Lesson 1.2: Benefits of Adding Technology to Literacy Education

Questions to Consider:
Why should literacy education include technology? How can technology encourage literacy outside of the foreign language classroom?

Return to: Literacy in the 21st Century Foreign Language Classroom, Unit 1: Literacy Methods in the Foreign Language Classroom


As mentioned in Lesson 1.1, literacy methods help teachers instruct students in reading and writing. We examined five literacy methods that can be modified to meet foreign language classroom needs and can be emphasized to address speaking in the target language, working in groups, or working individually.

While literacy methods can certainly assist students' skills in reading and writing inside the classroom, they are with us for anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour a day. Aside from reading and writing proficiency, our goal as language teachers is to help students gain fluency in speaking and listening. Working with students that have limited exposure to instruction in the target language can damper the development of fluency. How can we help students improve their fluency outside of the classroom?

Technology and Literacy Education

A large component of teaching in the 21st Century, at least under the Common Core Learning Standards, is producing students that are college and career ready. It is impossible to ignore the impact that technology has on education and its influence in the everyday lives of our students. In our society, being college and career ready entails the following:

  • Having the skills necessary to maximize productivity in studies/the workplace
  • Preparedness and familiarity with applications used in problem solving in the real world
  • Collaboration with people over long distances

Literacy is an essential necessary to accomplish college and career readiness. Literacy in a Language Other Than English can provide students with an upper hand in both collegiate studies and in the workplace. Incorporating technology into literacy education in a foreign language classroom encompasses the requirements of college and career readiness while using an interface that students are familiar with.

Developing Skills Outside of the Language Classroom

For better or for worse, students are on their phones and computers non-stop. Foreign language instruction can tap into what students are holding and help them in weak areas.

  • Providing links to websites and apps allow students to learn and review concepts at their own pace. Students are in control of how much time they need to process the information when they are using their phones and computers.
  • Assigning something as simple as changing the language on students' phones forces them to navigate through technology while being immersed in the target language. Since students are already familiar with how to navigate their phones, having them view simple changes in apps and notifications in another language assists them with making connections to their native language (this also meets the Connections Standards of ACTFL!)
  • Using social media to post homework or images/links/videos to information in the target language incorporates what students use frequently and shows them the potential of social media networks outside of keeping up with peers.

Technology in the Language Classroom

Courtesy of Samsung Newsroom on Flickr: http://farm9.static.flickr.com/8177/8028460174_bef77512c3.jpg

Today it is much easier for students to learn a second language, thanks in part to the abundance of information online and around the world. A good first step to increasing student fluency is to use technology that complements- not replaces- what is being taught in class. Current technologies are in place allow students to interact firsthand with the target language- we have to use that information to advance skills in reading and writing in the classroom.

As with literacy methods, the use of technology needs to be modeled in class in order to demonstrate what is expected of students.

To maximize the efforts of your time with your students, seek to use technology that:

  • allows you to see all student responses- there are apps for teachers like Socrative where individual responses can be exported to a PDF or Excel sheet.
  • provides you with a view of student progress- having students answer reading comprehension questions on a clicker system shows which students have answered and who have not, making it easy to see who understands and who is struggling.
  • saves you time- there is so much that we want to show our students, and sometimes we don't have sufficient time to show them everything. Using technology to facilitate Do Now and Exit Slip activities gives you that extra couple of minutes to share information. Technology can also eliminate some physical setup of methods for teaching if planned in advance.

Discrepancies in Technology

Unfortunately, not all school districts and classrooms have equal access to the technologies that enrich literacy education. Likewise, not all students have access to phones and computers. Knowing your students' needs will dictate what technology you can use for assignments outside of class or flipping your classroom. Allowing all students to work on the appropriate technology during class time will reduce any time needed by students to complete the assignment outside of class.

If your classroom does not come equipped with the technology that you would like to utilize in your classroom, be aware of the technologies available to sign out (like laptop carts or computer rooms) in your building. If all students have cell phones with internet capabilities, that can be employed in lieu of laptop carts. Keep in mind that students may get off task faster if given the opportunity to work in front of a computer or a cell phone- vigilance in monitoring students is essential (there's even technology that helps you monitor/control your students' screens!)

Your Assignment

Please watch this short video and answer the reflection questions below on Socrative- copy/paste VPVKQ4IV into where it says "Room Name." When you complete this assignment, please head back to the Unit 1 page (link at the top) to work on your last assignment for this unit.

Reflection Questions

  • Have your thoughts on using technology in the foreign language classroom changed? Why/why not?
  • How can/does technology personally help you in your classroom?