Using the right digital tools enables you as a language tutor to considerably improve the quality of lessons and reduce the time you spend preparing for them. While there are some tools that many tutors default to, there are also digital tools that you may not have considered yet.
Two typical tools that remote language tutors already use today are Google Docs and the chat functionality of the messengers. While these tools cover the basic needs, there are tools out there that can help you better collaborate with your students, run faster research, and make learning for your students fun and effective.
Here is a list of 9 tools that will save you tons of time and keep your students engaged.
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Tools for Lesson Sharing
Miro is a digital whiteboard for remote collaboration. It lets you share any type of content and do things that are not always possible on Google Docs – such as play with different shapes, move objects across the board and even draw things.
You could use it to explain complex grammar concepts. For example, if you need to draw a timeline to explain a tense or organize the content in a way other than a single-column flow. Some tutors use it to create exercises. It’s also great for group learning.
The downside of Miro is that the free plan lets you only have 3 boards. What you could do is use one board for your templates and another for activities with your students, but then you’d have to delete the lesson content every time.
Here is a quick intro to MIro:
Google jamboard is a way simpler alternative to Miro. It offers fewer and more limited functionalities, but it does cover the basic needs of moving things around, playing with shapes, drawing on the board, and highlighting things. Also, it’s free of charge and you don’t have to delete anything - simply add a new board and continue your lessons.
Here is a video showing some of the ways you could use Jamboard in remote tutoring:
If you are using Google Docs, but are not happy with the way it organizes content and files, then OneNote, a free, award-winning note-taking app from Microsoft might be a tool you should test. Instead of having a single file that stores all the lessons, you can create a new note for each lesson, access them quickly, and have some whiteboard-like features on top.
OneNote lets you view your lessons as a list and quickly jump from lesson to lesson when you need it. It also uses boxes to insert any type of content inside a file and a cool thing is that you can insert boxes anywhere on the canvas. So you can organize your content in columns, pockets of content, and more.
Here is a video showing some of the ways of using OneNote for remote teaching:
Tools for your students
Heylama is a free innovative flashcard app for language learners. Powered by our proprietary spaced repetition algorithm, it drives vocabulary into the long term and active memory. To make sure learners never stop learning, we built an addictive Telegram coach that makes practicing vocabulary easy and fun. Learners can add their own vocabulary (for example, from live classes with you) or copy other learners' decks or individual vocabulary cards. Thousands of learners are using Heylama daily to build their speaking confidence and a rich vocabulary base.
If you need to translate articles or pieces of content into any of the major languages to create exercises or help your students engage with the material in various ways, then using DeepL would come in very handy. Students in turn can translate articles, subtitles or entire books with DeepL.
Compared to Google Translate, DeepL is as precise as machine translation can get. From my experience, it’s probably better by the factor of 5 to 10. Very often you won’t have to make any changes to the translated text. DeepL also has an installable version that you can call with an easy shortcut.
Here is a video that compares Google Translate and DeepL:
If you teach less advanced students and also explain grammar concepts to them, then conjugations must be one of the topics that come up quite often. Especially, if the language you teach is one of those languages with endless variations of endings and forms such as German or Russian. That said, even English has quite a few forms.
In that case, Reverso Conjugator is the tool you and your students need. Type a word, hit the button, get all available conjugations and forms of that word in an instant. Super helpful if you are creating grammar tables, exercises, or lists. Here is an example with the German word “laufen”:
Awesome Screenshot and Screen Recorder
If you want to quickly take a screenshot of a website, record your screen or even yourself AND be able to copy or share it in a few clicks, then the Awesome Screenshot and Screen Recorder Chrome plugin is what you need.
It’s a free tool that makes it simple to make high-definition screenshots and record your screen. Moreover, it lets you edit the screenshots/videos and then either download them or share them with someone right from the app.
Feedly is a tool that helps discover fresh and relevant content on any topic. Although its primary use case is to curate the abundance of the content on the Internet for you to only read what you are interested in, you can use Feedly to quickly find articles or blog posts on topics that interest your students. Instead of searching for something by googling on the news websites, Feedly takes care of it for you.
This is especially helpful for your advanced students. Let’s say that they are interested in Psychology. You’d simply create a Psychology feed, add sources either manually or from Feedly recommendations and get a daily overview of the top articles on the subject. The language of the news source doesn’t matter. Next time you need to find something on psychology for your students, you’ll be able to go into the app and choose among numerous fresh and latest psychology-related articles.
Have you ever wondered why some students stop learning with you or why others stay with you for months? Have you asked yourself about how you could perhaps improve your teaching style and approach but you don’t get a lot of actionable and honest feedback? Platforms like iTalki or Preply make it somewhat hard to get regular actionable feedback.
Perhaps Typeform could help you. It’s a free survey tool that lets you create beautiful surveys that you can then send to your students. Collect feedback either anonymously or openly. Your data will be stored in the same place and over time you’ll start getting interesting and actionable insights about what to change and what to keep doing.
Here is an explainer video about TypeForm:
Keep it simple
There are dozens of tools that you could potentially use in your teaching process, but not all of them would make the process reasonably better. Also, juggling too many tools makes it arduous. The challenge is that you’ll never know which one is helpful unless you give it a try. So go ahead and test the tools above and see for yourself what works for you.
Sherzod from Heylama