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by Erica Fischer on Nov 25, 2013

Learning at Any Time and Any Place: Top 10 Concepts That Are Changing the Future of World Language Education

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  -Jeffrey- 

It was an exciting and fun tweet-up last Thursday as we got together with some of our #langchat regulars and had a few in-person laughs at the American Convention of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). It was so much fun, we almost forgot that we were supposed to be learning and sharing online as well as offline!

The discussion surrounded the theme of this year’s ACTFL: The new realities for learning language any time and any place. It was clear from our discussion that ideas like real communication, interaction with the community and an ever-increasing emphasis on technology make learning language available in any location and at any pace imaginable.

Top 10 Concepts that Will Shape the Future of World Language Education

Through our discussion, we developed a couple of concepts that we are sure will continue to allow students to learn at their leisure and from wherever they desire.

10. Goodbye to paper-based resources

Some of our participants are drifting ever farther away from reliance on textbooks and workbooks. @CoLeeSensei said, “For me, the new reality means bye-bye to a the text driven curriculum – Ss need skills to learn outside my room.”

With the increased access to authentic documents, speakers and curriculum supports available on the Internet, world language teachers will be able to more easily create classes that are relevant and interesting to students. @Ashida_Linda said, “There are so many authentic contexts and communication opportunities with authentic audiences.”

9. Hello to connection

As teachers reduce their use of traditional paper-based resources, interpersonal communication with native speakers around the world and around the corner will become the lifeblood of the language classroom. @Ashida_Linda said, “There are exciting new opportunities to collaborate and learn beyond the classroom with google docs, hangout, skype, etc.”

#langchat teachers shared their ideas for taking connection to the next level as well. @MaestraVance suggests you “expose students to people in their own community who are using the language.” @CoLeeSensei is having students “report their “real life encounters” with the TL outside of class.” And @jas347 wants to “find real world connections and reasons to practice the language. Engage them with people in the community.”

8. Putting the power with the student

As in all areas of education, world language teachers will begin to put more and more emphasis on student-centered and student-driven education. Flipped classrooms, student mentoring and project-based learning is allowing students to define their learning objectives within parameters that are set by teachers. This new way of thinking about education has long-lasting implications and may be one of the game-changers for traditional education.

Specifically, teachers will become more aware of how to take advantage of teaching moments and support students in their own learning goals. @jas347 said, “Lessons that are planned need to be adaptable to teachable moments that connect with students’ interests. Adapt your curriculum to your students.” @fletch_kirsten said, “New reality for me is giving students more autonomy to direct their own learning and share their discoveries with me.” In addition, @Ashida_Linda suggests making lessons “relevant to students’ lives” and encouraging them to connect with authentic audiences.

7. Education on your own terms

All the emphasis on student-centered learning is likely to lead to additional freedom for the teacher. @msfrenchteach said, “This new reality means that my students can lounge on the classroom floor bean bags AND interact with students across the globe. Love it!”

But, it’s not just classroom furniture that leads to increased interaction. World language teachers will be able to connect with each other more, sharing insights and lessons via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media channels. Additional technology will allow them to grade faster, teach more in-depth and use better authentic resources.

6. Learning beyond the classroom

@CatherineKU72 said, “Helping students learn the realities of learning beyond classroom are still a challenge. We need to be the leaders in promoting that concept.” World language instruction is becoming about much more than just a few hours of direct instruction a week. Increasingly, teachers are focusing on getting students engaged with the language outside of the classroom in unique and individualized ways.

Learning beyond the classroom is necessitated by our growing global world. @HSspanishApp said, “My new reality is that my students need to know Spanish for their everyday lives and implement what they learn in their professions the next day!” As students realize the need for language competency, they will begin to use their personal time differently. This means teachers will need to get students used to connecting in the target language on the internet, in person and on social media. @GaryDiBianca suggested starting students now on following interesting people on Twitter and other social media in the target language as a first step.

5. The age of communication

The necessity of language skills makes traditional “worksheets” increasingly obsolete in language education. @CoLeeSensei said, “The new reality is that the worksheet has been replaced by the ‘show me how you know it’ work.” This means that teachers will be focused on much more than just language accuracy. In the future, an emphasis on grammatical and structural perfection may be supplanted by the focus on actual communication in the target language.

This emphasis leaves little room for abstract knowledge that can’t be used in a real-life communication situation. @senoraCMT said, “We need to learn to communicate in the target language, not learn about the target language. If they are going to own and use the language, they need skills! @SECottrell agreed, saying, “It’s time to stop saying, ‘Imagine you…,’ and take our students’ language to their streets in real ways.”

4. Fighting for appropriate and applied technology

Innovation isn’t always embraced at the same pace throughout a system. @LauraJaneBarber shared a frustration that is very commonly felt. She said, “World language peeps try to be fancy and techy, but the tech department in our district shuts down anything “risky” we try to do.” She went on to say that the Edmodo platform, which is widely used by language teachers, in not allowed in her school.

As teachers continue to lobby for access to effective technology in language classrooms, hopefully there will be a trend to allow unique technologies and educate students on how to interact with them appropriately. @CoLeeSensei shared an example of this by saying, “I use my phone a lot to document what goes on in my class so my students also see me model ‘proper phone use’.” Other technologies like GeniusHour, Weebly, Quizlet, PollEverywhere, GoogleVoice, WordReference and QR codes have already been effective in many world language classrooms.

3. Blogging, curating and pinning

One of the key technologies that have also gained an important place in the world language education community is content sharing, curation and management. Class blogs, commonly shared pinboards and online portfolios save time and allow students to have better access to authentic resources.

#langchat teachers offered a few ways that they currently use these curation devices.

  • @natadel76 said, “Once saw common blog: French and American students posted comments and videos on predetermined themes.”
  • @Ashida_Linda said, “I’m looking to having my students build their own academic prof professional learning network (PLN) blog, and then publish.”
  • @natadel76 said, “Have students keep their own portfolio with samples of work that can be shareable.”
  • @alenord said, “I would also like to have students use Pinterest to curate info, resources based on our units.”

2. Rethinking the homework doctrine

While homework is mandated in many districts, it seems to be a trend among #langchat teachers to stay away from the traditional definition of homework. Although this might not lead to a future without homework, it will give rise to a discussion about whether or not homework is meeting a specific need and how it is achieving results. @LauraJaneBarber said, “I don’t ever give homework besides “study” if you need to and provide resources on school site.”

Regardless of how the dialogue resolves, it is likely that homework will become much more technologically based and much less intensive, based on the opinions of last Thursday’s #langchat. @CarolGaab shared her passionate perspective: “I hate HW, unless it’s USEFUL, QUICK and ENJOYABLE For homework, I tell students to go to the wiki, listen, read, label, comment on photos, videos, songs, etc.”

1. Playing a brand new ball game

We wish that we could have a crystal ball so that we could clearly see what the future holds for world language instruction, but we don’t. We do predict that technology will provide quite a few more surprises for education and communication that will make us rethink how we teach. @MartinaBex said, “How you teach now isn’t what they will need in the future! Technology is a high speed train.”

The future isn’t ours to see, but as long as we are adapting and focusing on communication, we can hopefully keep up with the technological and educational demands the future will no doubt pose to us. @CoLeeSensei summed up how many of us felt on Thursday’s chat: “I must admit that a new reality is the realization that the way I used to teach isn’t what my students need now. I must change as they do!”

Thank You

We’d like to thank @CoLeeSensei and @SECottrell for keeping the online discussion rolling. @msfrenchteach and @CalicoTeach welcomed participants to the face-to-face live chat. We loved meeting and chatting with all of you who joined the live Tweet-Up during ACTFL 2013 and hope to see many more of you at ACTFL 2014 in San Antonio, TX.

Visit the online archive to read a full transcript of this chat. Also, if you have ideas for topics you’d like to discuss in the future, please feel free to share your ideas with us. We love to talk about the things that matter to you, and we appreciate you sharing what is working (or not working) in your world language classroom.

Additional Resources

Homework? A Quick Phone-Recorded Conversation Please!
Recreating The Awkwardness
Holly Jiménez Twitter
Google Voice: Including student voices in class (Part 2)
Genius Hour Experiment
How To Use Google Street View In MFL Classrooms
Homework: To assign or not to assign?

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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