Apps for language learning
Having shown us 10 free apps for teachers to use for planning and classroom management, Shaun Wilden returns with 10 more apps to aid language learning in creative ways.
More and more teachers and schools are using mobile devices and tablets as a tool in and out of the classroom. While the use of mobile assisted language learning is not just about using apps, it would be remiss to ignore the wealth of resources that are available.
Apps, if chosen wisely, can provide not only engagement and language practice but also create new ways of doing tasks. Utilising either the teacher or school’s tablet or employed as part of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, apps provide an excellent addition to a teacher’s toolbox. Actually, like any tool, it is not the app that matters but what you do with it. If chosen for clear educational purposes, apps can be motivational, lead to creativity and enhance student collaboration.
With thousands to choose from, coming up with a list of ten is quite challenging. We’ve tried to choose a range from those that give a new spin on an old activity, e.g. Bill Atkinson’s photocard that allows you to create postcards, through to those such as Aurasma which brings augmented reality to the classroom. While some of you might complain not all the apps are free, those that do have a price are chosen because of their versatility and ability to be used time and time again.
Free. Available on iOS and Android.
Augmented reality is tipped to be “the next big thing”. This app is an easy introduction to augmented reality providing a unique way to bring students work life. The easy-to-use app works by overlaying video on a chosen image. By doing this students can bring written work to life. This can be used for example, to create video book reviews of school readers, give audio commentary to a piece of written work and even be used to develop student created information guides for school.
PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson
Many course books include postcard writing in them though in reality it is likely that our students haven’t sent a postcard in a long while. This app is an engaging way for students to send a digital postcard. Though there are many postcard apps for both iOS and android, they often involve a cost for printing and sending of the postcard. In this app you can simply email your postcard. Being able to use your own photographs and also include voice recording make this a versatile app for creative students.
Bitsboard is an example of a flashcard app. It is a very easy way for you and/ or the students to create flashcards of the vocabulary topics in a course book. Either by using images in the app library or by adding your own, you can create flashcards on any topic. As well as using images, the app allows you to record the word so the flash card is both visual and aural. Having created the flashcards the app provides nine mini games for the students to practice the vocabulary.
Creativity is not all about the apps. All tablets have at least one camera in them and the power of images and video should not be overlooked. Using the camera makes for a simple but effective piece of homework. For example, taking a photo of your free time, turning vocabulary lists into visual dictionaries or taking a photo to contextualise a language point. The video camera can be used to bring role plays to life.
£2.99. Available on iOS and desktop.
This app is an excellent way to get students creatively writing. Using photographs the students have taken on their phones or digital cameras, they can create comics. The students simply drag and drop the photos they wish to use into a template and then use speech bubbles and captioning to create the text for the story. Once finished, the comic can be read on the tablet or saved as a PDF.
Pic collage is an example of a collage maker, of which there are many in both stores. A collage maker allows you and the students to gather photos together into one image. . A student can use their mobile device to take photos on a topic for example, ‘English words in their town’. The photos are then put into a collage to make a poster. Students can be tasked to make tasks similar to those that appear in oral exams by again taking photos then combining them into a collage. Handing task creation over to the students is an excellent way to increase motivation and engagement.
£2.99 (though you can download the original for free). Available on iOS.
This is a very popular app with teachers who teach children though its charm will spark creativity in anyone. Basically the app allows you to make an animated movie. You can choose from a wide variety of characters, locations, vehicles and music. You can also take a photograph of yourself and animate that. Using the characters in the app, students can tell and record their stories. These can be saved and shared.
Rory’s Story Cubes
£1.49. Available on iOS and Android.
This is the app of the long established cube story game. By shaking your devise you get a random selection of 9 cubes. These can be used for a number of classroom activities. The cubes provide prompts for language practice e.g. linking two of the cubes together using a grammatical structure. The 9 cubes can be used as prompts for story writing or collaborative story telling.
Free. Available on iOS and Android.
NB: there are two apps you need for Socrative – student and teacher.
Socrative describes itself as a smart student response system. In real terms socrative is a way to set quizzes for your class. The quizzes can be answered on the students’ mobile devices or if a student doesn’t have a device, via the website. The quizzes can be multiple choice, written responses and also be image-based. The app can be used to review revise vocabulary and language points. The app aids differentiation as each student is responding through their own device and at their own pace. The teacher app provides you with a report of how each student did and allows you to get feedback from each student.