Where did Edtech start?
I remember my own school days sat in French lessons trying to work out what the teacher was saying but also wondering why there were holes in the table. I found out about language labs and that ours had become outdated and had been removed. Language labs were once the EdTech of the day and a recognition of what was possible with the support of technology. Even without language labs, I loved the games we could play in class when our teacher got an overhead projector and they helped us to learn by challenging us to recall key vocabulary and practise our verb conjugations.
One example of the language labs of yesteryear complete with the latest tech of the day!
The Teacher I Wanted to Be.
When I became a teacher those games were an important part of the teacher I wanted to be. I wanted my students to have the motivation to join in games and the confidence to use their full repertoire of key words and verbs to be able to succeed.
When I worked in Mallorca the students had practice booklets and played very few games to encourage them to learn. The difference was they could see the importance and real life use of knowing English all around them. As each wave of tourists visited their beautiful island, they were exposed to real life opportunities to practise everyday.
Using technology in language teaching can bring that real world use for languages into the classroom. It could be through games and apps or by bringing the world into the classroom. I love using technology to enhance my learners’ experience. A wonderful senior leader, a few years ago now, encouraged staff to incorporate iPad into our teaching. And so my EdTech journey began in earnest.
There are so many possibilities with technology, access to devices and the teacher’s confidence when using them notwithstanding. I have researched flipped learning and the possibilities for MFL teaching. I have dug into the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) guidance reports around parental engagement, motivation and feedback and can see the opportunities technology can offer to budding linguists.
The core skills of a great linguist are acquiring new vocabulary and being able to manipulate verbs effectively. Alongside this, pronunciation and the confidence to communicate in the target language are so important. Technology can be a great way to help students and to encourage them to become more independent language learners.
Navigating your way around all the possibilities and choosing websites, apps and programs that suit your school and class can be daunting. There are many options, some are free and others require an investment of time and money on the part of the school. I have tried quite a few different things but it all comes back to accessibility and the needs of your students. Like any teaching strategy or intervention, the reason for choosing something is pivotal and its successful implementation relies on the time and effort invested by the teacher.
I have been a keen advocate of technology in language learning for a long while and the idea of technology as a tool to enhance learning is always my starting point. What are we hoping to get out of using the app, website or program? Are we considering the teaching and learning that will go on or are we only hoping to keep our students entertained?
Our Suite of Apps and Websites
As Head of Department the choices and success of an app or website’s roll out lies with me. Currently we use: Quizlet for vocabulary learning. Students can work at their own pace and we can select exactly which words and phrases we want them to practise. With Quizlet there are different tools and games to pique students’ interest and help them with recall of key words for each topic, it works really well for us and our students. In class, as well as online while we are teaching remotely, we are using Quizlet Live and Kahoot! for games and to assess progress. Students love to compete but the recall required is the most important element for the teachers. Showbie is used as our virtual classroom. We can share sound, video and editable files and record our students’ speaking work. Showbie allows us to differentiate and create portfolios of our students work which is great for assessing progress. We have created our own videos so that students can access content in their own time to help fill gaps or revisit topics and we have planned virtual exchanges with colleagues abroad.
Bringing the world into our classroom increases our students cultural capital and shows the students that, when they do finally get to travel, there is an amazing world out there for them to explore! In terms of technology, there is a plethora of new options that I have come across in recent months such as genial.ly and Blooket. I am looking forward to trying these out and seeing if they could be of use for supporting our students.