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by Erica Fischer on Aug 19, 2011

Using Web 2.0 Tools in the Language Classroom

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


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 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 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 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.


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 or musicians (@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 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!

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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