I've been experimenting with how to make our student blogs more interactive, communicative and personal while at the same time increasing our proficiency levels in Spanish. I thought the use of gadgets and widgets might help. Widgets are little pieces of code that run small programs on your website. As for blogs, they are often housed in the sidebars. Widgets can run on any website while gadgets (widgets by definition) are created just for their own sites. For example, Google Gadgets are for their site like Blogger.
Given so many choices out there, many students first chose PacMan or Donkey Kong to add to their site. Not downplaying the choice of a game and lack of español, I then encouraged maps of Buenos Aires, weather reports, calendarios, translator programs, horoscopes, Vokis, newspapers and sports reports-ALL IN SPANISH. It's amazing the variety of choices! All students found something of interest. A favorite, keeping in mind we live in the mountains of Colorado, was the Open Snow widget with over twenty language choices including Spanish from Spain or Latin America.
Students interpreted (Standard 1.2 for the WL teachers out there) authentic language but most importantly, their blogs are becoming more of an expression of who they are rather than just place for them to post their assignments. The variety of widgets on each blog brought more interest to each other's blogs which increased communication between the students. Language such as How did you do that? and What do I do now? was practiced quite a bit (Standard 1.1).
As I look forward to adding more interactive hooks to our blogs, I think a playlists of their favorite songs with the Spotify widget is our next move. Next, a Soundcloud widget for oral language samples and our class stories and would be a fantastic way to share with parents and administration how well the students are learning.
Adding a widget is simple. I just added two to the right on this blog. Many options are included in your blogging platform which makes it easy.
If you are looking for something more specific (target language widgets), find the widget, look for words GET EMBED CODE, choose the TEXT Widget or Gadget under Appearances in your blog and paste the EMBED CODE. Voilà!