The EUROCALL Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, September 2017

THE EUROCALL REVIEW

Volume 25, Number 2, September 2017

Editor: Ana Gimeno

Associate editor: David Perry

ISSN: 1695-2618


Printable version


Table of Contents

Reflective practice paper: Exploring students’ reflective writing on Facebook. Nagaletchimee Annamalai and Paramaswari Jaganathan.
Research paper: A look at advanced learners’ use of mobile devices for English language study: Insights from interview data. Mariusz Kruk.
Teacher education: EFL teachers’ perceptions about an online CALL training. A case from Turkey. Behice Ceyda Cengiz, Gölge Seferoğlu and Işıl Günseli Kaçar.
Project: Exploring the impact of telecollaboration in initial teacher education: The EVALUATE project. Robert O'Dowd.
Project: Governmental partnerships for language learning: A commercial language platform for young workers in Colombia. Gustavo García Botero, Jacqueline García Botero and Frederik Questier.

 


Reflective practice paper

Exploring students’ reflective writing on Facebook

Nagaletchimee Annamalai* and Paramaswari Jaganathan**
Universiti Sains Malaysia
____________________________________________________________________________
* naga @ usm.my | **paranes @ usm.my

 

Abstract

According to our experience, facilitating online reflective writing via Facebook motivates students to improve their writing skills and reflective thinking. Six students and a teacher from an urban school in the northern region of Malaysia were involved in this study. The qualitative data in the form of online archives were categorized as reflection-in-action (feedback and self-correction) based on Garrison et al.'s (2000) cognitive presence. Additionally, reflection-on-action which comprised the students’ reflective journal demonstrated their thoughts and feelings while engaged in the Facebook environment. Data suggested that feedback only related to grammar and sentence structures (micro aspects). There was no feedback relating to organization and content (macro aspects). The reflective journal revealed that Facebook can be considered as a successful platform to enhance students’ narrative writing. The findings of this study have implications for teaching and learning activities in web-based environments.

Keywords: Facebook, Web 2.0 online writing, learner reflections.

 

1. Introduction

Great expectations are attached to the affordances of social networking sites in educational contexts. Among all the social networks, Facebook is considered as a popular site. Although it was initially not designed to construct learning experiences, Facebook represents a good opportunity to move beyond the temporal and spatial restrictions of traditional classroom teaching (Rodríguez, Ignacio & Elia, 2015) and allows students to meet their peers in their own space and utilize the environment with learning resources (Bosch, 2009). Learners are able to communicate with their teachers, peers, receive announcements, updates and collaborate outside the classroom. One of the advantages of Facebook is that students are familiar with it and feel at ease when used for educational purposes (Ramires & Gasco, 2015). It is furthermore ubiquitous and it is pertinent for research to explore the pedagogical practices that can be implemented with Facebook for educational purposes.

Despite a multitude of research and best practices relating to Facebook, there is a dearth of research relating to writing skills and Facebook (Razak & Saaed, 2013). Although Facebook allows students to write, it is important to note that writing in the virtual world such as in Facebook is process-less: “writing becomes an act of moving from immediate composing to instant publishing” (Klages & Clark, 2009, p. 33). Klages & Clark highlighted a number of legitimate concerns and queried how to engage students and help them to value process as a necessary tool for becoming more articulate in their writing and how to help students to code switch between their use of technology with friends and its use in academic and professional situations.

There is a need to intensify our research focus toward the students’ perspective to assess the quality of the work they have performed and try to explain success and failures in completing a given task when they are engaged in online writing in an environment such as Facebook. To achieve this, students’ reflection-in-action and students’ reflection-on-action were explored in this study.

Reflection is an important aspect of learning as individuals are able to internalize and reconstruct what they have acquired (Lavoue et al. 2015). Reflections refer to the cognitive and affective processes that take place when a task is completed. Yang (2010) revealed that in reflection-in-action, students were able to learn from each other. Reflection-in-action focuses more on the students’ improvement regarding their grammar as peer review helps them to scrutinize their texts in detail for more accuracy. In this study, the context of the learners’ reflection in Facebook, the writing dynamics that are related to their self-directed practices are generally different from classroom practices. Thorne & Smith (2003) argue that collaborative and communicative practices with social networking sites are tightly interwoven with the medium and the situation. However, they are not controlled by the medium itself. Instead, they are put into situations through negotiation which is, in turn, developed in their daily practices and may differ across cultural, geographical, social and institutional groups. Therefore, there is a need to be more informed about the potential and constraints based on a particular context and setting. The entire ecology of learning includes the students’ willingness to learn, understand new ideas and engage with web materials in completing their overall task (Wichmann & Rummel, 2013). More studies are needed to take into account the value of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action within different social and cultural environments when they are engaged in Facebook to complete their narrative writing. In this study, reflection-in-action refers to the micro level (language, vocabulary, mechanics) and macro aspects (organization and content). Reflection-on-action refers to the students' reflective journal.

To date limited studies have been conducted to investigate students’ reflections after engaging in Facebook to complete narrative writing tasks in the Malaysian context. This study took place in an urban Chinese school in Malaysia, a context where traditional face to face interaction dominates instruction. It is found that Malaysian students are not interested in writing due to insufficient writing skills (Darus & Ching, 2009). In the context of this study, the Chinese students who participated in the research lacked the required writing skills due to time constraints and mother tongue interferences (David & Su, 2009; Darus & Ching, 2009), which continually affect their academic performance in their English language classes. Moreover, the researchers’ interaction with the Head of the Panel additionally revealed that the students’ inability to write well is mainly connected with time constraints and the large number of students per class. As noted earlier, studies have indicated the strengths of Facebook as a language learning platform. Therefore, the idea of teaching and conducting learning activities through Facebook is a possible novelty that has not yet been greatly explored and should therefore be investigated. Drawing on the online archives and the reflective journal produced by each student, two research questions were posed:

The next section discusses the theoretical perspectives of this study.

2. Literature review

2.1. Reflection

Studies have addressed the significant role of reflection upon students’ writing to improve its quality (Chen, Wei, Wu & Uden, 2009).With the advent of online tools, studies have also indicated the significant role of online reflection. For example, Saito and Miwa (2007) demonstrated that students performed better in an environment that is innovatively designed and has supportive reflective activities and educational use. Also, the students perceived reflection and feedback positively as there was significant positive influence on the students’ self-regulated learning outcomes. Another study by Andrusyszyn (1997), reported that the process of reflection encourages student dialogue with their instructor.

There are also a number of challenges associated with reflection as highlighted by Yang (2010). "First, although many studies have developed systems that provide students with reflective activities, the effects of reflection facilitators such as the teacher, the writing activity, or the automatic mechanism in the system have not been explicitly identified. The influence of reflection on writing is unclear if only quantitative data is shown since the criteria for counting students’ reflection is vague. Second, neither the process of how students reflect on their actions, nor how students verify and modify strategies in writing, has been presented in previous studies" (Yang, 2010, p. 1203). Such limitations hinder the teachers’ ability to identify students’ weaknesses and to provide immediate assistance. Likewise, when peer review takes place, then the emphasis will be placed "on the product of writing rather than the process of writing” (Storch, 2005, p.154). These limitations call for more research to be conducted with a focus on the actual event that is taking place when reflection is aroused. In the context of reflections, Yang (2010) discusses two types of reflection as suggested by Schön (1987); reflection-in-action and on-action, i.e. "reflections taking place during and after actions to improve learning" (Yang, 2010, p 1202). This study adapted Yang’s (2010) definition of reflection in-action and reflection-on action as defined in Table 1.

Table 1. Operational definition of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.

Reflection-in-action

Reflection-on-action

In the final essays

1st-9th week in the final draft of the essays

In the reflective journal

10th week

Changes in micro and macro aspects such as content, vocabulary, mechanics, vocabulary and content

Advantages and disadvantages of the Facebook platform

Many researchers have also used Facebook to construct meaningful teaching and learning activities. Past research on Facebook typically focused on the opinion of the use of Facebook for teaching. For example, Reyes (2015) conducted a survey with 191 university students to investigate their opinions about the use of Facebook in teaching. The study found that the strengths of Facebook related to communication, self-correction, feedback, motivation and performance, whilst its weaknesses in teaching related to privacy, technological deficit and time consumption. The nature of the affordances of Facebook is also in line with the constructivist theory suggested by Vygotsky (1978), who emphasized collaboration, social interaction and feedback in effective teaching and learning activities. A study by Kabilan and Tuti (2016) investigated the effectiveness of Facebook to acquire knowledge among Community College students. Students were given a pre- and post-test to identify their performance. It was found that Facebook can be a supplementary learning tool with appropriate pedagogical practices such as collaboration where students can work as a community. Further, a qualitative study by Yasemin et al. (2014) in Turkey gathered the pre-service reflections of 25 prospective teachers after they had completed their online teaching project via Facebook. The study found that learners’ engagement and interactions can be enhanced through the use of Facebook. However, the study also importantly pointed out that sustaining learners’ involvement and interactions are some of the problems that need to be addressed with appropriate pedagogical practices. Thus, more studies examining reflections on using Facebook are needed.

3. Methodology and participants

The research design of this study was a qualitative case study to explore students’ reflections seeking to improve narrative writing. Students were encouraged to reflect upon their actions during (reflection-in-action) and after (reflection-on-action) writing their final essays and after interacting with their teacher and peers.

The study was conducted in an urban Chinese school in the northern region of Malaysia. There were six participants and they were 16 years of age. The teacher participant in the school was invited to implement the study on a voluntary basis. The major role of the teacher was to co-ordinate and lead the learning activities that were designed by the researchers according to the previously mentioned pedagogical model. The teacher was trained and monitored closely by the researchers in aspects relating to teaching methods and materials. The participants were given pseudonyms and were labelled as S1, S2, S3... to ensure anonymity.

Although the sample size was very small, it is in accordance with the interpretive case study methodology. The participants had a common language background in two aspects:

  1. all of them had passed their standardised public examination (PMR)
  2. they were from a primary school which used Chinese as the medium of instruction.

Purposive sampling was employed in this study. Students were selected based on three criteria:

  1. being able to access the internet and Facebook either at home or at school
  2. securing parental consent
  3. volunteering to participate in this study

The study took place during ten weeks. Students were given three tasks. They were instructed to complete each task in two weeks. The students were asked to:

  1. Write the first draft of their essay individually in Facebook after receiving the instructions and guidance from the teacher on how to write a narrative essay via the teacher’s Facebook page.
  2. Students needed to write feedback on their peers’ essays regarding grammar, sentence structure, organization and content.
  3. Students were requested to revise their own essays based on their peers and teacher’s comments.
  4. Students were required to write their reflection in the 10th week after completing their essays.

A closed group account was created to filter and control interactions by only inviting registered participants. The interactions on the online platform were collected during the 3rd, 6th and 9th week. Two coders were trained to categorize the online archives based on Garrison, Anderson & Archer's (2000) CoI model. As this paper is part of a larger study, the researchers had no intention of discussing cognitive, teaching and social presences. Only interactions relating to reflection-in-action, which is part of the cognitive presence as suggested by the CoI model, is considered in this study.

The interactions relating to cognitive presences relate to reflection-in-action. Table 2 indicates how the online archives are categorized. The coders were guided on the definitions of the codes in order to apply the definitions consistently (Miles & Huberman, 1994). This increased their confidence and encouraged rapid coding as suggested by Miles and Huberman (1994). One of the researchers was also one of the coders for the online interactions. Additionally, inter-rater reliability was obtained by using Cohen kappa procedures. The value for cognitive presence was 0.7. The reflective journal was interpreted based on Creswell’s (2009) data analysis and interpretation procedures.

Table 2. Cognitive presence.

Codes

CPA

Triggering Events

CPA1

Recognizing the Problem

CPA2

Sense of Puzzlement

CPB

Exploration

CPB1

Divergence within the online community

CPB2

Divergence within a single message

CPB3

Information exchange

CPB4

Suggestion for consideration

CPB5

Brainstorming

CPB6

Leap to conclusion

CPC

Integration

CPC1

Convergence among group members

CPC2

Convergence within a single message

CPC3

Connecting ideas, synthesis

CPC4

Creating Solutions

CPCD

Resolution

 

Vicarious or real world application of solutions/ideas

 

Defending Solutions

4. Data Analysis

This section presents the feedback given by the teacher and students which were categorized according to the descriptors related to cognitive presence suggested by Garrison et al. (2000). The discussion is centered on issues and events of language use.

4.1. Reflection in-action

The interactions in Table 3 belong to the descriptor ‘creating solutions’ as suggested by the cognitive presence in the CoI model. Feedback related to grammatical aspects and sentence structures. Some of the comments were “that had happened” (S1), “without long thinking = without thinking long” (S1) and “as I had experienced = I expected or as what I had expected” (S6). Feedback was taken into account and corrections made accordingly. Students basically made changes as suggested by their peers. There were comments that indicated problems as in “it is a past participle verb form” (S1) and “makes me feel embarrassing = made, past tense” (S6). Obviously, there were not many challenges in the comments. However, the students realised their errors and reflected on the various comments made and decided to accept and work on the comments to improve the quality of the essay. The students also evaluated and responded to their peers’ comments. For example, students commented “Next time i will be more careful of what I am doing”, “Thx for your suggestion” and “Ya... i think so” (S5). It was found that peers’ feedback helped students to scrutinize and consider the comments positively. These were only didactic instructions that encouraged the students to make changes in their essays without much deep thinking. However, the students’ total scores were much higher after they introduced the self-corrections. The scores increased as the students made changes in the grammatical aspects (Tables 10-12).

Table 3. Online interaction pattern related to sentence structures and grammatical errors.

Integration

Creating solutions

In Table 4, feedback was coded under the integration phase based on cognitive presence as suggested by the CoI model. In these feedback instances, the teacher was directing the students to correct their errors. The students made the changes according to the feedback. There were no further interactions. Such feedback shut down interaction and knowledge construction. Students obediently changed the errors highlighted in the feedback. The scores for the final draft were subsequently much higher.

Table 4. Online interaction pattern of cognitive presence for the event of ‘Errors’.

CPC

Integration

Example

C4

Creating solutions

In Tables 5 and 6, at the triggering event phase, students presented and highlighted the problems. For example, “we should spell meters or metres” (S6). The teacher’s feedback immediately cleared their doubts by giving the solutions to their queries. In this particular case, she responded that “it should be spelt as metres ... meter is Bahasa Melayu spelling”. Another example is the event “stayed back at school”. The teacher explained briefly “stayed at school means tinggal di sekolah, it is better to write “stayed back at school”.

Table 5. Online interaction pattern of cognitive presence for the event of “meters or metres”.

CPA

Triggering Event

Example

A1

Problem solving

CPC

Integration

 

C4

Creating solutions

Table 6. Online interaction pattern of cognitive presence for the event “stayed at school”.

CPA

Triggering event

Example

A1

Recognizing the problem

CPC

Integration

 

C4

Creating solutions

Other illustrations are depicted in Table 7 below whereby the teacher integrated information from various web resources for students to clarify queries. Students were encouraged to read the web resources.

Table 7. Interaction related to the event of “dime a dozen”.

CPA

Triggering

Event

Example

A1

Recognizing the problem

CPB

Exploration

 

B3

Information exchange

CPC

Integration

 

C3

Connecting ideas, synthesis

There was also feedback from the students and the teacher to encourage the students to respond and make self-corrections. The feedback did not encourage every student, however, to make corrections (e.g. S4). Some students did not reply even though the teacher asked for explanations from the students. This is evident in Table 8 where the teacher requested the student to “please explain to us” and in Table 9 the teacher asked “the word Caarrihadarric… is it an English word?” The students did not make the changes to the essay although feedback was available from fellow classmates and the teacher.

Table 8. Online interactions for the event of “Whirlpool”.

Example

Table 9. Online interaction pattern of cognitive presence for the event “Caarihadric”.

CPA

Triggering event

Example

A1

Recognizing problems

CPB

Exploration

 

B5

Brainstorming

In this study, however, some students were not involved in reflection-in-action for Task 3 (S1, S4, S5 and S6). The students did not make changes to the essays although feedback was provided from both classmates and the teacher. When students were asked in a brief interview why they were not able to make the changes in their essays, they revealed that it was exam week and they were busy preparing for their examinations.

4.2. Reflection-on-action

In an effort to provide an overall picture of students’ involvement in the online writing platform, the students were required to write reflections based on the question "how did the online participation improve your online narrative writing essay?"

The most frequently mentioned perspective was the opportunity for students to improve the narrative writing thanks to the comments and ideas suggested by their teacher and peers. For example, one participant wrote:

it is kind of amazing to read others storyline, getting to know how people express their thoughts through narrative writing, So i get to improve myself by keep on thinking about new and interesting storyline so that others will like the story I write... (S5).

Another student wrote that:

I can improve my writing skill by sharing my thoughts will all my peers in the group. They gave me good ideas and pointed out my mistakes after reading my essay. (S4)

The teacher’s continuous compliments and guidance throughout the online tasks gave greater confidence to the students. One participant reflected:

it is always be a motivation and satisfying for me when I saw my teacher and my friends’ complements for my essay. It would encourage me to keep up my work (S3)

Well-structured essays written by their friends were used as references. One participant stated:

I will also take their essays as a reference to express my ideas in a beautiful way when writing essay. I will try to describe my essays by using some graceful word especially when describing the natural phenomenon. (S5)

The students emphasized the usage of web resources as a source when they were composing essays. The websites relating to idioms and grammar were constant sources of information which was used to improve the quality of their essays. Some of the views given were “I have added some idioms that I’ve learnt in our narrative essay writing” (S2), “I will make good use of the thesaurus dictionary that shared by teacher to learn nice and special words” (S3) and “sometimes link posted by them are very good and it might be helpful in improving my essay writing ability” (S1).

All the students agreed that they improved grammatical structures. They also pointed out that they realised the importance of using idioms and phrasal verbs in narrative writing. This is exemplified in the following comments by the student #5: “my adverbs, vocabularies and idioms improved”, “...idioms are important ingredient to add marks to our essay, so i tried my best to put in idioms in my every essay” and “i got to improve my tenses and grammar mistakes” and “I have made a lot of mistakes in my tenses, past tense and present tense. I have corrected them” (S5). In fact, some students appreciated the recommended English grammar games websites and engaged in these after their participation in the study. Another student made it clear in the reflection that “my spelling improved gradually, I started to check my spelling every time I typed in Microsoft word” (S6). The reflective journal indicates that students are able to monitor and modify their writing to improve the quality of their essays. It is obvious that they are able to notice their weaknesses in writing and able to take appropriate actions to revise their essays.

Overall, students were able to add quality to their narrative essays after engaging in Facebook. Essay writing scores improved considerably after the final task. There was a significant difference in scores relating to vocabulary (V) and language (L) in general. However, there were no significant changes in aspects such as content (C), organization (O) and mechanics (M).The scores for their tasks are highlighted in Tables 10, 11 and 12.

Table 10. Students’ average scores for narrative writing task 1.

STUDENT

AVERAGE SCORES

BEFORE FEEDBACK

AFTER FEEDBACK

O

C

L

V

M

T

O

C

L

V

M

T

S1

15

16

18

11

6

66

15

16

19

12

6

68

S2

14

15

17

13

6

65

14

15

18

15

6

68

S3

15

15

22

15

6

74

15

16

23

16

6

76

S4

14

14

18

13

6

65

14

14

20

15

6

69

S5

14

14

16

14

6

64

14

13

17

16

6

65

S6

17

18

23

16

6

80

17

18

24

17

6

82

Table 11. Students’ average scores for narrative writing task 2.

STUDENT

AVERAGE SCORES

BEFORE FEEDBACK

AFTER FEEDBACK

O

C

L

V

M

T

O

C

L

V

M

T

S1

15

16

15

15

6

67

15

16

17

16

6

70

S2

14

15

15

14

6

64

14

15

16

14

6

65

S3

15

15

17

14

6

67

15

15

18

15

6

69

S4

15

16

18

14

6

69

15

16

19

15

6

71

S5

15

16

19

15

6

71

15

15

20

16

7

73

S6

17

18

24

18

6

83

17

18

25

18

6

84

Table 12. Students’ average scores for narrative writing task 3.

STUDENT

AVERAGE SCORES

BEFORE FEEDBACK

AFTER FEEDBACK

O

C

L

V

M

T

O

C

L

V

M

T

S1

15

15

20

16

7

73

15

15

20

16

7

73

S2

15

15

17

15

7

69

15

15

18

16

7

71

S3

15

14

17

15

7

68

15

15

18

16

7

71

S4

15

15

16

16

7

69

15

15

16

16

7

69

S5

14

15

15

14

7

65

14

15

15

14

7

65

S6

16

18

21

19

7

81

16

18

21

19

7

81

5. Discussion

Reflection-in-action occurred when peers and teacher provided feedback and students were able to reread, evaluate and revise their own and their peers' texts. The reflective process helped the teacher to gauge the students’ capabilities to evaluate their potential to improve the quality of their essays. The online writing platform, too, motivated the students to help each other and enabled the teacher to facilitate the teaching and learning activities more effectively. These findings concur with Hyland & Hyland (2006), Liu & Carless (2006), and Berg's (1999) studies that depict peer review as enhancing students’ writing abilities. Corrections made by the students were very much related to micro aspects such as grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. However, the content and organization of the essays remained almost in their original form. In other words, students did not revamp the whole essay but only fine-tuned the essay for accuracy. This finding is consistent with the view of Tuzi (2004) that feedback usually focuses on a low level, which includes clause, sentence and paragraph.

The reflective writing journal added a significant contribution to this study. Most of the participants saw Facebook as a platform to improve their writing skills. Students’ reflections revealed that they improved their grammar after engaging in the platform as they were able to exchange ideas and opinions relating to language, particularly vocabulary, tenses, and idioms. The literature suggests that web-based environments such as the one analysed in this study provides various opportunities for creating a constructivist learning environment by encouraging student-centred and interactive activities where students become active learners (El-Soud, Al-Khasawneh & Awajan, 2007; Zhang, Zhao, Zhou & Nunamaker, 2004). In short, students’ reflections indicated that they experienced the online writing environment positively. It is for this reason that a number of researchers (Ross, 2014; Yang, 2012 & Boud, 2001) have indicated the importance of reflection in educational contexts.

The reflections allow teachers to understand students’ responses to the pedagogical practices that would otherwise remain hidden. The key pedagogical practices are:

  1. Teachers can redirect students’ comments toward a more critical discussion. Analytical negotiations on grammatical aspects such as verb tenses or subject verb agreement facilitate knowledge building and critical thinking.
  2. For reflection-in-action t o be more effective, students are recommended to use a checklist for the micro and macro aspects of the essay.
  3. Step by step training for students should be provided in order for them to evaluate the essays from various perspectives. With the checklist students will be able to collaborate effectively instead of merely editing and to improve content organization, vocabulary use and language accuracy.
  4. It is equally important that students reconstruct the content of the essays, offer new materials, ideas and insights for their friends to incorporate in their essays with prior guidance on feedback provision.

There is no doubt that reflection-in-action improved the quality of the students' writing. However, more could be done when students are engaged in online writing environments. Students can be trained to become critical readers and writers and eventually become competent. Students would have a better understanding if teachers helped learners to reflect on content by weaving relevant discussions and drawing students’ attention to the relevance of the task to provide appropriate knowledge. It is convenient for teachers to provide adaptive teaching strategies in line with the students' thinking styles. With such guidance, students can eventually become self-critical to edit and revise their own writing. This may be an effective objective to achieve when they are engaged in online writing activities. However, only when students are given a checklist and trained can the benefits of the reflection-in-action be achieved.

6. Conclusion

The study indicates that it is possible to use Facebook as an effective writing platform. Facebook's features allow students to interact, collaborate, share web resources, support each other and learn from their peers. Findings indicated, however, that more effort needs to be put into fully utilizing the environment's potential for educational purposes. It needs to be noted that Facebook is merely a social networking site without meaningful and effective pedagogical intentions.

Due to the small-sized group of participants in this study and the specific context, conclusions cannot be generalised. Nevertheless, such sampling is in line with the case study approach. More robust studies are needed in order to represent different demographic characteristics, digital literacy and online working experience in school. Furthermore, the participants of this study were secondary school students therefore it would be useful to have studies at different school levels and pre-university students. Research should also extend its scope to other forms of writing such as factual, exploratory and argumentative essays. Additionally, this study needs to be extended longitudinally and with a larger number of participants. Future research can also be more comprehensive by tape-recording students’ oral feedback on their reflection activities for self-correction.

 

References

AbuSeileek, A. & Abualsha'r, A. (2014). Using peer computer-mediated corrective feedback to support EFL learners’ writing.  Language Learning & Technology, 18(1), 76-95.

Andrusyszyn, M. A. & Davie, L. (2007). Facilitating reflection through interactive journal writing in an online graduate course: A qualitative study. International Journal of E- Learning & Distance Education, 12(1), 103-126.

Berg, E. C. (1999). The effects of trained peer response on ESL students' revision types and writing quality.  Journal of second language writing, 8(3), 215-241.

Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. In L. M. English & M. A. Gillen (Eds.), Promoting journal writing in adult education: New directions for adult and continuing education, No. 90, (pp. 9–17). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bolton, G. (2010).  Reflective practice: Writing and professional development. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Boyd, P. W. (2008). Analyzing students’ perceptions of their learning in online and hybrid first-year composition courses.  Computers and Composition, 25(2), 224-243.

Alias, A. A., Ab Manan, N. A., Yusof, J. & Pandian, A. (2012). The Use of Facebook as Language Learning Strategy (LLS) Training Tool on College Students’ LLS Use and Academic Writing Performance.  Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 67, 36-48.

Buga, R., Căpeneaţă, I., Chirasnel, C. & Popa, A. (2014). Facebook in foreign language teaching – A tool to improve communication competences. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 128, 93-98.

Chen, N. S., Wei, C. W., Wu, K. T. & Uden, L. (2009). Effects of high level prompts and peer assessment on online learners’ reflection levels.  Computers & Education, 52(2), 283-291.

Clegg, S. (2004). Critical readings: progress files and the production of the autonomous learner.  Teaching in Higher Education9(3), 287-298.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Daemmrich, I. G. (2010). Assessing collaborative writing in nontraditional and traditional first-year college writing courses.  Teaching English in the Two Year College38(2), 161.

Darus, S. & Ching, K. H. (2009). Common errors in written English essays of Form one Chinese students. A case study. European Journal of Social Sciences, 10 (2), 242-252.

Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think. A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process (Revised edn.), Boston: D.C. Heath. 

Elola, I. & Oskoz, A. (2010). Collaborative writing: Fostering foreign language and writing conventions development.  Language Learning & Technology, 14(3), 51-71.

El-Seoud, S. A., Al-Khasawneh, B. & Awajan, A. (2007). Using web-based courses to enhance educational process at Jordan Universities. A case study. Paper presented at the International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL).

Fendler, L. (2003). Teacher reflection in a hall of mirrors: Historical influences and political reverberations.  Educational researcher, 32(3), 16-25.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson T. & Archer W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 11(2), 1-14.

Hattem, D. (2014). Microblogging activities: Language play and tool transformation.  Language Learning & Technology,  18(2), 151-174.

Hamzah, M. S. G. & Abdullah, S. K. (2009). Analysis on Metacognitive Strategies in Reading and Writing among Malaysian ESL Learners in Four Education Institutions. European Journal of Social Sciences, 11(4), 676-683.

Husu, J., Toom, A. & Patrikainen, S. (2008). Guided reflection as a means to demonstrate and develop student teachers’ reflective competencies.  Reflective Practice9(1), 37-51.

Hyland, K. & Hyland, F. (2006).  Feedback in second language writing: Contexts and issues. Cambridge university press.

Klages, A. M. & Clark, J. E. (2009). New worlds of errors and expectations: Basic writers and digital assumptions. Journal of Basic Writing, 28(1), 32-49.

Latifah, A, L. & Ramli, B. (2010). OUM’s tracer study: A testimony to a quality open and distance education. ASEAN Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 2(1), 35-47.

Liu, N.F. & Carless, D. (2006) Peer feedback: the learning element of peer assessment. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(3), 279-290.

Macfarlane, B. & Gourlay, L. (2009). The reflection game: Enacting the penitent self.  Teaching in Higher Education14(4), 455-459.

Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2 nd ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE publications.

Pimmer, C., Linxen, S. & Gröhbiel, U. (2012). Facebook as a learning tool? A case study on the appropriation of social network sites from mobile phones in developing countries. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 726-738.

Puteh, S. N., Rahamat, R. & Karim, A. A. (2010). Writing in the second language: support and help needed by the low achievers. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 7, 580-587.

Razak, N. A. & Saeed, M. A. (2014). Collaborative writing revision process among learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) in an online community of practice (CoP).  Australasian Journal of Educational Technology,  30(5).

Razak, N. A., Saeed, M. & Ahmad, Z. (2013). Adopting Social Networking Sites (SNSs) as Interactive Communities among English Foreign Language (EFL) Learners in Writing: Opportunities and Challenges. English Language Teaching, 6(11), p187.

Rodríguez-Hoyos, C., Haya Salmón, I. & Fernández-Díaz, E. (2015). Research on SNS and education: The state of the art and its challenges. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 31(1).

Ross, J. (2014). Performing the reflective self: audience awareness in high-stakes reflection.  Studies in Higher Education,  39(2), 219-232.

Saito, H. & Miwa, K. (2007). Construction of a learning environment supporting learners’ reflection: A case of information seeking on the Web. Computers & Education, 49(2), 214-229.

Sarudin, I. H., Zubairi, A. M. & Ali, A. M. (2009) A comparative analysis of engineering students’ problems in speaking and writing. Paper presented at the International Conference of teaching and learning INTI College, Malaysia.

Schön, D.A., (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. Toward a new design for teaching and learning the professions. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Storch, N. (2005). Collaborative writing: Product, process, and students’ reflections.  Journal of Second Language Writing14(3), 153-173.

Thorne, S. L. & Smith, B. (2011). Second language development theories and technology-mediated language learning.  CALICO journal, 28(2), 268-277.

Tuzi, F. (2004). The impact of e-feedback on the revisions of L2 writers in an academic writing course.  Computers and Composition, 21(2), 217-235.

Wichmann, A. & Rummel, N. (2013). Improving revision in wiki-based writing: Coordination pays off.  Computers & Education, 62, 262-270.

Yang, Y. F. (2010). Students’ reflection on online self-correction and peer review to improve writing.  Computers & Education, 55(3), 1202-1210.

Yang, Y. T. C. & Wu, W. C. I. (2012). Digital storytelling for enhancing student academic achievement, critical thinking, and learning motivation: A year-long experimental study. Computers & Education, 59(2), 339-352.

Zhang, D., Zhao, J., Zhou, L. & Nunamaker, J. F. (2004). Can e-learning replace classroom learning? Communication of the ACM, 47(5), 70-75.

 

Top


Research paper

A look at advanced learners’ use of mobile devices for English language study: Insights from interview data

Mariusz Kruk
University of Zielona Gora, Poland
____________________________________________________________________________
mkruk @ uz.zgora.pl

 

Abstract

The paper discusses the results of a study which explored advanced learners of English engagement with their mobile devices to develop learning experiences that meet their needs and goals as foreign language learners. The data were collected from 20 students by means of a semi-structured interview. The gathered data were subjected to qualitative and quantitative analysis. The results of the study demonstrated that, on the one hand, some subjects manifested heightened awareness relating to the advantageous role of mobile devices in their learning endeavors, their ability to reach for suitable tools and retrieve necessary information so as to achieve their goals, meet their needs and adjust their learning of English to their personal learning styles and, on the other, a rather intuitive and/or ad hoc use of their mobile devices in the classroom.

Keywords: Learner autonomy, mobile devices, advanced EFL learners, learning English.

 

1. Introduction

Mobile devices, smartphones and tablet computers in particular, have generated a lot of interest among researchers in recent years (Byrne & Diem, 2014). This is because the opportunities these new technologies may offer (e.g. individualized learning, the variety of mobile apps available, easy access to the internet) and/or the fact that they are increasingly more common among learners make them an important and potentially useful addition to formal and informal language learning.

According to Benson (2011), there has always been a connection between educational technologies and learner autonomy to the extent that they have often been intended for independent practice. It should be noted, however, that this link and “future enquiry and practice into technology-mediated learner autonomy will need to be increasingly aligned to the tools, settings, and activities that are of significance to language learners” (Reinders & White, 2016, p. 151). Reinders and White (2016) further argue that as long as “the potential range of settings, tools, and experiences is now virtually limitless, individuals need to be increasingly adept at critical adaptive learning in order to benefit from and contribute effectively to those settings” (p. 151). Beyond doubt, contemporary language teachers should equip foreign/second language learners with appropriate knowledge concerning the affordances of mobile devices for language study and they should prepare them for effective usage of such devices for this purpose. It is also of paramount importance, for both researchers and practitioners, to comprehend the link between the modalities of the language learners' organization of their own learning experiences and environments and the role mobile technologies, in particular smartphones and tablets, play in these contexts.

Taking into consideration the above-mentioned issues, the study reported in this article investigated ways advanced English language students use their mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablet computers) for their language learning. The article commences with a short overview of relevant literature. Next, the design of the study is described, namely a research question, description of participants, data collection tools and analysis. This is followed by the presentation of the results of the study. The article closes with discussion and conclusions.

2. Literature review

2.1. Autonomy in foreign/second language learning

The concept of autonomy in second/foreign language learning and teaching has been the focus of attention for many researchers and practitioners for more than three decades. According to Benson (2001), the notion of autonomy was introduced and popularized in 1981 by Henri Holec in his seminal report for the Council of Europe entitled Autonomy in Foreign Language Learning in which the researcher defined autonomy in the context of language learning as “the ability to take charge of one’s own learning” (Holec, 1981, p. 3). Holec’s idea of autonomy encompasses some components and capacities on the part of language learners (e.g. self-directed learning). For some other authors autonomy also involves “a capacity – for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making, and independent action” (Little, 1991, p. 4) and “the capacity to take control of one’s own learning” (Benson, 2001, p. 46). As stated by Benson (2011, p. 16), “autonomy is multidimensional and takes many different forms according to the person, the setting, and multiple contextual and micro-contextual factors” and it is “a multi-faceted concept that consists of several layers” (Reinders, 2011, p. 48) whose roots are based on political, societal and educational developments. In addition to this, work on autonomy emphasizes social dimensions of learner autonomy in view of the fact that “autonomous learners always do things for themselves, but they may or may not do things on their own” (Little, 2009, p. 223) and that by means of social interactions language learners “develop a capacity to analyze, reflect upon and synthesize information to create new perspectives” (Lee, 2011, p. 88). It should also be noted that recent research shows that fostering autonomy is no longer predominantly a matter of individualizing learning through out-of-class initiatives since the dominance of classroom-based approaches (Benson, 2011). Finally, it has to be added that researchers, in general, seem to be in agreement with the following claims suggested by Benson (2011): “(a) language learners naturally tend to take control of their learning, (b) learners who lack autonomy are capable of developing it, and (c) autonomous language learning is more effective than non-autonomous language learning” (p. 16).

Perhaps in order to define the concept of autonomy in language learning it is necessary to understand who autonomous learners are. As Littlewood (1996) claims, an autonomous learner is “one who has independent capacity to make and carry out choices which govern his or her actions” (p. 428). The researcher argues that this capacity depends on two major components such as ability and willingness, and he claims that the attributes can also be further subdivided. Thus, ability depends on having knowledge about the options from which one can choose and skills so as to choose the most suitable alternatives. When it comes to willingness, this depends on having motivation and confidence in order to take responsibility for adequate choices. Moreover, Littlewood (1996) argues that if an individual is to be successful in being autonomous, all of these components have to be present all together.

At the close of this section, a few words are in order on the notion of autonomous language learning. An interesting description of the concept in question is offered by Reinders (2011), who defines autonomous language learning as “an act of learning whereby motivated learners consciously make informed decisions about that learning” (p. 48). According to the said researcher, it is not possible or needed in all acts of learning to be able or ready to intentionally make decisions since different learning situations present different demands. Reinders (2011) further argues that “autonomy is not an either-or concept, but has to be seen as a continuum” (p. 48). This is because a learner can display more or less autonomy in different learning circumstances. Autonomy, in Reinders’ terms changes over time between skills and within skills and thus it is difficult to achieve and is not invariably permanent (Reinders, 2011).

2.2. Autonomy and new technologies

As stated in the previous section, the concept of autonomy has been one of the most researched areas in the field of second/foreign language learning and teaching over the last few decades. It should be noted, however, that the field of learner autonomy started to be influenced by technology in the mid-1990s as a result of the growing influence of the internet on almost every sphere of our life (including second/foreign language education) and the opportunities for online collaboration and communication (Reinders & White, 2016). As stated by Benson and Chik (2010), the latest generations of new technologies, particularly those encompassing the internet, user-generated Web content and mobility seem to be having a bearing on the way autonomous language learning develops. Perhaps, one of the most important benefits of implementing new technologies into language learning is the fact that they provide occasions for language learners who do not have direct access to the target language. This is because the use of new technologies, including mobile technology, allow them to “bypass classrooms and go directly to target language texts and users through the internet and social media” (Benson, 2011, p. 17).

When it comes to the use of mobile technology, and, in particular, smartphones and tablet computers, for learning a foreign or second language, they can assist language learners with their learning endeavors by granting access to numerous language resources whenever and wherever such learners need them and/or they happen to be (Jones, 2015). In Jones’s opinion, such language involvement might comprise, for instance, the use of chunks of spare time for language practice, searching for target language vocabulary in relevant contexts or interactions on social media (Jones, 2015). Furthermore, by having a mobile device a language learner has the opportunity to take control of his or her learning, direct it and engage in language activities that meet his or her individual needs and goals (Kukulska-Hulme, Traxler & Pettit, 2007; Pettit & Kukulska-Hulme 2007).

Given the importance attached to new technologies, and, in particular the potential role of mobile devices in autonomous language learning, the terms mobile learning and mobile devices (MobDs) need first to be explained. As for mobile learning, no single agreed-upon definition of the term exists in the literature (Oz, 2015). This is because some researchers define mobile learning as an extension of e-learning built upon mobile devices whereas some other researchers understand it as learning that happens anywhere and anytime (cf. Oz, 2015). As far as mobile devices are concerned, they can be defined as “any device that is small, autonomous and unobtrusive enough to accompany us in every moment and can be used for educational purposes” (Trifanova Knapp, Ronchetti & Gamper, 2004, p. 3) or as “hand held electronic devices that can be comfortably carried around in a pocket or bag, including MP3 players, digital recorders, e-readers, tablets, and smartphones” (Kukulska-Hulme, Norris & Donohue, 2015, p. 39).

A lot of studies concerning the use of mobile technology and mobile devices in language learning have been published. The findings of these studies concentrated on, for example, language learners’ views on the use of mobile devices in language instruction (e.g. Oz, 2015), students’ attitudes towards using mobile phones as instructional tools for foreign language learning (e.g. Cakir, 2015), profiling mobile language learners (e.g. Byrne & Diem, 2014), their effect on learning a foreign/second language (e.g. Nah, White & Sussex, 2008; Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009; Zhang, Song & Burston, 2011), distance language learning (e.g. Demouy, Jones, Kan, Kukulska-Hulme & Eardley, 2016), informal language learning practices (Reinders & Cho, 2011; Jones, 2015), learners’ use of mobile devices for learning a foreign language (Stockwell, 2007; Dashtestani, 2015) and autonomy in language learning (e.g. Díaz-Vera, 2012; Djoub, 2015). In addition to this, researchers investigated a number of applications of mobile devices and presented both benefits and drawbacks of the usage of mobile technologies (e.g. Miangah & Nezarat, 2012), discussed the use of mobile devices in supporting social contacts and collaborative learning (e.g. Kukulska-Hulme & Shield, 2008) and offered guidelines related to the implementation of mobile learning into second/foreign language instruction (e.g. Kukulska-Hulme et al., 2015).

3. Method

3.1. Research question

One of the questions related to future research and practice in technology-mediated learner autonomy addressed by Reinders and White in their recent critical overview of the relationship between technology and autonomy in the journal Language Learning & Technology (LLT) concerned language learners engagement with technology-mediated environments in order to develop learning experiences that reach their aims and meet their needs as language learners (Reinders & White, 2016). Taking this important matter into consideration, and in view of the fact that mobile technology, including mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers are ubiquitous and substantial constituents of almost every language learner’s everyday life, the abovementioned question was modified and posed in this study in the following way:

Do students engage with their mobile devices to develop learning experiences (e.g. the use of mobile devices for formal and/or informal English language study) that meet their needs and goals (e.g. the development of the target language skills and sub-skills) as English language learners? If yes, why and how do they do this?

3.2. Participants

The participants were 20 Polish university students of English philology, nine of whom (seven females and two males) were in the second year of their BA programme, six (five females and one male) in the third year and five (all females) in the second year of their MA program(1). The study participants were on average 22.22 years old (20.66 - year 2, BA; 21.82 - year 3, BA and 24.50 - year 2, MA). The subjects reported having learned English for an average of 11.38 years (10.49 - year 2, BA; 11.27 - year 3, BA and 12.21 - year 2, MA). The proficiency level represented by the participants of the study could be described as somewhere between B1 and B2 (second year BA students), B2 and C1 (third year BA students) and C1 and C2 (second year MA students), as specified in the levels laid out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

3.3. Data collection and analysis

The data were gathered by means of a semi-structured interview. This interview format was chosen intentionally since it uses a set of prepared in advance guiding questions and prompts and interviewees are encouraged to elaborate on the problems raised during it (Dörnyei, 2007). As Dörnyei (2007) explains, in this type of the interview “the interviewer provides guidelines and direction (hence the ‘-structured’ part in the name), but is also keen to follow up interesting developments and to let the interviewee elaborate on certain issues (hence the ‘semi-’ part)” (p. 136).

During the interview, the present researcher attempted to encourage the subjects to describe their learning experiences concerning the use of mobile devices for English study. This was a form of introspection where the students were prompted to examine their behaviors and provide a first person narrative of such experiences. All the study participants were informed that the interview concerned the use of mobile devices for English study and they were asked for permission to be digitally recorded. In order to obtain relevant data the following questions were asked(2):

The gathered data were subjected to qualitative and quantitative analysis. The analysis started with partial transcription of the important parts of the data (Dörnyei, 2007) on a computer word processor program Microsoft Word 2016. Then the transcribed parts of the data were read several times in order to look for common themes and frequently occurring information. The recurring ideas were coded and recoded, revised and updated. The researcher used the highlighting function of the word processor program which allows the user to highlight the text on the transcript with different colors and comments to record any observations and thematic categories recognized in the data. The emerged categories were reviewed, compared, modified and either merged or abandoned. It should also be noted that the obtained data were analyzed quantitatively. This type of analysis involved counting the number of the interviewees’ responses and calculating percentages.

4. Findings

A thorough analysis of the data yielded the following thematic categories: usage of mobile devices, reasons for using mobile devices, resources and tools, mobile encounters, language practiced and study performance.

4.1. Usage of mobile devices

Table 1 shows the study participants’ mobile devices (MobDs) usage descriptions. The table demonstrates that smartphones were the most often used mobile devices by the students. In addition, the numerical information in the table indicates that the participants, on average, had been using them for English language study for about 3.80 years (minimum 2, maximum 6 years). 9 (45%) and 11 (55%) of the subjects started using their mobile devices at senior high school and university, respectively. It should also be added that, with the exception of one student (i.e. S9), all the other participants claimed to use their mobile devices in order to learn English much more frequently with time. Finally, more than half of the students (55%) regarded themselves as experienced or fairly experienced users of their MobDs for English language learning; however, 45% claimed not to be very skilful in this area.

Table 1. The students’ mobile devices usage descriptions.

Year/

Level of study

Student

Sex

Device used

Use of MobDs for language study (approx.)

Self-assessed experience

2nd year B.A.

S1

female

smartphone and tablet

2 years

not very experienced

S2

female

smartphone

5 years

experienced

S3

female

smartphone

5 years

fairly experienced

S4

female

smartphone, rarely tablet

4 years

fairly experienced

S5

female

smartphone

3 years

not very experienced

S6

male

smartphone

2 years

experienced

S7

female

smartphone and tablet

5 years

fairly experienced

S8

female

smartphone

2 years

fairly experienced

S9

male

smartphone

4 years

not very experienced

3rd year

B.A.

S10

female

smartphone

5 years

fairly experienced

S11

female

tablet and cell phone

2 years

fairly experienced

S12

female

smartphone

2 years

not very experienced

S13

female

smartphone

3 years

not very experienced

S14

male

smartphone and tablet

3 years

experienced

S15

female

smartphone and tablet

5 years

fairly experienced

2nd year M.A.

S16

female

smartphone

3 years

not very experienced

S17

female

smartphone and tablet

6 years

fairly experienced

S18

female

smartphone

5 years

not very experienced

S19

female

smartphone and tablet

5 years

not very experienced

S20

female

smartphone and tablet

5 years

fairly experienced

4.2. Reasons for using mobile devices

The study participants decided on the use of their MobDs in order to learn English for the reason that they regarded them as convenient, fast and always ready to use. In addition, some students pointed to the fact that the use of MobDs allowed them to have a quick access to the internet and organize their own study materials and/or resources. Illustrative examples of such opinions are provided below(3):

S10: It’s very comfortable. I can reach for my dictionary any time I want and I don’t have to carry thick books (...) The main aspect is convenience.

S5: It’s because I can find needed information ... it’s convenient because I always carry my smartphone and I have access to the internet all the time (...) At home I also use my smartphone and I don’t mind it has a small screen.

S14: My tablet lets me organize things and keep my documents in one place. This is because studying English means having countless study materials (...) I can store them there (...) this also gives me easier access to them (...) In addition, my smartphone can successfully replace a traditional paper dictionary and I don’t have to waste time in thumbing through a lot of pages to find words I’m looking for.

4.3. Resources and tools

The analysis of the data revealed that the students made use of both online resources and mobile apps. The most frequently used language tools were online dictionaries (e.g. diki, ColorDict Dictionary) and a variety of mobile apps, such as Google Translate, Duolingo and Fiszkoteka. The students usually accessed these tools in order to check, revise and learn the target language vocabulary. Two students also reported using Voscreen and WhatsApp, i.e. mobile apps for watching video and communicating with people, respectively. It should also be noted that the interviewees pointed out various online resources they used with the purpose of practicing reading and listening skills (e.g. TED, online newspapers, YouTube), vocabulary (e.g. 6 Minute English, PONS, Google Translate) and having access to language materials (e.g. Academica). Finally, some students used their MobDs in order to read language materials downloaded from the internet (e.g. PDF files). The following responses illustrate some of these issues:

S5: I use apps for “index cards”, dictionaries and a variety of apps for developing English vocabulary.

S10: I have some online friends and I talk with them in English (Do you do this by means of instant messaging applications?) Yes, I use WhatsApp Messenger.

S15: I often read scanned book pages and pdf materials (…) I access English vocabulary by means of online dictionaries.

S20: Fiszkoteka. I frequently use this app (...) I also listen to podcasts and I have the app called Six minutes English in order to practice listening (...) Also because vocabulary is used in a variety of contexts.

4.4. Mobile encounters

Thirteen (65%) interviewees claimed to use their MobDs most frequently in their leisure time, six (30%) in the classroom and one student said he had used his smartphone equally frequently in the classroom and out-of-class English study. As for the students who used their smartphones or tablet computers in their leisure time, some of them did it with the aim of reading English texts, listening to audio resources, checking and learning new vocabulary, preparing multimedia presentations and playing language games. This is not to say, of course, that this group of learners did not use their MobDs at all during classes; however, the use of MobDs in this respect was only limited to checking target language vocabulary (e.g. S1: I use my smartphone, for example, to check something I don’t understand (...) I installed a dictionary and I use it to find words). When it comes to the subjects who claimed to use their MobDs most frequently in the classroom, they used them to check unfamiliar vocabulary and/or find words they needed during various language activities. It is also important to note that these students were not very willing to use their MobDs at home in view of the fact that they favored their home computers. For example:

S7: I use them outside of University in order to learn and practice English vocabulary and to prepare multimedia presentations.

S13: In my free time I learn English words and phrases, listen to English recordings and I read various texts in English.

S19: Yes, I use my smartphone and tablet for out-of-class learning but I also use them during classes mostly to check words and collocations.

S16: I think I do this during practical English language classes more regularly in the classroom than outside of it (...) In the classroom I check English words in digital dictionaries (...) I do this to check words, spelling, or to recall some words (...) or I use my smartphone to look for synonyms (...).

The analysis of the gathered data also demonstrated that the majority of the interviewees (13 or 65%) were in favor of using their smartphones and/or tablet computers for informal English learning (i.e. learning the target language for pleasure) and 7 (35%) students associated the use of their MobDs with formal learning (i.e. related to their studies). It should be noted, however, that only two interviewees claimed to hold and somewhat organize regular mobile English language sessions:

S10: I think this is what I have talked about earlier, I mean these chats with my friends. Perhaps we don’t chat very regularly ... we chat three times a week and that’s it but, at the same time, it’s not sporadic because we arrange it and it takes place pretty regularly.

S16: I often watch videos on YouTube and I do this the most often through my smartphone.

Finally, it has to be noted that the use of mobile devices was not explicitly advised or suggested by the interviewees’ teachers during their practical English language classes or any other classes at the university. This is not to say, of course, that they never referred their students to electronic or online resources; however, they did not ask students to use them in classes, they did not recommend any mobile apps or design language tasks which required using such devices in order to solve them.

4.5. Language practiced

When asked to indicate the most frequently practiced language skills and subsystems by means of mobile devices, all the interviewees indicated the target language vocabulary. In addition to this, some referred to pronunciation and only a few students mentioned grammar and practicing reading, listening and speaking skills. As far as practicing English vocabulary is concerned, the subjects chose to practice it through their smartphones and/or tables because they regarded this language subsystem as the most important to learn, they praised their MobDs for providing them with quick and easy access to needed words and see the way they were used in given sentences. As was stressed by many of the interviewees, learning English vocabulary by means of mobile devices also allowed them to check correct pronunciation of words (i.e. they listened to it or paid attention to phonetic transcription of words). The following excerpts exemplify the most typical usage of MobDs by the study participants:

S3: (…) as for vocabulary I guess it’s much faster to search for words and know how to use them in sentences.

S6: It’s easy and it’s very easy to look for words when I need them.

S12: (…) I need vocabulary not only to communicate in English (…) when I look for words I look at contexts words are used (...) I always pay attention to spelling and also listen to pronunciation (How about phonetic transcription of words?) Phonetic transcription of words ... yes but not often unless audio is poor quality or it seems to sound somehow differently ... then I make sure how a word is pronounced and I read its phonetic transcription given there.

As mentioned earlier, only a few students resorted to their MobDs in order to practice other language areas such as listening, reading and speaking as well as grammar. This is because they preferred more traditional resources (e.g. grammar books), they used other devices (e.g. laptop computers) or they regarded themselves as quite proficient in particular language skills and thus they did not feel the need to master them by way of MobDs. Representative excerpts from the interviewees’ responses follow:

S3: When it comes to grammar, for me it’s more convenient to use grammar books to learn it.

S2: (…) I’m pretty good at English grammar and listening and I don’t have to use my smartphone to learn these language elements.

S12: I think I’m quite good at grammar and I practice listening skills by means of my laptop computer.

4.6. Study performance

There is evidence that the use of mobile devices became an impetus for studying English more and learn this language more effectively and efficiently (this advantageous effect was expressed by as many as 15 or 75% interviewees). This is because access to a smartphone or a tablet allows some learners devote more time to learning English (S1: Yes, I think so. I think I spend more time ... If I was to use traditional materials, for example, books, I wouldn’t devote so much time to it.; S15: It seems to me that I dedicate more time to learn English this way and I learn more.), encouraged another student to learn more (S6: I’m more willing to use my smartphone than open a paper dictionary.) and allowed yet another subject to learn more vocabulary (S12: Yes, definitely. I wouldn’t have learned these words if I hadn’t used my phone.). Such beneficial outcomes of the use of MobDs are best described by one of the interviewees who said:

If I’m to say that I devote more time for learning English it’s because I can devote more time to learning it ... in the way I compare a paper dictionary with an online one ... for example to check one word ... If I use a traditional dictionary it takes me longer, say three minutes, but If I use an online dictionary it takes me, say, ten seconds (...) this way I can devote less time to looking for information and more on language production, on the use of English ... there is less time used but it’s more effective. (S14)

It is also interesting to note that the use of mobile devices might be valuable for kinesthetic or tactical language learners:

I think I spend more time … for me it’s much nicer and more interesting than sitting and reading books … it’s better for me since I’m kinesthetic so it’s hard for me to sit and read a traditional book ... it’s because I don’t remember then much but when I use my smartphone which is mobile I can ... I can do it while doing other activities and this makes things easier for me. (S5)

Finally, it should be noted that 5 (25%) interviewees were not able to say whether or not the use of mobile devices made them study the target language more effectively or efficiently and they expressed their opinion by simply claiming that “It’s difficult to say”.

5. Discussion and conclusions

The picture that emerges from the analysis of the collected data regarding the advanced learners' use of mobile devices for learning English is relatively encouraging. This is because all the study participants used, at least to some extent, their mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and/or tablet computers) in order to learn the English language autonomously. Moreover, the positive impact of using mobile devices for English study was acknowledged by the majority of the interviewees. Their beneficial contribution to their English development was chiefly linked with easy access to English language resources, the opportunity to store them, comfort in using their smartphones and tablets anywhere and anytime as well as perceived gains in English learning. The results of the study also showed that all interviewees engaged with their smartphones and/or tablet computers to practice the target language vocabulary (plus some students also claimed to learn pronunciation of English words) and the majority of the subjects used their mobile devices autonomously in their leisure time as well as during language classes. Such a state of affairs can be explained in terms of increased awareness on the part of some students of the beneficial role of MobDs in foreign language learning, their ability to reach for appropriate tools and retrieve needed information to achieve their goals and adjust their learning of the target language to their personal learning styles.

Despite this positive view of MobDs reported by the study participants, the results of the study also revealed that only a few subjects engaged with their mobile devices to master target language skills, such as reading, listening, writing and speaking as well as English language grammar. In addition, some interviewees limited themselves to a rather intuitive and perhaps even spontaneous use of their mobile devices in the language classroom. It should also be noted that almost half of the subjects regarded themselves as quite inexperienced in using their mobile devices when it comes to learning the English language despite the fact that some of the students had been using them with the intention of learning English for years. Taking all these findings into account, one may conclude that this is due to a failure or underestimation of the role and place of mobile devices in foreign language learning and teaching on the part of language teachers. It seems therefore warranted to say that the subjects’ use of mobile devices could be altered if teachers took into account the benefits they may offer. For this reason language teachers should, for instance, present the affordances of mobile technology and discuss them with students during language classes. They should also select mobile apps and create opportunities for using them in- and out-of-class learning by offering or designing tasks devoted to practicing a variety of language skills and subsystems suitable for the use of such devices. If this were to happen, teachers need to respond quickly to the constant and dynamic changes in contemporary foreign/second language learning and teaching contexts by undergoing official teacher training not only in the area of technology-mediated language learning and teaching but also in the context of learner autonomy.

As with all studies the study reported in this paper has some limitations. Although the interviewees represented a range of experience of English language learning, the small number of participants reduces the generalizability of the results. Another limitation is related to the fact that the group was largely homogenous, i.e. the subjects came from the same institution and all studied English. Yet another weakness may concern the data collection instrument, namely the semi-structured interview which was conducted only once. Perhaps a different set of questions, their wording or a series of such interviews carried out over a particular period of time (say one academic year) may have yielded more detailed and insightful results. Despite these limitations, this study provided some insights into why and how advanced English language learners engage with their mobile devices to develop learning experiences. It should be stressed, however, that teacher involvement in creating conditions conducive to the use of mobile devices for language study may result in greater learner engagement with mobile technology (i.e. mobile devices) and, at the same time, may lead to greater students’ independence in learning the target language.

 

References

Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Benson, P. (2011). What’s new in autonomy? The Language Teacher, 35(4), 15-18.

Benson, P. & Chik, A. (2010). New literacies and autonomy in foreign language learning. In M. J. Luzón, M. N. Ruiz-Madrid & M. L. Villanueva (Eds.), Digital genres, new literacies, and autonomy in language learning (pp. 63-80). Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Byrne, J. & Diem, R. (2014). Profiling mobile English language learners. The JALT CALL Journal I, 10 (1), 3-19.

Cakir, I. (2015). Opinions and attitudes of prospective teachers for the use of mobile phones in foreign language learning. Contemporary Educational Technology, 6(3), 239-255.

Cavus, N. & Ibrahim, D. (2009). m-Learning: An experiment in using SMS to support learning new English language words. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(1), 78-91.

Dashtestani, R. (2015). Moving bravely towards mobile learning: Iranian students’ use of mobile devices for learning English as a foreign language. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 29(4), 815-832.

Demouy, V., Jones, A., Kan, Q., Kukulska-Hulme, A. & Eardley, A. (2016). Why and how do distance learners use mobile devices for language learning? The EuroCALL Review, 24(1), 10-24.

Díaz-Vera, J. (Ed.). (2012). Left to my own devices: Learner autonomy and mobile-assisted language learning. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.

Djoub, Z. (2015). Mobile technology and learner autonomy in language learning. In J. Keengwe (Ed.), Promoting active learning through the integration of mobile and ubiquitous technologies (pp. 194-212). Hershey: IGI Global.

Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy and foreign language learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Jones, A. (2015). Mobile informal language learning: Exploring Welsh learners’ practices, eLearning Papers, 45, 4-14.

Kukulska-Hulme, A., Norris, L. & Donohue, J. (2015). Mobile pedagogy for English language teaching: A guide for teachers. British Council, London.

Kukulska-Hulme, A. & Shield, L. (2008). An overview of mobile assisted language learning: From content delivery to supported collaboration and interaction. ReCALL, 20(3), 271-289.

Kukulska-Hulme, A., Traxler, J. & Pettit, J. (2007). Designed and user-generated activity in the mobile age. Journal of Learning Design, 2(1), 52-65.

Lee, L. (2011). Blogging: Promoting learner autonomy and intercultural competence through study abroad. Language Learning & Technology, 5, 87-109.

Little, D. (2009). Language learner autonomy and the European Language Portfolio: Two L2 English examples. Language Teaching, 42, 222-233.

Little, D. (1991). Learner autonomy 1: Definitions, issues and problems. Dublin: Authentik.

Littlewood, W. (1996). Autonomy: An anatomy and a framework. System, 24(4), 427-435.

Miangah, T.M. & Nezarat, A. (2012). Mobile-assisted language learning. International Journal of Distributed and Parallel Systems, 3(1), 309-319.

Nah, K.C., White, P. & Sussex, R. (2008). The potential of using a mobile phone to access the internet for learning EFL listening skills within a Korean context. ReCALL, 20(3), 331-347.

Oz, H. (2015). An investigation of preservice English teachers’ perceptions of mobile assisted language learning. English Language Teaching, 8(2), 22-34.

Pettit, J. & Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2007). Going with the grain: Mobile devices in practice. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(1), 17-33.

Reinders, H. (2011). Towards an operationalisation of autonomy. In A. Ahmed, G. Cane & M. Hanzala. Teaching English in multilingual contexts: Current challenges, future directions (pp. 37-52). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Reinders, H. & White, C. (2016). 20 years of autonomy and technology: How far have we come and where to next? Language Learning & Technology, 20(2), 143-154. Retrieved from http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2016/reinderswhite.pdf.

Reinders, H. & Cho, M. (2011). Encouraging informal language learning with mobile technology: Does it work? Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research, 1, 3-29.

Stockwell, G. (2007). Vocabulary on the move: Investigating an intelligent mobile phone-based vocabulary tutor. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(4), 365-383.

Trifanova, A., Knapp, J., Ronchetti, M. & Gamper, J. (2004). Mobile ELDIT: Challenges in the transitions from an e-learning to an m-learning system. Trento, Italy: University of Trento. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://eprints.biblio.unitn.it/archive/00000532/01/paper4911.pdf.

Zhang, H., Song, W. & Burston, J. (2011). Reexamining the effectiveness of vocabulary learning via mobile phones. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(3), 203-214.

 

[1] It should be noted that the reason for choosing this sample was for convenience since they were accessible to the researcher (Dörnyei, 2007, p. 98-99).

[2] It should be noted that in order to ward off potential misunderstandings and to allow the participants to freely elaborate upon their answers, the interviews were conducted in Polish.

[3] Both here and throughout the remainder of the paper, the excerpts are translations of the students’ responses by the present author.

 

Top


Teacher education

EFL teachers’ perceptions about an online CALL training. A case from Turkey

Behice Ceyda Cengiz*, Gölge Seferoğlu** and Işıl Günseli Kaçar***

*Bulent Ecevit University, Turkey | **Middle East Technical University, Turkey | ***Middle East Technical University, Turkey
______________________________________________________________________________________
* behiceceydacengiz @ gmail.com | ** golge @ metu.edu.tr | ***isil @ metu.edu.tr

 

Abstract

This paper examined a group of Turkish EFL in-service teachers’ perceptions about a four-week online CALL training they received on a voluntary basis. The data were collected via a background questionnaire, interviews and reflection reports written by the participating teachers. Findings demonstrated that online CALL training was beneficial for the teachers since they gained familiarity with cutting-edge CALL technologies and developed ideas about how to use them in their classes. CALL learning in cyberspace, however, was found to be too challenging for some teachers devoid of the computer skills needed to manage the online experience. Most of the teachers also expected the CALL training to be situated in their classroom contexts providing them with ample opportunities to learn and apply CALL in their local teaching contexts. Taking the various needs of the teachers into consideration, the researcher came up with suggestions for future initiatives for in-service CALL teacher education.

Keywords: Computer-assisted language learning, in-service teacher education, online training, technology integration.

1. Introduction

CALL and teacher education, as an alluring area of research, have been gaining wide attention and been the focus of an ever-mounting body of research in the last decade. Due to the epoch-making development of ICT and its huge implications for teaching and learning foreign/second languages, there has been a high demand for training technology-savvy teachers who have “sufficient grounding in CALL theory and practice” (Stockwell, 2009, p.1) and can make informed decisions about implementing CALL in optimal ways in their own language teaching contexts. Additionally, there is now an indispensable need to train language teachers on how to use CALL effectively since “technology has become integral to the ways in which L2 professionals teach, create materials and even the way they conceptualize the profession in the 21st century” (Chapelle & Hegelheimer, 2004, p.300).

As one of the approaches to CALL teacher education (Hubbard, 2008), some of the studies (e.g. Bauer-Ramazani, 2006) focused on online training of language teachers. The rationale behind online CALL training is supported by previous work which shows that the online approach to teacher training is quite practical (Hubbard, 2008) and enables the linking of teacher populations (Egbert, 2006). In an online pre-service CALL course in a teacher education program, Bauer-Ramazani (2006) showed that the interactive and collaborative nature of the online course along with the authenticity of the learning activities helped pre-service teachers to form an online community of learners, develop CALL related technical and pedagogical knowledge and skills and gain ideas about how to adjust these skills to different learning and teaching situations. In an online CALL course which linked pre-service and in-service teachers through a Web-based platform, Egbert (2006) suggested that the online experience allowed both parties to learn about CALL in authentic contexts and gain familiarity with distance technologies as they use it in the online course. Similarly, in a project that prepared language teachers for online teaching, Ernest et al. (2013) stressed the importance of teachers’ ‘hands-on experience of online collaboration’ in an online teacher training in order for these teachers to create collaborative learning opportunities for their learners. Despite these various advantages, however, online teacher training has not been practiced widely in CALL teacher education especially for the training of in-service language teachers, which is a gap in the literature and deserves more attention. To this end, this study aims to explore the perceptions of a group of Turkish EFL in-service teachers about a four-week online CALL training with the following research question:

What are a group of Turkish EFL teachers’ perceptions of an online in-service CALL training?

2. The study

The participants were 8 Turkish EFL teachers who worked at different state high schools located in a certain district in the capital city Ankara, Turkey. They were recruited based on convenience sampling since they participated in the training voluntarily upon receiving an invitation e-mail by the trainers. The profile of the teachers, who were given pseudonyms, is reflected in Table 1 below.

Table 1. The teachers' profiles.

Name

Gender

Age

Years teaching

Fatma

F

50

23

Gönül

F

47

32

Melek

F

47

18

Sevil

F

49

19

Ahmet

M

45

21

Nevin

F

37

12

Cemre

F

40

15

Göknur

F

38

15

As shown in the above table elicited from a background questionnaire, there were seven female teachers and one male teacher, whose ages ranged between 37 and 50. The teacher with least teaching experience had taught for 15 years while the most experienced teacher had 32 years of teaching experience. Only one teacher held an MA degree in ELT and only one of the teachers had taken a training course in educational technology beforehand. All of the teachers reported using a computer in their personal lives at least a few times a week. Except for two of the teachers who did not have any computer or computer lab at school, the remaining teachers had a computer and overhead projector in their classes, which they used for instructional purposes in different measures but on average for 3 days per week.

3. The delivery of the “Online Training on Using Technology in L2 Classes”

For the design of the training, the researcher followed “The seven principles of good practice: a practical approach to evaluating online courses” by Çağıltay, Graham, Lim, Craner and Duffy (2001). The CALL training, which was completely online, lasted for 4 weeks. Before the training started, there was a pre-training week for meeting with the participants and introducing the communication tools. For successful completion of the training, the participating teachers were required to do weekly tasks. These included attending the live session in WizIQ, using the asynchronous platform Edmodo to share the digital materials they created for that week and writing a reflection report about their CALL learning in their blogs.

3.1. Communication tools of the training

The following tools were used:

4. Instruments

4.1. Background questionnaire

In a background questionnaire, the teachers were asked about their teaching and educational background, personal use of technology, the availability of technological infrastructure in their schools and their own use of technology in their classrooms.

4.2. Interview

The interview questions were aimed at investigating the teachers’ perceptions about the online CALL training. These questions were prepared by the researcher, who received expert opinions from 3 teacher educators who excel in CALL to check the validity of the questions. Semi-structured interviews were made in Turkish in order to create a more natural and comfortable environment for the teachers.

4.3. Reflection reports

The teachers were asked to write a reflection report in their blogs every week by elaborating on their CALL learning experience during the four-week period of the online training. These reports aimed at revealing information about the teachers’ ideas about the training and possible ways of integrating the CALL tools into their own classroom. The teachers were given some guidance questions to refer to in the reports.

5. Data analysis

The interviews were audio recorded with the researchers’ digital recorder, transcribed, translated from Turkish to English and later coded by the researcher. For the analysis of data, the researcher conducted content analysis. To identify recurrent themes, the researcher worked through the data set from the interviews and blog reports in tandem and grouped the recurrent instances into categories through a coding procedure. For reliability, this coding procedure was carried out by two researchers who worked individually first and later re-examined the codes by comparing and rearranging them into final categories.

6. Findings

The analysis of the data revealed three main categories regarding teachers’ perceptions of the online CALL training. These categories were (a) success factors in an online CALL training (b) participating teachers’ stated contributions to the training (c) their suggestions for improving the training.

6.1. Success factors in an online CALL training

The researcher identified two factors as necessary for the success of an online CALL training. These factors were related to (a) participant characteristics (b) design elements of the training.

6.2. Participant characteristics

The majority of the teachers stated that they faced many difficulties during the online training and as a result, planned to leave the training especially in the first week. According to these teachers, these difficulties were mainly due to their lack of competence in using computers, as expressed by two of the teachers below:

I had many difficulties. These difficulties were mostly due to my computer skills. I am not good at using the computer. The training sessions were so challenging for me. In the first session, I used two computers at the same time. I copied the links you gave in the chat board to the other computer. As time passed I learnt there was no need for this. I got help from my daughter. She was with me during the training sessions. I could also do the tasks with her help. (Sevil)

The first session was the worst. You shared your screen on WizIQ and I could not write on the chat board. That moment, I thought I should leave the training. The training was above my level. I got help from my husband. I could not do some of the tasks on my own. I need to spend so much time and energy. I also phoned Sevil when I could not manage things during the training. (Nevin)

The remaining teachers who said they did not encounter many problems or at least managed to cope with the problems, indicated that they benefited greatly from their personal use of computer and the internet frequently in their daily lives, which was also found in the questionnaire data showing that these teachers used a computer 5 or more times a week.

I have been an internet user for years. I always google things when I want to learn about something. I think this was a great advantage for me. If I did not use internet frequently I would not be capable of using WizIQ or Edmodo. (Cemre)

At first, everything was so new to me. I felt very nervous. But I thought that I am familiar with these things. I use internet. If I am capable of using internet, I should be able to use these things, as well. But if I were not familiar with internet, this stuff would be hard. (Fatma)

Four of the teachers attributed the challenges of the online training to the lack of prior experience with using technology in their own classes. The following quote is from a teacher who did not have any experience of using technology in her classes mostly due to the lack of infrastructure and to whom even the concept of using technology in language classes was new:

While we were at the level of learning the letters, we tried to write a composition. We are working at a vocational school. The other teachers were already using technology in their classes, at least they were familiar. But we are in a different position. We do not use any technology in our classes. We do not have any technological infrastructure for that. Even the idea of using technology is utopian. (Nevin)

Another teacher who had an inclination to utilize technological tools for instructional purposes showed that he could easily adapt to the training:

I think it is important to be close to computer to be successful at a training like this. Personally, I have always used computer. When I worked at a private institution, I was in charge of a tool similar to smart boards. I use computer for everything. For preparing exam questions, creating a data bank as a compilation of questions. I like these kinds of things. If you do not use or know such things, this training would be hard. (Ahmet)

Nearly all of the teachers indicated that they were more familiar with the face-to-face medium and preferred it over the online medium since they did not have prior experience with online learning environments. They also believed that face-to-face training would be more conducive to their learning needs as one of the teachers described as follows:

I am more familiar with face-to-face method. It is more intimate. Even eye contact is important. It feels like you can ask more questions when the trainer is next to you. In the online platform, you type, click enter, and wait. I feel stressed in case you would not see what I write. When you are together, I can interfere quickly and ask whatever I want. (Sevil)

A teacher who had prior experience of taking an online course said that she did not have much difficulty in the training and felt herself competent to receive online trainings in the future, contrary to another teacher who felt overwhelmed as it was her first online experience as shown below:

I participated in an online course before. For this reason, this training was not challenging for me. I have not used WizIQ or Edmodo before. But they were quite similar to what we did in the online training. I can participate in an online training in the future, too. It is not hard for me. (Cemre)

When you are having your first online experience, you feel overwhelmed. If I were familiar with this method, I would not feel that much unprepared. In the second time, I am sure I will feel myself more competent. (Nevin)

6.3. Design elements of the training

All of the teachers pointed out that timing was one of the biggest problems concerning the design of the training. They mentioned that during the time of the training, they had heavy workloads at school and this prevented them from concentrating on the training fully as one of the teachers explained below:

I wish the training would be at a time when I was totally free. This way, I could give my concentration on the training fully. During the training period, we were so busy at school. It was the end of school and we were dealing with lots of things. If my only duty were to participate in the training, I would not be in a hurry and would study more. (Fatma)

Three of the teachers stated they benefited from the e-mails which were sent to each teacher as a checklist for weekly tasks at the beginning and end of every week. According to one of the teachers, this increased her motivation and helped her stay on task as she explained below:

Before the sessions, you sent us an e-mail about the weekly content and tasks. This motivated me a lot. It also reminded me of the things I forgot. I knew what to do for that week. (Fatma)

Some of the teachers appreciated the flexibility provided by the trainers in the choice of some tasks and the deadlines, which is seen in the following quote:

You gave the deadline of the blog reports by consulting us. It was nice to have flexibility. You also made some tasks optional. It was good because it was not possible for me to do these tasks in my classroom. You also gave options for week four tasks. I chose what I liked. (Cemre)

When asked about the reasons for not using Edmodo for asking questions to peers, most of the teachers stated that asking the other teacher participants was not as comfortable as asking the trainers individually as two teachers explain below:

I did not share any of the problems I encountered in Edmodo. I did not want other teachers to think that I could not do and I was bad. Rather, I preferred contacting you directly. I phoned you. It is more relaxing for me to ask the trainer. (Nevin)

I had my husband with me during the training. If I did not have him, maybe I would share my problems in Edmodo. But it is hard to reveal that I am not able to do in front of others. So I couldn’t write about my problems there. (Göknur)

Five of the teachers accentuated that an online CALL training like this should be “situated” in teachers’ classroom contexts, in order to get them to apply the technological tools of training in their classes and reflect on their practice as a way to boost their capability to integrate these tools into their teaching:

Most of us could not apply these new things in our classes. There was not enough time for that. This is bad. If we applied, we would have more things to talk about and really learn about these tools. (Melek)

If the training had more link to our teaching contexts including our textbooks and students, it would be more helpful. Knowing the tool is one thing. The realities of the classroom is another. We learnt many things but I am not sure about how I can incorporate them into my everyday teaching. (Nevin)

Some of the teachers highlighted that an immediate application of the tools in a classroom context would allow them to have first-hand experience of the tools, see real life problems and discuss possible solutions for these problems with the trainers and other participant teachers as one of the teachers noted below:

A training like this should involve applications in our classes. If there is no immediate application in a classroom, you do not develop the competence to use it in your classes on your own. It would be better if we applied these in our classes in your guidance and talked about how it went. This way, we would share the problems we encountered. You learn such things as you apply. (Sevil)

6.4. Contributions of the training

All of the participating teachers indicated that thanks to the training, they becaame familiar with cutting-edge CALL tools and developed ideas about possible ways to use them in their classes as explained by one of the teachers below:

While learning new tools in the training, a lot of ideas popped up in my mind. For example, I can create a class blog. My students can watch a film at home and write a critique of the film in the class blog. Other students can comment on these critiques. They can publish their poems, videos or something they write. We can also create a school website to give announcements, to exhibit students‟ work, etc. I know I can do these from now on. (Cemre)

Most of the teachers repeatedly said that the online CALL training increased their awareness of the importance of using new technologies for teaching English and motivated them to perpetuate their professional development in this area.

Thanks to this training, I have realized that I should spend more time on my professional development and this was my responsibility. The training gave me ideas on how I can do this. I have even searched for other online courses and found a few. I will attend some of them from now on. (Fatma)

One of the teachers mentioned that she started to understand her students better since some of her beliefs concerning students’ use of technology during class time changed thanks to the training as she commented below:

My students always took pictures of the board with their mobile phones and did not want to write them in their notebooks and I got so angry at these times. But now I understand them. Last year, I used to collect their phones but now I allow them to use them to take pictures. (Göknur)

Despite their familiarity with the face-to-face medium, many teachers posited that this training enabled them to get rid of their prejudice against online learning. They said that they developed self-confidence about attending future online training as expressed below:

At first, I never thought I would be successful at an online course. But as time passed, I really got familiar with this mode and I saw that I was able to do. This made me so happy. I believe I can attend other online courses. (Fatma)

6.5. Suggestions for improvement

Teachers who encountered many difficulties during the training indicated that these difficulties were mainly due to their computer proficiency, which was not adequate for being successful at an online CALL training. To this end, they suggested that teachers who are devoid of basic computer skills should first take a face-to-face or blended CALL training as they commented below:

This training should not be fully online. It should have some face-to-face component. We will gather in a classroom with our laptops and learn about these tools. The steps of creating a blog, for instance, will be shown. At home, we will have an online session and have an application of what we learnt in the classroom. If I were more proficient at using computer, it could be online without any face-to-face lesson. But my computer skills are not enough for a fully online course. (Nevin)

I would prefer that such training is face-to-face rather than online. If I were better at computer, there would not be any problem with the training being online or face-to-face. (Sevil)

A few of the teachers emphasized that there is a need for taking a course on basic computer skills before participating in a CALL training regardless of whether this is face-to-face or online as one teacher stated:

Maybe, first of all, I should take a course on basic computer skills. I took such a course before but I guess it is not enough. I am not equipped with the skills to attend an online training. But even if the training were face-to-face, I would still need to learn the basics of computer first. (Sevil)

Many teachers stressed that the participating teachers came from different levels of schools with different student profiles, which affected the level of interaction and sharing among these teachers. Since they had different teaching contexts, their application of the training tools also varied drastically. As a remedy for this problem, they suggested that CALL training should involve teachers from similar types of school as they explain below:

In the training, there were teachers from different types of schools. If teachers were from one type of school, the conditions of these schools would be similar and teachers would have more to talk about. But in our situation, a lot of things were different. Maybe, a training like this can be given based on the type of school. Schools with similar student profile and technological infrastructure can be grouped and given a training together. (Melek)

Nearly all of the teachers complained that they were not well-informed about the communication tools, mainly Edmodo and WizIQ at the outset of the training although they were provided with some brief information about these tools in the wikipage. They stressed that for people who used them for the first time, more visuals and explanations were necessary. One of the teachers suggested having a whole session for learning about these tools in detail. These are reflected in the following quote:

I read about WizIQ and Edmodo in Wiki. You gave descriptions of these, I know. But they were not enough for me. I could not understand what we will be doing in WizIQ. I wanted to see some videos or pictures. If I had these in the first week, I would not be this much shocked. (Melek)

One of the teachers noted that the computer programs required for the course should be announced to teachers before the training started. According to this teacher, such a precaution would prevent the participant teachers from losing time during the training sessions as he expressed below:

When we started the first session on WizIQ, my computer did not have some programs. I needed to download these programs. This slowed me down and I missed a few things you mentioned during the session. I also did not know we needed a microphone at first. If I were notified of these before, I would not waste a lot of time trying to fix all these during the training time. (Ahmet)

7. Discussion and conclusion

The findings showed that the participating teachers had varying levels of computer competence, which was also highly emphasized in the CALL literature as affecting the success of CALL courses or training negatively. In the implementation of internet projects for in-service EFL teachers in Siberia, Olesova and Meloni (2006), for instance, pointed out that teachers’ computer skills varied drastically and suggested that this should be taken into account in the planning and design of any CALL training. In an online pre-service CALL course, Bauer-Ramazani (2006) also referred to some teacher candidates with “varying levels of comfort with technology” (p.196) as one of the challenges in the online course.

Prior experience of using technology in class seemed to play an important role for the teachers’ ease in handling their online CALL learning experience more easily. Research also showed that this experience is not only important in order for teachers to gain benefits from CALL training but also for transferring these gains to a classroom context. In a study exploring the use of CALL by L2 teachers taking a graduate CALL course, Egbert, Paulus and Nakamichi (2002) found that “ teachers who use CALL activities are often those teachers who had experience with CALL prior to taking the course” (p.108).

A few of the teachers expressed their need to receive an initial training on basic computer skills before attending training that is specifically oriented towards CALL. This need is plausible and in line with Peters’ (2006) findings. In a pre-service CALL course which melded the teaching of both technical and pedagogical skills, the varying levels of computer proficiency of language teachers and the inefficiency of teaching both technical and pedagogical skills in a single course demonstrated that CALL training focusing on pedagogy should take place only after technical knowledge and a skill-base is established. This assumption holds true especially for an online CALL course, which requires a wide variety of technical skills on the part of the teachers.

Another significant finding of the study was that the teachers expected CALL training courses such as the one described here, which they receive for the first time to have at least some face-to-face contact rather than being wholly online. They also emphasized that these training courses should take place in classrooms, incorporated into real life classroom practices.

The situated CALL course or training was either directly or indirectly mentioned as a conceptual framework in a wide range of studies (e.g. Cutrim Schmid & Hegelheimer, 2014; Egbert, 2006; Rickard, Blin & Appel, 2006). Hubbard and Levy (2006) also emphasized the “need to connect CALL education to authentic teaching settings” (ix). The in-service teachers in Meskill, Anthony, Hilliker-VanStrander, Tseng and You’s (2006) study who took part in expert–novice mentoring in their teaching contexts pointed at the importance of “more time to learn, to experiment, to try things out, and to integrate” (294) through “exposure to real teaching situations” (p.282) for benefitting from CALL training. Taken together, these studies substantiate the merits of situated CALL training for in-service language teachers, who are mostly in need of on-site CALL exposure and practice in their local contexts.

Based on the findings, it can be suggested that before the teachers receive any CALL training, be it face-to-face or online, they should be assessed on their computer proficiency. The teachers lacking basic computer skills should first attend a training on how to use the computer in order to be technically equipped for the upcoming pedagogic CALL training course. In order to better help language teachers to transfer the know-how gained in CALL training to their classroom context, the training should have a situated focus, and be relevant to the teachers’ teaching contexts, the curriculum, the textbooks they use, the resources they have available, and so on.

 

References

Bauer-Ramazani, C. (2006). Training CALL teachers online. In P. Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds.), Teacher education in CALL (pp. 183-200). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Chapelle, C. & Hegelheimer, V. (2004). The language teacher in the 21st century. In S. Fotos &C. Browne (Eds.), New Perspectives on CALL for Second Language Classrooms (pp. 297-313). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Cutrim Schmid, E. & Hegelheimer, V. (2014). Collaborative research projects in the technology-enhanced language classroom: Pre-service and in-service teachers exchange knowledge about technology. ReCALL. 26(3), 315-332.

Çağıltay, K., Graham, C., Lim, B. R., Craner, J. & Duffy, T. (2001).The seven principles of good practice: a practical approach to evaluating online courses. Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi, 20, 40-50.

Egbert, J. (2006). Learning in context: Situating language teacher learning in CALL. In P. Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds.), Teacher education in CALL (pp. 167-182). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Egbert, J., Paulus, T. & Nakamichi, Y. (2002). The impact of CALL instruction on language classroom technology use: A foundation for rethinking CALL teacher education? Language Learning & Technology, 6(3), 108-126.

Ernest, P., Catasús, M., Hampel, R., Heiser, S., Hopkins, J., Murphy, L. & Stickler, U. (2013). Online teacher development: Collaborating in a virtual learning environment. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 26(4), 31-333.

Hubbard, P. (2008). CALL and the future of language teacher education. CALICO Journal, 25(2), 175-188.

Hubbard, P. & Levy, M. (2006). Teacher Education in CALL. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Meskill, C., Anthony, N., Hilliker-VanStrander, S., Tseng, C. & You, J. (2006). Expert-novice teacher mentoring in language learning technology. In P. Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds.), Teacher education in CALL (pp. 283-299). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Olesova, L. & Meloni, C. F. (2006). Designing and implementing collaborative internet projects in Siberia. In P. Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds.), Teacher education in CALL (pp. 237-249). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Peters, M. (2006). Developing computer competencies for pre-service language teachers: Is one course enough? In P. Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds.), Teacher education in CALL (pp. 153-165). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Rickard, A., Blin, F. & Appel, C. (2006). Training for trainers: Challenges, outcomes, and principles of in-service training across the Irish education system. In P. Hubbard &M. Levy (Eds.), Teacher education in CALL (pp. 203-218). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Stockwell, G. (2009). Teacher education in CALL: Teaching teachers to educate themselves. International Journal of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 3(1), 99-112.

 

Top


Project

Exploring the Impact of Telecollaboration in Initial Teacher Education: The EVALUATE project

Robert O'Dowd
Universidad de León, Spain
___________________________________________________________
robert.odowd @ unileon.es

 

Approaches to Initial Teacher Education in Europe are putting an increasing emphasis on developing the ability of student-teachers to use online technologies and virtual networks to create online collaborative learning environments which go beyond the classroom and which engage both students and teachers in intercultural collaboration and learning.

The Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) Working Group on Schools Policy, for example, has highlighted the need to promote innovative approaches to education in ITE and, in particular, for educational systems to “shift away from isolated classrooms towards new methods based on broad collaboration” (2015, p.2). The Working Group proposes that teachers should be encouraged to incorporate both collaborative practices and a collaborative culture into their work and that training institutions should take steps to engage teachers in “networks, professional learning communities and other partnerships” (2015, p. 36). Similarly, the European Commission’s Communication New Priorities for European Cooperation in Education and Training highlights the need to train educators to use ICT tools in combination with innovative pedagogies (2015, p. 5).

However, research would suggest that there remains a large gap between aspirations for innovative approaches to online collaborative learning and the reality of what actually occurs in schools. The European Education Monitor laments that “ICT is mostly used as a remedial tool” (2015, p. 59) and that innovative approaches to using online technologies is often “confined to the pedagogical activities of a minority of particularly devoted teachers” (2015, p. 57). Similarly, the 2015 Report of the European Council & Commission on the implementation of ET2020 states that high-quality learning requires “a more active use of innovative pedagogies and digital skills and tools” (2015, p. 5) and calls for teacher training programmes to “reap the benefits of new ICT developments and adopt innovative and active pedagogies, based on participatory and project-based methods”.

Obviously, if student-teachers are to engage their students in innovative and collaborative approaches to online learning when they become teachers, they first of all need to experience this type of learning during their study programmes. One potentially effective way of helping student-teachers to have first-hand experience of online collaborative approaches to learning and teaching is telecollaboration. Telecollaboration, also referred to as Virtual Exchange or Online Intercultural Exchange, involves engaging students in task-based interaction and collaborative exchange projects with partner-classes in other locations through online communication technologies under the guidance of their teachers (O’Dowd & Lewis, 2016). In contrast to many forms of online learning which are based on the transfer of information through video lectures etc., telecollaboration is based on student-centred, intercultural and collaborative approaches to learning where knowledge and understanding are constructed through learner interaction and negotiation.

In European school education, telecollaboration has already been recognised as a powerful tool for the development of students’ competences in the form of eTwinning (Education for Change, 2013). However, it has been shown that one of the barriers to the success of eTwinning is that it is not included in pre-service teacher education. Whilst eTwinning offers continuous professional development for in-service teachers, the take-up of such telecollaborative online collaboration initiatives will remain limited until trainee-teachers are given the opportunity to experience these online learning experiences during their own training.

Various studies have reported how telecollaboration has been used as a tool in teacher-education contexts to date. Much of this research has highlighted the value of an ‘experiential modelling approach’ (Guichon & Hauck 2011: 188) which involves offering trainee teachers the opportunity to take part in telecollaborative exchanges themselves in order to experience the tools and processes which they will be expected to use in their own classrooms in the future. Researchers who have followed this approach include Antoniadou (2011), who engaged Spanish student-teachers in telecollaborative exchange with American peers using the ‘Second Life’ virtual world. Similarly, Müller-Hartmann (2012) describes how student-teachers in Heidelberg, Germany and at Columbia University, New York collaborated together online in the analysis and re-design of textbook tasks.

However, while there are various studies which report on the impact of one particular exchange, there have not been to date any large scale studies which have demonstrated the learning outcomes of telecollaborative exchange on student-teachers. With this in mind, the EVALUATE project (Evaluating and Upscaling Telecollaborative Teacher Education) aims to gauge the impact of telecollaborative learning on student-teachers involved in Initial Teacher Education in various European countries and regions.

EVALUATE: Researching and Upscaling Telecollaboration in Initial Teacher Education

The guiding research question for the EVALUATE study is:

Will participation in telecollaborative exchange contribute to the development of competences which future teachers need to teach, collaborate and innovate effectively in a digitalised and networked world?

The specific research questions are:

The project is funded by the Erasmus+ KA3 programme (EACEA/34/2015) and is a European Policy Experiment (EPE). Policy experimentations help to assess the relevance, effectiveness and potential scalability of innovative policy measures through experimental or semi-experimental approaches. Three key actors in European policy experimentations are: the responsible public authorities, the researchers and the target groups.

Our study is a randomized field trial involving student-teachers studying at Initial Teacher Education (ITE) institutions in the participating regions of the EU - i.e. Castilla y León; Spain and Baden Wurttemberg, Germany, and in the participating countries – Hungary, Spain and Portugal as well as other countries of the European Union. All the students involved in the EPE will be taking courses in teaching methodology at their respective institutions.

Approximately 600 student-teachers across Europe have already taken part in the EPE study in the Winter semester 2017 (September-December 2017) and a further 300 will take part in the Spring semester 2018 (February-July 2018). This means we expect approximately 800 student-teachers from across Europe to have taken part in the telecollaborative treatment and to have participated in the EPE data collection process by July 2018.

The treatment involves engaging classes of ITE students in a period of intensive telecollaborative exchange with partner classes in ITE institutions in other countries based on specifically-designed tasks and content related to pedagogical-digital competences as well as intercultural competence, foreign language competence and other transversal competences. Pedagogical digital competence refers to the teacher’s ability to make pedagogically informed choices in terms of selection, integration and evaluation of ICT tools and applications in their teaching. Intercultural competence refers to the students’ ability to work and collaborate effectively with members of other cultures.

The pedagogical model of telecollaborative exchange which will be used in the exchanges is based on the Progressive Exchange Model which has been widely used in telecollaborative research and practice to date (O’Dowd & Ware, 2009, O’Dowd & Lewis, 2016). The model involves three interrelated tasks which move from Information Exchange to Comparing and analyzing cultural practices and finally to Working on a collaborative product (see figure 1 below). Within this structure, teacher-trainers carrying out the treatment will be able to choose from various tasks at each stage of the telecollaborative task sequence in order to cater for different educational contexts and learning aims. However, all the tasks available to the teacher-trainers will focus on the development of the key competences and themes which have been identified by the public authorities as key for teacher education in their countries / regions.

Figure 1. A Progressive Exchange Model of Telecollaboration.

The process of evaluating telecollaborative exchange in ITE is complex and various issues need to be addressed when choosing a research methodology. For this reason, the research team will follow a mixed methods approach (Nunan & Bailey, 2009) using quantitative data collection to measure the development of students’ intercultural and digital-pedagogical competences and corpus analysis to measure gains in language competence. This data will be triangulated with qualitative data in order to answer questions related to why telecollaboration had the impact it did, how it was integrated in the participating institutions and how the telecollaborative model impacted differently across various socio-institutional contexts.

Upscaling Telecollaboration in Initial Teacher Education – The role of the Public Authorities

What makes this project different from many other research initiatives is that five ministries of Education form part of the consortium. This means that steps for upscaling telecollaboration in the various regions and countries has already been built into the project objectives. If our European Policy Experiment can demonstrate the positive impact of telecollaborative learning on student-teachers’ digital, intercultural and linguistic competences, then the public authorities will take steps to facilitate the transferability and scalability of telecollaborative exchange in teacher education by, for example, providing the necessary training and resources for teacher training in this approach; ensuring greater awareness among decision makers of the approach through advocacy, events, profile raising, and coalition building across national boundaries; and, finally, providing qualifications and academic recognition for teacher-trainers who develop their telecollaborative skills and engage their learners successfully in such practices.

For more information about the EVALUATE study and to learn more about how you can involve your students of Initial Teacher Education in telecollaborative exchange projects, please contact evaluateprojecteu@gmail.com

 

References

The Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) Working Group on Schools Policy (2015). Shaping career-long perspectives on teaching. A guide on policies to improve Initial Teacher Education. Online report: https://www.noexperiencenecessarybook.com/a21EQ/a-guide-on-policies-to-improve-initial-teacher-education.html

European Commission (2015). Communication New Priorities for European Cooperation in Education and Training. Online report: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/documents/et-2020-draft-joint-report-408-2015_en.pdf

European Commission (2015). European Education and Training Monitor (2015). Online report: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/publications/monitor15_en.pdf

European Council and European Commission (2015). The implementation of the Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET2020). New priorities for European cooperation in education and training. Online report: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/documents/et-2020-draft-joint-report-408-2015_en.pdf

Education for Change (2013). Study of the impact of eTwinning on participating pupils, teachers and schools. Online report: http://knjiznica.sabor.hr/pdf/E_publikacije/Study_of_the_impact_of_eTwinning_on_participating_pupils_teachers_and_schools.pdf

Guichon, N. & Hauck, M. (2011). Teacher education research in CALL and CMC: more in demand than ever. ReCALL, 23(3), 187-199.

Müller-Hartmann, A. (2012). The classroom-based action research paradigm in telecollaboration. In M. Dooly & R. O’Dowd (Eds.), Research methods for online interaction and exchange (pp. 56–192). Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

O’Dowd, R. & Ware, P. (2009). Critical issues in telecollaborative task design. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 22(2), 173-188.

O'Dowd, R. & Lewis, T. (eds.) (2016). Online Intercultural Exchange: policy, pedagogy, practice. Routledge Studies in Language and Intercultural Communication. London: Routledge.

Nunan, D. & Bailey, K. M. (2009). Exploring second language classroom research: A comprehensive guide. Boston, MA: Heinle.

 

Top


Project

Governmental partnerships for language learning: A commercial language platform for young workers in Colombia

Gustavo García Botero*, Jacqueline García Botero** and Frederik Questier***
*Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium | **Universidad del Quindío, Armenia, Colombia | ***Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
______________________________________________________________________________
*gustavo.garcia.botero @ vub.be | **jgarciab @ uniquindio.edu.co | ***fquestie @ vub.ac.be

 

Abstract

In June 2015, the Colombian government via the Labor Ministry announced a project for young workers called 40.000 Primeros Empleos. In the framework of this project, the Ministry of Labor signed an alliance with the language platform Duolingo as a strategy to provide participants with English learning opportunities and a free language certificate. With the help of a monitoring and evaluation perspective, this study describes Colombian English language learning policies and their relationship with the labor market. The discussion presented here intends to maximize the outcomes of these kinds of agreements and to provide insights for researchers and national stakeholders willing to carry out similar projects in their countries. Certification is also thoroughly analyzed as a means of estimating the possible impact of this partnership.

Keywords: Computer-assisted language learning, Duolingo, foreign language learning policies, labor market, mobile-assisted language learning.

 

1. Introduction

The perspective of economics, globalization and internationalization have brought along the creation of open trading practices that require interactions in different languages for economic achievement. In governmental policies across the world (e.g., The European Union, Japan, China, The Middle East) an economic interest in foreign language education has been added to the ideas of cultural understanding and development of communication skills. Furthermore, current geopolitical issues have pushed governments to extend their language policies to the general population that is lacking in foreign language skills. Wagner (2005) insists that equality-oriented projects should be clear on what they are actually bridging. We see this in projects such as Odysseus, a European project to introduce a second language at the workplace, matching the language needs of migrant workers with the vocational workplace context (Grünhage-Monetti, Halewijn & Holland, 2003). The relationship between foreign language learning and equality of opportunity is already being discussed (e.g., Byram, 2008).

In this vein, promoters of information and communications technologies (ICT) in education consider that ICT will lead to a breakthrough in learning and contributes to social change and economic development (Wagner et al., 2005). In particular, mobile technologies can allow the development of policies that enable equal access for all. These technologies maximize informal and non-formal learning opportunities, expanding diverse educational settings (West & Vosloo 2015). Mobile learning projects such as the English in Action project in Bangladesh (2012) and the Samsung SDS Multi-Campus project (2011) are examples of pro-equity mobile learning initiatives. In Latin America, these kinds of efforts are still in their infancy. In 2012, there were 17 identified mobile learning initiatives resulting from pilot projects driven by non-profit organizations or universities; that same year, Colombia was the only country reporting active government support for mobile learning initiatives through public funding (Lugo & Schurmann, 2012). Until the publication of this paper, there have not been any more updated reports on mobile learning projects in Latin America. This implies that the mobile learning projects being carried out in different Latin American countries are still in the phases of piloting and experimentation.

2. A mobile language solution that attracts governments

Despite the need for concrete and credible results showing positive societal changes caused by mobile technology use (Jara, Claro & Martinic, 2012), the mobile language platform Duolingo is gradually becoming a foreign language learning solution for governments in Latin America. In 2014, Duolingo reached an agreement with the Guatemalan government to facilitate English learning in 97 public schools (Orellana, 2014). In 2016, Duolingo reached an additional agreement with Mexico. More particularly, the Jalisco Bilingüe program intends to provide 100,000 people with English skills in 2017 (El Universal, 2016). Similarly, Duolingo will begin training 350 primary education teachers on the pedagogic use of Duolingo after having reached an agreement with the government of Costa Rica (Presidencia de la República de Costa Rica, 2016).

In June 2015, the Colombian Ministry of Labor received a donation from Duolingo. The direct beneficiaries are 40000 young adults enrolled in a major program called 40.000 Primeros Empleos. The aim of this program is to facilitate the integration of young professionals into the labor market. The Colombian government presents the participation of Duolingo as a strategy to provide high-quality English education for free with the possibility of obtaining a free language certificate (Ministerio de Trabajo, 2015a).

Given that there have been different operational issues related to the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program, the implementation of Duolingo in the framework of the project has been delayed. Therefore, the objectives of this study are twofold: to provide a general perspective of language learning in the Colombian labor context, and to discuss the potential benefits of the Duolingo-Colombian government partnership. By doing so, this paper positions itself as a reference document for national and international educational stakeholders who consider Duolingo a language learning solution in their educational plans.

3. Method

Assessing governmental projects

One approach to measuring the impact of national initiatives around ICT in education is through Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). M&E is a process that provides government officials, development managers and civil society with better means for learning from past experience (Grant et al., 2002, p.5). Without this approach, “ it would be impossible to judge if work was going in the right direction, whether progress and success could be claimed, and how future efforts might be improved” (UNDP, 2002, p.5). Even though M&E should be an integral component of any planned ICT for education program (James & Miller, 2005), and even though it can play a significant role in supporting equity approaches to ICT for education (Wagner, 2005), it is only starting to gain popularity in developing countries.

A descriptive approach to M&E provides fundamental insights that helps estimate the success of national initiatives. When dealing with ICT for education projects, Kozma and Wagner (2005) refer to four core aspects in long term M&E. One first important factor is the national context, which determines the potential of the project. A second factor is input, which comprises the analysis of the ICT resources (such as the software) and the role they play in students' knowledge and skills. A third factor is the outcomes, which are synonymous with the impact of the project regarding students' increased knowledge. A final aspect is cost, where cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness relationships are analyzed to measure the return on the investment.

Based on the core elements highlighted by Kozma and Wagner (2005), the Duolingo-Colombian government partnership in the project 40.000 Primeros Empleos is analysed. Furthermore, the discussion considers ICT in a conceptual education framework as proposed by Wagner, Day, James, Kozma, Miller & Unwin (2005). The adaptation of this framework is presented in figure 1.

Figure 1. Monitoring and evaluation discussion framework adapted from Wagner, Day, James, Kozma, Miller & Unwin, (2005).

4. Discussion

4.1. Development context (National educational context)

Colombian foreign language policies and their relationship with the labor market

Despite speaking a language that is shared by 400 million people around the world, Colombia has traditionally considered foreign language learning as an important aspect in the integration, understanding, and construction of ties beyond the borders of the Spanish language(1). Not only does Colombia have the mission to preserve the 65 indigenous languages spoken in its territory, it also needs to respond to the demands of a globalized world where economic, political and social issues are at stake (Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 2014). The importance of having contact with a foreign language was recognized in the General Education Act of 1994, which highlights the value of "acquiring conversation and reading skills in a foreign language" (Ley N°115 del 8 de Febrero de 1994). The act was reformed by the Ley N° 1651 del 12 de Julio del 2013, which gave priority to English. While it is true that English had already taken prevalence in bilingualism plans such as the National Bilingualism Plan of 2004, the educational reform officially legitimized English as the priority foreign language in Colombia.

The privileged position given to English is not agreed upon in its entirety. There are concerns about the situation of indigenous languages (Guerrero Nieto, 2008) and the teaching of other foreign languages necessary for Colombia (Valencia Giraldo, 2005). Similarly, some views question the idealization of English (Vélez-Rendón, 2003) and its promotion as a panacea against poverty (Torres-Martínez, 2009). Authors such as González (2007) go one step further and call into question the interests of institutions such as the British Council or Cambridge Language Assessment for an English-oriented bilingualism plan.

Even though these claims should not be disregarded, it is also true that bilingualism in English is an asset that allows people to benefit from globalization. The English language empowers individuals as it provides a more widespread access to knowledge. Not only is English the most common language in websites(2), English is also largely used in the spreading of scientific knowledge, to such an extent that its use is discussed in terms of lingua franca (e.g., Tardy, 2004). English also facilitates social mobility and is positively correlated with quality of life (Education First, 2015). These aspects add to the general advantages of bilingualism and bilingual education(3), which in turn have a positive impact on social capital. Social capital is understood as "the links, shared values and understandings in the society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and, as a consequence, work together" (Brian, 2007:102).

An additional criticism towards foreign language learning plans in Colombia is that they convey a philosophy of employability and job training as the sole drive for education (Bonilla Carvajal & Tejada-Sánchez, 2016). Certainly, having skills in English is likely to have a positive impact on the economy of Colombia. The 500 biggest companies in Colombia require 100000 people with English skills, while the tourism sector has an immediate need for 110000. There is also a potential need for 40000 English qualified employees in the tourism sector by 2019 as well as 300000 employees in ICT and Business processing outsourcing (BPO) (Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 2014).

In Colombia, companies would be willing to pay more to employees having English language skills (Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 2014). This is also the case at an international level where employees with an exceptionally high level of English, as compared to their country’s level, earn a 30%-50% higher salary (Education First, 2015). Thus, English encourages competitiveness and social development (Seargeant & Erling, 2011) and it is positively correlated with per capita income and economic growth (Education First, 2015).

The above reasons have pushed the Colombian government to encourage English language learning beyond formal education, specifically in the labor context, and it has developed synergies between employers and employees by facilitating resources and subsidizing English language learning related projects (Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 2014). In 2012, for example, the Colombian national learning service, SENA, implemented English for Work, a continuing education project that allowed participants to learn English and be recruited by the companies participating in the program. As a result of the recent agreement with Duolingo in the frame of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos project, the beneficiaries will study in the Duolingo platform for six months and they will be provided with a language learning certificate after receiving a passing grade on the Duolingo test. The following sections describe Duolingo and its potential impact on the beneficiaries of the 40.000 Primeros Empleosprogram.

4.2. Software

Duolingo is composed of three main pedagogic tools: the Duolingo platform, the Duolingo for schools dashboard and the Duolingo test center (that provides a language certificate). Because the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program does not take into account the Duolingo for Schools dashboard, this feature is not widely addressed in this study.

4.2.1. The Duolingo platform

Duolingo is a popular language learning platform, with over 100 million users registered around the world(4). Users can access the platform from any web browser as well as through an app that is available for devices running with Android or iOS. Duolingo is free of charge and users can choose from a variety of languages to learn according to their source language. If the language of the user is Spanish, for instance, he/she can take a Duolingo language course to learn English, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German, Catalan, Guaraní, Esperanto, and Russian(5).

One first remark about Duolingo comes from its origin as a platform. In 2013, Duolingo co-founder Louis Von Ahn wrote a conference paper entitled " Duolingo: Learn a language for free while helping to translate the web." This article clearly states that the primary objective of Duolingo is breaking the language barrier in the web by translating its content: "Our goal is to encourage people, like you and me, to translate the Web into their native languages." (Von Ahn, 2013). This is achieved by Human Computation in which people "can be engaged to perform meaningful tasks through some other activities that they are already deeply interested in" (Law, 2011). In human computation, humans use computers to do something while computers will use that input to achieve something else (Garcia, 2013). This concept, though very innovative, puts into question the real educational aim of Duolingo. When asked about the main criticism of Duolingo, Mr. Von Ahn brings up the extended idea that Duolingo's central purpose is not to teach a language, but that users translate material for the company (Entrevista interactiva Duolingo, 2014).

While Duolingo does use crowdsourcing to translate documents on the web (including for CNN and Buzzfeed), use of this feature is not mandatory, and it is only presented through a tab in its laptop version. Eighty percent of Duolingo users practice languages only through the Duolingo app, and thus they are not able to see the to-be-translated texts (Entrevista interactiva Duolingo, 2014). Figure 2 shows how Duolingo presents the translation option to the students in the laptop version.

Figure 2. Duolingo translation option in the laptop version.

Having said this, a user who accesses Duolingo is likely to perceive the educational outlook of the platform. Duolingo presents a language skill tree that is to be discovered through gamified language exercises. It offers a considerable degree of personalized language learning through elements that promote self-directed study and engagement through motivational features. Furthermore, in 2015 Duolingo launched Duolingo for Schools, a free dashboard which offers educators the possibility of integrating Duolingo into their language instruction. Teachers can see and use the complete language curriculum provided by Duolingo, and they can also assign homework and track the activity of students in the app. Figures 3 and 4 show the educational outlook of Duolingo.

Figure 3. Duolingo language tree.

Figure 4. Duolingo for schools dashboard.

One of the reasons why Duolingo has been given several awards in the industry(6) is its gamified method of instruction. In addition to Human Computation, Duolingo's success also relies on its Game with a Purpose method (Garcia, 2013) in which users "play" while learning a language. The visual outlook of the platform, the way to advance in the language course, the use of "lingots" as a fictional currency to help the user attain his or her learning goals and the possibility of competing against friends are all available options to keep the learning experience amusing and motivating.

Duolingo, alluding to “two languages” in many romance languages(7), uses translation at the level of words and sentences as its primary delivery method. Whenever a user decides to learn a language with Duolingo, the platform presents him/her with a variety of exercises. These practices include the translation of sentences from the source and target language of the user; the transcription of words or phrases in the target language; the pairing of words in the two languages; the choosing of the correct translated phrase through a multiple choice exercise; practice with flash cards in the two languages; and the translation of unknown words just by clicking or tapping on them. Figure 5 shows some types of exercises proposed by Duolingo.

Figure 5. Duolingo exercise types.

4.2.2. The Duolingo test center

When advertising its language certificate, Duolingo points out what job seekers and students around the world have to go through to get a language certification. They have to pay a considerable amount of money to take the test, travel to an examination facility that can be far from where the person lives, and wait for weeks to receive the results (Duolingo Test Center, language certification for all, 2014). To tackle those issues, Duolingo created an app called Duolingo Test Center. This app allows people to take a language test using their mobile devices for a cost of only twenty dollars, one tenth of other tests (Duolingo Test Center, language certification for all, 2014).

4.3. Impact

4.3.1. The effectiveness of Duolingo on the beneficiaries of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program

As part of its marketing strategy, Duolingo claims that 34 hours of studying on the platform equals a semester of language study at university. This claim is based on the Duolingo effectiveness study funded by Duolingo and carried out by Vesselinov and Grego (2012). In the website of Duolingo(8), it is suggested that the platform is effective because it covers the content of a university language course in less time. By this reasoning, the effectiveness of Duolingo is interpreted regarding the time taken to complete a language course and not considering actual learning outcomes. If this train of thought is followed in the case of the beneficiaries of the Duolingo-Government partnership, it should be noted that none of them is a real beginner in English. On average, a beneficiary with a high school diploma would already have studied a total of 720 hours of English(9). Considering that the English course in Duolingo begins from scratch, it is likely that the beneficiaries of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program take shortcuts in the application that allow them to progress rapidly on the course. Therefore, it is expected that time engagement (and hence learning gain) with Duolingo will be considerably reduced.

The hypothesis of minimal learning gain of the beneficiaries of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program is also supported by the delivery techniques Duolingo implements to provide language learning. Duolingo shares the characteristics of the Grammar Translation Method(10). Advocates of translation in foreign language learning argue that translation activities build self-confidence and reduce foreign language anxiety (Cook, 2010). They also claim that translation protects students’ linguistic and cultural identities (Hall, Graham, and Cook, 2012, p. 283) and concentrates on structures that build on what learners can already do (Campbell, 2002). Conversely, other views highlight that translation is an outdated method (Cook, 2002) that encourages a false equivalence between two languages and impedes automatic fluent language use (Jordan, 2015). Duolingo focuses on corrective feedback and measures language progress by assessing knowledge of the structure of the language(11). From studies about translation in language learning (e.g., Kobayashi & Rinnert, 1992; Uzawa, 1996) it can be derived that Duolingo could have a positive impact on the reading and writing skills of users. Nevertheless, grammar becomes so important in Duolingo that it frequently asks users to translate sentences that are detached from the real world, e.g., "The birds are reading the newspaper” or "Sorry, I am an apple." Therefore, Duolingo neglects other paramount aspects of language learning which are essential for the beneficiaries of the Duolingo-government partnership, namely communicative and intercultural competence.

For these reasons, we argue that Duolingo’s primary learning focus is vocabulary acquisition. According to Cook (2013), knowledge of words requires more than just knowing their meaning. It requires a complex range of information about their spoken and written form, the ways they are used in grammatical structures and diverse aspects of their meanings. In Duolingo, many of these aspects are addressed. A Duolingo user is faced with different kinds of exercises that make him/her conscious of the meaning, spelling, and pronunciation of a word. The platform also provides a syllabus consisting of grammatical points, vocabulary items and a list of vocabulary with the grammatical categories per word. Once again, these features fall into the assumptions of traditional language learning (Cook, 2013) which focus on conscious learning that does not produce true language competence (Krashen, 2014).

By looking deeper into the Duolingo effectiveness study by Vesselinov and Grego (2012), it becomes clear that language gain is equated to vocabulary learning. The study used the WebCAPE test as a learning outcomes instrument. WebCAPE is a multiple choice test that is used as a placement tool for students in their first two years of language instruction, and that is clearly form-based (Krashen, 2014). In other words, this test does not evaluate communicative ability as it is often assessed in a face-to-face setting .

The results of the study by Vesselinov and Grego show that the average effectiveness (gain) was 8.1 WebCAPE points per one hour of study (Vesselinov and Grego, 2012). Taking into account the WebCAPE score scale, the interpretation of the scale by higher education institutions(12), and the false beginner level of the beneficiaries of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program(13), it is likely that the beneficiaries will not experience a major improvement in their learning outcomes.

Through this partnership, the Colombian government expects participants to achieve a B1 level of English proficiency in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFRL(14) (Ministerio de Trabajo, 2015a). The CEFRL is based on competences in listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production, and writing. Furthermore, it considers language learners as agents who have tasks – not exclusively language-related – to accomplish (Council of Europe, 2002). Since Duolingo is exclusively language related, it is likely that the B1 benchmark is achieved regarding vocabulary(15). Nevertheless, it is less likely that the beneficiaries of the partnership acquire communicative competence at level B1 by using Duolingo only. At this level, a language learner should possess the capacity to understand the main points on familiar matters encountered at work or school, produce texts on familiar topics, describe experiences and events by giving reasons or explanations, and deal with situations happening in the country where the language is spoken (Council of Europe, 2002).

An additional issue regarding the Duolingo-Colombian government agreement is that it is planned for a beneficiary to spend six months studying with Duolingo before taking the Duolingo language test. While Duolingo manages its own language platform as well as its own test center, there are differences in how Duolingo provides and tests language learning. Despite the fact that a learner completes the Duolingo language course by translating words and sentences, translation in the test center is non-existent. Furthermore, not only is the vocabulary learned in the platform uncertain to be tested by the test center, the exercises provided by the test center (i.e., cloze exercises) require a much higher cognitive effort than that experienced by studying in the Duolingo platform.

Regarding the Duolingo language certificate, it is true that the Duolingo test center uses the latest testing technology to generate a CEFRL-aligned score(16), and that it has validity and reliability (Ye, 2014), correlating substantially with the TOEFL (Ye, 2014) and IELTS (Bézy & Settles, 2015) total scores(17). Nonetheless, similar to the WebCAPE test, the Duolingo language test relies heavily on language form. Focus on language form is seen from the instructions given in the test, e.g. "Select the real English words in the list", "fill in the missing words using the drop-down menus", "type in English the statement that you hear." According to the Duolingo test center, a beneficiary successfully completing the Duolingo language test will be able to "fulfill most communication goals, even on unfamiliar topics, understand the main ideas of both concrete and abstract writing, and interact with native speakers fairly painlessly” (Duolingo test center, 2014). Nevertheless, the focus on form in the Duolingo language test does not really assure that the person having the certificate will actually be able to communicate in English effectively. A final remark about the language certificate is that Duolingo claims that it is recognized by "leading institutions around the globe." A closer view reveals that there is still a long way to go for the certificate to be widely accepted. The certificate is only recognized by ten institutions, including the government of Colombia and platforms like Uber and Linked In. It remains to be seen how the Duolingo language test will gain its place in the context of language certification.

5. Conclusion

During the discussion about the impact of Duolingo in the frame of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program, different concerns about the Duolingo-Colombian partnership were addressed. The prevalent role of language structure and the possible (limited) learning gains obtained by the beneficiaries of the partnership were emphasized. Furthermore, the paper questions the role of the Duolingo language certificate as a means of demonstrating foreign language competence. Other factors that might have a negative impact on this agreement relate to the risk of the beneficiaries dropping out of the language course. Duolingo does not provide information on the percentage of students who finish its language courses, but what we can see from the Duolingo effectiveness study is that about 60% of the participants drop out of the course. Studies on commercial software similar to Duolingo, such as Auralog’s TELL ME MORE and Rosetta Stone, show severe participant attrition (Nielson, 2011). Data from similar content delivery methods such as MOOCs reveal that although many thousands of participants enrol in these courses, the completion rate for most courses is below 13% (Onah, 2014).

5.1. Maximizing the impact of the agreement

While there are issues that call into question the impact of the Duolingo-Colombian government partnership, there are still actions that can be implemented to maximize the positive impact on the beneficiaries. In the frame of the 40.000 Primeros Empleos program, the participants should follow a 40-hour training course on transversal and key competences to face their first job experience (Ministerio de Trabajo, 2015b). Transversal competences include critical and innovative thinking, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills(18), and global citizenship (UNESCO, 2015). Given that participants are expected to self-direct their language study, we suggest that the Ministry of Labor should allocate a few hours of training to intrapersonal skills to ensure successful Duolingo use. Research indicates that, by making a specific emphasis on self-regulation(19) and self-regulatory sub-processes(20), participants are more likely to make decisions on how to better use stand-alone language solutions such as Duolingo (Fischer, 2007; Garcia-Botero & Questier, 2016; Nielson, 2011; Onah & Sinclair, 2017). Therefore, some participants would likely be willing to cover all the units in the language course, while others would prefer to do a placement test or study on the to-be-translated documents provided by Duolingo.

We also recommend that the activity of the participants in Duolingo be followed through the Duolingo for Schools dashboard. Having the possibility of data tracking allows the understanding of the actual use of the platform and its real impact. The dashboard can be a channel of communication between the participants and the Ministry of Labor, which in turn could use the data obtained from the dashboard to create strategies to prevent and minimize dropping out.

Although this paper is not optimistic about the learning gain resulting from the use of Duolingo for the beneficiaries of the agreement, we do think that it is important to consider Duolingo at more basic levels of language knowledge, as is shown in the study by Vesselinov and Grego (2012). We believe that when participants' knowledge of English surpasses what Duolingo offers, they should be encouraged to explore the other languages provided by Duolingo that are also of interest for the Colombian labor market. As with English, the Ministry of Labor could provide participants with a certification for their "excellence and perseverance" for the completion of any other language course in Duolingo. This certification would have a positive impact on the participants' resume, and it would be proof of their commitment to complete goals.

5.2. Final comments

The active participation of Duolingo is an interesting add-on in the efforts to spread foreign language learning among the Colombian population. Duolingo encourages lifelong learning and it can be used with devices that people already have, representing a cost-effective strategy to learn a language. However, within the conditions established by the Government-Duolingo partnership, we have reservations about the real contribution of such a project for the targeted population. Governments interested in developing similar ICT projects should realize that simply having access to software does not ensure success. Cooperation between different branches of the government should be promoted (Vosloo, 2012), as well as a combination of input factors that positively influence impact (such as human resources, assessment, and teacher and student training). When a partnership is reached by means of a donation, M&E should not only be carried out by the donor, but also by all implied stakeholders in order to maximize the benefits to the beneficiaries.

Language projects, like the one analyzed in this study, should consider language in terms of language competence and not only regarding language form. It should be noted that learning a language should also encourage the development of 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving, which are necessary for human and economic development. Tasks should be similar to situations where users apply their knowledge in the real world (Wagner et al., 2005). We encourage the Colombian government to assess the considerations stated in this paper, and we call for policy makers and governments to have an M&E approach prior, during and after the implementation of ICT projects for education.

 

Acknowledgements

We thank the Colombian Ministry of Labor for their updates about the project.

 

Funding 

Gustavo García Botero's research is funded by the European Commission's Erasmus Mundus Action 2-Eureka SD project. Grant number: 2013-2591/001-001.

 

References

Baker, C. (2014). A parents' and teachers' guide to bilingualism (Vol. 18). Multilingual Matters.

Bézy & Settles. (2015). The Duolingo certificate of English and East Africa: Preliminary linking results with IELTS and CEFRL. Duolingo research report. DRR-15-01, August 4, 2015.

Bonilla Carvajal, C. & Tejada-Sánchez, I. (2016). Unanswered Questions in Colombia’s Foreign Language Education Policy. Profile, 18(1), 185–201.

Brian, K. (2007). OECD Insights Human Capital. How what you know shapes your life. OECD Publishing.

Byram, M. (2008). From foreign language education to education for intercultural citizenship: Essays and reflections. Multilingual Matters, 17.

Campbell, S. (2002). Translation in the context of EFL – The Fifth Macroskill? TEFLIN, 13, 1.

Cook, G. (2002). Breaking taboos. Readings in Methodology, 46.

Cook, G. (2010) Translation in language teaching: An argument for reassessment. (Oxford: Oxford University Press

Cook, V. (2013). Second language learning and language teaching. Routledge.

Council of Europe (2002). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge University Press.

Duolingo Test Center, Language certification for all, 2014. https://englishtest.duolingo.com/en

Education First (2015). English Proficiency Index. Comparing English skills between countries. EF EPI. Available from https://www.ef.edu/epi/.

El Universal. (2016). Duolingo presenta Jalisco Bilingüe. El Universal, retrieved from http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/techbit/2016/03/14/duolingo-presenta-jalisco-bilingue#imagen-1.

English in Action. 2012. Welcome to English in Action. Dhaka, Author. http://www.eiabd.com/eia/

Entrevista Interactiva Duolingo: Louis Von Ahn (2014) Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0vpQ57bBSY.

Fischer, R. (2007). How do we know what students are actually doing? Monitoring students' behavior in CALL.  Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(5), 409-442.

García, I. (2013). Learning a language for free while translating the web. Does duolingo work? International Journal of English Linguistics, 3(1), 19.

García Botero, G. & Questier, F. (2016). What students think and what they actually do in a mobile assisted language learning context: new insights for self-directed language learning in higher education. In S. Papadima-Sophocleous, L. Bradley & S. Thouësny (Eds), CALL communities and culture – short papers from EUROCALL 2016, (pp. 150-154). Research-publishing.net. https://doi.org/10.14705/rpnet.2016.eurocall2016.553.

González, A. (2007). Professional development of EFL teachers in Colombia: Between colonial and local practices. Íkala, Revista de Lenguaje y Cultura, 12(18), 309-332.

Grant, A., Roldán, P., Peñate, H., López, L., Teruel, R., Gómez, M. E. & Mora, L. (2002). Monitoring & evaluation: some tools, methods and approaches (No. C10-61). World Bank.

Grünhage-Monetti, M., Halewijn, E. & Holland, C. (2003). ODYSSEUS – Second language at the workplace: Language needs of migrant workers: Organising language learning for the vocational/workplace context. Strasbourgh: Council of Europe Publishing.

Guerrero Nieto, C. H. (2008). Bilingual Colombia: What does it mean to be bilingual within the framework of the National Plan of Bilingualism? PROFILE Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 10, 27-45.

Hall, G. & Cook, G. (2012). Own-language use in language teaching and learning. Language Teaching, 45(3), 271-308.

James, T. & Miller, J. (2005). Developing a monitoring and evaluation plan for ICT in education. Monitoring and Evaluation of ICT in Education Projects, 57.

Jara, I., Claro, M. & Martinic, R. (2012). Mobile learning for teachers in Latin America: Exploring the potential of mobile technologies to support teachers and improve practice. United Nations, Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization.

Jordan, G. (2015). Geoff Jordan vs. Duolingo. Retrieved from: http://eltjam.com/geoff-jordan-vs-duolingo.

Kobayashi, H. & Rinnert, C. (1992). Effects of First Language on Second Language Writing: Translation versus Direct Composition. Language Learning, 42(2), 183-209.

Kozma, R. B. & Wagner, D. A. (2005). Core indicators for monitoring and evaluation studies in ICTs for education. Monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education projects, 35.

Krashen, S. (2014). Does Duolingo “Trump” University-Level Language Learning? International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 9(1), 13-15.

Larsen-Freeman, D. & Anderson, M. (2013). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.

Law, E. (2011). Defining (human) computation. CHI 2011: Workshop on Crowdsourcing and Human Computation.

Ley N° 1651 del 12 de Julio del 2013. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.colomboworld.com/academico/resoluciones/Ley1651de2013-LeydeBilinguismo.pdf.

Lugo, M. T. & Schurmann, S. (2012). Turning on mobile learning in Latin America: Illustrative initiatives and policy implications. Paris, UNESCO.

Milton, J. (2006). French as a foreign language and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In Proceedings from the Crossing Frontiers: Languages and the International Dimension Conference, pp. 1-6.

Ministerio de Educación Nacional, (2014). Colombia very well! Programa nacional de inglés 2015-2025 Documento de Socialización, 41. Retrieved from http://www.colombiaaprende.edu.co/html/micrositios/1752/articles-343287_recurso_1.pdf.

Ministerio de Trabajo. (2015a). ¿Qué ofrece el programa 40 mil primeros empleos? Retrieved from http://unidad.serviciodeempleo.gov.co/soy-joven-y-quiero-participar-en-el-programa.

Ministerio de Trabajo. (2015b). Cartilla de presentación alianza Duolingo. Retrieved from http://www.mintrabajo.gov.co/40000-primeros-empleos.html.

Nielson, K.B. (2011). Self-study with language learning software in the workplace: What happens? Language Learning & Technology, 15, 110-129.

Onah, D.F.O., Sinclair, J.E. & Boyatt, R. (2014). Dropout Rates of Massive Open Online Courses: Behavioural Patterns. EDULEARN14 Proceedings, pp. 5825-5834.

Onah, D.F.O. & Sinclair, J.E. (2017). Assessing Self-Regulation of Learning Dimensions in a Stand-alone MOOC Platform.  International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP), 7(2), 4-21.

Orellana (2014). Estudiantes de Guatemala aprenderán inglés con Duolingo. La prensa. Retrieved from http://www.laprensa.hn/vivir/tecnologia/705787-98/estudiantes-de-guatemala-aprender%C3%A1n-ingl%C3%A9s-con-duolingo.

Presidencia de la República de Costa Rica, (2016). 350 docentes de inglés se capacitan para utilizar plataforma Duolingo dentro del Aula. Presidencia de la República de Costa Rica. Retrieved from http://presidencia.go.cr/comunicados/2016/03/docentes-de-ingles-se-capacitan-para-utilizar-plataforma-duolingo.

Samsung SDS (2011). Samsung SDS Multi-Campus. http://www.multicampus.co.kr.

Seargeant, P. & Erling, E. J. (2011). The discourse of ‘English as a language for international development’: Policy assumptions and practical challenges. Dreams and Realities.

Tardy, C. (2004). The role of English in scientific communication: lingua franca or Tyrannosaurus rex? Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 3(3), 247-269.

Torres-Martínez, S. (2009). Las vicisitudes de la enseñanza de lenguas en Colombia.  Diálogos Latinoamericanos, 15. Retrieved from http://www.redalyc.org/pdf/162/16220868004.pdf.

UNDP (2002). Handbook on Monitoring and Evaluating for Results. New York: UNDP Evaluation Office.

UNESCO (2015). 2013 Asia-Pacific Education Research Institutes Network (ERI-Net) Regional Study on transversal competencies in education policy and practice: Phase 1. Regional synthesis report. UNESCO Bangkok office.

Uzawa, K. (1996). Second language learners' processes of L1 writing, L2 writing, and translation from L1 into L2. Journal of Second Language Writing, 5(3), 271-294.

Valencia Giraldo, S. (2005). Bilingualism and English language teaching in Colombia: A critical outlook. Presentation delivered at the Conference on English Language Teaching in Colombia, Universidad del Quindío, October, 2005.

Vélez-Rendón, G. (2003). English in Colombia: A sociolinguistic profile. World Englishes, 22(2), 185-198.

Vesselinov, R. & Grego, J. (2012). Duolingo effectiveness study. City University of New York, USA.

Von Ahn, Luis (2013). Duolingo: learn a language for free while helping to translate the web. Proceedings of the 2013 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces. ACM.

Vosloo, S. (2012). Mobile learning and policies: Key issues to consider.

Wagner, D., Day, B., James, T., Kozma, R. B., Miller, J. & Unwin, T. (2005). Monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education projects. A Handbook for Developing Countries. Washington DC: InfoDev/World Bank.

Wagner, D. A. (2005). Pro-equity approaches to monitoring and evaluation: Gender, marginalized groups and special needs populations. Monitoring and Evaluation of ICT in Education Projects, 93.

West, M. & Vosloo, S. (2015). Policy guidelines for mobile learning. UNESCO Publishing.

Ye, F. (2014). Validity, reliability, and concordance of the Duolingo English Test. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/duolingo-certifications-data/CorrelationStudy.pdf.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1986). Becoming a self-regulated learner: Which are the key subprocesses? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 11(4), 307-313.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). A social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(3), 329.

 

[1] A detailed timeline displaying the history of foreign language policies in Colombia is included in Bonilla Carvajal & Tejada-Sanchez (2016:188).

[2] Usage of content languages for websites. W3Techs.com.

[3] Baker (2014) recapitulates the advantages of bilingualism: Creativity, raised self-esteem, wider communication, literacy in two languages, greater tolerance of differences, sensitivity to communication, security in identity, as well as economic and employment benefits.

[4] Source: 100M users strong, Duolingo raises $45M led by Google at a $470M valuation to grow language-learning platform.

[5] As of July, 2017.

[6] iPhone app of the year 2013, Google's Best of the Best 2013 and 2014, TechCrunch's Best Education Startup, 2014.

[7] Duolingo: Design guidelines. https://www.duolingo.com/design.

[8] https://www.duolingo.com/effectiveness-study.

[9] http://www.mineducacion.gov.co/1621/article-97498.html.

[10] A synthesis of the characteristics of the "Grammar translation" method is found in Larsen-Freeman (2013).

[11] In the Duolingo skill tree, users pass through grammar units such as present simple, prepositions, adverbs, past simple, infinitives, present perfect, future or conditionals.

[12] Institutions such as the New York University interprets the scores of the Webcape test as follows: Beginner level: from 0 to 379 points; intermediate level: from 380 to 624 points; advanced: from 625+.

[13] According to our calculations, the current number of words existing in the Duolingo English course reaches 1914. Assuming that a Colombian high school graduate already had about 720 hours of English instruction, it is likely that he/she already knows a considerable number of the words offered by the platform. For instance, in the first unit Duolingo users learn the following words: Man-woman-I-am-a-boy-girl-not-from-Mexico-you-Spain-are-he-she-is-my-what-your-name. These words are already learned in primary school.

[14] The Colombian government decided to adopt the CEFRL as an instrument in the assessment of foreign language programs.

[15] Research on vocabulary in the CEFRL shows that the wordlists of languages come to an average of 1,000 words at the level of A2 and 2,000 words at the level B1 (Milton,2006). The Duolingo English course has 1,914 words.

[16] https://englishtest.duolingo.com.

[17] These tests are also aligned with the CEFRL.

[18] Intrapersonal skills include self-discipline, enthusiasm, perseverance, self-motivation, and commitment (UNESCO, 2015).

[19] Zimmerman (1989) defines self-regulation as the degree students are metacognitively, motivationally and behaviorally active their own learning process.

[20] Zimmerman (1986) refers to self-observation, self-judgement, and self-reaction as the key sub processes in self-regulation. Duolingo provides tools that, if used efficiently, encourage self-regulatory processes which are positively correlated with academic performance.

 

Top


Back issues


Creative Commons License
The EUROCALL Review is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Ownership of copyright remains with the Author(s), provided that, when reproducing the Contribution or extracts from it, the Author(s) acknowledge first publication in The EUROCALL Review and provide a full reference or web link as appropriate.

Last updated: 30 September 2017