How Technology and Teacher Websites in Language Classrooms Can Increase Engagement and Access

By Xiao “Wendy” Liu, Tower Hill School

Digital Age and Learning

We are now in the Digital Age, which continues to evolve and grow at a dizzying pace, with new tools and online resources to support language learning and teaching. Language skills can be acquired and practiced in the most authentic way via technology. Computer use and the online world have had a tremendous impact on language learning, providing students with instantaneous access to authentic materials and native-speaking language partners.

Meanwhile, teachers can use technology to greatly enhance the learning experiences in the classroom through online tools, web-based resources, and virtual school courses, which may shift the expectations about pedagogy, learning standards, and outcomes of language courses.

Parallel to the advancement of technological and digital tools in education, Chinese language education has also made headway in U.S. schools, especially since 2004. Chinese enrollment grows from several hundred to tens of thousands of students in a very short time.

Students learning Chinese can now hone their language skills any time throughout the week or the year, anywhere in the world, starting with a home internet connection and expanding out to an experience that requires a passport.

Technology Use Consideration

As a Chinese language educator with an increased number of students enrolled in the courses, I am keenly aware of the importance of using technology.

These are a few things that I always keep in mind when selecting and using technology in my classroom.

  1. Plan carefully and use all available tools wisely, especially technological tools. Instead of just latching on to the latest gadget, app, or device, I should focus on the content of and purposes for the curriculum I am teaching. The goal is always to strive to build students’ language proficiency, rather than using the tools for the sake of the tools.
  2. Know that tech tools themselves will not automatically create learner-centered classrooms. Good planning and effective instruction fall on teachers’ judicious and informed use of technology. Offer the best opportunities for success in creating truly engaging content and lessons enhanced by technology.
  3. Learners’ age and language development levels play key roles in the selection of various technology tools, and that technology is only a tool to facilitate learning, not a panacea.

Building a Teacher’s Website

The biggest challenge I faced as a Chinese language educator is that there is a lack of high-quality paper-based Chinese instructional resources. I struggled to enrich my energetic and curious students’ learning with the limitation of one or two selected textbooks. As a result, I learned to create a classroom website that houses all the online resources and technology tools that I could find to help them learn Chinese better.

My purpose of creating the website was simple: I wanted to provide a one-click convenience to all my students as they learn the new language and culture; meanwhile, their families know where to find information to support their children’s learning outside of school.

My purpose of creating the website was simple: I wanted to provide a one-click convenience to all my students as they learn the new language and culture; meanwhile, their families know where to find information to support their children’s learning outside of school.
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So,this is my website: experiencechina.weebly.com. I have been working to make it better every single day for the past three years. The website is organized by curriculum domains as well as language topics, which provides an overall vision of what Chinese language learning should be in the 21st century.

In the “resources” domain, everything that is related to Chinese language and culture learning is in one place, from links to Chinese online newspapers and magazines to Chinese social media use, from a variety of Chinese learning apps to literacy development tools, and from global education information to ACTFL proficiency guidelines.

My website has been a safe place for my students, 6th grade to 12th grade, to explore, to play, and to find things that they enjoy doing. For parents, they preferred to know exactly where to go when they need to find resources to support kids learning at home.

Suggestions For Creating Your Own Website

If you decide to build your own classroom website, you may need to consider the following:

  • Identify a platform to create your own website. I personally use Weebly because it is very easy to navigate. The free version will be sufficient for classroom use.
  • Look at other teachers’ websites to decide the main components and the best way to organize the information you have
  • Spend about 10 minutes a day to update information. Building a website is a long-term process.
  • Show your students exactly where to find resources or technology tools on your website. The younger the students, the more hand-holding is needed at the beginning. Do the same for parents at the parents’ night.
  • Be a digital age life-long learner and continue to improve!
Xiao Liu

Dr. Xiao “Wendy” Liu graduated from Florida State University with a master’s degree in Multilingual & Multicultural Education and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park with the concentration on Curriculum and Instruction. Before she came to teach at Tower Hill, she worked at the Delaware Department of Education as a Chinese immersion instructional specialist.

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