Literature review

1. 2010Task-Based Language LearningThe Incorporation of ICTs into Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching This document presents the process as well as the final…
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  • 1. 2010Task-Based Language LearningThe Incorporation of ICTs into Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching This document presents the process as well as the final product of my inquiry carried out throughout the 2010 Fall semester at University of Maryland and three Publics Schools as part of the Fulbright program for Distinguished Awards in Teaching. I have focused my research on how New Technologies of Information and Communication are being incorporated to the teaching of languages in general and to Task-Based Learning specifically. Aurelia García home country: ARGENTINA host country: USA
  • 2. AURELIA M. GARCIAACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am grateful to the Fulbright Commission, Bureau of Educational andCultural affairs, the US Department of State, and the Academy of EducationalDevelopment (AED) staff for giving me the opportunity to be a part of theDistinguished Award in Teaching Program. At the University of Maryland, Dr James Greenberg, Mrs. Letitia Williamsand Dr Lea Ann Christenson as well as my teachers and mentors Dr RobertaLavine and Dr Jennifer Turner are among the special people who have beensupportive in this memorable experience. I want to mention the thoughtful input from my roommates and all myother Fulbright colleagues who have been generously sharing their experiencesand projects, enlightening my own. I am grateful to my PDS coordinators, Mrs. Peggy Wilson and Mrs. StacyPritchett, school administrators, teachers and students from Samuel OgleMiddle School and Montgomery Blair High School, where I could makeobservations and interviews and take photos and field notes that substantiallycontributed to my collection of data. A great deal of support has come from my dear children, mother, family,friends and colleagues from Argentina who have encouraged me in thefulfillment of this lifelong dream. 16
  • 3. Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program UMD The Incorporation of ICTs into Task-Based Language Learning 2010RESEARCH PAPER The Incorporation of ICTs Into Task-Based Language LearningLITERATURE REVIEW • WEB-BASED LEARNING In the last decade, we have been witnessing a shift in the nature of Internet.It has changed from a static, information-provider environment in whichstudents and teachers were able to explore, select and adapt the content theyfound useful and transform it within the context of their interest, to a dynamicsocial environment in which everyone can participate in an interactive sphere,becoming not only consumers, but also producers of content. Computers and electronic technologies have come to permeate our dailylives, our homes and our schools. As a consequence, integrating them into theclassroom pedagogy is becoming a reality for teachers who are supplyingstudents with the possibility of learning a specific content at the same time asthey are incorporating technology skills. Becoming techno-teachers is not an easy task. In the first stages, theygenerally have to find support from their institutional environments, to allowthem to share the school or University virtual platform. After that, they will haveto be able to satisfy their special requirements according to the languagelearning experience they want to propose - an instance in which lab techniciansand administrators become involved. After dealing with all the administrative and technical issues, the real workstarts: planning the course or activity, looking for Web resources, moderatingand tutoring, solving students technical problems (with patience and positivefeedback, so that they start feeling confident with the proposal as well), creatingWebPages (google groups, blogs, forums, google sites) where all theproductions can be shared.
  • 4. AURELIA M. GARCIA As Hanson-Smith and Rilling (2006) state the available technological toolshave made impact in teachers’ practices in three different areas: 1- Administrative: teachers use the computer to keep records of students’ assignments, attendance, mailing to parents, lesson plan presentations, online professional development. This use of technologies has proved to make teachers and administrators work more efficient. 2- Blended: teachers and students use computers to complement classroom activities with a computerized activity. They sometimes share two or three computers which are connected in one corner f the classroom or they move to a computers lab where, in general, they have more computers available and a technician. Blended learning can also take place while using home or public computers outside schools. 3- Distance: teachers also use computers to support distant learning, where students and teachers only meet in virtual environments and computers become the only means of communication and instruction. Placing the focus of this inquiry on the blended use mentioned above, it canbe assumed that new technologies are reshaping learning as a two-wayprocess. Instead of presenting content in a linear, sequential manner, learnersare provided with a rich array of tools and information resources to use increating their own learning pathway. (Arena & Crubinel, 2010) Technology-rich environment provides two options to language learners:1 - Internet Software Resources which are delivered over the internet throughschool platforms and where students can access for some specific practicepurposes. In general they are more teacher-controlled and the software itselfgives incentives or rewards to students who go on through different phases orstages of a game-like practice. Examples of these are: Kidspiration, a K-5learner’s oriented software that develops thinking, literacy and numeracy skillsusing proven visual learning principles. In reading and writing, Kidspirationstrengthens word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension and written 16
  • 5. Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program UMD The Incorporation of ICTs into Task-Based Language Learning 2010expression. With some new visual math tools, students can build reasoning andproblem solving skills. Another example is Study Island, a Web-basedinstruction, practice, assessment and reporting software, built for different states´ standards over rigorous academic content that is both fun and engaging.2 - Internet Communications Resources which allow students to manipulatelanguage skills such as reading, listening, speaking and writing, interactcollaboratively, or share Web-based project from their own classmates orstudents from different parts of the world as well. This communication can takethe form of synchronic, in real time, o asynchronic, or not in real time. Teacherscan profit more for the development of an integrated-skills approach using avariety of collaborative resources – blog, email, wiki, podcast. This new cooperative and participative environment offers teachers awhole realm of possibilities that could really make a difference in the teachingsetting. Then the question now is: How can teachers effectively use these online spaces… a) to engage students in meaningful, cultural connections, b) through collaborative interactive projects c) that promote authentic, contextualized, culturally enriched exchanges, d) having English as a tool for communication and learning?Web 2.0 tools –defined as World Wide Web technology and web design thatenhance creativity, communications, information sharing, and collaboration- notonly have the power to revolutionize our classrooms and schools, they alsohave special value for English language learners. Our students are nowempowered to create content, publish it and share it with others. Needless tosay, when students write or speak for a broader and more internationalaudience, they tend to pay more attention to revising. In addition, Web 2.0 tools also prepare students to meet the demands of the21st Century Skills, delineated by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which
  • 6. AURELIA M. GARCIAsuggest students need to develop additional skills apart from the acquisitions ofthe increasing subject areas contents. These skills are referred to as the 4 Cs:critical thinking and problem solving, cross-cultural communication,collaboration and creativity and innovation skills. Based on the premise anticipated by John Dewey (1997) that language is asocial and cognitive phenomenon, teachers should foster communicative andsociolinguistic competence through a range of activities that require interactionand negotiation of meaning for their completion. Wiki contexts, threads ofdiscussion -whether written or voiced-, or chatting are significant means ofachieving these competences and of taking students a step forwards theelectronics media consumption industry. The gift of time, as Lori Langer de Ramirez (2010) describes, issomething schools cannot give English language learners in the amount theywould need; so by using these new technological tools teachers are offeringstudents a learning maximizer. Web 2.0 can provide extra opportunities toengage in meaningful language-learning tasks from the comforts of their homes,libraries or cybercafes. Both advanced and beginning learners can profit from Web 2.0 tools. It isin general easier to see its benefits when we focus on advanced learners sincethey can skillfully manage a wider variety of language tasks; however,beginners can equally benefit from being in a more anonymous atmosphere.They sometimes may feel reticent to speaking in public or reading out loud theirwork; nevertheless, Internet offers them the possibility of drafting, editing, peercorrecting – to improve their writing skill - and recording, checking andrerecording themselves – to improve their speaking skill-, until they feelconfident enough to share their creations. • TASK- BASED LEARNING Communicative language teaching has been the umbrella approach underwhich many other approaches and techniques have developed. Among themTask-Based Language Learning (Nunan 2001, Willis 1996 Norris 2009) has 16
  • 7. Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program UMD The Incorporation of ICTs into Task-Based Language Learning 2010lately become the most prominent. This methodological approach focuses onstudents using the language to solve tasks, placing an important emphasis onmeaningful real life situations over form and knowledge of the language system. This problem-solving methodology allows not only learning skills but mainlyprocedures and concept learning. Working with problems and tasks facilitatesunderstanding of reality through the use of some methods such as solvingstrategies, experimental or observational techniques. Teachers have three mainroles within this approach: 1. selecting, adapting and designing tasks; 2. facilitating their implementation and 3. creating techniques to help students become aware of the form of the language being required to solve the task, without making of these grammar points the focus of the design. There are a number of researchers who have defined what a task is in thelanguage learning context from a psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic or pedagogicviewpoint. Yet Candlin´s (2009) definition adjusts quite well to the usesuggested in this paper from a teacher´s and practitioner´s standpoint. A language learning task is a set of differentiated, sequencable, problem-posing activities involving learners and teachers in some joint selection from a varied cognitive and communicative procedures applied to existing and new knowledge in a collective exploration and pursuance of foreseen or emerging goals within a social milieu. (Candlin, 2009) Whatever definition is adopted, since teachers are concerned withlearning, certain pedagogical goals should guide their task-based curriculumdesign. Among them Candlin mentions: awareness, responsibility, tolerance,self-realization and self confidence.
  • 8. AURELIA M. GARCIA As students carry out the task, they become aware not only of the languageforms involved in the resolution of the situation, but also of the sociolinguisticfactors that intervene in the interactions. Furthermore, students becomeindependent users of the language when deciding how to solve a task whenthey must feel responsible for the choices they make and the challenges theyaccept as learners. At the same time, cultural tolerance is another goal task-based learning pursues, when showing learners a range of situations in whichthey have to face cultural diversity and multi-cultural contexts. Task designing is a major task in itself, since teachers should providestudents with situations they can acknowledge as challenges rather than threatsand situations that can develop their sense of self-confidence and self-realizations. The purpose of a task in the classroom is to stimulate real communication,creating an authentic purpose for language use while providing a naturalcontext for the study analysis and reflection on it. Students prepare to solve aspecific problematic situation, solve it, and report on their findings; and onlythen, they then focus on the study of language that emerged in the situation. All that the teacher plans to develop and everything that happens in theteaching-learning process translates into activities. Each activity has a numberof features, and here are three moments in this program of activities appropriateto the teaching of English under the TBL as follows:  Activities related to the search, recognition, identification and formulation of problems:The problem should not be considered only as an initial condition but a processthat is developing, reshaping and diversifying in parallel to the process ofimplementation of the methodology for learning English. Another key aspect ofthis methodology is clear in advance that there is not always a single correctsolution, but that the resolution is open to multiple learning opportunities ofemerging issues around the main shaft. 16
  • 9. Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program UMD The Incorporation of ICTs into Task-Based Language Learning 2010  Activities that facilitate the resolution of the problem:This is achieved through interaction between students conceptions regardingthe use of language, as evidenced by the problem, and new information fromother sources. Looking at the constructivist conception of learning we mustadmit that it is produced by interaction between the knowledge available to thestudent and the new information he/she receives. Conceptions that studentshave about academic subjects sometimes differ from the contents of thecurriculum. The curriculum tends to be deeply rooted in the individual and isvery resistant to change. It is necessary then, as a first step, to help studentsexplain these concepts so that the teacher gets an overview of which may affectthe learning process and students - being aware of their own ideas - put them ina position to reflect upon them and confront them with new information whichwill lead to its possible restructuring, and the construction of new knowledge.  Activities that facilitate the synthesis of the work, drawing conclusions and expressing the results.The English language at this stage becomes the vehicle for solving a task, butthe emphasis is on meaning and communication rather than in the production ofgrammatically correct utterances. Drawing conclusions is closely related to theconstruction of knowledge that the student is achieving. But the final reviewpromotes knowledge restructuring and conceptual clarification. Stating in detailthe task of synthesizing the results helps to establish learning. Moreover, if itprovides students with the opportunity to implement their new learning it willencourage students´ confidence in their abilities. By teaching through problem solving the teacher becomes a researcherand connoisseur of reality along with the student. Assessment is made naturallyin contact with the student, supervised by the experience and the analysis donewith the teacher. Student and teacher, in a really close relationship, both areinvolved in the task, reporting on the progress being made; both of them areactually reading and understanding the whole process.
  • 10. AURELIA M. GARCIA Tasks can take different forms and there is a wide range of tasks thatteachers can design depending on the context, level and needs of the students.Though many authors have suggested different task classification, Willis (1996)organizes them in a very complete manner that can guide teachers and inspirethem as regards the most suitable task to implement. However, teachers areencouraged to understand Willis´ taxonomy as a flexible guide since tasks maybe planned under one format, but as students develop it, teachers may realizesome other format is more suitable and she must feel free to change it.TYPE SAMPLE TASKListing Make a list of the items they would need for a weekend camping by the river. They complete their lists in pairs and choose among themselves the most sensible list.Ordering Sts. Choose from the show page of the local newspaper twoor sorting events they would like to attend over the weekend. They persuade each other until they finally agree on only two for the whole group.Comparing Sts. design in groups an itinerary for a group of foreign middle school students who come into town for the weekend. All groups present their reports and the whole class compares and finds differences among the proposals.Problem- Our school´s 100 years anniversary is next month and studentssolving have been invited to participate in the organization of the commemorative dinner. In groups of four make a list of suggestions for that event. Share your ideas with the rest of the class and decide on a formal proposal to be given on the school´s parent´s day.Experience Childhood memories always awake memorable stories fromsharing students. The task would be telling the scariest childhood memory /most memorable moment of childhood glory and 16
  • 11. Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program UMD The Incorporation of ICTs into Task-Based Language Learning 2010 writing a book including all the stories to he handed in to parents in school parents’ day.Creative Students are given the blueprints of the school plan and they have to make any necessary alterations so that the building can be transformed into a cultural centre/hospital/street children´s home. All the new blueprints should be exhibited in the school´s hall ways. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about task-based learning isthe discrepancy that we sometimes face between teachers intentions whenplanning a task and what students final outcomes results in. In general teachersspend quite lot of time designing a task, putting restrictions on it and settinglimits for possible language forms, linguistic contents and final products. Part ofthe magic of this approach relies on how much we can teach that is beyond ourplanning, just out of our students’ ideas. Students’ reinterpretation of the taskshould allow teachers to reformulate and evaluate permanently their taskproposals making them richer and more motivating and challenging. • EMBEDDED TASK-BASED LANGUAGE LEARNING With this new web 2.0 online environment English language teachers arefaced with a great challenge: finding ways to promote students interaction andcommunication in the target language through carefully designed tasks. Oncethe need for connection is needed students will be solving the task bynegotiating meaning, debating and arriving to conclusions. There is no magic formula or templates that can assure successfulinterventions because projects can take multiple shapes. Nevertheless, Arena &Cruvinel (2010) suggest a number of steps that could be used as a guideline.Teachers will have to remember that educational settings and pedagogicalneeds are their priority, so adaptations to these guidelines are welcomed.
  • 12. AURELIA M. GARCIA First, teachers should identify needs, topics and decide on concrete goalsthat will guide their pra
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