Technology that worked, and didn't work, with second-language students during the pandemic
Technology that didn't work
McGraw Hill Connect: Before the pandemic, our textbook was integrated with listening and speaking modules. Students could go to MHC and do several exercises. We did this in a computer lab because some of our students struggled to get logged into MHC, even after several weeks. Once we had to switch over to online synchronous teaching, we couldn't use MHC any more.
Technology that kind of worked
MinnState Zoom: If I had to do everything over again, I would have limited my use of Zoom to informal student conversations. For too long, I used Zoom like I was in a normal classroom, with me talking way too much, and the students just listening. Also, itt was very difficult to handle all of the student technology problems. They are Zooming from beat-up computers in dwellings with really slow internet and noisy families that afford them little privacy.
D2L Brightspace: We all use D2L in our daily teaching but, let's face it, the platform is not designed to encourage synchronous instruction. It functions well as a repository for documents, videos, textual discussions, and tests. It does not foster teacher-student or student-student interaction, at least in my opinion. Because of my experience in the spring semester, I have stripped down my D2L course to the strict essential elements so that it is a lot easier to navigate for second-language students.
College email: We all wish our students would use their official college email addresses with us. For some unknown reason, though, most do not. It's hard to use. It's hard to remember the username and password when you are not on it every day. I've noticed this with all of my students, not just my second-language students. For my students who used email, it was fine, although I did have to get over their creative spelling and lack of punctuation. For students who didn't use email, we had to call them instead to stay in touch.
Technology that worked really well
My cell phone: The breakthrough moment in the post-pandemic course was when I made an offhand comment: "You can just take a picture of your homework and text it to me." This one unplanned comment saved the course and made it doable. That's what all of the students in the course chose to do for the rest of the course.
Also, we called and texted our students, and they called and texted us. As a matter of fact, a great deal of communication occurred via text.
Minnesota State Media Space: A great place to make videos, and really easy to figure out. If you haven't tried it yet, you just log into it the same way you do for D2L Brightspace.
Flipgrid: This is a free web site and app that teachers and students can use to have asynchronous video chats with each other. If you haven't used it yet, you should When you do, be sure to learn how to use the app. I prefer Flipgrid on my laptop because I'm 53. Most of our students, used it on the phone. Flipgrid worked really to keep students engaged.
Voice recognition typing in Google Docs: Students loved this! For second-language students, typing assignments takes up way too much of their time. I taught them how to do voice recognition typing on their phones as well.