My triggering question was: “As a language instructor, how can I encourage students to activate their speaking and writing skills in the target language in creative ways? What sort of technological tools can be used to create real-life (or imaginary) scenarios in which verbal or written exchanges can be practiced?”
ISTE Standard 1.2 says that students will create original works as a means of personal or group expression. Ninth to 12th grade students in a communicatively styled world language class would hopefully have ample practice with standard dialogs during class time hours, but this does not always give them many opportunities to explore scenarios of their choosing or that take place outside of the classroom. There is a fairly simple animation app for the iPad called Toontastic that could be used to give students a more creative way to practice conversational (or even narrational) language. Students would share iPads, so 1:1 is not required. The app is simple to learn. Students work together to select a background and characters for their scene. They then animate the video by dragging the characters around the screen with their fingers while narrating or performing a dialog. The audio is recorded in real time. Two students working with one iPad could:
- Sketch out a dialog that they’d like to perform along a designated theme. (They could then apply to the instructor to check the dialog for gross errors in accuracy and pronunciation.)
- Decide together on a background and set of characters to use.
- Record the dialog and action (it’s possible to create several contiguous scenes although not necessary).
- Add music if desired (the app has a built in soundtrack function)
- Upload the completed video to a website (Youtube or a school video site — depending upon the level of technology savvy of students, at this point they could add subtitles in the target language, providing an extra layer of content and intelligibility in the target language).
Using this app has the benefit of being quick to learn and quick to complete. As an added step, students could then view each others videos, perhaps create comprehension questions to go with them, and vote on the best one. The goal of adding technology to the simple activity of dialog creation would be to give students the opportunity to express themselves in the target language in a less-scripted and more creative manner. As Bernard R. Robin (2008) mentions, young learners today tend to make frequent use of technology on a daily basis as part of their own self-expression including video creation (p. 221). It is hoped that allowing students a degree of digital creativity would increase interest in the activity and also potentially provide the class with audio samples for future practice and study.
Another more complicated animation program that could be considered for more technologically skilled students is GoAnimate. It requires considerably more steps to create a video, so it should be given preference only if there is a compelling reason to produce videos with higher production values.
Here is a sample of what is possible on GoAnimate:
Robin, B.R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into Practice, 47(3), 220-228.