Technology Integration In K12 Education/Technology in the Foreign Language Classroom

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There are many great ways to integrate technology into the foreign language classroom. The internet alone is full of resources that can help with second language acquisition. However, writing about the internet in general would be very time consuming, because there is so much out there. Therefore, we will be focusing specifically on YouTube, Skype, and SMART Boards, and the advantages/disadvantages to using these technologies in the classroom.

Definitions[edit | edit source]

YouTube's introduction to YouTube

Founded in February 2005, YouTube is the world's most popular online video community, allowing millions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers both large and small. Read the full company history. YouTube has become increasingly popular with teachers in terms of sharing videos with their students in order to help them better understand a lesson, or to collaborate with other teachers to share classroom and instructional ideas. In order to use YouTube, the user must have access to a computer with an internet connection and working speakers if they wish to hear the video. In order to upload videos to YouTube, the user must have the videos currently uploaded to their computer.

Skype is free software which allows users to connect with other Skype users around the globe. It is similar to making a phone call, and has audio as well as video capabilities. It can be forwarded to any phone, and can take both audio and video messages. Skype can be downloaded to any computer, as well as many other devices, such as iPhone, Nokia, Android, and Sony-Ericsson phones. Many educators are embracing Skype as a valuable asset in the classroom, as it allows them to connect with students, parents, and teachers face to face, without having to leave the classroom. As it becomes a more and more popular tool in the classroom, Skype executives are responding by setting up a directory where teachers can search for and connect with other teachers and resources. The directory will allow teachers to search by subject and region, and is set to be launched in December, 2010. In order to use Skype software, the user must have access to a computer with an internet connection, as well as a webcam, if they wish to use the video feature.

Check out this video about SMART Boards

According to SMART Technologies, SMART boards "combine the simplicity of a whiteboard with the power of a computer." SMART boards are "interactive whiteboards" that have touch-sensitive displays. SMART boards are hooked up to computers and are used to control the computer that they are hooked up to. Furthermore, SMART board users can write right on the SMART board with digital ink, meaning it shows up on the screen of the computer without actually writing on the board. SMART boards also come with special software so teachers can save any and all notes that are taken on the SMART board. There is also a wide variety of software available for purchase that makes it easy to make games, puzzles, etc., and use them with the SMART board in a classroom.

Advantages[edit | edit source]

Using YouTube in a can be a big advantage in a foreign language classroom. There are over 200,000 videos uploaded per day and within those 200,000 videos are some videos that will aid students in learning a language, whether is a silly Spanish love song, or it's just vocabulary.

YouTube for students

  • You can do more research on a subject you are struggling with by searching it on YouTube. This can help to give ideas and maybe a better understanding than just looking in a book. YouTube can make the subject more accessible to students.
  • It gives students a chance to look up native speakers of the language they are currently studying. Sometimes, it is nice to be able to hear someone who has spoken the language their whole life in comparison to someone who has only studied it.
  • For projects or skits, the students can easily upload their videos to YouTube instead of having to put it on a disk or tape and bringing it into class. This way, it would just be on the internet. This also gives students more accessible means to a recorder. If the students had to use a tape recorder, they would have to edit everything in their school's AV room, whereas with YouTube, they can use their digital camera's video recorder to put it online and edit it right on their computer in the comfort of their own home.
  • Students are able to build on their current ideas by searching the archive of videos on YouTube. They can find videos others have put up on that subject.
  • If a teacher has uploaded their lecture online to YouTube, students that are sick, absent or even for snow days are able to view the lesson by going on the internet instead of having to ask someone for their notes. This way, the student is also able to understand exactly what the teacher meant, because they are watching them give the lesson.

YouTube for Teachers

  • Teachers are able to upload videos to YouTube to give extra help in understanding the lesson better for students, this gives students a reference when they get lost or can't remember how to conjugate a verb for example.
  • One teacher in Colorado even went as far as to upload all of his lessons on YouTube, then would give his students the link that night, and then the next day they would do their homework in class, and if they had questions they could ask them.
  • Teachers are able to reach out to students that may have missed class due to being sick or snow days or even vacation. This makes it less work for the teachers to have to go back and re-explain the lesson. If there is additional information teachers want to relay to their students that the video didn't explain, there is a spot for a description, and even points in the video that you can add a caption in.
  • If teachers do upload their lessons to YouTube and the students have questions, there is a spot for comments and the students could ask their questions there and could potentially receive feedback from the teacher or from other students in the class.
  • Teachers are able to find videos that others have put up in order to relate it back to their lesson.
  • Teachers are able to share their ideas for a lesson plan with other teachers in their same field.
  • Teachers are able to pull ideas for a lesson plan from videos uploaded by other educators.
  • Teachers are able to make their lessons private to just their students. Another advantage to YouTube is there are videos that will explain how to utilize features like these, for example YouTube 101: Private Sharing.
  • There is a website,, and their goal is to teach the world, about the world, with the use of online videos. The website is designed to eventually be the world's first free virtual school and the founder, Salman Khan, has uploaded over a 1,000 videos to YouTube to share these lessons to the world. This may very well be our future as educators.

There are many advantages to using Skype in the classroom. With the ability to have face-to-face chat with users anywhere in the world, one can imagine the possibilities! Not only can students and teachers use Skype to have conversations, but they are also able to use document sharing and conference with more than just two individuals.

Skype for students

  • Students can explore other cultures. Instead of learning about different cultures from a book, students can see it in action, and get information from people who live in those cultures themselves.
  • Students can have modern day pen-pals. Instead of writing letters or emails to pen-pals in another country and waiting for a response, students learning a foreign language can have live chats with native speakers. This will help them to learn pronunciation, colloquial expressions, and learn about other cultures. They will have to think on their feet and converse in real time.
  • Students can use it to get help with grammar and vocabulary question. Students can use Skype to connect with their teacher, fellow students, tutors, or even their “pen-pal” to ask questions about homework, essays, and studying.
  • Students can collaborate and do group work from within their own homes. One of the reasons group work can be difficult is that students may not have the ability to get together with fellow students after school or on the weekend. With Skype, students do not need to leave home to do group projects. With the ability to send documents, presentations, video clips, and photos, students are able to collaborate very effectively, regardless of their location.
  • It can be used before, during, and after traveling with an exchange program. Students and teachers can meet host families and exchange students prior to traveling, which would lend more comfort and confidence to the exchange process. Also, it allows exchange students to call home while traveling abroad. Lastly, students will also be able to continue to keep in touch with host families for years to come.
  • It can be used for absent students and on snow days. Students can connect with teachers on days that they are out sick, and even watch the class if they are well enough to learn but are not well enough to be in school. On snow days, provided all students have access, class can be conducted without risking the drive. It can even be used to include students who have been suspended from school. That way, even if students or teachers can not be in the classroom, there is no reason to fall behind.

Skype for parents

  • Parent-teacher conferences can be conducted with Skype. With hectic schedules, it can be difficult to schedule a time when both parents can visit the school for a conference. Many parents travel with their jobs, or work schedules which may not be conducive to keeping in touch. Skype can be used with one or both parents so that they can be engaged in their child’s education, regardless of any obstacles which would keep them from physically being in the school. A parent could even conference with the teacher face-to-face during a short break.
  • Schools can broadcast performances and games for those who cannot make it. Students whose parents are unable to physically be on location for a performance or game of any kind can still watch live and be included in the extra-curriculars!

Skype for educators

  • Built in recording allows students to track their work. With built-in recording capabilities, students can record conversations with a pen-pal or tutor via Skype so that teachers can go back and see how students are progressing, what steps they are taking to improve, and how the teacher can effectively help students with any trouble spots.
  • Teachers can collaborate to plan lessons. With the ability to send and view documents over Skype, collaboration is easy, instantaneous, and personal.
  • It can be used for mentor purposes. Teachers can have a mentor watch their classroom and provide feedback or give advice so that they can adapt their teaching strategies to be most effective!

There are also many advantages of using SMART boards in the foreign language classroom.

SMART Boards for Teachers

There are many ways that SMART boards can be used to the advantage of any teacher, but there are also things that would be of use to a foreign language teacher. First of all, all of the things that a teacher writes on a SMART board can be saved directly on the computer. Therefore, if a teacher wants to see what he/she said during the previous class, all she needs to do is bring up that page of notes. Furthermore, the SMART board program can translate these notes to type, so the teacher could save all notes in any word processor as well. Next, SMART boards allow the integration of other technology as well. For instance, a teacher can easily attach a camera and use it to take pictures during class and display them on the SMART board. Finally, common programs, such as Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, are well suited to SMART boards. This means that a teacher could very easily use a SMART board to teach students how to format a paper in Microsoft Word, create transitions in a Powerpoint presentation, or find the sum of a column of numbers in Excel. Any way you look at it, there are advantages to using SMART boards as a teacher.

SMART Boards for Students

There are many advantages of having a SMART board in the classroom to students as well. First, a teacher can let the students interact with the SMART board. This way, the students are not just watching the teacher, the students are getting out of their seats and being active. This would most likely increase students' interest in the subject by making lessons more fun. Next, the teacher can vary instruction for the students in other ways, too. There are many programs available to download/purchase that can do anything from creating a version of Jeopardy, to creating flashcards for the students to study as a group. These would also most likely increase student engagement and levels of fun. Finally, SMART boards are a tool that can help students with disabilities as well. Some students, including but not limited to students with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and Severe Learning Disabilities can benefit from this technology. Some of these students are unable to hold pens, much less write. Using SMART boards, all you need is a finger, making learning possible despite not being able to use pens and pencils. Other students find it difficult to concentrate in class, which we have already discussed can be remedied, at least partly, using SMART boards.

SMART Boards in General

Take a look at the video link to SMART boards in the previous section. See how fast and easy things are with SMART boards? One can write on the SMART board, save it, start a new page of notes, then take a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet without missing a beat. It would not take very long to create lessons or lesson plans if one had a SMART board. The quickness of SMART boards makes them a great tool for educators, students, and everyone else.

Issues and Problems[edit | edit source]

Some problems using YouTube in a classroom:

  • Students aren't able to get the proper practice learning the language as they would if they were practicing with someone in person.
  • Students aren't able to know if they are making mistakes when they are practicing their phonics.
  • Some information on the YouTube video may not be completely accurate.
  • YouTube has been criticized for failing to ensure that uploaded videos comply with copyright laws.
  • Some students don't have access to internet outside of school. As an educator, ensuring that all students have access to complete assignments is crucial to student success.
  • Some schools have YouTube blocked, saying that it violates student's safety, so in some institutes teachers and students would not be able to access YouTube in the schools, though the teacher can send a request to have it unblocked during certain times of the day. Also there is a website,, where you can download the YouTube video to your computer, save if on a flash drive and bring it to class to show since it technically isn't pulling anymore from the website.
  • Disconnection-some users become disconnected.
  • Privacy- any time that students and educators are using the internet, it is important to ensure safety by checking that privacy settings are on.

Although there are many benefits to using Skype in the classroom, educators should be aware of some of the issues the technology currently faces. By testing the software prior to class time, teachers can deal with these issues.

  • Some users, particularly Mac users, experience difficulty logging in. The company is currently working on this issue, but it continues to plague users at this time.
  • Some users have experienced difficulty with the video aspect of Skype. Depending on the type of webcam, it may not connect to Skype software
  • Some users experience issues with sound. The most common issues that users experience are echoes and feedback.
  • Some users become disconnected mid-conversation and have to re-connect.
  • Any time that students and educators are using the internet, it is important to ensure safety by checking that privacy settings are on.
  • Not all students have access to computers and internet at home. As an educator, ensuring that all students have access to complete assignments is crucial to student success. If the student does not have the materials at home, the teacher should make other arrangements.

There are also many problems facing SMART boards in foreign language classrooms. In fact, there are some problems facing the introduction of Smart boards in any classroom.

First and foremost, cost is an issue facing SMART boards in any education class. SMART boards can cost anywhere between $1000 and $5000, which could be a problem if one wanted to introduce the technology to an entire foreign language department, much less to an entire school. With budget cuts terrorizing the nations middle and high schools, introducing SMART boards could simply be an impossibility or an improbability. Second, it would take some time and resources to train teachers how to use SMART boards. If the technology is not used properly or effectively, it may just as well not be used at all. Some teachers do not believe that SMART boards are necessary, and therefore will not be motivated to take the time to learn how to use it. This is a problem facing SMART boards, because if a school is considering integrating SMART boards in classrooms, the administration will most likely take teacher interest into account. Finally, SMART boards are electronic items and are therefore sensitive. In a school environment, where the pace is fast and children are present, this could be dangerous and/or costly. Also, teachers and students must know how to properly maintain SMART boards if they are to last a long time (and thus cut down on costs). All of these problems facing SMART boards could prove to be devastating to their introduction into schools. If the administration/teachers have never seen SMART boards in action, they may not think it a necessary cost/risk to introduce them into their school.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

With all of this new technology that we are able to use in the classroom, like YouTube, Skype and Smart Boards, we are giving our students a better opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of subject matter. In a foreign language classroom, students and teachers are able to take advantage of these technologies and give students access to more resources. As educators, we should always be looking for ways to integrate technology in our classrooms to help creatively teach. With YouTube, teachers and students are able to share their ideas and discover new ones. With Skype, students are able to fully immerse themselves in the language, and make it easier to collaborate with fellow students. With the use of Smart Boards, the students are actually able to interact throughout a whole class period, which in turn, will keep the student interested and help them learn. With every advantage comes a disadvantage, and even though YouTube, Skype and Smart Boards all have their issues, with the way technology grows, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

References[edit | edit source]