We are seriously considering installing software for teaching Spanish and French on our computer lab computers next year. However, there are some questions about the effectiveness of using this as one of the modalities we use to teach language. With the understanding that it would only be one avenue of many, do any of you use software to teach language skills? If so, do you recommend it?

Tags: foreign, labs, language, software

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Hi Alecia,

I have been asking the same question of the online community for a couple of weeks now without any really good replies. I had a long conversation with a teacher here in Hong Kong 2 weeks ago who was on a personal mission to have this software thrown out of all schools in Hong Kong as it is so.... school 1.0 where the kids can only do things on the computer in a lock-step, teacher directed way.

I am inclined to agree. I am currently working with a local school doing podcasting in English to Cantonese speaking students and loving it (So are they!) Much better and more engaging that the factory model of a language lab.

I would love to see some other responses to your thread here!

Good luck and thanks for the thread!

Hi Alecia and Paul,

This is what I do (in part) and I spend time going to schools and training teachers in this aspect of language delivery. I've yet to succeed in making it a national model but I do hope!

I agree that as you state Alecia, it should only be ONE of several ways to deliver lessons/curriculum. But a very effective one it is. I do hope you have the horseshoe and open concept lab which is ideal for language instruction? The old row by row labs are not conducive to the proper functioning of a language lab.

It really is NOT difficult to do but the teachers need a day long workshop inorder to both learn how to deliver the content / use the computers and try some of the content. Some prior computer skills are needed.

Students come to class and immediately log in with individual ids. Either have the main url and activity on the whiteboard in front of the class and go through what you want the students to do. The students are divided into "talk teams". As they proceed on their computer lessons -- the teacher calls out a team and they conference and dialogue in the middle of the lab. Each student gets basic conversational practice with a teacher and the other students are busy on their own tasks. NO classroom management problems and teachers who've adopted this model experience zero fatigue and actually WANT to get to school and teach. A big plus.

How? Vis a vis the computer? There are a lot of ways you can design this. You can use a closed system whereby you are using bought language software. Or you can use an open system whereby you use public online content -- 5-6 quality sites. Students are restricted to those sites and after they finish their day's assignment, they can do whatever else on these sites they wish (very important with computer based learning to give students at least 50% of their time online with CHOICE). Part of the content will also be a computer based project which students can work on with this extra time.

All sites/content should be fully text to speeched and with audio. There are some great options out there. I just did some consulting for this new beta site Yolango. Students watch videos and do language activities (soon you will be able to preselect the videos and restrict student access). Mystudiyo has great potential in this area of quizzes too and supports the Spanish language. Here are some quizzes I've done on my own network for students. Of course, Voicethread. See my own EFL network for hundreds of stories/karaokes/readers/games for EFL / ESL / ELLs. It is for both teachers and students and with the same ID/PW students and teachers can both log in and use the content (Ning supports multiple users on one ID/PW!). So you could also start a Ning site and list content there for students to tackle....

I know I didn't go into too much detail but it is a start....good luck.


I don't want to sound like spam but if you are still looking for software that isn't a waste of money and time, I might have something for you. I have been a Spanish teacher for for a few years now and I have always believed that text books and worksheets are boring and insufficient. Software is a great way to supplement teaching a foreign language, but the well known software publishers teach vocabulary list. Finally I have found something that is innovate enough to have caught my eye; PeanutButter. I know it has a funny name and timing for that name is not perfect, but I like the software so much I am now promoting it. It is based on conversational dialogues that are fresh and relevant to everyday life, every time you watch a video you have the choice of viewing closed captioned text at the bottom in English, target language, and a word by word translation that is really helpful. The only draw back is that it is still in the final stages of development and only Spanish will be available next month (March 2009), however you can pre-order and save. Anyways, I wont ramble on but you should check out the website or at least the YouTube videos.
PeanutButter Website:
YouTube Clip:
Thank you, Sarah. I will check that out! In the meantime, we did purchase Rosetta Stone this past summer. The kids LOVE it and the teachers LOVE it. I'll be curious to find out if there are demonstrable benefits to the software...it's really expensive! We got a donation for it.

I'm glad you found something that your kids like! Rosetta Stone is great for learning vocabulary and the short quizzes are great for young students. Unfortunately it is super expensive, especially if you need all three levels. PeanutButter is different because it teaches conversational Spanish and instead of the quick quizzes it offers grammar explanations. I am teaching advanced high school students, once I get my hands on it I'll let you know how it goes:) BTW: That's awesome that you got a donation to cover the cost!
Hi Alecia,

I am going to forward this post to a school in Chinatown in NYC that I know uses and really likes Rosetta Stone. Also, I wrote a post that may have some helpful and free sites to explore called "5 Translation Tools That Serve as Fantastic Resources for Students ...."
ANVILL sounds interesting and of course the fact that it's free is attractive. Thanks for the links, Mandy.
Hi Alecia,

We use the Realidades series here in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and it has some good stuff. There is a fun Quiz Bowl game. We have speaking opportunities with Presentation Express. There are songs and such. It is a good series. You may be familiar with it. The DVD and grammar explanations are very funny. The publisher is Prentice Hall or Pearson Publishing. I've taught with it for the past 2 years and have taught Spanish for 16 years. I love it!




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