Using Blogs and Voki to increase motivation and oral participation amongst boys in Modern Foreign Languages
University of Leeds
School of Education
MA ICT and Education
Module EDUC5979M José Picardo
Using Blogs and Voki to increase motivation
and oral participation amongst boys in
Modern Foreign Languages.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 1
Table of contents
1. Introduction 3
2. Rationale 5
2.1. Why donʼt boys like to talk in the foreign language?
2.2. Why use ICT to help with this problem?
2.3. Using Web 2.0 to encourage speaking
3. Implementation 10
3.1. How familiar are pupils with blogs and Voki?
3.2. Integrating Web 2.0 tools into the schemes of work
4. Evaluation 20
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 2
I was recently the subject of a great culture shock: a year ago, I transferred from a
girls school to an all boys school. Myths materialised and hearsay became reality as I
had to completely re-think my approach to teaching Spanish so as to make it more
ﬁtting and more relevant to my new, all male pupils.
It is a well researched fact that boys and
Figure 1: Percentage taking languages:
Boys vs Girls (Dearing and King, 2007) girls prefer different learning styles and
that that they have a different approach to
their education: girls are generally por-
trayed as conscientious and hard working,
whilst boys are often portrayed as lazy,
untidy and indulging in an anti-education
culture. There is a widespread recognition
that gender does indeed affect the way we all think, behave and learn (Maynard
When it comes to learning Modern Foreign Languages, boys have traditionally under-
performed in comparison to girls, who consistently achieve the highest grades. Boys
are frequently described as less interested in languages and are statistically more
likely to drop languages altogether at Key Stage 4, when MFL cease to be compul-
sory (Dearing and King 2007). (Figure 1)
It is obviously not the case that all boys behave in this manner, nor are all girls con-
scientious and hard working. The above is a generalisation, a rule of thumb, that all
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 3
teachers can easily infer from their experience and that illustrates the problems fac-
ing them when it comes to motivating and enthusing boys in particular.
ICT has already been used successfully to motivate boys to write by making the
process more engaging, offering them a greater degree of independence, and by ap-
pealing to every boyʼs interest in high-tech. Computers are certainly cool as far as
boys are concerned. It has also been noted by Walker, Davies and Hewer (2008) that
ICT motivates by “removing the fear of making errors”.
In this paper I aim to explore how I can exploit the fact that ICT is a powerful motiva-
tor to encourage boys to speak in the target language with conﬁdence, using Web 2.0
tools to encourage creativity, reduce reluctance to participate in oral activities and to
help teachers bridge the home-school divide. These Web 2.0 applications have made
it possible for me to set speaking in the target language as homework in a way that is
both fun and engaging for the pupils, thus departing from the convention that pupils
must be at school in order to be able to assess aspects of the speaking skill, such as
pronunciation, range and complexity.
I will describe how, using Web 2.0 applications, more speciﬁcally my subject blog1
and Voki2 , I increased the motivation of my Year 9 pupils (13 year old boys who are
beginners this year), as well as improving their ability to speak in Spanish more con-
ﬁdently on the topic of Home and Local Environment over the course of three 40
minute lessons (one week in the schemes of work). But ﬁrst, I would like to explore
1 Available online at <http://www.asisehace.net/blog>
2 Voki is website that allows users to create speaking characters, known as avatars, by recording their own voices.
Available online at <http://www.voki.com>
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 4
boysʼ aptitude and attitude regarding MFL learning by posing the questions outlined
2.1. WHY D O N ʼ T B O Y S L I K E TO TA L K I N T H E
FOREIGN LANGUAGE ?
My ﬁrst question is, of course, my second generalisation. Some boys do enjoy speak-
ing in the foreign language and often volunteer answers and put their hands up when
asked to participate in the target language. Although the evidence of a gender divide
when it comes to speaking is not clear, every language teacher is very familiar with
those boys whose work is frequently untidy and often inaccurate; who constantly for-
get their books or lose their bags; and, most importantly, who are not motivated to
speak foreign languages (Harris 2002).
In my own, previous experience of teaching in a girlsʼ school, I noticed that girls were
generally keen to get on with school work because, principally, they were worried that
they were going to under-perform. Peer pressure to succeed and do better frequently
was their motivating force. They also responded generally positively to feedback by
understanding and addressing the areas in which they needed to improve.
Now that I teach in a boysʼ school, my perceptions of pupil motivation and organisa-
tion have adapted to the reality that boys do approach language learning from a more
practical point of view, therefore whatever is taught, in their opinion, has to be worth
learning. They lose concentration and interest more easily, therefore teaching has to
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 5
be varied, they enjoy creative tasks involving ICT and they react adversely to nega-
tive feedback, appreciating instead encouragement and reward (Barton 2002).
My experience has shown me that there is a divide between the way boys perform in
a mixed-sex classroom and how they perform in an all boys environment. Although
much of it depends on the individual groups or students, anecdotal experiences from
fellow MFL teachers who have left their comments on my weblog 3 and on the Times
Educational Supplement online forums4 have conﬁrmed that boys in a mixed-sex en-
vironment tend to dominate the speaking activities, seeking the most attention, per-
haps in an attempt to establish their dominant presence, whereas in an all male envi-
ronment most boys fear speaking in public and therefore do not say much at all.
There are similarities however between single-sex and mixed-sex environments in so
far as there will be some boys in both groups who demand most of the teacherʼs and
fellow pupilsʼ attention to the detriment of the rest of the cohort. My interest therefore
lies with the quieter ones, those in the majority who are happy to take a back-seat
and let the lesson go by without participating meaningfully.
In short, most boys do not like to talk in the foreign language because they:
I. are subject to peer pressures and fear of negative feedback from teachers;
II. suffer from lack of self-conﬁdence;
3 Available online at <http://www.boxoftricks.net>
4 Available online at <http://www.tes.co.uk/section/staffroom/>
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 6
III. regard speaking as not being real work, preferring instead to engage in ac-
tivities which they see as having a concrete and practical outcome, such as
All of the socio-affective factors listed above conspire to strengthen boysʼ reluctance
to speak in their own language, never mind a foreign language in which, not only do
they have to say something of consequence on the spot in front of their teacher and
fellow students, but in addition, they have to pronounce all those strange sounds
while ensuring that they get the grammar right.
2.2. WHY USE ICT TO HELP WITH THIS PROBLEM ?
Krashen (1981) afﬁrms that it is the attitude of the learner that is fundamental to the
learning of a second language and is a much better predictor of success than apti-
tude. He suggests that self-conﬁdence is a desirable quality in pupils because it will
Speaking in the target language is often deﬁned, both by students and teachers, as
the principal objective of learning MFL (Jones 2002; Hill 2002). However all language
teachers recognise that this is, in fact, one of the most difﬁcult skills to develop, given
that the aim of speaking is hindered by the socio-affective factors outlined above, re-
sulting in most boys being reticent and unforthcoming when asked to speak in the
target language due, mostly, to lack of motivation and self-conﬁdence. The mainte-
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 7
nance of conﬁdence is therefore “a crucial factor in sustaining motivation and achiev-
ing a satisfying level of language proﬁciency” (Hill 2002, p99).
Since the use of ICT has been demonstrated to engage the learner and to provide
him or her with the autonomy that is required to improve motivation and instil greater
self-conﬁdence (Leach 2002), I set out to determine in this paper whether using ICT,
in the form of Web 2.0, could help my pupils to improve their ability to speak Spanish
more often in class, as well as increasing their willingness to communicate.
2.3. USING WEB 2.0 TO ENCOURAGE SPEAKING
Web 2.0 is not a new version of the World Wide Web but rather a collection of online
applications and websites that encourage participation by offering popular services,
often at no cost to the user, such as social networking or photograph and bookmark
sharing sites. Indeed sharing and collaboration can be described as the main charac-
teristic of the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon. Walker, Davies and Hewer (2008) de-
scribe Web 2.0 as “an attempt to redeﬁne what the web is all about and how it is
For me the key advantage of using Web 2.0 tools is their online aspect. These appli-
cations generally do not require the downloading of software in order to make them
work or specialist ICT knowledge in order to install the programmes, they simply run
through a web-browser in any computer connected to the internet: just point and
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 8
It is important to highlight that these Web 2.0 tools are generally designed to be intui-
tive, easy to use without previous experience and easily accessible, providing there
is a computer with an internet connection. Combine that with the fact that pupils gen-
erally ﬁnd them attractive and fun to use and one has the ideal medium through
which to attempt to increase pupilsʼ willingness to speak in the target language.
Voki is a Web 2.0 tool that enables users to express themselves on the web in their
own voice using an avatar, a talking character (Voki 2008) which they can customise
to their liking. I decided that Voki would be the ideal tool on which to base the three
lessons that I chose to describe and evaluate in this paper because:
I. it can be accessed both at home and at school;
II. it necessitates computer-pupil interaction, which, as described above, is a
III. it enables the pupils to be creators of something unique, of which they have
IV. it facilitates the transition from teacher-centred, class-based learning to
one in which the pupil begins to acquire individual responsibility;
V. it makes it possible for the quieter pupils to make their presence felt and be
VI. it allows the pupils to role-play and hide behind a mask (an avatar), creating
a distancing effect which appeals to the more reluctant speakers.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 9
Therefore, by exploiting the potential that the combination of my subject blog and
Voki offers students to access language learning opportunities from home and with-
out any peer pressure, as identiﬁed by Dearing and King (2007) in their Languages
Review, as well as by catalysing pupilsʼ interest and activity (Thomson 1994), the
teacher ensures that a conducive atmosphere is created to foster the increase of
self-assurance when it comes to speaking in a foreign language. This coveted self-
assurance is obtained by allowing pupils to role-play and become someone else: a
more conﬁdent self.
3.1. HOW FAMILIAR ARE PUPILS WITH BLOGS AND
Leach (2002) points out that teachers ought to build on
their pupilsʼ existing ICT knowledge and use the tools to
which pupils are already accustomed. There is no doubt
that, although my pupils might not be aware of the term
Web 2.0, they are all familiar with the concept behind it:
sharing, collaborating and networking online.
Figure 2: Typical Voki created The vast majority of my pupils already use social net-
by my Year 9 group.
working sites such as Bebo or Facebook, albeit for
pretty mundane and low-level purposes. It can be argued that most pupils are just
gossiping online, but it cannot be denied that they are all sharing, collaborating and
networking and they are doing so in a way which they enjoy and ﬁnd engaging.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 10
Although my pupils were familiar with the term blog, since I use one to complement
my teaching, none of my pupils had heard of Voki (Figure 2) before I introduced it to
them. However they immediately understood the principles behind it and associated
it with many other widgets 5 that they had already used in their proﬁle pages in the
various networking sites they frequent. For example, they all knew what an avatar
was and most had used computers to record voice messages or post videos online.
I was very careful to introduce the idea of using Voki to my pupils so that they would
be immediately engaged and enthused by the prospect of using it. I therefore de-
cided to plan for serendipity and cheat slightly by making them think it was their idea
to use Voki all along: I purposefully showed them a Voki during a lesson which had
been recorded by my three year old son speaking in Spanish. I then waited until one
of my pupils suggested that they could use Voki in their Spanish lesson, what a bril-
From this moment on, I deliberately tried to become a facilitator or a collaborator: a
senior partner who would mentor them through the process of acquainting them-
selves with the new application and with the creation of their own Spanish-speaking
avatar. After a quick demonstration (Appendix 1) in which I explained how to register
on the website and how to obtain the necessary code to embed their ﬁnished Voki in
our subject blog (Appendix 2), we decided that it was really easy and that we should
use Voki to practise the latest topic that we had been revising: My Town (Home and
5 A widget is an addition to a webpage with which the user can interact and generally adds third-party functionality.
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3 . 2 . I N T E G R AT I N G W E B 2 . 0 TOOLS INTO THE
SCHEMES OF WORK
Having established above the reasons why the use of ICT and Web 2.0 tools would
be conducive to achieving the desired goal of speaking more conﬁdently in the target
language, there are a number of other factors that have to be considered when de-
vising and implementing a new series of lessons which include the extraordinary use
of ICT within the existing schemes of work. These factors are both of a practical and
Practical factors in this case included whether pupils had ready access to computers
ﬁtted with a microphone at home or school and whether the ICT centre was available
to me during the allotted sequence of lessons. Since the ICT centre has 30 comput-
ers with internet connection and microphone ﬁtted headsets and it remains open to
pupils during breaks, as well as before and after school, lack of access to computers
off timetable was therefore not an obstacle. I was also able to secure a booking of the
ICT centre in order to ensure that at least one of my lessons could take place there.
Once the practicalities had been dealt with, there were other pedagogical factors
which weighed in my mind regarding the effective use of ICT in this context: McElwee
and Swarbrick (2002) point out that, when implementing a new sequence of work us-
ing ICT, teachers have to have a very clear idea what the purpose of the activity is,
whether pupils will be engaged by it and, most importantly, what the evidence of pu-
pilsʼ achievement will be. Chapelle (2001) encapsulates my concern in this question:
what evidence is there that using ICT would be a more effective way to achieve my
aims and objectives than standard teaching practice?
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 12
Given that my objective was to increase my pupilsʼ conﬁdence in speaking Spanish,
in answer to the above question I surmise the following: since it is generally agreed
that ICT both motivates and enthuses learners (Davies and Hewer 2008; Leach
2002) and it has been ﬁrmly established that pupilsʼ motivation bears tremendous in-
ﬂuence in the process of language learning and acquisition (Krashen 1981), it fol-
lows, in my opinion, that motivation and encouragement should, per se, be an objec-
tive to be sought as a language teacher.
Introducing the use Web 2.0 tools in the form of blogs and Voki into my schemes of
work is therefore justiﬁed on the grounds that it will engage my pupils to a greater ex-
tent than traditional teaching methods; it will bestow in them a wish to participate
(Jones 2002); it will provide a clear objective for my pupils, as well as a sense of pur-
pose; and it will also provide evidence of their achievement which can then be pub-
lished on the world wide web.
3.3. LESSONS, AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
I set out to plan a series of three lessons, lasting forty minutes each, in which my pu-
pils would acquire and revise the necessary vocabulary, visit the ICT centre and, ﬁ-
nally review the outcome in class as a group. In the early planning for this series of
lessons, I decided that pupils would make corrections and learn how to use Vokiʼs
website under my supervision at school, but the bulk of their work, both written and
spoken, would take place as homework, in order to capitalise on the fact that all my
pupils, without exception, had a computer and internet access at home.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 13
Lesson 1 focused on revising the appropriate vocabulary and grammatical structures
using an interactive whiteboard and introducing Voki to my pupils by:
I. playing memory games with the aim to consolidate key vocabulary (I used Lin-
guascope <http://www.linguascope.com>, a fee-based subscription website);
II. using Notebook (SmartBoardʼs proprietary software), I placed the recently re-
vised nouns on the interactive whiteboard together with some key verbs and
conjunctions to be rearranged by pupils with the aim of forming increasingly
complex sentences; and
III. introducing Voki to my pupils as described above.
At the end of the lesson, I set a homework task of writing between 80 and 100 words
in which they had to describe their city, town, or village so as to base their Voki
speaking task upon it. They were made aware at this stage that they were to aim to
increase the range and complexity of their Spanish and that the speaking task was
going to be the following weekʼs homework.
Since my pupils have only studied Spanish for two terms and have low conﬁdence
regarding their ability to write in suitably complex Spanish, I decided to take in the
homework and highlight corrections before moving on to the recording stage for two
reasons mainly: to increase my pupilsʼ conﬁdence in their own work and to ensure
that the language that is committed to recording is the best language each pupil can
produce according to their ability. This would also guarantee that they acquired lan-
guage and grammatical structures which are as accurate as possible.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 14
At this stage, their work was closely controlled in order to make certain that the aim of
producing as rich and complex a target language as possible for each individual pupil
was adhered to.
After I had reviewed their homework task and returned their books with highlighted
errors and some corrections, I took my pupils to the ICT centre for lesson 2. The les-
son was divided into two main parts:
I. Pupils were instructed to make corrections to their homework using a word proc-
essor. They were encouraged to work together, in groups of three or four, so that
they could compare and contrast what each one had written, while I advised and
made constructive suggestions to individuals regarding the quality of their work
(this took around 25 minutes).
II. I then asked my pupils to open their web browser, navigate to the Voki website
and register as users. I encouraged them to play around and familiarise them-
selves with the application for the remainder of the lesson. This ensured that pu-
pils acquired the appropriate ICT skills to achieve the goal of producing a Span-
ish speaking avatar. They also enjoyed changing the charactersʼ appearance,
often with a wacky and colourful outcome, and recording test utterances in the
target language and hearing themselves through the avatar on the screen (ap-
proximately 15 minutes).
The main objectives for this lesson were therefore to produce a piece of writing on
which to base their speaking task and to familiarise pupils with Voki. By setting the
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 15
objective of writing in Spanish, I ensured that it was clear in pupilsʼ minds that there
was a tangible outcome to this task and that the ensuing speaking task was also real
work and not just a game (Barton 2002).
By allowing pupils to interact and share the feedback from the written task, high-
lighted errors, corrections and suggestions, I had created an environment in which
the pupils were learning from each other (Papert 1996). This further enabled me to
act as a facilitator who could hover from group to group, offering advice and guid-
ance, as opposed to instruction.
Already at this early stage I noticed how pupils were beginning to lose some inhibi-
tions and, even those who were normally quieter and more reticent to participate dur-
ing ordinary lessons, focused on recording themselves speaking in the target lan-
guage just for fun. Some pupils later remarked that this had been the ﬁrst time that
they had spoken Spanish for their own amusement and without the pressure put on
them by the environment in a standard classroom, where both teacher and, from their
adolescent point of view, peers are listening carefully.
Finally I set my pupils the task of producing a Spanish speaking Voki for homework
on the topic of My Town following these instructions:
I. Create or add the ﬁnal touches to your Voki.
II. Record yourself: speak clearly, in Spanish, into the microphone.
III. Make a concerted effort to pronounce each word with your best Spanish accent.
IV. Remember to include a variety of vocabulary and sentence structures, including
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 16
Pupils were expected to complete the task outside lesson time, either at home or in
the ICT centre and they were also instructed to send their ﬁnished work to me via
email or via my subject forum6 before our next lesson the following week. In order to
do this, pupils had to copy the appropriate string of code (Appendix 1) from their ﬁn-
ished Voki and paste it into an email or a forum thread.
Once I received all the ﬁnished Vokis electronically, I was able to embed them into
our subject blog, creating individual post entries for each boyʼs Voki (Appendix 2). I
was then ready to teach my third and ﬁnal lesson in this sequence and I was very
much looking forward to doing so: the use of blogs and Voki in this sequence of les-
sons had succeeded in motivating me as well as my pupils.
The boys arrived to the lesson eager to see their Voki in place in the blog, as I had
promised. They were obviously excited and asked me questions such as did you see
my Voki? or did you like my Voki, Sir?
I explained to my pupils that the objective of the lesson was to watch as many Vokis
as possible in the given time, with the aid of the interactive whiteboard, and to evalu-
ate each otherʼs work by means of taking notes and then sharing their ﬁndings with
the other boys in English. This was the set of criteria that I asked my pupils to con-
I. Was the pronunciation accurate as far as they could tell?
II. Did the Voki include a wide range of vocabulary, as studied in Lesson 1?
6 Avaliable online at <http://www.asisehace.net/forum>
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 17
III. Was the Voki sufﬁciently complex? i.e. did it include conjunctions?
I had selected two Vokis to watch ﬁrst, as examples: one which I deemed excellent
and another one which was a little short and not so good. I kept the reasons for my
choice from the boys so as not to cause hurt or embarrassment to the pupils con-
After teacher-guided feedback for the ﬁrst two Vokis, highlighting and agreeing on
what had been good and not so good about them, we continued by listening to the
other Vokis for the remainder of the lesson (around 25 minutes) but, this time, I only
intervened occasionally, mainly as as moderator when there was confusion as to how
a word was pronounced or, on a couple of occasions, when a boyʼs Voki was criti-
cised too harshly by a fellow pupil. This was not due to malice, but rather to a lack of
the necessary pedagogical skills on the part of my pupils to feed back constructively,
which I found understandable given their young age and lack of experience in this
type of exercise.
The lesson adopted an informal tone with frequent pupil intervention: pupils were
able to give each other constructive feedback, making the sort of contributions a
teacher normally makes, such as your accent was very good, you should have said x
instead of y or you should have included more conjunctions. Each pupil, in effect,
was allowed to take charge of the lesson: they became the teacher for a moment.
Papert (1998) highlights the importance of engaging pupils in activities like this,
which allows them to learn from each other and from their experience in an enjoyable
manner. I would add that, as all teachers know, the best way to learn something is to
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 18
As I expected, both teacher and pupils enjoyed the lesson thoroughly and ﬁve min-
utes before the bell rang the end of the lesson I set my pupils the ﬁnal homework
task: to add feedback comments (Appendix 3) on the blog from the notes they had
taken in the lesson. These were the instructions I gave them:
I. I would like you to add comments to, at least, two Vokis; and
II. the comments should follow the formula two stars and a wish: two positive com-
ments plus an area of improvement.
By the end of this sequence of three lessons (and related homework tasks) each pu-
pil in the class had successfully created a virtual Spanish speaking avatar using Voki
which, more or less successfully, adhered to the criteria I had outlined at the begin-
ning of the sequence. They had also engaged in open epistemological discussions
regarding the quality of the Spanish language they had used in their Vokis and had
learnt from each other and from the result of our conversations, both in the classroom
and online via the subject blog, about the use of more complex sentence structures
in the target language and the importance of demonstrating knowledge of a wider
range of vocabulary.
In addition, the Vokis they had created in this sequence of lessons had been pub-
lished and were available to a large audience on the world wide web, in itself a moti-
vating factor (Walker et al. 2008). The fact that pupils were willing and able to show
friends and relatives over the internet what they had achieved in their Spanish class,
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 19
gave the subject an extra dimension: Spanish was no longer the language you spoke
on Monday period 4, it now had a life beyond the classroom walls.
Assessment is, of course, a major consideration when planning a new schemes of
work. As already implied above, a teacher must ensure that there remains evidence
of learning after the sequence of lessons and that the construct validity of the as-
sessment method is able to measure what it sets out to assess (Leung and
In this case, the use of Voki as an assessment method enabled me and my pupils to
assess, not only the improvement in their Spanish, as measured by the increase in
the use of conjunctions and a greater range of vocabulary, but also whether there
had been an improvement in their ability to sound Spanish.
Measuring the success of the original objective of improving conﬁdence in their spo-
ken Spanish is altogether more difﬁcult, as my pupils recorded their Vokis in the
safety of their own privacy, at home in most cases. Although I can already detect
signs of improved participation in class in terms of hands raised and increased num-
ber of target language utterances, I will only be able to empirically assess whether
this aim was fully achieved in subsequent weeks and months, if and when the quieter
pupils for whose beneﬁt this sequence of lessons was devised begin to demonstrate
a greater, sustained willingness to participate in class in the target language.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 20
Another consideration for the assessment of this sequence of lessons is the fact that
pupils were able to informally assess each other and, therefore, learn from each
other. Informal assessment is closely linked to learning and “it provides the integra-
tion between current and future learning” (Atkinson and Lazarus 2002, p200), it al-
lows pupils to build on what they know by listening to other pupils explain in their own
However there were complications which, in hindsight, I should have been able to
foresee, as I was dealing with boys who, after all, will be boys. The main stumbling
block I encountered was the fact that boys, as already highlighted by Spokes (2007),
tended to overestimate their ability regarding the use of ICT, as proven by the num-
ber of boys who presumed they had understood how to obtain the necessary code to
embed the Voki in the subject blog when I explained it in Lesson 1 but, in fact, failed
to seek clariﬁcation during the lesson and then had to come and ﬁnd me during
breaks for help. It was poignant to me to remark on how boys could be so overly
conﬁdent about one thing, to the extent of being lackadaisical, and yet they could be
so self conscious and shy when it came to speaking in Spanish.
In the initial stages of planning and writing of Lesson 1, I followed Wringeʼs (1989)
advice and closely controlled what pupils wrote in preparation for the spoken task
and did not give them total freedom of choice as to what to say, as this would have
diluted the ﬁnal objective and purpose of the sequence of lessons to such an extent
that it would have been counter-productive in terms of achievement and motivation.
This prescriptive approach, however, resulted in the boys needing constant guidance
and advice on how to tackle the writing task, given that I had perhaps curtailed their
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 21
creativity and, as a result, had unwittingly undermined the boysʼ conﬁdence to pro-
duce a suitably good piece of written Spanish. This is an aspect of the lesson plan-
ning into which I would have to look carefully in order to be able to outline clear and
concise objectives to my pupils in the future, whilst not being overly prescriptive or
Later on, once the basic writing framework had been established, pupils were al-
lowed more freedom to alter and improve their writing, following the guidance given
in Lesson 2, and to work at their own pace outside lesson time, either at home or in
the ICT rooms, giving them an opportunity to foster the development of autonomous
study skills (Walker et al. 2008). It also facilitated an environment which was less in-
timidating than the classroom, free from embarrassment or self-consciousness, which
might have adversely affected pupilsʼ conﬁdence to speak out loud in the target lan-
guage as they recorded their Vokis.
In Lesson 2 pupils were encouraged to check each otherʼs work and to offer help and
advice if necessary to other pupils in their group. Although pupils appeared reluctant
to share experiences orally at ﬁrst, they were immediately very keen to read each
otherʼs piece. Only then did they start to compare and contrast what each one had
written and therefore a zone of proximal development was created, in which pupils
ceased to be limited by what they could learn by themselves and started learning via
interaction with others (Vygotsky quoted in Warschauer 2005).
Peer assessment also formed an important part of my planning. In Lesson 3, I
wanted my pupils to listen to each otherʼs work and to provide a measured assess-
ment of each Voki following guidelines I had provided. I was very pleased with both
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 22
the quantity and the quality of the comments that my pupils made on each otherʼs
Voki in the subject blog following the two stars and a wish formula (see Appendix 3):
the comments proved that my pupils had understood and taken on board the advice I
had given them regarding increasing the complexity of the target language and im-
proving their pronunciation.
Although listening to their own recorded voices on the computer may have been
painful and moderately embarrassing at ﬁrst, my pupils were able to discuss amongst
themselves how to perfect their pronunciation and, by repeatedly rehearsing and lis-
tening to the structures they had produced, they consolidated existing knowledge,
which is the most important step to acquiring new knowledge (Field 1999).
Finally, by allowing my pupils to work on their Voki outside lesson time, I succeeded
in creating an environment in which my students had increased control over their
learning, since they could work at their own pace, able to spend more or less time at
each stage of the task according to each pupilʼs ability (Warschauer 1996).
Teachers must be able to put themselves in the shoes of the learner so as to produce
new, exciting and challenging learning opportunities. I was a boy once, so I can
therefore draw from my own experiences as a pupil when it comes to planning and
implementing interesting lessons using ICT, which encourage and promote achieve-
ment. In this way, teaching becomes an informed process in which the teacher is
aware of the needs of the learners and is willing to implement whatever changes are
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 23
necessary in the schemes of work for the beneﬁt of the learners (Al-Mahmood and
By adapting my schemes of work to include the use of my subject blog and Voki in
this way I demonstrated that it is possible to increase pupilsʼ oral participation in the
target language and that common misconceptions, such as “the computer seems
better adapted to use of the written rather than spoken medium” (Wringe 1989,
p144), can be safely put to rest.
However it is important to point out that the use of technology alone did not improve
achievement and motivation among my pupils, it also necessitated the careful plan-
ning and implementation of a pedagogically sound schemes of work, as well as effec-
tive teaching (Felix 2003). Warschauer (1996) agrees with this last point when he
states that the effectiveness of CALL 7 is heavily dependent on how it is put to use.
It is nevertheless absolutely clear that, by selecting activities which had direct rele-
vance to boysʼ interests and which were designed for a speciﬁc purpose, so that boys
had a clear objective throughout the sequence of lessons, I was able to increase my
pupils motivation (Millard 1997). Using ICT and Web 2.0 in the form of my subject
blog and Voki clearly motivated and enthused my pupils: it succeeded in instilling in
them a willingness to participate and it improved their self conﬁdence.
Pupils felt they had achieved a tangible outcome, a Spanish speaking avatar, and
they had succeeded in improving their written and spoken Spanish, as well as their
conﬁdence and motivation. They had been engaged throughout the task and, al-
though technology was used initially as a motivating factor, perhaps not surprisingly,
7 CALL: Computer Assisted Language Learning
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 24
the most powerful motivator for continued learning and engagement turned out to be
the growth of my pupilsʼ conﬁdence in speaking Spanish.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 25
Appendix 1.- Illustration of how to obtain the required code to embed Voki on a web-
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 26
Appendix 2. - Voki embedded into our subject blog <http://www.asisehace.net/blog>
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 27
Appendix 3. - Sample of comments left by pupils.
J Picardo - 200375143 - MA ICT and Education - EDUC5979 28
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