Effectively Utilising Technology to Teach Secondary MFL (During a Pandemic)

Independent languages consultant Joe Dale explores the power of technology to enhance MFL teaching, and how this has been used particularly this year in light of COVID-19.

One of the silver linings of living through the pandemic is the way in which the global language teaching community has come together, sharing ideas and resources through social media and free webinars. Facebook groups and hashtags such as #mfltwitterati, #langchat and #covid19wl have provided teachers with unlimited support and access to a wealth of ideas to help them adapt suddenly to emergency remote teaching, which tools to use and how to get started. 

Furthermore, there are the 50 plus free webinars Helen Myers and I have organised through The Association for Language Learning within days of going into lockdown and they have featured not only UK practitioners but also virtual colleagues from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S, Brazil, Mexico and beyond. It has been a real privilege to hear from so many amazing practitioners from around the world who have freely shared their expertise and allowed us to record their presentations so that everyone can learn and benefit from their wisdom.

In addition to this fantastic collaboration, stalwarts of the #mfltwitterati community such as Dannielle Warren and Esmeralda Salgado have created Padlets to crowdsource Covid-safe ideas for the MFL classroom and creative uses of technology such as escape rooms, Bitmoji resources and virtual trips. We’ll also be looking at free tools which proved popular during lockdown such as Jamboard, whiteboard.fi, Loom, Flipgrid, Wheel of Names, Flippity and QWIQR and see practical examples of how they have been used to enhance language learning

Jamboard is a collaborative whiteboard from Google which allows you to storyboard, brainstorm and co-create multimedia remotely. I’ll be sharing 60 MFL specific examples of how Jamboard can be used for practising grammar, playing games and revising for the GCSE photocard amongst other activities.

For those looking to replicate what they would normally do with mini-whiteboards in a face to face classroom, the relative newcomer to the scene, whiteboard.fi was an instant hit for practising writing, conveying meaning through drawing and showing an understanding of grammatical concepts.

Screencasting tools such as Screencastify, Loom, Screencast-O-Matic and narrating PowerPoints were adopted by many teachers wanting to give personalised presentations asynchronously, as well as give video feedback to written work too. For those teachers whose schools did not allow any type of live synchronous lessons via Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams for safeguarding reasons, screencasting tools still allowed students to hear, see and connect with their teachers despite not being able to be in the same room at the same time, which I’m sure was comforting for everyone.

Flipgrid is an awesome tool for practising speaking and listening skills in a moderated environment asynchronously and also offers the possibility of private video feedback from the teacher and commenting from students. Whiteboard and screen-recording options are also great ways of modelling grammar and allowing students to show what they know.

Other popular tools for promoting writing and speaking skills through random chunking and sentence building are wheelofnames.com and Flippity Randomiser. Flippity Manipulatives also lets students to practise word order and listening skills remotely.

Another great tool for practising speaking asynchronously is QWIQR conversations which lets you record moderated dialogues remotely via a private link and give audio feedback too.

So as you can see the #mfltwitterati has been very busy since lockdown supporting each other and sharing knowledge. The community was amazing before lockdown but some could say it has excelled in this crisis. In fact, I will suggest in my talk, that as a result of enforced remote teaching there has been a paradigm shift in how the effective use of technology can enhance language learning.