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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Chasing the butterfly effect: Informal language learning online as a complex system

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.

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When at Crossroads of L2 Tasks and Technology: A Critical Review of Implementing Technology-mediated Task-Based Language Teaching

.Jaramillo Cherrez, N. (2018). When at Crossroads of L2 Tasks and Technology: A Critical Review of Implementing Technology-mediated Task-Based Language Teaching. In E. Langran & J. Borup (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 876-882). Washington, D.C., United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)

This article focuses on the interconnections between Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) through a critical review of the relevant literature. The review examines how second language instructors currently use technology in the TBLT environment.  While the literature indicates that there are clear benefits for language learners in implementing technology mediated task-based language teaching there are potential implications and  challenges that need to be addressed in relation to access to technology, professional development, and identifying learner needs and capacity in relation to the use of technology. The article offers a useful starting point for instructors and program designers in the second-language sector as they consider, plan and work to maximize the potential of impact of  technology mediated TBLT in their programming and teaching.


Available for purchase ($9.95) USD at: https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/182623/


Choosing Technology Tools to Meet Pronunciation Teaching and Learning Goals


Tritch Yoshida, M. (2018). Choosing Technology Tools to Meet Pronunciation Teaching and Learning Goals. The CATESOL Journal,  30(1), 195–212

This article evaluates a range of technology tools and sites to support the teaching, learning and development of pronunciation.  The comprehensive evaluations are based on research and classroom practice and examine each of the tools based on the following criteria: Quality and accuracy; Practicality of use; Ease of use and Cost.

The article offers a practical review of technology tools and sites for computers, laptops and smartphones from the perspective of language instructor and also offers a model of technology tool evaluation that could be very useful in other areas of language teaching and learning.

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Informal and deliberate learning with new technologies

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.

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Using action research to explore technology in language teaching: international perspectives

Burns, A. & Kurtoğlu-Hooton, N. Using action research to explore technology in language teaching: international perspectives. British Council. (2016).

This publication is an extensive report of a virtual action research project undertaken by the British Council in 2015-16. The project was designed to introduce international language teachers to action research, to investigate the teachers’ experience of an action research approach, and to collect and disseminate insights for the effective use of technology based on the action research projects undertaken by the teachers.
In all, 12 English language teachers, with the support of academic researchers conducted small action research projects examining the use of specific technology tools in their programs and classrooms. Each of the participants produced research summaries outlining their experiences. These are included in the report.
Although the focus of this project is English language teaching internationally, it provides an interesting model for virtual action research on technology use for language teaching that could be applied in settlement language programs. Such a virtual action research project could support valuable collaborative learning and information sharing for language instructors.

Retrievable from: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/28313%20ELTRA%20Report%20WEB.PDF

Enhancing the Digital Skills of English Language Learners Studying at a Distance

Vanek J.  & Johnston, J. (2015).  Enhancing the Digital Skills of English Language Learners Studying at a Distance. AEIS Newsletter March 2015.

Based on interviews with instructors  who work within the IDEAL consortium the article  outlines the components of a successful distance learning program for second language learners.  The authors argue that given the ubiquity of digital technologies and the multiple demands on learners to use digital technology in the workplace, distance learning instruction should not be limited to the academic content typically found in online distance learning curricula. Rather, learners need to have access and exposure to a range of digital technologies for learning and problem solving facilitated by an instructor.

Retrievable from: http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolaeis/issues/2015-03-04/5.html


Keystone Concepts: Guiding Principles and Components of Program Planning

Toronto Catholic District School Board. Keystone Concepts: Guiding Principles and Components of Program Planning. (2015).

The Keystone Concepts document lays out the foundation of the Curriculum Guidelines for the Ontario Adult Non-Credit Language Training Program. The Curriculum Guidelines are delivered through Quartz, an interactive web-based planning application for language training programs. Quartz aims to assist French as a Second Language and English as a Second Language instructors in planning courses, lessons, units and assessments based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks. The Concepts document lays out the browse and build components of Quartz. Quartz requires an authorized log in to access. Key Concepts sets out a framework for program design and delivery by identifying and describing eight guiding principles and four key components. These guidelines are significant for the bibliography because they highlight the importance of a principled approach to program planning, rather than an ad hoc approach that might be used to add online activities to a program. All of the guiding principles set out here also apply to determining how to incorporate online and face to face activities to create a blended approach to instruction.

Retrievable from: https://www.quartzon.ca/documents/keystoneConcepts-Nov27.pdf



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

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

Realizing the Full Potential of Blended Learning.

Realizing the Full Potential of Blended Learning. (2012). Center for Digital Education.

This brief strategy paper from the Center for Digital Education, a US research and advisory institute focused on K-12 and higher education technology trends and policies reports on a survey of blended learning initiatives and trends in the higher education sector. Although the paper does not address blended learning in the language learning sector it does provide a useful overview of the rapidly developing trend towards blended learning, the implications of that trend, the potential benefits of blended learning, particularly in relation to increased student engagement, and the ongoing need to further clarify the concept of blended learning and its concomitant parts so that instructors can better understand its potential.

Retrievable from: http://echo360.com/sites/default/files/CDE12%20STRATEGY%20Echo360-V.pdf

Problematizing the Hybrid Classroom for ESL/EFL Students.

Harrington, A.M. (2010). Problematizing the Hybrid Classroom for ESL/EFL Students. TESL-EJ, 14(3).

Hybrid courses — which replace 20%–80% of class meetings with online activities — are predicted to increase as educators embrace the benefits of blending online technologies with face-to-face class meetings. Also expected to increase are enrollments of ESL/EFL students. As these growth trends intersect, an increased number of ESL/EFL students are expected to enroll in hybrid courses, especially mainstream courses populated by a majority of native-English-speaking students. Despite these growth trends and research showing hybrid courses as positive for most students, the TESOL community has not yet opened a discussion of the implications of hybrid delivery of mainstream classes for ESL/ EFL students. In an effort to start the discussion, this article investigates potential problems related to issues of identity, forced individualization, and muting; gives several strategies for instructors of hybrid courses with ESL/EFL students; and concludes by calling for TESOL researchers to focus attention on hybrid delivery.

Retrievable from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ912069.pdf

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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How to Make the Most of Blended Learning.

Contact North. (2014). How to Make the Most of Blended Learning.

This is a concise review of the benefits and challenges of using blended learning in the community college sector in Ontario. Benefits identified include increased flexibility, enhanced student engagement and relative cost savings. Challenges include learner and instructor preparedness, and the need for careful instructional design. The document also provides links to information about how blended learning is being used in several community colleges in the province. Although the information is intended for the postsecondary sector, the discussion of the benefits and challenges of blended learning is particularly relevant to the settlement language community.

Retrievable from: http://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/blended-learning-successful-design-delivery-and-student-engagement/how-make-most-blended-learning

Second-Language Acquisition and the information Age: How Social Software has Created a New Mode of Learning.

Davies, R. J. (2011). Second-Language Acquisition and the Information Age: How Social Software has Created a New Mode of Learning. TESL Canada Journal/Revue TESL du Canada 28(2), 11–19.

The author argues that the use of social software can – rather than as some fear, lead to isolation for students – enhance and build on traditional forms of social learning which, he posits is an integral element in the learning process. Social networking sites, wikis, blogs and podcasts, he argues, provide many benefits to students allowing them a much wider range for communications with peers, to shape content collaboratively and to develop learning autonomy. He further argues that instructors can use these technologies to collaboratively build curricula, share lesson plans and support collaboration and cooperation – he also says that the proliferation and embedding of social networking in our lives will alter how teachers teach and how curricula are developed and organized. His recommendation is that the second language field should embrace these technologies and that the field will benefit by becoming part of what he describes as the “ever-changing educational landscape”.

Retrievable from: http://www.teslcanadajournal.ca/index.php/tesl/article/view/1069

Video-conferencing Research Community of Practice Research Report.

Alberta Education. (2006). Video-conferencing Research Community of Practice Research Report.

This report looks at the potential of video-conferencing technology and other technologies to enhance and improve education practice and systems. Alberta SuperNet makes videoconferencing a feasible option for K-12 schools in areas previously limited by bandwidth restrictions. It presents a number of case studies illustrating the use of videoconferencing in schools in Alberta, Canada. This report provides an example of how videoconferencing could be used to connect adult ESL learners in remote locations to others in more richly resourced urban settings.

Retrievable from: https://education.alberta.ca/media/3115440/vccopreport.pdf

Developing an ESL Literacy Blended online Course for LINC Learners.

Lupasco, S. (n.d.). Developing an ESL Literacy Blended Online Course for LINC Learners. Contact Magazine, November 2013, 31–35.

In this article Lupasco describes an assignment for Post TESL accreditation for which she develops e-Materials for Language Training. As she walks the reader through the different sections of the blended ESL Literacy course that she created, there are echoes of the theory and examined practice that appear in other resources included in this bibliography.

Retrievable from: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/publications/contact/ContactFall2013.pdf

Teacher and student perspectives on a blended learning intensive English program writing course

Larsen, L. (2012). Teacher and student perspectives on a blended learning intensive English program writing course (Ph.D.). Iowa State University.

Although this dissertation investigates the use of blended learning with ESL writing students in an intensive English program, there is much that will be of interest to adult settlement language programs as well. The author notes the immaturity of blended learning within the area of language learning and also that blended learning is considered separate from CALL. One of the author’s points is that CALL research does not mention blended learning theories, but blended learning researchers often rely on CALL research when making arguments. The author provides a table (Table 2, p 38) showing blended learning studies and the variables identified or investigated in blended learning environments. These include areas of interest to adult settlement language programs such as student computer literacy skills; teacher attitude, training and support and positive effects on learner autonomy. The writer stresses “the paucity” of research in blended learning implementation in language learning environments. He also states that a review of the literature from CALL indicates that teachers are generally not sufficiently prepared to teach using technology which may also be significant in adult settlement language training.

Retrievable from: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3382&context=etd