Posted in Education Technology, Languages

Learning Languages Online

As the internet brings the world closer through communication, the interest in second language learning has increased, especially in English. More than 1 billion people are believed to speak some form of English. For every native speaker there are three nonnative speakers. Three-quarters of the world’s mail is in English and four-fifths of electronic information is stored in English. Due to globalization and technology, English dominates the world as no language ever has, and some linguists are now saying it may never be dethroned as the king of languages.

As an ESL teacher, I try to encourage students to explore the English language just beyond the scope of our classroom.  Some activities include reading the newspaper, watching tv and movies, and using language learning options online. Technology makes language learning more engaging for the students and allows for self pacing. Here are some sights that I usually recommend.

*includes other languages other than English


Social Networking

  • LiveMocha* : practice language with native speakers
  • Busuu * :Free Language learning community


  • BBC English : great activities to practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
  • BBC Languages *: Audio/Video courses for French, German, Spanish, Greek, Chinese, and more.

What if you’re a native English Speaker and you want to learn another language? It is a common myth that children learn a second language easier than adults.  Adults and adolescents actually have an advantage in learning a new language because they have more efficient memories and greater knowledge on how language works.  An advantage for a child is that For native speakers of English there are many online sources that you can visit if you want to learn a new language or practice a language you studied. I found this infographic that shows the easiest and hardest for a native English speaker to learn:

One additional tip for accessing language learning software: Often your local public library will have subscriptions to paid services like Rosetta Stone, Byki, or Mango and you can access them for free with your library card.

Happy language learning!

Posted in Education Technology

E-Platforms for Online Tutoring

As a student, I’ve had classes that used Elluminate (this was a few years ago) as a method for synchronous learning in an online class and also as a meeting place when we had group projects. In this particular online course, my classmates lived all over the world, so using this e-learning platform was a great way to interact with everyone on different level than discussion postings. A bonus for the class was that it was recorded, so if a student couldn’t make a session they could access recording at a more convenient time. In my opinion, another benefit to an online synchronous class that only one person can talk at a time, allowing the speaker to express their ideas fully.

One of my goals for my class is to find a platform to tutor my students online. Fortunately,The LMS that the college that I work for does have chat available, but not all of my classes are assigned an online component which leads to a lot of individual back and forth emails. Even when I can’t use the chat tool, there is the option of using Skype or Google Talk, but I would like to use a platform that allows users to share screens or use a whiteboard. This started me on my search for an online learning platform that could fulfill these requirements and that were also FREE. In my search, I found out that are several names for this type of software including online colloborative software, e-learning platforms, web conferencing, meeting rooms, or virtual classrooms. Most of the sites charged for access although they offered a free trial period to try the product. I did find a few that were free, but with limited access or ad supported:

Blackboard Collaborate : This platform is the “new” Elluminate after Blackboard acquired it. It has a 30 day free trial for a 25 seat meeting room. After trial your account changes to the free 3 person vRoom. This seems ideal if you are interacting, collaborating, or tutoring one on one.

Anymeeting : This webconferencing site is free with ads and you have the option of audio through the phone or the computer. You can invite up to 200 people to your meeting and has the functions of screen sharing and recording.


Are there any other suggestions for free online collaborative e-learning platforms?

Posted in Education Technology

Digital Storytelling Assignment Planning

I’m not currently teaching at the moment, but digital storytelling would be an excellent assignment for my writing students. Typically, they have 4 major writing compositions to complete for the course and the last one they have to present on. I’m pretty open on how they present final compositions whether they do shared readings, performances, or power point, but digital storytelling will be a more precise way they can express their ideas (and easier for me to set up a rubric to grade since they are completing the same type of assignment).

I teach adult students in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses in the advanced levels, before they enter degree-seeking programs. The purpose of the course is to build up the academic writing skills for English Language Learners before they take Composition 101 courses. The majority of the students are international, so with their writing there are diverse perspectives and ideas and I’m sure it will be a similar result in digital storytelling. To begin the project, the students would use their initial composition as their guide to build a storyboard and then choose which tools they would like to use to create their story. This assignment can push students to be more creative and expand their original ideas and not only provide a composition for their portfolio, but also a visual representation as well. Usually, my students are resourceful and technology friendly, but some sites I may suggest to get started include:

Xtranormal: create animated video clips

Animoto: video slideshow creator

Make Belief Comix comic creator

Bookr :create a book using creative commons pictures from Flickr create infographics

At this point, I’m considering using digital storytelling just for the final assignment, but should I use for more or at least give the option to?