The University of Arizona

Technology Use in Collegiate Foreign Language Programs

Borbala Gaspar, Chelsea Timlin, Yi Wang


Although technology use to support learning in Foreign Language (FL) courses is no longer in question and has substantially increased in the last decade, the ways in which collegiate FL programs approach and train instructors for its use have not been addressed as directly (Allen & Negueruela-Azarola, 2010; Angus, 2017; Lord, 2014; Pfeiffer, 2008). According to the ACTFL and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2011), using technology is a must “in order to function in a knowledge economy” (p. 16). As called for by the MLA AD Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages (2007), “graduate studies should provide substantive training in language teaching and in the use of new technologies” (p. 241). While this statement is supported by many in the field of SLA (Lord, 2014; Melin, 2000; Muyskens, 1997), gaps persist in understanding how language program directors (LPDs) and graduate teaching assistants (TAs) view and approach the use of technology in their classrooms. This paper aims at filling these gaps by raising two questions: 1) How and for what purposes is technology used in collegiate level FL classrooms? and 2) What type of technology training is offered for TAs in FL programs? Two online surveys were administered in the current study to answer these questions. We collected data from TAs and LPDs in various collegiate foreign language departments around the United States about their current technology use in their classrooms and programs, as well as the training they have offered or received. Our findings reveal several discrepancies between LPDs and TAs in views surrounding the purpose of technology and the role of professional development. In particular, our findings show a great lack of technology training that discusses pedagogical frameworks on digital literacies and promotes professional collaboration among LPDs and TAs, such as in selecting and reflecting on teaching methods and approaches, and developing and carrying out research related to technology use in FL classrooms. Responding to these findings, we provide several suggestions to address shortcomings in training and technology use identified by participants in the current study and the review of the literature.

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