language learning environment based on Web 2.0. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 8(2), 16-28.
Manzoor, S. (2016, June 14). Could Steiner schools have a point on children, tablets and tech? The Guardian US. Retrieved from [+ https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jun/14/steiner-schools-children-tablets-tech+]
Weale, S. (2015, September 29). The ‘no-tech’ school where screens are off limits – even at home. The Guardian US. Retrieved from [+ https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/sep/29/the-no-tech-school-where-screens-are-off-limits-even-at-home+]
By Hanh Do
Everyone agrees that the world has evolved significantly in this ever-changing technology era. One of the great technologies in the modern day is the creation of the internet. The internet has affected every aspect of life, and modern education is no exception. However, there have been opinions on both sides on how its impacts should be perceived and whether or not the internet should be used to aid foreign language education. This paper aims to create a better understanding of the use of internet-based tools to address some of the challenges that those tools bring, and finally to provide some suggestions for a more effective application of those tools in a foreign language classroom.
Nowadays there exists a large number of online language programs and websites that facilitate foreign language education, such as Duolingo, Memrise, Blackboard, Skype, Google Classroom, and FaceTime. The common feature that they all share is that they enable participants, both teachers and learners, to connect and interact in the teaching and learning process. The use of the online platform in a foreign language classroom allows other pedagogical approaches to also be employed rather than just the traditional Grammar-Translation, which was popular decades ago. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) have prevailed in the modern time. These approaches focus on the improvement of communicative competence and the internet-based platforms allow teachers and learners to communicate for such purposes.
The Internet-Based Tools and Distance Learning
It is undeniable that distance learning (DL) would not be possible without the existence of the internet. As defined in Blake (2008, p.105), “DL has been loosely applied to different types of learning environments including teleconference, hybrid blended, or virtual”. Distance learning, is specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. Because it is not constrained by geographic considerations, it offers opportunities in situations where traditional education has difficulty operating. Students with scheduling or distance problems can benefit because distance education can be more flexible in terms of time and can be delivered virtually anywhere. As discussed in Evans (2009, p.153), technology allows different forms of foreign language classrooms where learners can communicate with teachers and peers, either asynchronously or synchronously. According to Warschauer (1977), Computer-Mediated-Communication (CMC) has become more and more popular in language education. It facilitates collaboration and promotes communication among class members both asynchronously and synchronously.
As for less commonly taught languages, (LCTLs), internet-based tools are even more desired as they tackle many challenges that are facing them. As discussed in Blake (2008), “LCTLs often suffer from another curriculum dilemma: the need for quality pedagogical materials at all levels which typically goes unmet due to low commercial profit margins at the publishing houses. Publishers project small enrollments for these languages and consequently have little motivation to produce print materials for them”. By employing internet-based tools, educators would definitely be able to design DL language courses that allow learners to participate from wherever they are as long as they have access to the internet. This will offer more opportunity to promote the teaching and learning of LCTLs.
Another researcher, Godwin-Jones, also discussed the increase of possibilities for students of LCTLs to enroll in a language program, which is enhanced by the application of various online platforms and websites. As cited by Tabatabaei and Gui (2011) the needs for CMC and DL are increasing rapidly in the modern world and because of technology, more and more individuals become interested in learning foreign languages.
Hismanoglu (2008) suggests that the internet can also be used as a pedagogical tool for enhancing language learning and teaching. Not only can teachers and learners use the internet as a platform to interact during the DL courses, they can also use the internet as a resource to search for information, to acquire teaching materials, and to design linguistic and communicative tasks as appropriate to the course.
The results in various surveys, discussed in Blake (2012), reveal that most students’ perceptions of the DL experience are positive. Many results suggest, “computer-assisted-language-learning (CALL) may make language learning less stressful for some students” and “working with online materials causes less anxiety”.
The Internet and Distance Learning Challenges
Although DL undeniably brings many opportunities to language learners, it presents certain drawbacks. By nature of working on screen, especially in the case of asynchronous classroom, students are not able to have person-to-person interactions with their teacher and peers and are, therefore, unable to develop the rapport that they would in a face to face (F2F) learning environment (Blake, 2008). Moreover, unlike traditional F2F setting, DL requires a great deal of autonomy, commitment, motivation, and self-discipline from students. It offers students more independence than a traditional classroom; however, it does not guarantee success without a high level of commitment from students. DL might not be the solution for everyone and so might discourage a number of online learners and limit the development of online programs.
Moreover, in order to succeed in online learning, students need to have acquired a certain level of technology proficiency. Teachers also need to be trained on technical skills in order to conduct these online classrooms. Sometimes, technological issues can also lead to a delay or cancellation of class, in the case of synchronous learning format. In my years of teaching experience, I have had to cancel a number of synchronous classes due to low speed internet and other computer issues from both learners and myself, the teacher.
One of the concerns about using technology in language programs is that “there is a lack of confidence in teacher’s technological expertise and time constraint in preparing for lesson” (Evans, 2009, p.158-159). The cost of using internet-based programs and the time it takes to train teachers are considered negative impacts of technology application. Training definitely requires time and effort and creates financial impacts on institutions and participants alike.
Another side impact of using technology such as internet-based learning tools in classrooms is that it can create stress to learners who engage in online collaborative learning, according to Jung, et al. (2012). As online learning platforms allow learners to communicate beyond time and space constraints, it promotes the diversity and richness in the student’s learning experience. However, since leaners are not able to build the kind of rapport as they would in F2F learning environment, “the lack of trust can be a key obstacle to online collaborations” (Jung, et al. 2012). In a foreign language classroom, collaboration usually takes place either in oral or written form, or in both. The key to learning a language or a foreign language in most cases is to communicate with other interlocutors. Therefore, interaction with others is critical and should be promoted to improve the success of the learning process overall.
In addition, in many parts of the world where the teacher-centered approach is dominant, there can be challenges to the success of online language learning. In Asia, for example, many countries value collectivism, (Jung, et al. 2012) which has become the core of their national identity. These learners often do not feel confident to express themselves in the same way western learners do. They tend to prefer being guided and led by their teacher while completing tasks in class. In online language programs where learners are required to be more independent, willing and able to take initiative in their own study, teachers might face challenges when trying to adopt the learner-centered approach.
Effectiveness of Internet-Based Instruction
There have been questions on the effectiveness of DL versus face-to-face in language classroom. Blake (2008, p.109-113), although admitting that there has been “very little empirical research” on the “effectiveness of online language learning or compared the progress of students participating in such courses with that of those enrolled in traditional classes”, the student outcomes “has given rise to no significant differences”. The form of instruction does not produce a significant difference but the “great deal of language practice” does. This suggests that it is the pedagogical approach, the classroom activities, the motivation, the commitment, and the aptitude of students that decide the success of student.
Not What Technology Is but How It Is Used
As discussed in Blake (2008, p.131) “there exists no single best technological tool, just as there is no single pedagogical approach that everyone should follow”. It is evident that educators should thoroughly think of what technology to use and how to incorporate it in their curriculum as the key to the success of technology application. For example, in planning for a DL course, educators should answer several questions related to the course such as should it be conducted in asynchronous or synchronous format? Should it be launched via teleconference or hybrid? What pedagogical approach should be applied and how does it support the overall goals of the course?
The pedagogical approach to be employed in an online program should also be thoroughly considered. In my opinion, an online language course should be teacher-led where teachers are available to work with learners and provide assistance where necessary. Teachers design language tasks that are clear and appropriate to the student’s proficiency level, provide guidance and quality feedback in a timely manner. For an online language course, if possible, a combination of both asynchronous and synchronous format would be ideal because students would likely be able to develop their intercultural and pragmatics competences more effectively through live oral interaction.
An online language program should include clear and measurable objectives. Instructions for every task should be organized and concise in order to avoid any possible confusion. There should also be periodic assessments throughout the course that capture students’ progress and outline what they need to work on in the future. This kind of feedback is critical to the success of learners as well as the effectiveness of the program.
As discussed earlier in this paper, online language learning requires autonomy and self-motivation from learners. Teachers should adopt the learner-centered approach and encourage as much participation by students as possible. Students should be given opportunities to collaborate and exchange ideas through communicative tasks. This will enable students to engage in discussion and develop relationships with their peers and with the teacher, which in turn will enrich and diversify their learning experience.
The availability of technical supports is also critical to the success of an internet-based language program. Each and every online language program should ensure that students are able to get help around the clock. A detailed and user-friendly handbook should be developed and handed out to learners. This will save a lot of time for program administrators, teachers, and students during the course.
Technology has become an integral part of modern life without a doubt; it has played a large role in foreign language learning. It may present both positive and negative impacts and it is the responsibility of educators to decide if and how to apply internet-based tools in their educational programs. It is not what technology but how technology should be used that is the question that requires thoughtful consideration and a well thought out answer by educators. In order to optimize the success of an internet-based language program, it is necessary to highlight the role of learners where their own autonomy and motivation play a very important part in the success of their learning.
Blake, R. J. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press.
Evans, M. (2009). Foreign language learning with digital technology. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2013). Emerging technologies: The technological imperative in teaching and learning lesson commonly taught languages. Language Learning and Technology, 17, 7-19.
Hismanoglu, M. (2008) The Internet in foreign language education: Benefits, challenges, and guidelines for language teachers. The CATESOL Journal. 20(1).
Jung, I., Kudo, M., Choi, S. (2012). Stress in Japanese learners engaged in online collaborative learning in English. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(6). doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01271.x
Tabatabaei, M., Gui, Y. (2011). The impact of technology on teaching and learning languages. Education in a technological world: communicating current and emerging research and technological efforts. http://www.formatex.info/ict/book/513-517.pdf
Warschauer, M. (1997). Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice. The Modern Language Journal, 81(4), 470-481.
By Carmen Durham
iGeneration is the label for students born in 1990 or later who have grown up with “consistent and simultaneous use of technology” (Mills, 2011, p. 345). They are highly social and have “redefined communication with their virtual communicative interactions via text messages, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook” (Mills, 2011, p. 345). Social media tools, such as those mentioned previously, have quickly increased in popularity. However, they are not just a “frivolous diversion” for iGeneration students; social media is an “integrated part of [their] personal, social, and civic lives” (Duggan, Ellison, Lampe, Lenhart, & Madden, 2015 as cited in Krutka & Carpenter, 2016, p. 7). iGeneration students use social media to interact with friends and family as well as to join professional and civic communities.
Unbanning Social Media in Schools
Even with its popularity and integration into almost every facet of students’ lives, many schools ban social media inside of the school building. They ban it mainly because it is seen as an unacademic distraction and a concern to privacy (Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). An example of a study that supports the theory of social media being a distraction is Kirschner & Karpinski (2010), who found that students who were Facebook users reported “lower GPAs and spending fewer hours per week studying on average than FB nonusers” (p. 1243). Students suggest that Facebook leads to procrastination and poor time management skills by “allowing them to put off studying” (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010, p. 1243). However, social media has its benefits as well. For example, Kirschner & Karpinski (2010) found that Facebook users were more “involved in extracurricular activities, dedicating more hours per week to such activities, and reporting on average more than two clubs or groups in which they are involved” (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010, p. 1243). Therefore, Facebook users may be better able to find ways to get involved in community. This aspect of social media could help students gain social skills needed for life after graduation.
The National Council of Teachers of English includes multimodal literacy as an important goal, stating their desire for students to have “fluency in a broad range of competencies.” In order to do so, they must be able “to consume and create texts in visual, audio, and written formats, to evaluate messages in a variety of mediums, and to gain social awareness and the ability to communicate and live in a diverse global society” (National Council of Teachers of English, 2007 as cited in Mills, 2011, p. 348). What if second and foreign language teachers joined The National Council of Teachers of English by harnessing the beneficial social aspects of social media, using guidelines for safety, and teaching strategies to manage time more effectively? Students would then be able to gain valuable linguistic and cultural knowledge as well as engage in authentic target language communities. Krutka & Carpenter (2016) emphasizes the importance of including social media in education writing, “If teachers hope to educate children for the world in which they live, then social media must have a place in school experiences” (p. 10). For the second and foreign language teachers, effective and structured social media use could provide a community of practice where students collaborate and share authentic media, a way to develop an identity that includes personal and academic attributes, and a global source of information as well as a global audience.
The Benefits of Social Media in Language Education
Social media in the second or foreign language classroom can be beneficial for student collaboration, forming a community of practice that the students and the instructor take part in and contribute to. Using social media in the classroom encourages participation “that can support cultures of collaboration, draw on collective intelligence, and encourage users to give and take according to their abilities and needs” (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robison, 2009 as cited as Krutka & Carpenter, 2016, p. 7). This participation and sharing of knowledge turns the class into a community of practice. In a community of practice, “group members jointly share and develop practices, learn from their interactions with group members, and gain opportunities to develop personally, professionally, and/or intellectually” (Lave & Wenger, 1991 as cited in Mills, 2011, p. 349). Therefore, in a community of practice, learning is a product of social context; knowledge and membership become dependent on one another as students and the instructor form common goals and interests (Mills, 2011). An example of a classroom community of practice appears in Mills (2011), who examined an intermediate French class that created classroom Facebook accounts. They constructed mock profiles, devising an identity for themselves. These mock characters all lived in the same building in Paris, France. The students had to participate in communication at least 3 times a week, focusing specifically on meaning. Through these communications, the students and the instructor posted a variety of media, including music videos, painting, caricatures, etc., allowing students to create and share identity with their classmates (Mills, 2011). Furthermore, sharing the common “community” and “location” of the apartment building in Paris gave the class a sense of connection as well as a cultural framework from which to communicate, and the media that the instructor and students posted were authentic materials. Through the use of social media, the classmates formed relationships and a common identity as well as viewed and shared authentic cultural elements that led toward a common goal of language and cultural knowledge (Mills, 2011).
On top of creating a community of practice and a class identity, social media in the classroom allows students to create a personal identity and share multimedia and other factors that make up that identity. This is evident in the previous French class example, where students could represent their sense of self by posting videos, music, art, etc. that interested them personally. However, there are many more factors that lead to identity building through social media. By posting personal information and media, students can in turn develop identity from receiving feedback and adjusting based on that provided feedback (Mills, 2011). Moreover, shy students may be more open to sharing and communicating online than in a classroom. Rosen (2007) states that adolescents in general may feel more comfortable expressing themselves online, saying, “Teens, in particular, may experience a sense of disinhibition and safety online that leads to increased self-disclosure and enhanced bonding” (as cited in Mills, 2011, p. 348). On social media, students feel like they have power to contribute meaningful and academic knowledge to class curriculum that they may not in a regular class setting (Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). The students’ additions to the classroom conversation may lead to personal as well as academic identity construction.
More than just creating identity, however, social media gives students access to global sources and a global audience during unlimited amounts of time. Language students specifically, a majority of whom cannot afford to travel and do not have access to native speakers in their own communities, could communicate with native speakers from all over the world through social media (Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). Krutka & Carpenter (2016) write, “Social media can allow students to access a variety of knowledgeable peers, parents, community members, children’s literature authors, academics, and other people who might not otherwise be available” (p. 8). Through social media, students access “unfiltered voices” that would not normally be a portion of their curriculum. These voices include people who may have more informed and/or differing opinions about the topics they are covering in class (Krutka & Carpenter, 2016, p. 8). This gives students a much wider breadth of knowledge and information, hopefully leading them away from biased opinions and into more open-minded knowledge of cultural and linguistic approaches, such as dialects. Krutka & Milton (2013) give an example of such social media use for a broadening of knowledge (as cited in Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). They write about Massachusetts history students who created blogs and Twitter accounts to share information and communicate with educators in the US and Australia. The Twitter interactions gave the students opportunities for feedback from other audiences besides the teacher, helping them grow in knowledge and improve their skills in ways that otherwise would be impossible in a regular classroom setting. More than just providing students with unlimited knowledge, social media also gives students an opportunity to access that knowledge at unlimited times and allows for unlimited learning outside of school hours. For example, Hunter & Carraway (2014) write about students in one high school literature class that sent class-related Tweets on the weekends as well as evening from midnight to 5am (as cited in Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). Through social media, students are not limited to specific times of the day that they can learn. Because of these factors, in the end, students may even be more motivated to create better products because they are sharing their work with a larger audience and because they can work at any time, they feel productive (Ramsay, 2014 and Grisham & Wolsey, 2006 as cited in Krutka & Carpenter, 2016).
Social Media Guidelines for Training “Responsible Digital Citizens”
Even with the benefits of social media in education described previously, schools still avoid social media because they see it as a distraction and safety issue. Rust (2015), among others, conveys that social networking can distract from official schoolwork and cause a departure in writing from academic voice. However, social media should not be used in the exact same way as an essay written in academic voice. By design, social media is for informal interactions designed to be like casual conversations. Teachers should not expect students to interact in a completely formal and academic manner as if they may in the classroom or in a formal writing assignment. Students instead develop a new form of writing and literacy that is infused with communication and collaboration. Rheingold (2010) writes, “Students need to cultivate social media literacies concerning how, when, and where to focus their attention, how to effectively participate and collaborate in online space, and how to critically consume digital content” (as cited in Krutka & Carpenter, 2016, p. 9). In order to use social media effectively, students must learn a new “media literacy.” They must learn the appropriate vocabulary and the appropriate formality. In turn, they can use this knowledge in their future careers and personal interactions.
Like any other curricular resource, teachers must give students guidelines for social media so they know how to use if effectively in the educational setting. The very issues that schools avoid by banning social media (harassment, privacy concerns, distractions, etc.) are the very reasons why education should incorporate it (Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). Students need guidance on online credibility, safety, and ethics. Instead of banning social media or stating rules of what students should not do with it, schools must show students what they can and should do with social media. In this way, schools can truly train students to become “responsible digital citizens” (Krutka & Carpenter, 2016, p. 7). Krutka & Carpenter (2016) write, “Educators should help students consider whom they might benefit learning from and with, and leverage the affordances of social media platforms to facilitate such experiences” (p. 8). Problems such as those Rust (2015) found with students’ use of social media can be counteracted with specific guidance and a classroom that “balance[s] freedom with structure [such as] rubrics, guidelines, handouts, examples, suggestions, and direct modeling” (Rust, 2015, p. 501). Harnessing the benefits of social media, such as communities of practice, identity building, and unlimited access to global sources of information, can occur only when teachers guide students toward safe and effective use.
Studies like Rust (2015) compare social media to “traditional school expectations” (p. 496). However, perhaps it is time for teachers to create a “third space” for classroom expectations that involve aspects of the students’ personal lives, such as social media. Creating such a space may pose challenges along the way. According to Rust (2015), “The challenge…, then, becomes a question of how to co-create new media spaces for identity-engagement with students that are safe, purposeful, and authentic for all involved” (p. 500). Using social media in education is definitely not an easy endeavor. It takes a lot of planning and monitoring on the teacher’s part; it takes time to establish guidelines and to model expectations. Otherwise, there can be serious pitfalls that put students and teachers in uncomfortable, maybe dangerous, situations. However, perhaps if teachers used social media, they could bridge “the tensions between academic purposes and social purposes” in the students’ lives (Rust, 2015, p. 493). In the end, using social media in education may help students see how to use it appropriate and effectively in all aspects of their lives (personal, academic, professional, civic, etc.) to truly be part of a global community.
Kirschner, P.A. & Karpinski, A.C. (2010). Facebook and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(6), 1237-1245.
Krutka, D. G. & Carpenter, J. P. (2016). Why social media must have a place in schools. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 52(1), 6-10.
Mills, N. (2011). Situated learning through social networking communities: The development of joint enterprise, mutual engagement, and a shared repertoire. CALICO Journal, 28(2), 345-368.
Rust, J. (2015). Students’ playful tactics: Teaching at the intersection of new media and the official curriculum. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 58(6), 492-503.
By Paul Nitz
The two simple proposals this paper offers are not controversial in foreign language circles: (a) it is useful to learn vocabulary lists; (b) digital flashcards are a good tool to use in learning vocabulary lists. Neither are these two points new. They mimic advice given by Ellis some twenty years ago, “There is a role for sitting down and learning vocabulary, particularly in the early stages of FL learning. Computers can structure training, practice, and testing to optimize the rate of vocabulary acquisition” (1995, pg. 128). While they need no reiteration in the broad foreign language learning community, these two points do need emphasis among Ancient Greek (AG) teachers who use a communicative pedagogy. Communicative teachers of AG have typically objected to flashcard-style vocabulary study.
An Answer to the Objection to Flashcard Vocabulary Learning
The vast majority of AG teaching is carried out via the traditional and conservative Grammar Translation (GT) method, but there is a small group of instructors who espouse a communicative approach. Among the latter group, we would not anticipate resistance to the use of new technology. They are using new and modern techniques, are happily employing audio and visual tools, and are necessarily far less pedagogically conservative than the GT group. However, the pedagogical principles of comprehensible input (CI) has sometimes led this community to eschew the explicit study of vocabulary.
We can see the objections voiced in forums such as Latin Best Practices (Latin, n.d.). This group is fully in the CI camp and also has the most influence on the drastically smaller body of AG communicative teachers. A spin off blog written by a member of Latin Best Practices typifies the opinion most in the CI Latin group have about explicit vocabulary learning.
In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with flashcards, because they do work depending on the task, but there are a number of reasons why they do not always benefit students.
1. Flashcards only work for a certain type of learner – the visual kinesthetic learner. Yet many Latin teachers require all of their students to create flashcards and to turn them in as a grade. Why do we insist that students do this when it only benefits a small percentage of students?
2. Flashcards only present words as isolated forms. We know that language does not operate as individual words set in isolation.
3. Flashcards only offer temporary memorization, not long-term internalization. This is why, many times, students will immediately forget vocabulary following a quiz, even though they “studied” using flashcards. I call this the “cram and flush” syndrome – they “cram” for a quiz, and they “flush” it from their minds as soon as the quiz is over (Toda, 2014).
Naturally, the CI community of Latin teachers relies heavily on Krashen’s writings, the originator of the comprehensible input theory. He does not believe vocabulary list learning is a useful activity, rather claiming that vocabulary is built primarily through reading (Krashen, 1989, pgs. 441-442).
As a Greek instructor who uses communicative methods of teaching and has learned much from the communicative camp of Latinists, I had been inclined to agree with Krashen. Using flashcards in learning vocabulary intuitively seems to be anti-communicative. Indeed, from my own experience of learning a living language, I had concluded the same. I had learned reams worth of vocabulary lists throughout my formal education. The learning was arduous and entirely ephemeral. After leaving school, I had the opportunity to move to the country of Malawi and learn Chichewa, a Bantu dialect. Throughout the nine months I spent learning the language, I never once picked up a vocabulary flashcard. Yet somehow, I had acquired a full repertoire of vocabulary.
I have now come to see both my experience and Krashen’s arguments as invalid because both are based on immersion settings. Every setting which Krashen cites as proof of comprehensible input being the cause of vocabulary learning is a mismatch with the situation we have in an AG classroom. In some cases, he describes young L1 learners adding vocabulary through reading or other comprehensible input. In other cases, he describes acquiring a foreign language through immersion (Krashen, 1989, pg. 443). That is simply not the setting we have in classical language classrooms and we need to recognize the difference.
The broader foreign language teaching community has already made this distinction. Most agree that in settings where exposure to L2 is low, explicit vocabulary learning is a necessary strategy. Averianova notes that although implicit vocabulary acquisition is effective for advanced learners, “these conditions do not apply to our study population due to Japanese students’’ limited contact with English and insufficient lexicon for contextual deduction, vocabulary should be acquired mostly through intentional learning” (2015, pg. 31)
Thus, the intentional learning of vocabulary would seem to hold value for the AG student. When such study is coupled with communicative classroom activities, the desired connection between form and meaning is realized and all of Toda’s (2014) concerns about flashcard learning, cited above, are mitigated. De la Fuente makes a similar point in talking about post task activities that focus on explicit forms, “These activities are also said to promote reflection and consolidation (restructuring), and will make it more likely that form–meaning relationships and pattern identification are not transitory” (2006, pg. 267).
In sum, Ellis was right when he wrote in 1995, “There is a role for sitting down and learning vocabulary, particularly in the early stages of FL learning” (pg. 128). I believe the second half of his statement has also held up well, “Computers can structure training, practice, and testing to optimize the rate of vocabulary acquisition” (Ellis, 1995, 128).
The Value of Using Digital Flashcards
Optimizing the repetition rate of vocabulary learning is one of the greatest benefits of digital flashcards. “The spacing effect is one of the most robust phenomena in experimental psychology: for a given amount of study time, spaced presentations yield substantially better learning than do massed presentations. It is better to distribute practice” (Ellis, 1995, pg. 119).
We hardly need the advice of experts to confirm that distributed practice better embeds learning. Any learner has found that studying something once intensively is not as valuable as several iterations over time. Since this distribution of practice has been proven so effective by research and common sense, why would we not use digital means available? It is possible to create a paper list of words, but they are not easily shuffled to create new orders of study. Homemade and published card stock flashcards could be used, but sorting them into piles of “don’t know well” and “need to review soon” and “look at this in ten days” will be a messy business. Computers easily do this work for us, as Ellis notes, “Given the reactive demands of the schedule, its management can become complex, but fortunately, computer algorithms can easily perform the required bookkeeping and optimize the ordering” (1995, pg. 123).
The availability of digital tools cannot be an objection. Even in my very modest socio-economic surroundings in Malawi, access is not a real obstacle. More and more smartphones are becoming a common possession. For those who cannot afford a smartphone, a very modest computer lab can do the job, affordable by any school that teaches AG.
Any obstacle to using digital flashcards is surmountable, but is its use effective? After using the Word Engine digital vocabulary-learning tool, students in a study in Japan increased their scores on an Intermediate Business English final test by significant margins. (Averianova, 2015, pg. 33). In a study of the difference between keeping a vocabulary notebook and using computer assisted vocabulary tools, the results were tentative. Still, the researchers saw greater long-term retention with the computer aided tools, “The results of the current research demonstrated that the CALL program study and the vocabulary notebook study performed similarly in the short term, with the CALL program performing better in the longer term” (Hirschel & Fritz, 2013, pg. 649). In the context of teaching Japanese students English, Lees found “In essence, the quantitative results suggest that focused vocabulary learning using digital wordcards, such as Quizlet, on smartphones produced roughly equivalent results when compared with the more traditional paper word-cards. We can conclude that the jury is out on the question of effectiveness in producing better scores, but there are other considerations.
Aside from effectiveness, digital flashcards housed on mobile devices have that great advantage of being quickly available at any time, day or night, lights or darkness. In a study of Latin vocabulary learning, Walker found, “Students perceived there were a number of advantages of learning vocabulary with Memrise including being both “quicker to access” and more time-efficient… The most recurring sub-theme was the convenience of Memrise with a typical occurrence being: ‘I was able to do it anywhere and at any time’” (Walker, 2016, pg. 16).
Lees, referencing Fujimoto, warns “it would appear that digital-device-based vocabulary learning has potential for expansion and greater uptake in the future; though, as stated by Fujimoto, this uptake depends primarily on the learners’ perceptions of mobile devices as learning tools” (2014, pg. 69). Still, Lees himself found a positive reaction, “Qualitative findings show that digital vocabulary learning was viewed relatively positively by the body of participants, with major recognized benefits such as pronunciation functions, typing modules and the range of study options” (2014, pg. 69). Others have reported the same, that the use of digital tools in learning vocabulary was seen as a positive and motivating way of learning vocabulary. Averianova states, “Besides the objective factors measured by the formal test results, the subjective factors of student motivation and satisfaction with the program were also explored. All opinion surveys indicated a generally favorable response to using the system” (2015, pg. 33).
The scope of this article does not include a choice of which digital flashcard program to use. Many simple and free digital flashcard programs are currently available on the Web. Most of my experience has been with the free digital flashcard program called Anki. The Anki application easily imports Comma-Separated-Value text files and converts them to a “deck” of flashcards. The decks are instantly synchronized online and can be downloaded by anyone.
A powerful additional benefit to digital flashcards is that they can talk! In Anki, an audio file can be embedded with a text entry, giving students both visual and auditory input. One wish-list item for Anki or any choice of digital flashcards would be the ability to create multiple-choice questions. This would allow AG teachers to focus on the recognition of AG words since spelling is a lower priority for us. This option is rare in digital flashcard programs. Nakata comments, “Although the present study demonstrated the value of the recognition formats, most existing computer-based flashcard programs offer limited capabilities regarding recognition (2016, pg. 284).
A communicative approach to AG teaching should not lead us to entirely devalue the use of vocabulary list learning, or specifically the use of flashcards. There is no obstacle to their use, but many benefits that include spaced retrieval, accessibility, increased motivation, and ease of use. The question is not why should we use them, but why in the world not?
Anki, (n.d.). [Website]. Anki: Friendly intelligent flash cards. Retrieved from
Averianova, I. (2015). Vocabulary acquisition in L2: Does CALL really help? Critical CALL – Proceedings of the 2015 EUROCALL Conference, Padova, Italy, 30–35.
de la Fuente, M. J. (2006). Classroom L2 vocabulary acquisition: Investigating the role of pedagogical tasks and form-focused instruction. Language Teaching Research, 10(3), 263–295.
Ellis, N. C. (1995). The psychology of foreign language vocabulary acquisition: Implications for CALL. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 8(2–3), 103–128.
Hirschel, R., & Fritz, E. (2013). Learning vocabulary: CALL program versus vocabulary notebook. System, 41(3), 639–653.
Krashen, S. (1989). We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the input hypothesis. The Modern Language Journal, 73(4), 440–464. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1989.tb05325.x
Latin Best Practices. (n.d.). [Listserv].
Lees, D. (2014). A brief comparison of digital and self-made word cards for vocabulary learning. Kwansei Gakuin University Humanities Review, 18, 59–71.
Nakata, T. (2016). Effects of retrieval formats on second language vocabulary learning. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 54(3), 257–289.
Walker, L. (2016). The impact of using Memrise on student perceptions of learning Latin vocabulary and on long-term memory of words. Journal of Classics Teaching, 16(32), 14–20.
Toda, K. (2014). Vocabulary acquisition and flashcards, part 1. [Weblog]. Retrieved from [+ http://todallycomprehensiblelatin.blogspot.com/2014/02/vocabulary-acquistion-and-flashcards.html+]
We don’t often have the chance to reflect on the ideal situations for our teaching. We also don’t often have the time or energy to visit another classroom or language lab to reflect on how that space functions. With the fast paced and demanding nature of our field, we are often unable to sit back and reflect on our spaces, our practices or our support services. 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. Mariela Andrade imagined a language classroom that took into account 21st century perspectives and she was particularly interested in ensuring all learners found important connections to their learning. Hanh Do viewed and commented on a typical ESL classroom in Vietnam. Her main finding is teachers must provide immersion-like settings where learners can focus on understanding messages and content around them. Carmen Durham envisioned an ideal tech-infused classroom that was firmly grounded in new technologies. Lastly, Paul Nitz gives us some insight into the needs of a specific school that must decide on the direction it will take given the demands of technology and the needs of the surrounding community. In all of these writings, the enthusiasm and passion for teaching in these educators’ words is contagious. Please enjoy their musings!
By Mariela Andrade
A World Languages (WL) classroom in the 21st century should be tailored for students while taking advantage of all the available technology in order to foster the acquisition of a second language. Assuming that nothing in a WL Classroom should be placed randomly and everything from furniture to technological tools should accommodate the needs of learners, I dig into three main elements: classroom display, use of technology and how these resources align with the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.
Many assumptions are made when using the label “21st Century Classroom”. By doing a simple exploration on a popular research engine, the search on this concept generates 350.00 results in 0.63 seconds. This is an accurate depiction of what we deal with today in education: enormous amounts of accessible and instantaneous information as an effect of advanced technology. If used correctly, this can be a great tool in the teaching/learning process. If used incorrectly, it can be a great waste of time and resources. Utilizing technology means not only learning how to use it but also how to align it with our curriculum, since at first “technology only provides a set of tools that are, for the most part, methodologically neutral” (Blake, 2008, p. 2). Technology is the raw material that is available for teachers to mold and to make it our ally in the acquisition of a second language.
The principal focus of this report is to offer a classroom insight on which technology aligns best with the three modes of communication proposed by the ACTFL. For responding to that curriculum alignment, I have decided to analyze two kinds of technology: Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) focused on reinforcing interaction and the use of technology infused tweaks for the teaching and learning process. Blake (2008) reminds us that the basic approach to Second Language Acquisition claims that a second language is best learnt and taught through interaction. As a consequence, WL teachers should focus mostly on providing instruction that answers to this approach. Technological tweaks are tools adapted to respond to the needs, not just of the student’s learning process but also to the teacher’s ability to make the class more competent in an era where time is money. Considering this, a couple of helpful tools that can be used to solve teacher’s problems will be reviewed. Other resources will be looked at from the student’s perspectives aligning them with the ACTFL modes.
Finally, a detailed description of how an ideal World Languages classroom looks like is given. This century’s classroom is student oriented and technology is used as means of making learning more meaningful, complying with the times we are living in. The teacher’s role is that of an expert mediator that arranges the platform for the teaching/learning process to occur. Lessons are “technology infused” more than “technology oriented” and the teacher takes advantage of the technology available to improve the learning experience and make it more effective.
Use of Technology and its Alignment with ACTFL Performance Descriptors
The use of technology has won an immune position amid WL classrooms. The faster the technology advances, the more it is incorporated into the classroom in general. Part of the reason relies on the indisputable value of the internet to break geographical barriers and make more accessible connections with different parts of the world. This comes to solve two big issues in teaching a FL: making students aware of the culture of the language, they are learning and helping them reach a functional proficiency in it. The fact that the internet also represents a limitless source for supplying resources appears as a solution for keeping our hyper connected and multitasking 21st century students “engaged” in the classroom.
The ACTFL expects for WL students to be able to perform across three modes of communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive and Presentational. I will navigate across two main resources to respond to these modes: Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) and tech tools that make WL classes more meaningful, engaging, effective and fun. There are so many resources for a variety of tech tools to be found on the internet that only a bunch of them will be reviewed for its use and alignment with the ACTFL modes of communication.
Resource 1: Computer Mediated Communication in my ideal WL classroom
Reaching proficiency and interculturality represent major tasks for the WL teacher and it is conclusive that the use of technology helps completing them. Evidence is unequivocal to show that it takes somewhere between 4 to 6 years to reach functional proficiency in a second language (Blake, 2008) and that the best way to accelerate this is to spin out the contact with the target language. Studying abroad is not only expensive but it requires certain logistics that, according to Blake (2008), ends up in less than 3% of US American students going abroad on either academic or internship programs. This is when CMC comes into view.
As discussed before, technology without the correct direction ends up being just a set of tools that serve no pedagogical purpose. CMC is no exception. Figure 1 shows examples of how it can be adapted to the three Communication Modes proposed by the ACTFL for acquiring a second language. The main objective of setting up CMC in this context is to provide activities that require students to explore communication scenarios that go beyond the traditional role as a responder to the teacher’s questions (Shrum & Glisan, 2010). The focus of the examples presented in Figure 1 and in general of CMC is to connect with others (usually TL speakers) and therefore expansion of communication skills comes because of the interaction. As for the case of the interpersonal mode, CMC provides the possibility for students to actively negotiate meaning with a partner that is representing the target language and culture. With this, students use self-expression to articulate ways of presenting their culture at the same time they are being presented the target one. The Interpretive mode of communication comes to life when reading, listening or viewing materials that do not correspond necessarily to the culture of one of the partners. They will later analyze – in groups, with the partner abroad – understanding from their standpoint. Regarding the presentational mode, the CMC is used as a tool for reaching the exchange partners in a one-way communication. In order to move understanding of both cultures closer, it would be ideal to introduce a common element in the person’s life. This would open up to more interpersonal communication regarding the analysis of how things work differently depending on where you are and who you are.
Resource 2: Technology tweaks for teachers and for the teaching/learning process
Even though the focus of this analysis is put more on the input that the students are receiving, I want to review two tools that are more directed to the teacher than to the pedagogical process. Teaching is not easy and if there are tech tools out there that serve teachers stay more organized and be more productive, we should go ahead and use them (Manning & Johnson, 2011). The first one, Smart Notebook is part of the Smart Products family and assist teachers administering a more efficient display of the class and the lessons. The second is Flubaroo, an Add On for Google Forms that allows auto grading and easy access to student’s data gathering.
As observed on Figure 3, this ideal classroom has a set of two smartboards, indicating the value of it for the teaching/learning process. Smartboard products have many positive features that can be widely used for teaching and learning but, in my opinion, the one that makes more in assisting teachers teaching is the ability to record all work done on the board for easy playback. This allows making, for example, an efficient warm up to a new class considering exactly what was reviewed on the previous lesson. What is more interesting, it provides a possibility of asynchronous review of the material if shared with students online (let’s say, via Google Classroom).
Flubaroo is a free tool that is very easy to use and that works as an addition to Google Forms. Once the teacher has created an assignment in Google Forms and the students have submitted it, Flubaroo instantly grades it. More than just being a grading tool, this Add On come to solve an incoming demand for teachers to create data analysis. Everybody from our county supervisor to the parents will demand a report on student’s performance. Flubaroo computes different information to make the ideal tool in reporting and individualizing feedback.
As for what works with students, no matter what are the main activities that I always use, the key is in variation. Not just our students but also teachers feel much more pleased and enjoying the class when we shake up things a little bit and dare to try new things. As said before, everything we try new has to be aligned somehow with the curriculum because trying new technologies for the sake of it is just a waste of time. On Figure 2, I have prepared five tech tools that I have tried in my classes. They are organized by the communication mode that they respond to. I like these activities in particular because they are an aid for creating student-centered work with more authentic and genuine results. My experience with these is that they make the “in class learning time” more efficient and at the same time they leave an impact on the communicative skills of my students (Loyola, 2014). My students and I have a great time shaking things up a little bit. These are the tools that I would use in my ideal languages classroom:
•Poll everywhere: This tool for creating online polls, enhances active negotiation among students as it shows results publicly.
•Blogger: For creating blogs, writing is developed in a “techy” way and so students observe how their messages are being communicated. They can also adjust them.
•Video de ELE: Online database for Spanish Listening practice with authentic materials (video clips)
•Strip Generator: One-Way communication using comic strips
•Audacity: Voice recorder that eliminates intimidation of presenting in front of people. This tool is also very good for making “in class time” more effective as it eliminates grading and presentation process in classes.
My ideal classroom has to be spacious, inclusive and call for group work. Learning a second language is an interactive task and therefore the display of the area where learning is taking place must call for cooperative group work. The following instructional setting (Figure 3) is group–oriented and the furniture is not just comfortable and inviting but it is also truly functional in terms of creating physical collaborative spaces and technology integrative areas responding to all student’s learning needs. What is probably most relevant and cutting edge about this classroom is that part of the learning process occurs here but as Heick (2016) proposes, deep integration of technology in learning should make learning mobile, always-on, asynchronous and accessible to both content and collaborators. This is accomplished in this classroom by a great effort of the County and the School to keep a safe data management cloud by purchasing Google Education licenses for every student.
•Classroom dimensions: 1200 ft. for fitting an ideal number of 20 students.
•Workshop, seating and discussion areas: There are two seating areas. This set out allows students to work cooperatively and do group work easily, normally in groups of four.
The first working area (A) is a set of five big tables that fit four students comfortably. Since these are tables, this area is intended for laptop work, posters creation and basically any work that requires a surface. The second area (B) is more like a lounge where students can be more spontaneous. This is the space for discussions, reading and doing research. Both areas are flexible: the tables on area A are stackable to allow more space if needed/wanted. All of the chairs are wheely chairs. On area B, the rugs can be rolled to put away when needed and the beanie seats could be piled up in a corner. Such a flexible workspace gives room to respond to different learning styles, make learning more fun and engaging and to encourage students to enhance their imagination. For example, for visual learners it is good to provide expanded visual presentation spaces in classroom (McClurken, 2010) and the fact that the room has two mounted projectors allows every student to clearly see the boards when needed. Since the room is big enough, there is plenty of wall space for visuals. This flexible furniture allows creating sections like a mini stage to present skits, sketches and role-plays that can respond to more kinesthetic needs. At the same time, the existence of Smartboards allow for interactive activities within the classroom and with the world as they can be used to set up virtual connections with other schools.
•Student technology tools and areas: Each student has an assigned laptop (Chromebook) provided by the school that is for in class work. There is also fast and reliable internet connection that allow students to store and share their information through the Google products (Google Drive, Classroom, take quizzes and surveys using Google forms, etc.). All the computers have the Google Education Products, Skype and other applications like Kahoot, Quia, Audacity, Socket Puppets and Book Creator. All of these laptops belong to the classroom and are charged in a Chromebook cart (1). There are two smartboards that have the ability to project the same content at the same time, for example, when somebody is presenting, or they can also be independent as a mean for students to share their screen between them or with the teacher. Both smartboards have a sound system and a camera that allows for CMC.
ACTFL. (2012). Performance descriptors for language learners. Alexandria, VA: The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Blake, R. J. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press.
Corbett, J. (2010). Intercultural language activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Heick, T. (2016, November 29). How technology should have already changed your teaching. Teachthought: We grow as teachers. Retrieved from: [+ http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/how-technology-has-changed-education/+]
Loyola, S. (2014, June 18). Mix it up! Authentic activities for the world language classroom. Edutopia. Retrieved from: [+ https://www.edutopia.org/blog/authentic-activities-world-language-classroom-sarah-loyola+]
Manning, S., & Johnson, K. E. (2011). The technology toolbelt for teaching. Hoboken, US: Jossey-Bass.
McClurken, J. (2010, February 18). Redesigning the classroom: Let’s start with the wall. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: [+ http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/redesigning-the-classroom-lets-start-with-the-wall/22986+]
Shrum, J. L., & Glisan, E. W. (2010). Teacher’s handbook: Contextualized language instruction (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle Cengage.
TBR. (2012, August 31). 9 Characteristics of 21st century learning. TBR: Tenessee Board of Regents. Retrieved from: [+ http://emergingtech.tbr.edu/9-characteristics-21st-century-learning+]
Williams, G. (2010, Spetember 27). My ideal classroom, part 1: Information technology. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: [+ http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/my-ideal-classroom-part-1-information-technology/27201+]
By Hanh Do
For the purpose of writing this paper, I have searched and found one video of an English as a Second Language (ESL) class in Vietnam. This is a vocabulary class where the teacher introduces words related to drinks including juice, water, coffee, milk, etc. Students are in the 4th grade. Link to the video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PBjhiRl93Q
In the warm-up, the teacher starts with a simple game where she asks students to act out her commands. This seems very helpful to get students ready and excited to begin the lesson. She enhances the amount of inputs in the target language by speaking English only during the class. This is very helpful for students to learn foreign language in an immersion-like setting. Students need to focus and understand the messages that teacher is conveying in order to act out what they are asked to. I think the teacher could play a video or video recording of these commands for students to listen to and act accordingly. By using technology, the teacher can focus more on observing students’ actions to see if and how much they understand.
Then she uses a video recording to introduce new words in the lesson. She asks students to listen and then repeat after the speaker three times. The voice in the recording is the voice of a native speaker, which is very important because I think students need to be exposed to pronunciation of native speakers in order to make native-like pronunciation.
After the first activity, the teacher moves away from technology and uses paper cards to show students pictures of the drinks they have watched on video. Students need to say the name of the drink they see in the pictures. This activity focuses on reproducing the vocabulary they have learned in the first activity. In this class, the teacher could use a mini recorder to record student’s voice when they pronounce these words, then compare it with that of the native speaker in the original video recording. By doing so, the teacher could help students to be aware of their pronunciation and will try to mimic the sounds as close as possible.
The teacher then pins pictures of the drinks onto the board and has the student come up and write the words under each picture accordingly. She then checks the responses with the class and has the class read aloud those words again. She encourages competitiveness in the class by making this activity a little game where both aisles compete with each other. The class would be more exciting if the teacher could use Smart Board for this activity. I would create a slide show with pictures of the drinks and black out the words under each picture. I would call students up to the board and have them write the names of the drink and then compare it with my blacked out words. If a student gets it right, they will hear a “Yes” sound. If not, they will hear a “Boo” sound.
Subsequently, she moves to a listening activity where students listen to various short conversations and mark on their sheet the correct option they hear. Students seem to pay a great deal of attention to this listening activity. The various native speaker voices in the video recording give students an opportunity to listen to different accents, which is critical to developing listening comprehension skills. I think the teacher uses the video recording for this listening activity effectively. However, I think if the class had a center projector or screen, it would make it easier for students from the far corner of the class to hear and see the video recording more clearly.
In my opinion, the teacher incorporates both technological and traditional means in her instruction successfully. She is able to engage students in all activities and gives feedback to students frequently. This seems to encourage them to continue participating in the activities. The transition between activities is seamless while students seem very enthusiastic throughout the lesson.
Although the teacher uses a technological tool to teach vocabulary effectively in this lesson, I feel it still misses speaking activity. In order to improve students’ communicative competence, students need to have an opportunity to use the language they have learned to communicate. After learning the new vocabulary, one way the teacher could employ technology to facilitate speaking activity is to show the slide with pictures of the drinks and ask students to work in pairs or groups. Students could ask questions and find out from their friends what type(s) of drink they like and perhaps extend to when they drink it and why the like it. While students are interacting with their counterparts, the teacher could walk around and provide help if necessary.
In conclusion, I think integrating technology in foreign language classroom brings significant benefits, especially in ESL class where students have less opportunity to be exposed to native speakers’ voices. Unfortunately, the most common technology tools in public schools in Vietnam are still limited to video and audio recordings that come with the textbooks. It is hoped that one-day ESL educators in Vietnam will be able to utilize more up-to-date technological tools in ESL classroom such as Smart Board, Facebook, and online authentic materials, etc. in their classrooms in order to enhance and diversify students’ learning experiences.
By Carmen Durham
Technology is increasing in popularity among schools. Many schools now have computer labs, laptop carts, class sets of iPad, or other technology disposable for classroom use. Moreover, many teachers have projection tools and personal computers or laptops to create curriculum, contact other faculty or parents, and input grades. Technology is very beneficial for the language classroom because it provides opportunities for language students to collaborate and access authentic resources. In this ideal technology infused language classroom, it is assumed that all students have access to an individual laptop, Chromebook, or iPad so that they can access the mentioned technological features.
Although technology can be very advantageous, it must be used appropriately for the benefit of learning. It is not simply a replacement for pen and paper work. Instead, it should add value to the curriculum. Blake (2008) wrote, "Any activity without adequate pedagogical planning - technologically enhanced or not- will produce unsatisfactory results with students, even if it's attractive from a multimedia point of view" (p. 11). For a language classroom, technology should be used to enhance ACTFL’s 5 Cs: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities (as cited in Evans, 2009, p. 9). Of course, I cannot cover every aspect of every standard in this short paper, but I will give a few suggestions for how technology, mainly the internet, can be beneficial for accomplishing the ACTFL standards. On the reference page, there is a list of all the tools mentioned in the following sections including their URLs. Through these technological features and others, students can experience language in a multimodal way, using language to listen, see, and create in order to achieve the aims of the five Cs.
“Communication” through Online Audiovisual Sources and Presentation Tools
Technology is especially beneficial for ACTFL’s first standard – communication. Standard 1.2 includes interpretative communication, which beautifully complements. allows students to listen to a wide range of native speakers and see a wide range of body language. This is vital not only for the students’ ability to pick out vocabulary and grammar. It also gives students a chance to study sociocultural features of language. While in the traditional classroom, the teacher presents one accent and one set of language skills, usually the “standard” variety, a technology enhanced classroom using or other audiovisual sources like and allows students to experience diverse dialects and accents. This is especially vital for diverse languages such as Spanish that are spoken in more than 20 countries.
Standard 1.3 focuses on presentational communication, which is also highly enhanced by technology. Gone are the days of students standing in front of the class alone reading off notecards. PowerPoint and other presentations tools like , , and allow students to be creative and to connect images and visuals with their communication. By using these tools, students learn to organize materials and illustrations to communicate in a more comprehensive and in-depth way.
“Cultures” through YouTube and Online Media
Culture in the foreign language classroom can be widely expanded with technology since it gives students personal access to authentic materials. Standard 2.1 focuses on practices, or how native speakers act. Instead of being told by the teacher, students can see for themselves how native speakers interact in diverse situations around the world and point out values and attitudes by watching these native speakers (i.e. how to speak to an older person). Using technology, like mentioned previously, to learn about culture makes students more independent and observant language learners. This in turn may make them more open minded and receptive to new practices. These practices are no longer strict grammatical rules to memorize and follow but real life instances that students learn to observe and replicate in their own ways.
Standard 2.2 focuses on products that are created for an audience of native speakers. Using the internet, students can access a wide array of these materials, such as online magazines, newspapers, videos, and social media feeds. Students can search for the Spanish website of their favorite clothing store or magazine, follow the feed of their favorite Hispanic singer, or find a current event in a Spanish language newspaper. Websites like the for Spanish Newspapers give teachers and students lists of the most popular newspapers by country. Since these materials are specifically created for native speakers to use in their daily lives, they will reveal more widely used and diverse vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatics than textbook activities.
“Connections” through Art and Google Earth
Connections are vital for language learning because they allow students to see how language fits into their daily lives, and technology can support these connections. Standard 3.1 focuses on students making connections to other courses or activities they do outside of school and technology can give students access to many resources that textbooks often do not include. For example, art students may be interested in seeing paintings or other types of art, such as street murals, that are important in target language countries. Technology gives students’ access to these types of art, like , a website that contains all of her paintings. A textbook usually cannot have a comprehensive collection of works like this for students to view. Additionally, students can better understand geography and visualize it in new ways by using . Instead of just reading a textbook culture article about Madrid, Spain or seeing a map in their history classes, for example, students can search for the city and even zoom into important places like Plaza Mayor. They can take “virtual trips” to see places they may never get to travel to. Through technology, students have access to target language websites based on the unique subject areas they are interested in, like art and geography.
“Comparisons” through Wordle, Posters, and Blogs
Comparisons between target and native languages and cultures can also be enhanced with technology use. Standard 4.1 emphasizes the comparisons of languages. Through technology like word clouds and posters, students can compare linguistic elements through visual representations of words and grammar points. With , students can create visual representations of connected words in the form of a word cloud while with , students can create posters that organize vocabulary, grammar points, or other language features with images. This allows a more creative, visual, and in-depth way to study language features.
Moreover, Standard 4.2 emphasizes comparisons of culture. As already noted in the cultures section, students have more access to authentic cultural materials using technology. However, the internet also gives them access to study features of their own culture so that they can see the diversity in their own taken for granted communities. For example, [+ What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets+] is a blog that contains photographs of people eating around the world. On top of foods in target language destinations, the blog also includes many diverse peoples and places within the United States. Viewing and comparing images like these allows students to decenter and think critically about their own cultures as well as target language cultures.
“Communities” through Google Tools and Social Media
The community standards of language learning are vital for a true understanding of how language works since language is meant to be used in context. ACTFL Standard 5.1 emphasizes language use in and beyond the classroom. Within the classroom, Google tools can help students collaborate with their classmates. For example, and allow students to work simultaneously on the same documents as well as insert comments for each other. Students can write in the target language, in their native languages, or in a combination of both. Furthermore, social media helps student use language “beyond the classroom” as well as work toward Standard 5.2- being lifelong learners. Social media gives students more access to their learning materials at any time of the day, and students have access to many voices and target language resources beyond their teachers and classmates. Students can follow famous authors and academics on , like target language websites on , and find instructional videos on . Social media also provides ways to peak students’ interests; they do not only have to listen, watch, and read what is offered in the classroom but instead can find information in the target language that interests them even more (See “” in this volume). It is necessary to mention the safe and ethical use of Google tools and social media. Teachers need to create guidelines to take into account what students are allowed to do and say and who students are allowed to talk to. Teachers may choose to create school-only accounts for themselves and students and/or private groups. However, with set standards of use, Google tools and social media creates a community of practice that students can be part of for a lifetime.
Technology provides many learning opportunities for the language classroom. With safe and ethical use, online resources can help students compare languages and cultures, find resources based on their individual interests and life goals, and explore places they may never actually see in real life. Technology gives the opportunity to build a community of practice inside and outside of the school building so that students can effectively learn language and communication skills.
Blake, R.J., Chun, D.M. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Evans, M. (2009). Education and digital technology: Foreign language learning with digital technology. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.
By Paul Nitz
The members of the Board will recall that we have not spent our classroom maintenance budget for the last few years. I am proposing that we use that money to update our classroom technology and also make some small adjustments in the classroom set-up. The goal is, of course, not simply to use up budgetary money but to improve the language instruction we do at the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI). In considering these improvements, I have taken the advice of one education expert who encourages “Maintaining a dogged focus on the pedagogy” (Blake, 2008, pg. xiii).
As such, I will preface my description each of my desired expenditures with a pedagogical principle that calls for it. I am also very much aware of the context we have at the LBI. We do not want to introduce technology that is simply what the Western world is doing. The World Bank’s Senior Education and Technology Policy Specialist, Michael Trucano, advises that “The best technology is the one you already have, know how to use, and can afford” (2016). Therefore, I will only consider technology that fits our LBI context and budget.
For the newer members of the Board, let me review what technological tools we have at present. The classroom has a blackboard. This is, frankly, the best “technological” tool we have and I would never give it up. Prof. Mwakatika, in particular, is a master at using the blackboard to great effect. I do wish we could have a blackboard with a better surface. What we have is simply block board covered with blackboard paint. A much higher quality blackboard, usually green, is made from fusing a coating on a steel sheet. But this is simply not available in Malawi and cannot be imported at any reasonable cost. We also have a large screen TV. It has been very useful and I thank the Board for providing it. It can play video and audio files straight from a USB flash drive, feature I use often. Connected to the TV is a very acceptable laptop computer. We do password protect access to this computer and do not allow students to use it. The TV and laptop are enclosed in a lockable cabinet and we have had no concerns about security. Aside from a few roll-down maps, that is the extent of the teaching tools in the classroom. I think the Board will agree that we could do better.
The first improvement I would like to make would increase our students’ access to language learning materials. Author Blake notes, “Less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) often suffer from… the need for quality pedagogical materials” (Blake, 2008, pg. 7). The Board is aware of how unusual it is that we offer Greek at our school. I do not think there is another school in Malawi, whether secular or ministerial, that does the same. But is the Board aware how rare Ancient Greek instruction is worldwide? To give a sense, one author estimates that the total number of secondary school Ancient Greek students in the U.S.A. and U.K. is only four thousand, two hundred and ten (Franzini, 2014). Ancient Greek is certainly a LCTL!
The scarcity of materials is a more complicated matter to explain. Grammar Translation method materials for Ancient Greek teachers abound. A quick search on Amazon.com will yield over 300 Ancient Greek grammar books for sale. These are available but not useful to us at the LBI since we have moved away from the Grammar Translation method. We have a couple new members on the Board, so let me review the change we made in our teaching approach.
For decades, we used the Grammar Translation method of teaching Ancient Greek. The method follows a very Western and deductive pattern. As described by authors Larsen-Freeman and Anderson, in the Grammar Translation method “Grammar rules are presented with examples. Exceptions to each rule are also noted. Once students understand a rule, they are asked to apply it to some different examples” (2011, pg. 21). The method simply was not working for our students. For the past four years, I have been reporting to the Board our success in replacing that method with the Communicative Approach. Communicative methods are focused on creating communicative competence via acts of communication (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011, pg. 219). Although my goal in Ancient Greek instruction is to teach students to reading competence, I believe it is acts of communication, comprehensible input and output (Patrick, 2015), that will get learners to that goal.
There are virtually no materials commercially available for teaching Ancient Greek communicatively. The fact is, any Ancient Greek instructor using communicative methods will necessarily need to create his or her own materials for teaching. This is just what I have been doing for our students. I create custom materials for our students. Some of the materials are grammatical explanations, vocabulary lists, examples from the corpus of Ancient Greek. Many more handouts are stories we have composed for using the communicative method called TPR Storytelling (Ray, 2015) or review sheets of exercises we did using the language learning game, Where Are Your Keys (Gardener, n.d.). To date, I have only been able to distribute those materials in paper form. It has been understandably difficult for our students to keep these paper copies organized and then even more difficult to later find what they want to review. A classroom laptop with Internet access would allow them to view and search all classroom handouts on a cloud folder. By keeping the files organized on cloud folders, my idea is that the students will learn how to access them now and be able to access them long after they leave the LBI. There are also some of our former students who I know would appreciate this access.
Another type of material they could more easily access with a classroom laptop are videotaped lessons. I have often created review videos for the students drawn from a video of our lessons (Nitz, 2015). The students have been able to watch these videos only on the classroom TV. Since the classroom also serves as our study hall, if student wants to watch a video they compel all their classmates to watch also. What we need is a nice sturdy classroom laptop that students can use so that any individual can watch review videos.
In searching for an appropriate laptop, I settled on a $300 Lenovo ThinkPad. This model is known to be a sturdy business laptop and will serve the purpose nicely. I propose we buy it.
If the number of Ancient Greek learners are few, the number learning to hear and speak Ancient Greek are infinitesimally small. However, we do have our sister Lutheran ministerial school in China that teaches via communicative methods. Connecting our African students to these students would be wonderful. I have already tried this once. Our students videotaped a skit for their Chinese counterparts. We posted it on YouTube and received a videotaped reply. The experience was great fun, but also pedagogically sound. Both sets of students were truly communicating with Ancient Greek. In fact, with these two disparate groups, it was the only language they could communicate in. My experience confirms what language acquisition experts Evans and Brindley claim: “One of the most radical ways in which the digital revolution can impact on foreign-language learning is through the medium of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC)” (2009, pg. 104). What technology do we need to encourage more exchanges between China and Malawi?
On the China side, the technology is not a problem. The problem on our side is our students’ scant experience in using technology. I am afraid that fact would make using the laptop computer for communication problematic. However, since so many people in Malawi are using smartphones and WhatsApp these days, I think a smartphone would be an easy and accessible tool for them. Even if not every student knows how to use WhatsApp, some will. What I propose is that we buy one smartphone to keep in the classroom for student use.
My choice of smartphone would be a used IPhone 5C. They cost around $100 through Glyde.com. Shipping could be free if we can get a visitor from the U.S.A. to bring it over. The back of this 5C model is metal, covered with some hard plastic; much sturdier than other models. The Apple software is intuitive and easy to use. A big bonus is I have one and know well how to use it, keeping with that principle quoted above, “The best technology is the one… know how to use” (Trucano, 2016).
We do not have to worry about students using it to call their friends. We simply would not load talk-time units or general Internet data on the phone. We would load what our two big cellular providers call the “WhatsApp bundle.” The byte rate per Kwacha is much cheaper than general Internet browsing. For less than $1 per month, we can get all the data we need for our computer-mediated communication.
The smartphone will provide another tool for learning. Authors Evans and Brindley note the pedagogical value of students publishing their own materials in the language they are learning (2009, pg. 25). They call this “learner agency,” that is, the learners become the owners of their own learning. This fits with my impression. I have long thought that one valuable strategy in learning a language is to perform it. There is a huge difference between producing something for a teacher and posting that video for the public on YouTube. When you have an audience, it feels like communication. When it feels like communication, it gets into your head. This IPhone will give them a very easy tool to use in performing in Ancient Greek. They will create an audio file such as a podcast or tape a video such as a communicative skit. Sending out that media or posting it online to YouTube or another site is a simple thing to set up through an IPhone.
Security is not a big concern for the laptop. It cannot be slipped in a pocket. The smartphone is more problematic. Though it is costly at $40, I think we need a security lanyard for the IPhone such as the model shown here.
With both the classroom student laptop and smartphone installed, I think we teachers will be finding more pedagogical uses. One example I could give is experimenting with digital flashcards for learning Greek vocabulary, passage memorization, or any set of facts required by one of our courses. Though this technology has been around a long time, we have not yet accessed it. One authority in language acquisition wrote over a decade ago, “The spacing effect is one of the most robust phenomena in experimental psychology: for a given amount of study time, spaced presentations yield substantially better learning than do massed presentations. It is better to distribute practice” (Ellis, 1995, pg. 119).
I have been trying out a software tool called Anki myself and find it effective. The way the software works is that it presents the “front-side” of a digital card. The user taps the screen to see the flip side answer. Then the user can choose how well he thinks he knew the answer. If the questions was very easy, the card will not be reviewed for some days. If the card was hard, the user might see it again in a minute. This can be easily installed on both the student classroom laptop and the smartphone. I would have some work to get accounts set up for each student, but that is not a serious problem.
Anki Flashcard Program http://ankisrs.net/
My final proposal has to do with the classroom set-up. I think the Board is aware that I am a big fan of Dialogue Education (Vella, 2002). The principles and practices of Dialogue Education, I believe, work especially well in the cross-cultural setting that we have. When I am teaching, we have the cultural mix of one American and several different Bantu tribes in the classroom. The Dialogue Education principle of teamwork seems to be especially effective in this context. I give a lecture or some other presentation. Then I have our students working in groups to do something with the content. They wrestle with a problem or a task and then come back to the full group to report on the results.
When the students break in to groups, either they gather in knots somewhere outside the classroom, or they drag desks together inside the classroom. As long as it is not the rainy season, leaving the classroom is great, but I do often regret the waste of time filing out of the classroom and calling the students back in. Often, I will ask the students to stay in the classroom and move their desks into groups. I have to say, it is cause of much cringing by both the students and me. Our desks are heavy and our cement floor is like sandpaper. The noise of it is terrible. Since our desks are the fixed table and chair type, they do not lend themselves to getting together in a tight discussion group. Maybe this sounds trivial to the Board, but I assure you it is a detriment to learning.
The Board is familiar with our classroom set-up. The width is similar to any typical classroom, but it is quite long. There are blackboard on both ends. We use the north end as the front half of the classroom. We barely use the south half. I propose we remodel this south half with the goal of better facilitating the teamwork learning that we do.
The proposal is simple. A parquet hardwood floor is a standard feature in many larger Malawian homes and several companies in Lilongwe install them. These floors last forever and are easy to maintain. When polished, these are nice slippery floors. A person can move around even a big chair with ease and nearly silently. How about we install a hardwood floor in the back half of the classroom? We would also have a carpenter make some nice basic wooden chairs and small tables, enough to accommodate a class of twenty. I guaranteed the Board that the students and I will be very pleased with the result and learning will flourish. In fact, I doubt I will ever use the “front” half of the classroom again. I estimate a cost of $2000. It is expensive, but on the other hand, unlike the technological tools I proposed above, this improvement will last decades.
Our classroom building is 36 years old and in need of some improvements. I recommend these improvements as economical and pedagogically motivated. The cost is under $2500. The benefits are better learning for many years. What questions or comments does the Board have for me?
Rev. Paul D. Nitz
3 December 2016
Blake, R. J. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, US: Georgetown University Press.
Evans, M., & Brindley, S. (Eds.). (2009). Education and digital technology: Foreign language learning with digital technology. London, GB: Continuum.
Franzini, E. (2014, June 12). Update! Total number of secondary level students studying Latin and Ancient Greek in the world. Digital Humanities: Universitat Leipzig. Retrieved from http://www.dh.uni-leipzig.de/wo/update-total-number-of-secondary-level-students-studying-latin-and-ancient-greek-in-the-world/
Gardener, E. (n.d.). Where are your keys. (n.d.) [Website].
Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques & principles in language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nitz, P. (2015). Communicative Greek.old [Videos]. [+ http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpxcmJ23ymcWixPoZUqggk-IztqZb57hG&feature=view_all+]
Patrick, R., & Gwinnett County, G. (2015). Making sense of comprehensible input in the Latin classroom. Teaching Classical Languages, 6(1), 108–136.
Ray, B. (2015). Fluency through TPR storytelling (7th ed.). Berkeley, CA: Command Performance Language Institute.
Trucano, M. (2016, March 4). Mobile phones: Reflections on the last five years of “mobile learning.” [Web log post]. Retrieved
Vella, J. K. (2002). Learning to listen, learning to teach: The power of dialogue in educating adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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 development. Other articles focused on specific tech tools or applications (specifically Twitter, Duolingo, and blogging). Lastly, you’ll find topics related to approaches, policies 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 Mariela Andrade who reviews the use of blogging in classrooms. This particular review provides a number of strategies for any educator interested in incorporating blogs into their lessons (whether online or face-to-face). Continuing with a focus on cloud based tools; Carmen Durham reviewed an article on the benefits of using Duolingo in the classroom. This online resource may help students with gaining more access/exposure to the target language. Lastly, Paul Nitz investigates an article that describes fifteen different platforms that educators can use to publish and sell their courses online.
Brantner, B. C. (2016, June 14). 6 tips to make the most of student blogging. Retrieved from [+ http://www.eschoolnews.com/2016/06/14/tips-started-student-blogging/+]
[Review by Mariela Andrade] This article talks mainly about how to better incorporate blogging to the classroom. It also mentions briefly how this is a great tool since it helps students to reach deeper thinking though it does not really deepens in the why but more in the how. This article is for teachers that are considering blogging with their students and therefore need some insight on how to make it work. The article reflects on how, same as in a regular classroom, you should always try blogging yourself before teaching it to students since there will always be little things that only experience will show you.
I think the greatest strength of this article is that it represent a great start for somebody planning to blog in classes. It shows a very clear layout on what to do first, second and third. It also provides first hand advice that it is always valuable. Another excellent characteristic of this article is that, whether it does not intend to teach on how to blog with students, it includes a comprehensive guide that I found very clear. One con about this article is that even it suggests that it could be used in any subject, it seems to me that it focuses only on his experience blogging with his writing class. I understand it is his experience and this article is mainly about that, but I think if were a teacher from, let’s say, math, I would be a little lost.
For me, as a Spanish for Native Speakers teacher (which is like and elementary English class, but in Spanish) blogging would be awesome. I spend a third of my teaching time writing with my students and it can be tedious for me and for them. I would love to blog with them and teach them how to, not just for the benefits in the classroom, but also for teaching them a digital tool. My Native Speakers have, in general, a low level of digital literacy and therefore blogging would help me to show them how to use technology for learning at the same time it is fun and engaging to write using the platform. I definitively want to blog in my classes and this article is giving me good ideas on how to begin.
Munday, P. (2016). The case for using DUOLINGO as part of the language classroom experience. RIED, 19(1), 83-101.
[Review by Carmen Durham] Munday’s (2016) article explores the benefits of what she calls “m-learning,” or “online resources that can be accessed through a mobile device” (p. 84). I have always thought m-learning was too limited to be a helpful tool for language learning. However, Munday (2016) demonstrates ways that Duolingo is a beneficial addition to a formal language classroom mainly as a homework assignment. Duolingo is an application that a learner can use on either a laptop, a mobile device, or a tablet. It has lessons based on grammar and vocabulary goals that bring the students to an A2 level of the language based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (p. 84). It uses algorithms to gauge when a student needs to repeat a certain skill and has students review with spaced repetition (p. 85).
There are many benefits to Duolingo according to the article, but these benefits were more useful to beginner level students. First, Duolingo offers instant feedback (p. 85). It also contains a variety of activities. Unfortunately, the only ones that are available to m-learners are the “tree,” which are the basic lessons and practice activities for the vocabulary and grammar, and the “lingots,” which is the “currency” that learners earn as they move through levels (p. 86-7). However, the online version also contains lists of words that the user should know, a social networking type option to see what others have accomplished, a discussion board where learners post in the target language based on their interests, and an “immersion” option where public documents are uploaded and translated by various users (p. 86). Many of these options make Duolingo competitive, which increases motivation (p. 88). Moreover, there is now an that monitors student activity and creates reports for teachers (p. 88). Also, Duolingo just added a feature called “chatbots,” a computer that can have conversations via text with the learner. All that being said, Munday’s (2016) study really only focuses on student opinions of Duolingo and does not provide evidence of whether it actually improved student learning. According to the findings, students at both levels A1 and B2 enjoyed using Duolingo and appreciated the ability to complete homework on a mobile device. However, students in level A1 found Duolingo to be much more helpful and were “satisfied with the app” while students in level B2 did not find it very helpful (p. 92-3).
I have considered using an application like Duolingo in my classes but hesitated because I did not find it to be very helpful toward personally learning a new language (Italian and Russian). However, I have only used the mobile app and did not know about all the online features. Even so, in my classroom, I would only use Duolingo for homework. Grading would be a challenge because students can spend various amounts of time on the app ranging from five minutes on. Munday (2016) used a grading criteria based on slow progress, so students received 100% if they complete five “tree” lessons on five separate days each week. If they completed five lessons all in one day, they would only receive 80% (p. 91). I would not assign Duolingo every day because it does not fit with curriculum usually. I would assign two to three days a week on Duolingo using the same grading criteria as Munday (2016). I would also assign students to explore other online options besides just the “tree” so that they get a variety of different learning opportunities.
Cobb, J. (2016) 15 Platforms to publish and sell online courses. Leading the Learning Revolution website. Retrieved from
[Review by Paul Nitz] This 3000 word article lists and comments on gives an alphabetical listing of fifteen online course platforms. The focus is on platforms, which are tailored to teachers who want to sell online courses. The course platforms are unlike the sites catering to language tutoring, such as, Verbling or Italki. These offer capability similar to Moodle or our own D2L course platform. The list is sorted into two categories. The first is labeled “Solopreneur” sites, platforms suitable for a single teacher. Included in the review are: Academy of Mine; Digital Chalk; EdLoud; Educadium; Pathwright; Rainmaker; Ruzuku; Teachable; Thinkific. The second category is labeled “Marketplace | Syndication.” These sites are also suitable for a single teacher (solopreneur) but include a built in marketplace to which a teacher could sell their course. Included are Coggno; MindBites; OpenSesame; Skillshare; Udemy; WizIQ.
The article is a useful starting point for anyone looking into creating and selling a language course. The author keeps the article up to date (last edit: July 26, 2016). The sites are listed alphabetically, not rated 1 to 15, a feature I appreciated. The author did not use a standard rubric for evaluating each site, but highlighted the main points of each. A note on SCORM compatibility was made where applicable and almost all reviews give an idea of cost. A link to a secondary article by the same author on alternatives to Udemy was instructive.
I am looking ahead to doing a pilot course teaching Ancient Greek online to some Mexican students. Though I am not aiming at selling the course, I figure a paid service like this will give me better tools, support, ease of hosting, and stability than a course platform such as Moodle. I have tentatively chosen Thinkific as the platform I will use. The $0.00 startup cost is a big factor. The author of the article expressly does not endorse one platform over another (aside from limiting his list to 15) but could not seem to resist giving this Thinkific a smallish recommendation both in this article and in the secondary article about Udemy alternatives. That was enough to sway me.
Starting us off on this focus on Social Media in the classroom is Hanh Do, who reviews an article on the use of tweeting (even in Kindergarten). This article focuses on nine different ways to incorporate Twitter that include strategies like having students use Twitter to write up lesson summaries or share student work. Along similar lines, Hanh Do also reviews an article on using Facebook in the classroom. Her overview includes a discussion on creating an interactive space online that may provide options not available within many learning management systems. Carmen Durham gives us a good start to learning more about the use of Twitter specifically for a foreign language classroom. Her article review covers five different recommendations for making Twitter effective at the college level.
Burns, M. (2016, September 13). Class tech tips: 9 ways to get every student tweeting … Even in kindergarten. Tech & Learning. Retrieved from
[Review by Hanh Do] In this article, Burns recommends teachers to incorporate Twitter in classroom of all grades in a variety of activities. Teacher can have students use Twitter to exit class, write up summary of a lesson, and share student’s work. With a limit to 140 characters in a post, in her opinion, it will help students understand the importance of writing short yet powerful sentences. Teacher can encourage students to use Twitter in other activities such as posting questions, commenting on a topic, and connecting with experts and authors, etc.
According to Burns, the strength of using Twitter is apparent as it creates a chance for students to use social media to aid their study. It makes it easier for students to connect with other students, teachers and experts in the field. Twitter also gives students a space to reflect on their study and verbalize it. However, I’m not sure I agree with her that “even in kindergarten” could use Twitter. There should be a certain age limit that students are allowed to use social media and tech for classroom activities. But I totally agree that even a novice learner (of a language or any other fields) could benefit from this tech tool.
For my teaching context, we do not focus on writing so I wouldn’t use Twitter a lot. However, I would use it to ask my students to write up a summary of a reading text they have read, for example. I also think we can use Twitter as a forum to connect students and teachers, post questions and comments throughout the course. It is an easy and quick way to communicate among people who share a common interest. As indicated in Blake (Ch.1, p.12) “constant change is a frightening phenomenon for most people but that is the inherent nature of the technology field: new tools are being created all the time”. It is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure tech usage serves the purpose of helping students acquire the target language better and more easily.
Geary, D. (2015, March 13). Using Facebook to enrich the online classroom. Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications. Retrieved from: [+ http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/using-facebook-enrich-online-classroom/+]
[Review by Hanh Do] In this article, Geary suggested educators use Facebook as to create a “purposeful, interactive and enjoyable” space for online courses where students and instructors can communicate. He outlines some reasons for his choice of using Facebook. First of all, he highlights the importance of being able to see his students and vice versa, which adds the personal component to the course, that an LMS might not able to imitate. Facebook offers features that help him better organize his course materials and deal with challenges that online language learning brings. For example, the “chat” feature enables students to ask questions and get answers from teachers in “real time” interaction. The popularity and user-friendliness of Facebook make it more attractive to both instructor and students alike.
The strength of this tech tool, in my opinion, is that it allows both synchronous and asynchronous interactions. It can be used as an online classroom to teach all different language skills including reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Most students nowadays have a Facebook account and use them to connect with the world around them. To use this app in classroom learning, it requires perhaps little to no instruction on how to use the app which eliminates time to learn how to use the app before using it for language learning purposes.
In my school, students took initiative to create a Facebook page for language learning and invited teachers to join. Although we conduct face-to-face instruction, we use the Facebook page as an additional “room” to house homework assignments, sharing of findings related to the course, and chatting with one another in the target language. So far, we, teachers and students all enjoy the benefits our Facebook page has brought to our language teaching and learning experience. I think we will continue to use Facebook for our future students.
Irvin, E., Taper, C., Igoe, L., Pastore, R.S. (2015, November). Using Twitter in an undergraduate setting: Five recommendations from a foreign language class. eLearn Magazine, Retrieved from
[Review by Carmen Durham] This article focuses on social media as a classroom tool because it is quick, inexpensive, and allows for collaboration. The article specifically focuses on use in a college foreign language setting. Although has not been thoroughly researched in the education setting, it has potential for encouraging participation and for lowering affective filter. The article focuses on the main points that teachers should think about before deciding to implement . The authors recommend that the teacher plan ahead in order to have a clear purpose for use and that s/he share the goals, rules and guidelines with the students. If the teacher interacts with students constantly, Twitter can be a powerful communication tool to use in the foreign language classroom.
The article’s strength lies in its realistic view of technology use. The authors do talk about multiple benefits to using . However, they also emphasize multiple times that technology on its own does not equate with student learning. Instead, it is the job of the teacher to ensure the technology use is relevant to the course materials and to the expectations of the students. They remind teachers of important pitfalls to using social media. For instance, the teacher must take into account student privacy and preferences. Some students may not want to share personal info about themselves online, in which case the teacher can ask student to create class accounts instead of using personal accounts. Another pitfall is lack of training; a teacher cannot assume students know how to use or how to use it according to classroom guidelines. Overall, the article does a good job of showing the pros and the cons of using social media like as a class tool.
I see the benefits of using or other social media as part of class. Most of my experience has been in the K-12 setting where social media was not appropriate. However, I used , a website similar to . I used it mostly to post assignments and communicate with students when they had questions. However, after reading this article I believe there is a much higher communicative purpose for social media. In the future, I would like students to post only in the target language. I would also want students to comment on each other’s posts in the target language, creating a more open communicative atmosphere. I would also encourage students to post appropriate pictures with descriptions based on the themes we are discussing in class (i.e. a meal they ate for dinner that week). Then students can comment on each other’s pictures. I believe this would also create an interesting intercultural discussion in class because students could compare and contrast their own home cultures and then could compare and contrast with target cultures.
Starting us off on this focus on the interaction between technology and approaches is Mariela Andrade’s review of an article on the importance of technology-enhanced learning in higher education in Brazil. This particular article provides a glimpse into the use of flipped classrooms, active learning and student centered classrooms. Hanh Do moves us into a review of a trending policy within education: bring your own device (BYOD). This particular policy may be the way many schools use to integrate technology into the fold without the cost of equipment and/or maintenance. Carmen Durham reviews an article on the use of blending in a high school. This case study demonstrates the connection between curriculum, one-on-one communication and classroom organization.
De Oliveira Neto, J. J., & De Sousa Gomes, G. (2016, August). Technology enhanced learning for higher education in Brazil. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from
[Review by Mariela Andrade] This article proposes that technology and education go hand in hand and that therefore, technology must be included in schools. It suggests that technological tools should be used for Active Learning (AL), improving student’s engagement in learning and therefore the performance. The case of Flipped Classroom is tested as AL and how the validity of this method is based on using face-to-face time more effectively with the instructor. This proposition poses a paradigm of shift for teachers: their role is now moving towards being instructors or facilitators. The results of the study show that the Flipped Classroom and online collaborative learning was a success not just because the test results improved but also because they were engaged to discuss their progress. With this, good results are a consequence of self-regulated learning.
A strength in this article is that it shows very clearly why we should be using technology in schools for teaching. It is a clear reminder that the era of teacher-centered classes is gone and student centered is here to stay. Though that concept is far from being new, I highlight from this article that it makes evident how if we don’t expose student to technology we are not really educating them. The reason for this: Technology exists constantly in our lives and students have to learn on how to relate the best with it and to use it for their growing purposes. I find thrilling that the use of AL in combination with technology could be the key for self-regulated students.
I find this article very valuable for me, especially because I have been trying to promote the use of flipped classroom when teaching grammar concepts. I know that the focus in a WL class shouldn’t be put in the grammar portion of it, but for me that is even more reason to use this method! Students could watch a video, hopefully understand it and then discuss, with their classmates their different views. By the time, they come to my class they will have a couple question probably that could be explained in the use. Technology could help teachers WL rise the amount of time the students spend using the language rather than using “the expert” on something that a video from Google can do.
Peasgood, S. (2015, January 19). Bring your own device: The next big trend in education. Cantech Letter. Retrieved from [+ http://www.cantechletter.com/2015/01/bring-device-next-big-trend-education/+]
[Review by Hanh Do] This article suggests the new trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to classrooms as a way to encourage student’s engagement in learning in the U.S. It is agreed that students need to be tech-savvy before entering into the workforce but the question is “should schools use one platform, one kind of tech device or should students bring their own?” According to Peasgood, schools providing tech device is costly and less mobile for students to use and they agree that BYOD is a better option. Although BYOD poses few drawbacks including students tempting to use the device for other purposes than study, it brings lots of benefit such as increasing tech savviness and ability to take ownership in their own study, and collaboration with peers.
One of the strengths of this article is it touches one nation-wide issue. Many school districts in the US have been debating the costs and benefits of mobile device in classroom activities. This well-researched finding, I believe, would help school administrators and educators to make a well-informed decision on how to tailor their education to fit the demands of future workforce.
In my school, students are encouraged to use their own mobile devices such as cell phone and tablet to aid their study. I have introduced Quizlet app to students for vocabulary learning outside classroom as well as have used it to teach vocabulary in class. I use Quizlet on both classroom Smart Board and mobile device. I really enjoy the mobility of BYOD approach and will continue to encourage our students and colleagues to create classroom activities that require the participation of mobile device such as making a phone call to reserve a hotel room, search on reviews in the target language in order to choose the best restaurant to go, etc.
Dikkers, A.G. Whiteside, A. L., & Lewis, S. (2014, December). Do you blend? Huntley High School does. eLearn Magazine, Retrieved from
[Review by Carmen Durham] This article summarizes the story of a school who turned a problem into a success story through incorporating blended learning. Huntley High School near Chicago, IL was faced with the challenge of preparing students to be 21st century learners, college, and career ready when there was a huge increase in student enrollment. The school chose to use a blended classroom environment where students could choose to attend regular face-to-face classes or to complete some of their classes online. The principal decided on blended learning as opposed to distance learning because he thought that the relationships between students and teachers were very important and that online classes may not give the students an opportunity to interact as much with teachers. The main goal of the blended learning environment at Huntley High School is “to break those walls of time down to have learning happening in more of a 24-hour environment when it’s best for the student.”
The strength and success of the blended learning program at Huntley High School comes from the curriculum, the one-on-one communication, and the organization of the classes. At the initiation of the program, the principal decided that they would not buy any premade, third party materials but use only in-house, teacher created curriculum. This means the online classes merge smoothly with and cover the same materials as the face-to-face classes. Moreover, since Huntley High School moved to blended learning, teachers are seeing “an increase of students reaching out for one-on-one contact with their teachers” through email, chat, and/or office hour visits. Therefore, teachers feel like they are making more of an impact on each student. Finally, the blended program is organized so that students have many other options when they are not in class, including working from home, attending tutoring sessions, working with a group on a project, working at the library, or visiting teachers. Teachers hold office hours so students can come to school to get extra help or check in. Teachers can also require students to come to office hours if they are struggling. The principal has created a set of protocols so students know exactly where they are supposed to be during this “flex time.” All these factors have made the blended learning environment successful and a way to train students to be independent, 21st century learners.
I would really enjoy working within a blended class environment. I could teach the same materials to both in-class students and blended learning students. If I gave a “lecture” where I specifically explained a grammar or culture point, I could record it and post it online for the blended learning students to see. I could also post all of my materials online, including presentations and worksheets, and I could set up a group chat instead of in class speaking activities. Students could participate in the same group projects I usually give my face-to-face students because they could meet in groups during their flextime and record their presentations for other students to view online. They could actually get even more creative with their presentations since they could record them anywhere and take as much time as needed creating their props and scripts. I could also require students to come see me. I have never had the opportunity to require tutoring, even though so many of my students often need it. Overall, I think a blended learning environment is ideal for high school students. It gives them the opportunity to work at their own pace, learn how college life will work (if they choose to attend college), and spend more time on subjects or projects they enjoy and less time in a set classroom environment. Students would have a much better opportunity to further explore their interests and plan for a future career based on those interests.
Starting us off with this focus on development, Mariela Andrade reviews an article on the use of a new keyboard to aid French users. Given the ubiquity of QWERTY keyboards, this new tool may be an important move toward better and easy keyboards in multiple languages. Paul Nitz explores a set of principles essential to introducing new technology into remote, low-income areas. The underlying principle focuses on using what is at hand to its fullest potential while taking stock of the technology that could be implemented into the field. Paul Nitz concludes the reviews in this area by investigating a number of approaches for creating and developing digital materials. All of these article reviews demonstrate the promise held in new technologies while ensuring that the challenges/disadvantages also receive a similar amount of attention.
New keyboard could boost French. (2016, September 25). The Journal of Communication and Education: Language Magazine. Retrieved from
[Review by Mariela Andrade] This is a very short article that talks about how the French Ministry of Education changed its mind regarding French language being jeopardized. AZERTY keyboard layout is the most popular in France but this keyboard still makes it hard for French users to type some words. For this reason, the government is planning on creating a keyboard that takes into account not only an easier way to type French, but also other languages spoken in that country that deserve to be taken into consideration too.
A strength in this article is that, as a World Languages teacher, makes me think about how technology could be putting some languages in danger. Word processors -and their keyboard partners - have the advantage over paper and pencil that they are an instant duo. Fastness in obtaining results is probably what defines our century and therefore, this article makes me realize that the French government might not be exaggerating when raising the alarms. French could as well change if writing down the accents takes longer than not writing them.
This information is useful for me as a Spanish teacher because we share roots with French and therefore we share a common linguistic grief in these terms. I can see that the orthographic value of an accent in US Spanish -soon to be a language in itself, I think, for this same reason - is almost reduced to none at all. The reason is pretty understandable, but still I teach my students how to type the accents because if not, the value of the word changes. I will incorporate this whole article in my classes to see if it makes the sense that it made on me. I would love for my students to understand how there is people out there trying to create tools that will help preserving our language. Hopefully I will be able to convey that they have their say too by making an effort on typing the words correctly.
Trucano, M. (2013, July 8). 10 principles to consider when introducing ICTs into remote, low-income educational environments Edutech: a World Bank blog on ICT use in education. Retrieved from [+ http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/10-principles-consider-when-introducing-icts-remote-low-income-educational-environments+]
[Review by Paul Nitz] Author M. Trucano holds the title of Senior Education and Technology Policy Specialist for the World Bank. In that capacity, he researches the use of IT in education and offers technical advice to 50 countries in the majority world. The article notes that most research on IT in education focuses on developed countries. He offers advice tailored for low-tech, low-income educational scenarios. Nine principles or approaches are offered. Principle #1 urges us to use the technology that we have. Ask not how can we innovate with new technology, but how can we innovate with using what is already on hand. Principle #2 advises us to “start down and out, and then move up and in” (Trucano, 2013). By that, he is discouraging the practice of testing technology in privileged environments (the “up”) and proving its value there. Instead, start in more challenging environments (the “down”). If it successful there, it has a better chance of spreading “out.” Principle #4 gives the sensible advice that what we still need to focus on is the content, not the container, namely an IT tool. Principle #7 claims that initial failure should be expected and viewed as an opportunity to adjust and improve.
With these points and other excellent bits of common sense advice, Trucano provides an excellent starting point for any education in a low-income setting who is looking to improve learning through the use of IT tools in the classroom. This article should be required reading, not only for educators in the majority world, but also for all the technocrat tyrants who spend their millions in Africa and elsewhere. Throwing inappropriate and unsustainable technology at a problem in the majority world has caused more harm than good.
The article jibes with my view of technology in the low-income classroom setting. My students will go on to teach when they graduate. I do not want my use of technology as a wealthy Westerner to leave them with the impression that good teaching must include technology that will never be at their disposal. That said, Trucano makes the compelling point that just because some technological solutions may be impractical and imprudent, we ought not to conclude that all IT should be rejected out of hand. His principles point me in the direction of smart phone use. Judging from a glance at some of Trucano more recent writing (2016), he is thinking in this direction, too. Though my students do not currently have smart phones, many in Malawi do. It will not be long before I could consider having students install the VoiceThread TM application, the massive Liddell Scott lexicon, and authentic Greek texts on their phones: all applications I have used extensively in my own learning.
Trucano, M. (2016, March 4). Mobile phones: Reflections on the last five years of “mobile learning.” [Web log post]. Retrieved from
Motteram, G. (2016). Language materials development in a digital age. In F. Farr, & L. Murray (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of language learning and technology (132-147). Florence, US: Routledge.
[Review by Paul Nitz] In this book chapter, Motteram (a) reviews literature on materials development; (b) overviews developments in digital courseware design; © recommends how teachers might choose from a range of software. As a final point, the Motteram gives practical examples of how to go about building digital lesson materials or courseware (2016, pg. 132). Through the chapter, we hear standard advice about matching good pedagogical principles with materials. Ellis’s ten “Principles of Instructed Language Learning” are listed and encouraged on us. An analytical approach to design is also urged, such as following the Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate (ADDIE) process.
The book is a series of chapters written by different authors. A reading of this chapter makes one feel that the author was assigned a title and did his best to write about it. Focus and passion suffered in the process. The basic content of the chapter could serve as a basic overview of the use of digital materials for someone new to the topic, but even at this it fails because of the FLT jargon assumed on the reader. The three activity designs that are described might spark in some reader’s imagination possibilities for what digital material design can do for learning. This reader found them cursory and dull.
I was expecting in this chapter some good practical advice about language material development. Though disappointing, the chapter has led me to a couple of things that might prove very practical. The simple ADDIE design process mentioned above could prove useful as I look ahead to designing online course material. If I ever met Motteram, I would enthusiastically thank him for introducing me to Ellis’s ten principles (2005).The list seems like the kind of thing languages teacher should post on their wall and review daily.
Ellis, R. (2005). Principles of instructed language learning. SYS System, 33(2), 209–224. Retrieved from
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!
Mariela Andrade is Chilean and a professional translator and interpreter of English, German and Spanish. She completed her B.A as a teacher in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago de Chile. During her collegiate career, she had exchange experiences in the U.S and Germany. As part of her experience as an EFL teacher in Chile, Mariela taught pre-school, high school and adult education from levels A1 to C1 (CEFR). At the same time, she was examiner for the oral portion of the Cambridge Proficiency English Test (PET). Mariela is currently on her third year as Visiting International Faculty member, teaching Spanish as a foreign language and its culture to American students. In the U.S., she has also reached out to the community by teaching ESL to adults. As a language enthusiast, she is currently learning Portuguese and Mandarin.
Hanh Do graduated from Hanoi National University with a B.A. in Foreign Language Education. She also earned a second degree with an emphasis in Political Science from the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam. She is currently teaching Vietnamese at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S Department of State while pursuing a graduate degree in Foreign Language Teaching at Michigan State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, travelling, and exploring different cultures.
Carmen Durham was born in Romania and moved to the United States as a child. She graduated summa cum laude from Samford University in Birmingham, AL with a BA in Spanish and a certification to teach P-12. While at Samford, Carmen studied abroad in Spain and Ecuador. She also graduated with a MA in Teaching Foreign Languages at Michigan State University. Carmen has taught Spanish and English as a second language. She is currently working at the writing center at El Paso Community College in TX. Her research interests include language as a tool for building identity within community, the effects of media and technology on language learning, and the incorporation of cultural elements in a language classroom of very diverse learners. Carmen also enjoys traveling, hiking, and sketching.
Rev. Paul Nitz has served a Christian mission in Malawi for over twenty years. He teaches Ancient Greek at the Lutheran Bible Institute, Lilongwe, Malawi. For the past few years, he has been implementing communicative methods in teaching Greek.
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 and director of the Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching program at Michigan State University (). He 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.