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Foreign Language Units for All Proficiency Levels Review by Melissa Theberge

Carl Falsgraf, Editor
International Society for Technology in Education
1710 Rhode Island Ave NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20036

Blending foreign language learning and technology can be a challenge for schools of all kinds. This book offers an in-depth study of its importance as well as implementation options at different grade levels and in different languages. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the umbrella for the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETSS) which developed this resource. Their technology standards are listed in the introductory pages, followed by performance indicators for grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 which serve as useful goals to set for technology use in all classrooms, including homeschool classrooms.

The book has two major components following the introduction. The first focuses on theory and research, and the second applies the theory and research into twelve fully developed lesson plans for specific ages and languages.

The theory and research component of the book includes five chapters by different authors, all addressing language and technology and laying the groundwork for the lesson plans that will follow. The first chapter explains how students must experience authentic and contextualized language as a means to actual proficiency. In the second chapter, the foreign language standards are explained, including tables for integrating these standards to the technology standards of NETSS. Assessment is covered in the third chapter, and several computer-based assessment options are suggested. The fourth chapter discusses the internet and the access it provides to distance learning, satellite, interactive video, and keypals (technology-based penpals) as a vehicle for language learning through global interaction. Finally, the fifth chapter explains how to complete a successful web search in order to facilitate language learning, such as finding newspapers, menus, and brochures in the target language.

The second major component of the book is dedicated to twelve lesson plans developed by different groups of educators. What makes the lessons unique is that they are content-based, which means new academic content, such as science and history, is taught in a second language in order to increase proficiency in that language. Technology is central to the lessons, and most of the lessons would meet the standards of multiple disciplines in addition to the foreign language in which they are taught.

Each lesson includes similar components: an overview of the target age range and time frame needed, objectives and goals, description and connection to other disciplines, technology connections, and additional resources. Step-by-step teaching guides are included for each day of the lesson, plus tips and expansion activity ideas. In addition, a CD is included in the back of the book which includes classroom handouts, overhead masters, assessments, scoring rubrics, and in some cases, extended lesson plan instructions, depending on the author of the lesson. When applicable, the CD files include hyperlinks for easy internet access.

The twelve lessons included in the book include three lessons for high school Spanish, focusing on physical and cultural geography; three lessons for high school or college Japanese, focusing on world history; two lessons for high school French, focusing on world history and culture studies; two lessons for middle school French, focusing on cultural studies and music; one lesson for middle school Spanish, focusing on world literature; and one lesson for elementary Spanish, focusing on science and language arts.

Because it covers various grade levels and three languages, the audience for this book is unique and somewhat narrow, probably best suited for school district curriculum coordinators and foreign language departments. The academic research, technology standards, and performance indicators may be helpful to home educators who wish to align their studies carefully to these guidelines, but this book has limited use in a homeschool setting. I have bookmarked the few lesson plans that may apply to us in future language studies, but I do not find this book to be a practical resource for our homeschool, in general.

Product Review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2009