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.

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Digital Literacies

Dudeney, Gavin, Nicky Hockly and Mark Pegrum. Digital Literacies. Harlow, England: Pearson, 2013.

This book is organized in four chapters:

  1. From research to implications – you’ll find a framework of digital literacies.
  2. From implications to application – you’ll find a digital activities grid, descriptions of activities and a number of worksheets. worksheets can slso be obtained online.
  3. From application to implementation – you’ll find information about how to integrate digital literacies in your teaching practice depending on your context and the syllabus you are working with.
  4. From implementation to research – you’ll find suggestions about how to continue your own learning about digital literacies as you work through challenges that arise. There is detailed description of building and maintaining a personal learning network (PLN).


Technology and the Four Skills

Blake, R. (2016). Technology and the four skills. Language Learning & Technology, 20(2), 129-142.

The report looks at technology-mediated task-based language learning’s ability to integrate the four skills while recognizing that evaluation of language proficiency has not reached the same level of complexity and  continues to evaluate the four skills in isolation.

The author provides examples of asynchronous and synchronous tools that provide opportunities to move between skills while working on tasks. One example of this is an app that transcribes learners’ speech into the second language; whenever there is an error in the written transcription, the learner knows their pronunciation has deviated from the norm and can analyze the transcription and correct the original utterance so that it transcribes correctly. The author emphasizes the importance of planning activities such as these, including pre-activities, making sure all students know what is expected of them, providing instructions for any digital tools required and balancing conflicting needs where necessary. He also presents some of the concerns about how computers and computer screens affect communications and urges readers to be aware of possible miscommunication that may occur.

Retrievable from: http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2016/blake.pdf

Power within blended language learning programs in Japan.

Gruba, P., & Hinkelman, D. (2010). Power within blended language learning programs in Japan. Language Learning & Technology, 16(2), 46–64.

This study focuses on EFL programs in two Japanese universities and examines and interprets issues that influenced their blended language learning environments: facility design (online vs. face-to-face), human resources and materials authoring (publisher-based vs teacher-based authorship) and software designs (proprietary ownership vs distributed teacher initiatives). Implications of the study suggest the concept of technology in blended environments needs to be expanded from a focus on integrating electronic tools to configuring classrooms. Second, blended learning is not only a descriptive category of technology use in education, but also an interventionist strategy of iterative change in integrating face-to-face techniques with computer-based techniques. This study reports on important questions for adult settlement language training programs, including facilities, educational resources, instructor time, and attitudes towards technology.

Retrievable from: http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2012/hinkelmangruba.pdf

Technology-enhanced blended language learning in an ESL class: A description of a model and an application of the Diffusion of Innovations theory.

Grgurovic, M. (2010). Technology-enhanced blended language learning in an ESL class: A description of a model and an application of the Diffusion of Innovations theory (Ph.D.). Iowa State University.

A doctoral thesis examining technology-enhanced blended learning in an ESL classroom through the lens of diffusion of innovations theory. Using a case study approach, producing both qualitative and quantitative data, the author concludes that the use of technology represented an innovation and that the stages of innovation were observed. The thesis provides useful data to support the effective planning and implementation of blended learning in an ESL setting.

Retrievable from: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2639&context=etd

Implementing E-Learning components with adult English language learners: Vital factors and lessons learned.

Coryell, J., & Chlup, D.T. (2007). Implementing E-Learning components with adult English language learners: Vital factors and lessons learned. Computer-assisted Language Learning, 20(3), 263 – 278.

This study explores how instructors and program directors in ESL or ESOL programs determine the right approach to choose blended elearning components for their programs and learners. The surveys and focus groups took place in 11 American states with 15 instructors and four program directors. The findings are grouped under four themes that encompass preparation, readiness, support for students and instructors, technology and funding.

Retrievable from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09588220701489333


Innovations in learning technologies for English language teaching.

Motteram, G. (Ed.). (2013). Innovations in learning technologies for English language teaching. The British Council.

Each chapter in this British Council publication includes case studies and a list of references. The educational settings include the primary and secondary sectors, and a number of settings for adult teaching. The editor includes both general language teaching and second language and ESL. Chapter 3: Technology and adult language teaching includes an ESOL case study in the UK, where there is substantial pressure and support to use technology and a blended approach in the program. Chapter 4: Technology integrated English for Specific Purposes lessons looks at real-life language, tasks and tools for professionals. This chapter describes the importance of context in choosing the right tools. It also includes information about mobile learning. Chapter 6 looks at technology enhanced assessment for English language teaching, including language portfolios, e-portfolios and open source tools. The editor concludes by discussing how technologies allow teachers to address more than immediate language needs and to engage students in ways that would have been difficult in the past. He also maintains the centrality of teachers in the classroom.

Retrievable from: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/C607%20Information%20and%20Communication_WEB%20ONLY_FINAL.pdf

Including Immigrants in Canadian Society: What Role do ICTs Play?

Caidi, N., C., Longford, G., Allard, D., & Dechief, D. (2007). Including Immigrants in Canadian Society: What Role do ICTs Play? – Draft Report (Submission to the Strategic Policy Research Directorate of Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC)). Faculty of Information Studies University of Toronto.

This report examines how and why immigrants to Canada make use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) as they move through the stages of immigration. The focus of the report is the public library sector, since public libraries offer a free and accessible venue for the use of ICTs for information gathering. However, the report points to the need to incorporate ICTs in federally funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) training to help immigrants to become more adept at using technologies in the settlement process generally and for employment and integration. In that context the report points to the importance of providing online/blended learning opportunities in settlement language programs as a means to enhance language and ICT skills.

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Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design and Implementation.

Tomlinson, B. & Whittaker C. (Eds.). (2013). Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design and Implementation. British Council.

This British Council publication includes 20 case studies illustrating a broad range of English language program designs in widespread geographic and educational settings: K-12, university, college, foreign language programs, ESP, EAP and business English. Although most of the case studies are outside the realm of settlement language training, chapter 20 addresses some very relevant issues, e.g., pay issues with part time instructors, cost of developing materials, etc. Each part of the book is followed with references and comments by the editor. In the conclusion, the co-editor addresses the need for help for designers and practitioners to answer the question of which blend provides the best basis for language learning and teaching in a specific situation.

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Sociocultural Theory, the L2 Writing Process, and Google Drive: Strange Bedfellows?

Sociocultural Theory, the L2 Writing Process,
and Google Drive: Strange Bedfellows?
Nikolay Slavkov
TESL Canada Journal Vol 32, No 2 (2015)
This article provides an overview of sociocultural theory, relates it to the process approach to writing and suggests that Google Drive can be an effective tool to enhance simultaneous engagement of learners and promote learning.   The author notes that word processing software has long been used in the process approach to writing, but that the affordances of Google Drive go beyond what is possible using word processing software alone. He describes Google Drive’s main features and outlines its  affordances for writing instruction. He provides sample course organization templates along with examples of tasks that take advantage of these affordances. These include the ability to create a document, store it, share it dynamically and collaborate in real time with other readers and instructors who can edit and comment on it either synchronously or asynchronously.

Designing evaluation into change management processes. In Managing Change in English Language Teaching: Lessons from Experience.

Kiely, R. (2012). Designing evaluation into change management processes. In Managing Change in English Language Teaching: Lessons from Experience. Edited by Christopher Tribble. London: British Council.

This chapter is part of a British Council book about the changing role of English in the world. It provides details from 21 international English Language Training projects. The book addresses issues surrounding the internationalization of English. Although it does not address settlement issues, its inclusion of a blended learning project does make it meaningful for the bibliography. In many language programs innovative projects today do involve the integration of technology. The introductory notes to the book state the importance of a number of elements that should be addressed “in parallel” when making changes in education in order that the changes make a lasting impact. The examples given include initial as well as in-service training of teachers and testing and assessment systems, curriculum and course materials. These needs are also present in adult settlement language training programs that are intending to integrate technology and adopt a blended approach. Kiely’s chapter ends with a description of three types of evaluation that he hopes will engage the different agendas of program stakeholders in improving the likelihood of success in all areas of a program.

Retrievable from: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/B330%20MC%20in%20ELT%20book_v7.pdf


Evaluation of a blended language learning environment in a French university and its effects on second language acquisition.

Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, J. McAllister.   Evaluation of a blended language learning environment in a French university and its effects on second language acquisition. La revue du GERAS  2011, 59, 115–138.

In response to a high drop-out rate in large compulsory language classes in a French university, a blended learning program was introduced, using a task-based approach with a distance component using Moodle and face-to-face small group tutorials. The goal was to raise motivation using real-life tasks and to develop interactions that promote second language acquisition. The face-to-face component was further broken into two tutorials, one with 45 students and a teacher and one with 15 students. Teachers provided personalized feedback both in the tutorials and online. The report presents results about the students’ language levels, their involvement, their language learning in class, and their perceptions of the blended language learning program. The author presents key themes expressed by the students related to strengths and weaknesses in the program. Several students commented that a teacher is essential. Team work remained a challenge for students and the authors state that they are searching for a way to convince students that they have more teacher access in a blended learning environment than they would in larger groups.

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A Call for the human feel in today’s increasingly blended world.

Geoff Lawrence. (2014, May). A Call for the human feel in today’s increasingly blended world. Contact Magazine Special Research Symposium Issue, 40(2), 128–141.

The author presents research on the reported benefits of using Technology-mediated language learning for both instructors and learners, as well as the importance of instructional design on meeting learner outcomes. He then examines the potential for adult non-credit ESL programs in Ontario from results of a multi-phased feasibility study. The findings indicate that the majority of ESL instructors continue to use primarily a face- to-face approach in their teaching. After describing the barriers to use, he also discusses an emerging theme: the crucial role of social interaction and the need for teacher-mediated learning. This was described by one participant as keeping “the human feel” in the learning environment and emphasized the importance of the teacher in the learning process. Some instructors warned about the isolating nature of self-directed technology environments. In the section “The Blended Solution”, the author lists some of the advantages to this approach identified by study participants. He also notes that by itself, a blended approach will not address concerns about isolation; this depends on both the pedagogy and the instructor. Lawrence goes on to highlight the need for strategic, interactive program design.

Retrievable from: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/publications/researchsymposium/ResearchSymposium2014.pdf

Blended Language Learning: An Effective Solution but not Without Its Challenges

Christopher P. Johnson, D. M. (2014). Blended Language Learning: An Effective Solution but not Without Its Challenges. Higher Learning Research Communications, 4(3), 23–41.

This study explores conclusions from its first phase and identifies effective and appropriate best practice blended learning models. The study reflects changes in demands on and attitudes of students and teachers resulting from the introduction of technology into instructional styles, methodologies, and approaches. Some of the teachers in the study have become confident that the technology is not meant to replace them in the classroom and have begun to see it as a support for them. There is an emphasis on making the best use of classroom time, rather than trying to teach all requirements of courses in the classroom. The study also looks at the personal capacity required for students to take on a more autonomous role in a blended environment and discusses the importance of motivation, confidence and active participation. The authors state that the time and effort that university students spend gaining skills in EFL have critical impact on their success in learning the language. The same seems to be true for adult immigrants in settlement language programs.
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A closer look at blended learning – parameters for designing a blended learning environment for language teaching and learning.

Neumeier, P. (2005).  A closer look at blended learning – parameters for designing a blended learning environment for language teaching and learning. ReCALL, 17(2), 163–178.

This journal article, written at a time when interest was building in blended learning, despite the fact that there was not a lot of research related to it, is widely cited in the literature. Neumeier provides a framework to address the question about which combination of modes provides the best blended language teaching and learning environment. Her goal is to help practitioners see and understand the complexity of blended learning environments so that they can make good use of blended learning. She provides a clear definition of blended learning and stresses the importance of finding the most effective and efficient combination of face to face and computer-assisted learning for the specific learners, context and objectives. She makes it clear that there is no course design that will work for all situations – neither in the face-to-face component, nor in the computer-assisted component. Neumeier’s six parameters identify the criteria to take into consideration for designing a course or program.

Available for Purchase (USD $30.00) at: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=355476

Normalisation Revisited: The Effective Use of Technology in Language Education.

Bax, S. (2013). Normalisation Revisited: The Effective Use of Technology in Language Education.

This article revisits the issue of the normalisation of technology in language education, defined as the stage at which a technology is used in language education without users being consciously aware of its role as a technology, as an effective element in the language learning process (Bax, 2003). It proposes a methodology to introduce new technologies into language education settings with maximum impact. The article cites some of the researchers who have addressed normalisation in discussions concerning the role of technology in language education. Bax uses the examples of attitudes of “excessive awe” and “exaggerated fear” to emphasize the importance of looking critically at whether any proposed new technology is necessary. He presents elements of effective educational practice and shows how modern technology can help with providing those elements, but emphasizes that learning also requires mediation from teacher experts who will intervene as needed.  This article suggests tools and processes that would be helpful in the area of program readiness.

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Implementing Blended Learning in Foreign Language Education: Reasons and Considerations.

Mondejar, M. (2012). Implementing Blended Learning in Foreign Language Education:  Reasons and Considerations.

This conference paper explores the pros and cons of blended learning in foreign language learning. The presenter argues that BL is a quickly growing approach that allows instructors to provide students with increased flexibility, enhances student engagement, fosters student autonomy and supports collaborative learning. However, in order to be deployed successfully the presenter argues that careful needs analysis of students and careful and thorough course or instructional design are necessary. He also points to the need for further research in the use of blended learning in foreign language learning.

Retrievable From: http://jalt-publications.org/proceedings/articles/3294-implementing-blended-learning-foreign-language-education-reasons-and-consi

Distance Education and E-Learning: New Options for Adult Basic and English Language Education

Imel, S., & Jacobson, E. (2006). Distance Education and E-Learning: New Options for Adult Basic and English Language Education. California. Department of Education.

A review of Distance Education and E-Learning programs and initiatives in the United States for Adult Basic Education (ABE) and ESL Students. The review cites research on the factors that contribute to successful delivery of Distance Education and E-Learning, and research on the characteristics of successful online students. The review also provides a set of recommendations for successful Distance Education and E-Learning, including screening students to ensure learner capacity and provision of orientation to ensure that students can function in the online environment. They stress the importance of beginning with face-to-face instruction, providing support for students to develop skills in self-direction, maintaining frequent communication, providing technical support, developing learner cohorts and delivering professional development.

Retrievable From:http://www.calpro-online.org/documents/100924DistanceEducationProof.pdf

Defining Blended Learning

Friesen, N. (2012, August). Defining Blended Learning. Learningspaces.org. Blog.

The author provides a history of the changing meaning of the term “blended learning” along with the ambiguity of its meaning until the publication of Bonk’s (2006) Handbook of Blended Learning. He also puts forward a number of blended learning models and creates a decision tree to determine if a given course is blended or not. The report would be interesting to anyone exploring the components that could be involved in implementing a course in blended learning.

Retrievable From: http://learningspaces.org/papers/Defining_Blended_Learning_NF.pdf

Evaluating computer technology for language learning

Chapelle, C. (2010). Evaluating computer technology for language learning. Contact, 36(2), 56–62.

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This article presents a review and evaluation of research on the effectiveness of technology in second language teaching and learning. The article draws on studies that compared classes using technology and those that do not, surveys of instructors’ and learners’ opinions about the use of technology in language learning, and discourse analysis of learners’ performance in a computer-assisted environment. The author points to the difficulties and complexities of establishing the factors that support successful language learning and cautions that claims made by developers of commercial software for language learning  need to be verified  “on the ground” by observational research on students’ use of technology and on actual reports from instructors and students on their use of technology.