10 Collaborative Tools and Tasks to Motivate Language Learners

“We are born into a box of time and space. We use words and communication to break out of it and to reach out to others.” — Roger Ebert

Language learning involves community. Learners need to be able to take the vocabulary and skills they learn in the classroom and apply them in real world contexts. They need to be able to interact with other language learners and participate in real conversations. I’ve been an English teacher for over a decade and have tried to find the best way to get my students to be able to practice language outside the classroom. One of the most effective ways is to get the students to use online tools that foster communication in English. As a language teacher, you can get your students to use these websites to participate in discussions or collaborate on projects. In this way, the students are applying what they learn in class to specific tasks. I hope the following tips and resources will help you plan these tasks.

10 Collaborative Tools and Tasks

These are some of the most effective and free collaboration tools I recommend and a few ideas on what your language learners can do with them.

Wiggio Learners can work effectively on group projects with this online web application that is also available as a free mobile app. Learners can schedule to-do lists, upload files, collaborate in real-time in editing a text document, vote on ideas, collaborate in an online whiteboard, and much more. Learners are invited into specific groups that only they can access so the privacy is great. They can communicate with each other by either replying to emails or the threads that are in the discussion forum. Wiggio can be used for group projects.

Google Plus Learners can have a 10 way video chat by using the free hangout feature. Learners can watch a Youtube video and discuss it while video chatting. They can also chat with each other through text or play a game. Use this tool to have learners participate in debates, analyze a short advertisement, or discuss the lyrics and cultural elements of a music video. For more ideas, check out this resource and check out our great database of mini-debates.

Facebook Groups Facebook is the most popular social network so chances are your learners are already set-up on here. This means they do not have to register so they are more likely to use this social network. For more ideas, check out this resource.

Vokle Learners can use this video platform to conduct interviews and the other classmates can type in comments or questions in the chat box. This is in real-time. Check out our database of everyday dialogues that can be practiced on this platform.

Edmodo Learners can collaborate in a private, secure environment. They post discussions through the threaded feature that looks similar to Twitter and Facebook. They also can upload pictures, links, videos, and more. Find more about using Edmodo with language learners using this resource.

Twiddla This is an online collaborative whiteboard. Students can post documents, brainstorm, view a website, and so much more in real-time. Students don’t have to register. They just click a button then are given a room link for others to join. The learners can even talk to each other while they work using the live audio feature. Check out lesson database for ideas.

Posterous Spaces This is the easiest way to blog. Learners can send audio, video, images and text just by posting an e-mail address. What is included in the e-mail will be posted to the website after approved by the teacher. Students can create e-portfolios.

Google Docs Learners collaborate in real-time in editing a text document, spreadsheet, or slide presentation. There are chat and comment functions that make it easy for learners to communicate. Use this tool to have your learners brainstorm or create concept maps. They might also use this to create their own short presentations like a Pecha Kucha or Ignite presentation.

Wikis A wiki is a website that can be modified by students and teachers. Students can post writings, videos, presentations and more. Wikis even come with a plagiarism checker and various embedding tools. Embed tasks for your learners to accomplish or have your learners create e-portfolios of their language learning in class. For more ideas, check out this resource.

Skype Students can speak with peers worldwide through this video conferencing and chatting tool. They can practice role-plays or teach each other about their various countries and talk about their traditions. For more ideas, check out this resource and our database of everyday dialogues that can be practiced on this platform.

What other collaborative activities can you think of?

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4 comments

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  1. Roger says:

    Jun 13, 2012 at 1:54 am

    A large problem for an ELL stnduet is being expected to learn in a foreign setting where there’s a new set of rules that could clash with that of their own culture. When an ELL stnduet enters a new classroom, they are not only stepping into a new culture but a new learning environment as well. Simple tasks, like turning in homework, can cause problems because the routines and expectations are different. A new learning environment can cause confusion, apprehensiveness, and frustration to stnduets. In order to help smooth the transition and help stnduets understand, teachers need to be sensitive to the child’s viewpoint and explain to them the system. Even if the teacher isn’t able to communicate with the child using language, they can demonstrate examples by using other children or themselves to make an English Language Learner’s everyday routine more comfortable. This will eventually allow the child to feel like they are able to flow in their new classroom without standing out because they know what’s expected of them. For example, when a class leaves to go to music the ELL stnduet knows they are expected to walk down the hall in a line and not wander around because that’s what has been shown to them.

  2. Brian says:

    Apr 20, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Thanks for this list. We have a learning site but I think we need to incorporate social tools so I will be going through this list looking for ideas.

    All the best and any feedback on our site at worldwordexchange.com is more then welcome

    • Estefani says:

      Jun 13, 2012 at 6:46 am

      A plreobm that could be a plreobm with ELL students is that when they are new to a culture, they tend to be more shy so that decreases their communication in schools. That means that they will lack social skills and will decrease their effort in school. If they lack in social skills, they will not know talk to people and ask for help when they need it. If they do not ask for help in school when they do not understand something, their grades will start to drop because they never took the time to talk to others to ask. So this is when the teachers should step in and be involved because. They should take the extra time to help those who are new and unaware of what is going on so that these students can succeed in the future. Teachers should have students be more interactive with each other so they can get a feel for who people are and where they come from. Also, have the teachers teach a unit where the students learn about other cultures. There are many ways that this could be accomplished, but i feel like just having students interacting with each other would be the most beneficial way to have ELL students step out of their box.

  3. Grid jumper says:

    Apr 19, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Great list. I especiallly like google hangout. I would add immersive spaces to your list. Virtual worlds where both audio and text are used extensively to communicate in a variety of real and imaginary settings. Second life, opensim grids and even MMORPGs.

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