LANGUAGE TOOLS FOR THE WEB GENERATION – BY JOE DALE

Young people have grown up with the web. They are confident users of technology who love to collaborate, create and consume online content as part of their everyday lives. The challenge for MFL teachers all over the world is to harness this intrinsic enthusiasm and make language learning as relevant, purposeful and accessible as possible in and out if the classroom.  Publishing pupils’ multimedia work to a real audience on a blog or a wiki can motivate children, raise standards in their work and promote creativity. It can also facilitate assessment for learning opportunities, distance learning, forge authentic international links and celebrate pupil voice at primary and secondary level.

Completing interactive exercises independently using tools such as Quizlet and Socrative allows students to work at their own pace, receive immediate feedback and have their results monitored and tracked individually. They can also compete with their peers and have their scores appear on a leaderboard encouraging them to gain as many points as possible by mastering vocabulary and improving spelling through stealth learning and having fun.

shutterstock_141207376Recording and editing audio using Audacity or Voice Record Pro can improve pronunciation, boost confidence in speaking and deepen understanding. Some MFL departments encourage students to use free teleprompters such as Cue Prompter or Visioprompt so they can read their scripts while recording their voice. This technique can be particularly effective when practising texts for controlled assessment purposes. Textivate and Triptico have also proved popular for CA revision.

Incorporating video into the MFL classroom is invaluable for promoting intercultural understanding and giving learners access to authentic language. Students can also produce their own short clips by storyboarding ideas, shooting footage and editing together the results. They can make their own animations and screencasts too and build them into an e-portfolio over time.

The MFL department at Wildern School in Hampshire is experimenting with ‘flipping the classroom’. They prepare videos featuring content they would traditionally introduce in class and expect students to watch them as a homework task. This then frees up time in class for more activities and encouraging learner to achieve higher order thinking skills. Check out their dedicated blog to find out more.

For those language teachers who are less confident in the effective use of technology, I would suggest the following:

– ask for advice from a colleague in your department and share ideas

– try out some recommended tools or apps you feel comfortable with to begin with

– join an online community such as TES MFL Forum, MFLresources and the #MFLtwitterati and ask for some practical suggestions.

– set using technology as a performance management target

– sign up to a subject association such as ALL which has many techno savvy members who can support you

Having to master new technologies for time poor teachers is challenging, but for those who haven’t known life before the internet it is essential that we do make this effort in order to make language learning more relevant, engaging and accessible for the web generation.



Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK who works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. He is host of the TES MFL forum, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, a regular conference speaker and recognised expert on technology and language learning

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