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Information & Communication Technology

by Darron Board - part 3

Collaborative learning

According to Jonassen, collaborative learning sees communities of learners exploiting, modelling and observing the contributions of other learners (1995 pp 60-61). Email and IRC (chat) sites also offer students the opportunity for active, constructive and collaborative learning through participation in an “authentic” interactive environment (Chun 1994, p.17). In using these two applications, students have the opportunity to see the language being produced and used by the other participants, and in this way they have access to a large variety of linguistic models, which can be exploited by them and accommodated intro the prior knowledge they have. One example of how this can be done is to publish students’ work on a special web site as part of the institution’s main web site, as has been done in other British Council operations e.g. in Milan. Another example is using the Email for project work where students can email students in other countries for information. Classroom curricular exchanges around the world can now take place. In such collaborations, two or more classes and their teachers decide on a joint curriculum project and then exchange materials, research information, and final reports. Often such exchanges involve considerable cultural exploration and result in the production of a web site. This kind of collaboration is motivating for learners because of its multimedia capability and intercultural element.

Practical considerations using the WWW for lesson planning

The WWW in particular offers many opportunities for learners to practice different skills, which are be summarised in the table below:

accessing authentic reading materials
reference
bank of different types of texts and genres
student publishing
communication projects
language exercises
research projects

However, the WWW does not provide a totally exhaustive supply of information, and in some cases there are more useful thematic areas than others. Another important point to remember when considering the practicalities of the WWW is that information changes quickly and not everything published on the WWW comes from a reliable source. Hence the teacher should consider the accuracy and validity of information before deciding to exploit it. Eastment (1998) suggests the following areas as suitable for exploitation:

- news/topicality

- foreign culture

- popular culture (films, music, showbusiness)

- general areas (e.g. environment, crime, food, health, travel, offbeat)

Bearing in mind all that has been discussed so far, certain key elements are necessary for the successful exploitation of the WWW at organisation, teacher and student levels. In my own context, syllabus integration is essential, as this is the aim of introducing ICT into the institution. This is to avoid the “stand alone” status that CALL has had over the past 10 years (e.g. by using a “lab” to teach English, making CALL a “special” activity, etc). It also requires support and training from the institution, something that is not always available at all institutions. In my own context training is being provided and teachers are being “upgraded” to provide this support to others. All teachers need web literacy skills, and knowledge of the resources available, the methodology to be used as well as the ability to assess the students’ needs. Naturally, teachers need the confidence to look at the WWW and find suitable materials to exploit. The learners will develop their skimming and scanning skills (on-screen) and note-taking skills. Parts of web-based lessons include editing and presentation stages and these have to be developed by them as well.

Conclusion

It can be seen that fully integrated ICT in the classroom will affect the teaching and learning practice in the classroom and modify the teacher and learner roles. Teachers of the future will however have the very same functions they have now, but will make use of technology to five students a richer and more stimulating environment. Using the Internet allows learners to communicate more and develop their reading, writing and listening skills. Garrett (1991) points out that,

the use of the computer does not constitute a method, rather it is a medium in which a variety of methods, approaches and pedagogical philosophies may be implemented (p. 75)

Hence we can argue that the effectiveness of using CALL in the EFL classroom does not depend on which medium is used but rather in how it is put to use. The integration of ICT is the first real step to making effective use of computers in the classroom, and requires therefore teachers and learners to take up the challenge.

Bibliography

Jorge.Z.L (1996):
“The role of the Online Instructor/Facilitator”. Online document

Bosch, M. (1996):
Autonomía y Aprendizaje de Lenguas. Barcelona: Editorial Graó

Chun, D. M. (1994):
“Using computer networking to facilitate the acquisition of interactive competence”. System 22/1: 17-31

Dickinson, G (1987):
Self-Instruction in Language Learning. Cambridge: CUP

Eastment, D. (1998):
“Quality sites on the World Wide Web. Where are the good web pages?”. MET 7/2: 68-78

Fernandes, J. Ellis, G. & Sinclair, B. (1990):
“Learner training: Learning how to learn”. In Crookall, D & Oxford, R (eds.) Simluation, Gaming and Language Learning. Boston, MA.: Newbury House/Heinle & Heinle

Garrett, N. (1991):
“Technology in the service of language learning: trends and issues”. The Modern Language Journal 75/1: 74-101

Gasso, E (1998):
Computer Assisted Language Learning. Australian Institute

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Holec, H (ed.) (1988):
Autonomy and Self-Directed Learning. Present Fields of Application. Project 2 Council of Europe

Jonassen, D.H. (1995):
“Supporting communities of learners with technology. A vision for integrating technology with learning in schools”. Educational Technology July-August: 60-63

Odkstddon, M (1988):
Approaches to Self-Assessment in Foreign Language Learning. London: Pergamon Press

Rohfeld, R.W. & Hiemstra, R. (1995):
“Moderating discussions in the electronic classroom”. In Berge, Z. & Collins, M., Computer Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom. 3: 91-104- Cresskill NJ: Hampton Press

Ruschoff, B. (1993):
“Language learning and information technology: State of the Art”. Calico Journal 10/3: 5-17

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Wenden, A. & Rubin, J (1987):
Learner Strategies in Language Learning. London: Prentice Hall

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