The following is an excerpt of "New Tools of the Trade" by Kim Fernandez from the intensive language supplement that accompanied the March/April 2013 International Educator.

Nat Namdokmai teaches English and makes movies at home in Thailand, and moved to the United States to study four years ago. He’s enrolled in Japanese courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and says technology has played a big part in his study of the language.

“They use technology to teach us to speak and write in Japanese,” he says. “We used PowerPoint and videos on YouTube in some classes. When I got to the upper-level classes and started learning business Japanese, we started using it more to communicate.”

Content, he says, is taught online in some of his classes. “We have to check the website and use it to do our homework,” he says. “We use Quizlet online a lot too. Once a week, we use Google Docs.”

That, he says, changed the way he thought about online learning. “The first time I used Google Docs, I did it with a bunch of people together,” he said. “There’s a lot you can see—you can share your screen or show videos and talk about them at the same time they’re playing. If you have a paper, you can share it with the whole class at the same time. It’s really easy.”

His translation class made a lot of use of Facebook to post information on assignments and activities, and the class turned in assignments and collaborated on things via Dropbox.

“You have a folder and you can share with just one person or with the class,” he explains. “You drop your Japanese work in that folder and people can see it right away. They translate it and put it back in that folder and we can communicate about it right away. You correct your work and put it back in the folder, and it notifies you when there’s a new folder or new information for class in there.” That, he says, has made his learning faster than it’s been in traditional paper-based courses.

His teachers also use video, recording narrative and questions and having students record their answers in the same way. “If we have an assignment or a reading test, we record it and send it to our professor,” he says. “We also use audio recordings in the same way. It’s very helpful. It helps us learn faster,” he says. “In the old days, you had to look at tests on paper and you didn’t know how to pronounce all those words. You didn’t get to practice those things like we do. It was like talking into an empty room. Now, it’s having a conversation.”

“The main benefit is being able to check our work right online,” he says. “Taking a language class online can be hard if you don’t meet a real person. You can’t learn the language, I don’t think. But we meet online and share information and share things for our class. Assignments are easier and faster—I drop it in my folder and know it’s there on Dropbox. It’s corrected and returned right away. The communication is faster and we’re learning faster."

Read the full article (125kb Adobe PDF).

What types of technology do you use on your campus to share information with other students or colleagues?