Apr 28 2021

EdTech Essentials: 3 Language Teachers Share Their Top Tools

Laura Boyd and Mario and Alberto Herraez teach Spanish in different ways but share similar educational technology needs. Here’s what they rely on in their classrooms.

¿Cómo se dice EdTech en español? To get the answer, you might turn to Laura Boyd or Alberto and Mario Herraez. All three teach Spanish to middle school students, but their independent classrooms are unique.

Boyd teaches Spanish to fifth through eighth graders at Poplar Grove Middle School. Her classroom in Tennessee’s Franklin Special School District is operating in a hybrid model, where students can choose whether they want to log in to class virtually or attend in person each semester.

Alberto and Mario Herraez teach fifth and sixth grade students, respectively, in the Spanish immersion program at Canyon Creek Elementary School in Utah. Alberto and Mario are twins and moved to Utah from Spain about six years ago. Their students are also on a hybrid model, divided into two groups that attend school in person on alternating days.

Both Boyd and the Herraezes rely on educational technology to engage students in learning another language while operating in a hybrid model. Here are some of their favorite tools:

Classroom Management Tools Keep Teachers and Students on Track

Each educator emphasized that the No. 1 tool for teaching, especially in a hybrid setting, is pedagogy. Mario says teachers often build lessons around a tool, but it should be just the opposite: “You create your lessons — the assignments, the assessments, everything that needs to be included — and after that, you go to your toolkit.”

As for what they favor from their toolkits, the Herraezes rely on Microsoft Teams and Microsoft OneNote. It helps their students to have everything in one place instead of trying to remember a collection of passwords, they say. It’s also their favorite hub because a lot of professional organizations use Microsoft in the workplace. “We are helping them be ready for their future jobs by teaching them how to collaborate and communicate online,” Alberto says.

Boyd similarly enjoys having all of her students’ assignments and data in one place, though she prefers Google Classroom. She finds that Google Forms helps to organize the polling data she collects at the beginning of class, when she uses expressive icons to do a social-emotional learning check-in. In the hybrid model, Google Forms has been “super powerful,” she says, “because I can collect the responses. And for me, paper was just not working, because how do I send that home? Google Forms are just like electronic worksheets.”

The Herraezes have managed to avoid using paper during the pandemic as well, thanks to their students’ touchscreen computers and styluses.

RELATED: Whittle down your educational technology options with a structured choice approach.

Interactive Programs Help Immerse Students in Language

Boyd and the Herraezes have all found Flipgrid to be a powerful language learning tool in their classrooms. Boyd particularly enjoys the video components of the program, which her students can watch while interacting with objects such as Play-Doh. She keeps track of how students are engaging with the videos and other assets with the help of GoGuardian.

The Herraezes have integrated their own interactive experiences into the classroom with virtual reality field trips. This helps their students learn Spanish by experiencing the culture of Spanish-speaking regions around the world. Educators can use these virtual reality classroom experiences on a VR headset or a laptop, such as a Chromebook.

As for other devices the Herraezes rely on, they, like many teachers this past year, found themselves transforming their home office. A far cry from sharing the kitchen table while teaching their students, the pair now have a home office setup with two screens each, a Canon webcam and a Blue Yeti microphone.

READ THE REVIEW: Level up with Lenovo's 2nd Gen 100e Chromebook.

Images Courtesy of Alberto Herraez and Laura Boyd