Written by Amélie Chiasson

When I began teaching 20 years ago, we communicated with parents through students’ printed agendas or, if urgent, via telephone. It makes me chuckle when I think back to those days, because our practices have evolved so much in so little time.

Back then, who could have imagined the ways in which technology would facilitate second language (L2) learning? This technology is now available to us, but can we use it to its full potential to improve our students’ learning experiences?

Digital Literacy

As L2 teachers, we are all familiar with the term “literacy.” We automatically think of reading, writing, oral communication, and listening. And while these skills continue to be essential, they are no longer sufficient for our students to fully engage in L2 learning. According to Duplàa (2011), the Web 1.0 has evolved into the Web 2.0, which means our students are no longer restricted to merely viewing and visiting the Internet. From now on, they must be trained to become active Web users who can find, evaluate, understand, use, and modify information online while using critical thinking skills.

By developing their twenty-first-century competencies, our students will be able to access authentic and current content, exchange with native speakers of the target language, participate in discussion groups, and make their voices heard.

Digital literacy can be summed up by three simple verbs: using, understanding, and creating. Their simplicity, however, is superficial: they represent the pathway to digital literacy skills for students and bring a whole new dimension to your teaching.

Where To Begin?

Just having a tablet or computer is not enough to say you are integrating technology. In addition to targeting the pedagogical aim of your activity, you must think about what linguistic objectives and what tools will help your students stay motivated and continue actively learning (Kolb, 2019). This thought process can be rather complex, but it can be facilitated by a model of integration that I particularly like: the Triple E Framework, developed by Prof. Liz Kolb in 2011. This approach allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our lesson while discovering various tools and strategies to improve it. The goal is to foster engagement among students who are using a technological tool in the learning process, to enrich their comprehension, and to encourage the transfer of skills to real-life situations (Kolb, 2019). This framework model is a good starting point. And don’t forget to be creative!

Ready to Take the Plunge? No, Not Just Yet!

I can almost hear some of the replies: “My time with my students is so precious and so short. I’ve already tried it out once or twice and it was a total flop! Some students simply ‘surfed the Web’, while others barely seemed able to connect properly. Others were asking me for help, as I hadn’t had time to explain the entire process.” Truth be told, nearly everyone has had an experience like this at some point. But there are ways to help your next attempt be smoother and more productive.

You must first accept that it may take one or two full courses for your students to familiarize themselves with the tool. Don’t start with the preconceived notion that students are all digital experts. Some, in fact, may be lacking technological tools at home or only have limited or slow Internet access. Factors such as these can have an impact on their basic skills. There are many things to consider before giving the physical tool to students (Paquin, 2012). You will need to work with them as they are and use differentiation to grow their independence and effectiveness. As an L2 teacher, this mandate may seem impossible. However, working as a school-wide team could allow for more consistent use of the technology by all students. Your time investment would not be wasted. Instead, you would be bringing a world of possibilities to your pedagogical practice and your students’ learning.

Differentiation

If you have students who are very tech-savvy, record your instructions using tools such as Screencastify, Prezi, or EdPuzzle. These students will be able to advance at their own pace while you help the others.

Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and call upon the collective strength of your colleagues.

Did you know that you can ask your school board for support from a pedagogical or technical expert, also called a digital pedagogy specialist? This is the person most qualified to help you: they can help you learn more about certain tools or develop a lesson plan that meets your needs. Some digital pedagogy specialists will even offer to be present in the classroom while you first try out the tools with your students. However, note that these professionals are few and far between, and demand for their services is growing. You will have to “jump the gun” to enjoy this type of support, but if you can obtain it, it will be worth your while.

Asking parent volunteers or other teachers at your school to pitch in can also be extremely helpful when you first introduce a tool. Also, try pairing younger students with older ones and having more experienced students help those who are less familiar with the technology or tools.

1, 2, 3… GO!

I would like to emphasize the importance of perseverance in this process of change and transformation:

  • Do not take on too much at once.
  • Target a few goals that you think are realistic.
  • Move at your own pace.
  • Surround yourself with others, collaborate, and get informed.
  • Expect to be thrown off balance.
  • Have confidence in yourself and don’t wait to become a technology expert before you start.
  • See yourself as a host, a facilitator, and a co-learner.
  • Have fun and be creative!

*Would you like to learn even more about digital literacy? Go to Habilo Médias (French) or Media Smarts (English).

References

Duplàa, E. (2011). Lire et écrire Internet. Enjeux, développement et évaluation des littératies numériques. In M.J. Berger and A. Desrochers (dir.), L’évaluation de la littératie (p. 261-292). University of Ottawa Press.

Kolb, L. (2019). SMART Classroom-Tech INTEGRATION. Leadership, 76(5), 20-26.

Paquin, M. (2012). Les politiques sur l’intégration des TIC au Canada et l’utilisation des ressources pédagogiques numériques chez les enseignants francophones : un constat de doubles inégalités. In C. Daviau et al. (dir.), Écoles en mouvements et réformes (p. 133-144). De Boeck Supérieur.

About the Author

Amélie Chiasson has been teaching for 20 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Preschool and Elementary Education and a Graduate Diploma in Specialized Studies (DESS) from Laval University. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Education at the University of Ottawa.

All these years have mainly been dedicated to students with learning difficulties in a minority setting. Amélie has worked in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Italy with preschoolers, elementary and high school students, and adults. Passionate about education and children’s literature, she was a pedagogical consultant for several years before returning to a school as a resource teacher.

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