I believe in the use of technology in the classroom, not because it is fashionable but because it genuinely empowers my teaching, and most importantly, it is a great tool to practise key structures. In many ways, this also mirrors lots of retrieval practice and stickability across all stages of the learning journey. It additionally allows me to take languages outside the classroom and make my lessons accessible to my students once they leave the classroom, which is an essential element in the 21st century, without forgetting how technology allows for real collaboration with real partners in France, Germany or Spain. In other words, it gives my students wings or superpowers!
However, for digital tools to have a positive impact on students' learning, it is important to make its use clear in the curriculum: concentrating on HOW to blend the curriculum. We have to decide on a platform to share our digital resources with students (Google / Classroom / OneNote / Teams?), and think backwards: What do we want our students to achieve by the end of the learning journey? How are we going to get them there? And finally, which digital tools can we use at each stage of the learning journey?
These are some of my favourite tools which I use, together with face-to-face tasks:
I love to use Mini Whiteboards in the classroom: students need to do translations both ways, dictations, and they may have to finish a sentence or write a sentence with a given word (great for retrieval practice). Mentimeter is an alternative to Mini Whiteboards in the classroom. In a nutshell, it is an interactive presentation tool that enables the teacher to engage with students using live polls, word clouds, quizzes, multiple-choice questions, and more. The teacher can check for understanding by asking questions and downloading results as students respond live, but most importantly, it allows all students to see responses at once on the board, which can extremely powerful for reflection: Which answers are great? Why? How can they be improved?
Screencasting (recording your screen in small video tutorials) has become essential in my teaching repertoire. There are different tools you can use; I personally use Loom, for short, impactful modelling videos with activities, like the ones I carry out via the use of Mini Whiteboards, but which can easily be always accessed by my students via a URL on the go or at home! After all, students love watching Tik Tok videos. What about watching a video created by me where they must complete some simple tasks, all based on listening?
Avatars are a great way to carry out listening activities that are accessible outside the classroom! I use Snapchat to create a Disney characterisation of myself talking in short videos, which I can share easily and create multiple listening tasks based on this: Fill in the gaps, Questions/Answer, full transcriptions etc..
I can even create an MS Form or Google Form task with my short or just add it into OneNote or Google Classroom with the activities I want my students to do. I love creating my own avatar videos, as a listening activity as I can speak faster, slower etc.. to meet the needs of my students.
I love Flippity for fun drilling practice of key structures and to develop creativity in my students as I demonstrate on the video tutorial below.
Wheel of Names
Another of my classic activities for Blended Learning. Although this tool was created to randomly select names of people, what about changing the names for keywords, verbs, questions to be answered, sentences to be translated, and sentences with gaps to be filled? Once the wheel is created, you can play in the classroom but, most importantly, you can share the link with your students for self-testing! I explain how I exploit and maximise this tool in the following video tutorial.
This is a great digital tool to incorporate your blended learning classroom to gamify your lessons, which is always a great motivator factor. I particularly like the Genially Board Games templates to practise open-ended questions or specific structures. My top tip: Plan in advance with your team how you can exploit Genially and divide the work by deciding, within your team, who could create which activities on different topics.
About The Author: Esmeralda Salgado is an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and a former Head of MFL and Digital Lead. She has taught languages for over 20 years from KS2 to KS5 in both state and independent schools. Her GCSE and ALevel results are comprised of a 100% pass grade (9-4) at GCSE in summer 2022 (with 56% 9 to 8 grades). Esmeralda is passionate about the use of digital tools and collaborative projects among schools, and won a Silver Pearson's National Teaching Award under the category of Secondary School teacher of the year. She collaborated to write one of the Language Gym Books: Spanish Verb Pivots with GianFranco Conti, and currently works as an a MFL consultant, writer, blogger and CPD provider. She is heading back to the classroom in September Head of MFL.