Friday, January 22, 2010

Grounded tech integration: languages.(LEARNING connections). USA, LLC

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Wikis, blogs, YouTube, iTunes, virtual field trips, and Web radio offer world language teachers and students many easily accessible opportunities to experience distant cultures and languages. When integrated into a student-centered world languages curriculum, these educational technologies can help enhance language learning and teaching in ways not previously possible. However, the increasing number and expanding possibilities of new technologies for language instruction may obfuscate their most appropriate instructional uses and distract from learning goals.

How can we channel our efforts so that we truly integrate technology into world language instruction instead of using it as an add-on? What does it take to use technologies meaningfully without losing focus on content and pedagogy?

Matching Tech to Lesson Planning

One way to help teachers integrate technology effectively is to focus on instructional planning. Quite simply, we suggest matching technology-integration strategies to existing lesson-planning methods, rather than asking teachers to plan instruction that exploits the opportunities offered by particular educational technologies.

A conceptual tool that can assist with technology integration during planning is a comprehensive set of learning activity types for each curriculum area that specifies the particular educational technologies that can best support the learning goals within each activity.

We have organized the many world-languages learning activity types into subcategories to build an informal taxonomy. Once teachers have determined the learning goals for a particular lesson, project, or unit, they review the activity types for that content area, selecting and combining the activities that will best help students achieve the selected learning goals. Teachers then choose from the multiple educational technologies listed for each learning activity type to support the instructional plan. We consider this grounded technology integration, as it is based in content, pedagogy, and how teachers plan instruction.

Using Learning Activity Types

The process of learning to communicate in a foreign language involves three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. Because students must develop multiple skills that span all three modes of communication, we have organized the world-languages activity types into five genres that address different skill families: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing. (Note that we have added viewing to the four skills that are typically discussed, to include visual world-language learning.) We have identified 56 activity types so far. Due to space constraints, we can't share them all here, but readers can find the complete taxonomy of activity types on our wiki. The tables on page 27 provide examples of activity types in each of the five skills genres, with brief descriptions and illustrations of the technologies that can be used to support each.

Combining Activity Types: An Example

Although each of these activity types could be used independently, when combined, they can help teachers make world-language learning more efficient and engaging for students. By combining activity types in an instructional plan, teachers can address the five organizing principles (communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities) of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages standards while attending to the three communicative modes.

Here is an example of a combination that can be used for foreign language learning in elementary schools:

Creating a class dictionary can be an engaging way to learn new vocabulary without resorting to rote memorization. To help elementary students develop their vocabularies, a teacher can plan a project involving the classroom, the school, and students' homes by combining five activity types. The project is divided into three phases.

Students first identify and label objects that are important to them at home, school, and in the classroom using a word processor. They keep a list and create a table of all the objects they have labeled using a word processor or spreadsheet. They then read the table to their teacher aloud.

Students scan images or download digital pictures to create illustrations accompanied by text, using drawing and/or presentation software. With students' help, the teacher then compiles all the entries into a paper-based or electronic dictionary, creating a book. In the final phase, students deliver presentations of their entries orally to the class, supported by the visual aids that they created. The teacher then assesses the presentations based on a rubric developed in collaboration with the students.

Note that the activity types used in this example helped to make vocabulary learning more student centered and active. Although the same learning goals might be met through other activities and using different technologies, this particular combination helps students make and reinforce connections between language and familiar objects in multimodal ways.

Invitation for Collaboration

Given the dynamic nature of language, plus advances in curricula and technologies available for learning, the range of learning activity types will change over time. We invite you to help us expand, refine, and revise the world-language learning activity types taxonomy. Please visit the Learning Activity Types Wiki and share your ideas via the online survey.


ACTFL National Standards:

"Grounded Tech Integration," L&L, September/ October, 2009, pp. 22-25

"Grounded Tech Integration: Math," L&L, November, 2009, pp. 24-26

Learning Activity Types Wiki:

"Tech Integration in Social Studies," L&L, September/October, 2009, pp. 26-28

Marcela van Olphen, Mark Hofer, and Judi Harris

Marcela van Olphen is a faculty member in the foreign languages program at the College of Education, University of South Florida in Tampa. Her teaching and research focus on teacher preparation for foreign language and English for speakers of other languages with emphasis on technology integration into the curriculum.

Mark Hofer is an associate professor of educational technology at the College of William & Mary. He works with classroom teachers to incorporate technology to support curriculum-based teaching and learning.

Judi Harris is the Pavey Family Chair in educational technology at the College of William & Mary. Her teaching and research focus on K-12 curriculum-based technology integration, telementoring, and teacher professional development.

Listening Activity Types

Seven activity types support students' development of active
listening skills in their target language (L2). For example:

Activity Type Brief Description Possible Technologies

Listen to a story Students listen to a CD, Web, Youtube
story and read aloud
in L2

Listen to a Students listen to a Web radio, Youtube
broadcast broadcast in L2
(radio, television,
news, performance)

Speaking Activity Types

Thirteen activity types focus on helping students build their
speaking skills in their target language. For example:

Activity Type Brief Description Possible Technologies

Create an audio/ Students create a Audio recording/video
video recording recording (a recording, podcast
commercial for an
invented or real
product, a how-to
demonstration, a
song, or a rap)

Have an informal Debate students Audioconference/
debate an issue videoconference, audio
in L2

Writing Activity Types

Twenty-one activity types focus on supporting students' development
of writing skills in the target language. the activities address both
expository and creative writing skills. For example:

Activity Type Brief Description Possible Technologies

Create a comic Students create a Word processor, drawing
comic strip to program, comic creation
apply grammar software, photoshop
functions, culture,
or vocabulary

Create a Students synthesize Word processor, desktop
newspaper/ information from publishing software,
newsletter/ textbooks, Web authoring software, wiki
news encyclopedias, or
magazine/brochure websites and develop
a print or

Reading Activity Types

Ten activity types support students' development of reading
skills in the target language. For example:

Activity Type Brief Description Possible Technologies

Read a diary/ Students read Web, blog, wikis
journal entries from peers'
diaries or journals
posted online

Read a comic or Students read a Web
political cartoon comic and relate it
to the cultural and/
or political
"Asterix," "Ramon")

Viewing Activity Types

Five activity types allow students to experience the target
language and its culture visually. For example:

Activity Type Brief Description Possible Technologies

Watch a Students attend a Web, DVD, Youtube,
performance live performance streaming video
or watch a
recorded event
(DVD of an

View an exhibit Students take Web, Web-based virtual
physical or virtual field trip,
field trips (art videoconference
museums, cultural
artifacts, other
students' works,
school exhibition)

Learning Activity Types Wiki:

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