Teaching Spanish in Canada, a country with a great interest in multilingualism and multiculturalism, gave me the opportunity to realize that learning a language is not an option anymore, it is a necessity. Our reality demands from us learning different languages, developing cultural awareness, and be acquainted with the technological advancements in our society.
It was in Canada, at the University of Western Ontario, were I collaborated in a technological project which consisted in creating and designing the content for the first computer software (CAN-8) implemented in the Modern Languages Department. These activities not only focused on developing students’ reading, listening and oral abilities, but also exposing them to a plethora of cultures in Latin America and Spain. Besides the use of this software, technology also impacted how I designed my lesson plans. PowerPoint presentations allowed me to introduce grammar structures in a simpler and more attractive form, which made me realized that teaching with technology is fun and also productive in the classroom, not only because it makes things faster and easier to the teacher, but because it can affect how students interact, learn, and perceive a foreign culture. Moreover, since teachers only have a certain amount of time to help the students understand how language works, we should accelerate the learning process by using the tools technological resources offer.
When I arrived at Penn State University, I was introduced to a new classroom technique: flipping the classroom. In order to prepare students before coming to class and spend more efficiently the time allotted for each class, we used an online repository named ANGEL which allowed students to review, on their own, the main concepts that would be practiced and explored in the next class. Having access to this web-based learning tool was essential to make more efficient the learning process by allowing students to better grasp lexical and grammatical aspects at their own pace, and feel ready to participate in class, reducing the anxiety they might feel when they are expected to immediately produce new forms in front of their classmates. Moreover, since ANGEL included graded quizzes, it minimized the time professors devoted to grading students’ homework.
Another positive experience I have had using web-based learning tools was at Rider University where the Modern Languages Department implemented the use of MySpanishLab and QUIA which promoted class communication and collaboration by electronic threaded discussions. By using these learning tools, students had the possibility of posting messages and questions on a message board that was available to every student enrolled in the course. This tool made more efficient the communication process among students, and between student-professor.
At Princeton University I have been exposed to a wide array of web-based teaching tools and resources which are a direct response to the new demands academia is facing (Prezi, WileyPLUS, Voicethread, Quizzlet, Telecollaboration, OfficeMix, etc.). In this sense, teaching with technology has become a central element in the development of the Spanish language curricula. In the past five years, the Spanish Program has invested a lot of time an effort developing customized teaching materials and activities taking into account the current urgency to educate global learners. BLACKBOARD, an online platform similar to ANGEL, has become an excellent repository where language educators can upload more interesting, challenging and updated activities than any other published materials available on the market. As a result, learners are exposed to more current materials, and professors have the ability to design and customize activities focused on their student’s immediate needs.
Without a doubt, teaching with technology has impacted my perception on students’ and professors’ roles. I truly believe that students are the main builders of their own learning experience, and, in that sense, I recognize and embrace the central role technology plays in their lives. As a result, I facilitate and encourage the use of all the available learning resources, in and outside of the classroom. But, more importantly, I am very pleased with the way pedagogy is catching up with technology. Having an intelligent classroom with multiple and interactive projectors, furniture that is more conducive to collaboration, as well as multiple learning and interactive apps -such as Kahoot, Socrative, etc.-, demand a lot of creativity and planning from the part of the educator. Language classes need to recapture the students’ attention not only with technology, but also with innovative activities and collaborative projects that truly maximize the advantages technology offers.