Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Summary of Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Learning

I read the following text:  Blake, Robert J. (2008). Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Learning. Georgetown University Press.

Unfortunately I didn't know that there was a newer edition!  I'll have to look for it another time when $$ is more plentiful.

What follows is a summary of the interesting and relevant points I appreciated as well as some ideas for possible implementation in teaching ESL, particularly online and/or with technology.

This is a book written for language instructors, not ESL specifically.  It was an interesting and quick read.

From the preface: The author draws comparisons to language competence and makes implicit reference to TPACK -- the language profession must move beyond a simple computer functional competence … toward both a critical competence (realizing what the tools are good for) and then, finally, a rhetorical competence (understanding how these tools will help transform the learning environment.”
In Chapter 2, “Web Pages in Service of L2 Learning,” the author advocates for Content-Based Learning in language instruction. The content need not be strictly academic but can include “any topic, them, or nonlanguage issue of interest or importance to the L2 learner.” This reminds me of how we often use reading and speaking activities in ESL that focus on meaning with less emphasis on form (grammatical structures) to get students to use language (to gain communicative competence) rather than simply learn about it (memorize grammar rules). I typically create my class content schedule each term as such – each week or so the materials are based on a theme with an end project/product produced by the students using technology – with grammar from content rather than grammar as content. In other words, the grammar I choose to teach and have students learn arises from the theme/content (for example: inventions – present and past passive). The author clearly outlines how to get started with a CBI lesson within a Web-based learning environment (pages 44 – 45).

In Chapter 4, the author discusses the benefits of Computer-Mediated Communication, especially that of the synchronous form (CMCS) – conducted online through synchronous Web conferencing tools, and provides suggestions for implementation in language instruction, some of which as follows (pp. 80 – 81):

·       Promote learning by doing (again - active learning)

·       Elaborate input through negotiations of meaning (do not simplify the linguistic material; do not rely solely on authentic texts).

·       Provide rich input in terms of quality, quantity, variety, genuineness, and relevancy.

·       Encourage inductive learning through implicit instruction.

·       Focus on form through meaning-focused tasks that allow L2 students to notice their linguistic gaps (via input flooding, input elaboration, input enhancement, corrective feedback on error, or input processing).

·       Provide negative feedback (e.g., recasts) in order to induce noticing.

·       Promote cooperative/collaborative learning.

Chapter 5, “Distance Learning for Languages: Does it Measure Up?,” includes information that I already know about online learning, such as that students and teachers must take on new roles, students have greater autonomy and therefore have to be more self-disciplined and have greater intrinsic motivation, the learning is more student-centered in that students have more control over access to materials and pace.  The chapter cites some research that indicates that students who learn a language online may develop literacy skills superior to those of students enrolled in traditional courses … but a lot depends on the learning environment, pedagogical materials, and tasks (in other words – the teacher!).

Finally, I like this quote from Chapter 6, “Putting it All Together”:

using technology never obviates the need for lesson planning and careful technical preparation, especially if the goal is to involve students as willing and active participants in the process (p. 134).
The author finishes the text by asserting that given the rapid pace of developments in CALL, instructors will have to accept the need to initiate their own self-directed learning to keep up – to keep their teaching with technology fresh and relevant.

No comments:

Post a Comment