Use of Web 2.0 Technology in Elementary School Language Instruction
If you teach young children or have a few of your own, you know that the importance of technology in teaching language to today’s elementary school kids can’t be emphasized enough. Over the last few years language teaching has quickly progressed from static Web 1.0 (searching, reading on the web etc.) to interactive Web 2.0 solutions (user generated content).
Web 2.0 makes immersive language learning possible
Learning a foreign language in your own country from non-native teachers lacks a vital aspect of language learning – an immersive cultural experience. Without any knowledge of or interaction with the related culture, learning a language remains an incomplete and slightly stilted experience for elementary school kids. Nowadays several schools and teachers are coming up with Web 2.0 solutions for forming “language learning partnerships” with students, teachers and teaching institutions in the target countries, wherein using Skype, NetMeeting and similar technologies, students and teachers of two different countries can interact in real time.
This exposes foreign language learners to not only the native way of speaking the language, but also to the target culture, colloquial phrases, body language etc. Most importantly, interacting with children their own age from the target country introduces an element of fun and collaboration to elementary school language learners, thereby making learning that much easier and effective.
Web 2.0 language learning tools
The introduction of a plethora of online and downloadable Web 2.0 language tools has taken interactive language learning one step further. If you’re looking for an enjoyable audio-visual language learning experience for elementary school kids, you can try Babbel, which offers you a customized selection of multi-media courses depending on the proficiency of your kid, along with entertaining exercises and games. Babbel is also available on mobile devices.
Lingro is another unique service which facilitates vocabulary building while reading web pages and documents written in foreign languages.
TypeIt provides online accent keys to augment your keyboard for typing foreign languages, which can then be emailed or copy pasted elsewhere.
Educational technology gadgets for language learning
If you’re a modern young parent with a pre-schooler, chances are you already prefer educational technology gadgets over Barbie dolls for your child’s birthdays and Christmas. These play-and-learn toys are becoming increasingly popular with kids as well as parents, not only because they make education a fun activity for kids, but also because knowledge imbibed in the form of entertainment tends to be enduring.
VTech MobiGo Touch Learning System is one such toy gadget which supports kids’ language and other learning needs through educational games in a mobile platform. Playschool Alphie – a fun little robot – is another hit with kids which also helps with vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar etc. My Own Leaptop is a laptop like device to help kids quickly learn the alphabet in an environment of music and pictures of animals to hold your kid’s interest.
You can also try out gifting-special technology deals for more traditional and general-purpose gadgets which can be used for children’s learning too, using downloadable language tools and other educational apps.
Web 2.0 instruction tools for language teachers
Web 2.0 technologies have opened the doors to teachers also, for easily creating tests, interactive exercises, home assignments etc. When it comes to language teaching, one of the most useful softwares is Hot Potatoes which is an open source freeware suite, containing six applications to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and fill in the blanks exercises on the web.
Quizlet lets you create and your own flashcards with your students.
If you’re looking to create multimedia exercises for language learners you can look at JClic, which uses Java to allow you to do just that. If you want to keep it simple, you can go for fun language games involving flashcards, colour matching and grammar exercises in foreign languages.
Future of Web 2.0 tools for learning language
A recent study published in the “International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications” has tried to identify the future trends in the use of Web 2.0 tools in teaching and learning languages, through interviews conducted among a group of teachers and students. In the interviews, teachers pointed out that interactive technology enabled coursework was not only fun and engaging to students but also enriching to teachers as it differs from traditional teaching methods. They also emphasized the ease of creating more engaging course materials and exercises using Web 2.0 technologies. More and more integration of interactive technologies in language teaching seemed to emerge as a clear future trend.