Thinking About Syncing? Thoughtful Technology Integration

Click on any icon in the presentation to access the tool or view the presentation on its own.

Visit my Technology Tools for World Language site for more information.


My online and in-person colleagues identify me as a technology guru for World Languages and an all-around geek. Yes, I do specialize in technology and I am a Digital Literacy Coach, but I do hope they also see my curriculum development, curation, and mentoring efforts. My online roots stretch back to Gopher and BBS portals in 1991, and my earliest sites were created on Netscape Navigator and GeoCities. Good memories! I have tinkered and created with technology from a young age, and have been an educational technology innovator since the early 2000s.

If you had visited Portable 6 at Mount Vernon High School in 2009, you would have seen an impressive buffet of tools for the students and teacher thanks to a $9,000 technology grant I won from Washington State and other grants. We had Mp3 players, FlipCameras, headphones, microphones, laptops, and more recently iPods, iPads, and Chromebooks. Colleagues at other schools envied our resources and thought that all of those tools made our students’ language learning experiences superior. It was empowering to have these tools available to the students, but their existence did not make the class better. It was the reasons for which and the way we used them that mattered.

ACTFL recently published a “Statement on the Role of Technology in Language Learning.” It is a quick, but thorough description for both teacher and student use. In reflecting on my practices since my first technology-enriched classroom at the University of Kansas in 2000, I recognize that even though the tools have changed dramatically, my core philosophies have not change, and that they meet ACTFL’s stated goals.

I do suggest that teachers read this statement and consider their practices, but in the frenetic world of education, it can be difficult to read each statement. As a Digital Literacy Coach, my goal is to make technology tools and thoughtful practices of these tools as accessible as possible. Thus, I have taken the “Role of Technology for Learners” section and created this visual presentation to guide teachers and districts on which tools correlate to each statement. Click on any icon in the presentation and it will link to the suggested tool. There are many more to consider (please visit my technology Web site), but most teachers are looking for easy-to-use, engaging, and free (!) tools that have been used with success by other educators. As stated in the last point of the, “Role of Educators in Technology-Enhanced Learning” section:   

Educators use content knowledge, research-informed teaching strategies, and effective technology applications to support language learning.

You may choose to stop reading here and explore the presentation. The second part of this post reflects on the shift from past practices and philosophies to as mentioned in ACTFL’s 21st Century Skills Map (Pages 4 and 14).


When I first started offering technology workshops, most participants were looking for tools that lessened their work load: Sites that assessed student vocabulary, grammar, or listening brute skills. In the SAMR model of technology use, this is a substitution level. A worksheet is still a worksheet. Flashcards on Quizlet are still flashcards. While these types of tools are useful, they should not be the only ones that our students use when engaging with technology.

I invited World Language teachers to consider Digital Storytelling apps and sites so that students could demonstrate their knowledge, control, and growth. Students should create with the language, but for many schools, devices, WiFi, and filters negated those options. At one point, I was told, “We can’t do that in our school” so often that I blogged less and relied on the basics in my presentations. Fortunately, more schools are now equipped with the devices and WiFi, but teachers do not have a good familiarity with the creative tools for use beyond the Substitution level.

I will need to control my giddiness during future technology workshops because the time has come at most schools in which they allow and encourage their staff and students the opportunity and tools to design, create, and collaborate. Choose your tools and devices wisely, choose a variety, let your students choose, share their successes, and your frustrations. Coach Catherine is ready to mentor and support you on this new path to World Language technology proficiency.