School & District Management

Innovations: Practicing a New Language Through Technology

By Mary Ann Zehr — January 13, 2010 1 min read

One feature of some language-learning labs these days is software that permits students to speak a foreign tongue into a recording device and see how closely their pronunciation and inflection match that of a native speaker, I read in an article written by my colleague Michelle R. Davis and posted at edweek.org this week. The article tells how some parents believe that costly language-learning labs are a worthwhile investment in schools. One of the points in the article is that students can practice speaking a language through some technology tools with less embarrassment than if they would have to try out the language in front of their classmates.

I haven’t yet seen any of the kind of labs described in the article in public school classrooms for English-language learners. If you have one at your school district, please tell us about it on this blog.

A comment about the article posted by John Krouskoff from New York state’s Clarkstown Central School District spurred me to check out a new free technology tool, called VoiceThread, that I think could be useful in a language-learning classroom. I’m not someone like Larry Ferlazzo, who blogs about technology for language learning on a daily basis, so I may be easily impressed, but I put this tool into the “cool” category.

With VoiceThread, a group of people can comment through recorded messages or text, on an image posted online, such as a drawing or photograph. The founders of VoiceThread call it “a tool for having a conversation around media.”

What’s important for students who are afraid of making mistakes in a new language is that they can record a comment and delete it until they feel comfortable posting it for others to hear or see. VoiceThread sure has gotten a lot of online publicity, but this was the first I’d heard about it.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.