Technology is a pervasive part of our society and culture. Naturally, technology has found its way into the classroom. Once mastered, technology simplifies the teacher’s life. Certain aspects of the job, such as clipping pictures out of magazines, using glue and scissors, and keeping track of records in ledgers can all be handled by computers or other technology. This transformation of the classroom into a multimedia workshop and production studio brings school in sync with the students. Young people are born into technology, surrounded by technology, and even demand technology in order to keep pace with their friends. Students are accustomed to having information at their fingertips and available at a moment’s notice. It is of paramount importance, then, for teachers to have their lessons in varied formats and strongly based on visual intake of information.The discussion below of the FLTP in its various aspects covers a very important part of presenting information to students.
Since February 2012, I have been attending a series of professional workshops offered by the Foreign Language Technology Program (FLTP) at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The workshops that I attended at the FLTP are:
- Intro to the Foreign Language Technology Program
- Technology Integration in the Classroom
- Google Docs and Cloud Sharing
- Quizzes & Tests in Desire2Learn
- Guest Speaker: Christopher M. Jones
- Desire to Learn
- VoiceThread: Beyond the Basics
- Online Speech Tools
- Technology Sampler
- Productivity Tools for Teaching and Research
- Portfolio Intensive (Part One)
- Portfolio Intensive (Part Two)
- Share Fair: Attended 4 Presentations I
- Share Fair: Attended 4 Presentations II
- Guest Speaker (Share Fair): Dr. Ed Dixon
The following are instructional technologies:
Quizlet is a very useful website that encourages the usage of L1 to facilitate learning new English vocabulary. Through the use of online flash cards, students will be able to increase their vocabulary aided by flash cards in both English and L1. I encourage my students to use Quizlet in order to study the new words they encounter in their textbooks.
Quizlet is a very useful and versatile website. Notice that I have each vocabulary word in English and Arabic. Preliminary steps would include:
- Spending time in class to train the students basic navigation of the website, including creating a new document. Creating a new document would include finding the tab on the website that will open a new blank file, and adding the words I have chosen. Students will receive these categories and new vocabulary words in the syllabus for the course. Students will be making the flash cards themselves. This entails using an Arabic-English dictionary, not included in the Quizlet website but available elsewhere on the Web. Also, most Arabic students have a pocket electronic Arabic-English dictionary, or can access such a dictionary using their smart phone (see Digital Dictionaries below). It is simple, even self-explanatory to make the flash cards.
- Students have the option of setting up their flash cards with English on top and Arabic on the bottom, or vice versa. Since the aim of this effort is to learn new vocabulary, students should think of words that they don’t know in English, then look up the word in Arabic and find the English equivalent.
- Once the students have a list of new words for the given category, they can use Quizlet to practice in several different ways. For example, students can look at the Arabic word and try to remember the English word. Quizlet is capable of reading a word and recreating it by speaking the word. This offers practice in pronunciation. Another possibility is to look at the English words and try to remember the word in English. This is very useful practice for the students and a fun way to learn new vocabulary.
- Next, students need to learn how to spell the words in their list. There is a box to click which students will place under the flash cards. The box they need to learn how to spell the words is labelled Spelling. When students click that box, a new screen will come up. The words are not going to be in the same order as they are on the flash card. An Arabic translation of the new vocabulary word will appear to the left of the box that appears. Students click a command to ask the computer to speak the word. If the computer is speaking too quickly or slowly, the speed of pronunciation can easily be varied. Students write the English word in the box next to its Arabic equivalent. If the student spells the word correctly, the program will affirm the proper spelling by putting up a box that has two circles in it: one for right and the other for wrong. The left circle indicates right and the color is blue. If students make a mistake in the spelling, the computer automatically corrects the spelling and verifies that the students were wrong by showing the box and lighting up the right circle indicating an error by turning green, then speaking the word again and auto correcting the word. Students can practice several times until successful spelling of the word occurs. A new word comes up. Once the students have finished the list and spelled all the words correctly, a rating appears. The rating will show how many words were spelled correctly on the first try, how many words were misspelled at least once and need additional practice from the student. These techniques are a way of processing and reinforcing new vocabulary. They allow the student a chance at self-assessment.
Results (learning outcomes):
If the student has worked on these techniques and practiced the new words, the results will be apparent during the weekly class assessment. Since I am going to be teaching English for Arabic Speaking Students, strategies of assessment would vary by including the usage of L1 (Arabic), as a tool of translation. For instance, I would be able to check the words’ meaning in Arabic or in English by asking the students about the meaning of the selected words in either language. Students would be evaluated on their translation progress. Other techniques that could be used to show the learning outcomes are pronunciation quiz, spelling, pictures and words, etc.
In addition to going over some of the results as explained above, I plan to make flash cards of all the vocabulary words. Some flash cards will have the new vocabulary in English and other cards will have the meaning/definition for the words. I will pass these out in class. Some students will have the new vocabulary words and other students will have the meanings of the vocabulary. Students will leave their chair and move around, so the people with vocabulary words will try to find the person who has the correct meaning. Once the students have all paired up, vocabulary with correct meaning, the students will come to the whiteboard and those with vocabulary words will write the word on the board, while those with meanings will write the meaning next to the vocabulary word.
iMovies is available through Mac computers. It can be used to extract the relevant clips from a videotape which can then be posted on YouTube where students will have convenient access to the material. Text can be incorporated in creative ways using iMovies to create a visual and appealing lesson from videotaped sources. Thus, lesson materials can be transformed into videos that will reach the visually oriented students, making learning more fun. Students can evaluate for themselves how well they have done with certain activities, what they understand securely and what needs additional reinforcement.
Applications for Mobile Devices
Technology keeps pace with the universality of hand-held devices and their applications to learning. There are up to 20.000 education Apps available, some for free and others quite pricey, according to the Apple store website. There are Apps for each education subject and content area. Applications are constantly being developed for virtually learning any topic and geared toward any level, from beginners to advanced students. Students can carry with them any number of Apps, including iMovie presentations made by the teacher. Vocabulary lessons could be grouped by topic, so that associated words can be reviewed and mastered.
Although permitting cell phones and iPads in classrooms is a controversial topic, I personally support the side that allows the use of such technologies for a few reasons. In a classroom such as mine, which is a language-learning classroom, students are allowed to use their cell phones to translate unfamiliar vocabulary, to use the recommended educational applications, and get used to practicing proper use of their cell phones in my classrooms. I also can create different sets of games that are related to the use of cell phones, such as calling classmates to practice phone conversations in the target language and texting each other with the learned vocabulary and their meanings.
- Digital Dictionaries
The dictionaries that most international students have on their iPhone are used in the classroom and everywhere, encouraging students to gain a firm grasp of the shades of meaning between or among similar words, or learning subject-specific vocabulary for science, mathematics, history, etc.
For my classroom purposes, I would encourage my beginner students to use their digital translation dictionaries in the classroom so that they can relate what they already know in their L1 (Arabic) with what we are about to learn in L2 (English).
- Green Eggs and Ham
As a sample application, Green Eggs and Ham, the perennial favorite by Dr. Seuss, is available as an interactive App. Learners can touch virtually anything on the screen and get a response. For example, if they touch the cat, the hand-held device will say the word “cat,” followed by a Meow. They can touch words in the “bubble” that contains characters’ speech and hear each word pronounced, or the entire phrase. This applies to everything in the book and on the screen. There is comical music in the soundtrack to help convey the spirit of the story and add to the fun.
This could be very useful for beginning adult students in my classroom. The vocabulary will be very basic and not intimidating. The feature of touching anything on the screen to see the name of that thing and hear it clearly pronounced will be very useful for beginning students. Hearing lines of text read with good stresses and intonation provides a good example for students who are just beginning to tackle these challenges. The fact that the story line begins with disagreement and ends with agreement between the characters is a good opportunity for students to hear people expressing mild disapproval and then enthusiastic agreement, with the appropriate range of expression.
A good educational application of Facebook would be for the teacher to set up a dedicated Facebook page labeled with something related to the class (e.g., a label that includes the course number, or the teacher’s name and the type of class it is – grammar, spelling, vocabulary, etc.). I would tell the class about the Facebook page for the class, then the students would indicate that they Like that page. This will create a network for the students to communicate with one another.
The benefits of such a system would be to share information that could be of interest to the class. Also, each student would have an assignment of posting one unusual vocabulary word from the week, defining the word and using it in a sentence that makes the meaning of the word apparent.This would accelerate the students’ acquisition of new vocabulary words by having one another as additional resources.
One great feature of Twitter is the ability to use the hashtag #edchat. #Edchat can connect teachers who are working in similar disciplines. Teachers can share recent innovations that they’ve discovered, new ideas from seminars or journals, or put out questions that someone else in the #edchat group might be able to answer. It is a very active feature with entries coming in at about one per minute at times.
This would be especially helpful to teachers who may be working in rural or remote facilities and could be lacking the resources to keep up with recent developments in a given field. Of course, teachers come up with their own creative ideas for activities and can share these on the hashtag #edchat.
I would like to include a link here that offers 50 uses for Twitter in education. They aren’t all equally beneficial or ingenious, but you’re likely to find something that appeals to you in this list.