The use of technology has evolved tremendously over the years. I’m sure many young teachers today have never heard of a mimeograph or ditto copier. These machines were “the technology items” of the 70s. For many districts, the administration could not afford to purchase/lease copy machines for teachers to use on a regular basis so teachers were relegated to using the “purple monster” to make copies. Yes, those purple pages were something else! Computers at that time were huge CPUs that read punched cards that were done on a keypunch machine and verified on a similar machine. There were other computers but not at the classroom level availability.
Fast forward 30-40 years and we have technology in all different shapes, sizes, and forms. Teachers graduated from practically no technology to almost too much technology on their hands. Some teachers were elated to try all of the new gadgets and attended all types of training. They were eager to try anything and everything in their Spanish classroom. Other teachers struggled to learn how to use the available technology as well as how to incorporate it into their Spanish lessons. Even today, there are teachers that do not feel comfortable using any type of technology.
You may ask, “is technology necessary in the classroom?” I could say that teachers survived without it for years and they did OK. The question now is, “if we had today’s technology then, could we have done a better job of teaching Spanish?” It is a definite, yes. There is a multitude of technology available for teacher and student use. Technology helps teachers perform tasks in an easier, more organized manner while it helps students enhance their Spanish learning experience.
Teachers use technology to make things simpler, enjoyable, interesting, challenging, motivating, exciting, stimulating, and much more for both teachers and students. Students can read about other countries and learn about their cultures using the Internet. They can e-mail, Skype, videoconference as a class with students halfway around the world. Students can use the Internet radio to listen to authentic material. Students can access online activities delivered by various providers and use a variety of online sources such as Wordle. Teachers can use technology to develop a variety of differentiated activities to meet the needs of special populations or to meet the needs of multi-tiered classrooms.
Today you will find some school districts that have a personal computer for each teacher in the classroom, language laboratories, traveling media (laptop) labs, iPads for every student, Smart Boards, etc. If a district cannot afford all of these luxuries for the Spanish teachers, what are the best possible choices that will enhance the language-learning experience?
María J. Fierro-Treviño
Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)
Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)