Archive for November, 2018

Facebook is the world’s largest social networking site and it could be used for teaching L2. However, the number of research studies is not enough to evaluate its efficacy. In this article, Dizon explores how effective Facebook use is when it comes to teaching writing. Dizon here examines any possible improvements that could be attained through the integration of Facebook into L2 writing teaching in writing fluency, lexical richness and grammatical accuracy.

Thirty students from the faculty of Foreign Language Studies of a Japanese university participated in the study. After a proficiency test (TOEIC or EIKEN), students were placed in their classes. The experimental group (n=16) was taught by the researcher whereas the control group (n=14) was instructed by two different teachers.  Participants completed 24 free writing tasks within a 12 week period. They were given a pre, a mid and a post test to evaluate their performances. The experimental group wrote on their class Facebook page while control group kept individual journals. Neither of the groups was allowed to use dictionaries or text books to aid them. The control group did not have any other tasks than their writing but the experimental group had to interact with a minimum of two students on Facebook on a daily basis. Focused free writings were not graded but given corrective feedback so that all participants received the same type of feedback. Only treatable errors were corrected.

There are three variables of the study;

  • the number of words each participant writes in the given time on the three assessments,
  • lexical richness, meaning the ratio of words written beyond the most common 1000 words,
  • the number of treatable errors made in every 100 words.

After implementing and analyzing the three assignments, the researchers concluded that

firstly, Facebook can better promote fluency of writing when compared to paper-and-pencil writing. Secondly, both groups failed to make a significant improvement in the field of lexical richness. On the contrary, there was a slight decrease in their lexical performance, which the researcher attributes to the fact that the students were not allowed to use dictionaries or other resources that might help them improve their vocabulary knowledge. Finally, the researcher did not find a meaningful difference between the grammatical accuracy of student performances in neither of the groups. So, the researcher states that the medium did not play an important role on grammatical accuracy.

There are also limitations of this study. To start with, the small number of participants makes it hard to generalize. The fact that the instructor of the experimental and control groups were different may also have played a role on the performances as teachers and their instructional practices may be different.

It is stated in the conclusion that although there are some limitations, use of social networking sites may contribute to the development of L2 writing skills. Obviously, Facebook  occupies a big part in the lives of young people and it can be used for teaching purposes after careful planning regarding the needs , abilities and available resources of the students.

 

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According to literature, blogs offer various advantages in teaching writing such as fostering teacher-student and student-student interaction, offering writing practice, enabling the students to work in their own time and at their own pace. Process oriented writing focuses on continuous interaction among peers as well as between students and teachers. Peer reflection is valuable because it helps students develop an understanding of good writing.

In this article, researchers present the results of their study conducted with fifty intermediate level EFL students in Karadeniz Technical University. They test the impact of blog use on the writing performance of their students in a process oriented writing task. In this study, both the control and experimental groups followed similar procedures while doing the process-writing task. They were first taught the target paragraph types, then necessary language to write those specific paragraphs. Students received teacher modelling and were asked to choose a topic to write about. After this stage, the two groups’ tasks differentiated from each other.  The control group did their pre-writing activities in class time, received feedback from their teacher only and did not publish their work anywhere. However, they wrote reflections and shared them with their classmates only. The experimental group students wrote their paragraphs on their blogs in addition to having access to their tutor’s blog, where they could access model texts and extra input. In feedback stage they received feedback both from their teachers and their peers. They published their final papers on their blogs and wrote reflections on each other’s pages.

Efficacy of this procedure was calculated by comparing the pre test and post test results of both groups. The control group improved their scores by 6.321 points at the end whereas the experimental group improved by 16.197 points. The main concern of the study was to focus on whether the students improved their content and organizational skills along with an increase in grammatical and lexical areas. The researchers state that there was a dramatic increase in overall scores, especially in content and organization areas but they couldn’t find a meaningful difference in other fields: grammar and vocabulary.

The gap between the scores of the two groups could be explained by the positive effects of blogging such as easy access to instruction outside the school, abundance of feedback received, increased exposure time and more motivation. However, the number of participants is very small, a big concern for the generalizability of the results. Still, the researchers suggest that teachers integrate blog writing into process oriented writing tasks.

 

 

In their 2016 paper published in The Modern Language Journal, Chun, Kern and Smith first consider how technology use changes the ways contexts are produced and messages are conveyed. They then ask some practical questions to consider related to the way technology should be used in language learning and how to evaluate its efficacy.

The writers suggest that current literature makes a mistake by defining technology as the use of digital resources and computers only. Instead, they define it as a broad spectrum of mediational resources, ranging from writing and pictures to computers. They hope to give reader(s) an insight into a more “capacious view of technology”, which may help them adapt to tomorrow’s technologies to be invented as well as the current ones.

Whether technology is useful or harmful still remains a dilemma for teachers. The supporters of technology use advocate that it enhances intellectual capacity and creativity; on the other hand, research suggests that there are also downsides of technology use as it harms students in terms of their thinking and literacy. Literacy is defined in the article as “know-how needed to deal with technological forms of language both as a producer and as an interpreter of meaning”. Being literate in one form does not necessarily mean being literate in another (Kern, 2015).  It is suggested that teachers should adopt an approach highlighting the fact that every new technology builds up on the conventions of previous ones as well as bringing its own brand-new properties so that their learners can develop an understanding of the ways to cope with differences each time the medium or technological tool changes.

The writers state that teachers’ being confused about whether or not to use technology or how to use it is not an unexpected phenomenon. Although technology may be harmful in some ways, they argue that trying to exclude technology from any learning /teaching process seems unlikely today as it would be so unnatural, if not impossible. So, teachers must not focus on the question whether or not it is useful or harmful to use technology in class. Instead, they should focus on technology as a medium that affects the way the language(s) change. It is the teachers’ duty to show the students what the old and contemporary forms of language are; as the language also is reflected on many different materials and technology. They should teach students how to pay critical attention to culture bound forms of expression, meanings, ideologies and contexts as well as the mechanics of a language.

Technology use also changes many conventions of communication such as the time and space, genres, writer/reader roles. In the past, face to face communication was mainstream and there was a need for proximity. However, with technological tools, people can communicate via symbolic spaces and they can do it both synchronously and asynchronously. In electronic communication, we produce “disembodied language”-language interpreted at a later time than its production. This shift requires the language learners to be aware of “real” and “virtual” operations. Here, teachers can use explicit instruction to highlight this shift if the students are unfamiliar with the medium. Enabling the students to understand how one context differs from the other is also important because each technological communication medium brings about its own rules. An example to this is how the expectations about the acceptable speed of communication change with different tools such as texting, e-mails and postal mail.

Technology use in language learning/teaching raises questions of ethics. Today, the internet is widely available and anything on the internet is considered common property that can easily be copied and pasted, which makes plagiarism a huge issue. In addition, since the underlying cultural and mediational ways are overlooked, individuals take the credit for the whole production. In order to avoid this, teachers should familiarize students with the cultural values of the target language.

Language learners should also be informed about how deceptive people’s profiles or expressions in the text based technological mediums can be. As it is easier for people to construct a better-self online, individuals have a tendency to overestimate and idealize the qualities of others. This may affect the way the students see the culture. Also, anonymity in such environments may be both good and bad for students. It may be good in that students have more freedom when interacting with others. On the other hand, anonymity also lessens the feelings of responsibility and social obligation, which may give rise to conflicts or even verbal attacks.

Digital literacies have political dimensions that students need to be aware of.  When interacting through new communication technologies, people use their conventions about social life as well. Importance, social position, authority and dependability are also important elements of interaction through these tools. Although the internet can offer many benefits in education, it can also be used to dominate, manipulate or exploit others. When teaching literacies, teachers should make students think about how political dimensions may be interpreted differently by people from different cultures and they should teach them to be kind to others.

In the second part of the article, the writers suggest that teachers take four questions into consideration when teaching a language through technological mediums;

  1. What are the specific learning goals for the students?
  2. What language, culture and instructional resources are available?
  3. How can the available resources be best used to reach the learning goals?
  4. How can teachers assess the effectiveness of resources in attainment of the desired learning goals?

They argue that the needs and abilities of students should be taken into account when planning to use technological tools. The effectiveness of technological tool use depends partly on the literacies of students, which makes it imperative to familiarize students with the cultural relations, meanings and social contexts hidden in different literacies. Teachers also need to consider the availability of different resources that they can use while teaching a language. They should think about ways to incorporate new technologies into their teaching so that they can help students reach the desired communicative competence goals. As opposed to the older media that was only received (read), today’s media necessitates the learners to interact online as well as to create multi-dimensional contexts.  Although these new forms are superior to the previous forms in that they allow more communication and creation, they may also have some limitations. That is why, teachers should carefully design tasks that require the learners to do critical reflection. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of technology use, teachers should not only focus on the learning outcomes but also on what happens along the way in the learning process. The preferences of and actions taken by learners can provide insight into how each learner makes use of specific technologies for learning purposes.

EVALUATION:

This article is an invaluable resource for the teachers who incorporate technology into their teaching because of several reasons. First, the article exemplifies some ways technology can be used in language learning by giving concrete examples for each one of the four skills. Secondly, it states the role expected from teachers in the process; teach language forms, but also familiarize students with how different tools shape our language use, how different factors come into play when using digital tools, help the learners follow the ethical codes of conduct and politeness as well as an understanding of the other culture(s). Finally, this article highlights the importance of critical reflection on language presented in digital mediums so as not to deter students from learning because of the overestimation of others’ qualities and feeling themselves inadequate. It must not be forgotten that language teachers are generally the planners, guiders and evaluators of students’ learning processes. So, the questions discussed in this article may shed light into their way.