P a g e | 1 E. Cutmore NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION Rationale for Videoconferencing in Language Learning IVIDEO.It is well established in the literature that learning a second language is of great benefit tostudents, not only educationally, but also socially and culturally (MCEETYA, 2005; Collins,2007; Horst, White & Bell, 2010). The primary school that I have been allocated forpracticum is a bilingual school where classes are taught across the curriculum in both Englishand French. The teachers at the school are also predominantly technophobic, and as such Iwanted to explore how ICT could assist with teaching and learning of Languages Other ThanEnglish (LOTE).As long ago as 1916, John Dewey lamented the gap between school based learning and real-world learning, describing it as “...an undesirable split between the experience gained indirect association and what is acquired in school” (as cited in Jonassen, Howland, Marra &Crismond, 2008, p.153). Nowhere is this divide more noticeable than in LOTE classrooms,where language can be taught in relative isolation and often not used anywhere outside theroom. The most effective way of bridging that divide is to provide as much access to nativespeakers as possible for LOTE students. This is supported by Cummins (2000), when hestates “L2 acquisition will remain abstract and classroom-bound unless students have theopportunity to express themselves - their identities and their intelligence - through thatlanguage”, and “In order to motivate language use, there should ideally be an authenticaudience that encourages two-way communication in both oral and written modes.” (p.544).One ICT educational tool that would allow increased access to two-way conversation withnative speakers is videoconferencing. As such, in my iVideo response I have attempted todemonstrate the benefits in utilising videoconferencing in LOTE classrooms, whilstacknowledging some of the challenges teachers face in embracing these new technologies.Videoconferencing is “...a form of two-way interactive communication [which] allows thoseinvolved to see and hear each other” (Roblyer, 2006, p.240). It is not a particularly newtechnology, however through free access to applications such as Skype and Google Talk, it isnow much more accessible and cost effective. In fact, videoconferencing technology iswidely available to NSW schools through the State Government’s 2007 ConnectedClassrooms initiative. This program plans to provide videoconferencing facilities to over2200 schools throughout NSW (NSW DET, 2010). However, just because the technology isthere is not a reason to use it.
P a g e | 2 E. Cutmore NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION Students learn best when they are “wilfully engaged in a meaningful task” (Jonassen et al,2008, p.2). Therefore it is the nature of the task in which we ask students to participate that isinstrumental to the learning outcomes. Tasks need to be active, constructive, intentional,cooperative and authentic in order to facilitate meaningful learning (Jonassen et al, 2008).Videoconferencing can provide an avenue for just such an activity.According to Sylvia Tolisano (2010), videoconferencing can be a task that engages studentsin meaningful learning. This can be achieved by treating the video conference as if it were anexcursion. She states “The actual experience should be framed by pre-activities that activateprior knowledge and post-activities that give students the opportunity to reflect, create andconnect these new experiences” (http://langwitches.org/blog/2010/11/20/assessment-of-learning-via-skype/). On her ‘Langwitches’ blog, Tolisano (2010) shares about studentreactions to the use of effective videoconferencing by stating “I see motivation in theireyes… I feel excitement in the air…I hear them say: ‘How cool’, ‘That was awesome’ or‘When are we skyping again?’” (http://langwitches.org/blog/2010/11/20/assessment-of-learning-via-skype/). This demonstrates a high level of engagement with the task. Tolisano(2008) also describes successful LOTE Skype conferences in Spanish and English withstudents as young as five engaging in language activities ranging from singing songs in bothlanguages to playing instructional games bilingually(http://langwitches.org/blog/2008/11/16/videoconferencing-with-elementary-school-students/).Language learning in primary school is underpinned by the study of the culture specific tothat language. All NSW Language syllabuses divide outcomes into three strands. The firsttwo relate to language use and linguistic connections while the third is called MovingBetween Cultures (Board of Studies NSW, 2003). Videoconferencing allows for exchangenot only of language practice and utilisation, but also for a cultural exchange. Brian Crosby(2009) supports videoconferencing as more than just a language tool in his “Learning isMessy” blog. In one of his posts ‘Making videoconferencing more than just cool’ he states“Students are learning to communicate effectively while learning about a differentgeographic area and culture” (http://learningismessy.com/blog/?p=573). And Tolisano (2009)also cites her main reason for utilizing videoconferencing as “…to connect my studentswith students from other countries in order to raise global cultural awareness”
P a g e | 3 E. Cutmore NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION (http://langwitches.org/blog/2009/01/02/reasons-for-skyping-in-the-classroom/). Thusvideoconferencing can potentially address learning in all three aspects of the LOTEcurriculum.Videoconferencing however, can be problematic. There are issues of management, teacherattitudes and student reactions to consider. BECTA (2003) noted that “Interactivity can beproblematic” (p.3) as managing a whole class interacting through one webcam necessitatesfairly strict behaviour management for the interaction to be successful. Also, many teachersfeel that the time commitment required to facilitate a truly collaborative LOTEvideoconferencing experience is too much to ask of an already stretched curriculum (Harris,2002). Finally, not all students respond well to this medium of exchange. BECTA (2003)states that “It should not be assumed that all students will react well to a proposed videoconference, especially if it contains the added strain of being conducted across languagebarriers” (p.3).However, LOTE is an area where videoconferencing could make a real difference tostudents’ learning outcomes as it can provide a vehicle for meaningful learning through acollaborative, active and authentic environment. As teachers our aim is to enhance students’learning outcomes and so it is worth the extra time and effort to harness the potential of thistechnology for the benefit of our students. Hunter and Beveridge (2008) state that the realchallenge with videoconferencing is not in operating the equipment, but “...in using it toexploit its potential to enhance and enrich teaching and learning” (p.4). I hope that myiVideo has challenged you to reconsider your thinking about the use of videoconferencing ineffective LOTE instruction. As Harris (2002) notes “If [the] superior educational benefits oftelecollaborative learning activities are perceived clearly by teachers... telecollaborations willflourish” (p.6). May it be so.
P a g e | 4 E. Cutmore NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION References:BECTA (2003). What the research says about videoconferencing in education. BECTA: Coventry. Retrieved 28th February 2011 from UTSOnline database at https://online.uts.edu.au/bbcswebdav/courses/021702/wtrs_vidconf.pdfBoard of Studies NSW. (2003). Italian K-10 Syllabus. BOS NSW: Sydney.Collins, R. (2007). Learning a second language. Why bother? In Professional Educator 6(4). pp 32-35. Retrieved February 24th 2011 from A+ Education database.Crosby, B. (2009). Making videoconferencing more than just cool. Learning is Messy blog. Retrieved February 26th 2011 from http://learningismessy.com/blog/?p=573Cummins, J. (2000). Academic language learning, transformative pedagogy and information technology: Towards a critical balance. TESOL Quarterly,34, 537-547. Retrieved February 23rd 2011 from Australian Premier Education database (EBSCOHost).Harris, J. (2002). Wherefore art thou, Telecollaboration? Learning and leading with technology. International Society for Technology in Education: Oregon. Retrieved February 18th 2011 from UTSOnline database.Horst, M., White, J. & Bell, P. (2010). First and second language knowledge in the language classroom. International Journal of Bilingualism 14(3) pp. 331-349. Retrieved from A+ Education database February 23rd 2011.Hunter, J. And Beveridge, S. (2008). Connected classrooms creating learning communities using videoconferencing technology and quality teaching. In SCAN 27(4) pp.4-7. Retrieved March 24th from A+ Education database.Jonassen, D., Howland, J., Marra, R. & Crismond, D. (2008). Meaningful learning with technology. (3rd ed.) Pearson Education: New Jersey.
P a g e | 5 E. Cutmore NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION MCEETYA (2005). Languages Education in Australian Schools: National plan for languages education in Australian schools 2005-2008. SA DECS: Adelaide. Retrieved 24th February 2011 from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/languageeducation_file.pdfNSW DET (2010). Connected Classrooms Program in action. Connected Classrooms Program: Sydney. Retrieved February 28th 2011 from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/detresources/ccp_in_action_compendium_FNOouLXKim.pdfRoblyer, M. D. (2006). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (4th ed.). Pearson Education: New JerseyTolisano, S. (2010). Assessment of learning via Skype. Langwitches blog. Retrieved 24th February 2011 from http://langwitches.org/blog/2010/11/20/assessment-of-learning-via-skype/Tolisano, S. (2009). Reasons for Skyping in the classroom. Langwitches blog. Retrieved 24th February 2011 from http://langwitches.org/blog/2009/01/02/reasons-for-skyping-in-the-classroom/Tolisano, S. (2008). Videoconferencing with elementary school students. Langwitches blog. Retrieved 24th February 2011 from http://langwitches.org/blog/2008/11/16/videoconferencing-with-elementary-school-students/