Corpus and the Principles of Good Design

design

Image courtesy of With Associates

It isn’t a secret that I am not enamoured with the use of corpora in the language classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea and I do use them from time to time, but my beef is with how they are designed. It’s as if the people who created it could care less about design and are only concerned with the output. Whenever I gripe about this, there are always a few to defend it saying that they are able to make it work for them. The problem for me is that I don’t want to just ‘make it work’, I want it to be almost seamless starting from the first use. I decided to apply Dieter Rams’ ten principles of good design to the current design of corpora, and then seeing what could be done to instigate change. I am not a programmer, so these ideas are just being put out there as a request to those who are able to make change.

Good design is innovative: Innovation is not just about change. It is more about approaching something from a new angle, envisioning something in the light of things changing around it. As technology advances, we can see a product in the light of new possibilities, new users.

In the case of corpora, not much has changed in the past 15-20 years other than the access (internet) and databases (larger, more nuanced). For most, the interface looks like it hasn’t left the 90s or is so overly complicated that the average user has a difficult time figuring out what to do with it all.

I would love to see some fresh eyes and minds added to the design process here. I have some ideas of where this could go, but if we put our collective minds together, I believe we could really make some serious headway in the area of innovation. Here are some areas I think we could work on:

Data collection. Instead of relying on a static database that needs periodic updates, what about making it more organic, gathering data in real time? Better yet, collection could be done through crowdsourcing.

Input. Right now, a person needs to enter a word or phrase in a text box and then sift through all of the results. We could harness the power of voice recognition, listening for prosody clues and matching that up to audio data instead of plain text. Yes, this would require a great deal more processing power, but this is something that could overcome. Just look at Siri as an example.

Fuzzy logic. This used to be all the rage for a while. I even had a rice cooker with this function. I’m not sure what it meant in that context, but in most, it takes a wider interpretation of the input and uses logic to figure out what you may need from the clues you have given. In this case, you could enter in a partial sentence and it could produce lexical outcomes that generally match your context.

Questions. What if the interface asked you input questions instead of using radio buttons and vague descriptors. It could ask questions such as, “Do you want to find words that describe _[insert word you entered]_?” For English language learners, asking questions of purpose instead of relying on them to understand the descriptors would be much easier for them to comprehend.

Divide things up. Instead of having everything on one page, divide into modules. If you want to get more, you can ask for more information and it will move from module to module. In relation to that, have a different interface for simple entry and more advanced.

Integration with other apps. What if it could harness the power of other apps such as Twitter, Facebook, or Google Drive? You could then access the content directly from your other app instead of having to go to the corpus page to enter it.

Good design makes a product useful: When I hear the word useful, I automatically connect it to the user. In this case, corpora have been so focused on linguistics users, that the broader audience of language students has been almost completely pushed aside. We need to think like a student and what they want out of it. Some of my students have found a corpora useful, but others feel it doesn’t give the information they are looking for. We should sit down with the users and figure out what they want out of it. Dieter also mentioned in this area that nothing in the design should detract from the usefulness. I think there are a number of detractors in the corpora I have used. Let’s remove them or at least keep them out of the way from the average user.

Good design is aesthetic: There is nothing wrong with making something look nice. I believe it shows that you truly care about your product and the people that are using it. It personalizes the product and makes it more comfortable for users. In this case, I would love to see corpora take on a more modern look with a conscious effort to fit in with modern usages such as mobile devices.

Good design makes a product understandable: I don’t remember where I read this, but the mechanisms used on doors are designed in such a way that we know what is required to make it work. A horizontal bar means that we are able to push it open, where as a vertical handle is designed to be pulled. We don’t even need to think about it. As we approach the door, we know what to do and which way the door is going to open even before we reach it. The purpose of the product is self-explanatory.

 This is not the case with corpora. For the most part, we need to show people how to use it and demonstrate its usage. Most students have no idea what it is used for, even after giving them a short introduction. It isn’t until they use it a few times that it starts to make sense. If we could design the corpus to be more intuitive and make its purpose more transparent, I think we will see a major spike in usage.

 It also should borrow design elements from other products that we are familiar with. I use the example of the online classroom app, Edmodo. When a student goes there for the first time, they immediately see it as familiar as it looks and works very much like Facebook. In no time at all, students are able to get done to work focusing on the content instead of the usage. This is where we need to be with corpora.

Good design should be unobtrusive: There should be some room in the design for users to make it their own. They should be able to make it fit their usage instead of the other way around. The interface should be simple, not dominating. It is about the results, not the tool. This sounds contradictory to what I have said earlier, but it isn’t. If you are fighting to work with the interface, your energy is poured into making it work, instead of being a seamless transition from input to result.

Good design is honest: We need to be careful not to oversell the corpora and what is can do. In the end, it still requires a bit of understanding in how to get to the results you need. We need to make sure to strip down the corpus into discrete objectives, making it more honest in what it is able to accomplish.

Good design is long-lasting: The best products stand the test of time. A comparable product to the corpus is the dictionary. The dictionary hasn’t made major changes throughout its life. Any changes have build off of the core product by adapting to the needs of the users and the changes in technology.

 In the case of a corpus, we need to consider the architecture. Building a corpus on a structure that is heavily dependent on one technology is dangerous. An example of that is Adobe Flash. Who could have foreseen the original growth and the subsequent fall in usage? By being platform agnostic, a database can be moved from one architecture to another with relative ease. Flexibility is the key here. Even the database itself needs to allow for a natural evolution in usage and language.

Good design is thorough down to the last detail: Dieter goes on to say that nothing should be left to chance. Don’t assume users will be familiar with the interface. It should provide plenty of assistance and give samples, usage ideas, and possibly testimonials.

Good design is environmentally friendly: While a corpus is not a physical object, there are some ways that it can be eco-friendly through the limit on bandwidth (server energy costs) such as by limiting graphic use and not using power hungry interfaces such as Adobe Flash. Also, if we think about environment in the more general sense of where something is, a corpus should be situated within the network in such as way that it doesn’t impose on others. Tight integration with other programs help situate it within the network as opposed to fighting against it.

Good design is as little design as possible: Once again, a corpus shouldn’t try to do too much. It should divide itself up into focused segments or modules that can be connected or pulled apart depending on the usage.

What do you think? What could be done to make a corpus more user-friendly and practical? How could a corpus be re-envisioned for the modern age? These are just some of my thoughts, it is now your turn.

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“The medium is the message”: The message of educational technology

Image courtesy of Pranav Bhatt

Image courtesy of Pranav Bhatt

I’ve had it wrong all along. Time and again I have said that technology is simply a tool and it is how we use it that makes it good or bad, but that isn’t entirely true.

This week I have been preparing to submit a conference proposal on how to critically evaluate the educational technology we choose to use in our classrooms. It got me thinking about the old adage, “the message is the medium” and I started to explore what that really means. The saying actually comes from a book by Marshall McLuhan called “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” (1964) where McLuhan carefully unwraps the idea that the instruments of delivery, the medium, also has a message embedded within it. In fact, you can even have a medium without “content”, but still sharing a message.

His simplest illustration is that of a light bulb. As it is, the light bulb doesn’t deliver “content” unless it is used to shine out a message, but without it, surgery or nighttime sports would almost be impossible. As McLuhan puts it, “This fact merely underlines the point that ‘the medium is the message’ because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (emphasis added). He continues by stating:

“The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth” (emphasis added).

When you consider the use of any particular educational technology “medium” such as webtools, apps, LMS/CMS/VLE, and hardware, we also need to be aware of the “message” that is being delivered simply in the choice, or non-choice as is the case in certain situations. When it comes to learning environments such as Class Dojo, Blackboard, Canvas, and many others, we need to also be aware of the theory of learning that is foundational in its creation.

Take ClassDojo for example. You can love it, hate, and even don’t care, but whatever your feelings towards it, this environment carries with it a theory of learning and even human psychology that is instrumental in its design and implementation. It comes from a certain perspective of the role of teacher and student, human motivation, and learning approaches, and places these within the “medium” of the platform. There is no implicit message, but it there.

Even some of the simplest “tools” have a message embedded in them. An example of this is Quizlet, the online flashcard platform. While it is simply a “medium”, there is a message carried though it on how people learn through repetition and memorization. Even something as simple as cloud storage communicates a message much in the same way that McLuhan talks about electric light and power.

What we need to do as educators is to educate ourselves on the messages embedded in the medium we are using in our classrooms. Are they communicating the message we want? In order to know that, we first need to deeply understand what we believe about teaching and learning, something that I think we have, but maybe haven’t taken the time to articulate. From that, create a set of questions to ask ourselves when evaluating the effectiveness of the instruments we choose to carry our and our students’ message. Like it or not, those “tools” are shaping and controlling “the scale and form” of the interactions between students, ourself, and all others with vested interest in what goes on in our classroom.

On pools and other abandoned spaces

pool

When my wife and I moved into our new high-rise apartment building in January, a couple of mysteries began to emerge. The more obvious one had to do with the green space directly below our second floor balcony. Even though there are stairs leading to a fence and pathways with flowers and ornamental rocks leading in and out of the three building complex, there does not appear to be a way for us to get to it.  The fence cannot be opened to the stairs and any doors in our complex do not open out to the grassy area. The other mysterious thing is a door in our basement that is marked as a pool entrance, but there does not appear to be a pool nor any key that opens that door. This oddity is compounded by the fact that our apartment seems to be directly above this space that we can’t enter.

Last night, we finally had enough with trying to figure this out and we were determined to find a way into the green space and then look in the windows of the space directly below our apartment to determine what is there once and for all. We looked at the satellite view from Google Maps and best determined a way into the green space through the adjacent parking lot. We wandered through the lot and over a short berm and through the trees down to the pathway that we have never been able to get to before last night. It was like walking into a secret garden, only not as pretty. We wandered around and found all sorts of strange things such as another small building that used to house a swimming pool, but has been abandoned for some time. We made our way under our balcony and to the windows of the space below. There was a small patio area and peeking through the windows, we saw a stairwell that must be behind the mystery ‘pool’ door. We made our way around the corner until we could find a place to peek through the windows. Lo and behold, there was a small abandoned pool that is situated directly below our bedroom (see the picture above)!

When these buildings were built approximately forty years ago, someone thought it would be a great idea to install an indoor pool to attract new tenants. I am sure when it first opened, people took advantage of it and the children especially had fun splashing around in it at the end of the school day. I don’t know the ins and outs of what eventually happened, but I suspect the novelty wore off as tiles cracked, the pool was closed for maintenance over long stretches, and eventually the owner of the building decided it was too expensive to maintain and insure, so the pool was drained and the doors were locked for the last time.

With the mystery of the pool solved, I needed to get back to planning for a PD session I am jointly giving in a couple of weeks and I realized that much of what we do in the area of education technology is like the empty swimming pool below my bedroom. In order to attract attention from students, teachers, and parents, technology is purchased to show how ‘transformative’ the school is becoming. Interactive whiteboards were installed, laptops or tablets (or both) were purchased, and TVs were installed around the school. Slowly, the novelty wears off as teachers are not properly trained on the pedagogical reasons for using education technology and are also not given the help they need to use them. Slowly, the equipment breaks down or is left aside as students and teachers get bored or frustrated with it and give up.

Here is the problem. Technology gadgets are not going to ‘transform’ your school. Education technology is not about the equipment in front of you, it is about the equipment you already have between your ears. Having a good, solid basis founded on well researched pedagogy and clear goals along with the assistance needed to achieve them is the same for all areas of education, not just education technology. I fear that most people enter the use of technology in the classroom out of necessity, not because they see the value in it. Selling educators on outcomes, not gadgets is the way to go here.

There are a number of things that also need to be considered outside of good pedagogy. Here are some of my thoughts on those:

  • Costs: Could the finances being spent on major technology upgrades be better spent in other ways? Just like the pool, a cost / benefit would be beneficial, especially in the long run. When I was selling computers and printers, we would talk about the TCO, the Total Cost of Operation. Sure, I can sell you a printer for next to nothing, but the ink will drain you dry financially if you use it every day. You may be better off spending more on the printer, such as in the case of a laser printer over an inkjet, and save in the long run on consumables. Consider things like leasing. Leasing you computers can save you in the long run if you have to upgrade on a regular basis. Thinking of spending a pile of money on expensive equipment? Look at the TCO, not just the upfront budget.
  • Training: I would suggest that instead of buying the equipment and then training the teachers, train the teachers and then buy the equipment. You would be surprised what you can find out when giving a training session. Teachers can give you feedback on what would work and what won’t. Also, if they see the value in the tools before you spend money on it, they can spend time planning their lessons so they can take advantage of them. In one school in which I worked, teachers were required to come up with various lesson ideas in detail that could be shared amongst the teachers that made good use of the technology at hand. Over time, these could be updated and stored so other teachers could make use of them instead of having to reinvent the wheel each time. For many teachers, they see the value in the use of technology, but they don’t know where to start. Get them started, and then keep them going. Eventually, they will start to come up with things on their own. To assist in this area, I have started to come up with printable edtech tips that can be shared with teachers who are less tech savvy. Feel free to use them as you see fit. I plan on adding more lesson ideas as well.
  • Privacy: Always we aware that you are responsible for the privacy of each student, even if they are adults. In some places, this is legislated, for other areas, it is just good common sense. Online tools such as those from Google or Edmodo are great, I use them myself, but these are still companies who are not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They still need to turn a profit. How do they do this? Various ways, but the most profitable of all is data. Social media giants get that way out of the ability to sell off data. Now before you start getting into a debate about legislation safeguarding this, such as is found in countries around the world, keep in mind that data breaches happen all of the time (ex. Heartbleed, hackers). It can happen in your own network, but criminals tend to target those that get them the most money and I am sure a school network is pretty low on their list. I am not saying that you shouldn’t be using GAFE (Google Apps For Education) or Edmodo, but there needs to be a frank discussion amongst all stakeholders on what is going to happen. Also, bear in mind that simply asking students or parents for approval is not the same as having them in the discussion. Schools, especially teachers, hold a position of power and need to be careful how they use it. Students may be afraid to speak up in fear that their grades may be influenced. As crazy as that sounds, we need to be aware that there needs to be a way for them to openly disagree without fearing for their marks. Lastly, what are you going to do if even one student opts out of the use of this tool? Do you make them do things differently, or do you not do it at all? Are there compromises to be made?

These are only some of things that make the use of education technology such a hot topic. There are some you have bought in and are using it well. There are some who are sold on the ‘cool’ factor and are seeking newer and better things all of the time, driving their students and colleagues crazy by constantly changing their system. There are skeptics, frustrated ‘newbies’, and many more, but I hope we all have the same goal in mind, to create a positive and productive learning environment for our students.

So dive in, but just make sure the pool isn’t empty.

Creating a social asynchronous webinar

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Image courtesy of Mark Sebastian

By now, most people have likely at least heard of the term webinar if not taken part in one. I have had the privilege to have given one and also to have taken part in some. For those who maybe have only have heard of the term before but aren’t sure what they are about, here is a quick overview. A webinar is a short seminar hosted live on the internet where people can watch it streaming anywhere in the world if there is at least half-decent internet access. Also, participants can usually ask questions and participate in polls through the text chat functions. Some webinars even allow for live audio and video based questions, but only when there is a moderator in place that can help things run smoothly. Here is my chart comparing face-to-face seminars to webinars:

Face-to-face

 

Webinar

 

Advantage

 

Location

One location Anywhere with internet access Webinar – Saves time and money not having to travel

Time

One time zone Multiple time zones Face-to-face – Easier to schedule for one time zone.

Speaker

Local or must travel Can be anywhere Webinar – Greater access to a selection of speakers

Audience

Local or must travel Can be anywhere Webinar – Broader audience

Costs

Room and speaker costs Internet access and speaker costs Webinar – Location fees can drive up the price

Participation

Ask questions on the spot and discuss afterward Can send text and sometimes audio questions and discussion during
and after
Face-to-face – Both can make use of technology to engage the audience during and after the seminar, but talking to someone in person can be a slight advantage

Adaptability

Pretty much set as far as structure goes Somewhat more flexible on changing the structure Webinar – Even though both can make changes ‘on the fly’ to meet the needs of those participating, neither are that flexible

Reviewing

Can be recorded and posted for comments and discussion Can be recorded and posted for comments and discussion Webinar – No major difference other than the questions are usually typed up and displayed on the screen during the recording making it easier to see them in the video afterward

Planning

Needs to be planned well in advance Can be set up on a very quickly Webinar – Clear winner here.

Sound

Depends on where you sit in the room Depends on your computer setup Webinar – While technology can be finicky at times, the option of making it as loud or as quiet as you want makes this the clear winner.

For the most part, webinars win out in regards to the advantages, but upon reviewing the chart, you can see there are still some things that could be improved. For me, the biggest disadvantage to both webinars and seminars is the schedule. For both of these, if you want to be a participant in the session, you need to be there when the session is happening. That is fine if you have the time, but I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to take part in a webinar or seminar, but I had a class or meeting or something else on that made it impossible to participate. Yes, I can also watch the seminar later on, but it isn’t the same as being there. There is a reason we like to be at a seminar when it happens. While not exactly the same, it is similar to a live drama production. People attend live productions in the theatre not for the precision of the execution since that is more possible through the ability to retake a scene as in filming, but the value is in being a part of the production and the energy the comes from those in attendance and the actors on stage. This is the same for the live seminar or webinar.

Once you take all of those advantages, disadvantages, and ideas and put them into a pot, what comes out? That is what I’ve been thinking about for some time now and here is what I have come up with. It is still a work in progress and is open to suggestions and changes, so feel free to chime in.

I want to do an asynchronous webinar that adapts to the what the audience needs and possibly even includes the audience as part of the webinar. To make this happen, it will require the use of various pieces of the technology puzzle.

The first piece is something to host the video and allow for in-video comments and discussion. This would make use of short recorded pieces spread out over a period of time to allow others to watch when they can (the asynchronous part). For this, I have chosen VideoANT from the University of Minnesota. It takes hosted video and wraps it with a tool where anyone can pause the video at any section and add a comment which shows up as a list beside the video. Click on those comments and the video starts playing where the comment was added. People can even reply to those comments to add to the discussion. This is a free tool that requires minimal registration to view and comment, although even the registration has a workaround to avoid giving away personal information. More on that later.

The next piece of the puzzle is the video host. For this, I am going to use YouTube to host my video since VideoANT works best with that. It would be possible to have others share their videos through other means, but for now, simplicity rules here.

The last piece of the puzzle is a discussion board and host for all things related to the webinar. It should be a place anyone could add to without needing to register. For this, I ended up going with a WordPress blog since I can set the comments to anyone and this allows for people to share thoughts and ideas with nested comments. Also, it keep all of the material in one place. There may be better tools out there to do this, but for accessibility reasons, I think this will work.

Here is a video I recorded talking about this same thing, but showing how VideoANT could be used. Go to the link, enter in your email address, or a fake one if you like, and press play to watch the video. If you want to add a comment while watching, click on the ‘Add an Annotation’ and the video will pause and you can add a text comment.

videoant

Watch and comment

Thanks for your time. I welcome all comments, suggestions, and criticisms.

Starting fresh

fresh

Image courtesy of Seth Anderson

Last week, I had the privilege of giving a session at the annual TESL Ontario conference in Toronto. I had a good time and met a number of really great people. As I continue to give this sessions, webinars, or certificate programs, I am starting to realize the gap in what teachers want to achieve with their students using technology and the knowledge level some instructors have in using computers, mobile phones, and the like. Yes, there are some who don’t even want to try to discover what they can accomplish in collaboration with their students throughout the use of these devices, but I feel there is an overwhelmingly large group of educators who really want to do something more yet simply don’t know where to start.

Early 2012, I started to blog and speak about the use of technology as a collaborative tool inside and outside of the classroom. This hasn’t changed, but I am beginning to see that my use of this blog and Twitter may not be reaching the people who need it most. Also, I am learning to be more focused and contained in how I approach things. I need to make these instructional moments accessible for all levels of users. So, from this point on, I will attempt to write each post on this blog in stages so that those who know more can skip over sections to get to the section that helps them most. Think of it like a flowchart. If you know this, go here; if not, do this. I also would like to provide a printable version of each post so that you, the people who work with others who may need assistance, can print off these instructions and give them to those who may never visit this blog. I realize that sounds a bit ‘archaic’, but I think we need to be helping those who need it most.

Also, I am going to be doing some ‘blogkeeping’ by cleaning up broken links, deleting irrelevant posts, and so on in order to make this a place you can reference when you need it. At the moment, it is very random and hasn’t been well taken care of on my part. I promise to make it better. Really.

I would love your input. I have always wanted this to be a place that other could have their input. I don’t want this to just be about me. Share your ideas, your critiques, and your passion. I would love to get to know each one of you better so I can make this place of collaboration.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you come again!

Open book tests in the English language classroom

Quiz

Photo courtesy of Tory Byrne

There is a good deal of debate over the use of tests in education and while I don’t agree with everything that is being discussed, I do believe there is a need for an overhaul in how to approach testing and assessment in the classroom. One of the major problems is how tests are used and what they are assessing. I am an English language teacher and what I am assessing is quite different from what someone in mathematics or geography are measuring. To make a blanket statement regarding all subject areas is as misguided and dangerous as the standardized testing that many are fighting against. I am lucky in that I have more autonomy in how I assess my students. I have chosen to continue using tests as a small part of my assessment of their proficiency, partly due to what the students want and also what is needed to properly evaluate their progress.

One of the ways in which I use tests in my classroom is to have students write open-book tests. This looks different in each subject area and has taken me a few tries to make it work the way that is good for both the student and myself. Here is how I approach it:

  1. Give students plenty of notice: My class changes every four weeks, so on the first day, I clearly lay out how they are going to be assessed and the important dates to know regarding when they will be writing quizzes, handing in assignments, and so forth.
  2. Explain how open book tests work: On that first day, I tell them how the open book quizzes will work and even give them example questions. I explain that these tests are NOT looking for how well they know the structure of the grammar, but it will be testing their ability to choose the proper grammar in a given situation. These are open answer type of questions and are always based on real-life situations (ex. read a newspaper article and comment on it based on a set of criteria).
  3. Give them respect and trust: I let my students know they are able to use whatever materials they would like as long as they do it on their own (ie. no calling/texting friends, talking with other students) and they do it within the time frame given. I do give them more time if a majority of the class is still working on it as we approach the deadline. I tell them that I trust them to do what is best for them and I try to give them latitude in regards to leaving the room, etc. One of the main things I stress in the classroom is that they are adults and I will treat them with the respect they deserve and I ask them to give each other as well as me the respect we deserve by not cheating, going on Facebook during class, and so on.
  4. Make it a low-stakes test: The open book tests I use are only worth a fraction of their overall mark. I make sure this is clearly spelled out for them. I explain that this test will help me know where the class is at and where we can spend more time on review. I also let them know that the test helps me and them to find areas they need to target for more practice. Part of their formative assessment is to see how they progress from one quiz and project to the next. If they are making clear progress, no matter how low the quiz mark, the higher percentage of their overall mark will come from their ability to build on the areas that they are weakest. That means, a student who scores low on the first quiz and then makes strides to work on the areas they had problems with will improve their overall grade more than a students who does well on the first test, but doesn’t make any effort to improve on the areas they are weakest.
  5. Give oral feedback on the test: One of the best ways to encourage students and to help them notice areas that need improvement is to make an audio recording based on their quiz results. When I mark the tests, I only make a small mark, such as an underline, to designate areas that need work or are well done. I then make an audio recording for the student which I post on our closed class webpage that they can access on their own. I talk about the problems and how they can fix them. I also stress the areas they did well and also on the content of their writing. I have had students tell incredibly personal stories and I don’t want to just focus on the English. I also want to treat them as people by acknowledging what they have written.
  6. Follow up: I give a lot of followup to make sure students understand where they can make improvements and where their strengths are. I do this by giving specific work for each student and also class work based on areas the whole class needs work.

I understand that there are going to be people who disagree with using tests as part of assessing a students ability in a subject area, but I believe that this can be done with care and support that encourages the student and helps them focus their attention on areas they need work. It is great to allow students the flexibility to take control of their learning, but it is the instructors job to guide them towards the areas they could be missing.

How do you feel about tests? Have you used open book tests before? How well did it work for you and the student? Add you comments below, send me a Tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the form on the contact page of this website. Thank you.

Bits and pieces: various quotes on the use of technology in the language classroom

Book

Photo courtesy of Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

I have been doing a good deal of reading lately on the use of technology in the language classroom and I have found a few quotes I thought I would pass along. Feel free to add your comments below, send me Tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact page on this website.

“(U)sing technology is a challenge that language professionals must squarely face and to which they must endeavor to find pedagogically principled responses.”

– Blake, Robert. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. (p. 22).

“New forms of interaction and expression are leading to the emergence of what has been referred to as the culture of interactivity. This fact challenges the typical communication processes of the traditional classroom, calling for more innovative learning materials that combine pedagogical effectiveness with easy-to-use mechanisms supporting interaction between learners, tutors and other peer groups.”

– Evans, Michael. (2009). Digital technology and language learning: a review of policy and research evidence. In Michael J. Evans (Ed.) Foreign-language learning with digital technology. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. (p. 17)

“Along with the pace of technological change and the ubiquitous presence of technology it would seem that there is a need for regular re-evaluation, experimentation and investigation into classroom practices with regard to the means by which computers are deployed to support language learning. As we grow in familiarity with the technologies available to us, it seems that boundaries are there to be pushed back, with newly identified needs emerging that would have been previously undreamed of, and are subsequently characterized by improvements in ICT design.”

– Hamilton, Miranda. (2009). Teacher and student perceptions of e-learning in EFL. In Michael J. Evans (Ed.) Foreign-language learning with digital technology. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. (p. 150)

“(T)he ability to analyse critical incidents in teaching and to understand them in relation to relevant theory can be seen as a core competence of a teacher as a reflective practitioner. Using educational portfolios helps to initiate and guide such processes of informed reflective practice. To make the most of reflection on action, it is important to base reflections in a portfolio on more than just subjective data from self-observation. The integration of video and feedback from a mentor or peer can help to base reflections on a more complete and objective database. Furthermore, the use of standards to guide the reflective process makes sure that professional development is consistent with the requirements of the given educational context.”

– Raith, Thomas and Hegelheimer, Volker. (2010). Teacher development, TBLT, and technology. In Michael Thomas and Hayo Reinders Task-based language learning and teaching with technology. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. (p. 156)