The Urgency of Integrating Technology into our Classes
By James A. Donahue, MAT-Spanish Student
Educators tend to acknowledge the benefits of integrating technology into the classroom, yet they also tend to admit that they do not integrate it enough. Here are 5 things a teacher cannot say:
- My school doesn’t have technology. The technological situation of a school is never perfect. Perhaps the technology isn’t even very good. You have to find what you have and use it to to its maximum potential and the best of your ability.
- I don’t know enough about technology. This phrase should no longer be used as an excuse. It’s a warning flag! We are teaching 21st century thinkers and learners. If you don’t know enough about technology, you need to get help either in person or online. If you do know enough, share your knowledge!
- Professional development doesn’t help. This is like a student saying, “I don’t get it.” It’s a dead end. So back up and rethink what you really mean. Do you think that professional development should be differentiated so that technologically advanced teachers help others? Should it be hands on? Should you have to create lessons using technology instead of passively listening to a presentation? Don’t complain about professional development — advocate to change it.
- I don’t have time to make lessons technological. Start small and change one lesson per unit. In September have students email you in the language. By June they’ll be creating a Wiki. It gets easier the more you do it.
- I’m too old/this technology stuff is not necessary. Expectations for teaching and learning change and evolve. Just because it wasn’t necessary in 1990 or even 2000 doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary today. If you are truly unwilling to change, it is time to evaluate other career possibilities.
Our challenge and mission, as foreign language teachers, is to take what we are given and go above and beyond what we think we can do. Here are reasons and ways to use technology as a teaching tool:
- Kids are technological, and hard to impress. Designing lessons to incorporate how kids already learn outside of the classroom, such as Internet searches and social networking sites, provides automatic legitimacy to the activity. Don’t lower standards, just be willing to change how you and the students get there.
- Technology IS communication. Break the barriers of the physical classroom:
- Speak! Everyone agrees that an essential part of a foreign language class should be meaningful verbal communication in the classroom. Take it to the next level by using a language lab. Go further by talking with kids outside the classroom via the Internet. Add in video. This is global communication.
- Write! Instead of writing a composition on paper, nowadays it is more common to type it on a computer and print it. Have a student write in a Google Doc and they can share it with you where you can add comments and notes in real time. Peer editing can now cross time zones.
- Text! So maybe allowing text messaging in class isn’t the best idea. What about making a virtual classroom where kids can discuss, debate and ask both in a computer lab and from a home or library computer. Get more global by inviting a class from around the world to participate.
- Travel! Interacting with a foreign culture is much easier than it used to be, and it doesn’t mean that airfare is cheaper. The authentic, real-world resources that are available online are limitless. Go to the Picasso museum in Malaga in just a few clicks.
- Technology IS collaboration and creation. If students want to do a “poster project” they either have to be in the same place at the same time or work separately and then combine the work at the end. Here are some ideas on how to let kids create and collaborate using technology:
- Write a story in a Google Docs presentation (similar to Powerpoint). Students work on the exact same document, so there is no correct version to worry about. They can illustrate the story with images from the web. Then they can publish their creation as a webpage to share with the entire class, and world.
- Make a website using Google Sites. The students all have access to edit the site so it works much like a wiki. Have students work in small groups to make small websites. Be daring and let an entire class make a much bigger website with more detailed information. Reach for the sky and let multiple classes work on the same site. I currently have 65 students working to build a (fictional) job posting website, complete with job listings, job searching advice, resume advice, a “find your ideal career” survey, and more.
- Who is going to get the job? There are two people applying for the same job and their qualifications are practically equal. They both speak Spanish, but one applicant knows how to navigate Spanish websites, collaborate online, chat around the world, and more. The other applicant only knows how to type a document. Don’t you want to be the teacher that helped develop the first applicant’s technological competence?
- No one cares about foreign language. The only way to demonstrate the legitimacy and necessity of quality foreign language instruction from K-12 is to lead the way in teaching practices, which includes meaningful technology incorporation.
It is essential that foreign language teachers allow students to use technology available to communicate, collaborate, and create. Technology grows and changes every day, so the longer you wait, the further behind you and your students will be!