More than just chat: weaving digital technology into the language classroom.

What is digital wisdom?

A part of our responsibility as teachers and guides of young people is to help prepare them to thrive in their futures, not just survive, and we cannot deny that the future will involve digital technologies. Therefore, being digitally literate is not only important for students in their future work life, with more and more jobs involving the use of or design/creation of digital technology, but also in simply navigating the modern world effectively, ethically and safely.

It follows then that there is a need for “digital wisdom” which explores not just “whether to use the technologies of our time but rather how to use them to become better, wiser people.” (Prensky, 2011, p. 8). These powerful technologies can help make our world a better place in so many ways so teaching for wisdom surrounding their creation and use in the classroom, rather than trying to pretend they don’t exist, is necessary for this to occur. And as young people will help shape the future of technology, whether they are simply users of it or creators of what comes next, guiding them to be digitally wise will not only benefit them but whole societies. 

To help spark ideas for how you can weave digital technologies into your classroom in a meaningful way, consider the learning experience below.

Context

Learners: small mixed gender Year 11 class studying Italian, predominantly Australian English speaking background.

Learning setting: small country town in a rural area a couple of hours from the capital city with limited in-person access to the Italian community.

Learning experience factors: builds upon prior skills (both language and cultural), prepares students for the assessment activity “Write a descriptive summary of a film including information from a review of the film” (VCAA, 2018, p. 19). 

Learning Experience

After viewing an Italian film, students will discuss their thoughts and opinions about the film in an online discussion forum or on a social media platform. By using familiar digital tools such as social media or a forum, young adults will not have to focus on the how of what they are doing and can instead stay involved in what is said.
Students will need to provide their own initial opinion and respond to 2-3 others posts in a manner that builds upon or encourages further reflection and respond to others comments on their initial post. The teacher will act as moderator of the discussion and provide prompts as needed to delve into the subject matter more deeply.

Infographic – feel free to pin!

This learning experience aims to recreate the discussions that occur after viewing a film whilst also analysing the film further, so students can develop their ideas together, practice their target language skills for their assessment and make choices about appropriate online behaviour in the process.

To further enrich this experience, this activity could be done in conjunction with other Italian language classes from other schools, creating a variety of opinions, just like the wider online community, and exposing students to a broader range of vocabulary and language use. If possible, guest posters such as language assistants or people from the Italian community could also contribute. Having non class members contribute makes the need to be a responsible digital community member more real as they are collaborating with people they do not necessarily know in real life, bringing the digital capabilities of “digital identity and wellbeing” and “communication, collaboration and participation” to the foreground. (JISC, 2015)

This type of task allows the teacher to step back to a support role where they can respond to the students as needed, guiding and encouraging the co-construction of knowledge and skills as students learn by doing. It encourages the building a community of practice where “people … engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour” (Wenger circa 2007, as cited in Smith 2003, 2009, p. 2) and positions language learning as a life skill and not just an academic exercise.

Students will be motivated as they are interacting with other people through technology, just like so many of us have become accustomed to doing this year, and as they often do in their free time. The other more quietly motivating factor is that it gives them the space to think or consider the language needed before responding without feeling put on the spot. This second aspect is of particular interest for teachers as it is confidence building for many students and it allows everyone to have a say and build upon prior learning at their own pace. 

Happily, as noted by Lindsay Clandfield “we did have tools available to us that could be used for a stronger kind of interaction, namely, human-human interaction. Discussion forums and live chatrooms are part of almost any LMS,” (Clandfield & Hadfield, 2017, as cited in Pegrum, 2019, p. 101) and as online communication tools such as these and social media are some of the easiest to access, and in my opinion some of the most wonderful aspects of the digital age, it would be a shame not to use them to encourage more in-depth learning. 

Now, there are many different Web 2.0 tools that would fill the need for this activity. Try these below.

There are an ever changing array of Web 2.0 tools you can use in your classroom to enrich your students learning.
  • a discussion forum built into your school LMS.
  • Facebook or the more education oriented Fakebook. 
  • A class’s blog or wiki may have discussion facilities.
  • Or you could try one of the options highlighted in this article from Common Sense Education.

In general though, the idea is to use digital technology in a way that we are already using it (a.k.a. authentically) and in this case we’re using it to encourage discussion, building ideas together and to practice the target language skills needed for an upcoming assessment task in a much more engaging way.

I love the communication aspects of Web 2.0 tools as they help “shrink distances between continents, connecting people and ideas with tremendous speed, creating a world without borders, bringing authentic linguistic and cultural situations closer to the learner.” (Kuznetsova & Soomro, 2019, p. 81) which I know can be useful in all our classrooms, no matter the subject, and help us support our young learners as they grow into the global citizens of the future.

So, in the interest of collaboration, drop me a comment below and tell me how you could use digital technology, communication or otherwise, in your classroom!

*Feel free to share and adapt the ideas above!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

References

JISC. (n.d.). Digital Capabilities: the six elements. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://digitalcapability.jiscinvolve.org/wp/files/2015/06/Six-elements1.jpg

Kuznetsova, N., & Soomro, K. (2019). Students’ Out-of-class Web 2.0 Practices in Foreign Language Learning. Journal of education and educational development, 6(1), 78-94. doi:10.22555/joeed.v6i1.2713

Pegrum, M. (2019). Mobile Lenses on Learning : Languages and Literacies on the Move (1st ed. 2019. ed.). Singapore: Springer Singapore.

Prensky, M. (2011). From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom. Mark Prensky. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-Intro_to_From_DN_to_DW.pdf

Smith, M. K. (2003, 2009). Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice. In the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2018). Italian Study Design. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/vce/italian/2019ItalianSD.pdf

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