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.
Zhong, Q.M. Norton, H. (2018). Educational Affordances of an Asynchronous Online Discussion Forum for Language Learners. TESL-EJ, 22 (3).
This study asks the question, “What affordances does an asynchronous discussion board offer to second language learners ?” It describes some of the potential of this type of discussion, including providing time to reflect and research before responding and providing a non-threatening and collaborative learning environment. Although literature on this topic exists in fields other than second language acquisition, the authors intend for this study to fill the gap that exists on its beneficial affordances in SLA. A literature review is provided on Affordance Theory and the use of asynchronous online discussion.
The authors identify four themes (Co-constructive collaborative e-learning environment, Group affiliations, Critical thinking and Learner autonomy) and sub-themes that emerged from the peer-moderated discussion forum. Although the study took place in a joint business degree articulation between a New Zealand and Chinese institution, many of the sub-themes would be familiar to settlement language programs, e.g., greet team members by name, apologize, agree and disagree, introduce new or different topics. The study reports high levels of postings that exceeded course requirements, but suggests further research with a larger sample size is needed to determine which factors caused the motivation behind this.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2018). Chasing the butterfly effect: Informal language learning online as a complex system. Language Learning & Technology, 22(2), 8–27
This intriguing and thought provoking article provides a comprehensive review of how the multiple opportunities for students to engage in informal language learning, outside of the classroom or institutional settings, using digital technologies and social media platforms has the potential to impact second-language (L2) development. The author discusses the efficacy of a complexity- theory perspective in developing our understanding of the many variables at play in second language learning, and that of a learning systems perspective in recognizing the classroom, and the formal language learning environment are only one “learning space” in a learners “personal learning system” as they pursue second-language learning.
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
María Dolores Castrillo, Elena Martín-Monje & Elena Bárcena Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain. 10th International Conference Mobile Learning 2014.
This report on a six-week study with 85 volunteers explores the use of WhatsApp, an instant messaging application for smart phones in a second language writing class. The application allows mobile-based chatting and collaboration in the negotiation of meaning in the student volunteers’ exchanges. WhatsApp is a tool the students already used on their phones and allowed the researchers to explore its potential for collaborative language learning for “distance learners on the move”.
The report describes the initial lack of activity on the application and the dramatic change in the quantity of messages within a short time. The researchers provide information on average numbers of messages and patterns of use by day and time. As far as the aim to look at WhatsApp’s usefulness in negotiating meaning, there are numerous extracts that show how students provided feedback to each other and collaborated to clarify and correct each other’s writing. They did this both in relation to the tasks they were working on and to ask each other about syntax, all the while building group solidarity. The study showed that the students, who all spoke the same first language, used the target language almost exclusively in their written exchanges. Some of the other observations include use of paralinguistic features that are available on the application.
The report details the changes in the teacher’s role from being the main corrector of written errors to one of guide to the various topics to be discussed and types of discourse. She did more eliciting of awareness of language than correction of student mistakes.
Retrievable from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED557212
Lai, C. & Zheng, D. (2017) Self-directed use of mobile devices for language learning beyond the classroom. ReCALL p.1-20
This article is based on a study conducted with language students in a university in Hong Kong, exploring their self-directed use of mobile devices for language learning outside of the classroom. The study revealed that the students used mobile devices to personalize their learning, rather than for communication, and that their use was determined by their own understanding of the affordances of the devices. How the students used mobile devices for language learning was also determined by their habits of use of these devices in their daily lives, and by the types of learning tasks they were engaged in. The authors suggest that these factors, based on a deeper understanding how students use mobile devices, should be considered when designing mobile learning activities. The finding of this study echo those of Trinder, R. (2017). Informal and deliberate learning with new technologies. ELT Journal, 71(4),402-412 (see annotation below) and underline the importance of learning how mobile devices are being used by students in daily life to shape the development of appropriate mobile language learning activities
Available for purchase ( $25.00 USD) at:
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.
Jurate Matulioniene, Boston ESOL Academy, UK; Daiva Pundziuviene Bytautas Magnus University, Lithuania; The Potential of Blended ESOL Courses: Attitudes and Practices Among the UK Immigrants. Sustainable Multilingualism. Volume 10, Issue 1 (May 2017)
This research study looks at a small group of recent immigrants’ experience and attitudes to learning and opportunities and barriers to speaking English in the United Kingdom. The study provides background suggesting that language competences may be an important factor that influences immigrants’ progress in their new country. Their findings include information on the individuals’ use of information and communication technologies (ICT) on a personal level, at work or for learning. These could include mobile and smart phones, email, digital cameras, scanners, social network etc.
The study examines these immigrants’ willingness to take part in blended language training and the barriers they see to doing that. The study asked if they would be interested in taking part in blended English classes that originated from their home countries, thus providing the support of their first language and at the same time help them keep the connection with their native countries.
They also present important considerations such as ensuring participants in such courses have the technical proficiency required to participate effectively in a blended course.
Retrievable from: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/sm.2017.10.issue-1/sm-2017-0006/sm-2017-0006.xml
Trinder, R. (2017). Informal and deliberate learning with new technologies. ELT Journal, 71(4),402-412.
This article is based on an empirical study exploring Austrian university students’ perceptions and practices related to the usefulness of online informal and incidental learning of English when they are using digital technologies in their daily lives. By and large the students indicated a preference for media (films and television), email, online dictionaries as being most useful for their language learning.
Although the study was conducted in a university setting the findings are applicable to a range of language learning settings. Given the ubiquity of digital technologies it is likely that students are accessing information and using technology for communication in daily life. As the author concludes, knowing more about how language students actually use digital technologies to support their learning outside the classroom can help instructors to incorporate the preferred technologies in instruction, where feasible, to validate informal language learning and to support students to evaluate digital tools to support their language learning outside the classroom.
The NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment was developed by the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium. Through a set of online and interactive assessments users can identify skill gaps in Basic Computer Use, Internet, Windows Operating System, Email, Word Processing/ Microsoft Word, Spreadsheets/ Excel, and Social Media.
The NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment is widely used in the U.S. and by some organizations in Canada and South Africa. As of March 2016, over 150,000 assessments had been completed. Although the NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment was developed for the adult basic education community it is appropriate for ESL learners – the developers note that, “A mid-level English-speaking ability is needed to complete the assessments.”
Retrievable from: https://www.digitalliteracyassessment.org/
Harris, K. Integrating Digital Literacy Into English Language Instruction: Issue Brief [nd].
Digital Literacy, the ability to use digital devices and to participate in our digital world is now recognized as a fundamental skill in our increasingly digital world. This issue brief from the U.S. is part of the LINCS ESL Pro suite of resources on Integrating Digital Literacy into English Language Instruction.
This short article provides an overview of digital literacy within the context of English language teaching and learning, highlighting its critical importance for students and providing a straightforward introduction to four aspects of digital literacy: (1) using basic digital skills, (2) creating and communicating information, (3) finding and evaluating information, and (4) solving problems in technology-rich environments. In addition the article provides practical advice on how digital literacy activities can be included in English language instruction.
Retrievable from: https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/ELL_Digital_Literacy_508.pdf
Gilbert, J. (2014). Exploring ESL Students’ Perceptions of Their Digital Reading Skills. Ed.D. University of Nottingham.
A doctoral thesis exploring ESL students’ understandings of their own digital reading skills. The study included three sources of data: reading workshops created for the participants; interviews with participants; discussions with participants and analysis of participants’ reading journals. The study concludes that while the participants had the capacity to randomly search the internet they lack the information literacy skills to productively research and evaluate information online. The study also found that the participants’ reading strategies varied when engaging with print and web-based text. Finally the research points to the need to consider teaching digital literacy skills in tandem with language instruction and to provide instructors and instructors-in-training with the means to develop robust digital skills to enable them to support students to develop these skills alongside their language learning.
Retrievable from: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/14080/1/Gilbert_Re-formated_Thesis_Draft.pdf
CALICO Monograph Series Volume 12. (2014). Digital Literacies in Foreign and Second Language Education.
This volume from CALICO is made up of 12 chapters that look at digital literacy in language learning from many different perspectives. Among others, there is a challenge to Prensky’s characterization of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, a description of a survey-driven study of the use of digital tools for language teaching and learning, a framework that proposes how to close the digital divide, and an exploration of the affordances of digital social reading using the example of an open source tool called eComma. In this last example, in chapter 9, author Carl Blyth looks at some of the ways that e-readers can enable users to annotate a text and share their annotations with others. This new practice, called digital social reading, is similar to the way that readers of print text can write in the margins or meet as a book club to share their thoughts. Blyth presents and then addresses some of the opposition to this practice using examples from four case studies.
Retrievable from: https://calico.org/bookfiles/pdfs/DigitalLiteracies.pdf
National Adult Literacy Agency.(2014). English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Blended Learning Project Report.
The report describes the findings from a research project carried out in Ireland in 2013 over a ten-week period with 41 learners. Learners in the ESOL program used a web site www.writeon.ie in conjunction with face to face classes. The study documents how they used this blended approach. The report provides a description of the two learning methods, a profile of the learners involved, and highlights the benefits to the various stakeholders of a blended approach for adult ESOL learners. The Write On site is open and accessible to users.
NALA acknowledges that there is not one agreed-upon definition of blended learning and sets out the one they have adopted: “Blended learning is about facilitating learning using a variety of approaches, best determined by the needs of the learner and the capability of the provider. It may or may not involve computers. It is simply a way of creatively matching different approaches to learners, content and contexts.”
Retrievable from: https://www.nala.ie/resources/english-speakers-other-languages-esol-blended-learning-project-report
Bow Valley College. (2015). Digital Literacy: An Essential Skill for ESL literacy Learners.
A short and lively account of an innovative “Laptop Lending” program in the Bridge Program for ESL learners (ages 19-24) at Bow Valley College in Calgary. Through this program learners are each given a laptop to use while registered in the program and are encouraged and supported to use the laptops to develop digital literacy skills and to pursue their language learning using the online platform, Desire2Learn.
Instructors in the Bridge program are committed to helping learners to develop essential digital literacy skills to increase their chances of success in further education and in the world of work. As one of the instructors says, “Being able to read and write also means being able to read and write online, there’s a lot more involved in it than just simply pen and paper.”
In this article the instructors provide an overview of the background to the laptop lending program, their experiences with the program and they share some of the successes they have witnessed as a result of the program.
Retrievable from: https://centre.bowvalleycollege.ca/blog/english-language-learning/digital-literacy-essential-skill-esl-literacy-learners
Fahy, P., & Sturm, M. (2012). Learning English with Modern Technology Student Survey Results. New Media Language Training.
Results of an online survey of 176 language students (98.8% enrolled in LINC classes and 1.2% enrolled in ESL classes) in Ontario, and a related questionnaire by teachers in the surveyed programs conducted as part of the evaluation of the LearnIT2Teach project. The majority reported that they use portable digital devices, e.g., laptops and mobile phones. Most use these devices in the home, in the language lab and in local libraries. The major uses are email (90%) and staying connected with friends and family. Respondents thought that technology is helpful for learning English. Ninety-three percent of the students thought that newcomers should use technology to learn English; over half of the students surveyed reported a preference for a blended learning approach which they described as online learning with the support of a teacher. Barriers to technology use for English language learning, identified by the respondents, include lack of connectivity, poor English skills or lack of computer skills. The authors conclude that these results point to the need to ensure that students are comfortable in an online environment, and can profit from a blended learning approach. They recommend that programs leverage existing technology, integrate social elements since the majority of students use technology to stay connected and that funders and programs collaborate to remove accessibility and connectivity barriers.
Retrievable from: http://learnit2teach.ca/wpnew/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/LearningEnglishWithModernTechnology-19Aug2012.pdf
Allan, J. (2013). New LearnIT2Teach Learner Support Features for Blended Learning. Contact Magazine, November 2013(26-30).
This 2013 article provides an update on resources available to federally funded LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) adult settlement language programs in Ontario and a number of other Canadian provinces from the LearnIT2teach Project which began in 2010. It outlines new help that is available to learners in blended courses and what is available to instructors and administrators. It also describes just-in-time help for learners. An appendix in the article provides definitions for terms and thumbnail descriptions of key resources.
Retrievable from: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/publications/contact/ContactFall2013.pdf
Stracke, E. (2007b). A road to understanding: A qualitative study into why learners drop out of a blended language learning (BLL) environment. ReCALL, 19(01), 57–78.
The paper reports on the reasons that a small, highly motivated group of students disliked a blended learning class enough to drop out within a few weeks and explores what is needed to avoid this happening. Although this paper reports on only three students, the reasons they dropped out are discussed elsewhere in this bibliography and can be seen to reveal fundamental issues that programs need to be aware of when implementing blended language learning initiatives. The reasons identified by the students for dropping out of the class included lack of support, e.g., guidance, sequencing, review by a teacher; prior beliefs about learning, e.g., the need for printed materials, and learning styles out of synch with the teaching style of the course; lack of connection or integration between the selfstudy portion and the classroom; difficulty and dislike working with the computer for one participant who didn’t realize ahead of time that the course was blended and an inability to relate to the computer as a medium for language learning. Stracke concludes by suggesting that more research is needed to understand why individual students like or dislike such a course and how to ensure that all students receive the support they need to succeed in similar language learning environments.
Available for purchase (USD $30.00 at: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=691524
Do motivation tactics work in blended learning environments?: TheARCS model approach. Nehmet Akif Ocak and Murat Akçayir. International Journal of Social Sciences and Education, 2013 Vol. 3 Issue 4.