Technology is a part of people’s daily lives now. No matter where you go and what you do every day, chances are, you need technology to some degree. With that said, every teacher needs to have a few tech tools in their pocket to call on to help them meet their lesson goals. However, before we get to a list of technology tools in classroom that I am recommending, let’s talk about why and how to use them.
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Why do we use technology tools in our classrooms?
While they are not meant to replace a real teacher’s teaching, tech tools enhance the effectiveness of students’ learning. If you can tell that it has extended and reinforced the quality of your input or lesson delivery, then you have most likely chosen the right tool.
How do we use technology tools in the classroom?
Time in class is so precious that we teachers need to take advantage of every minute to maximize students’ learning. While technology tools can be powerful, they can also isolate students from each other if they are using the same platform individually for long stretches of time during class.
Therefore, the key is to know how and when to use them. For instance, if students use an online flashcard website to practice vocabulary on their own in class for a long time, this doesn’t allow them to collaborate with peers. Online flashcard practice would be better used at home on their own time. If students use an online discussion board to express their opinions and interact with classmates instantly, that’s an efficient and meaningful use of class time. It’s because this type of technology allows students to interact with each other. It also helps students who are quiet and more reserved to have the chance to “speak up” online.
Above is my humble opinion on where I stand in terms of using technology tools in classroom. Knowing that, you can decide which technology tools work best for your class time and which work best as assignments outside of class time. I would like to recommend the following tools that I use regularly and get great feedback from students. They are either totally free or have a free version that already comes with useful features. If you really like any of the free versions, upgrading to a paid version might be something to consider.
Create a video-based and social media-like platform with Flipgrid.
Flipgrid is a great interactive tool where students can record videos and share them for everyone to see. To begin with, teachers have the option to just type in texts for discussion, record a video or insert an outside source as information for students to watch. Below are some of the resources that Flipgrid supports and you can include for your communicative purposes:
Students can then record what they want to say in their video in the target language. After they share videos, they can watch each other’s videos and comment on them. The options for commenting could be type written and/or recorded by video in response to their classmates. The teachers can also provide feedback on their students’ language samples by recording their voices or by recording a video to send their feedback. The platform has the option to show how many people have viewed each video. Additionally, you can click on the “like” symbol just like people do on Facebook. Below is the list of options teachers can choose to best fit their class dynamic.
Create all kinds of interactive activities with Nearpod
Nearpod has a variety of built-in activities, as showed below:
You can host an online discussion board by using the “Open-Ended Question.” You can also combine listening and drawing together via the “Draw It” feature. For instance, teachers can record a paragraph such as the one below (or say it in real time) in the target language.
“My dad is tall with short hair. My mom is not tall and she has wavy long hair. We live in a house with 4 windows. I also have two puppies and one cat.”
Then, students draw a picture by listening to your descriptions. Once they are done drawing and have submitted, everyone can see each other’s pictures via the teacher’s projection on the whiteboard. Students often love to see what other people have drawn. Students can then use their own words in the target language to retell the story to their partners in this listening-drawing-speaking activity.
In addition, Nearpod can also be a slideshow that allows you to create live participation as well as student-paced participation. For the live participation, students join your presentation and follow your pace to do all the activities, and you control the length of time and what students’ see. For student-paced participation, you can prepare a task that you assign students to do on their own. Below are the resources that this platform supports and that you can upload to your slides.
Tired of Kahoot?! Try Blooket
Blooket is a new interactive website that was released in 2020. It features several built-in games that help students practice their vocabulary and other comprehension check questions. It has only been on the market for a short time, but it certainly became one of the most popular technology tools in class.
There is also a typical Kahoot game mode, but there are different ones that are well-liked by students. The fascinating part is that students can be held accountable by answering their own questions while they are still interacting with peers in the game. There is also a good variety of game modes that suit different age-groups of students. For example, Racing and Cafe might fit well with younger students while Gold Quest, Tower Defense might be good for middle and high students. For cooperative learning, you can have students play Battle Royale. This is well-liked as it groups students into teams and they can work cooperatively in a team-based game mode. One last essential feature is that you can export Quizlet files to Blooket in a few simple steps. This is such a valuable time-saving feature if you already use Quizlet.
Who says you cannot have formative assessments and fun at the same time?
Check out the website called Wordwall. It features a lot of built-in templates that fit well into your formative assessment routines in class. The screenshot below are the templates that come with the free version. The best part is that once you make a set of questions with one of the templates, you will be given options to play with all the other templates as well. You don’t need to re-type all the questions just to play on different templates! That’s another valuable time-saving feature for busy teachers. It also has a community where other teachers can publicly share their question sets and you can simply use them, configure or build on their existing sets.
Below is the list of templates in the free version of Wordwall.
Here are the templates available in the pro/paid version.
Another way to use Wordwall.net is to assign activities as homework to do outside of class with a due date. Once the students complete these, the results will be sent to you. Below is a screenshot of a homework assignment using Wordwall.net. You can also get an HTML code to embed to your Learning Management System such as Google Classroom, Canvas or Schoology.
In summary, there are many technology tools for busy teachers to use in the classroom. Existing tools will evolve and new tools will continue to be developed each year. Some are suitable for class time and others are suitable for assigning to students to do on their own. You, the teacher, will know what is a good fit and what is not for your class. There is no need to use a lot of fancy tools for the sake of using them unless they are enhancing the effectiveness of students’ language learning experiences.
Interested in more technology tools in classroom?! Check out these 18 technology tools article that was written in Chinese. Click here.