The Best Apps for Foreign Language EducationThanks to all our participants of Thursday night’s #langchat! Our topic concerned apps #langchat teacher recommend to improve students’ their oral language skills, and participants had lots of fantastic ideas. Though there are many ways to use apps to further students’ oral abilities, one great advantage of using apps and related tech in the classroom is the easy availability of authentic resources. We branched from our topic to include lots of great suggestions in this area.

Disclaimer: Please check these apps yourself to ensure they meet the needs of your students. We are not responsible for the contents of these apps. This is a summary, and we have accurately reflected the recommendations presented by participants in #langchat, but we cannot be responsible for the content of apps listed in this post. App makers update their apps routinely, so the only way to know what content is in the app is to check it yourself. If you do find an app with questionable or offensive content, please alert us by email so we can update this summary.

Last week we took a look at the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, and this week we delved into further tech opportunities by checking out the world of apps. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, “app” is short for application, and usually refers to software you can run on smartphones and personal electronic devices (PEDs) such as iPads, iPods and Android phones.

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Technology in the Classroom

So why so much focus on apps and Web 2.0 tools lately? Technology is surging ahead and has really reshaped the way we communicate and do business — why not also change the way we educate ourselves and others?

Several of our participants come from schools who have decided to invest in new technology in the classroom, such as through purchasing class sets of iPads, iPods or even laptops (some schools have even decided to forego textbooks in favor of class sets! @tmsaue1). Many of these schools use this technology in the foreign language classroom exclusively, and it’s easy to see how our subjects can benefit from increased connections and communication with the world community.

If interested in this trend, check out this article on a Kentucky school’s decision to provide iPads to each of its students (@tmsaue1).

Problems with Increased Technology in the Classroom

Despite all the advantages of using apps and Web 2.0 tools to educate our students, there are a number of problems that must be considered. A primary concern is the same as using any technology in the classroom: is this actually adding to my students’ education, or can the task be done better another way? It’s easy to fall for the new, trendy look of an iPhone or iPad app, but we need to make sure that the tool we’re using is well-suited to our objective.

The key could be to ensure that the app contains authentic content, rather than a simple flashcard tool (@SECottrell). Apps that focus on memorization, vocab, etc. are probably not good choices, especially when used with students who are already struggling (@lindseybp).

As @tmsaue1 put it, we don’t need new apps to do old things. One way to avoid this is not to think of mobile devices as small computers. He recommends that teachers not use a feature of a mobile device if it can be done with a computer — stick to unique uses. The real beauty of mobile devices is that students can use them to personalize their learning. These devices are small, cheap and offer a choice in education that students don’t have with their textbook and teacher lectures.

Apps for Authentic Learning

One of the key benefits to using apps in foreign language education is the ability to access information, news and other media directly in the target language. Some of the most authentic learning apps aren’t intended for learners of the target language, but for actual native speakers.

These apps are great for students to both practice their listening or reading skills and learn about the target language culture at the same time — in whatever subject they’re interested in. That’s what personalizing learning is all about.

Note: Below are quite a few app suggestions made by our participants, and most are available for both Apple and other products, such as Android and Blackberry smartphones; however, in most cases the links below are only to the app’s iTunes store listing. If looking for another product’s app, Google the name to find the relevant download page.

  • @calicoteach recommends the High School Spanish App for students wanting to prepare for the AP or IB exams. Especially good for upper level students.
  • @cadamsf1 suggests the RTVE Noticias y Directos and the ABC.es apps for authentic reading and listening news in Spanish.
  • @pamweseley suggests using travel-focused apps to explore and learn about different cities or regions in the target culture.
  • The Radios de España app offers 500+ radio stations (@SECottrell).
  • Libros Clasicos is an app for Spanish teachers that provides lots of Spanish-language books (@DiegoOjeda66).
  • RFI & MCD is an international news station with reporting in over a dozen languages (@erindebell).
  • For experiencing target language songs and music, try Pandora Radio’s app. It’s great because if students know just one song in the language, the app will suggest additional songs for them to try (@erindebell).
  • Flipboardis a great content-creation app that allows you to fashion personalized books with authentic content. @tmsaue1 uses one book per unit and finds that they’re great bellringer activities.
    • SECottrell shared iPad Curriculum’s blog post on Flipboard.
  • LeKiosque provides fantastic access to French magazines (@tmsaue1).
  • For a mixture of two cultures, try out Frases Cotidianas en Idioma Chino for daily Spanish-language Chinese idioms and Frases Cotidianas en Idioma Aleman for German idioms — and the same developer has other languages available as well (@DiegoOjeda66).
  • For Spanish-language books, movies and more, check out La Libreria Crabapps (@DiegoOjeda66).
  • Buy Spanish-language books for 99 cents each with the Cuentos para Dormir: HD app — great for elementary students (@tmsaue1).
  • Or for some free illustrated children’s stories in Spanish, check out Los Cuentos de Niño and Cuentitos Clásicos (@SECottrell).
  • For Spanish, a nice app for recipes is Que Rica Vida Recetario (@tmsaue1).
  • Check out Guia del Ocio for some authentic Spanish language practice (@katchiringa).
  • For Spanish sports, try out Mundo Deportivo, and for general Spanish-language videos, see Univision Videos (@SECottrell).
  • BrainPOP: Película del Día is a Spanish-language app that covers lots of different subjects — and free! (@szucsja)
  • @lindseybp likes the Roma Uno app to stream live Italian news from Rome.
  • @DiegoOjeda66 likes Mi Primeras Palabras for elementary Spanish.

Apps for Improving Oral Language Skills

In addition to allowing students access to authentic materials in the target language, apps and the tools they run on can also be used to practice oral language skills through self-recording and video creation.

  • @paulinobrenner has some steps on making a video using an iPod or iPad at http://t.co/lGe2REg.
  • @DiegoOjeda66 uses the Speech with Milo app, recently available in Spanish. Another app that’s good and fun at the same time is Speak to the Animals — be sure to look for the version in your target language.
  • Check out Audioboo, iPadio and DragonDictation for some free audio recording apps (@SECottrell).
    • Audioboo allows students to create an audio portfolio of their language learning — powerful to show progress over time (@tmsaue1).

Miscellaneous Resources and App Lists

Participants shared so many fantastic suggestions that it was impossible to include them all in the commentary above. Check below for several lists of apps recommended for use in teaching foreign languages.

  • @SECottrell shared her Delicious tag for foreign language iPad apps, check it out at http://t.co/GHPBaxi..
  • @pamwesely shared a link to PCMag.com’s list of the best iPad apps — how many can be used in the foreign language classroom?
  • @szucsja provided a link to a blog focusing on the use of apps in the classroom at http://ow.ly/6d8vy.
  • @SECottrell also shared a list of apps for language learning compiled by Catherine Meissner at http://t.co/VGkZ7C8. Check it out for apps dedicated to individual languages or all languages together.
  • If looking for your own apps, start here for iTunes’ Spanish-language apps, and here for the French-language apps.
  • @melindamlarson regularly uses iPod Touches and iPads in her classes, and shared a link to her list of favorite apps at http://t.co/56IIaBf.
  • Check out @cybraryman1’s iPad page at http://t.co/z7VUp7l for more apps and ideas for in-class activities.
  • @teachpaperless has a blog post on the facts and myths surrounding classroom iPads at http://t.co/s60usFv.
  • @szucsja recommends two art apps in SketchBook MobileX and Doodle Buddy.
    • @pamwesely says her daughter loves Drawing Pad for art.
    • Another app (free) for a Spanish art unit: Chilango Arte Público. It shows art in public spaces in Mexico and locates them on a map for culture learning (@szucsja).
  • For your older students, @DiegoOjeda66 recommends Como Seducir a una Chica.
  • @lindseybp shared this blog post from e-blahblah about some of the best apps for teaching and learning.

Wow! Participants shared lots of interesting and useful apps, but how can we go about finding even more authentic learning materials in this new branch of technology? First, @DiegoOjeda66 suggests using the target language while searching for new apps — this will ensure you find apps that are directed more towards native speakers. @tmsaue1 also suggests looking for providers such as department and grocery stores, TV stations, magazines and the like. Follow these two tips, combined with the arsenal of suggestions above, and you’ll be well on your way to offering your kids plenty of choices in their language learning endeavors.

Thanks again to all our participants, and especially to our moderators for the night, @DiegoOjeda66 and @SECottrell. Be sure to check out our language learning wiki at http://www.langchat.pbworks.com/, and if you have suggestions for the next #langchat (Thursdays at 8 EST), feel free to make them on our public suggestion form. The full archive of Thursday’s chat is available here.

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Thanks to all our participants who came out for Thursday night’s #langchat at 8 Eastern time! We shared some great resources and had a very interesting discussion on everyone’s favorite Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. Thanks especially to our moderators, Don Doehla (@dr_dmd) and Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell).

So, what IS Web 2.0? Basically, Web 2.0 applications allow users to share information, collaborate and interact with each other over the Internet. Web 2.0 marks a turn from the Internet being a place where you passively read content, to one where you actively contribute and share — not just “go and get,” but also “go and create” (@dr_dmd).

Some Web 2.0 examples include social networking (Facebook, Twitter), blogs (WordPress, Blogger), wikis (Wikipedia) and video sharing (YouTube). There are many more, and on Thursday night we discussed some of the best and how to use them in the classroom.

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

There are many Web 2.0 tools available to educators, and new resources appear every week. How do you choose the best tool for your classroom? First, choose a tool based on what you’re trying to accomplish, rather than because it’s new or you’re enamored with its sleek look. Start with your objectives (@mmebrady).

If you’re doubting whether an activity has improved through using a new technology, go back to the learning objective, compare the old way to the new way and determine if you’re gaining or losing anything (@mmebrady).

If you’re just getting into using technology in the classroom, @mmebrady suggests you find an objective you think could be better exercised and ask about a tool to do it. It’s important to keep authentic materials and exercises in mind, too. If you take a tool and just use it to drill verbs for days, it’s no more than a fancy, forgettable worksheet (@SECottrell).

Web 2.0 Tools for Organizing Content

Wikis

Quite a few of you use wikis in the classroom to provide links, videos, audio files and other resources to students. Kids can access the class wiki for research on projects, to check homework, to share comments on a presentation and for many other purposes.

One of the overriding reasons that wikis are popular is because of all the other tools that you can easily incorporate into them. For example, @dr_dmd often embeds YouTube videos for students to watch and a Google form for them to write their reactions in. Another key feature is the ability of the whole community to access and add to the content, from anywhere (@SECottrell).

As of the time of this post, there are two major sites available for educators to host their own wiki: Wikispaces and PBworks.

Edmodo

Edmodo has been discussed in many #langchats, and for good reason. This Web 2.0 tool is great for foreign language teachers who want to organize their classes and get students engaged. Its Facebook-like interface pulls kids in, and it’s easy to navigate for teachers as well. The privacy controls make it safe and suitable for both in- and out-of-class use.

@dr_dmd uses Edmodo as a home base. He posts the agenda and handouts on the class page, with links to the wiki and other resources. Students can also post files or videos to share. It’s a great help when students are absent, as they can still access the class, get the agenda and download any handouts.

@js_pasaporte’s school plans to use Edmodo with both their students and students from partner schools abroad! @SECottrell has an Edmodo group (AmigoWeb) for partner schools around the world. Contact her on Twitter if you’d like the code and more information.

Web 2.0 Tools for Writing and Presentations

Glogster

Glogster is a great content-creation tool that kids really enjoy using. Students can use this service to make attractive posters or presentations or to demonstrate comprehension of material.

Teachers can also use Glogster to create content. @SraSpanglish likes using Glogster to provide both links to resources and feedback on student responses. @mmebrady creates glogs as media collections for her students.

Message boards

There are several Web 2.0 tools that function as virtual corkboards or whiteboards for messages. Many of our participants use sites such as Corkboard.me and Linoit. Participants mentioned that another option, Wallwisher, has too many technical problems for classroom use. All of these sites are great at getting students to write short notes or share information with the rest of the class.

Twitter

We talked about Twitter quite a bit last week, and the discussion continued this week with some more great ideas. Twitter’s great at getting students engaged and communicating in another language — sometimes with native speakers!

  • @dr_dmd asks students to tweet three to five times a week to a class hashtag, which he then checks for credit.
  • Several teachers use the foreign language learner hashtags, #charlando for Spanish and #parlons for French, and ask their students to join the conversations.
  • Another way to use Twitter in the classroom is to ask students to follow authentic language tweeters http://t.co/ihh62FP or musicians http://t.co/4myPqpY (@SECottrell).
  • For Spanish classes, have students follow the #dichos hashtag for a Spanish proverb of the day (@fravan).

An understandable concern of teachers, administrators and parents alike is privacy in Twitter chats. One way around this is the use of TodaysMeet, which allows you to set up a private, password-protected Twitter-like chat. You can even save the chat transcript and place it on the class Edmodo or wiki (@dr_dmd).

Web 2.0 Tools for Speaking

VoiceThread

VoiceThread allows users to comment on photo or video slideshows by text or audio. Users can create a slideshow with comments, then share it and allow friends or coworkers to add further comments.

  • @js_pasaporte uses VoiceThread to exchange projects with partner schools.
  • @SraSpanglish asks students to describe pictures they take on a walk, or she provides a weather map and asks students to comment.

Google Voice

While not strictly Web 2.0, Google Voice provides a private, online number that you can use to place and receive calls. There are many opportunities to use Google Voice in the classroom. If you’re worried about privacy, or for in-class activities, students can even send texts.

  • @mmebrady gives students questions they must answer by calling and recording a response on her Google Voice.
  • @fravan puts pictures on an overhead and asks students to call his Google Voice with a description.
  • @klafrench uses Google Voice for all of her speaking activities so that she has a recording of the students using the target language.
  • @SECottrell has her students call presentations in to her Google Voice, which then goes straight to her iPod for easy listening.

Some other speaking tools you can check out for use in the classroom are Audacity, a free audio software; Voki, a tool that lets you create an avatar and record your voice to it; Vocaroo, a voice messaging service sent over e-mail; and Aviary, a Web 2.0 tool with many features, which uses its Myna audio editor to remix or make songs (@madamebaker).

Staying Up to Date with Web 2.0 Tools

Collaborating on #langchat is a great way to share information with other world language educators across the US and internationally, and many teachers find out about new tools and ideas through this hashtag and Twitter at large. If you’re interested in following a few foreign language education blogs for more information, @SECottrell shared some of her favorites below.

Finally, if any of these ideas or tools seems like too much to handle, consider asking your students for help! @fereydoon1975 admits he wasn’t very tech savvy at first, but he asked his students to help him with a few tools, and he encourages other teachers to do the same.

I’m sure you’ve gained some great ideas from our creative #langchat participants — I know I have! Please join us next week at Thursday, 8 Eastern time, as we continue to collaborate and share some fantastic resources and experiences. In the meantime, feel free to visit the Language Teachers Collaborate Wiki or check out the full transcript of the chat here. If you have any topics you’d like to see discussed, please vote!

See you next time!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the first #langchat of the new school year this past Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST. It was great to see so many of you again, and I hope everyone had a great summer! We had a lively and engaging discussion of everyone’s plans and ideas for the upcoming year, and participants shared some fantastic resources that we’ll describe below. You can read the entire archive here.

If we had to pick one theme that kept recurring throughout the discussion, it would have to be an increased use of technology and social media. Our lives are increasingly digitalized, and this presents a unique opportunity to bring the world into the classroom. Quite a few teachers also stressed their plans to teach and encourage the development of 21st century skills, and @ZJonesSpanish even made a video on the subject. Check it out at http://youtu.be/CXurDF0IbuQ.

Twitter and the World Language Classroom

Many teachers expressed plans to increase their use of or to introduce Twitter in the language classroom. This social media service is more and more popular with kids and can be an excellent method to encourage students to use the target language outside of class. Teachers had a few strategies in mind to take advantage of students’ interest in Twitter:

  • @msfrenchteach plans to use the estalished #parlons hashtag for her French students. Spanish language teachers can try #charlando for the same opportunity.
  • @dr_dmd will ask students to tweet five times a week to a hashtag he will establish for the class. Another idea he plans to use will be TodaysMeet. This Twitter-inspired service allows users to create closed “rooms” to tweet in. TodaysMeet allows users to define how long a room lasts, from two hours to one year.
  • @ZJonesSpanish believes that first using Twitter and foreign language tweets for interpretive activities is a great way to get kids accustomed to the idea of actually tweeting and producing the target language. For a back to school interpretive communication activity, visit http://zachary-jones.com/zambombazo/documents/twiccionario/twiccionario_regreso_a_clases.pdf.
  • @katchiringa provided links to a few videos on Twitter use in the classroom. Check them out at http://bit.ly/l69f0g and http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/07/28-creative-ideas-for-teaching-with-twitter/.

In addition to Twitter, several teachers plan to pursue contacts in other countries to establish classroom-to-classroom communication. Skype is one way to do this, but @msfrenchteach cautioned that Skype is not used in French high schools for security reasons. Instead, Adobe Connect might be a good option. @dr_dmd suggested using ePals.

Inviting the World into the Classroom

In addition to Skype, ePals and Twitter, resourceful participants have found other means to increase students’ contact with the outside world. @msfrenchteach is considering opening a Kiva account, which is a service that allows you to make small-scale investments in entrepreneurs around the world. Several other teachers have big plans for a few of Google’s location services:

Portfolios, Presentations and Paperless Projects

Google has lots of other services available that can be of benefit to the world language teacher, and participants shared some of their favorites. Top among them were Google Docs and Google Voice, both excellent tools for posting portfolios, assessments, revisions, reflections and even blogs. The comments feature of Google Docs allows students to share their thoughts on each other’s work and allows teachers to provide direct feedback. For an example of a possible activity, @fravan plans to have students follow a world event in the foreign media and blog about it on Google sites.

Several teachers use Google Forms to create paperless worksheets for students. @fravan makes quizzes using Google Forms and then takes the quiz himself first so that the correct answers are always at the top of the column (for scoring purposes).

There are other sites and services outside Google, as well. @dr_dmd says e-portfolios can be made of many things: blogs, wikis, livebinders or Google Docs. All are good. He uses wikis, and with them he embeds videos, posts links, shares photos, provides sound files, adds widgets of all kinds and even creates Google forms to embed for the student to complete.

@NinaTanti1 uses wikis for class presentations. Put everything up on a wiki — grammar, vocab and visuals — and then show it to the class.

Lots of teachers have repeated their admiration for Edmodo for the same purposes. It’s an effective and easy to use tool for creating online worksheets, assessments and other materials. Similarly, @edtech2innovate suggests using Schoology — it’s “like Facebook and a CMS (Content Management System) rolled into one!” Quizlet and Wordchamp were also mentioned as good tools for learning low-level content such as verb forms and vocab outside of class.

Changes in the World Language Classroom

Some teachers have plans to change their classrooms more than just through increasing their use of technology or social media. For example, @msfrenchteach is considering completely removing participation as a grading criteria to focus on authentic assessments. Participants suggested a few more changes:

  • @SECottrell wants to remove late assignment penalties from her grading. Sometimes students would turn in exemplary work a day or two late and she would be forced to give them an F under the old system. This year she aims to let students turn in two assignments up to two days late per quarter.
  • @lesliedavison shared a blog post on this subject at http://bit.ly/nAznMW.
  • @fravan plans to take the big leap of abandoning the textbook in favor of more authentic materials. He also plans to switch out traditional homework assignments with online assessments for at-home practice.
  • @dr_dmd thinks abandoning the textbook is definitely possible with all the online resources available today. He suggests using Edmodo as a “home base” and to use a wiki for links to materials and videos. Having a class set of textbooks is a good idea, too, he notes, as sometimes the books have good material and it’ll be good for sub days.
  • @profesorM intends to increase the use of the target language in class to near-immersion levels. @ZJonesSpanish thinks this is a great idea — “If a teacher is passionate about near 100% target language and cultures, it rubs off!”
  • Bellwork is another area that teachers plan to shake up this school year, both to increase students’ involvement and streamline bellringer assessment. @fravan uses Wiffiti as a bellringer, and linked to a blog post on the subject at http://t.co/A7uK50H. If students have devices and wifi, @kitchiringa suggests using Socrative for bellringers, quizzes and comprehension checks.

Miscellaneous Resources

Participants shared so many great ideas and resources that some of them didn’t fit in the above categories — but they’re certainly worth including here!

  • First, don’t miss the launch of AskPaulino.com — free Spanish help online.
  • @spanishplans provided a link to a Spanish education Sqworl with lots of useful links. Check it out at http://sqworl.com/01cxop.
  • @ZJonesSpanish made this very useful planning worksheet to assist when making units or activities, at http://tinyurl.com/21stCenturySkillsWS.
  • @ZJonesSpanish also shared some great Spanish music resources. He’s reaching out to singers and bands as much as possible this year, and has had great success at @l_a_m_c. Some bands he’s contacted have even created their own Cloze activities, accessible at http://is.gd/lR8WsF. Some of the musicians sent special messages to the students, such as this freestyle rap (http://youtu.be/jN-MCCUueoU) from the Venezuelan group @4to_poder. More information can be found at http://is.gd/NRpNxP and http://is.gd/Fy3mWh.

Technology in the World Language Classroom

A common theme for this coming school year is without a doubt increased use of technology and social media in the classroom. When going this route, teachers might run into some resistance from parents. If you do plan to use more tools such as Twitter, @dr_dmd suggests reaching out to parents so they understand what you plan to do and how the students’ use of these materials will benefit their language skills. Another good idea is to have students use their school usernames and passwords for any user ids they create so as to separate school and home life (@katchiringa).

On the other side of things, teachers need to be careful not to use too much technology. Using too many services can cause frustration for both you and your students when services stop working. @SraSpanglish cautions against using too many different services, as kids can get overwhelmed. @dr_dmd suggests using only one tool at a time until students have learned it well, and @SECottrell says its important to be sure that there’s enough linguistic purpose behind every new tool.

Producing and practicing the target language with technology is challenging, but it allows unprecedented exposure to authentic resources (@CalicoTeach); however, teachers should be sure we’re not pushing the output just to use the tool (@lesliedavison).

Thanks again to all the participants this week! We shared some useful resources and ideas, and it was great to hear what everyone is planning to implement this coming school year. I hope everyone had a great summer, and welcome back to #langchat! Hope to see you again next Thursday at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Don’t forget to check out the archive, the #langchat wiki and @dr_dmd’s new PBL wiki in the meantime!