How to use Social Media in the Foreign Language Class: A Primer

Social Media, Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Voicethread … you may have heard a lot about these resources lately. If you have already experimented with them in your classroom: Bravo! However, if you are new to the world of Social Media, this primer might be just the thing for you. I will attempt to explain what the resources are and how you can use them in class to engage and motivate your Foreign Language students.

What is Social Media?

I would define Social Media as any web-based application that allows you to communicate, collaborate, and share resources with other people. The following are examples of Social Media:

1. Blogs

A blog is a website on which an individual or a group of users voice opinions or post information, articles, photos, videos, etc. on a regular basis. They are very easy to set up and maintain, and require no HTML knowledge. There are many blogging platforms, the most popular being:

www.blogger.com (owned by Google)
www.edublogs.org
www.wordpress.com
www.tumblr.com

www.weebly.com
Google sites

Many teachers create blogs to centralize information relevant to their classes for parents and students. Some teachers use blogs to philosophize on teaching, or as a way to maintain an online journal about their teaching experience. Other teachers use blogs to collect and share teaching resources. Click here for a list of great blogs for foreign language teachers.

 
2. Student blogs

A teacher can set up a class blog with individual student pages so that students can blog themselves. This is one of the most exciting initiatives I have started in my class in the past year. My students love to blog, tout en français! A teacher can use any of the blogging platforms above to set up student blogs. I use KidBlog.org because it is very easy to set up and student email addresses are not required. Click here for instructions on how to set up students blogs with Kidblog. To see my grade 5 Core French student blogs, please go to

http://kidblog.org/5DeFrancesco/
http://kidblog.org/5Haber/
(Click on « Log in » at the top, scroll down to « Guest », then use password
« guest ». Then click on any student’s name. Click on “All blogs” to return to the main page.)

http://comments4kids.blogspot.ca/ and http://quadblogging.net are websites that can connect your students to other classes to blog with.

3. Wikis

The main difference between Wikis and Blogs is that members of a Wiki can edit and add to the original content, so they are more collaborative in nature.

Here is an example of a Wiki I created for my grade 5 Core French students’ to showcase their online digital projects:
http://projetsdegrade5.wikispaces.com/
(Click on the pages to the left to see our projects.)

4. Twitter

There are a few common misconceptions about this popular Social Media site:
- It is for stalking celebrities only;
- People only tweet about irrelevant things;
- You need a smartphone (Not true, you can use a computer).

There are thousands of educators from around the world on Twitter who share their vast wealth of knowledge and resources and who collaborate with other teachers-tweeps on a daily basis. In the 18 months since I joined, Twitter has been an indispensible resource for me in my quest to “Technify” my classroom. Twitter can also be a great tool to communicate with students and parents. http://twittclasses.posterous.com is a website to find classes to tweet with en français.

Please visit my Twitter page for more information on Twitter and how to get started:

5. YouTube

Without a doubt, YouTube has many inappropriate videos with zero educational value. However, with minimal effort, you can find numerous videos, which you can use in your Foreign Language class to enrich your lessons. Grammar, vocabulary, animations, funny and informative videos allow your students to hear authentic languages spoken in a variety of different accents. It is very easy to set up your own YouTube Channel to collect and organize the videos you have found. Here is mine:
Click here for @AudreyMisiano’s  YouTube channel with French and Spanish playlists.

6. Facebook

I am wary about using Facebook with my students, but I am a member of a wonderful Facebook group called "Ontario Core French teachers". The ACTFL also has a very active Facebook page. French at Finneytown High School is a FB page with many informative and entertaining posts for French students and teachers. 

7. Pinterest

Pinterest is my latest obsession. It is a resource to collect online images and ideas for personal interests and for teaching. Warning: this site is highly addictive! Click here for “25 of the best Pinterest boards in Education”. Click here for @AudreyMisiano’s wonderful Pinterest boards for French and Spanish resources.

8. Voicethread

Voicethread is a collaborative resource for students to individually record their voices on the same slideshow. You can find my students’ Voicethreads at

In this blogpost I have suggested just a few Social Media resources that a Foreign Language teacher can use in the classroom. Make it a goal to try one, or more, with your classes and make this the year you will embrace Social Media!

Bonne année 2013!

Sylvia 
P.S. Do you have an idea for using Social Media with your classes? Please leave a comment!

This blogpost first appeared as an article in the 2012 fall issue of “Réflexions”, a CASLT publication.

Sylvia Duckworth has been a French teacher for 25 years at the elementary and secondary levels. She currently teaches Core French, grades 3 – 5 at Crescent School in Toronto. She was the CASLT 2012 H. H. Stern Award recipient for Innovation in Second Language Teaching. She can be reached at http://about.me/sylviaduckworth or at https://twitter.com/sylviaduckworth



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