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Improving Instruction – Increasing Immersion With the iPad in the Foreign Language Classroom


15+ Apps that can Facilitate the Vital Element of Immersion in Foreign Language Teaching

Since my school piloted its 1:1 iPad initiative in the spring of 2011, I have been thinking of ways to incorporate it into my lessons. I searched for and visited websites that touted lists of applicable apps, did searches in the Apple iTunes store, but what came up in my searches were mostly apps for grammar and verb games and seemed to me, contrived in nature.

The best way to learn a foreign language is through immersion, but immersion is nearly impossible to replicate in the traditional educational environment. In my opinion, the iPad is the most promising tool available to date to foreign language educators to help recreate the immersion environment for students outside of the classroom. This is true because of its portability, ease of use and versatility. What I love the most about the iPad is that my students can listen to or watch a video that is relevant to what we are learning in class, and know that they won’t “lose” the assignment because it is contained within their iPad. Students can “immerse” themselves in the foreign language by listening, watching, and producing the language, all with the tap of the screen.

The apps I highlight here are categorized in accordance with the six modes of communication that must be practiced to master a foreign language. Unless otherwise noted, the apps are free.

INTERPRETIVE COMMUNICATION: Students listen to or read an authentic text (newspaper article, radio broadcast, video etc.) and answer questions to assess comprehension.

Written interpretive

  • Paris Match: Purchase individual issues with relevant articles without the commitment of a yearlong subscription. All articles are in French.
  • Le Monde: Gain access to many pertinent articles in French. LeMonde is the premier French newspaper.
  • iBiblio: This app contains a vast collection of the French literary classics in French. Students can read works in their entirety or key passages, as well as listen to digitally recorded passages.
  • La Presse Mobile: Much like Paris Match and LeMonde, this news app provides all news relevant to Quebec.

Audio, audiovisual interpretive

  • RFI & MCD: Listen to international news in a number of different languages including French and 12 other languages. Listen to broadcasts live and on demand.
  • France24: Watch world news in French or English in real time and get direct access to the latest news bulletins, business and sports reports, and weather updates. Available languages: French, English and Arabic
  • 7Jours: ($1.99) Watch three news reports each week. It highlights the specific vocabulary used in televised news reports and provides their transcript to discover how these words are used in context. Word games are included with each news story.
  • TV5Monde: The complete weekly guide to the programs available on TV5Monde all over the world. Plus, categorized educational videos are immediately accessible from your iPad, all in French.

INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION: Students are engaged in interpersonal oral communication about a particular topic.

Written interpersonal

  • iMessage Students communicate with each other in real time. Send instant messages to one another using the target language. The teacher chooses the topic.
  • Email: Use the email function to send and receive messages to anyone.
  • Edmodo Aside from creating, posting, and receiving assignments, students can also start an online discussion using Edmodo. This is a secure way to engage in social media using this educational app.

Spoken interpersonal

  • Skype Speak to and watch people all over the world. I have several contacts overseas with whom my students communicate.
  • Audioboo I love this app because I never have to worry about the storage space for all of the audio recordings my students send me. I ensure that my students turn off their location and cell phone data options. Students follow each other and me to send everyone Direct Messages (DM) about specific topics.
  • PuppetPals (Free or $2.99) Create your own skits with cartoon characters. The upgrade allows you to use a large variety of characters and backdrops, including pictures you upload. My students love this app, it’s fun and allows them to be creative, and they don’t even mind having to produce the language if they can use “voices.”

PRESENTATIONAL COMMUNICATION: Students present information by sharing their research/ideas/opinions. Students give speeches, present dramatic skits, radio broadcasts, brochures, essays and many more.

Written presentational

  • Pages ($9.99) Write compositions, poetry and share them in three formats (Pages, Word, or PDF).
  • Email (see above)
  • PuppetPals (see above)
  • Audioboo (see above)

Spoken Presentational

  • Skype (See above)
  • Audioboo  (See above)
  • PuppetPals (see above)
  • AudioMemos Create high quality digital recordings and share them via email or through other organization and storage apps such as Dropbox and Evernote.

These next apps don’t fit into the six modes but are a useful way to give students virtual experiences they would not otherwise have, given the impracticability and costliness of travel. You can use these creatively when assigning a project. The possibilities are endless. For example, students can take a virtual field trip to Paris or any city and narrate all the activities, meals, and places they visited using Google Earth, Keynote or Prezi, and Audio Memos to present the project to the class.

Virtual Tours

  • Malmaison  (Also available in English and Spanish) Tour the home of Napoleon and Josephine. Read about each room and area of the property.
  • Google Earth Go anywhere on the planet without leaving your home. Look for landmarks or streets.
  • Memorial I use this app when teaching about France and the Second World War. Go on a virtual tour of the museum, with relevant footage and photos of the allied liberation of France.
  • DeGaulle Also used during the WWII unit I teach, access background information about what led to France’s occupation, the resistance movement and its heroes. Live footage, radio addresses, and articles about DeGaulle and the key players of the eventual victory.

While this information is from the French language perspective, everything can be adapted for any foreign language, as well as English as a Second Language.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Selecting the Best Apps for Teaching and Learning – Use a Rubric!
Announcing our new eBook – iPads in Education: Implementations, Apps, and Insights
Using The iPad As A Digital Whiteboard (Plus 4 Cool Free Apps To Try It Out)



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