Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Relative Advantage of Implementing Technology into the Second Language Classroom

One of my roles as vice principal is to act as the liaison for our World Languages Department.  We provide classes in French, Spanish and Japanese at our school and our teachers are very dedicated to providing students with a wonderful classroom experience.  However, technology usually doesn’t play a large role in this.  I welcome the opportunity to outline the relative advantages of using technology in the realm of learning a second language.  You will notice that I focus on French as a Second Language (FSL) as I used to be an FSL teacher and it is the traditional second language most students learn in Canada.

Roblyer outlines two issues in foreign language learning.  “There is the need to create authentic learning experiences that expose learners to native speakers and there is the need to create a broader audience and purpose for student creation” (2015, p 291).  

Technology can play a role in addressing these two issues.  For one, classrooms can access online tools that can expose them to a wide range of native speakers.  For example, Radio France International broadcasts the daily news in a format directed and language level specifically for French language learners.  Exposure to other accents and voices is critical for second language learners as it pushes them to get out of their comfort zone.  As a former FSL teacher, I know my students could understand me but had difficulty understanding someone else who spoke French.

In addressing, the need for a broader audience, technology provides communication tools that open up the world to a classroom.  Using a video conferencing tool like Skype can allow students to speak to more than their classmates.  They can speak with virtually anyone but setting up meetings with another class in a foreign country is more possible than ever.  Modern communications technology provides learners with the chance to overcome this limitation (Pim, 2013, p. 23) and speak with native languages speakers in an authentic manner.

The advantages of technology in foreign language learning do not end here and it is a shame that integration of technology is not more widespread.  Virtual field trips are possible and easily accomplished by using a service like Learn around the world. There are a number of computer assisted language learning websites and games (think Duolingo).  There are even virtual villages in Second Life where visitors can practice almost any language. Above all, integrating technology provides more authentic situations for language learners to practice and improve their language skills.  Language is communication so it only makes sense that second language learning benefits from advancements in ICT.

Pim, C. (2013). Emerging technologies, emerging minds: Digital innovations within the primary sector. In G. Motteram (Ed.), Innovations in learning technology for English language teaching (pp. 17-42).  London, England: British Council.  

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.