Ever had to teach a lesson using nothing but a textbook and a whiteboard?
It feels like taking a trip back in time to the days of horse-drawn carriages and oil lamps.
What’s more, it’s hard to really connect and engage with students without the aid of multimedia and teaching software.
Even if you are not, your students will be digital natives from a world running on technology.
Are you wondering now how to get in on this sweet technology action? Follow me down this article to find out.
Technology in the German Classroom: What to Keep in Mind
Most teachers I know are fascinated by the idea of technology in their classrooms, but many hesitate to actually implement it. They try one thing, and if it works, they keep using it. But more often than not, that’s as far as they go.
From personal experience as a student and teacher, I can definitely confirm that the value of technology in an educational setting. One of my most exciting learning moments was when our German English-language class “skyped” with a British German-language class. It added a whole other dimension and really gave life to the curriculum. And as a teacher, I love how collaborative tools simplify my work.
But there are some things to consider when creating a high-tech classroom.
Technology doesn’t solve all problems. It won’t engage students on its own, and it has some serious downsides. You need to invest in it, you need reliable infrastructure and you need to ensure every last student is able to use it. Even in this day and age, not everyone has a smartphone or tablet, so make sure you have a spare one or talk to students beforehand.
Technology can also be a distraction. For every useful teaching app or software, there are ten others that serve as distractions.
But let’s face it, your students are already using technology outside and inside the classroom. It is just the way the world works now. Everybody is connected to the ever-growing cloud of social media and internet sites.
You can climb to the roof, shout at the wind and try to install a lightning rod like a crazy person. Or you can make your classroom high-tech as well.
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The Many Benefits of Technology in the German Classroom
If technology is implemented the right way, it brings immense benefits to the classroom. Technology can be interactive and engaging; it can address multiple senses, allow your students to experiment with it, give them access to authentic language and help them retain what they learned.
Technology can ensure the full participation of the class while allowing everyone to learn at their own pace. The content and the activities can be personalized and the learning can be independent, and you can get instant feedback about its success. Technology can also be helpful for those who are reluctant to speak in front of the whole class, as it allows them to contribute without exposing themselves too much.
Technology, Real Life and the Language Classroom
Technology also connects your teaching with the reality of your students’ modern lives. Using technology in the classroom prepares your students for the real world, which is the place where they will use what they’ve learned in your German language lessons. What’s more, integrating technology into the classroom gives students digital citizenship skills and trains them to be responsible about security and personal data.
As smartphones and computers have become such an integral part of our lives, learning anything without them loses a level of realism that prepares students for the actual world.
You can certainly teach German like your parents or grandparents did, but your students will have to use it in today’s world. Why not move your teaching into the 21st century as well and help your students prepare for life outside the classroom?
How to Use Technology to Teach Smarter
Using technology in your classroom is the practical thing to do. Even if you have to spend some time to set it up, it can greatly improve and simplify your work, as well as save you a lot of time and energy. And, last but not least: like all the methods and tools we present here on FluentU, technology makes teaching and learning more fun.
7 Ways to Integrate Technology in the German Classroom
1. Collaborative Tools
A successful class is one that works together, and technology can be incredibly helpful in achieving this.
Dropbox allows you to put all handouts or presentations in one folder everyone can access, and you can even have your students upload their homework with it.
The Socrative classroom management app allows for classroom voting, assessments and feedback while information from Edmodo’s learning community can be used for homework assignments or digital portfolios of students’ work.
You can also use websites for online mind maps to brainstorm ideas and explore a topic.
2. Social Networking
Social networks are the foundation of modern internet and smartphone use, and your students will be well familiar with them. But did you ever consider their usefulness inside the classroom?
For example, have every student write a 140/280-character summary tweet at the end of a session. Students can also search for pictures to use for digital show and tell, or post their own photos with German captions.
Use a custom hashtag to group them all together:
That way, you can easily find the posts and go through them all on Twitter
Another good idea is to set up a class blog on WordPress or your own classroom wiki and let your students create posts on the topics you discuss.
You can even use the dreaded Facebook, killer of student attention, and turn it to your advantage. Have your students like sites that are relevant to the curriculum, or create a group where they can have discussions with each other or with native speakers you invite there.
3. Apps and Activities
If you go online looking for teaching apps and activities, you will wade out into a vast flood of possibilities. It is impossible to go through all of them, but here are some true and tested favorites.
- FluentU for maximum cultural immersion: FluentU is an incredible teaching tool that offers authentic, up-to-date and relevant videos for language learning taken from news, music videos, trailers, commercials, talks, cartoons and more. It then combines the resources with an interactive transcription technology. You can click on any word and explore its meaning and connotations to get a deeper understanding and a native-level grasp of the German language. It can be used on the website or with the FluentU app for Android and for iPhone users.
- Quizlet for word building: When learning vocabulary, previous generations used flashcards made from actual paper. They worked, but they also tended to get lost, and you had to spend a lot of time crafting them. Quizlet is the 21st century’s answers to this. It gives you digital flashcards embedded in a powerful platform that allows you to organize them into sets and lists, as well as monitor your students’ progress within a set. You can easily use Quizlet for homework assignments or partner work within the classroom.
- Kahoot for testing students: Kahoot is an online quiz maker that can be used to assess your students’ understanding of certain topics or grammar lessons. You can make custom quizzes, or if you’re in a pinch, use ready-made ones.
Using a noise meter like this one can help to structure the classroom and improve the learning environment. You set up a noise threshold, and the app will detect and show whenever the class exceeds it. If your students stay below the threshold, they earn a “treasure” at the end of the session; if they go over, the reward gets lost.
Another way to use technology is as a sort of “bonus content.” Students who finish their assignments early don’t have to sit around twiddling their thumbs but can instead go online and access one of the three resources mentioned above.
4. Video Calls
We always stress the value of authenticity, and there is a good reason for this. You cannot learn language in a vacuum. It is always connected to a living and breathing, ever-changing culture that textbooks alone cannot capture.
To really learn a language, your students need to get in touch with its real-life use. What better way to do this than talking to native speakers?
Thankfully, the internet makes this easier than ever, as you can just set up a Skype call with the native speaker of your choice or even with a “mirrored” German language classroom.
As mentioned in the introduction, this can be a truly incredible and extremely exciting experience for both sides!
5. Multimedia Content
If you want to capture your students’ attention, make your presentations bright, colorful and full of variety. Put in images, graphs, quotes from blogs, audio clips, sound effects, music and short videos to get the most out of every slide. You can even include blogs and online resources, or teach students with the help of popular German songs.
6. Virtual Exploration
Sometimes, technology can seem too text-based. This can make your students feel claustrophobic inside the classroom. Instead of reading articles all period, why not go on a field trip to Germany and explore the country and the culture?
No budget and no time? Make it a virtual one!
Have your students plan out a virtual field trip and describe and discuss what they see. Or, you could use it as a hook to talk about German history, culture and (of course) language. It will certainly be a breath of fresh air for everyone!
7. Augmented Reality
Technology doesn’t need to be state-of-the-art to be effective, but if you have the means and the motivation, why not go all out?
Augmented and assisted reality is likely to be a big trend for future learning environments, and you can have your students take the first steps into this exciting new world.
The application, Blippar allows you to give students a truly next-generation educational experience by integrating augmented reality into the classroom. Want to see how augmented reality works in the classroom? Have a look at the technology and consider the possibilities—I guarantee that your students will appreciate it.
The advantages of technology in the German language classroom far outweigh the risks and minor obstacles. Technology offers infinite and incredible opportunities to make your teaching more comfortable, more efficient and more engaging. You should definitely try it out.
From easy collaboration to media that address all senses; everything from digital flashcards to online quizzes, Twitter hashtags and the cutting edge of virtual exploration and augmented reality help bring new options. And both you and your students will reap immense benefits if you bring technology into the classroom.
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