Enhancing Beginners’ Second language learning through an informal online environment

Chakowa, J. (2018). Enhancing Beginners’ Second language learning through an informal online environment. Journal of Educators Online, 15 (1).

This research report describes the use of four online tools, VoiceThread ; Padlet ;  Voki and Quizlet  to encourage beginning language learners to communicate and collaborate in the target language.

It offers a very clear and comprehensive description of how these tools were used, including a detailed account of student experience and reaction to using the tools and how they supported motivation, participation and persistence.

Although context for this study is a French beginner’s course at Monash University in Australia it provides very useful insights into how the use of multiple online tools in combination can be used to support student motivation and participation even at early levels of language learning, no matter the target language.

Overall the results of the study reveal several key features that will be useful to language instructors as they work to incorporate online tools and to encourage participation and motivation for their students. These include:

  • the importance of face-to-face orientation to the online environment and tools that will be used
  • introducing students to each other so they feel connected before they begin to work online
  • using multiple online tools, in combination so that all students have options to participate
  • strategies to maintain motivation (including providing blended learning, i.e., a combination of face-to-face and online activities)
  • focus on pedagogy rather than technology
  • activities that are not overly focused on linguistic accuracy, but include elements of cultural awareness so that students of all language learning levels can be included and encouraged.

Retrievable from:


“I do which the question”: Students’ innovative use of technology resources in the language classroom

Dooly, M. (2018). “I do which the question”: Students’ innovative use of technology resources in the language classroom. Language Learning & Technology, 22(1), 184–217.

Although this study isn’t about adults in settlement language programs, it contains a number of examples in the Discussion section that are  relevant to any learning situation in which adults are working in groups with technology to learn and practise their communication skills. This study of two middle school classes in Spain and Sweden working together on English language projects using technology provides some good analysis  of what can lead to students branching out on their own instead of following task instructions, not working in the collaborative way the teacher intended because of top-down task instructions, seating arrangements and classroom setup that are frustrating for group work and discussion, being able to wait for others to finish and then copy their answers, and a lack of student accountability for the assignments. The detailed descriptions of the technology used, the project questions asked, the student responses are a fascinating look at a classroom using technology. in addition, the author describes how the students managed to engage in genuine communication between the two classrooms using tools that were outside what were assigned to them.

Retrievable from:  http://www.lltjournal.org/item/3024

The Cambridge Guide to Blended Learning for Language Teaching

The Cambridge Guide to Blended Learning for Language Teaching. Edited by Michael McCarthy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK. 2016.

This book is divided into five sections: Connecting (including Second Language Acquisition) Theories and Blended Learning, Implications for Teaching, Rethinking Learner Interaction, Case Studies and the Future of Blended Learning.

One of the case studies describes a language teacher education program that gradually transitioned from a traditional format to a blended one and moved from a behaviourist model to a more constructivist one in the process.

Available for purchase ($70.00 CDN) from Cambridge University Press.