Digital productivity tools are those that maximize or extend students’ ability to create products and to problem-solve; they also “expand opportunities for expression” (Male, 1997, p. viii), which is an important principle for language learning. Productivity and creativity tools support students in constructing models, publishing, planning and organizing, mapping concepts, generating material, collecting data, and developing and presenting other creative works. Even in productions that do not use language per se, learners work through the language to create a product.
Examples of commonly used productivity tools include word processors, databases, spreadsheets, desktop publishers, graphics programs, web page creators, podcast development apps, and, in some instances, e-mail and other communications technologies. These technologies enable English language learners to choose their own content and provide templates and functions that scaffold their presentation of content. These tools do not make learners more creative or their products better, but some research shows that these tools can encourage learners to produce more and to use their creativity. The more creative output students produce, the more opportunities they have to learn.
Productivity tools also provide opportunities for teachers. All of the technologies mentioned, along with simple grading programs, worksheet- and puzzle-making software, and presentation packages, help teachers to create products to use in their classes and to improve their instructional processes. Teacher and student products and the results of their creative processes abound on the Internet. A review of some of the Web sites that contain such examples can inspire teachers and learners to integrate and use production and creativity tools in their teaching and learning. It must be noted, however, that merely using these tools does not result in language learning. Teachers must carefully plan and adapt activities and tasks so that they meet engagement principles and language learning goals.