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Primary Education News
News Beginners' guide to using technology in language lessons
Not sure about how to use QR codes or a class wiki to teach languages? Emma Drury has some pointers
This is a fantastic way for pupils to share and celebrate their learning but a blog does need an audience to keep it alive for pupils. A teacher can set up a class blog with individual student pages and it is incredibly easy to do and manage and allows the pupils chance to write exclusively in the language they have been learning. As the teacher you will probably need to populate the blog with articles to get the ball rolling and the pupils engaged but once they get the hang of it not only will they be leaving comments but also writing their own posts too. The British Council has a simple guide for setting up a class blog.
To take blogging one step further, think about joining a collaborative project like Quadblogging. This is where four schools link up across the world and blog on an agreed topic so the opportunities for sharing language learning are huge.
A variation on the blogging theme is to set up a class wiki. In simple terms this is a simple webpage that can be edited by multiple users; obviously the most famous example is Wikipedia which is continuously written and rewritten by web users all over the world. Wikis are a great way of setting tasks, sharing vocab, videos and games. It can even be done as a tool to use with younger classes – take a look at this wiki set up as an online dictionary as part of the Comenius project at Bowburn Infants School. Language teacher Jackie Berry also uses a wiki as a means of sharing digital stories written in a variety of languages.
This is another fabulous way of getting the students interacting in their chosen language and is more accessible than blogging as students don't need to have good written skills to feel confident to take part. It can, of course, be combined with a blog and is a great way for rehearsing and redrafting work in class. Great podcasts can then be listened to again and again and can become an effective tool for revision, especially if they are posted to a class or school blog.
It is really simple to record a podcast, all you need is some kind of computer with the ability to record (most smartphones can do this now) and some recording software. Audacity is free and allows you to record, edit and export as an mp3 file. You can then upload this to your school website.
E-publishing and digital storytelling
Language consultant Lisa Stevens is a big fan of e-publishing as she says it is an excellent way of sharing. She said: "I love using the Book Creator app on the iPad as it is so versatile and can be used by anyone - young or old - and not just for stories." It is hugely empowering for pupils to be in charge of their own book, writing, proofing, editing and re-drafting it and seeing it through to publication.
Digital storytelling sites are another strand of this. Websites such as Storybird harness the power of great art to stimulate creative thoughts and writing and could be used in any language. Stories cannot be published publically which makes it a safe environment for students to work, but sadly stories written in any language other than English can't be published on the site as yet (Storybird are working on a solution to this) so there is also a wiki that collates Storybird stories created by teachers and learners in Spanish, Italian, French and German which is a really useful resource.
Video and video conferencing
Creating a video and publishing and sharing it with an audience (either on Vimeo, YouTube or on a school website/blog) can also be another powerful way of engaging young learners in a language. At the Royal High School, Bath the students regularly create videos for the school website and so far have filmed a fashion show in Spanish, a guided tour of the school in French and a Through the Keyhole style video of their homes in German. Helen Fraser chief executive of the Girls' Day School Trust, of which the school is a member, said: The students relish the opportunity to use their imagination and ICT skills to make original pieces in a foreign language. I think it's essential to constantly reassess the teaching of languages in our schools and explore creative ways to make it enjoyable for our pupils."
Video conferencing is a fabulous way of interacting with schools in different countries and getting to try out language skills directly. It is also a really useful tool for enhancing pupils' perceptions of different cultures from around the world. Tools such as Skype and Facetime make it easy for schools to connect on a regular basis so at the Howell's School in Cardiff French students have regular Skype chats with pupils from a school in Senegal. But one word of warning - if you are setting up a Skype chat or discussion with a partner school make sure you have checked out the time difference and keep your fingers crossed that your network doesn't fail you mid-chat.
QR codes have a wealth of uses in (and out) of the language classroom. Since the explosion in the smartphone market QR codes have become something of an epidemic but for those who don't get what they are, in simple terms the funny little square of monochrome pattern can be scanned with a smartphone and then the user is directed to some other information. Now that info is usually some marketing literature but can be a specific location on a map, a song, or a video. In the classroom you can use them for treasure hunts or vocabulary learning. Lisa Stevens also uses it for creating starters, plenaries and for creating talking walls where information is revealed when the student scans a particular QR code.
Suggestions for sites to use to create a QR code include Visualead or Kaywa and use a multi-platform reader such as iNigma to read the codes as both Android and iPhones have other specific versions that can be used.
Social networking site Twitter has a myriad of uses for the language teacher and it is so simple and easy to find and connect with other users from across the world. Some teachers use it in primary classes with the teacher being in charge of the account but the students offering ideas and questions to be asked but at Belvedere Academy, Liverpool the languages department has set up Twitter accounts in French and Spanish where the students are sent a word of the week plus top-up reading materials. For lots of ideas and inspiration join the army of languages teachers who follow #mfltwitterati.