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The efficacy of technology in the classroom: Web authoring as a pedagogical tool State of the Art The number of Blogs has increased substantially over the course of the last few years: 10 million in 2005 to 70 million in 2007. 120,000 new Blogs created daily. Blogs are free, easy to use, and offer a wide-range of user-generated items; this explains their use in educational contexts. Other technological tools are increasingly appearing in the classroom as well, many without solid pedagogical support. Discussion boards, Instant messaging, chat, WIKIs, RSS, Social Networking tools, etc. Theoretical considerations As with any pedagogical tool, it is extremely important that the use of technology in the FL classroom be directly connected to sound SLA theory. How do the students benefit from the technology? How can we improve the tools we are using to help us in the classroom? In order to use technology correctly as a pedagogical tool, we need to examine not only which areas of acquisition will receive the most benefit from the technology but also which types of technology can be the most beneficial. Which of the four skills can benefit the most from technology? Reading? Writing? Speaking? Listening? Which tools can be applied and which cannot? Pedagogical considerations Instructors must invest time and flexibility into their background research in order to ensure that any web-authoring tool is integrated effectively and appropriately in the classroom. Deciding on a Blog Application •It is important to remember that the goal of any Blog is to engage the student in creative, multimedia application of language Learner levels must be accommodated, especially in the their language classroom. learning experience. •The Review of Weblog Applications (2008) lists nine features that are important in a Blog used for educational purposes: • Interface should be user-friendly and attractive. be HTML should be replaced by an easy-to-use text Appropriate assessment mustuse ofestablished in order to hold students • The accountable for their work. editor. Process Approach Post-Process Approach •A non-linear placed on theand moderate comments •Emphasis able to access focuses of critical • Learners should beis approach that receptionon the with ease.“challenges and complexity” that can be used feedback from the instructor of the writing process The nature of the tool must effectively by the advance should offer many options for design.so that it • Itbe determined instudent(s). itself . (profiling, friends • Many social features should be included be used within to of •Goodare the comment functions on Blogs and the students toolswellcan matches the particular needstag •Is “inherently adaptable” andas the course lists, searching, etc.) CALL the use of CALL. examples of as that therefore relevant objectives. •Two particular frameworks within this other Blogs • Learners should be able to access/subscribe to approach: email. ease. of interest withapproach can be combined with the Process •This •Expressivism: supports creative thinking and Approach to post and share multimedia items. • It should be easy to provide for a better evaluation of in a emphasizes fluency; will occur inherently • Learners should be able to perform spell checks. Blog. student production. • It should be a web-based service that does not charge any •Cognitivism: supports higher-order skills and fees. tends to be a more problem-solving approach. Web-authoring tools First-generation Web Asynchronous tools Email: allows for one-to-one exchange and supports multimedia. Discussion boards: allow for group exchange and encourage “universal participation” (Godwin-Jones, 2003). Synchronous tools Chat sessions: promote rapid response and group interaction as well as the ability to analyze the language at a later time. Instant messaging: have high communicative value because of voice/video options and the support of multimedia. Web-authoring tools Second-generation Web Blogs Can be individual or collaborative and offers self- publishing options which can “encourage ownership and responsibility on the part of the students” (Godwin-Jones, 2003). Drawback is that posts are organized by time and not content. RSS and Wiki Allow automatic updates to students in regards to services to which they have subscribed. Are intensely collaborative and allow for recognition of work (i.e. changes are connected to the user). Other web-based tools Social networks Function Links groups of individuals together through common interests or goals. Common Features Allow for writing, reading and commenting. Maintain permalinks and tag entries, as well as trackback and pingback. Allow syndication and RSS feeds so that readers may subscribe to the content. Support mash-up, or the sharing of content between various web-based platforms. Effective implementation BLOGS: Documenting Target Culture Travel (Lomicka) Documenting target culture travel (in a Blog, for example) can be effective in helping students gain useful cultural perspectives. The goal can vary depending on the language of delivery: when written in the target language, can be used as a sort of “virtual immersion” for students who are unable to travel abroad. when written in the native language, can be used to showcase the students’ exploits abroad to family and friends. Effective implementation BLOGS: Encouraging Critical Thinking (Ducate) Reading and writing in the target language can give students a unique cultural perspective, even when they are unable to travel abroad. Teachers can encourage students to use critical thinking skills when examining the target culture by having them research and write about other target language Blogs individually or as a group. Students in the Ducate project reported to have improved in two main areas: vocabulary acquisition reading comprehension Effective implementation BLOGS: Bringing Culture into the Classroom (Alizadeh) A Blog can be used as a means of introducing students to cultural information that they might not be able to get during normal classroom time. Since the internet is filled with authentic and current cultural material, a Blog can be effective in delivering such content to the students with minimal effort on their part. Updating the Blog consistently also allows the instructor to stay current on cultural issues from the target culture. Alizadeh reported that many of her students maintained contact with the Blog even after the class ended. Blogs of Interest La Vedette The New Tanuki Blog Abroad Blog Exchange Consider the following questions as we critique the Blogs above: Are posts made in the L1 or in the L2? What role does this play in the effectiveness of the Blog? What other components do you notice on the Blog that might play a role in its success or failure in the classroom? Is it evident from the Blog how the successful completion of language objectives is being assessed or evaluated? More discussion questions What sorts of things can we do to modify a Blog so that it is level-appropriate? What kind of things could we include in a Blog that might increase its success as a pedagogical tool? Which kind of Blog do you feel would be most appropriate at the language level you teach? Why? Based on the readings, which of the four skills do you think could benefit the most from Blogging? Based on your conversations with your group Chat members, in what kinds of ways could we successfully implement a Blog in a classroom? Project ideas? In your opinion, how pedagogically useful are the other social networking tools mentioned? Is it possible to connect them to sound theory or not? How?
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