Reflection on “From Parrots to Puppet Masters: Fostering Creative and Authentic Language Use with Online Tools”

This article addressed some problems in the learning of foreign language in Southeast Asia and reported some tools to resolve these issues. According to the author, the major problems of language learning in SE Asia are as follows: (1) the force-fed pedagogy, (2) teaching to the exam, (3) imitative practices. He claimed that “”An unhappy outcome is that many students spend the bulk of their education memorizing formulae easily parroted in examinations, but inadequate for life outside the classroom.”.

In order to address these issues, the author introduced four different online tools. 1. Targeting Oral Fluency: Asynchronous Voice Messaging; 2. Online Data-driven Language Learning; 3. Providing Feedback on Student Writing; 4. Online Role Plays. The Targeting Oral Fluency aims to facilitate and motivate L2 speech by enabling students to hold conversations via the Web and by making it easy for teachers to promote and monitor these conversations. In this tool, students are required to hold and record conversations regularly while teachers leave recorded messages to encourage discussions or elicit responses that focus on specific skills such as pronunciation. The Online Data-driven Language Learning is base on a discovery-based lexical lookup tool called Word Neighbors, which “allows the lookup of immediate contexts of any selected word or phrase in various large corpora from a right-mouse button context menu”. There are several activities proofreading activities, gap fill activity and crossword activity. Providing Feedback on Student Writing is conducted with an extensive online grammar/writing guide and a marking tool which teachers can use to insert comments in student’s electronic documents. The process is as follows: Process: 1. Students submits their documents to a Web page   “drop box” 2.Teachers retrieve the documents, insert pre-defined and individualized comments. 3. Teachers  post the documents back to the Web. Online Role Plays aims at motivating the creative use of language through the scripting of spoken English. It made use of a scripting tool which allows students to create animated role plays online. Students manipulate characters on screen, assign them movements and gestures and write dialogue that is synthesized and “spoken” by the characters, whose mouths move to match the dialogue.

     As a student coming from mainland China, I have experienced the problems author addressed in this article. I believe the approaches he provided can help to solve these problems and enhance the learning autonomy among students. These tools allow students and teachers take advantage of the new technologies and encourage independent and life-long learning of different levels of learners. However, these tools require cut-edge technologies which are not applicable in some rural areas and it alter the traditional role of teachers, which will become a challenge in many learning contexts.

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Reflection on Mobile Learning: Small devices, Big Issues

This article mainly aims at addressing central issues of what is mobile learning and how can it be designed and evaluated. The authors discussed how learning contexts are made through interaction and how portable and pervasive technologies can support the efficiency of conversations based on a theory of mobile learning as “the processes of coming to know through conversations across multiple contexts amongst people and personal interactive technologies”. This article is well structured with introduction, theoretical framework, implementation, evaluation and examples of mobile learning.

Firstly, the authors presented an introduction of what is mobile learning. They claimed that the early definitions of mobile learning were based on the application of mobile technology, which neglected the wider context of learning as part of a mobile lifestyle. In order to take the combined experience into mobile learning, they summarized that the “mobile” in mobile learning refers to several aspects: mobility in physical space, mobility of technology, mobility in conceptual space, mobility in social space and learning dispersed over time. Therefore, the study of mobile learning is to investigate how the learners’ mobility increased by technology can benefit the process of gaining new knowledge, skills and experience.

Secondly, the authors put forward the theoretical basis of mobile learning. They claimed that the object of the analysis is mobility and contexts and the aim is to examine how learning flows across locations, time, topics and technologies. Thus, they characterized mobile learning as the process of getting to know through exploration and conversation across multiple contexts, among people and interactive technologies.

Thirdly, the authors introduced the process of how to design mobile learning.  They claimed that the designing of mobile learning activities should be driven by specific learning objectives and the central task of mobile learning is to promote enriching conversations within and across contexts. In addition, they presented the five critical success factors for designing mobile learning according to Naismith and Corlett (2006): access to technology, ownership, connectivity, integration and institutional support.

Fourthly, the authors demonstrated an evaluation of mobile learning, including the challenges, new tools and methods, and a framework. Four kinds of challenges are identified by the authors. They are unpredictability of the context of use, of the learning process, of the mode of use and looking beyond the “wow” effect. What’s more, a three level of framework consisted of “micro level, meso level and macro level” was presented to assess usability, educational effectiveness and overall impact of the mobile learning project.

Finally, the authors presented three successful exemplars to show the effectiveness of mobile learning activities.

In my opinion, mobile learning approach possesses a number of advantages. In the first place, it expanded the space of learning. The mobile learning allows students to disseminate information and complete course work even when they far away from computers and internet connections, which overcome the limitation of wired devices. In addition, mobile devices are more affordable than other devices, which will make mobile learning more acceptable among different levels of learners. However, the approach of mobile learning still has some limitations. One main problem is the technological issues, such as weak mobile phone signals, limited screen size, the battery autonomy and the compatibility of different software. What’s more, the mobile learning also meets some logistical problems, including the difficulties of starting up the project, orienting the communities and ensuring the security of the devices. In my learning experience, I haven’t got a chance to experience a well designed mobile learning project so far. But I have downloaded various kinds of apps to learn English by myself. It is really a wonderful experience that you can learn whenever and wherever you want as long as you have a mobile phone at hand.

One problem I noticed about mobile learning is its availability in mainland China. It has been found that most mobile learning projects were conducted in developed areas such as Europe and most developing countries are lack of this kind of experience. I think it is a big challenge to conduct mobile learning in mainland China as the wireless internet is not as applicable as other places and the fee of 3G technology service is much more higher than developed areas. In addition, mobile learning put more emphasizes on students’ learning autonomy and requires teacher to change their leading role in learning process to a guiding role, which is much more difficult for the students and teachers in mainland China as the teacher-oriented learning style is deep rooted in the mind of Chinese people. It is expected that the government of China and other developing countries could spend more effort on developing mobile technologies and more projects could be conducted in the school contexts of these areas.

Reflection on “Fostering learner autonomy in English for science: A collaborative digital video project in a technological learning environment”

In this article, Christophe and Lindsay reported a qualitative research they conducted in order to find out whether technological learning environment promote autonomous language learning or not. It reports on the syllabus design and implementation of English for Science and Technology course at an English-medium university in Hong Kong. The major task of the course is a student-centered digital video project, which incorporates various new technologies and Wed 2.0 platforms. The authors aimed to identify the potentials of such a technological learning environment on fostering the learner autonomy of language.

Firstly, the authors reviewed some recent contributions to the emergence of new literacy practices in online contexts and some studies on new literacy practices. They illustrated the concept of learner autonomy. It was pointed out that learner autonomy includes a capacity and willingness to act independently, which is regarded as a very important goal in language learning. As a result, appropriate learner-autonomy-based pedagogies such as project-based learning should be adopted. They also elaborated the idea of new technologies and new literacy practices in language learning, which laid a solid foundation for the research.

Then, the implementation of the project is clearly introduced. The project was divided into three main stages, namely, planning stage, filming and editing stage, sharing stage. In the planning stage, students learned to use a range of Internet search engines ad online databases to find and evaluate information relevant to their experiment. In the filming and editing stage, students learned to use DV cameras to capture images and movies, and editing software to add narration, music, text, and simple effects. In the sharing stage, students uploaded their videos to the course YouTube channel.

In the finding part, the authors presented six main themes emerging from the data that showed how the digital video project and associated technological learning environment promote some form of leaner autonomy. They are: motivation, authenticity, independent learning, teamwork, peer-teaching and reflection on learning. It was found that this approach is highly motivational for the students as they thought it is a novel, fun, challenging, meaningful and authentic task. In addition, they had opportunities to independently practice and use English as well as independently search for information related to the content and creation of the video. What’s more, the project has certain requirements to encourage teamwork and ample chances for peer teaching, which enhanced the collaborative learning ability of the students. Finally, the reflection on learning allowed the students to celebrate their accomplishments and helped them gain a degree of reflective detachment.

Finally, the authors concluded that the study show how it is possible to design a technological learning environment in order to foster leaner autonomy and presented some reasons why the students invested in the project them conducted.

In my opinion, the approach described in this paper is very much appreciated and enjoyed among college students. To begin with, as technology has become the major theme of the contemporary society, it is of great significance for the students to learn to use various new technological skills and incorporate them into the learning process.In addition, the efficiency on new technologies can make the students more capable of their future work in the job market and develop their potentials in various aspects. Furthermore, this approach transformed the traditional way of learning as students can present their work to not only the classmates but the world at large, which will undoubted motivate  their autonomy and encourage their confidence on learning.  However, there are still some potential problems regarding to this approach. Although computer classrooms and internet connections has well  established in almost all the schools through Hong Kong, there are still many places in the world lack of these equipments. So this approach is not very suitable in the less developed areas. In addition, this approach requires the students to master knowledge of various software and applications, which is a challenge for the teachers as they must grasp these knowledge well enough  to guide and help the students. 

My reflection on the commentary “You are not studying, you are just…”

This is an article written by Ravi Purushotma, who is a postgraduate student in Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In order to figure out how to combine education with entertainment effectively, he examined how content originally designed for entertainment purposes can be modified to provide natural and context rich language learning environments, without sacrificing its entertainment value. Besides, he provided an abundance of feasible examples of how to incorporate entertainment into education. According to the author, the “edutainment” can be done through various ways, such as video games, music, etc.

At first, he presents an example of using a video game called The Sims to stimulate language study. The Sims is a strategic, life simulation video game, where the players need to control the daily routine of a virtual family by doing different types of tasks. Drawing on his own experience of German learning experiences, the author suggests that the game can be modified to create a bilingual environment in order to facilitate the language study of the students. Secondly, the development of modern massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) is the most successful innovation in game design to develop the language efficiency of students as it provided an opportunity of chatting online with native speakers. Thirdly, the technology of speech recognition is also a practice of “edutainment” where students are asked to participate in stimulated conversations to choose from possible responses presented. Fourthly, students can make use of some typing tutor online such as The Online Spanish Tutorial and about.com German, which offers a lot of model sentences for students to memorize and learn more about the grammars. Lastly, music can also be used as a medium of engaging students in the studies. Students can learn language through the lyrics of the songs and have a better understanding of the foreign country.

Although it will undoubtedly stimulate the motivation of language learning by incorporating entertainment in the education, it still brings many challenges to the language instructors. Due to the variety and characteristic of applications, the teachers have to take many aspects into account when they decide which way should be used to teach. They must have a better understanding of the level and proficiency of the students. Besides, as every student has his own interest and taste, it is very difficult to make up an “edutainment” lesson suit everyone’s preference. Besides, some activities require student’s ability to identify the relevant studying materials and have a good control of themselves, which is a problem should be taken into consideration by language instructors who intend to apply this approach.

 

 

Online learning: My experience

Online learning: My experience

     It was not until when I went to college did I realize that internet could be such a resourceful and helpful learning tool. I am majoring in English during my undergraduate study and most of our courses were delivered in a computer room, where each student has a computer to manipulate independently. The teacher can demonstrate the teaching content to all of us with only a click of the mouse. Online learning enriches our learning experience as the teacher can present some film clip, interesting video clip and English songs to us through the internet. In addition, some exercises and quizzes were also conducted online so that we can know the results as soon as we finish the test, which makes learning more efficient and attractive. Later, I get to know many English learning websites during my class and they started my journey of learning online on my own. The websites I utilized most commonly is http://www.putclub.com/, which has a large number of updated learning materials. It focuses on training listening skills and provides the news record of VOA and BBC together with transcript and translation for every netizen. I used to listening some pieces of news on this website everyday, which contributes much to my improvement of listening skills. Then, the website developed a new system of dictation online, with which you can write down what you hear when you listen to the news on a web page and then compare it with the original transcript and find out your mistake instantly. I am fascinated by the new experience of learning online and suddenly realized the amazing advantages that technology brings to us. When I was in my last year of undergraduate study, I am lucky to get an intern job opportunity in the Putclub Company. It surprised me that this website is operated only in a small office room with a dozen of staff and all the news are listened, recorded and translated by three people. It triggered me to think that there may be some mistakes of what I learned before because the staff is not so professional as I expected. This might be a disadvantage of learning online as some materials published in the internet need less editing and proofreading process compared to what published in the books. As a result, when we learning online, we should be more cautious and hold a dialectic perspective. However, there are still some authoritative websites from which we can benefit a lot of our self language learning process, such as http://www.economist.com/, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/, http://www.bbc.com/. Although these news websites do not contain easy links and accessible systems of training ourselves, we can browse them to enrich our vocabulary and learn authentic expressions as well as broaden our horizons and stay in touch with the whole world. As smart phone become more and more popular, many useful apps came into birth, which gives me a whole new way of online learning. I can read and listening to the news whenever and wherever I want as long as my phone is connected with the internet.

     This is my first time of setting up a blog. I’m sure it will give me more opportunities of learning online and lead to my academic progress and improvement. First of all, blogging provided us a platform of sharing our thoughts and communicating with others. We can obtain some new ideas and different views from the comments after we post our own thoughts. We can communicate, discuss and debate with our classmates over the same topic. As the thinking ability of each individual is limited, from this kind of brainstorming, we can gain significant development of our thinking and cognitive ability. In addition, we can follow many experts and professionals in each academic circle through blog, which gives us an opportunity of intimate contact with someone in high position. We can learn the newly research results and profound thoughts and ideas from their post and leave a comment. If lucky enough, we may get a feedback and have a discussion with these people, which will undoubtedly trigger our mind and level up our confidence. What is more, what people post through a blog can be categorized and tagged, which makes it easier for us to find the relevant academic posts and articles we want. It provided another convenient and effective channel of learning online.

     It is a good habit of keeping a blog and recording our learning life regularly. I will write down my learning experiences of the course “new literacy & language learning during this semester as well as share my own academic interests and ideas of English learning and teaching in this blog. I am looking forward to brainstorm with all of you. 🙂