Technology

An ability to seek out, learn about and use new technologies effectively is a key skill in the 21st century workplace, and I believe that it is important to give students the opportunity to use technology in meaningful ways in the classroom. In addition, in the foreign language classroom, technology provides incredible opportunities to expose students to authentic target language material and to interact with native speakers. With this in mind, I have tried to integrate more technology based lessons into my teaching over the past few years.

Edmodo

I began using Edmodo last Fall in my French 4 class and found it to be a wonderful management tool.  In French 4,  there are always ongoing projects and assignments that may have due dates several weeks in the future.  One of my goals for these advanced students is that they learn to manage their workload, pace themselves and take responsibility for completing work in a timely fashion.  Initially, therefore, I began using the Edmodo calendar as a way of gathering information about class assignments, presentations and appointments in one place, where students could access it easily. Having an online calendar that I could update instantly was a huge benefit both to myself and my students and I found that the number of queries about due dates and assignments was substantially reduced with  Edmodo.

Edmodo capture calendar

About 50% of my students were already using Edmodo in another class, so for them the new expectations were easy and comfortable, and their reactions to having Edmodo available in French class were very positive.  I found the Edmodo interface easy and intuitive to use, and I was able to begin using other features with very little difficulty.  I particularly liked being able to send reminders to individual students or the entire class easily and quickly – reminders which the students are able to choose to receive as text messages or as an e-mail.  I also used the quiz function of Edmodo to allow students to take informal pre-tests over the material that we were studying, and I used the polling function to ask students for feedback on previous units or to indicate their level of interest in possible upcoming topics.

Edmodo screen shot 2

Finally, I found Edmodo useful as it allowed me to embed other technologies such as a Voicethread, a YouTube video or an audio drop box.  Being able to direct students to other online assignments through one easily accessible portal is a huge benefit to the class from a management point of view.

Next year, my goal is to explore more fully the possibility for students to interact in the target language by posting comments and questions for each other on Edmodo.  My class this year remained for the most part passive recipients of whatever activity or information I posted, but I believe that Edmodo also has great potential to allow students to engage in discussion in a safe and protected forum.

Glogster

Glogster is a wonderful tool for creating online posters incorporating multi-media content such as video clips, audio files, images and graphics.

Glogster capture

I tried out two projects this year using Glogster with my French 3 students.  For the first project, students researched and created a poster about a French or Francophone singer or actor, and then presented their posters to the class.  The goal of this project was simply to learn about the person selected and to become comfortable using Glogster, and the information was presented in English.  The Glogster format was particularly appropriate to this assignment as it allowed students to incorporate a You Tube clip and images of the person they had chosen.  This made the project much more engaging for the students, and they very much enjoyed both creating their own project and seeing the Glogsters that the other students had created.

The second project I tried involved using clothing vocabulary to create Glogster fashion spreads.  The objectives of this project were more specifically language related as I wanted students to practice new vocabulary and irregular adjective agreement.  Students added text to describe the clothing pictured and then wrote a short “advertisement”, which they added to the Glogster as an audio recording.  As they presented their work, their classmates were required to listen for and note down specific information from the advertisement.

Annotated glogster

I really liked the way this project worked.  The students were very engaged, and I felt that the activity allowed me to evaluate accurately their mastery of both the new vocabulary and adjective agreement.  I also very much liked how the presentation of these projects became a listening activity for the whole class as it kept the students more engaged and gave them an opportunity to work with the vocabulary again in a different mode.  The biggest problem I encountered with this project was inserting the audio files.  Although I had practiced in advance and tried to give clear instructions, on the day the audio interface proved very difficult to use.  In the end, the majority of  the students had to read their advertisements aloud as we looked at the Glogster, which worked fine, but it was not what I originally envisioned.  Overall though, I love being able to give students the opportunity to create projects that combine visual images with written and spoken language.  I think this sort of project is extremely useful in the language learning classroom and I plan to develop other, similar projects for use with different units in the future.

Click here to download the French movie star/ singer research project

 Click here to download the fashion project

Voki

In Voki, students are able to create an avatar and then make their character speak by recording an audio clip of a minute or less.  Giving students opportunities to write and assessing writing in the target language is always much easier to manage in the classroom setting than oral activities, and yet students are much more likely to need to speak a foreign language than to write it in the real world.  I began using Voki as a way of increasing oral assessment in my class, and although Voki could never replace face to face interaction, it can provide a way to obtain an oral sample from every student in a short amount of time.

Voki capture customize

I used Voki three times throughout the last year with my French 3 Honors students.  Each time, we had been working on new vocabulary for a week to ten days, and students had had several opportunities to use the new words in written and spoken activities in the classroom.  Then, students had time in the language lab to create a Voki avatar, prepare a short speech on a topic related to the new vocabulary and record their oral sample.

Voki capture record

I had my students send their recordings to me via e-mail and listened to them outside of class but Vokis can also be embedded in a wiki or a website to be accessed later.

The students really liked creating their online characters, and I would get a request at least once a week to go to the lab and create a new Voki!  They particularly liked the fact that they could record and re-record their speech samples several times.  For them, this type of oral assessment is a lot less stressful than a face to face interview.  I liked being able to save the samples to listen to outside of class and then being able to listen to them more than once.  This allowed me to pinpoint particular problems and to give some useful, specific, written feedback.  This kind of feedback is very hard to achieve when you are trying to conduct a live, face to face oral assessment with every student in the class in a limited amount of time.  Initially, I was afraid that students might spend much too long creating their Voki avatars and never get round to recording the message, but this did not prove to be the case.  Once students are used to using Voki, this activity can easily be done in 20-25 minutes.  I will certainly continue to use Voki with my students next year!

Click here to download the Voki Activity handout

Wikispaces

I used wikispaces for one project with my French 4 students this year.  While we were studying the topic of “leisure” they researched a francophone singer or group and presented the information that they learned on a wikipage.  My goal was for students to use the target language to present factual information about a particular artist, to learn about the artists their classmates had chosen, and to communicate opinions about the featured musicians and their work to the rest of the class.  Once all the information was collected and organized, students were also required to view and react to the pages that others in the class had created.

Despite being a fairly involved project with multiple steps, everything worked very well. The wiki was easy to set up, and the students had no problems building their own pages and linking them to the whole.  I found that using a wiki for this project was a excellent way to organize the information gathered in a collaborative class project, and it had the advantage of allowing for the integration of different types of media, such as images and youtube clips.

The students did seem to really enjoy the project.  Music was a topic that they had selected to study and so it was something that really interested them.  They particularly liked the personal element of the interaction and were genuinely interested in each others’ thoughts and opinions on the featured artists.  I think that the students were also motivated to work hard on this project because they knew that their page would be viewed by others in the class.

Click here to download the Music Project handout

All student work is displayed with student permission.