Technology makes language learning fun

Alpharetta High French teacher Nathalie Ettzevoglou was recently honored for her use of technology in the classroom.
Alpharetta High French teacher Nathalie Ettzevoglou was recently honored for her use of technology in the classroom.

Learning a foreign language isn’t all memorization and repetition in Nathalie Ettzevoglou’s Alpharetta High classroom. The teacher who leads five levels of French relies heavily on her love of gaming to make lessons fun.

“One of my primary areas of personal interest is incorporating gamification in the classroom,” she said. “I try to adapt gaming concepts. That doesn’t always mean I have to use technology, but I do.”

Incorporating that mix of technology and gaming that keeps students engaged recently won Ettzevoglou the 2020 Award for Excellence for Foreign Language Instruction Using Technology, an honor bestowed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Her passion for bringing technology into the classroom began years ago when she was teaching college students in Connecticut.

“When blogs were cool, that was where I started,” she said. “I had students creating blogs; I used wikis to connect students to folks all over the world. And I’ve kept doing it. Technology is my comfort zone. I throw myself into it, even if it’s a brand new tool.”

Among her favorite sites are Nearpod, Flipgrid, Wakelet, Gimkit and Spiral. But she also encourages students to play with technology to figure out what works best.

“I often present them with an idea for a topic I have in mind then tell them to pick a platform and give them options to play around with,” she said. “A lot of times, students tell me this didn’t work, or let’s try this next time, so I’ve learned a lot from them.”

In the three years Ettzevoglou has taught at Alpharetta, she’s found games such as Pictionary and Goose Chase keep kids’ attention, especially in a remote classroom.

“It’s completely possible to do virtually,” she said. “We laugh at the cheesy game music, and there’s a fun competitiveness. The aspect of playing is as important as the hard, serious stuff.”

Skype has also been a favorite, allowing students to connect in real-time to native French speakers around the globe.

“It’s an authentic way to experience the culture,” she said. “And it pushes students to use the language skills they’ve acquired. I also use funny memes, cute animals and storytelling to keep people talking about what’s big on Netflix or what’s bothering them.”

Sophomore Alyssa Khalil noted that even after classes went online, Ettzevoglou found ways to keep the momentum.

“She always came up with fun and creative things to do; it wasn’t just memorizing content,” she said. “We had opportunities to listen, speak and write. We used Wakelet to upload audio recordings and images. We did games online together that helped us feel like we were still in class, even though we had fewer chances to get together.”

Conversing and sharing ideas through technology has had another impact in her classes, said Ettzevoglou. “It’s brought in a personal aspect, and as strange as it is to say, even though I have not met about 90% of my students, I feel like I know them.”

Information about Alpharetta High is online at fultonschools.org/alpharettahs.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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