Thursday, 29 January 2015

From tools to pedagogy: extending language learning with the Internet

In my previous two posts, I shared slides from a 90-minute Business English workshop given at Katedra Nyelviskola in Budapest on 24 January, 2015: "From Needs Analysis to Pecha Kucha".

Today, however, I'd like to share slides from a 60-minute talk I gave that same afternoon, dealing with the Internet and practical ways in which teachers can take advantage of its affordances for language learning. The slides are attached below:

Overall, the audience for the two sessions was less than for the two Business English workshops but was no less committed. There are certainly plenty of teachers out there who want to know more about this subject and would welcome practical tips.

In essence, I have advocated using Edmodo as a virtual classroom alongside the physical one. The tool has a definite role to play as a content management and course administration system, but if it is also used interactively it can resemble a "micro-blogging service" with teachers and learners alike sharing content and opinions. Facebook it may not be, but the interface is quite similar and can be conducive to sharing if the teacher takes the lead.

It is also possible to use Edmodo as a repository for "speaking homework" podcasts. Learners can record themselves using free tools such as Vocaroo or MyBrainshark, thereby extending communicative practice and feedback thereon significantly. This may work especially well if a speaking exam or formal presentation is in prospect - the learners' motivation to succeed and to take heed of feedback is obvious. Based on my teaching experiences so far, I have also added a list of "do's and don'ts" for speaking homework towards the end of the presentation, which I hope will be beneficial for readers.

Participants appeared to enjoy the session, but did raise one concern: that some adult learners might initially feel uneasy about recording themselves speaking in a foreign language. In my view, this is a potential problem for language educators to remain cognisant of, but we can still help learners visualise the benefits ("a future vision of themselves as an L2 speaker", as Dörnyei might put it) and introduce them to the technology in a series of "baby steps" if need be.

Overall, I think the benefits of using technology to promote online sharing and interaction can be many:

1) Communicative practice is extended;
2) Learners may be motivated to share for sharing's sake;
3) Interaction may be both meaningful and authentic;
4) Speaking homework can be set - valuably extending practice for learners;
5) Feedback can be personalised - quite possibly, more than before.

Anyhow, that's what I said on Saturday. How about you? Are you using ICT with your students, or would you like to do more than you're doing already? If so, I'd be pleased to hear from you.

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