Online Tools for the Language Classroom

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by Liza Navarro

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2017 issue of TEAL News.]

Assessing and integrating digital technologies has been an ongoing challenge for educators around the world. Although recently curricula have begun requiring instructors to incorporate technology in the classroom, instructors face many challenges in meeting these requirements including time constraints, lack of knowledge and lack of resources. As a PhD student and language educator, I have been interested in the ways language instructors approach technology and integrate it into their classroom. My interest has led me to several research opportunities involving technology with educators and teacher candidates. For example, this past summer, I had an opportunity to work with groups of language teachers, who were interested in enhancing their practice with technology. Indeed, there are many exciting technological resources available for teachers today. In our workshop we specifically focused on free tools readily available online and easily accessible.

Among the various online tools available, Google Street View, Google Expeditions and Kahoot! were favored the most by language teachers participating in my workshops. Each resource offered a different aspect and opportunity for instructors to tie technology, language and culture into the classroom. In this article, I would like to share some of these tools with the readers of TEAL News.

Virtual Reality with Google Recently, virtual reality (VR) has become a trending phenomenon in North America, and Google—being a major trendsetter —has honed VR possibilities within the classroom. With Google Street View and Google Expeditions language instructors can take their students on virtual field trips to different places around the world for free.

Google Street View allows users such as instructors and students to input a location and then select from any 360 image they wish to explore. For example, if a language instructor wished to take her students to the Louvre, she could do so with the click of a button. In addition, instructors and students can take their own 360 images of specific locations they wish to discuss and share with the class. This visual exchange of places can open the door to discussions on language, community and much more in the language classroom.

Google Expeditions on the other hand provides instructors with more control allowing them to select specific destinations such as a famous museum, an ancient library or historical ruins. The possibilities are endless. Some teachers might even take their students on an expedition to far away planets in space or to explore the wonderous world of the Atlantic Ocean. Google Expeditions works the following way: once the instructor sets the location, students can tag along and follow their instructor on a virtually guided tour as a group. Instructors also have the option of adding questions or prompts in their language of choice within the tour that students can answer or follow respectively. For example, a language instructor can conduct an entire tour in the target language by devising clues and questions in the language of their choice. Students are thus engaged in a virtual experience within their language of study.

VR apps such as Google Street View and Google Expeditions can thus provide language instructors and their students the opportunity to immerse themselves in another country and culture at a low cost while remaining in the classroom. While these apps are free and can be downloaded by anyone to their mobile devices, there is one catch. In order to use Google Street View and Google Expeditions, teachers and/or students must have VR goggles. These goggles can be purchased online or they can be handmade with the purchase of 3D lenses.

Assessment with Kahoot!

While VR applications can provide language students with the opportunity to venture to different parts of the world exposing them to different cultural elements of the target language, other tools can be used to enhance learning practices in the classroom such as assessment. Among them, Kahoot! allows instructors to track their students’ progress by providing them with free, fun and interactive online games in real time. Kahoot! was created in 2013 in an effort to enhance game based learning and gained ground in the classroom and beyond. When using Kahoot! instructors can begin by inputting multiple-choice questions in the language of their choice. They can then decide how much time students will be given for each response. Once the questions and time have been selected, instructors can share a link with their students to access the game. Instructors can also create Kahoot! activities to be completed at home, thus finding ways to engage students outside the classroom. Another exciting feature of Kahoot! is that it allows participants from around the world to play with one another. For example, language instructors located in different parts of the world could collaborate to create a Kahoot! activity for their students to interact with one another. Kahoot! is extremely user friendly and engaging, and in my experience, it works best in classrooms of adolescents and university students who have access to smart phones, tablets or laptops.

Final Thoughts

During my time with various language instructors, they thoroughly enjoyed learning about Google Street View, Google Expeditions and Kahoot!. In addition, they all agreed that they were excellent examples of free online resources that can truly engage their students in the classroom. With the increased presence of technology, it is important that instructors are provided with opportunities to learn about the resources available and how they can integrate them into their teaching practice. From my own experience, the moments students and language teachers remember the most are those that struck them, those that engaged them and those that provided them with a one of a kind experience. Google Street View, Google Expeditions and Kahoot! do just that by tapping into the possibilities of technology and its important and practical role in the classroom.

Biographical Information (From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter)

Liza Navarro is a PhD student in Language and Literacy Education at UBC Columbia. Liza’s interests include developing language teacher resources, intercultural competence, and French language learning. She also collaborates on a range of research projects with teacher candidates and French immersion schools.

This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Navarro, L.  (2017, Fall). Online Tools for the Language Classroom. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

One thought on “Online Tools for the Language Classroom

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