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Technology in the modern language classroom



This is taken from the Teachers' Guide document on frenchteacher.net. It is an introductory guide for new teachers and not aimed at existing technophiles.......

Technology has long played an important role in language teaching. We have seen gramophone records, reel-to-reel tape recorders, cassette players, radio and television, language laboratories, CDs, slide projectors, videotape recorders and players, overhead projectors and, in more recent times, computers, visualisers, MP3 players, the internet and mobile devices. Methodology has sometimes gone hand in hand with new technology, notably when audio-lingualism was made possible by the tape recorder.

Although the tape recorder was the first revolutionary piece of technology, the computer and internet have been of even greater use to language teachers. The internet can be a marvellous source of authentic or adapted target language as well as creative opportunities. New teachers should be wary of using technology for technology’s sake and some technology may seem superficially attractive, only to be unnecessarily time-consuming and unproductive.  Use of technology should be used to raise motivation, provide TL input and improve students’ language skills. Lesson time is all too limited and should not be wasted on developing IT skills at the expense of language skills. In the words of the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages):

The use of technology should never be the goal in and of itself, but rather one tool for helping language learners to use the target language in culturally appropriate ways to accomplish authentic tasks.

Technology clearly plays a role in developing linguistic skill, but it also opens up new possibilities for communicating with students from other countries and cultures. In addition, many students find technology more motivating than being taught in the traditional way. In short technology can enhance any language course, bring variety and help students develop their general ICT skills.

The range of sites, apps and programmes changes rapidly, but here is a list of some activities which exploit technology effectively.

  • Using online radio, video and podcasts for developing listening skill
  • Using websites to do online reading tasks set by the teacher (“webquests”)
  • Doing interactive listening, reading, text manipulation and grammar e.g. Languagesonline, Textivate
  • Using a computer based language laboratory for listening and speaking e.g. Sanako
  • Using mobile apps for creative language use
  • Using voice interaction e.g. Siri
  • Using text to speech apps or sites to write and listen to text
  • Recording the voice using programmes such as Audacity, digital recorders and microphones e.g. Easyspeak
  • Using online content associated with course books e.g. Active Studio, Kerboodle
  • Using mobiles and cameras to record conversations, presentations and sketches
  • Using social media to communicate with fellow pupils, teachers or students from other countries e.g Edmodo
  • Using Skype to communicate with students from other countries
  • Exchanging email letters with a twinned class from another country
  • Using blogs and wikis to share language and news  with students or fellow teachers
  • Getting students to write their own blogs in the target language
  • Using specific apps to assist with word-level issues like vocabulary learning and verb conjugation e.g  Memrise, Quizlet
  • Using online game-playing software e.g.Taskmagic
  • Using interactive whiteboards for instruction and practice
  • Taking part in forums in the target language
  • Using online grammar guides and dictionaries for reference e.g. Tex’s French Grammar, Wordreference, Linguee
  • Draft work using tools such as Word, Publisher, Powerpoint and Prezzie
  • Joining teacher forums and social media to share ideas e.g. TES, MFL Resources, Twitter
  • Using an online translator under the guidance of a teacher e.g. Google Translate
  • Using a visualiser to display student work or worksheets
  • Using specific software to communicate with students, conduct polls, award badges etc e.g.  Class Dojo

For a comprehensive list of online possibilities see the links pages of frenchteacher.net.

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