Issuu on Google+

Universidad de la Sabana Bogotรก, D.C., Colombia

Learning a language with technology New Learning Environments Josefina Quintero

12


A MODEL TO FOLLOW FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

Learning networks-communities

Project development (synchronous and asychronous)

Usability and tools

Blended learning (F2F and online)

Objecrives vs. Context

Learner's profile

The above figure refers to the elements of a possible teaching and learning model can contain when delivering a blended course for adult learners. I thought of a group of undergraduate students aged 18 to 30 years old who want to learn English by using the benefits technology brings to learning. This group has a B1 language level of proficiency (CEFR) and is composed by individuals with different professional backgrounds. That is to say, careers of engineering and humanities. They are a dynamic group who share good relationships and like discussion about life. My idea of building a training program which may lead learners to acquire and use the English language more meaningfully was thought as e-learning. Meaning, the combination of a course and knowledge management (Siemens, 2004). The first thing to do is to follow certain steps required to succeed in the achievement of the objectives of this course. Therefore, planning is the first action taken to start organizing the content and independent vs. collaborative work (Obringer, L, 2001). As mentioned in the learner’s profile, this course will keep the topics students have to develop based on their compulsory material for class as it is their coursebook. Moreover,


the course will be divided into small sections (Units) for students to serve as a guide after each unit which might be covered in F2F sessions. Some of the activities that students will find in the virtual space will be understood as a reinforcement first, and later as the chance to share with others through cooperative and collaborative work. That is to say, an update to integrate the learner’s knowledge or what they already know. To disseminate this kind of information I thought of a platform (Moodle) to upload all the tasks students have to read and prepare as written assignments and as concurrence in forums, and a web page. In order to make attractive the info uploaded multimedia will be incorporated as a source with both visual and aural elements plus the textual elements. Communication among students has transcended the borders of unimodal and textual forms that used to be before this 21 st century. That is the reason to introduce constantly the benefits multimedia can bring for the success or better development of a course (New Media consortium, 2005). It is relevant to mention here that to develop the critical digital communication in this group of students, they need to reach a certain level of literacy to succeed in their fields. Bamford (2003) suggested teachers to prepare the next generation to excel through the provision of digital tools a learner may find along their professional development. Deepen the above mentioned, the author makes emphasis on the fact that this new literacy requires readers to have critical thinking to interact and produce meaningful participation. Nonetheless, as Mark Pegrum and Bamford (2003) mentioned in their research studies, teachers need a certain level of technology literacy or code literacy to get through the virtual world successfully. This course will be built under the constructivism approach within blended formats. I have considered that as these learners are starting their professional studies and many of them will “move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime (Siemens, 2004), their experience and knowledge can happen on both formal and informal learning spaces. Consequently, their learning may occur through different settings such as communities of practice, personal network, and through completion of work-based tasks as this is what young people are living nowadays. And here the opportunity to help students with tools which can provide them with effective manners to share their experiences and interact with other people and build knowledge at the same time.


Students will be working sometimes independently and some other among their communities which may arise from the class they attend F2F. The independent and collaborative work students will be developing may be supported by the use of laptops and other mobile devices students can bring into the classroom and out of it. While some of them will be taking notes and having access to materials already uploaded in the LMS created for this group, other might be searching for information through search engines (Google) to solve or expand content proposed in any task the teacher may ask for. Ken A. Graetz (2006) in “The psychology of learning environments” states that “when all students in a classroom can access networked tools simultaneously, many collaborative learning and just-in-time teaching opportunities emerge.” To achieve that purpose, as a teacher, I should have the ability to engage the group in the learning process through activities in which they feel they are using the language for their own needs and related to their real environments. Doing so, the classroom will become an “interactive and collaborative environment where knowledge is created actively by students” (Ken A. Graetz, 2006). Moreover, the type of learning spaces are of great importance for the student to keep in touch with knowledge. Something important about learning spaces is that they might meet some needs such as those of availability and accessibility of materials to all students at anytime, so that “learning can continue outside the formal classroom” (Brown, M, 2005)

To allow every single student to get engaged, this group of learners will be about 15 members to avoid lower student’s achievement. Then, the classroom also should be transformed with a more catching aspect for the new generation. I would keep a circled or diamond shape chair-position in which the instructor will seem to be one more classmate. Of course, ubiquitous computing and the Internet might be present to hold content and information required by planned activities (Siemens, 2006). Another visual aspect to change in the classroom might be the chalkboard into a screen on one side of the classroom just in case students needed to show the class something of interest. Students will also work with technology in project-based tasks which will give them the capacity to express themselves and develop essential 21st century skills (Bamford, 2003).


That means, students will have the time to show what they are learning through professional-looking video projects, podcasts, and media-rich reports. Those activities developed in the classroom and/or online will be rated as short-time activities. They have to be varied that the learner can shift from one to another related and still keep engaged with the class itself. In addition, those resources planned for students to work in F2F and online may be well structured to get back as a synchronous/asynchronous collaborative work. To be sure that these materials will work for learning the teacher will work with some techniques such as role-play, interviews, problem-solving and some others which bring the content into a different mode to make students enjoy what they are/were supposed to do before meeting synchronously. Furthermore, the necessity to tie activities to the goals of the course/program –what the students should be able to do once the course is over that they couldn’t do before (Siemens, 2004). Another way I have thought to deliver the material and activities is through a Web page. Anyway, using LMS or a web page what is important is to present students the content into manageable chunks each pointing to the objectives of the course. The content will be placed by modules relating to topics they are working in their course book. Those modules have to allow students to navigate without difficulty to encourage them to continue the next step up to the end of the project (Siemens, 2006). For instance, my web page will have tabs named for easy navigation. By clicking on them students will get varied presentation of information. Some activities formats will include pre, while, and post- sections. Each section will start with an audio or video clip related to the objectives to reach at the end of the course. Then, the information displayed should help the students to create their own product which can be first done individually and then shared to come up with a collaborative final work. Feedback can come in the form of quizzes to reinforce learning. As soon as students’ tasks are done, feedback will be immediate. This can be provided by using Whiteboard and platforms or via Skype tool. Nonetheless, this group of students may meet some criteria to profit the technology in and outside the classroom. To accomplish that criteria the LMS platform and its content should allow students to have easy access and proficiency with the system. Also, the LMS


should give students confidence when using it that it can generate satisfaction and valuable experiences due to its easiness in their manipulation. To sum up, the presence and application of technology may change the learning environments students are surrounded by. Also, it can provide with effective engagement if well planned and in agreement with objectives to reach a final product. The path to effective learning might reflect the learner’s learning styles and social needs together. Formal and informal learning environments should allow the access to information and this latter be transformed into knowledge.


References

Bamford,

A.

(2003)

The

Visual

Literacy

White Paper http://www.adobe.com/uk/education/pdf/adobe_visual_literacy_paper.pdf E-resource]

Brown, M. (2005) Learning Spaces. In Educating the Net Generation, Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub7101b.pdf [Available as EResource] Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. (Eds.) (2006). Learning Spaces. Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/learningspaces Chapter 4 and Chapter 5. [Available as E-Resource] Obringer, Lee Ann (2001) "The Psychology of Learning." Retrieved from http://communication.howstuffworks.com/elearning2.htm [Available as Eresources] Obringer, Lee Ann (2001) "Interactive and Motivating E-learning." Retrieved from http://communication.howstuffworks.com/elearning3.htm [Available as E-resources] Siemens, G. (2004) Categories of E-learning. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/elearningcategories.htm [Available as Eresources] Siemens, G. (2006) Learning in Context. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2006/05/08/learning-in-context/ [Available as Eresources] Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved online from: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm


Learning a language with technology