Unit 2: Exploring & Implementing Online Tools
Before exploring online resources and tools, let's take one more look at who are students are and what they need. Watch the following video A Vision of K-12 Students Today and answer the following questions:
- What is the vision? What will students do while using engaging technologies?
- What is a 21st century learner?
- How do students today spend their time? What technologies do they use?
- Are teachers using these technologies for learning/projects? What percentage never does?
- What do out students want?
- What kind of education would you want for yourself? Your son or daughter?
The video gave the following meaning for WWW--whatever, wherever, whenever...
This is a key idea to our modern day technology and gives us insight to what learners today want and crave. They want to be engaged and active in the learning process and technology gives us methods and tools that make this type of learning possible! Technology can be used to create projects, guide learning, and as a means of communicating with others.
With the ideas of what our 21st century learners need and crave, let's explore some of the different online tools we and our students have at our fingertip. In the past we wrote to pen-pals, and if we were lucky we were able to write to a native speaker a half-a-dozen times in a school year, but now e-mail, message posting, and online chat can make communication almost instantaneous. In addition to the increased frequency, online notes and messages tend to be less formal than traditional letter writing and allows students to be more relaxed and have something more similar to a real conversation.
While exploring the different web tools, be sure to reflect on the possible benefits and uses for the classroom:
- What would my students think of this site? Is it something they already use?
- Would students access this in and outside of the classroom?
- How might this help their language acquisition?
- Could this increase their communication activities?
- Does this site make language use practical and realistic for students?
- How might their motivation and attitudes be affected in terms of language learning?
Electronic Pen Pals
EPals The name explains it! This site is meant to link classrooms and even families with others around the world in order to become "e-pals" or collaborate on service projects. The site inspires great ideas and shows the types of opportunities that are available vie the Internet.
People to People People to People has many programs working to promote a global community, and that includes a school program for letter or e-mail exchange. The program is based on connecting people, promoting diversity and understanding, and developing friendships.
My Language Exchange The 'About Us' page describes foreign language learning goals perfectly. The site is set up to connect other learners of a foreign language in order to provide more communication opportunities by linking people around the world. The site has e-mail, text chat, and voice chat options facilitating all types of communication for students. The site also has numerous other foreign language resources that students explore to enhance their learning and encourage their curiosity.
Blogs can be used in many different ways. As teachers you can create a blog to post class activities on and post prompts or topics for students to respond to. You can also have students create their own blogs, linking from one main classroom site that allows them to post about their learning and practice the language on their own. Many of these individual student blogs are visited by classmates so that students can collaborate and share their ideas about learning and share about their interests in the target language. A blog basically creates on online journal where individuals can post what they are thinking about, and include audio, images, and even video. For use in foreign language it gives the opportunities for students to practice the language, reflect on their learning, and connect with peers or others from around the world to comment and interact, creating a asynchronous conversation and practicing the language.
Examples of Educational Blogs
Explore the following examples of classroom blogs, teacher blogs, and student blogs.
- Does it seem that students are interested in the educational blogs?
- What are the different ways they can be used?
- Be sure to look at the Student Blogs!
- Blogging meets social networking! This blog is meant to connect people from around the and is a great example of the potential out there--the site could even be used as is with current classroom activities!
Creating a Blog
There are many free websites out there that will allow you create your own classroom blog or allow your students to easily create their own. Most of the sites are very easy to use and guide you through the set-up. Then the usage is up to you! You can add posts to it as frequently as you like and add whatever content works best for your class!
Check out the following sites to see how easy it can be. You can also explore them to look at other examples of how blogs are used personally and educationally.
Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites are among the most controversial type of online communication for educational purposes. Many argue that these sites are not educational, but if used appropriately with clear guidelines, these sites can be used to bridge school and personal life. Many social networking sites can be used inappropriately by young students, not understanding how public their information may be. Social networking sites create a "virtual community for people interested in a particular subject or just to 'hang out' together. Members create their own online 'profile' with biographical data, pictures, likes, dislikes and any other information they choose to post. They communicate with each other by voice, chat, instant message, video-conference and blogs, and the service typically provides a way for members to contact friends of other members" (PCMag.com). Used for foreign languages, students could network with each other and native speakers, much like they may with a blog, except the network or audience is a part of the same program or site making new friends easily accessible.
Many social networking sites have become very popular amongst our students and even amongst adults. It is our job as educators to find ways to connect with what our students enjoy and find appropriate ways to use these tools. these sites allow users to search for people of appropriate age, with similar interests and to post their thoughts, questions, photos, etc. Some popular sites many already use include:
- * LiveJournal is a unique site that advertises that one can "Express Yourself, Share Your Life, Connect with Friends Online; You can use LiveJournal in many ways: a private journal, a blog, a discussion forum or a social network."
- * Ning allows you to search for specific, interest based networks or to create your own which may help ease some of the fears of using these types of sites for education.
All of these tools and sites provide an opportunity for increased communication for foreign language learners. In varying formats, each opens the world to our students, allowing them to make new friends and communicate with their peers and teachers in the target language. These sites allow them to practice real-life language instead of scripted situations and skits done in traditional classrooms. Though practicing conversations for different situations is beneficial, these activities could be guided online and be translated into classroom practice. The topics and conversations students have online could become topics of conversation in the classroom, enforcing students oral proficiency as well as their written (or typed) fluency. For further exploration into using online tools for speakign and listening practice not covered in this course, look at the resources section (link below).
Continuing onto the next unit will now allow us to reflect on the opportunities and possibilities these numerous sites bring to the foreign language classroom.
Continue on to Unit 3: Possibilities & Benefits
Go back to the main course page Foreign Language 2.0: Benefits and Implementing Online Communication
Visit Foreign Language 2.0 Resources for a list of resources used in this course and for further exploration suggestions.
Go back to the KNILT Main page