Monthly Archives: September 2013

Storing and Retrieving Student Language Speaking

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:

  1. Students → Teachers
  2. Students → Students
  3. Teachers → Students

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:

SpeakPipe

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

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.

Vocaroo

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

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:

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 9.01.12 PM

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?

 

Finding Online Games for Foreign Language Learning

Any Google search shows that there is a plethora of online games out there, all the way from sophisticated Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) to very basic games like concentration. Many of these games are not primarily intended for education. If teachers plan and implement them carefully though, these games can motivate students and help them learn perhaps without even realizing it.

One area within education that is growing in scholarship about the use of games is foreign language education. There is still much to be done in this area, but there are a range of initiatives and projects to analyze games for their educational potential and place them into curriculum. One example is the Games2Teach project at the University of Arizona, which is a project of UA’s Title VI Language Resource Center, the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL). This site analyzes a number of games and is highly recommended.

This blog post will examine a few different online games that are available in languages in addition to English. The list of such games is too long to do justice to here, but I will focus on games that are available in Hebrew or other Less Commonly Taught Languages. Here are a few:

1. eRepublik

Screen shot 2013-09-21 at 8.12.00 PM

ERepublik is currently available in 30 languages, including Hebrew. In this MMOG, you can do a number of things: Fight battles against other countries to protect your country or expand its borders, build a company and control economics, run within politics, and even run a newspaper. You do this by first choosing a country to live in. This game has some graphics, but it is largely text-based. Thus it can be helpful for developing reading, and domain-specific vocabulary for military, politics, business, etc. You can also chat with fellow players, which can give you encounters with native speakers. This game is free.

2. Planetarium Football Star

Screen shot 2013-09-21 at 8.13.47 PM

Planetarium Football Star is another MMOG based around football, or soccer. This game is available in Hebrew and 34 other languages, and allows players to join clubs, set up training regimes, interview, and shop, among other things. You can also become a sports manager, reporter or sports agent.; in addition, you can chat with your teammates. Thus his site can provide some good sports vocabulary for a sport that is huge throughout the world. This game is also free, and text-based.

3. Travian

Screen shot 2013-09-21 at 7.43.44 PM

Travian is a strategy MMOG that is situated within classical times, and emphasizes resource development and militarism. The game itself has been compared to Settlers of Catan in many respects, and may be too complicated for the casual gamer. It is available in over 40 languages (including Hebrew, of course) and is text-based with a lot of graphics. The basic version of the game is free, although it seems like gameplay is a bit hampered without paying for coins.

These are only a few of the many games available online in several languages. In the future I plan on creating a web page with a list of links to these games, so that people can choose a game that matches their interests if they so desire.

There are also several basic games that you can find in other languages. Although these games have little to them and usually have no narration, they are good for reading and vocabulary acquisition. Here are a few sites with such games in Hebrew: http://fun.walla.co.il/?w=/2278, http://games.yo-yoo.co.il/?cat=22, http://www.games4play.co.il/, http://www.la-am.com/Heb/hebrew_games.shtml, and http://www.gmx.co.il/games/tag/515.html, to name a few.

One of the best ways to find online games available in a certain language is to perform a Google Search within the relevant country and target language domain. For example, here is a Google search for online games in Hebrew within the Israel domain of Google. Some of these results will take you to games in English with merely the titles translated, but if you take the time to search through the results you can find a number of useful games. Do you have experience with other online games that are useful for language learning, or happen to know of any with narration in the target language?

Creating Foreign Language Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Stories

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:

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 1.50.49 PM

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!

Displaying Foreign Language Songs and Lyrics Together

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):

Screen shot 2013-09-21 at 10.47.21 AM

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:

  1. If you do not already have iTunes and are interested in downloading it, you can get it for free at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/. Make sure you specify whether you want iTunes for Mac or Windows by clicking ‘Get iTunes for Macintosh/Windows’.
  2. Go to the web site for the plug-in Cover Version to download it, at http://www.imagomat.de/coverversion/. There are instructions for downloading it on both Windows and Mac. In addition, you will get a ‘ReadMe’ file with the download that contains the same instructions. You can check to make sure the download worked by opening iTunes and going to View > Visualizer, and making sure Cover Version shows up as one of the options.
  3. With Cover Version downloaded, you now just need to add lyrics to songs on iTunes. This can be time consuming if you have a lot of songs to add lyrics to, but it is worth it since the lyrics will always display with these songs. There are many online sites to find lyrics. As an example, I will go to the site http://shironet.mako.co.il/, which is probably the best site for lyrics in Hebrew. On this site I can look up the song from the screenshot above, “ממעמקים”. This song shows up as the first result, and I can open the song and copy the lyrics.
  4. Now that the lyrics are copied, open up iTunes and select the song corresponding to the lyrics you just copied. You can open up the info for this track by right clicking the song and choosing “Get Info”, or going to File > Get Info. In the dialogue box that opens, choose “Lyrics” from the menu bar at the top. Finally, paste the song lyrics into the “Lyrics” text field. You will then end up with something like this:

Screen shot 2013-09-21 at 11.23.35 AM

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!

Using Clickers in Language Classrooms

File:Icon-hand-on-Clicker.jpgA 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:

  1. LRSs increase both student and teacher motivation
  2. LRSs promote involvement and participation
  3. LRSs help learners to self-assess
  4. LRSs enable learners to compare their performance with classmates
  5. LRSs encourage interaction
  6. LRSs are widely thought to boost learning

There are also disadvantages or problems with LRSs reported in some studies:

  1. They may not promote learning, but rather just intrigue students because of a “novelty effect”
  2. Some students feel unsure whether their responses register into the system
  3. Others doubt response anonymity; i.e., there may be negative consequences to wrong responses

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.

You can read more in depth about clickers in general education on this site, or view a comprehensive bibliography about using them in education here (divided into disciplines, etc.).

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:

References

Cardoso, W. (2011). Learning a foreign language with a learner response system: The students’ perspective. Computer
Assisted Language Learning, 24(5), 393—417.

Introduction

Globe flags world country countriesThis 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.