Technology in education, when used appropriately, can increase retention across the spectrum. Through its ability to display information in various ways, technology has the ability to create engaged and lifelong learners. For some subjects, such as language, technology can be a particularly great asset. If we look at the technologies of mobile devices and the Internet alone, we can see just how much of an impact technology can have on retention. Ultimately, we can use these tools to introduce us to a type of active learning that will make us forget we are learning and make even the most anti-grammar language learners enjoy what they are learning.
Digital Tool #1: Online Books
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This quote is taken from Pride and Prejudice—which is just one of the many books available online. This book and other classics are usually out of copyright and are available for free or for a very small cost (less than $5). The classics are full of great vocabulary, interesting plots, and perfect grammar. Because they are digital, they can be taken anywhere and added to almost any mobile device. Great online bookstores include Project Gutenberg, Amazon (free Kindle application), and Google Books.
Digital Tool #2: Apps
Finding great digital books brings me to another great digital tool—apps (applications). Mobile apps, in particular, allow you to set up alerts, play games, and have a daily reminder of new words. On the Android and Apple app market alone, there are more than fifty apps that can be used for vocabulary and grammar enhancement (such as flashcard apps, word games, and reference tools).
Perhaps the best tool to use with a physical or digital book is a mobile dictionary. A great one to use is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary App. This app makes it incredibly easy to look up a word, includes audio pronunciation, and alerts you with a new word to learn each day. If you are reading the classics, or just come across a word you don’t know, this app is extremely handy.
Digital Tool #3: Google
Another great tool for vocabulary is Google. When hearing or learning a new word, such as a word of the day, retention will come best when that word is placed in context that is memorable. When using Google search, you have the ability to search news stories, blogs, and Google Scholar, and you also can set the reading level of your results to pages that have advanced vocabulary. Searching news stories and blogs helps with learning the word in context, as the learner can observe how the word is used within text that interests him or her. Google Scholar (and the search reading level) not only can help a person learn the new word, but it also can help augment vocabulary with highly academic language and improve reading comprehension.
Digital Tool #4: Podcasts
Finally, let’s talk about podcasts. A podcast is a short audio program that can be played anywhere. Have an extra fifteen minutes in the car? How about turning on Grammar Girl? Grammar Girl is a podcast that highlights individual grammar concepts and discusses each one in a fun and lively manner—definitely a must-have for anyone learning or re-learning grammar.
Many other grammar and vocabulary resources are available online, ranging from games to etymology dictionaries to videos explaining parts of speech. Technology can definitely be useful, and with the world at our fingertips, we have more ability than ever before to learn, grow, and be engaged.
1. “Neo-Luddite is used to describe those who are considered to be anti-technology, or those who dislike or have a difficult time understanding and using modern science and technology.” www.webopedia.com/TERM/N/Neo_Luddite.html, accessed February 15, 2012.
Tia Logans is a technology enthusiast who works in the field of education and technology. She has a bachelor of science degree in information, networking, and telecommunications and has earned a master of science degree in educational technology. Tia has been developing websites since 1999 and is well versed in social media, programming, and web applications. Tia has taught English, multimedia, and HTML to students in grades 6–12 at a private Christian school.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for home school families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com.