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On the internet today, there are countless methods to record audio and then share it. These methods all vary more or less in their purposes and strengths. This blog post will review a few tools that look promising for the second language (L2) classroom, based on three different sharing purposes:
These purposes will be referred to in the rest of this post as purpose #1, purpose #2, and purpose #3. Here are a few of the audio sharing tools online:
Briefly, this tool enables visitors to leave voicemails on a site, blog, Facebook, etc. Thus SpeakPipe would especially work well for purpose #1, in which a language teacher can set up a class website and let students leave voice messages in the target language. Less commonly, teachers or fellow students could also leave L2 comments for students on their blogs or Facebook accounts (purposes #2 and #3). The downside to SpeakPipe is that it is only free for a maximum of 20 messages a month of only 90 seconds each.
Audiopal lets users create and embed unlimited audio for free on their blog or site; this can be accomplished through recording your own voice over a phone or microphone, using their text-to-speech technology, or uploading MP3s. This tool would probably work best for purpose #3, on a class site where the teacher records an L2 greeting or posts a listening passage for students. Purposes #1 and #2 could also work with this tool if students are creating their own L2 blog or site for the language classroom.
This is a very simple free tool to record one’s voice and then either email the recording, embed it somewhere, or share a link to it. This site could also commonly be used for purpose #1, as a way for students to send their L2 recordings to their teachers for evaluations. Another idea would be for students to record their voices and then share them with other students on a class site such as Moodle (purpose #2).
Audioboo is made especially for audio producers to record, upload, and share audio. It is yet another free way to manage audio files. Once again, teachers could record or upload audio and then share or embed it for students to access (purpose #3); students could do the same and then share with their teacher or other students (purposes #1 and #2).
Although there is overlap between these types of tools, it is easiest to make the most informed decision by comparing them and deciding which one(s) serves your needs the best. The goal of listing the purposes was to show that most of the tools work well for any of these correspondences, but generally some tools are better or perhaps more common for certain purposes than others.
Lastly, there are a set of tools developed by the Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR), a Title VI Language Resource Center at Michigan State University. Two CLEAR tools are especially relevant here: The Audio Dropbox and Mashups 2.0. I used both of these tools recently in a research project that I carried out. Here is a screenshot from the experiment:
This layout was constructed by Mashups 2.0, which allows users to combine various types of media together onto a web page. For this experiment, I put instructions in the top left corner, the target word and sentence list on the right side, and the Audio Dropbox in the bottom right. The Audio Dropbox provides great functionality because it can be embedded within a Mashup, a webpage, wiki, LMS, etc., and unlike other tools like SpeakPipe, there is no time or response limit. All recordings made on this dropbox are accessible through CLEAR’s site, where they can also be downloaded as MP3s. Both of these tools are free for non-commercial, educational uses.
This gives you an idea of some of the tools that are out there for audio recording and sharing. Do you favor some of these tools over others, or prefer other tools that I did not mention?
Gamebooks, sometimes informally called Choose You Own Adventure (CYOA) stories due to the popular series, allow readers to interact with stories by letting them guide the storyline through their choices. For example, you could be reading about an alien who is getting away onto his spaceship. From here, you could decide to either pursue the alien or let him escape. Either choice has its own set of consequences, and can alter the rest of the story line.
These stories are often considered motivating, and can lead readers to read a story multiple times to explore different possible storylines and endings. Traditionally, writing these stories and printing them could be complicated; luckily, several web tools have made this process a lot easier. Some of these tools include ChooseYourStory, CYOCYOA, inklewriter, and Twine. Each of these tools has its own pros and cons.
One idea for language learning is to design gamebooks in your students’ target language. There could be several reasons for this, such as to teach targeted vocabulary, illustrate culture, promote extensive reading, etc. If you chose to, you could follow up with students to make sure they completed the story by having them give a summary of it. You could also have them read the story again while making different choices, and then report the impact that their choices had on the outcome. Just as an example regarding culture, you could have a story about meeting natives from the target country. In one main version of the story, the student could be rude or less than sensitive to the natives; in the other version the student could be understanding and interculturally competent. These two main storylines could then be used to illustrate the effects of your actions during study abroad.
The remainder of this blog post will explore the web tool Twine a little more in depth. This tool can be downloaded onto Mac or PC computers, and presents a very straightforward interface for designing gamebooks.
Here is a screenshot of Twine, during the story-making process:
As you can see, you can enter the story that you want within boxes, and create links within the boxes to sequential boxes. Arrows let you know where the story is going, and if you have any broken links. Specific instructions about using Twine can be found in the Twine and Twee site documentation, or the blog here is also helpful.
I created an html file out of this Twine CYOA story, which you can read here to see how everything comes together.
Also, note that if you are creating a story using Twine for a right-to-left language such as Hebrew or Arabic, you can use html tags within the story to view these scripts properly (ex.<code><HTML><p DIR=”RTL” align=”right”>האיש ההוא!!!</p></HTML></code>, leaving out the code tags)
This tool can be very easy at a certain level, but complicated on another level, so definitely look up additional helps if needed. As you may have guessed, you can also use Twine to create games if you have the technical know-how. Let me know if you have any comments or questions!
One possible way to learn more of a foreign language or culture is to listen to songs in that target language. Some language teachers play songs in classrooms with accompanying lyrics; this is also a great idea for personal language study. This blog post will present one tool for setting lyrics to display with music, for those who use iTunes. This tool, called Cover Version, is a plug-in for iTunes that can display song lyrics during song play using the iTunes visualizer. Here is a screenshot of the tool in action (you can click on the image to enlarge it):
This is a song in Hebrew that I own in iTunes, and this tool allows me to play the song and view the lyrics simultaneously (note that this picture is customized to my settings—you can also display the cover art with the lyrics, change the font, etc). I will go over the steps required to use this plug-in:
Now just hit “OK” to add the lyrics, and that is it! Now whenever you play this song, you can open the visualizer by either going to View > Show Visualizer or using a shortcut on your keyboard (command + T for Mac, or control + T for PC). Remember that you can change the preferences for how these lyrics are displayed in the visualizer. Instructions on changing these preferences can be found on the Cover Version download site.
This is just one way to display lyrics during song play, so that they are easily viewable from your computer or an overhead projector. Do you know of any other such tools, perhaps with different strengths? Do you know of any such tools with karaoke-like functionality? If so, comment below!
A clicker, which has been called many things in research literature (including a Learning Response System or LRS), is a handheld device with numbered and/or lettered buttons; this clicker or LRS allows people to answer multiple-choice polls and have their choice transmitted and presented on a computer screen. This technology has been popularized by game shows, including the “ask the audience” lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Although this tool has been around for several decades, it has only recently been used in the classroom. Generally these clickers have been used in large lecture settings, in an attempt to encourage participation and interest within such a large setting.
There is a fair amount of research regarding LRS usage within a variety of disciplines, including Algebra, Nursing, and English Literature. Research involving LRSs report many pedagogical advantages to using them in the classroom. Six advantages in particular have been found in several studies:
There are also disadvantages or problems with LRSs reported in some studies:
Clickers have received very little attention in foreign/second language teaching; only a handful of presentations and articles exist about using them in language classrooms. This may be because these classrooms are often smaller and focused on interaction and communication. A recent study by Cardoso (2011) reported similar advantages in the language classroom, and surprisingly found that learners felt that clickers provided yet another avenue for participation and interaction in the language classroom. Students in this study also viewed LRSs as helpful for immediate feedback, for increasing the amount and concreteness of material covered in class, and for showing the teacher’s commitment.
Most of the ideas shared in this post, both general and language-specific, come from the aforementioned article by Cardoso about LRSs. This article also has a very helpful table summarizing many of the findings from past studies about LRSs in many disciplines.
I learned additional information about clickers in email communications with Rivka Cook, who has used them with Spanish and Hebrew. Although clickers do require more preparation time, she loves them because they enable 100% participation, where students are not worried to respond because of the anonymity. In the past, Rivka has used clickers nearly every Friday in her classes.
There are clearly many future directions for future research in this area! Feel free to add anything I missed in the comments.
If you are interested in learning more about how clickers can be used within foreign/second language teaching, here is a video of a presentation on the topic by Rivka Cook:
This blog is devoted to the many technological tools that can be used in the language teaching classroom—to include both those tools that are designed to teach languages, and those that can be adapted for this context. It is often overwhelming to find such tools amidst the massive amount of available technology, which is why this blog will point out some of these tools and suggest ways to find others. As a rule of thumb, it is important to select tools that will assist you in your language teaching rather than let these tools dictate your teaching.
I am a PhD student of the Second Language Acquisition interdisciplinary program at the University of Arizona, and my minor is Educational Technology. I have a variety of research interests relating to pedagogy and linguistics, including heritage language learners, study abroad, vocabulary learning, and integrating technology into the classroom. I am interested in tools that teach any number of foreign languages, but my language of focus is Modern Hebrew, and I am always on the lookout for technologies to enhance the teaching of the Less Commonly Taught Languages.