Unit 1: Current Classroom Practices
What do students need from their classes? Should teachers or students ever feel this way?
Unfortunately, classrooms do sometimes look like this...students are unmotivated and teachers try to use anything to help connect with their students.
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. In the traditional method of education, students are passive participants. They occasionally do activities and participate by answering questions, but they are rarely truly engaged in their own learning process. Traditionally, we picture a classroom with a teacher att he front of the class, giving information or sharing notes on the chalkboard with students lined up in rows of desks, listening and taking notes of the knowledge the teacher is sharing. The first problem is that this type of learning does not work for everyone and one teacher, under these methods can not individualize learning for the numerous students in the class. "The structure, rigidity and uniformity of traditional classrooms can make them physically, intellectually, academically and emotionally counterproductive for many students. As any parent, teacher or caregiver can testify, every child is different" (Russell).
These traditional classrooms and methods have begun a transformation in the past century and continues to be ever changing. Students are craving more stimulation and want to be able to explore their environment and learn to tackle real-world problems. Due in part to our modernized, technological world, our students are much more dynamic and interactive. "Children learn best when they have a solid foundation and then are challenged to explore and experiment. The traditional classroom, by mandating that students learn at a fixed pace using a curriculum set in concrete, stifles the students' curiosity and abilities and hamstrings the teacher's right and ability to educate according to the students' individual learning styles" (Russell). 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). By exploring social networking tools and sites for educational purposes, students will gain the benefits by expanding their education into their social and personal realms. The purpose of this course is to look at the possibilities new technologies offer foreign language teachers and learners.
To further explore the shift occurring and needed for our 21st century learners, let's finish this introductory unit by watching the following video, Learning to Change Changing to Learn: Advancing K-12 Technology Leadership. This video is composed of experts from the Consortium for School Networking and discusses how learning has changed from the industrial model to the 21st century, technological model. Focus and reflect on the following:
- What are typical characteristics of the industrial paradigm?
- Where and how are students learning today?
- What do students need to be prepared for their future?
Continue on to Unit 2: Exploring & Implementing Online Tools
Go back to the course main page Foreign Language 2.0: Benefits and Implementing Online Communication