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My Use of Technology in the Foreign Language (Chinese) Classroom

The use of technology in the foreign language classroom has a number of important advantages: students today grow up with technology and are already comfortable with its use, so having them use it in the learning of a foreign language is relatively seamless, and it lets them spend more time producing and using the language than they otherwise might; it adds another dimension to learning and using the language, which makes it more interesting and simultaneously creates a closer connection to their lives; it may appeal to different learning styles than classroom work; it can make it easier for the student to take charge of her own learning.
What follows is a list of the various technology I have found useful. I start with the ones I make the most use of.

Google Docs
Students create documents that they then share with me (giving me the ability to edit). After they are done an assignment, I go into the online document and edit it. They can then go back in and make the necessary corrections. By keeping this document, students can learn from their mistakes because they are there for them to remind themselves. An ongoing journal provides a wonderful opportunity for students to see their language ability grow.

This site is a wiki; I also create a wiki for each class where students post their finished work, as well as various wikis for different purposes, all of which students can access whenever they want or need to.

Every student has an ePal in China whom they email with in both Chinese and English. This has the dual advantage of exposing them to genuine Chinese language, as well as giving them some exposure to the culture. In addition, I often email them asking a question, which they must respond to appropriately in Chinese.

An extension of email, instant messaging makes students produce the language immediately, and at the same time incorporates typing. It also has the advantage that the chat can be saved and then forwarded to the teacher for comment. I have my students pair up with a different partner each week and ‘chat.’ I then give feedback on the transcript.

Voice Thread www.voicethread.com
Voicethread is a website that allows us to post recordings up alongside a photograph or image. Any number of people – students – can put their own recording on the same photograph.
Voicethread also supports multiple photographs that students can view in a series, allowing a teacher to teach through a combination of the photographs and her speaking. Students can then view the series whenever and as often as they like. Yet another use is for students to create projects on their own. Lastly, Voicethread can be used as an oral assessment tool, by providing a photo or other image as a prompt and having students respond to it.

I use a Moodle course site to list daily homework assignments. The site is also useful for posting supplementary readings and recordings to help students practice their listening and reading skills. I also use the forum functionality to have students respond to questions based on a reading.
Moodle can also be used to have students upload files, as well as for discussions.

In the classroom I use a Smartboard. This tends to focus the students attention, and also allows for students to come up and use the board interactively.

Computer (Word Processor)
Through the use of email, students learn how to type in Chinese, a skill unique to Chinese (Because Chinese is not an alphabet-based language, typing is not straightforward.) In addition, certain written assignments can be done via typing rather than writing. This has the dual advantage of giving students practice typing Chinese, while also allowing them to easily go back and edit their writing based on the teacher’s feedback, not to mention keeping a record of the final product.

Digital recorder/Video Camera
Class presentations are recorded using a digital recorder or video camera. This allows us to watch or listen to them again and/or post online.

Presentations (Powerpoint)
As part of the task of integrating language learning with technology, I make presentations in Powerpoint, and students must also do presentations in Chinese using Powerpoint.

Students are exposed to three types of websites: English language websites used to do research on China and
Chinese; Chinese language websites used to practice reading and interpreting Chinese; and websites that are used to help learn Chinese, such as online dictionaries.

Browser-based Functionality (Shockwave)
I use several browser-based functions – animated characters for learning stroke-order; recorded pronunciation for learning correct pronunciation – to help students deal with some of the more challenging aspects of learning Chinese. They also allow students to take charge of their own learning.

Online Flashcards
A variety of websites provide flashcard and self-study functionality with lots of Chinese (and other languages) vocabulary lists.

Movies and Shows about China
Though by no means a new technology, Chinese movies and other shows and documentaries about China bring the culture into the classroom through a medium most students enjoy.

Audio Portfolio www.audioportfolio.com
(I no longer use this. There is an annual fee; the support is minimal; and I can reproduce it using Voicethread)
As a language teacher, the spoken language is the first priority. I use an online program called Audio Portfolio to have students make a weekly recording, using the vocabulary and language structures that we are currently learning in class. The website allows me to type in feedback and comments attached to the recording so that the students can read them before making their next recording.
The same results can be accomplished with any recording software, such as Audacity. Students record, email the file to me, and I email back my comments.
Audio Assignments is a companion site that allows a teacher to put an oral prompt up that the students listen and respond to. The teacher can then give oral feedback that the students can listen to.

Windows Movie Maker
Photostory 3
Quicktime Pro

Things to Do
Scan picture books
Use Webcams to see live pictures
Scan Authentic materials
Use composite pictures to introduce theme related vocabulary (a kitchen)
Scan cartoons in sequence
Create a dialogue using Audacity by changing the voice