“Techmology,” as Ali G. says, “is everywhere,” and we feel forced to use it. E-learning! i-Tech! Online portfoli-oli-olios! Quizkamodo! Boogle! Anyway, the litmus test for tech in the language classroom is the same as it is for anything else: does it deliver compelling, vocab-restricted comprehensible input?
Today, a look at two ways to play with tech.
1. As Alfie Kohn has noted, using rewards to encourage ____ behaviour turns teaching & learning into a payment & reward system: kids buy a pizza by doing ____. But we really want to get kids to acquire languages because the process itself is interesting. If we have to pizza-bribe kids, we are doing something wrong.
2. The kids get a pizza party…during class time? Is this a good way to deliver the target language to kids? What about the kids who don’t write une carte? Do they not get to be part of the pizza party? Do they sit there and do worksheets or CPAs or whatever while their peers gleefully yap in English, chat and cram junk food into their mouths? What if kids are good at French, but can’t be bothered to write “une carte”? What if they are working, or lack digital access?
3. Output, as the research shows, does not improve acquisition…unless it provokes a TON of target-language response which meets all the following criteria:
- it’s comprehensible
- it’s quality and not student-made (ie impoverished)
- it actually gets read/listened to
So if the teacher responds, and if the student reads/listens to the response…it might help.
4. Workload. Kids don’t benefit from creating output. The teacher also has to spend time wading through bad voicemails, tweets and what have you. Do you want to spend another 30 minutes/day looking at well-intentioned– though bad– “homework” that doesn’t do much good?
5. What do kids do when they compete? They try to win. So the kid who really wants pizza is going to do the simplest easiest thing in French every day just so s/he can get the pizza.
Now, while the “tweet/talk for pizza” idea is a non-starter, there are much better uses for tech out here…here is one, from powerhouse Spanish teacher Meredith McDonald White.
The Señora uses every tech platform I’ve ever heard of, among them Snapchat (a free smartphone app). You get it, make a user profile, and add people à la Facebook. Once people “follow” you, you can exchange images and short video with text added, and you can do hilarious things with images (eg face swap, add extra eyeballs, etc).
Her idea is simple and awesome:
- She sends her followers (students) a sentence from a story or from PQA.
- The kids create or find an image for which the sentence becomes a caption.
- They send her the captioned image.
- She uses these by projecting them and then doing Picturetalk about them.
You can also do the same thing with a meme generator program (loads free online): write sentence on the board, kids copy, and they email you their captioned pics.
Here is a crude example:
- Teacher sends out/writes on board a line from a story, e.g. La chica tiene un gran problema (the girl has a big problem).
- Kids use sentence as a caption & send back to teacher, e.g.
3. This serves for Picturetalk: Is there a girl/boy? Does she have a problem? What problem? What is her hair like? Is she happy? Why is she unhappy? Where is she? What is her name? etc…there are a hundred questions you can ask about this.
Not all the kids will chat/email back, and not all images will work, but over a few months they should all come up with some cool stuff. You can get them illustrating stories (4-6 images) using memes…
This is excellent practice (for outside class). Why? Because the kids are
- getting quality comprehensible input
- personalising the input without having to make or process junky language
- building a community of their own ideas/images
- generating kid-interesting stuff which becomes an in-class platform for generating more comprehensible input
And– equally as importantly– the teacher can read these things in like 3 seconds each, and they are fun to read. #eduwin, or what?
Here’s a few examples done by Meredith and her kids.