In 2016, a group of graduate students at Vanderbilt University identified a need on campus for a stronger language teaching community: While instructors were using technology in their classes to enhance language learning, they had few opportunities to share their digital pedagogy or learn how other teachers implemented such technology in their classes. To address this need, the graduate students created Language Panda: an online platform—completely free and accessible to all—through which teachers can share their digital projects for the language classroom and get new ideas from other instructors. Now, with an increasing number of instructors moving their in-person courses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finding and sharing ideas for meaningful and effective digital language teaching seems to be more relevant than ever. In this blog post, I would like to introduce Language Panda and share a few ways in which language instructors and graduate students can benefit from this platform as they become adjusted to the new circumstances.
Language Panda is a repository that allows instructors to search for a growing number of teaching projects employing digital tools in foreign-language classes. For example, in this project, Melanie Forehand used Edpuzzle to embed questions into a YouTube video in order to check her students’ listening comprehension. In another project, Oliver Knabe offered his students an opportunity to practice writing by having them compose fictional ads with Padlet. Language Panda includes many additional examples of how digital tools such as Flipgrid, SocialBook, and Pear Deck can enhance language teaching and learning. The teaching projects in this platform align with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) statement on the use of technology in the classroom. A learning objective is always the primary focus of the activity or the lesson, and the technology is meant to help students develop a skill or demonstrate what they have learned. Each project comes with a description in which the creator explains the language objective and how a certain digital tool allows him or her to reach that objective. The description also includes information about the teaching context for which the project was created, as well as any extra instructional materials that may be needed to carry out the activity or the lesson (e.g., worksheets). Instructors looking for new ideas to teach language in virtual settings can adapt the examples in Language Panda to the specific language and levels that they are teaching.
This platform also offers opportunities for instructors to show the broader community the digital work that they do in their classes. With nearly all teaching conferences currently being postponed, teachers can take advantage of Language Panda to reach out to the teaching community and share ideas of how they use technology in their classes. Language Panda welcomes project submissions from instructors (with or without university affiliation) of French, ESL, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. The platform also includes resources to support teachers as they prepare their submissions. There are sample lesson plans available to help teachers articulate their projects according to the ACTFL guidelines, as well as tutorials explaining all the steps in the submission process.
In addition to sharing ideas for online teaching and contributing to the teaching community, submitting a project to Language Panda is another way to develop one’s teaching portfolio. Instructors—especially graduate students entering the job market—can use their Panda projects as an additional means of displaying their teaching style. Contributors record a video with their project, allowing prospective employers to see them articulate their learning objectives, their approach to digital pedagogy, and how they implement digital tools in their classes. The platform also features the option to search by the creator’s name, which generates a list of tailored results that can be saved into the portfolio as additional evidence of teaching.