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Technology Tools and Language Teaching

Hello EduMagicians,

I just returned from the whirlwind of learning, leading, and connecting which is #ISTE19 . Wouldn't you know I ran into this week's guest blogger in the hallway. Dr. Junko Yamamoto is a professor at neighboring Slippery Rock University and we have had coffee together and great conversations about edtech in the classroom. During our coffee chat she shared a fun and meaningful assignment that she does with her preservice language teachers.

Some of you may be thinking - fun and meaningful? YES! Friends she integrates technology in unique ways for her students. We believe that our preservice teachers need to be taught using the tech so they can then go out and teach their students in authentic ways. It is so easy to fall back on teaching how we were taught. So - lets flip the script, let's teach our future teachers in meaningful ways using educational technology to inform, showcase, and drive our students to learn more and engage with learning. Without further ado- Dr. Junko Yamamoto sharing how she uses video with her preservice teachers to demonstrate learning.


I teach a world language teaching methodology class at a teacher education program. I have some beliefs about language learning.

  1. Present language with context: meaning carriers must be present with new language input. Gestures, pictures, and a story line can contextualize language.

  2. Start with an enough input: teachers should not require students to speak until they learn by listening. Embed repetition in an interesting story, such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Have students use actions, visuals, and manipulatives to demonstrate their listening comprehension and to be engaged while it is too soon to speak.

With these points in mind, I would to mention four technology tools that language teachers can use.

How, why, and for what purpose teachers use technology tools is more important than what they use.
  • VoiceThread Story - A teacher can create a story with a repetitive pattern and give it to her learners. VoiceThread can be a good option when a learner cannot process a large amount of input. I set this VoiceThread for the viewing-only setting but a teacher can have students respond. I had French and Spanish Education majors with no background of Japanese listen to the first slide and practice "Hello, I am ____" in Japanese. When they felt comfortable, they said hello to the main character of the story and became part of the story. An activity like this would be a good homework so that each student can take as much time as he/she needs to listen. Click on the link below to view a sample of Bella's day!

  • A Video Story - I originally thought that showing the story video first is fine because the pictures convey the meanings. However, after I told the story in person, students told me that making them act out the story as they listened to the story helped them understand it better. For the dramatization part, I assigned one student to be Fulvia, the lady who showed off her jewels, and the other to act out Cornelia, who said that her children were the jewels. I checked for understanding by watching students respond by gestures. The teacher candidates' feedback led me to think that video viewing should occur after the live story acting, for additional language input. Here's another example of a story with a repetitive pattern.

  • Flipgrid - I combined the video that I mentioned above with Flipgrid. The pedagogical reason was to allow students to play the video as many times as they want until they are ready to record their speech. Novice speakers can memorize one to several sentence(s) and say the sentence(s). Intermediate speakers can say what they saw in their own words. I suggest having stuffed animals in your classroom in case your students are uncomfortable about video recording their faces. Your students can choose to hold up a stuffed animal to the camera as they speak. Language acquisition specialists would say, “Keep the affective filter low.” Please view a sample Flipgrid by using this code: tcf54cg

  • Cricut - Suppose you are teaching about food. You tell Stone Soup, a folk story in which a hungry person convinces multiple people to put an ingredient at a time in a pot to make soup, in your target language. Your learners show listening comprehension on their food vocabulary as they put food in a pot. You want to have enough shapes of carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, peas, and chicken cut out for each student. Who has the time to cut out figures for all students? Cricut can be a time saver, because the machine cuts shapes while you do something else.

Technology is better than a teacher at repeating the same thing multiple times. However, it takes a skilled teacher to ask confirmation questions, change the questions, rephrase the story, personalize the story, and confirm students’ listening comprehension during the story telling.

About Guest Blogger

Dr. Junko Yamamoto
Dr. Junko Yamamoto

Dr. Yamamoto teaches World Language Teaching Methodology at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. She is an ACTFL-certified Oral Proficiency Tester in Japanese. She is also an ACTFL-certified program reviewer for ACTFL/CAEP program recognition.

Twitter - @Junko_Yamamoto

So, Now What?

Friends, I hope that this post by Dr. Yamamoto encourages and inspires you to try out some new tools with your students to show what they know. Maybe you are going to spend some time checking out Voicethread or Flipgrid! Please share your great ideas in the comments below or send it out on social with #EduMagic!

Remember friends, you have the EduMagic in YOU!
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