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.

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