Essay laura r

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Essay laura r

  1. 1. 1 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico Chapter XVII Improving Learners’ Speaking Skills with Podcasts In the field of English Language Teaching, one of the main problems as regards speaking is how to engage students in activities that foster real communication. What is more, many institutions are unable to give learners sufficient instruction as well as practice. Therefore, their speaking, most of the times, lacks fluency, accuracy and coherence. However, by using technology to help them develop their speaking skills, learners are often provided with several opportunities to achieve this which are not only an exciting but also a stimulating experience. To begin with, due to the various innovations in the field of ELT brought about by the web 2.0, a number of new opportunities are offered for learners to find and retrieve information, access learning resources, as well as to connect with other learners. During the first phase of e-learning, teachers and learners were able to use technological tools such as interactive quizzes, search tools, discussion boards, email and live chat. These tools certainly had the potential to enhance the learning process. Then, web 2.0 was created which is described by Anderson as “a more socially connect web in which people can contribute as much as they can consume” (p. 314). Web 2.0 provides a collection of technologies and services such as blogs, wikis and podcasts along with sites such as YouTube and Flicker which allow users to upload media content. Thus, there are some
  2. 2. 2 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico authors who believe that we are witnessing a new trend in e-learning. Downes describes the web 2.0 as: “shifting form being a medium in which information was transmitted and consumed into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along.” (p. 315) Like it was mentioned before, one of the many tools that the Web 2.0 provides us is podcasts which are also known as audio blogs. They started as radio-style broadcasts that were made available on the web. Furthermore, they can be accessed on any number of devices. A key feature of podcasts is the opportunity to subscribe to future episodes through the podcast’s RSS feed. Podcasting is relatively new phenomenon and it is growing rapidly since the cost of the podcast producer is very low. Only a microphone, computer, simple- to-use-editing software and a podcast host are needed. Because of these reasons, educators have become increasingly interested in how content delivered through these media might enhance the learning process. Students are already in the habit of downloading music and listening to it on their mp3 players. It is argued that podcasting allows for “seamless integration of in-class and out of class activity and materials”. What is more, as regards characteristics, podcasts have several. First, podcasts have great potential for learning precisely because they are so flexible. Podcasting can be used in all sectors of education. Podcasts provide alternative teaching approaches or can be used to promote personalized learning. In higher education, podcasting is being used to record
  3. 3. 3 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico lectures. Second, podcasts allow users to create and publish their own content. Next, they allow mass user participation and interaction through the comment feature that is generic to all blogs, whether text, audio or video based. Finally, podcasts often provide a valuable source of listening input; they can be used as an additional source of authentic listening input inside and outside the language classroom. Taking into account the various features that podcasts have, many instructors are beginning to adopt the use of them in order to improve pupils’ speaking skills, especially those who are sitting for international exams. This is the case of the Splendid Speaking website (www.splendid-speaking.com). Researches decided to develop a series of podcasts, featuring advanced learners performing examination-style speaking task carried out with the support of internet telephony tools. The focus was two-fold: firstly, to help the participating students to improve their confidence through structured speaking tasks and secondly to demystify the examination for the other students who could download and listen to the recorded speaking tasks as podcasts. The tasks were of two main types: monologue and dialogue, and were based on the type of examination candidates are required to undertake in speaking examinations such as short presentations, discussions, role-plays, etc. Information on how to deal with the speaking task and the full transcript of the podcasts were made available from the website along with listening comprehension activities. The Splendid Speaking podcasts turned out to be a success as they proved to be extremely popular. Learners commented on the usefulness of the experience for their own preparation for speaking examinations.
  4. 4. 4 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico All things considered, I believe that the web 2.0, in particular, podcasts offer language teachers the opportunity to transform instruction. Through the use of podcasts can give our students enough practice so as to help them improve their speaking skills, and at the same keep them interested and motivated in what they are doing. Podcasting also offers institutions new opportunities to develop or enhance distance learning. Words: 834
  5. 5. 5 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico Chapter XII Preparing for the future It is undoubtedly true that there is a technologic trend, which is in constant change, with significant implications for formal and especially for informal learning. It is argued that our role as teachers is to keep up-to-date with the latest innovations and act as facilitators to our students. Nevertheless, it is worth asking which the best approach of carrying out these tasks is. To begin with, we should be well-informed about future trends and developments. Plenty of information about this topic is available. For instance, in their book, Dudeney & Hockly predict some changes. First, the way people learn languages is expected to change as they can study from remote places, have tutorial-based sessions online, etc. Second, online learning will probable allow for a more rounded user experience, and significantly improve the uptake in the area of language learning and teaching online. We should bear this mind when it comes to planning or designing a course. In addition, one of the main entry points into technology is our own experience which can be in the form of distance training. This way, we can see at first hand how
  6. 6. 6 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico technology can enhance training. As a consequence, this experience will probably have a significant impact in our teaching career. Nowadays, technology in the classroom is a necessary tool and it will continue to be part of our lives as teachers. It is difficult to make predictions about the future, but based on some evidence we can expect technology to become more user-friendly, faster, smaller and cheaper. Words: 254
  7. 7. 7 Laura Rolando UTN – Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico Bibliography Thomas, Michael (2009). Handbook of research of web 2.0 and second language learning. New York, Information Science Reference. Dudeney, Gavin & Hockly, Nicky (2008). How to Teach English with Technology (3rd edition). Pearson Longman. Sharma, Pete & Barrett, Barney (2007). Blended Learning. Great Britain, Macmillan.

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