Written by Rochelle Guida and Roswita Dressler
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, would you have thought of apps as the dominant pedagogical resource in the second language (L2) classroom? We wanted to discover how Canadian L2 educators made the online shift from March 2020 to September 2021. So, with support from CASLT, we asked L2 teachers about their pedagogical practices and resources. For this blog article, we focus on the use of digital applications during the pandemic. The table below illustrates the apps that teachers mentioned in our study, plus a few select comments from the teachers themselves.
|Application and Description||Interesting Comments from the Teachers|
|Bitmoji creates cartoon images of individuals.||“Creating a Bitmoji that I could change… with minimal effort.”|
|Blooket contains customizable review games.||“Blooket has been a great tool.”
“Blooket… kept students engaged.”
|Boom Cards is an online quiz generator that tracks student progress.||“I found the use of Boom Cards a successful strategy in engaging students while practicing vocabulary from Gr 1–8.”|
|BrainPOP is a learning solution program that offers programming support for elementary school subjects.|
|Cram offers pre-written flash cards or allows individuals to create customizable cards for a variety of subjects.|
|Edpuzzle creates interactive video lessons that are integrable into learning management systems.||“Edpuzzle with audio recordings.”|
|Edsby is an online social learning space for educators, parents, and students that can track attendance, group collaboration, parental participation, and other features.||“Now learning Edsby. So much to learn in such a difficult time. I do not feel confident with Edsby.”|
|Educreations is an interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool, using an educator’s iPad as the hosting device.||“I also used Educreations. It was a better platform, but it was not supported by my board.”|
|Flipgrid is a depository for video posts to facilitate discussion.||“I used Flipgrid to have students record themselves for oral assessment/daily responses. It allowed me to hear them more clearly and to get responses from some students that I do not normally hear from.”
“Flipgrid was a god send!”
|Freshgrade is a learning network that integrates digital portfolios and gradebooks and offers a real-time communication platform.|
|Gimkit is a game creator that can be used for classroom learning and for homework.|
|GoGuardian software helps educators monitor student well-being.||“I use GoGuardian to track student attendance in lessons (shows when they log on, how long they were on for, and when they logged off — also tracks idle time when they weren’t at their computers but had their Meet on still).”|
|Google suite of tools:
||“Strong reliance on Google Classroom — it has replaced binders/handouts as the primary tool for students.”
“For much of the pandemic, I found it was most successful to use technology to record aspects of my lessons and post them for easy access in Google Classroom. That way students could access them at times that were convenient for their families.”
|Kahoot! is a quiz creator that contains a depository of pre-made quizzes for educational subjects.||“From September 2020 to June 2021, I used Kahoot! as one of the only methods for educational games in class, since sharing of equipment due to COVID was not feasible.”|
|Loom is a recording application program.||“Very helpful… valuable.”|
|Lumio is a collaborative learning tool that gathers pedagogical resources such as YouTube, Google Docs, and PowerPoint into one lesson that can be teacher-recorded.||“Useful.”|
|Netmath is a mathematics depository and program to create customizable activities for students.||“For differentiation.”|
|Padlet is a virtual, collaborative whiteboard to promote collaboration and interaction.|
|Pixton is an online comic creator.|
|Quizlet is an online flashcard generator.||“Increased my cache of resources and tools to enhance even classroom activities.”|
|Screencastify is a recording, editing, and sharing program.||“Recorded lessons using Screencastify and uploaded them on Google Classroom to be accessed by students in quarantine.”
“I used Screencastify at times when giving instruction on a project.”
|Seesaw is a student engagement program in the form of an e-portfolio.||“Seesaw… a great way to share videos of me and have students share in return.”|
|Storyboard That is an online storyboard generator.|
|Voicethread is a sharing application where individuals can upload and react to audio, documents, images, and other content.|
|99math is a social math platform.||“Also very helpful and engaged the students in their learning.”|
Several apps were highly popular with participants. Google Classroom was the predominant virtual classroom and resource depository. Screencastify was the recording resource most used to explain lessons and activities. Flipgrid was highly popular for oral assessment.
Other participant comments did not specifically reference a particular application, but spoke about other uses for technology in their classrooms:
- Online scavenger hunts
- PDF conversion apps
- Sharing and exchanging music online
- Video creation software
Spurred on by the pandemic, teachers survived big learning curves, which often resulted in good teaching material. In fact, one participant said this: “I actually feel that teaching online and being forced to find creative ways to make the lessons interactive and gamified in the computer made all of my lessons much better!! Students loved the activities and engagement was very high in my classes even fully online. Lots of videos, discussion boards, polls, games, etc. used.”
As a French and Italian high school teacher, Rochelle also related to the popularity of Google Classroom because many students have smartphones already synced with Google applications. While many mandatory learning management platforms such as Desire to Learn also come with apps, they often cannot compete with the reliability, ease, and speed of Google products. Screencastify also became part of her survival toolkit while teaching multi-level Italian classes online.
Just like the teachers in this inquiry, Rochelle frequently recorded her own lessons. She could also see how applications such as Flipgrid could enable students to present assignments on-time, which can minimalize student absenteeism. Like participants who used PDF conversion apps, the Adobe Acrobat Reader app was her life-saver. With the click of her phone’s camera, she effortlessly transferred content from paper binders into virtual classes.
Second Language Teacher Recommendations
We are impressed by the technical expertise of Canada’s L2 teachers, diligently working to overcome learning barriers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you thinking, That’s nice, but impossible in my classroom? The teachers reminded us to remain ambitious learners and to work with tech-savvy students to co-construct knowledge since students are “great guides on the use of some platforms :).” The use of apps and gamification resources will likely remain post-pandemic since they can foster student confidence in oral communication.
App use also raises some concerns such as the struggle for resource equity for students and teachers. One educator recommended that “full access to these apps should be paid for by the board. Too many teachers are paying out of pocket for access.” In addition, a Francophone teacher-participant desired more technical support in the L2 context since the focus is primarily on the dominant language of her school. As she said, “j’aurais aimé avoir du soutien spécifique pour les langues secondes, au niveau de la technologie. Parce que, dans les conseils scolaires, c’est souvent les programmes de langues tous indépendants” (I would have liked to have specific support for second languages in terms of technology. Because, in school boards, language programs are often all by themselves).
As someone who works closely with her teacher’s union and whose husband majored in cybersecurity in education, Rochelle asks Canadian L2 teachers to carefully select the apps they use in their classrooms. Consider this: if there was ever a data breach, would you be comfortable with the exposure or loss of identifiable information about teachers and students?
We hope you have found inspiration in reading about the use of apps by L2 teachers across Canada. Stay tuned for our next blog post about teacher and student mental health.