Google translate is the language learner equivalent of a calculator.
1. Flip how you think
We've all heard of flipping the classroom, which actually means flipping how the class is delivered. We came to the conclusion that for some new technologies, we would need to flip what we thought about them. When blackboards were first introduced, they were frowned upon by teachers and professors as, at that time, it was believed that information was best transmitted from the mouth to pencil. Therefore, when a teacher started to write information on a blackboard, many saw this as a move against teaching best practices.
In the training session we discussed how Google Translate could actually benefit learners. At first it was difficult to see it as a use, until however, someone pointed out that Google Translate was essentially a calculator for language students. Mathematics students have been making use of calculators for many years now, and I'm sure that at first they were seen as affecting the learning process for the worse.
2. Assess it
One of the issues raised with Google Translate is over dependence. Whereas it may be used by beginner learners to support them in the early stages, there is a need to ween more proficient students off it. Assessment is a key aspect of all learning as it ultimately decides what constitutes as learning. Therefore, including Google Translate in the assessment rubrics may show learners that it is a learning tool. The rubrics below illustrates how it could be integrated into the assessment process.
3. Know the learners
Ultimately we have to consider why a learner may use Google Translate in the first place. Of course we could claim that the student is lazy; however, much of the time it may simply be because the learner is not ready for the task that has been set. It is important to get feedback from learners on which tasks are at the right level to discover whether it is too easy, or beyond their current ability. When the latter is the case, learners will have no option but to seek the help of an external tool, especially when they have no other support network.
The sharing session proved to be mind opening for all the participants, as it helped us all to see Google Translate in a new light. No longer is it the source of badly written sentences, as we now have a better idea of how to integrate it into classroom activities and assess it.
If you have used Google Translate in your classroom, or include it in your assessment, I'd love to hear from you!