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How to create good 21st century language learning tasks


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Presented by Tom Walton at TESOL-Spain, 11 March 2012

Published in: Education, Technology
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How to create good 21st century language learning tasks

  1. 1. How to design good21st centurylanguage learning tasksTOM WALTONtomwalton@gmail.com
  2. 2. What does design involve…?• teamwork• collaborating• brainstorming• ideas• being creative• listening to customersThat applies to language learning tasks just as much as it does to other “products”. If youbrainstorm and are creative, if you design in a team with your peers, if you listen to yourcustomers (ie. your learners), you “products” will be much better ones…
  3. 3. What do we mean by 21st century?Source: the excellent Writing Prompts blog
  4. 4. outline for the session1. process of designing tasks on courses2. +how that process can be imitated3. products of the process (tasks designed)4. guidelines for task design
  5. 5. the processThis is the process we follow on the technology for language teacherscourses that I tutor on.As part of the courses, we get participants to design language learning tasksthat they could do with their own language learners.There are essentially four stages:1. Participants see some EXAMPLES, and do tasks designed for language learners as if they were learners2. We describe our REQUIREMENTS and provide GUIDELINES3. The participants then use a Moodle FORUM to present rough ideas for tasks, which –through discussion with tutors and peers – we then attempt to improve as language learning tasks4. They work to a DEADLINE, by which they have to present a finished version of the task on a blog
  6. 6. the process (1)EXAMPLES audio story: he | she | how met | what happenedtools for recordingtools for sharing (etc)See for an explanation
  7. 7. the process (2)REQUIREMENTS +GUIDELINES It must (1) be a project which involves the learners using technology to (2) create a digital end-product which (3) they share in some form of digital space (blog, Edmodo, Facebook, wiki, etc.) and which will maximize (4) the interaction between the learners and (5) the amount of English being used and learnt. It can be done individually, in a pair or in a group of threeIn fact, we strongly recommend doing the task with at least one partner: from theensuing discussion, you learn so much more!
  8. 8. the process (3)FORUM from both tutors and classmatesrough idea feedback draft feedback with sson forum on shared blog optionalposted ASAP discussion comments clarification drafting direction We use this more comments collaborative, process approval amendments approach… one that final version we also highly recommend that your Optional own learners adopt Skype Facebook chat shared Google Docs etc
  9. 9. the process (4)EXAMPLESGUIDELINES +REQUIREMENTSFORUMrough idea feedback draft feedback with ssDEADLINE
  10. 10. imitating the processIt’s possible to imitate that collaborative process of task design even withoutever doing a course, if you find a colleague/colleagues to work with.Your “study buddies” (your fellow “designers”) can be face-to-face in thestaffroom or else peers that you only ever meet online (blogs, Twitter…)And you are at a huge advantage over a teacher “only” doing an onlinecourse: YOU have learners you can try tasks out on!Learners are experts on “tasks”: they know what works and what doesn’t,what excites them and what doesn’t, and what they do and don’t learn from.Ask your learners! Get feedback from them! They will always improveyour original design for you, for next time!
  11. 11. your processIf you do a course If you’re on your ownAdvantages Advantage!• tutor • learners• classmates• forced to learn the staffroom blogs own blog (private? shared!) a study buddy other tools (G Docs, Skype…)
  12. 12. your process Google Docs forms are incredibly easy to use, and are an incredibly powerful tool for collecting feedback from learners. Ask them what they think! Ask them how the task could be improved!
  13. 13. your process Google Docs forms also compile stats for you automatically… But it’s the open-ended questions that often produce the most interesting feedback…
  14. 14. the productsWith one exception, the following are examples of tasks designed andpresented on courses I have tutored on.The second example (the exception) is one a course participant shared onthe course’s social forum, and which lead to a lot of discussion on whether ornot it was a good task (a KEY question!)NOTE You’ll find some Spanish here, but you if you follow my notes, youshouldn’t actually need to understand any of it!
  15. 15. the products (1) Here we had a very full proposal, complete with objectives etc., but the author probably ought to have posted a much rougher idea much earlier…
  16. 16. the products (1) We have a series of different activities, each using different technologies… (1) a wiki; (2) Google Docs; (3) Audacity or Vocaroo for recording audio…
  17. 17. the products (1) … (4) Google Docs presentations (which are like PowerPoint); … (5) probably another Google Doc, but still to be finalised
  18. 18. the products (1) KEY QUESTION Not too much technology, not too many technologies The tutor’s comments (posted on the participant’s blog) draw attention to an error to avoid at the task design stage: don’t overcomplicate things!
  19. 19. the products (2)“Google Maps + (Web) 2.0 task. Perfect!”, was the title of a post on our social forum. ButWAS it really a perfect task, or even actually a good one?
  20. 20. the products (2) The task involved reading the novel “La sombra del viento” and pinpointing the locations in Barcelona mentioned in it on Google Maps… but very little collaboration or communication between the learners
  21. 21. the products (2) KEY QUESTION How much interaction is it going to generate?*Zooms: assuming your learners are using Prezi, not PowerPoint (.ppt)
  22. 22. the products (3)Proposed for Erasmus students in their first weekliving in MadridOriginal idea Looking for a flat in Madrid | Tasks (1)Write an ad for a flat; (2) Read someone else’s ad; (3)Write a letter asking them for more details.Tutor’s suggestion It would “probably be better” tohave all read all the ads and then role-play (F2F, notech.) buying and selling the flats to each otherSuggested in presentation | If you’re not teaching learners with those sorts of needs,“selling” pizzas makes a fun task!
  23. 23. the products (4) Task designed for an Edmodo group, in fact with the course participants actually doing the task as an example
  24. 24. the products (4) An example of the (rather surreal) result…
  25. 25. the products (4) In fact because Write the story – each each participant person writes a minimum writes two lines on Probably better… their own, they are of 2 lines as many times not really actually Have learners work together collaborating. as they like. BUT face-to-face, possibly NOT ALWAYS after someone Take advantage of (initially) using technology, face-to-face class else has continued the time! to brainstorm and truly story. collaborate
  26. 26. the products (5)Proposed as a cross-curricular project, with Art andEnglish teachers working in collaborationOriginal idea On 5 separate blogs, 5 groups of 5 ESO(secondary school) students write a series of postsdescribing the characteristics of different art formsFinal On a single class blog, as above, but illustratingthe posts with their own attempts to imitate the artforms in simple sketches… so they CAN’T just steal the content from Wikipedia and Google Images!
  27. 27. the products (6)Proposed for adults learning Spanish in Germany…Original On a class wiki, individually, learnersdescribe the places of interest on the stage of theCamino de Santiago they have been assignedFinal On a class blog, in groups, learners write theillustrated (but no photos!) diary of a 12th centurypilgrim to Santiago, competing to get there first**The proposal was to have a map board with pieces on it to be advancedaccording to how good the English was and how creative they were…Alternative: the diaries of Gandalf, Bilbo and the different dwarves
  28. 28. some guidelines
  29. 29. some guidelines (1) 1. the learners using technology 2. to create a digital end-product 3. shared in a digital space (blog, Edmodo…) 4. to maximize the interaction between the learners 5. and amount of English being used and learnt
  30. 30. some guidelines (2)Not too much technology, not too many technologiesrecipe for success recipe for utter disaster• simple •25 laptops•1 good idea •13 BBs, 12 iPhones•1 Edmodo group •5 Google Docs eg. LIFE FEAST •25 Blogs Learners in different •5 Wikis countries take a •1 mega task with 14-16 photo a week and write a 50 word text separate stages about it •1,250 kilos of teenage hormones
  31. 31. some guidelines (3)Include an oral presentation stage• short! (90 seconds, max. 3 slides or zooms*)• stop mercilessly (but dont fail)• NO stolen images !!!• pairs, 3s or small groups• reason for listening (peer assessment?)• Q+A session (another 90 seconds)• help with performance (nerves, good .ppts)*Zooms: assuming your learners are using Prezi, not PowerPoint (.ppt)
  32. 32. some guidelines (4)DON’T let your learners steal text orimages from the webDON’T design tasks which can be answeredby copying and pasting from Wikipedia(etc).DO have learners produce their own images(artwork and/or photos)
  33. 33. some guidelines (5)maximise the advantage taken of face-to-facetime and stages, for providing languageand for interaction
  34. 34. some guidelines (6)Design tasks that will generate a lot ofcomments
  35. 35. Questions, comments…?