World of ed tech: five ways to use modern tech when teaching MFL

Ed tech columnist Claire Lotriet on how to use apps and websites more effectively when teaching modern foreign languages

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Learning a new language involves developing four key skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening. By focusing on tech that helps students develop these skills, rather than just finding a French app, we might really be able to use tech effectively in MFL.

I’ve found comic strip-generating apps like Comic Life and Comic Strip Pro to be useful across so many areas of the curriculum – and they easily lend themselves to MFL, too. Students can create comics in the language they are learning, about whatever particular topic you happening to be studying, to develop their writing in another language.

When it comes to the speaking element of learning another language, there are some great apps out there to help take the pressure off students by allowing them to talk through a character instead. My fellow teacher @ceenik1 has used Morfo to teach primary MFL and got his students to practise interviewing sports stars in French. Morfo allows you to turn a photo of a face into a talking 3D character. You can then record your voice and make your character talk.

This reminded me of another app that I’ve used in literacy before – Tellagami Edu. Again, it allows you to customise characters and record a voice for them. I found that those children who were a bit shy when it came to reading out their work would happily share it using Tellagami. Yakit Kids is another app that brings photos to life and might be worth exploring.

A website worth a visit is lingro.com, which is a bit like a dictionary that translates web pages, word by word. Sites are still displayed in their native language; it’s only when you click on a word that you get a translation of it.

If you are looking for game-based practise of verb conjugation, word gender and the like, the Mindsnacks series of apps can help. They use native speakers in their audio clips to improve speaking and listening, and boast personalised learning algorithms to, so it claims, maximise each student’s memorisation, retention and contextual usage.

One last idea that you could try is free, but comes with a little word of warning: change the language settings on your tablets. You see, if you change the language settings, some inherent apps will then have to be used in that language, so you could practise reading that way. Just make sure you know how to change it back again!

Don’t just go to the usual suspects – spend some time finding apps or web tools that allow you to develop the four key skills and you may find that tech becomes your best MFL friend.

Claire Lotriet is a teacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She tweets at @OhLottie and blogs at www.clairelotriet.com

This is an article from the 8 July edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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