Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From Parrots to Puppet Masters: Fostering Creative and Authentic Language Use with Online Tools

John Milton (2005) pointed out the problems in foreign language (L2) education: force-fed pedagogy, an orientation of “teaching to the exam’, encouragement of imitative practices and ability to learn. He found that many students spent their a lot of time for memorization but inadequate for life outside the classroom. It led to an L2 becoming a constrained and unnatural version of the language.

Through a distributed model of delivery while allowing considerable choice and flexibility on the part of students and teachers could realize that a curriculum incorporating online elements can provide greatly enhanced directed instruction and more opportunities for autonomous exploration and discovery. The author clarified that the implementation of technology can help reform instruction and learning rather than simply amplification of bad pedagogy.

Further, the author outlined the rationale for Web-based EFL resources and then described four tools that lend themselves to progressive approaches to broader learning opportunities. He used these tools as an outline course development system that supports several online EFL courses aimed at various groups of learners. These 4 tools are listed as follows:
Ø          Targeting Oral Fluency: Asynchronous Voice Message (speaking the L2);
Ø          Online Data-driven Language Learning (making L2 Lexis, Structures and Texts more accessible);
Ø          Providing Feedback on Student Writing (improving teacher feedback);
Ø          Online Role Plays (promoting creative use of the L2).

For those tools, I will not examine and explain it fully. On the contrary, I would like to express the opinions about the author’s pedagogy. It is no doubt that “teaching to exam” is the central place in Hong Kong Education. It was because our students are required to attend the public examinations such as HKCEE, HKALE and HKDSE to pursue their further study. The common phenomenon is that most students only memorize the format of letters, vocabulary and sample essays to tackle with their English language examination. I think the author willing to change this situation by incorporating the 4 tools. However, one thing I guess he might ignore that the teachers will be the central but not the technology or tools. A good teacher can provide different tools or material for his/her students.

In a language learning and teaching, errors are the treasure. It was because we can learn from mistakes and improve ourselves not to commit the same again.

Anyway, the teaching and learning involve the human relationship. The technology is only an aid.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fostering Learning Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technology Learning Environment

Fostering Learning Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technology Learning Environment

The article reports on the syllabus design and implementation of an English for Science and Technology (EST) course at an English-medium university in Hong Kong. The course used video project done by students to realize how to use English. Basically project-based learning and a pedagogy for multiliteracies were combined to produce a strong learner autonomy focus.

In this article, “an autonomous learner” and “learner autonomy” were clearly distinguished. For the former one, student is intrinsically motivated and learns outside the classroom, alone, and with no need for support from the teacher whereas the meanings of learner autonomy was fully explained and expanded. In short it can also develop in the structural learning environment of the classroom and become part of the pedagogical objectives of a language course. In case of a syllabus designed to promote learner autonomy, a student-centred approach is the focus; the teacher can be still active involved in assisting learners; with the development of learner autonomy, the strong collaborative elements will be needed; learners can have choice to be more or less independent at different points in their learning process; and learners can be advised to reflect on their learning and ways to improve it.

The authors adopted a constructionist approach to encourage students to learn in a social context and help them to develop an ability to readily create new knowledge, solve new problems and employ creativity and critical thinking. Especially, in their project on students using video project, the classroom-based pedagogical approach can encourages learner autonomy, the teacher creates opportunities for learners to exercise their capacity for autonomy by providing an environment in which they can negotiate new roles as learners within the “social context” of the classroom setting. While the appropriate learner-autonomy-based pedagogy should be adopted.

The use of technology in language teaching and learning is often assumed to foster learner autonomy by providing learner with easy access to a range of resources, tools and environment for out-of-class learning.

The authors very emphasis on the term “learner autonomy” because it is the key to success. In my opinion, no matter how the video project or technology was employed, the key to successful is on the learner autonomy. It is because learners can overcome the technical problems including mastering the high-tech devices. During the course of project, learners can contribute their efforts on learning languages. The teachers only give their advice on content or ideas. So the learners can complete it themselves. Simply speaking it is learning to learn.

Reflection on Productive Pedagogies

Reflection on Productive Pedagogies

Marsh (2008) explored ways in which the introduction of aspects of children’s digital cultures into the classroom can promote ‘productive pedagogies’ in specific kinds of contexts. The author further defined the term of “specific kinds of contexts” as classroom spaces in which curriculum and pedagogy are respectful of children’s agency, attuned to their cultural capital and embedded in meaningful practices that reflect pupils’ out-of-school interests and experiences.

In the article, Lingard et al. (2001) identified that the ‘connectedness’ as a significant aspect of a productive pedagogy involves the following elements:
Ø          Knowledge integration
Ø          Background knowledge
Ø          Connectedness to the world
Ø          Problem-based curriculum
Marsh in turn examines these above 4 elements. Firstly he found out one of the main elements of the ‘connectedness’ focusing on how far work undertaken in the classroom is connected to competences and concerns beyond the classroom. When the pupils were introduced initially to the concept of a blog, they had no difficulties understanding how it worked and very soon acquired the skills and knowledge needed to post to it and send comments. Furthermore, the affordances of blogs mean that they are ideal formats for displaying aspects of one’s identity. The blogs enabled children to reference popular texts and artefacts that represented aspects of their identities and thus blurred their online and offline world.

For connectedness to the world, beyond the classroom, the lessons can be connected to competencies or concerns. In terms of knowledge integration, the affordance of the technology meant that this cross-curricular approach was an integral part of the work, given the range of online sources the children could access and the variety of software they used throughout the project. The blogging project enabled children to integrate knowledge about literacy with technology in the development of keyboard skills but also fostered digital literacy skills in which literacy and technology were integrated.

For the fourth element of the ‘connectedness’ dimension, the article focused on identifying and addressing intellectual / real world problems, was also a central element of the blogging project.

Basically, in my points of view, the productive pedagogies enable students to know and use the affordances and constraints of technology. Students are required to understand the 4 factors of ‘connectedness’. It means that student can acquire knowledge via internet but not only from teachers alone. In the productive pedagogies, out-of-classroom learning would be encouraged. In traditional classroom learning, students are given a fixed time slot to learn the subjects assigned by teachers. They are limited to ask a question to their teachers.

The digital literacies should be encouraged to enhance and foster student’s language learning but not improvement. It is because students getting familiar with technology are difficult to master. On the other hand, teachers will be still important role. They have to modify their teaching plan in integration with digital literacies. Interestingly, use of blogging to foster students in learning languages. In theoretical it is possible and practical. In reality, if students with low language ability, how they just write on blog in which they can improve their languages skills including grammar gradually. It is doubtful.

For those students with strong ability in learning, digital literacies with productive pedagogies seem to be useful. It is because they only have to overcome the technical problems on use of digital literacies.

Reflection on Heidi Shzter and Mark Warschauer

Reflection on Shetzer and Waschauer

The article provides complete framework for an electronic literacy. It divides 3 skills of an electronic literacy overlapping areas: (1) communication, (2) construction and (3) research.

For communication, computer-mediated communication (CMC) allows us to communicate with groups of people all over the world at the same time at little cost. It can be found to exhibit certain characteristics typical of written communication, certain characteristic typical of spoken communication. Although CMC is useful and helpful, it may reduce social context clues related to race, gender, handicap, accent and status, as well as non-verbal cues such as frowning and hesitating. How to communicate effectively via computer may involve new ways of interacting and collaborating.

Secondly, for construction, there are 3 important shifts: (1) from essay to hypertext. (2) from words to multimedia, and (3) from author to co-constructor. Hypertext is not only matter of reconceptualizing how to arrange words; it also involves creative use of other media, such as graphics, audio, and video. The article pointed out that on-line construction of documents is generally a collaborative process.

For research, knowing how to navigate internet sources, search for information, and critically evaluate and interpret what is found represents perhaps the most crucial set of electronic literacy skills. Simply speaking, in the past, students are required to search the information what they want to know or need, however, now students may only input the keywords on search engine online. They can acquire the relevant information. It is no doubt that students looking for information on the internet are expected to have different reading and research strategies. Besides, students are expected to have the ability of evaluation on text and multimedia documents.

This article provides a useful and helpful of electronic literacy approach in classroom applications. The table below shows difference between earlier approaches v electronic literacy approach.

Earlier approaches
Electronic literacy approach
Based on speaking and listening
Also includes computer-mediate communication
Based on linear texts.
Excludes nonprint media
Tends to focus on individual writing
Also includes hypertexts
Combines texts and other media
Strong focus on collaboration
Reading & research
Restricted to print sources
Focuses on linear texts
Excludes nonprint media
Tends to separate reading skills

Focuses on library search skills
Includes on-line sources
Also includes hypertexts
Combines texts and other media
Views critical evaluation as central to reading
Includes searching and navigating on-line sources
Learning paradigm
Often based on curricular learning paradigm
Based on interactive learning paradigm, with emphasis on autonomous learning

As the mentioned in this article, the framework is designed to be used as a tool for planning tasks and projects for the language classroom that use computers and the internet as tools for personal and professional empowerment. In combination of communication, construction and research, skills and activities are suggested to promote autonomous learning and meaningful language use.

The electronic literacy approach causes many implications of the three overlapping areas caused many implications on challenging the boundaries of traditional teaching. Teaching students to ask questions and find answer in a global, on-line context raises provocative sociopolitical issues that teachers need to comprehend in order to effectively teach strategies for autonomous learning and language use.

The strengths of electronic literacy approach in terms of communication, construction and research. Many of the ideas in the communication section of the framework encourage the teaching of speech acts and conversational strategies and functions reminiscent of notional-functional syllabi. Creating web pages and web sites can be supplementary component to a language class that meets occasionally in a computer lab, or it can be a course in itself. As for research, teachers might progress from teacher-directed projects, which provide necessary scaffolding for beginning internet users, to student-orientated projects so as to promote autonomous learning.

Although the electronic literacy approach can benefit the students and teachers, the CMC as in the article is very difficult to master. In reality, technologies always change and improved, even will be phased out. Today the technology we acquired will be out of date tomorrow. It is the limitation for electronic literacy approach. We are reluctant to keep a peace with the development of technology.

Nowadays, the price of laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, I do believe that it is essential equipment for students like watches and calculators are to be permitted for carrying into schools and class. Basically, some developers started investigate ebooks for teaching and learning. So the electronic literacy approach will be widely adopted.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Assignment 2

Mobile Learning: Small Devices, Big Issues

Sharples (2009) et al fully examined the meaning of mobile learning and its implication on learning. The article includes four important keywords for our reference: Mobile learning, conversation, context and collaborative knowledge building. It is an interesting topic nowadays because most people have their own smartphones since it ever invented.

2.                       First of all, the article explored issues under three broad themes: (1) what is mobile learning, (2) designing mobile learning and (3) evaluating mobile learning. In the meantime, it also discussed three mobile learning projects within the context of these themes. For (1), the early definitions of mobile learning were confined on the use of mobile technology – “it’s elearning through mobile computational devices: Palms, Windows CE machines, even your digital cell phone (Quinn, 2000).” We are reminded that the focus on technology could not be help assist in understanding the nature of learning even overlooking the wider context of learning as part of increasingly mobile lifestyle.

3.                       The authors gave us a full and clear definition of mobile learning in unpacking the term of “mobile” as follows:
                             i.                Mobility in physical space;
                           ii.                Mobility of technology;
                          iii.                Mobility in conceptual space;
                         iv.                Mobility in social space;
                           v.                Learning dispersed over time.
It can be seen that “mobile” under the definition can be understood as no fixed locations, technologies, topics, social status/identities and time in learning.

4.                       The theoretical foundations of mobile learning placed mobility and context as the objects of analysis and examined how learning flows across locations, time, topics and technologies. Context is a central construct of mobile learning. It was because the traditional classroom learning is founded on an illusion of stability of context. In terms of mobility, the context is continually created by people in interaction with other people, with their surroundings and with everyday tools. In the meantime, there are two technical terms of “exploration” and “conversation” explained. In the former, it either involves physical movement or movement through conceptual space, linking experience and concepts into new knowledge. While the later one, it is a channel that learning can be enable within or across contexts no matter how different locations or communication modes are used.

5.                       Collaborative knowledge building can be promoted by a distributed system of meaning making by employing both the explorations and the conversations. A characterization of mobile learning can be understood as knowing through exploration and conversation across multiple contexts, amongst people and interactive technologies. Conversation and context are crucial constructs for understanding how mobile learning can be integrated with conventional education. Importantly, the authors stated that mobile learning offers new methods in extending education outside the classroom, into the conversations and interactions of everyday life.

6.                       In order to promote the conversation within and across contexts, the design of technology for mobile learning was the central task. While Naismith and Corlett (2006) found out five critical success factors for mobile learning projects:
                             i.                Access to technology
                           ii.                Ownership
                          iii.                Connectivity
                         iv.                Integration
                           v.                Institutional support
It was noted that the above success factors were largely identified from observations of critical incidents in pilot projects.

7.                       The authors pointed out that evaluation is a central activity in the lifecycle of interactive systems design. The evaluation can consist of unpredictability of the context of use, of the learning process and of the mode of use. Looking beyond the “wow” effect will be at last employed for evaluation. In general, the evaluation of mobile learning might be assessed by usability, educational effectiveness and overall impact. In specific, three levels can comprise: (1) Micro-level; (2) Meso-level and (3) Macro-level.

8.                       In the article, there are three exemplars of mobile learning that show how children can be helped to explore the physical environment, how learning can be supported across contexts, how mobile technology can enable conversation for learning and how new methods of evaluation can reveal the practices and outcomes of learning outside traditional settings.

9.                       The first one is MyArtSpace: Learning with Phone Technology on Museum Visits. It supported learning through explorations and conversation across the contexts of classroom and museum. The students used the phones to capture photos, notes and audio recordings and send these information via the GPRS phone network to a personal web sit.

10.                   The second one – The AMULETS Project: Bridging Outdoor and Indoor Classroom Activities Using Smartphones, PDAs and GPS Devices – explored how to design, implement and evaluate innovative educational scenarios combining outdoor and indoor activities supported by mobile and ubiquitous computing. The students are provided with the said communication equipment to perform activities in the subject of natural sciences, history and geography.

11.                   The last one – The Mobile Digital Narrative: Collaborative Narrative Creation with Mobile Phone Technology – realized an approach to support collaborative creativity with mobile technologies. It includes the creation, from idea generation to final production.

12.                   Sharples (2009) provides useful explanation on the term of mobile learning. From literal interpretation, it will let us have an impression that mobile learning may be relating to smartphones. In fact, the mobile is not only including smartphones, but also relating to abstract and relative concept of mobility. In tradition setting, we learn knowledge from classroom setting and taught by teachers with a syllabus. However, mobile learning let students participate the activities what they want to learn such as visiting museum or outdoors using handheld technologies. With development of technology, iPhone can consist of all functions mentioned in the article. Thus the students can only pay attention to the topics what they would like to investigate. Simply speaking, in terms of mobile learning, we can acquire knowledge outside the classroom setting of our own accords.

P.S.  The 3 exemplars have common ground of "Collaborative knowledge building". The students can contribute their efforts and creative ideas on their projects. I think it is the central place to promote learner autonomy. Simply speaking, they may use their technology or devices to realise their ideas or planning on learning. [Lewis 23/April/2013 morning]

Friday, April 5, 2013

For the definition of smartphones, basically, I agreed with Wikipedia that “there is no official definition for what constitutes the difference between them [smartphones and feature phones].” The distinction between both phones can be vague.
I remembered that that my first mobile phone was owned in 1996 and it is a band of CDMA type which was only provided by Hutchison (now “3” called). Its monthly service fee was charged at $298.00 and only voice calling at free-100 minutes was provided. On God! Nowadays, if you can pay $298 now, you have unlimited plan on mobile data and voice calling. Simply speaking, technologies are deflated very quickly. All functions including calculators and clocks other than phone calling are built-in and cannot be upgraded and modified.



Beside the mobile phones, the PDA is a mark for mobile device. You might probably hear the name of Palm OS and Pocket PC with Windows CE. But these device cannot be used as phones.


At that time, the mobile phone can be used as telephone only without any distinct features. Around 10 years ago, Nokia, a former mobile pioneer, offers a series of mobile phones including game playing, photo-taking and video-recording. It changed our mind that the phone can be used as communication only. In 2007, N73 provided mobile version MSN and 3G connection. This is the starting point that mobile phone can use certain software offered other than NOKIA itself.

The iPhone 3 was invented and changed the concept of mobile phones. Basically, there is only virtual keypad provided. iPhone integrated the apps as part of its functions. That means the apps is not extra function but a part of function of the phone. The Google Android emerged to share the mobile phone market subsequently. Please note that Symbian invented by NOKIA may not be treated as smartphones even though it can operate the same manner with smartphones. But actually, it is very stupid to run the apps and go on-line. This is the reason NOKIA itself abandoned their operating system and change to use the Windows phone system.

From my observation, smartphone must be installed with an operating system like iOS and Android that can provide apps offered by third parties. It is not only operated as phone calling, but can be seemed as computers including but not limited to word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, photos and videos taking and editing.