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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Pictolang

by Dr. Michael R. Shaughnessy
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Apr 03, 2014 by World Languages Editorial Board
Overview: Pictolang contains the Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon (CAPL) for 16 commonly (and some lesser commonly) taught languages, including ESL. This vocabulary and culture drill and practice site contains searchable banks of photos for world language instructors along with three vocabulary and culture training games: the Visual Word Trainer, the Picture Match and Word match games and the Analyst game. In 2011 it received the ACTFL/Cengage Learning Faculty Development Award for Excellence in Foreign Language Instruction using Technology with IALLT.The main purpose in each of these activities is to reinforce the language learner's cultural knowledge and context specific vocabulary.
Learning Goals: The activities included on the Pictolang site support vocabulary retention and expansion, which in turn support a student's ability to read, write,comprehend and speak the target language.
Target Student Population: High school and college level students from rank beginner to advanced.It could also be used as a language learning supplement by individuals on their own, independent of academic settings.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Previous knowledge of the vocabulary is not necessary to play the activities on Pictolang. By simply playing the activities themselves, students may learn the vocabulary and will gain cultural knowledge by viewing the photos. The activities are well-suited to be used as an introductory or as a review activity.
Type of Material: Pictolang is both a resource site with downloadable images for instructors and vocabulary and culture training games for students. This is a website containing activities based on context specific vocabulary (ie, shopping)and their visual representations. A link to a free online database of photos is also included.
Recommended Uses: Pictolang, as well as the CAPL database, can be used to introduce vocabulary to students or to review vocabulary already introduced. It is an excellent way to introduce vocabulary in context, as well as to familiarize students with culturally specific items such as brand names, street signs, billboards and items that are specific to certain countries. While students may learn the vocabulary for how to say these things, Pictolang and the CAPL database allow them to see what they actually look like. This site is an excellent tool for language teachers at the secondary level and in higher education. It could also be used as a language learning supplement by students on their own.
Technical Requirements: Internet access

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: Pictolang has clear instructions on navigating around the site, visible as you go. Before planning lessons using Pictolang, be sure to click 'About' to view the PowerPoint "Using CAPL in the Classroom." It contains suggestions on ways to use the site to teach all skills. The website Pictolang is appealing to students because it presents them with the opportunity to play games in order to learn vocabulary. This is an engaging tool that can be used in or outside of class to supplement student learning.
Concerns: While there is a broad range of photos included, some contexts and languages have more photos than others. Depending on the context one is looking for, it may require them to do further research to find more photos. In general, however, the site has a robust collection of material that should be helpful to language educators at some point in their teaching.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: Students' interest will be piqued by being able to see photos of the words they are studying taken in the countries of their target language. Furthermore, the opportunity to play games using vocabulary is enticing to many students.The images are authentic, presented in context and have been designed for WL instructors. Images include cultural objects from the fields of art and history, very useful for advanced and specialty courses. Pictures are a very effective means of teaching language if one is to avoid a translation approach. The expression "A picture is worth a thousand words." is appropriate here in that understanding is complete without the interference of another language. The activities are culturally correct and engaging enough to promote a reasonable amount of time on task.
Concerns: Although the website is generally intuitive, some students may have trouble navigating it the first time around. Teachers can alleviate this by showing them how to navigate the website and by providing a brief review of the vocabulary involved.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Pictolang is straightforward and easy to use. Instructors can use it in a classroom setting on a SMARTBOARD or have students load it on their mobile devices. There is a free Pictolang mobile app in the Itunes Store.
Concerns: None

Other Issues and Comments: It would be nice to see Pictolang in more languages as time progresses.