Intelligent assistants in language learning: an analysis of features and limitations

Kukulska-Hulme, A. & Lee, H. “Intelligent assistants in language learning: an analysis of features and limitations.” In CALL for widening participation: short papers from EUROCALL 2020, edited by Karen-Margrete Frederiksen, Sanne Larsen, Linda Bradley and Sylvie Thouësny, 172-176 .2020

This short article presents the findings of a multidisciplinary literature review of research studies conducted over the past 10 years examining the development and potential applications of Intelligent Assistants, including chatbots, avatars and conversational agents such as Siri and Alexa, in the field of education.

The article focusses on the features and limitations of Intelligent Assistants to support language learning. Based on their analysis of over 170 studies the authors find that Intelligent Assistants have the potential to support language learners, at all learning levels. Using an Intelligent Assistant provides learners with opportunities for extensive simple conversation and pronunciation practice, anytime and place, and, since the conversation is taking place privately, can help reduce the anxiety that many learners experience when attempting to speak in a new language.

The authors note that research is needed to learn more about how Intelligent Assistants can be effectively deployed in the language classroom and what the role of the instructor could be in supporting learners to make best use of these tools.

To see a chatbot in action visit: http://www.costi.org/  and click on the icon at the bottom right.  The Orientation to Ontario chatbot provides basic information about living and working in Ontario. The chatbot allows users to chat in text, and to input questions verbally.

Retrievable from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED611082.pdf

Technology and Second Language Listening

Gruba, P. & Suvorov, R. (2020). Technology and Second Language Listening. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

This article examines how technology affects second language listening – how it is practised, taught, assessed and researched. The authors note a stronger emphasis on social interaction, augmented and virtual reality, and the use of global resources. The authors explore how instructors use features like play, pause, replay and distribute that are readily available on YouTube or Vimeo, sources of authentic classroom materials; they briefly discuss instructors’ use of technology to publish their own listening resources considering a range of factors that will help learners develop their skills in different situations. They identify how using technology in assessment situations demands consideration of factors that will impact test results, e.g., quality of recordings, scripted or unscripted texts, rate of speech, choice of topics, compliance with standards and security. As far as using technology for research goes, after discussing some of the research that is being done with and about using technology, e.g., the extent that listener performance is affected by presence or absence of captions, subtitles, transcripts, they present the activities researchers go through in the phases of a research project.

Retrievable from:

https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/240689/Gruba-Suvorov2020_ReferenceWorkEntry_TechnologyAndSecondLanguageLis.pdf

Metaphors for social media‐enhanced foreign language teaching and learning

Reinhardt, J. (2020). Metaphors for social media-enhanced foreign language teaching and learning. Foreign Language Annals, 53(2), 234-242.

This thought-provoking article proposes a set of new metaphors to better understand how social media can be effectively incorporated to enhance second language teaching and learning. The author provides a review of the established metaphors  of computer as tutor or tool that have been commonly used in traditional computer-assisted language learning  (CALL) and goes on to discuss the need to re-conceptualize metaphors in the age of social media.

The new metaphors proposed, Windows, Mirrors, Doorways and Playgrounds are described in relation to how each can provide learners with authentic learning opportunities. The author provides practical examples of how language instructors can use social media with learners to enable them to gain first hand experience of how native users of a language interact and communicate, to present reflections of themselves in social media, to participate in authentic sharing and distribution of content in social media and to participate in playful interaction with each other.  

Retrievable from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/flan.12462

Choosing an App for your lessons with the Padagogy Wheel

How can instructors evaluate the quality and appropriateness of apps to support language learning?  It can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process.

TESL Ontario blogger John Allen  may have the answer. In this brief blog post he describes the Padagogy Wheel, developed by  Allan Carrington of Teach Thought and intended to help educators to evaluate apps based on the intended learning outcome. Underpinning the Padagogy Wheel is  the understanding that pedagogy should drive the technology and not the other way around.

In this post the author  outlines the process and describes his own experience in using the Padagogy Wheel to design a vocabulary lesson.

Retrievable from:

http://blog.teslontario.org/author/john-allan/

 

Technology-mediated workplace language training: Developing and assessing a module for a blended curriculum for newcomers

McLellan, G. Technology-mediated workplace language training: Developing and assessing a module for a blended curriculum for newcomers. A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and postdoctoral Affairs: Carleton University, Ottawa. (2019).

This report on a small-scale Canadian study of a module developed for a blended occupation-specific language class looks at providing online components of language support to language learners who are already in the workplace. The author includes a literature review and highlights the essential nature of needs analysis to determine both language needs and technology needs in the workplace.  The developers used a Task-based language teaching approach in the module design. The learners who took part in the study had been assessed between Canadian Language Benchmarks 3 and 5 and were all working in the customer service sector. They all had mobile phones and were comfortable using them. The activities were developed in Moodle and were meant to be used on their phones. One of the potential advantages described was the ability to work on the activities in “dead time”, while commuting, waiting for an appointment, etc. The first module addressed the need for them to be able to greet customers and make requests. The module used video to illustrate greetings and requests in customer service settings. Many of the topics covered elsewhere in the bibliography, e.g., learner autonomy, attitudes towards learning with technology, mobile learning and the importance of teacher training are illustrated in the study.

Retrievable from:

https://curve.carleton.ca/system/files/etd/e1b4d39f-7c9b-4d4d-b451-687c439ec7e9/etd_pdf/fc0772b01f059336608c63be7d152fbd/mclellan-technologymediatedworkplacelanguagetraining.pdf

 

 

Research on Mobile Learning in the English Classroom: Pedagogies, Computer developments and Teachers’ Reactions

Barrientos, M. (2019). Research on Mobile Learning in the English Classroom. Revista de Lenguas Modernas, (30) 2019, pp 251-266.

The author provides a literature review focused on the following four areas of mobile learning in English language classrooms to explore not only the feasibility and implications of integrating mobile learning in secondary EFL classrooms in Costa Rica, but advantages and disadvantages in these areas:

  1. The development of pedagogical models for mobile learning in the English language class
  2. Defining the platforms and infrastructure solutions for appropriate integration of mobile learning
  3. A description of the mobile devices apps and links
  4. Training and reactions of English teachers

The report concludes with a number of research questions for further exploration. Although this review looks at the questions for high school EFL language planning in Costa Rica, the same questions could be asked about planning for adult settlement language classes in Canada.

https://revistas.ucr.ac.cr/index.php/rlm/article/view/38986

Effect of using texting on vocabulary instruction for English learners

Cummins, J. & Jia, L. (2019). Effect of using texting on vocabulary instruction for English learners. Language Learning & Technology, 23(2),43-64.

This small-scale research study conducted at a Canadian university focused on how the use of text messaging can support English language learners in developing and enhancing academic vocabulary acquisition.  Using a random control trial design, the researchers compared the student’s target vocabulary learning gains with and without the text messaging intervention. Results indicated that with the intervention students learned more target words, (direct effect) however there was no difference noted in more general academic vocabulary learning (transfer effect). Although this research was based in an academic setting it has interesting implications for vocabulary learning in all ESL settings, pointing to the potential for the use of text messaging as a useful tool to support and enhance vocabulary acquisition.

Retrievable from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333815117_Effect_of_using_texting_on_vocabulary_instruction_for_English_learners

 

The Use of Dictionary Applications on Smartphones as a Tool to Enhance English Vocabulary Learning Skills

Charernsuk,J.,Surasin,J.,Kewara,P. The Use of Dictionary Applications on Smartphones as a Tool to Enhance English Vocabulary Learning Skills. HRD Journal, 10 (1),8-21

This study explored the use of dictionary applications on smartphones to support vocabulary acquisition. Using both quantitative (pre-and post- testing) and qualitative (researcher observation and semi-structured interviews with student participants) the researchers report that the use of dictionary applications by students did result in enhanced vocabulary acquisition and in helping students to improve their English pronunciation skills. The researchers also noted that although students were initially uncertain about how to use the applications, with experience they became quite comfortable in their use, and that their willingness to engage in more autonomous language learning increased.  Based on their observations the researchers recommend that instructors wishing to introduce dictionary applications on smartphones devote some time to thoroughly reviewing the applications for appropriateness to avoid initial confusion.  Although this study was conducted in a Gr. 9 English language class in Thailand, given the ubiquity of smartphones and the availability of a range of dictionary applications, this study demonstrates the usefulness of this tool  in vocabulary acquisition and points to the potential of using dictionary applications that will be of interest for instructors at all levels of English language teaching and learning.

Retrievable from: http://hrdjournal.buu.ac.th/public/backend/upload/onlinejournal/file/14062019_156049645556314400.pdf

Creating a Technology-Rich English Language Learning Environment

M.W. Marek and W-C.V. Wu, (2018). “Creating a Technology-Rich English Learning Environment” In Second Handbook of English Language Teaching. Edited by Xuesong Gao.  Springer International Publishing, 2019.

After presenting a theoretical framework about the potential of technology use in language classrooms, this chapter provides a step by step approach to making decisions about which technology resources to use within the language learning context. It addresses the need for teachers to have a starting point in their course development and demonstrates how to ensure that using more technology is not an end in itself, but rather that the use of technology surrounds students, enhances active learning experiences and enables students to achieve learning outcomes.

Within this chapter, the authors address a number of issues that need to be considered during the planning stage: familiarity with a tool rather than the novelty of a tool; the importance of activities using technology to be essential to the curriculum; the areas within the learning environment the teacher has control over and those s/he doesn’t; and the impact of relevant technology on learner motivation,  confidence and achievement.

Retrievable from: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-3-319-58542-0_39-1.pdf

Second Handbook of English Language Teaching is retrievable from: https://link.springer.com/referencework/10.1007/978-3-319-58542-0?page=1#toc

Educational Affordances of an Asynchronous Online Discussion Forum for Language Learners

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.

Retrievable from

http://tesl-ej.org/pdf/ej87/a1.pdf

 

 

Experimenting with Google Assistant in ESOL Classrooms

A brief post from the Illinois Digital Learning Lab outlining how instructors and ESOL students are experimenting with the use of voice recognition technology, specifically, Google Home Mini. The instructor describes how she and her students are using the device and the potential for such devices to build engagement, and help students in developing language skills such as pronunciation.  The instructor also shares a list of questions that students draw on in working with the device and some issues to consider when planning to introduce voice recognition technology (either voice assistants like Google Home or  smartphone voice assistants  in the language classroom.

Retrievable from:  https://edtech.worlded.org/experimenting-google-assistant-esl-classrooms/

 

Twitter: A Professional Development and Community of Practice Tool for Teachers

Rosell-Aguilar, F., (2018). Twitter: A Professional Development and Community of Practice Tool for Teachers. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. 2018(1), p.6.

This research report begins with a literature review of Twitter for Education, Twitter as a learning environment for teachers and teacher use of hashtags for professional and community development.

The research questions explore who uses a specific hashtag (#MFLtwitterati), whether there is evidence that using Twitter can contribute to Continuous Professional Development and whether the hashtag can be described as a community of practice. The author looked at this specific hashtag, but also mentions  language learning hashtags which may be of more interest to instructors in settlement language learning programs. Language learners use Twitter because they encounter authentic language in tweets, can practise language skills and access resources such as text, audio and video in the target language.

The author concludes with a discussion of the results and notes that the study brought the under-researched issue of mobile learning among teachers to the forefront and demonstrates how teachers are using up to the minute tools like Twitter to take charge of their professional development in the absence of funding for PD in their institutions.

Retrievable from

https://jime.open.ac.uk/article/10.5334/jime.452/

Mobile-based chatting for meaning negotiation in foreign language learning

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

Smartphones and language learning

Godwin-Jones, R. (2017). Smartphones and language learning. Language Learning & Technology, 21(2), 3–17.

According to the 2016 General Social Survey[1] from Statistics Canada 71% of the population own a Smartphone. We carry these powerful little devices with us everywhere even in our classrooms. The ubiquity of the Smartphone begs the question of how they could be used to support and extend language learning.

This timely article offers an overview of, and provides a useful base of information about the potential of Smartphones for language learning. The author contends that smartphones have the potential to support students in more effectively integrating their language learning in the classroom and the incidental language learning that they may engage in using mobile devices. One major challenge relating to the use of smartphones and mobile devices in the language learning environment is how to support students to develop skills and knowledge to enable them to become informed and engaged online learners.

The author surveys recent research in Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) and makes the case for the need for further research to examine the actual use of mobile devices by students outside of the classroom. Such research would support a better understanding of how these devices can be effectively deployed in the language classroom to support informal and ongoing learning and the development of critical digital skills.

 

[i] (2016). Statistics Canada. General Social Survey.

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2017032-eng.htm

Retrievable from: https://www.lltjournal.org/item/2995

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

Digital Literacies in Foreign and Second Language Education

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

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: https://www.lltjournal.org/collection/col_10125_45833

Information Practices of Immigrants to Canada – A Review of the Literature

Caidi, N., Allard, D., & Dechief, D. (2008). Information Practices of Immigrants to Canada – A Review of the Literature (Research Contract Commissioned by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Metropolis). Faculty of Information Studies University of Toronto.

This review of the literature on the information practices (broadly understood as the information needs and information seeking strategies) of immigrants to Canada focuses on the importance of those practices in reducing the social isolation and exclusion and how lack of access to reliable information can be a barrier to successful integration. In the context of this bibliography the issue is whether digital and information literacy development can be supported in a blended learning environment which would provide newcomers with digital skills and information literacy skills alongside critical language skills.

Retrievable from:

http://www.academia.edu/1288629/Information_Practices_of_Immigrants_to_Canada_A_Review_of_the_Literature

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.

Retrievable from:

http://www.academia.edu/762788/Including_Immigrants_in_Canadian_Society_What_Role_do_ICTs_Play_Draft_Report