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FE28 and G9 Developing and evaluating effective e-learning resources with Further Education (FE) English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers Tim Morgan, Barking College

The Word Spell e-learning resource is a template which uses the "Look-CoverWrite-Check" (LCWC) spelling strategy. The tutor can add their own spellings to the programme and in doing so create personalised learning materials for their students. It is the direct result of collaboration between the Barking College ESOL department and the Content Workshop. In this report I will outline the stages which led to its development. The second part will look at how this e-learning resource has been used in the classroom. The Content Workshop was conceived in 2002. Although e-learning materials did exist they were not always appropriate to the teachers' requirements. The teachers had to adapt themselves to the materials, not the other way around. The concept behind the Content Workshop is that the teacher and the developer can work together to create both flexible and relevant e-learning resources. This collaboration was based around the knowledge that the teacher understands the pedagogy and the developer the technology. The cycle of collaboration – dialogue The cycle of collaboration varies depending on the resource and the people involved, however all are initiated through a dialogue between teacher and developer. During a meeting with Kitt, the ESOL Curriculum team leader, I was shown a BBC online spelling resource which some of the ESOL lecturers were using in class. It used the 'look, say, cover, write and check' technique used to help pupils and students with spelling. It is a method which has been established for some time and has traditionally been done as a paper-based activity. Many elearning resources have their roots in paper-based activities. Tutors liked the pedagogy of the programme but felt limited by the finite vocabulary to choose from. We assessed the pros and cons of the online resource and decided what was needed was a template which followed the same methodology as the BBC resource but allowed the tutors to put in their own vocabulary. Production I started to develop the template, meeting with Kitt to evaluate work in progress. This would include design and any technical issues. Promotion Once we were both happy with the results, Kitt invited me to present the template to the whole department. Part Two: Evaluation The next section describes this often overlooked but is a crucial part of the development process. As the developer, I was interested in observing how it might be integrated into a lesson. Student and teacher feedback would help me evaluate its strengths in terms of usability and pedagogy.

For two consecutive days, Andrew Fisher, an ESOL lecturer at Barking College, incorporated the LCWC technique into his Entry Level 3 teaching sessions. For the first, he took a more traditional approach. After studying the vocabulary, the words are covered up, the student then writes them down (based on visual or aural prompts.) In the second session, he incorporated the Word Spell template. This programme displays the word, then covers it and prompts the student to type the word into the text field. The computer then compares the student’s answer to the correct spelling provided by the teacher, and marks it accordingly. Session 1 Towards the end of the lesson, Andrew used the LCWC session as a reinforcement activity. By now the class were familiar with particular words and their pronunciation. They had also discussed rules specific to the vocabulary. He then covered them up, leaving only the images on screen. While the students wrote down the words on paper, Andrew walked around the class to check that learning had occurred. He then got the students to spell out the words either as a group or individually. The whole class were engaged and genuinely enjoyed the session. The students would call out the letters and often mistakes were attributed to the mispronunciation of letters (mixing up i and e for example) rather than poor spelling. This approach offered:     Picture, word and sound association. Opportunity to practice pronunciation. Participation and engagement with the teacher and fellow students. Testing of students' spelling

Incorporating the Word Spell template into the lesson The second session focused on the Word Spell e-learning resource. The Smart Board now displayed the Word Spell template with the previous day's vocabulary. The class were asked to read out the list of words. They were then asked to sit at their own PCs, follow the instructions and complete the exercise. The students proceeded at their own pace and Andrew was able to spend time with the weaker ones, communicating to the whole class where he felt appropriate. Students completed the exercise in between five and ten minutes. Most revisited it a second time. People finished at different times so extension activities are necessary. These might include additional Word Spell resources. The weaker students, rather than getting frustrated and giving up, persevered and completed the exercise. It should be noted that the two sessions represented very different styles of teaching and learning. The first was a traditional teacher controlled classroom environment where the words are covered up and the students call out their answers, in the second the students are working at their own pace on the computer using an e-learning resource on the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). As a non teacher observing Andrew's class, I found it fascinating that the same learning concept - LCWC - could be engaged in, in ways that radically changed the approach and process of learning and teaching. Feedback from the students  Generally everyone using the word spell template found it engaging. No one gave up or found it impossible to complete.

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One student suggested that the addition of audio would help him with the process of learning. The same student said he missed the classroom dynamics of the previous session, commenting "I like to speak", and finding the computer less engaging. The Word Spell spelling activity was being accessed on the VLE and when asked if anyone might access this again at a later date, everyone felt it was unlikely.

Feedback from Andrew    The template was simple to use. Although this is a beginners' class, none of the students had problems understanding what was required of them. He found that he didn't need to monitor his students as closely as when using the traditional approach, which becomes a real problem with larger numbers of students. He felt 10 entries was about the right number of words, giving the student the sense of "small victories", and that it is good way to introduce the technique of look, say, cover, write and check, to students who might adopt this way of learning vocabulary outside class. He felt the template was less suited to a class activity on the Smart board and more effective used by the student on his/her own PC. In using the programme the students are "locked in" to the activity and less easily distracted. He felt that the exercise lent itself to being a good teaching/learning tool but not as good to test the students’ spelling. For Andrew the real strength of the resource was "enough flexibility to make it valuable but simple enough and quick enough to create what you need in minimal time." It took Andrew a total of 15 minutes to create and upload the teaching resource to the college VLE. He felt that the benefit from this resource to his teaching made this length of time acceptable. The inclusion of sound, which would be of particular benefit to auditory learners, would increase the time it takes to create the resource by as much as ten minutes. This he felt could only be justified if it was reused and shared amongst other staff members. Although this is happening it is not wide spread and is an area the whole of the department are looking at changing.

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Advantages of the VLE One of the advantages of e-leaning resources is that they can be uploaded to a VLE and accessed 24/7 from a computer on or off campus. Although nobody from this session felt they would revisit the resource, Andrew said that a number of more advanced students had done so. This however was still a small percentage. Conclusion: A tool among many. Andrew has used this resource in his classes before. He says that the technique it uses is not one that he uses all that often but that is does have a role to play. The e-learning resource can be used as an extension exercise which does not require the presence of the teacher, however it becomes a lot richer through it. The teacher's role changes from a teacher controlled environment to one where the learners can work at their own pace. Students clearly benefit from a number of approaches to learning and the way elearning resources are used in class can have enormous influence on their impact.

Both approaches have their own language. One cannot say that one method is better than the other, but can look at the benefits of each approach and exploit either or both to their full potential. For Andrew the LCWC e-learning resource is "one tool among many." This effective partnership between teacher and developer resulted in the creation of a resource, that is not just used by the ESOL department at Barking College, but also Key Skills and all but one of the Test Bed primary and secondary schools. By creatinga resource that allows the teacher to create personalised resources we have been able to create an effective e-learning resource that has benefited numerous key stages and subject areas. The real winners of successful collaboration are the learners. Postscript As a result of the feedback, I will be adding the ability for the teacher to include sound. One of the benefits of the Word Spell template that Andrew identified was "enough flexibility to make it valuable but simple enough and quick enough to create what you need in minimal time." Despite the obvious advantages this feature offers, my feeling is the ten minutes or so it takes the teacher to record the sound will mean this feature is seldom used. The Word Spell template is one of many resources created by the Content Workshop. This particular resource can be located at: http://www.barkingcollege.ac.uk/cw/html/templates.htm


								
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