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Marc Prensky coined the termdigital native to refer to the current generation of students who has grown up using new technologies such as computers, mobile phones, the Internet, etc. “Today students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach”. Students feel comfortable and confident with technology because it is a natural and integrated part of their lives and they have an innate ability to use gadgets or devices. They are the “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.
Thus, the implementation of technology in the classroom is a way to adapt the learning of a foreign language to students' needs and interests. English is an area in which the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be especially relevant. In fact, most current ways of communicating use English as a tool and ICT offers a wealth of learning opportunities for students of a foreign language.
Computer-based materials for language teaching, often known as CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning), appeared in the 1980s. Early CALL programs required learners to respond to stimuli on a computer screen and to carry out tasks such as fill-in the gaps or multiple-choice activities. Nowadays, as access to new technology has become more widespread, students may use the Internet and web-based tools in the classroom. The focus of CALL is learning, and not teaching. CALL materials are used in teaching to facilitate the language learning process. The use of technology inside or outside the classroom tends to make the class more interesting. For example, the integration of multimedia activities or presentations in the classroom encourages students' participation and breaks class monotony. Computers have the role of providing attractive context for the use of language rather than directly providing the language the student needs.
Although students are ‘digital natives', they need to learn how to select useful information from all the web pages available on the Internet (searching skill). There are many pages that include information which is biased or it is a personal opinion that students may consider objective information. For that reason, it is necessary to teach them how to make a good use of technology and the Internet as a source.
English has to be used as a means to get information from the Internet about different issues and, at the same time, to practise the language as such. Thus, students will see how the knowledge of English facilitates access to information on the Internet (Data processing and digital Competence), as most of the scientific, technological and academic information in the world is expressed in English and over 80% of all the information on the Internet is in English.
Nowadays, teachers use the Communicative Language Teaching approach (CLT) to motivate the active participation and the integration of the students. It is also the ideal approach to practise the four skills (Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing), strengthen grammatical structures and vocabulary as well as socio-cultural and sociolinguistic awareness. Students can use what they learn in real communicative situations. It is also a learner-centred approach which promotes the development of autonomous working dynamics and meaningful learning. Thus, CLT is the best method to use with technology and multimedia resources.
The main focus of this paper is to investigate whether web-based activities can be successfully integrated into the Spanish Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) classroom. For this purpose, different experiences and studies carried out in other countries and in different educational contexts will be analysed. Firstly, I will include a description of the skills that will be developed using the World Wide Web: the four basic language skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing), the searching skill and the intercultural awareness skill. I will also present different types of web-based activities for implementing in the classroom and discuss the advantages and constraints of each one based on empirical and theoretical researches. The article concludes with a discussion of the possible effectiveness of the analysed web-based activities in the Secondary Education classroom in Spain.
2. English skills in the Spanish curriculum
According to the Organic Law of Education (LOE), which regulates the Spanish educational system, the contents in the compulsory secondary education curriculum are grouped into blocks dedicated to four specific areas: oral language; written language; the elements constituting the linguistic system, its functions and links; and the social and cultural dimension of the new language.
The first block is for developing listening, speaking and conversational skills. The limited presence of foreign languages in the Spanish social context means that the linguistic model presented at school is the first source of knowledge and learning of the language. This model will be supported by conventional audiovisual media as well as information and communication technology (ICT). Classroom language is at the same time the vehicle and the object of learning and as such the curriculum has paid attention to both knowledge of linguistic elements and the ability to use them in communicative tasks.
The second block is for reading and writing. Progressive use of written language will depend on the level of knowledge of oral forms and on the progressive confidence in graphic representation of the sounds of this language which are usually different to one's own. The web-based activities presented in this paper mainly focus on this block.
Block 3 is knowledge of language, which includes both linguistic knowledge and reflection on learning. The starting point will be practical situations which promote the acquisition of the functional rules of the language, in such a way that the students can establish which elements of the foreign language behave like those of known languages, developing their confidence through the ability to use them successfully. Web-based instruction also helps to develop a more complete understanding of grammar and vocabulary.
Finally, block 4 refers to the sociocultural aspects and intercultural awareness. These contents help the students learn customs, forms of social relations, features and particularities of the countries in which the foreign language is spoke; in short, different ways of life to their own. This will promote respect and interest in learning about different societies and cultures. The Internet provides opportunities for students to contact and exchange ideas with students from different cultures. There are many Internet projects that can be carried out in the classroom that help students to develop their intercultural communication skills. The Council of Europe (2001) defines intercultural awareness as “the knowledge, awareness and understanding of the relation (similarities and distinctive differences) between the ‘world of origin' and the ‘world of the target community.” As regards intercultural skills and know-how, these include the ability to bring the culture of origin and the foreign culture into relation with each other; cultural sensitivity and the ability to identify and use a variety of strategies for contact with those from other cultures; and the capacity to fulfil the role of cultural intermediary between one's own culture and the foreign culture and to deal effectively with intercultural misunderstanding and conflictive situations.
3. Typology of web-based activities
One of the objectives of using Websites is to provide students with knowledge and content which they perhaps do not know, or would normally not have access to, or to supplement more traditional course materials. The integration of Web-based activities in the classroom offers a wide variety of advantages to teachers in comparison with other technologies. Firstly, teachers can choose from many different sources: authentic (webs that may fit students' interests and needs) or EFL-specific sites, monolingual or multilingual webs, sites with multimedia or simply text, etc.
It is not necessary to use Websites with a lot of animation, video, audio or other multimedia content, simple text-based Websites can also be effective because they are less likely to malfunction or cause problems when teachers use them. According to Dudeney and Hockly (2007: 27), the technology needed to use Web pages in the classroom is relatively limited and easier to use in comparison with other more complex technology approaches such as a video-conferencing sessions or a live chat. In addition, teachers do not have to rely on a constant Internet connection as it is possible to save local copies of Websites on the computer, or print them out if there is limited access to the Internet. Taylor and Gitsaki (2003), for example, designed an English language course in Japan to enhance students' use of Websites as a source in a ‘computerless classroom'. Students searched information on different Web pages at home or in the computer laboratory and they commented with their partners in the classroom the data that they found.
The Internet should be used as an intrinsic part of the learning process, rather than an occasional activity which has nothing to do with the teacher's methodology. Websites can be incorporated into the curriculum of the course by substituting a part of the course materials for websites. Students need to be aware that the Internet is not a toy or a video game, but a tool to enhance course book materials. Teachers can also incorporate, whenever is possible, students' favourite Websites as a link to their lives, interests and experiences outside the class. This will help them to see the value of technology applied in class. As this topic is to be used by Secondary education students, i.e., with a limited vocabulary repertoire, the choice of Websites is more restricted than for higher levels. Teachers should use Web pages with simple, clearly presented text; with data which is easy to interpret, or ELT Websites, where the content has been written, edited and prepared for students. It is not necessary to find pages with animation, video, audio or other multimedia content, simple text-based websites can also be used because they are less likely to cause problems when teachers use them in the class.
Web-based activities seek to facilitate students' comprehension and production of the target language and to increase their motivation in language learning. In addition, they are used to develop the following skills: searching information, listening, speaking, reading, writing, and intercultural awareness.
The use of the Internet for research purposes requires searching skills. For students with limited English proficiency, it can be very frustrating to find specific information on the Internet, thus teachers should try to reduce the level of frustration and help them to use the Internet for searching information. Learning a second language means learning to comprehend it and then to speak it. A great number of listening practices and video clips are available on the Internet and provide students opportunities for improving their listening skills. Web sites can also provide useful information for carrying out speaking activities such as simulations and role-plays. Web-based instruction develops reading and writing skills as well as a more complete understanding of grammar and vocabulary and the intercultural awareness.
There are many approaches to present Web-based activities for students. When designing or planning these activities, teachers have to take into account their students' needs and interests as well as their ability to use technology. Isabel Pérez, for example, distinguishes the following types of activities based on the use of Web resources: self-correcting exercises, browsing Web pages, reference Web sites, Reading and listening comprehensions, Treasure hunts, WebTasks, Web based projects, WebQuest, Webclues: Who is the person?, and Web Learning Routes.
The Web-based activities that will be commented on this paper are the following: Web search projects, the ‘treasure hunt' and Web-based simulations; Web-based simulations; WebQuests; blogs and wikis; and Web video activities.
3.1. Web search projects: the ‘treasure hunt' and Web-based simulations
One of the objectives of using Websites in the classroom is to develop students' ability to find suitable resources on the Internet. For learners, it means being able to accomplish Web-based tasks, thus ensuring that technology enhances the learning experience rather than impeding it. The use of Web search projects in the EFL classroom enhances task-based active learning. Learners are involved in student-centred tasks that require them to search for specific information on the Internet; find useful resources; collect and synthesize information; and share the information with their classmates. By being involved in meaningful tasks and exposing themselves to authentic English, students will ultimately improve both their computer skills and language skills.
3.1.1. The ‘Treasure hunt'
An easy way of introducing the topic of searching information on the Internet in class is to produce a ‘treasure hunt' or knowledge hunt type of activity. According to Luzón Marco (2001), the ‘treasure hunt' is an inquiry-based activity where students use the Internet to find answers to a variety of questions, usually related to a single topic. Teachers select several Web pages with information on a topic and ask one key question for each one. They should design questions which deal with the most important aspects of the topic and which force the students to analyse the topic.
Internet ‘treasure hunts' allow students to gain knowledge on a topic they perhaps do not know anything, consolidate contents previously learnt, develop web searching skills and improve their reading and comprehension skills. Students usually find using the Internet interesting and challenging and this activity generally increases their motivation to complete the task. In addition, these activities can be used for developing speaking skills through collaborative projects in which each student has only part of information necessary to complete the task and he/she has to interact with the members of his/her group or parallel problem solving wherein each partner works on similar problems and then the students have to compare results.
Treasure hunts can vary in complexity and in the degree of guidance provided by the teacher. We can distinguish three types: fully-guided treasure hunt, half-guided treasure hunt, and open hunt (Luzón Marco, 2001). In a fully-guided treasure hunt, students are provided with several questions, each one related with a Web site. In a half-guided treasure hunt, students are asked some questions and are provided with a number of sites where they can find the answers, but they are not told on which site to look for each answer. In the open hunt students have to find their own sources for obtaining the required information. This is a very complex type of hunt where students have to use search tools and strategies to locate the sites necessary to answer the questions. The focus is, thus, on developing searching skills rather than reading skills.
Brown (1999) argued that one of the difficulties of these activities is that teachers of English also have to become teachers of the Internet to instruct students who lack knowledge in new technologies and do not know how to use web browsers. During these activities teachers have to monitor the students' progress and help them when they cannot find an answer on the Web or start moving to the wrong links. They also have to be able to solve the technical problems with the browser programs. According to Brown, there can be students that do not accept the use of the Internet as a method of language learning and “will be disinterested or even antagonistic to the activity”.
Kung and Chuo investigated the role of ESL/EFL Websites as a means to supplement in-class instruction. They carried out a study in which 49 Taiwanese students, whose ages ranged from 17 to 18, were instructed to use 5 Websites for a homework assignment and for self-study in a high-beginner EFL class. Data collected revealed that students had an overall positive attitude to using the teacher-selected Websites in their learning of English despite they had some difficulties. The students found that learning English through ESL/EFL Websites was interesting and that the teaching strategies used by the teachers were effective and necessary. However, they considered that the main problem of Web-based instruction is spending too much time visiting Websites and looking for resources instead of focusing on reading and writing skills. To develop these activities students need instruction for the use of Internet resources. Furthermore, the degree to which the Internet is useful in language learning depends on how well the materials found match the needs and interests of the students and are suitable for their level of English ability. For students with limited language ability, even Websites specifically designed for students will not prove helpful unless the content is relevant and the instructions understandable.
Another important barrier to carry out Web-searching activities could be the lack of technology in the classroom. Taylor and Gitsaki (2003), however, designed a Web-Enhanced Language Learning (WELL) course in which students were taught Web searching skills in a classroom without computers. The main focus of the course was that students interacted with their partners sharing information that they found on the Internet and brought to class. Thus, by using the web students spend a lot of time exposing themselves to authentic language use and involved in web-search projects that enhances their creativity and individuality.
In 2002, Taylor and Gitsaki carried out a study in which participated 112 (50 male and 62 female) first year students from a university in Japan. Subjects were at a pre-intermediate level of English proficiency. For the purposes of the study they were administered two questionnaires, one at the start of the semester to elicit information about students' experience with computers and the Internet; and another one at the end of the semester, after 14 weeks of study and five Web search projects completed.
Students were taught English for 90 min each week in a traditional classroom (a classroom without computers) and they had to do their Web-search outside class time using either the computer laboratories at the university or their own computers at home. At the start of the course students were told that the main aim was to practise speaking English and learn how to use the WWW as a tool for exposing themselves to English.
The results of the first questionnaire indicated that the majority of the students were already familiar with the use of computers and surfing the web before they entered the course. 70% of the students reported that they had their own computer at home. The second questionnaire was about the students' perception of the Web as a learning tool, as a component of the EFL Course, the ease or difficulty of using the Web, and the likelihood of future use of the Web. Overall, students found the web a valuable learning tool and 96% agreed that being able to use the Web is a valuable skill. Students liked using the web for their EFL course and considered that it made the course more interesting and helped them talk to their classmates more.
With respect to the different skills that the Web helped them practise, students found that they learned more computer skills and the web was effective in helping them learn more about the English culture and learn more English generally. They practised speaking, reading and writing skills, and also used English to surf the Web. However, they did not find it effective for learning vocabulary and grammar. The authors of the study justified students' perception that they did not learn much grammar by arguing that they did not receive explicit instruction on English grammar because the course “put emphasis on speaking and sharing information with classmates through pair-work activities and role-plays”. With respect to vocabulary, “students were probably overwhelmed by the amount of unfamiliar vocabulary they encountered on the web”.
Thus, these results could indicate that WELL courses are effective for teaching students cultural aspects of the foreign language and searching skills, but not for teaching grammar. This could be remedied by giving students a list of different ESL Websites (extra material), where they could engage more explicitly in practising grammar and vocabulary.
3.1.2. Web-based simulations
Web-based simulations bring real-life contexts to the classroom, helping learners to deal with situations that they come across during, for example, foreign travel or in encounters with other speakers of English (Dudeney and Hockly, 2007: 50). Students “simulate” the real world behaving as themselves. The Internet gives learners access to authentic Websites that provide stimulating and relevant content that enables them to carry out these simulations, replacing the traditional class activity in which the teacher gives students cards with the role they have to play. The main advantage of this approach in comparison with a role-play is that it provides a more realistic environment. Students are required to solve a problem using their own experience, instead of pretending to be somebody they are not.
This is an approach that requires students to actively participate in their learning process. Simulations work particularly well in the field of business English, where the language learning is very task-or goal-oriented, but also with general English. Thus, simulations need to address potential real-life situations in order to appeal to the learner. Working through carefully guided, but complex tasks can reinforce the value of their language classes and keep motivation high.
Dodge defined WebQuest as “an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet” (Pérez Torres, 2007). WebQuest is a constructivist learning activity that uses resources from the Websites and presents an authentic task in context which implies transformation of the information, and encourages students' participation in an autonomous and collaborative way, in groups where normally each student plays a different role. WebQuests can be teacher-made or learner-made, depending on the learning activity the teacher decides on, and have six components: introduction, a task, resources, the process, the evaluation, and a conclusion.
According to Pérez Torres (2007), the general advantages of using WebQuests in education are the following:
- It has a clear structure and promotes effective use of time.
- It provides motivation, partly because of the use of authentic material and the development of tasks connected with reality and partly because of the promotion of autonomy and creativity.
- It requires collaboration and cooperation among students, what implies they have to attain interdependence and responsibility.
- It promotes high order thinking processes (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, etc.).
- It promotes interdisciplinarity and this can facilitate learning different subjects at the same time.
“WebQuests offer good internet-based language learning opportunities because they provide learners with exposure to authentic material, meaningful content and possibilities for real communication in the target language” (Stoks, 2002:1). WebQuest is a useful strategy to promote content and language integrated in one activity (Pérez Torres, 2007). Dodge (1995) states that a WebQuest activity might require the following thinking skills: comparing, classifying, generalizing principles from observations or analysis, deducing, analysing errors in one's own or others' thinking, constructing support for an assertion, abstracting, and analysing different perspectives about issues.
However, it is not easy to design and implement a WebQuest in a second language because teachers have to select the appropriate resources for their students' level of language. The main difficulties could be stated in five conclusions (Pérez Torres, 2006):
- When doing a WebQuest in a Second Language, the L2 is more a barrier than an ally.
- The thinking processes in an L2 are more complex.
- Students spend more time in the comprehension of an L2 and the coordination of ideas than in their L1.
- This lack of command and comprehension may imply a decrease in the motivation of the students.
- Lack of direct language instruction, which will help accelerate the learning process and focus in language
According to Pérez Torres (2006), the solution to these problems are:
- Selecting appropriate resources and adapting the complexity of the task.
- Adding background information and integrating the WebQuest in the context of a bigger learning unit.
- Incorporating a new instructive element: ‘the language workshop' where learners have the opportunity to practice and learn vocabulary and learning strategies.
There are two studies which show different results regarding the impact of WebQuests on improving students' reading and writing skills. Chuo (2007) designed a WebQuest Writing Instruction Programme (WBWI) to investigate the relationship between language learners' perception of WebQuest use and the direct impact of WebQuest use on writing performance, writing apprehension, and perception among EFL students. The research was conducted in two classes (with 54 students in each one) of a college of foreign languages in southern Taiwan. One class received traditional classroom writing instruction and the other class, the WQWI programme. Participants in both groups were given four writing tasks requiring them to produce paragraph writing. The four writing tasks in both groups focused on the same writing modes and grammatical points. A writing performance test, a writing apprehension test, and a post-instruction perception questionnaire were used to collect the data.
Chuo found out that WebQuest group improved their writing performance significantly and experienced significant reduction in writing apprehension that traditional writing group. Furthermore, she also concluded that students had favourable perception of WebQuest use in writing. She speculated that the fundamental distinction between the two instruction methods was found in the writing input and the way the writing input was provided. The writing input in the traditional writing instruction comprised printed materials and teacher-directed oral discussions. In the WQWI, students received writing input by surfing Web materials in the multimedia language laboratory or at home. They read an abundance of relevant material about a topic and then wrote about it. They spent substantial amount of time skimming, scanning, and decoding relevant Web materials for the purpose of communicating their ideas in their writing.
Kocuglu (2010) also studied the impact of WebQuest on the reading and writing performance of EFL students who ranged in age from 18 to 19 years old and studied in a Turkish university. There were two classes, an experimental group (13 students) which carried out WebQuest tasks, and a control group (14 students) which received traditional writing and reading instruction (teacher-led tasks) during four weeks (four classes of 60 minutes each). Data was collected from a reading performance test, writing performance test and reading and writing scores. According to the scores they obtained in the pre-tests, both groups had the same level of reading and writing knowledge before beginning the course.
The result of the study showed that the use of WebQuests in EFL reading instruction improved reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition in the experimental group, but did not increase EFL learner's writing skills in comparison with traditional writing instruction, which contradicts Chuo findings. According to Kocuglu, the reason why there was not difference between students who learned through WebQuests and through traditional classroom writing is that “the students in both groups had limited vocabulary and structure to write a fully-developed paper on given topics”.
3.3. Web 2.0: Blogs and wikis
Web 2.0 are websites which are more social in nature and invite people to share what they find, what they do and what they learn in a wide variety of contexts. Two examples of Web 2.0 are blogs and wikis, which can be defined as social software or computer tools that allow people to connect, to communicate and to collaborate online. A blog is a regularly updated journal in the form of a web page. A wiki is a collaborative web space, consisting of a number of pages that can be edited by any user. The term comes form the Hawaiian word for ‘quick'. The main advantage of these tools is that engender a sense of social responsibility, with learners working collaboratively on content. Also, the public nature of the content created using these Internet tools ensures that accuracy and appropriacy become more important to learners (Dudeney and Hockly, 2007: 86).
The most common type of blog is kept by one person, who will regularly post comments, thoughts, analyses, or he may include pictures or photos (photoblogs) or even audio and video clips (videoblogs). Most blogs will allow readers to comment on entries, thereby creating an online community around a topic, interest or person. Blogs used in education are known as edublogs. A teacher may decide to use a blog to provide students with news and comments on issues, reading practices, homework, online links, a summary for learners who did not attend the class, study tips, etc.
Blogs in language teaching can be divided into tutor, student and class blog. A tutor blog is set up and maintained by a teacher. In a student blog, teachers encourage students to set up and maintain their own individual blogs. Finally, class blogs are used by the entire class and they can be used to post comments on certain topics such a as class work or any other issue the teacher thinks interesting and relevant to learners.
The main advantages of using blogs in the classroom are that they provide a ‘real-world' tool for learners with which to practise written English, as well as a way of contacting learners from other parts of the world (if the blog is used as part of an international exchange or it is published on the Internet). As the blog can be publicly accessible, learners are motivated to write their entries as accurate as possible. They can be recommended to write their blog entries in a word processing program, beforehand and, for example, make peer review of work in progress (Dudeney and Hockly, 2007: 90).
Duffy and Bruns (2006) enumerated the “potential benefits” of blogs as identified by Fernette and Brock Eide and cited by Will Richardson (2006) in Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful webtools for classrooms:
- Can promote critical and analytical thinking.
- Can promote creative, intuitive and associational thinking (creative and associational thinking in relation to blogs being used as brainstorming tool and also as a resource for interlinking, commenting on interlinked ideas).
- Can promote analogical thinking.
- Potential for increased access and exposure to quality information.
- Combination of solitary and social interaction.
According to Godwin-Jones (2006), writing on blogs as a writing tool has the following advantages:
- It encourages feedback and represents both writing and reading activity
- It stimulates debate, critical analysis, and encourages articulation of ideas and opinions.
- It offers opportunities for collaborative learning: projects, debates or interactive travel logs.
- It provides an environment in which students can develop skills of persuasion and argumentation.
- It creates a more student-centred learning environment (students control the content).
- It offers informal language reading.
Thus, within the structure of a blog, students can demonstrate critical thinking, take creative risks, and make sophisticated use of language and design elements. Students may acquire creative, critical, communicative, and collaborative skills. They do not usually relate wikis and blogs and other forms of electronic discourse with their concept of reading and writing in an educational sense, but rather as tools for social interaction. Blogging allows students to interact with other students or commenting other entries. It is a ‘space' of personal expression and reflection.
Regarding the educational uses of blogs, they can support reflections on teaching experiences; teaching, learning, and technology-related tips, comments on literature readings; a collaborative space for students to review course materials, development of student portfolio of work, etc.
Campbell (2005) argued that what makes weblogs attractive to EFL/ESL educators is that they give students a chance to put what they are learning in the classroom to use in expressive and interactive ways. Blogs allow learners to share their personal thoughts and ideas, and to meet and interact with people around the world doing the same. Learners are exposed to authentic uses of the language, stimulating and challenging them in ways that traditional classroom experiences cannot.
Nadzrah and Kemboja (2009) studied the effectiveness of blogs in developing students' ability to write constructively. They collected data through questionnaires at the end of the semester that requested students' feedback (41 first and second-second year students who were taking an English for Social Sciences course) on their attitudes to the integrated blog project and how the project motivated them and helped them increase their interest in writing in English. They found that students had a positive attitude about blogging and that social interaction helped students improve their writing skills.
The students' level of proficiency in English was intermediate with some basic knowledge of computer skills. The aim of the course was to help students develop academic skills such as reading, speaking, and writing. The study examined one part of the evaluation component of the course: the Integrated Project. The goal of the project was to produce a small report on research conducted by students in groups of three or four. The students created their group blog and began discussion in class. In order to participate in the discussion, they collected information from the Internet.
The study questionnaires were distributed at the end of the semester. Among the main findings were that blogs motivated students to improve their writing skill and to become more conscious of their writing ability. 97% of students indicated that blogs were a useful writing tool because they used them to share their writing and ideas with friends online. A high percentage of students (73.4%) also reported that they could write better when blogging than on paper in the classroom. In addition, 72% of the students said they were more creative when blogging than on paper. This is because they can include video clips, pictures and sounds in their blogs.
A wiki is a public Website started by one person, but which subsequent visitors can add to, delete or change the content. Instead of being static Web pages like blogs, wikis are more dynamic, and have multiple authors. “It is like having a publicly accessible word processing document available online, which anyone can edit” (Dudeney and Hockly, 2007: 93). A blog consists of number of postings, which are published on one web page, in reverse chronological order with the most recent posting at the top. A wiki has a non-linear structure, and pages may link back and forwards to other pages. One of the best-known wikis is Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia that anyone can add to or edit, which is one of the most visited Websites in the world, and features 14 million articles written in more than 200 languages (Warschauer, 2010).
In the classroom, wikis allow teachers and learners to see the evolution of a written task, and to continually comment on it, rather than offering comments only on the final draft (Duffy and Bruns, 2006). The best way to start using a wiki with a group of learners is to set up simple collaborative writing projects. As wikis can be available on the Internet, it is an added incentive for learners to write with more accuracy.
Tonkin (2005) identifies four different forms of educational wikis:
- Single-user wikis allow an individual to collect and edit his or her own thoughts using a Web-based environment.
- Lab book wikis allow students to keep notes online with the added benefit of allowing them to be peer reviewed and changed by fellow students.
- Collaborative writing wikis can be used by a team for joint writing.
- Knowledge base wikis provide a knowledge repository for a group.
Warschauer (2010) observed that much of the discussion regarding the role of wikis in education has focused on the suitability of Wikipedia as a source for student research. The founder of Wikipedia, Jim Wales, suggested that Wikipedia can help provide an overview of issues and a starting point for identifying primary sources, but students should use primary sources as definitive sources in their research projects.
Wikis are also powerful digital tools for collaborative writing and collective knowledge development. Some authors consider wikis as an unsuitable medium for accomplishing collaborative work due to the inherent difficult of arriving at decisions in groups dispersed by space and time. However, there are many reports of the use of wikis for collaborative writing assignments in second language learning which suggested that participating students increased their quantity of writing, developed more confidence in their writing, and found such assignments motivating (Kovacic, Bubas, and Zlatovic, 2007; Mak and Coniam, 2008).
Kovacic, Bubas, and Zlatovic conducted two studies on different groups of subjects to investigate the effects of the use of wikis in teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses. The subjects were undergraduate students enrolled in the 2006-2007 academic year at the Faculty of Organization and Informatics of the University of Zagreb. One group of subjects were 85 first-year students who attended the course English Language, and the other group were 28 second-year students who attended the course Business English Language. The subjects in both groups were highly computer literate, but they had diverse levels of English language proficiency. Both groups were led by the same teacher in different semesters. They also used the same wiki system, but with a different learning content and type of online activities
Both studies produced similar results regarding the overall evaluation of wiki-based activities. The conclusion was that the use of wikis was a useful and innovative way of enriching the learning environment of students with adequate ICT skills and access to the Internet. Besides contributing to the learning of vocabulary and to the development of writing skills, wiki writing engaged the students more fully with the topics and issues of the ESP courses, enabled online collaboration and peer-to-peer learning, facilitated their critical thinking and inspired creativity. They also concluded that the use of wikis in ESP courses required careful planning and preparation, monitoring and moderating of students' work, as well as reflection and adequate feedback to the students after they had completed their wiki-based assignments.
Mak and Coniam (2007) also studied the use of wikis as an online writing tool for Year 7 (age 11) students in a Hong Kong secondary school over a period of two months. Students had to create as final product an information brochure to describe their new school (Year 7 is the first year course of secondary education in Hong Kong) to their parents. The groups of students designed and put together, through a series of successive drafts, a description of their secondary school. After the final draft, they had to transform the wiki pages and photos into the brochure. The research questions that the study was pursuing with regards to writing collaboratively in the wiki were if students would produce a greater quantity of text; and, secondly, if the text would be coherent and accurate.
In relation to the first question, students produced more text than the 150 words per month expected of them. Only one student in a group wrote less than 100 words, but two students wrote more than 500 words and one almost 1,000 words. Regarding the second question, rather than simply adding sentences, at the end of the third and fifth week, students showed a better ability to reorganise ideas, thus the coherence of the texts was also improved.
The authors concluded that task's real outcome, to create a brochure, “boosted students confidence as writers” and “tapped students creative skills, which is generally not a major concern of ESL teachers or students in Hong Kong secondary schools”. The fact that students had to consider a specific audience (their parents) resulted in them being more creative than when they write compositions in the traditional classroom. The reason is that a real audience read their brochures for the content instead of simply correcting the grammatical errors. Their work was appreciated from a real-world perspective.
Cole (2008), however, carried out a study in which wiki technology failed to support student engagement with the subject matter of a third year undergraduate module. Engagement was defined as the active participation of students in class and with the subject matter. Her ?ndings revealed that social technologies such as wikis are not perceived in an educational context in the same way as when students use them at home, and this discourages students of taking advantages of technology. This is probably due to the fact that they like to use technology to post on his friends' social network sites, but not to participate in collaborative projects
For the study, teachers created a wiki in which students had to add the posts and that was freely available and compatible with the university's existing virtual learning environment called ‘u-link'. Data was collected from a final year undergraduate module in information systems with 75 students. Qualitative questionnaires were administered in November 2007 (to understand student use of the wiki) and January 2008 (to understand student familiarity with social networking technologies). Group interviews were held in December 2007 to gain a better understanding of student attitudes to the wiki.
After 5 weeks there had been zero posts to the wiki. “The reasons ranged from academic pressure from other courses (educational constraint) to ease of use concerns (technical constraint) to issues of self-con?dence (personal constraint) and a total lack of interest”. Although modern day students are defined as ‘digital natives' (Prensky, 2001), some form of instructional scaffolding is required. They need guidance and tuition in using a wiki.
It is not enough to simply add a wiki into a course with a traditionally designed content and expect students to automatically participate. Rather, course content needs to be explicitly redesigned around wiki use. Students need to be introduced to the different ways in which the wiki can be used so that they may become comfortable with the use of technology as a teaching tool. The ?ndings of the study suggest that student motivation for using social technologies in the classroom is linked to what students do as computer users at home. For example, posting among friends or chatting with other users. In addition, it is necessary to use a different evaluation and marking criteria to assess students' use of wikis. Teachers may take into account the frequency, novelty or creativity of students' contributions to the wiki or relate to any aspect of individual and group work.
Thus, wiki had little impact on student engagement because they did not post to the wiki. The author suggested that the main reason was that the course was poorly designed and did not motivate students to participate and write posts.
3.4. Web video activity
YouTube, Google videos or any web which includes multimedia contents provide English learners with a new tool to improve listening skills or to learn new vocabulary. They offer authentic examples of everyday English and students are attracted because of the “real life” nature of these videos. Learners can access to the Internet videos through multimedia players such as Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Real Player, BS Player or VLC.
The integration of multimedia activities in the classroom encourages students' participation and breaks class monotony. There are several studies which show that the use of videos provides a semantically enriched context where the visual and the audio lend meaning to the words. The use of video segments help students to link language form to meaning and make language input more meaningful and, hence, easier to retain in the long-term memory. In addition, students are more concentrated when watching a video because they want to know what is going to happen in the segment or in the next one. It is recommended to use short videos so that less advanced students (with a limited attention span) may watch them without becoming too bored or thinking about something else. In addition, it is a source of authentic cultural material. Students may learn about the culture of the target language.
Kelsen (2009) explored the use of YouTube as supplementary material with EFL students in Taiwan. He conducted surveys on the first and last days of class of the first semester in two classes (31 and 38 students, respectively) of second-year students in a university to check students' attitudes towards using YouTube to study English. The most interesting results from first day class survey were that 3 students out of the 69 considered using YouTube for education and only one for learning English. Thus, students were unlikely to view a video with the aim of learning English unless they were in the classroom.
In the final day of semester survey, 96.8 % of students considered using YouTube in class to be interesting. According to Kelsen, this result was related to the excitement factor derived from visual stimulus as compared to regular teaching materials such as textbooks or workbooks. However, less than half the students (46.7%) admitted that using YouTube in class motivated them to use it outside of class to study English. The study found that few students revisited the Websites introduced in class to study English on their own.
The conclusion is that students found YouTube engaging in class, but not enough so as to study English using YouTube at home. In general, students wrote positive comments regarding the use of technology, but some also highlighted the importance of providing clear explanations on how to use this learning tool effectively. This means that despite students are considered ‘digital natives' or the iGeneration, teachers need to teach them how to use Websites like YouTube and to discern which material are beneficial and which are not.
4. Integration of web-based activities in the Secondary education classroom in Spain
Temas: Differences between motivation and Engagement = technology motivates students in class, but do not engage them to use it at home for educational purposes.
Teachers: Teachers of English + Teachers of the Internet
Searching information on the Internet may cause frustration in low proficiency students.
Resources: not a problem (example, Teaching WELL in a Computerless article)
Different perception of social technologies
Despite the abundance of resources on the Internet, those resources are not likely to be useful unless the students can locate them and know how to use them to enhance their language learning experience. (Kung & Chuo, 2002, p. 2).
DEEP LEARNING: one of the major weaknesses of students' interaction with web resources. While proceeding through numerous electronic texts in the attempt to unearth the answers, learner do not make the effort to internalize the information they find. Instead, they glide over texts focusing on the linguistic level only, without any deeper assimilation of the content. This become clear when they meet other group members to share search results. Even casual observation reveals that most of the students are unable to pass very basic information in their own words.
Although the informative value of Web resources is well appraised, their abundance, accessibility and overwhelming cognitive complexity, if not properly attended, may lead to fossilization of inappropriate learning behaviours, especially the surface strategies of mechanical reproduction.