As a teacher myself, I'll start this one off with a short story about an experience I had in my classroom. I recently walked into one of my classes about 5 minutes early, and there were about 20 students there already. They all had their eyes down, staring at their phone screens. I walked in and said, "Hello, class." No one said anything in return, barely anyone even looked up. If you remember a few years ago, you'd walk into a classroom with that many kids in it and it would be raucous, reaching decibels you only find in sports venues. This was complete and utter silence.
What this story proves is that students these days are raised from the very beginning, completely engulfed in technology and technological devices. Technology is ingrained in how they experience and interact with the world. If you are not currently utilizing technology in the classroom, it is one of the few places your students aren't using tech, and honestly, it may be holding them back a bit. To be sure, here are a few specific signs it might be time to incorporate some new technology in the language classroom.
1. You are Having a Hard Time Booking the Computer Lab
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You teach one language, there are 3 other language teachers, and several other tech-based classes within your school that need time in the computer lab. When your curriculum for speaking requires a computer and your school doesn't have laptops, it can be extremely difficult to get enough time booked for your students to practice regularly. Just like any other skill, speaking a new language takes constant practice. If your students are only able to do that once a week or a couple of times a month, it simply won't be enough for them to confidently and accurately communicate. The progress they make during a session in the lab will be lost over the extended time they are away.
2. Your Students are Experiencing the 3 Uns: Underachieving, Unchallenged, or Unengaged
Even when students are doing well in class, they may still not be reaching their full potential. Below are definitions of the 3 Uns and how to support each of them:
This student tries, they work hard, they turn in their assignments, but they struggle to get the grades you know they are capable of. It's best with kids like these to figure out what works best for their specific learning style, be experimental, use technology in the classroom, and try different methods until you find one that really clicks. Allow them to build confidence in the areas they excel and that may help in the other areas. You could also pair these students up with mentors from the class.
This student turns everything in and gets straight A's, they're always working ahead, and they may get frustrated when other students don't understand things as quickly as they do. It's best to encourage the strengths of these students and activate them to help your other students that may be struggling a bit more. Pair them up to do back-and-forth, conversational, recorded speaking assignments. You'll want to keep a close eye on these pairs to be sure they are providing positive coaching.
This student tunes out or chats with neighbors during instruction then turns in most assignments late or not at all. Chances are this kid is actually struggling with confidence in their ability to learn the language and, instead, kind of shuts down. Having them complete assignments for-credit only (no judgment based on grammar or pronunciation) and do self-assessments of their own speech recordings, could motivate them to give things a shot.
3. You're Bogged Down by Too Much Grading
If you are primarily having your students do writing assignments and reports, it takes a lot of manual time to write and grade all of that paperwork. If we're talking about grading oral assignments, you may need to schedule one-on-one face-to-face exams with each student to get a full assessment of how they are doing. That will literally cost you several hours of time. With Extempore, grading is extremely painless and can be done right in the app. By the time you are done listening to the audio, you can have it graded. Read how much time Extempore technology in the classroom can save you.
4. Your Students are Hiding in Plain Sight
Whether they are racing to the very back seats at the beginning of class or avoiding your gaze whenever you ask a question, your students are hiding from you and from the class. This may be because they are experiencing some anxiety over being called on or called out. Many students struggle to speak in front of a classroom. If a student is struggling to learn the language and speak it with confidence, they may be very fearful of needing to respond to a question or receive a speaking prompt in class.
5. You Haven't Done Something to Spoil Yourself in a REALLY. LONG. TIME.
Teaching is so often a thankless job. Teachers are some of the most selfless and constantly giving people that exist. You do what you have to and sacrifice what you can to make sure your students are safe, successful, and happy. But, you need to remember, it's OK and likely necessary to do things from time to time that make your own life a little easier. Technology is designed to solve problems (which teachers run into a lot) and save time (which teachers never have enough of), so if you can't remember the last time you did something to help yourself out, it might be time to get a little support in the classroom in the form of some exciting, new technology.