Technology and Language Learning:  Moving towards Integration
Wendy Carr

Teacher:  Newsmagazine of the B.C. Teachers' Federation. Vol. 14, No. 1.  Sept. 2001 & Vol. 14, No. 2.  Oct. 2001.


 Does technology help students learn a second language?  Can it enhance our efforts as teachers to create authentic experiences in the target language?  We already provide opportunities for students to learn about and practise the language, read texts, watch videos, role-play conversations and work on projects.  We add experiences such as field trips, guest speakers and interactions with buddy classes to give meaningful practice.  There is, however, an on-line world where languages other than English are used every day to communicate and get things done.  No text yet published competes with the immediacy of an on-line newscast or the currency of regularly updated websites.  In a province where the majority of language teachers are generalists, on-line resources of text, sound and visuals are particularly effective in providing a wide variety of real-world information.  Integrating technology may involve some risk-taking on our part as students boldly go where we may not yet have gone ourselves, and there are certainly issues which sometimes block our attempts1; however, the benefits to teaching and learning merit the effort.

Teachers integrate technology

 Teachers can access on-line resources from home, the library or the lab and print lessons, unit plans, student activity pages, quizzes, song lyrics, news articles, etc., for use in class.  Some rich sites include,,, and many others.  Teachers quickly discover a wealth of on-line activity for their students in the form of WebQuests, interactive grammar sites, and on-line communication/collaboration, e.g.,,, and others.  These sites may be shared with students in a lab setting if one is available or explored off-site.  Have students explore a site, participate in an on-line activity or WebQuest and either email the results to you or keep track of the experience on paper (e.g., a journal with a record of sites and tasks or a print out from home or library computer).  Many of these sites show correlations to IRP learning outcomes and provide useful evaluation rubrics.  For now, this comprises only a small part of the total curriculum, but it's an exciting place to start.  Specific examples are detailed below.

Students integrate technology

 Students can conduct on-line research at home, the library or the lab to support the units/themes covered in class.  This research can be as simple as finding information in the target language, e.g., using  and its multilingual search options or evolve to the level of communicating with native speakers via a keypal site such as,  (These contacts are made via teacher-to-teacher communication before students are paired.)  In terms of addressing the prescribed learning outcomes around culture, technological links provide one of the most effective tools:  contact with native speakers has always been difficult to achieve in classrooms and yet there is a world of people communicating on-line in many languages 24 hours a day.

Technology becomes an option in projects and assignments

 Students are given a technology option in how they present their learning:  if a written page or report is expected, allow students the chance to present the same content via a non-paper format.  If an oral report is assigned, allow students the option of incorporating their own speech into a computerized presentation.  (A brief introduction or question period may be required to enable evaluation of in-person performance.)  Other ways of initiating integration are to encourage on-line research and/or communication to add content to a final product.  You may wish to add bonus marks as an incentive -- taking care that these are not excessive, e.g., an additional 5%, and that students who choose not to consult on-line resources are not penalized.  The argument that students do not have adequate access starts to crumble when one considers public libraries, friends' computers, free web e-mail and extra-curricular lab access.  Not all projects lend themselves to this type of integration, and there often needs to be extra flexibility time-wise.  On-line research and presentation will require more time than paper and pencil tasks; however, it can engage certain learners in a way that other methods do not.  The key is to start small, offer options rather than whole class requirements and to be a little more flexible.  We are, after all, part of a huge wave of innovation and experimentation.
Examples of tasks or projects  Involve individuals or the whole class -- 
at school or offsite 
Examples of sites
or software
´electronic greetings ´invite students to send you or each other an electronic greeting in the target language
(Scroll to “International Greetings”)
´set up e-mail accounts for sending/receiving messages or assignments ´establish a web-based e-mail account in target language
(Click on French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German)
´audio/video clips  ´have students view or listen to a clip rather than read text for meaning
´keypal connections ´start as an independent option, e.g., as extra challenge for one or several students

(Students provide journal with references or a printout of on-line interaction.)
(teacher-directed connections)

´internet research on a topic 
´give bonus points for integrating technology into a project
(multilingual search options)
´multi-media or slideshow presentations  ´allow for different modes of presentation (Students may e-mail their projects to teachers at school or at home.) Kid Pix
Power Point
(available Mac/Windows)
´participate in WebQuest or on-line collaborative project

´create a webpage or WebQuest

´students follow on-line instructions and links to solve a quest for information

´students develop their own page/quest

Netscape Composer
MS Word

                                                                                                              Other links for French & other languages

Integrate technology as one of several options for learning about/researching a topic

´Mon animal préféré (gr. 4/5):

Students discuss personal pet preferences and those of their friends.  They have several choices for presenting what they've learned about animals, such as creating a paper bag puppet which performs in a skit, developing a booklet which is read aloud or creating a KidPix slideshow.  The slideshow may be done individually or in collaboration with the class (one show comprising a set of slides --each prepared and narrated by one student.  A personal slideshow has 5 or 6 slides which describe various aspects of one's favourite animal, e.g., Voici mon animal préféré.  C'est un chat.  Il s'appelle Bouffon.  Il est formidable.  Il aime les oiseaux.  Il dit "Miaou".  These are the language structures which have been learned during the unit.  The child records his or her voice saying each caption, along with musical effects and cool transitions between the slides.  The collection is saved as an animated show or QuickTime movie and may be stored in a shared network folder and/or projected via a computer projection device or television monitor.

´Une île tropicale (gr. 6/7):

Students discover many of the interesting features, items and animals found on a tropical island and where they are located.  They learn how to read a map and legend and then produce and present a tourist island map.  The map is presented orally using the language learned during the unit, e.g., Voici l'Ile d'Amour.  Il y a des montagnes dans le nord.  Il y a une jungle dans le centre de l'île.  Dans la jungle, il y a des singes et des oiseaux tropicaux.  An option for the project --and included as a bonus opportunity on the evaluation rubric-- is to conduct research about a tropical island or to contact someone living there and to provide proof.  One student did a search at using the keyword, "Martinique" and selecting "French" as the search language.  She explored some of the sites and found a recipe which she printed, cut out and included on her tourist map.

´La francophonie (gr. 8/9):

Students embark on a project in which they learn about a French-speaking country.  They conduct research about it and report to the class information about one general aspect such as its industries, culture, natural elements, e.g., Tahiti est connue pour le tourisme.  C'est une très belle île dans l'océan Pacifique.  Il y a beaucoup de plages et de lagons.  The evaluation rubric specifies the type and amount of information required and provides for a variety of presentation formats from written report, photo collection with oral description, un bol de papier mâché which presents information visually on a bowl and is described orally, a Power Point presentation, or a WebQuest (using Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator, free webpage browsing and composing software).  All five presentation options include written, visual and oral production.  The results are shared with the class and allow for a variety of learning styles and interests.3

´Ma carte postale (gr. 9/10):

Students read holiday postcards from around the world and compare format and content.  They study and practise using le passé composé and pronoun objects with agreement, e.g., Aujourd'hui j'ai visité la Tour Eiffel.  Je l'ai trouvée intéressante. They also use le futur proche to talk about what they are planning to do next while on their holiday, e.g., Demain, nous allons prendre un bateau-mouche.  Their task is to create a postcard for their chosen holiday location and to write a message as if they were actually there.  An option for the project is to make contact with someone in the target country and to find out some "insider" information other than the usual tourist facts available in an almanac, encyclopedia or website.  Students use their email accounts (e.g., or and teacher-approved keypal sites to link up with someone in the country.  They ask about sites and events and include them in their postcard as if they had actually seen them.  Even if some of the communication takes place in English with information translated into French, the cultural exchange is valuable.

´Des actualités (gr. 11/12):

One student each week presents a news report in French, drawn from a journal or news site from a Francophone country.  It must be current information presented orally for between 4 to 5 minutes.  The student then poses 3 questions about the news report to the class, collects and marks the responses and submits the data to the teacher.  A copy of the news source in French -- either a journal or webpage printout -- must be provided.  Students choose on-line news sites, such as or, and may include a recorded live-audio broadcast sample (recorded on a cassette from the computer).  This is played in class prior to the student's summary report and adds a sense of immediacy and realism to the presentation.  Ideally, audio and video clips could be played on a classroom computer which is connected to the Internet, but this is not always possible.

How do students work on a project at home and then bring it to school?

 The transmission of these projects may take place between the student and teacher or school site via email, diskette, Zip disk or CD.  For example, a student may email his or her Power Point project as an attachment to the teacher at school or at home.  The teacher or school must have the Power Point or KidPix program (or QuickTime if the slideshow has been converted) in order to view the project.  Similarly, if a webpage or WebQuest is created, the teacher or school must have a webbrowser program such as Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer to view and explore its links.  The sharing stage is important for many reasons.  The presenter shows his or her project on a classroom computer or one which has been brought in for this day.  Questions from the class and/or a short oral synopsis in the target language would ensure than the student does indeed know the topic (to preclude unfair, outside assistance).  In a pinch, a computer presentation may be videotaped at home to be shown at school.  The emphasis of the sharing is not to learn specifically about the technology (although this side effect will occur) but rather to show how different tools can enhance learning and the presentation of results.

 With any tool or approach, the key is not to overuse one to the exclusion of others.  A well-rounded program includes opportunities to write, read, speak, listen, view, respond, create and present.  The teacher still oversees the majority of instruction and sets parameters in the classroom.  However, to appreciate the full potential of integrating technology, we may at times have to step aside-- letting go of our control over certain aspects of the teaching and learning -- so that students may incorporate and demonstrate what they are already learning on their own.   Just as we shift to less steady ground from the safety of our established experience, students who might otherwise not shine in a traditional written or oral presentation may surprise everyone with how effectively they can use technology.  The time to incorporate this powerful resource is now.

1 Technology and Distance Education Branch, Ministry of Education, Victoria, B.C.  January 1999.  Technology in B.C. Schools 1995-2000 - Where We Are Today.
2 Teaching, Learning and Education Technology Advisory Committee.  June 1999.   Conditions for Success:   Report  to the British Columbia Ministry of Education.
3 Edwards, Jack.  December 1995.  Multiple Intelligences and Technology.
4 Wendy Carr's website for language teachers: