Unit 1: Current Classroom Practices
Stop and think about your average foreign language class...think about classroom activities and students' participation...What do you see?
- What do your students do in a typical class period? Are they actively participating?
- How do they get to practice and interact with the target language?
- Are they speaking the target language regularly?
- Do they talk with each other or with you?
- Do they ever correspond with native speakers?
Traditionally, classrooms focus on a teacher-based system where an instructor runs the class, giving students information and guiding practice activities to pass knowledge and expertise onto students. These traditional classrooms and methods have begun a transformation in the past century and continues to be ever changing. Due in part to our modernized, technological world, our students and classrooms are much more dynamic and interactive. Using technology, the Internet, and Web 2.0 tools is becoming a part of modern-day education. In addition to having technological skills, the use of technologies of any form are very beneficial in the educational process. One of the latest forms of media to develop is the idea of social networking. Online, there are numerous, very popular tools used to network and socialize through the Internet, connecting people from all corners of the Earth.
Ideal Learning Environment
What describes the ideal learning environment for learning a foreign language? Is it a classroom with prepared scenarios and skits for speaking and writing practice? Or is a it a classroom where students are actively involved in their learning environment, expanding it beyond classroom walls? Thinking of today's classroom as a learning environment is the first change--students are active participants in their learning environment. Learning environments can foster constructivist learning where students embrace real-life problems and situations.
Much of any language and communication is effectively socializing with others and being able to use the rules of language to communicate our thoughts and ideas. In traditional classrooms, learning vocabulary lists and preparing conversations and classrooms skits confines students’ practice of their new language. Using social networking sites enhances communication activities and skills by providing:
- Increased communication opportunities and the option to communicate with native speakers
- Real world casual, social interaction outside of the classroom
- Opportunities to expand language skills and for reflection on the language and culture (Pinkman, 2005)
By increasing and adapting the communication opportunities for foreign language students, students’ fluency will increase, as will their motivation to learn.As mentioned above, providing enough communication practice is a challenge in the classroom and trying to create authentic situation or expose learners to native speakers is difficult in the traditional classroom. Duffy and Bruns (2006) concluded in their conference article that “Such socially based technologies sit well with the understanding of learning as socially constructed, which has been a cornerstone of recent pedagogical theory” (p.8).