Using Technology in Language Instruction
The world is evolving, so are most of the things associated with it such as technology. Since the invention of the Internet and the computer, technology utilization has been enhanced. The enhancement has been reflected by technology in teaching and learning. Using technology in the classroom has been a subject of many scholars who have attempted to align pedagogic theories and process to learning and teaching. Erben (2013) indicates that a considerable investment has been made in technology, and thus it is expected that learning is enhanced through it. There is a considerable change in the demand from learners and teachers because of technological advancement and thus using technology in class is in line with current fad. Technology can be applied in various disciplines of learning, but this paper will only focus on language learning. The paper will further focus on the use of web 2.0 technology to enhance teaching and learning of language.
Web 2.0 Technology
Technologies of Web 2.0 are ubiquitous in day-to-day life. Millions of people use this technology to interact, network, collaborate, and entertain through platforms such as blogs, multiplayer games, social networking tools, and wikis among others. This technology gives the user a platform to publish their thoughts instantly thereby giving them an online interaction forum among other advantages. Information is not just read and retrieved, but rather created and shared. Tu, Blocher, and Ntoruru (2008) reckon that educators are using web 2.0 tools in various disciplines and thus its use in language education is not an exception. Tu, Blocher, and Ntoruru (2008) further indicate that web 2.0 technology is very useful tool for teaching and learning the second language, and some pedagogical theories can support this assertion. The technology is slowly sweeping across Europe and US as well as other parts of the world. It should be noted that interest in the second language has increased in the 21st century. According to Chapelle (2009), Globalization has paved the way for the quests for people to acquire the second language to enhance interaction. As a result, technology to speed up this acquisition is on the rise, and thus the use of Web 2.0 technologies is part of the myriads of technologies available to assist learners.
Second Language Learning and Teaching Using Web 2.0 Technologies
Web 2.0 technologies offer learners a social learning platform and thus acquisition of the second language must be done socially. According to Lomicka and Lord (2009), there is a paradigm shift in the acquisition of the second language. Lomicka and Lord (2009) further indicate that second language acquisition is becoming social oriented as opposed to its traditional view of cognitive orientation. The study implies that there is a shift from classroom to the natural setting that is provided by various tools in web 2.0 technologies. The evolution of second language learning has further seen a change from acquisition metaphor to the participation metaphor. Such enhanced social interaction through web 2.0 technology has further seen second language being used rather than being just acquired. Studies in the use of web 2.0 technologies in second language learning are still in their infancy stages. However, existing studies such as the study by McLoughlin and Lee (2007) and Lomicka and Lord (2009) indicate that web 2.0 technologies give learners a chance to learn in collaboration with one another as well as to learn as a community of learners with the same interest.
Web 2.0 technology has led to the creation of some sites for learning the second language. Such sites have a social feature for networking and include Babel, Live Mocha, and Palabea among others. These sites are termed as online communities, and they provide the platform for one to learn and share information about new language through social interaction (Aceto, Dondi, & Marzotto, 2010). Although most of these sites are less than five years old, they boast a large pool of users and are updated to match the latest innovation and technology. Stevenson and Liu (2010) carried out a study on the use of these sites by the student and discovered that students actively use them. Learners log in and interact by learning from each other on regular basis. They interact using text-based charts, audio, or video-based charts. These sites further give rooms for language users to communicate with one another thereby giving learners a chance to learn from the way natives communicate with one another. For instance, an English speaker who would wish to learn Spanish can listen to the way two native speakers talk with one another. These sites are also equipped with communication tools that enable the interaction between two people who want to learn from each other. This means that if an English-speaking student wants to learn Spanish, he or she will use the communication tool to search for a Spanish-speaking native who wants to learn English. Each student takes the responsibility of a learner and a teacher at the same time and the two learn from one another.
Pedagogical Theories to Justify the Use of Web 2.0 Technology
The use of web 2.0 in language acquisition implies that there is a move towards a constructivist approach to learning. Constructivism is hinged on the active participation of the learner. The learner constructs meaning and knowledge based on their interaction. Constructivist pedagogy accentuates on the role of the student rather than the teacher. In this case, the student’s role in knowledge acquisition through reflection, puzzlement, construction, and experience is emphasized. This means that there is a dynamic interplay of culture and mind, meaning and knowledge, and experience and reality.
Constructivism theory is hinged on the competence of learner. The learner is expected to discover knowledge and information based on the experience. This means that for second language learner using web 2.0 technology, the focus should be on learning through discovery. Web 2.0 technology provides room for such discovery whereby the learner can discover pronunciations, spelling, and new vocabularies of a second language by using the available tools.
Ala-Mutka, Punie, and Redecker (2008) have put forward eight principles to guide constructivist pedagogy. These principles emphasize the role of the student in knowledge acquisition. The first principle states that learning ought to take place in authentic as well as real-world environments. Such environments may not be possible for web 2.0 technology because it is a virtual environment. However, the concept of the virtual environment can be redefined to mean the actual location of the source of information. This means that the source of information and knowledge being acquired should come from the real source rather than a kind of machine. Web 2.0 technologies provide learners with the platform to interact with one another live meaning that the interaction is real. Real-world interaction means that one can get instant feedback and make out various sounds and rhythm. This means the computer gadgets act as a medium of passing information from two people who are in real world setting.
Another principle of constructivist pedagogy states that learning ought to involve social mediation and negotiation. For web 2.0 technology as applied in learning the second language, this principle applies to some extent. Social negotiation is made possible through various interaction tools that make two parties negotiate with each other during the learning process. However, social mediation means there should be a third party to intervene and clarify this information. In traditional learning setup, the teacher can be the third party since he or she can arrest any argument by suggesting the right answer. However, this becomes a pedagogy issue in an online environment whereby web 2.0 technologies is used. Aceto, Dondi, and Marzotto (2010), claim that mediation in an online environment can be possible if the two parties agree to have one. Aceto, Dondi, and Marzotto (2010) further states that web 2.0 technology allows more than two parties to interact and share information and thus social mediation is made possible.
The third principle says that skills and content ought to be relevant to the learner in constructivist pedagogy. This is possible in web 2.0 because learners have access to various information based on their needs. In fact, one makes use of technology to acquire what he or she cannot obtain in the environment he or she is located. However, the pedagogy issue arises on the control of the content as well as the responsibility of each party. It is possible for either party to give irrelevant or false information since there is no physical contact and accountability as in the traditional environment. This means for the technology to succeed, there should be an element of liability for each party as well as means for monitoring relevancy of the content being consumed.
The fourth principle states that skills and content ought to be understood in the framework of the prior knowledge of the learner. This is crucial in online interaction because the lack of computer skills will make it impossible for two parties to interact. The fifth principle states that students ought to be self-mediated, self-regulatory, and self-aware. The sixth principle defines the position of the teacher. According to this principle, the teacher is a facilitator and guide for learning rather than an instructor. The online environment provided by web 2.0 technology gives the learner the ability to act as a teacher in some cases. This is possible when there is an interaction between two natives of different language with an aim of learning from one another. In such case, the teacher becomes very active. However, the learner remains in control of the lesson since he or she is the one steering the discussion.
Presentation of content in constructivist pedagogy ought to be in a multiple perspectives based on the seventh principle. Web 2.0 is the best tool for effecting this principle because it allows the learner to try out different perspectives of the same concept. The learner has the freedom to try various sources of information at his disposal. At the same time, instructors are varied and come from various places and thus their views are varied. Lastly, assessment of students ought to be formal, and the process should be done in a way to inform future experience.
Towards a New Pedagogy
Constructivist pedagogy agrees with web 2.0 concept and thus recommended. Betham, McGill and Littlejohn (2009) claim that web 2.0 technology has not been understood fully and thus not been explored thoroughly. The interrelationship between learning and teaching reveals that new pedagogic approaches need to be adopted. They term the new approach as Learning 2.0 to relate with web 2.0 technology. In this approach, learners are supposed to familiarize with web 2.0 technology. Leaners are further advised to be open to the technology as it opens up new spaces and style of learning based on collaboration. Assets are shared in Leaning 2.0 approach, and a clear distinction is made between communication and learning.
Learning 2.0 approaches is supported by ideas put forward by Vygotsky. Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development indicates that no single tool can adequately address all tasks. As a result, some steps must be developed to assist learners in their proximal development zone. These steps, though not originally suggested by Vygotsky, relates to Vygotsky’s ideas and are termed as Scaffolding learning. Skills, knowledge, and experience of the learner form the foundation of scaffolding. This means web 2.0 technology is an assistant and not a replacement of traditional learning system. The first step involves building the interest and engaging the learner. This ensures active participation of the learner. The focus is thus building the interest of the learner. The learner after that internalizes the task and starts learning on his or her own. Vygotsky’s ideas are meant to ensure the learner remains an active participant thereby avoiding frustrations on the part of the learner.
The study by Tu, Blocher, and Ntoruru (2008) indicates that teachers have differing opinions on the extent to which web 2.0 technology should be applied in the acquisition of second language learning. As a result, care should be taken when applying this technology. The application should consider differing levels of applications and familiarity, different levels of understanding, Internet literacy and familiarity with the technology. This means it is impossible to provide one recipe for all the needs of the student in the application of web 2.0 technologies in teaching the second language. Based on the pedagogical point of view, an instructor ought to have several notches of integration with the technology involved. This will make it easy for the instructor to align to the level and degree of technology level with the learner. It will be erroneous for the instructor to assume that all students understands web 2.0 technologies and can thus fit into given instruction effectively. At the same time, being engaged is an issue because web 2.0 provides an interactive forum whereby students are supposed to remain highly engaged.
The pedagogical implication pivotal to web 2.0 in language learning is the call for elements in web 2.0 that are controlled and guided by the teacher. This move will agree with the study by Becker and Jokivirta (2007) that indicates that there is no absolute freedom of learning when using web 2.0 technologies. This assertion twists the social constructivism theory of learning but does not eliminate it. When learning using web 2.0 is compared to classroom instruction, the student has gained a considerable degree of freedom and thus should be motivated to learn by discovery and participation. Although the teacher’s work is lessened by the incorporation of web 2.0, he or she ought to remain active to provide explicit supervision and scaffolding as well as continue giving feedback and encouragement to leaners. The instructor should further ensure that the technology has a positive feedback on the learner. An example of the roles teachers must play includes providing a model for constructing web 2.0 learning portals, collaborate to create a desired pattern that is fair to all learners, and breaking down the number of students in the class into small groups with similar interests.
Although web 2.0 provides leaners with the potential to learn the second language effectively, pedagogical approaches are not incorporated in them during acquisition. At the same time, pedagogical approaches do not come around without hard work. As a result, a social constructivist profession ought to be involved in the construction of web 2.0 platforms for learning the second language.
Language teachers are developing an interest in how to integrate technology in their teaching environment. The invention of web 2.0 technology has come in handy for language learners and teachers. Through this technology, students have access to being knowledge creators rather just passive recipients as it has been the case in the traditional classroom. Language teachers ought to realize the availability of a range of web 2.0 technologies and select the most appropriate for their students. Based on the discussion, it is apparent there is no single technological trend that can fit everyone. As a result, there is need to establish a balance to ensure every student benefits.
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