What Potential Do Weblogs Have and What Skills May Foreign Language Learners Acquire in the EFLC?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2016 21 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies


Table of Contents

List of Figures

1. Introduction

2. Why Teaching with Digital Media in the Foreign Language Classroom?

3. Why Teaching with Weblogs?
3.1 A General Overview of the Features of Weblogs
3.2 Skills That Foreign Language Learners May Acquire by Using Weblogs
3.2.1 Communicative Skills
3.2.2 Text Competence and Media Literacy
3.2.3 Language Awareness
3.2.4 Cultural Awareness through Weblogs

4. Practical Implementation
4.1 Presentation of the Weblog „My Life as a Canadian”
4.2 Stereotypes as the Main Topic of This Teaching Unit
4.3 A Teaching Unit with the Weblog „My Life as a Canadian”
4.3.1 First Teaching Unit
4.3.2 Second Teaching Lesson
4.3.3 Learning Targets

5. Conclusion

Works Cited

List of Figures

Figure 1 - Huber´s Didactic Triangle Adapted from Huber, Sabine and Friederike Klippel, eds. (2009). Münchener Arbeiten zur Fremdsprachenforschung. Laptop-Klassen im Englischunterricht. München: Langenscheidt ELT GmbH. p. 16

Figure 2 - Intercultural Communicative Competence. Adapted from Byram, Michael. “Teaching and Assissing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 1997. p. 34

Figure 3 - Stereotypes about Germans. Adapted from: https://wordpress.com/posts/digitalmediaintheeflc.wordpress.com (11 Aug. 2016)

Figure 4 - My Personal Values. Adapted from: https://wordpress.com/posts/digitalmediaintheeflc.wordpress.com (11 Aug. 2016)

Figure 5 - Canadian Pride. Adapted from: https://wordpress.com/posts/digitalmediaintheeflc.wordpress.com (11 Aug. 2016)

Figure 6 - Travelling and Cultures. Adapted from: https://wordpress.com/posts/digitalmediaintheeflc.wordpress.com (11 Aug. 2016)

Figure 7 - Stay Motivated. Adapted from: https://wordpress.com/posts/digitalmediaintheeflc.wordpress.com (11 Aug. 2016)

Figure 8 - Overlapping of Personal and Canadian Values of Life. Author´s own graph (29 Jun. 2016)

1. Introduction

Over the past decades, the personal computer has become an integral part of modern life in Western society and has entered various sectors of life. Even the rise of the internet and online communication technologies has undoubtedly impacted the way people work and communicate and has become an essential tool for improving the learning process in various fields (cf. Lenk 1994: 204). Furthermore, Web 2.0 applications such as weblogs, are rapidly achieving mainstream adoption in our media culture and have become source of information and reference (cf. O`Dowd 2007: 18).

Weblog as part of Web 2.0 technologies offer foreign language learners possibilities for language acquisition, not only in terms of passive reception but also for their productive engagement with the target language (cf. Schmidt 2009: 24). This tool allows the students to communicate with people in the classroom or with people at geographically different locations. In the context of online intercultural exchange this characteristic should provide students with the “opportunity to confront and deal with the prejudices, stereotypes and myths that they hold about other social groups and cultures and that others may hold about them.” (O`Dowl 2007: 28). Such increased potential for intercultural contact should be used as a tool for intercultural learning in the foreign language classroom.

In this term paper I am going to describe the expansion of digital media and why digital media are suitable for learning and teaching in the foreign language classroom in general. Afterwards I am going to specify this extensive subject of digital media and to focus on weblogs; I am going to define and examine weblogs concerning their potential and skills that the foreign language learners may acquire by using this kind of communication platform. Finally, I am going to implement these competencies into practice and introduce a teaching unit which I created with my fellow students within the seminar “Digital Media in the EFLC” at Justus-Liebig-University. This teaching unit focusses on countering stereotypical thinking by using weblogs. Thus, it is necessary to examine why weblogs can be a helpful tool to confront foreign language learners with stereotypical thinking.

2. Why Teaching with Digital Media in the Foreign Language Classroom?

The acquisition of a foreign language is a complex task influenced by various social, linguistic, psychological, motivational and cultural factors which interact in the process of acquisition. Although digital media are believed to provide support to the acquisition process in general (cf. Roche 2010: 436). One of the principal reasons for the success of online technologies in foreign language education has been the opportunity to increase student interaction and thereby to develop fluency in the target language (cf. O`Dowl 2007: 25).

According to Herzig, digital media are characterised by some common aspects which are relevant for learning: digital media can assume functions as presenting, saving and transmitting information (cf. Herzig 2005: 109). Thus, they support independent processing and provide tools that help to access and process information and exchange knowledge with others. Thereby, digital media promote not only receptive skills such as listening and reading but also demand foreign language learners to become active and to communicate with other learners and thus to gain, organise and restructure new knowledge (cf. Huber 2009: 69).

A learner in the twenty-first century may have an extraordinary selection of inducements for learning a foreign language compared to the learner of the previous pre-Internet era. The burst of technological development, especially the advent of the Internet, has largely affected the area of foreign language education, where the application of multimedia might be viewed within the domain of computer assisted language learning (CALL) (cf. Levy 1997: 15).

According to Huber, learning a foreign language is not limited to the interaction between a student and a teacher or between a student and a topic/subject. It is necessary to create a learning environment with authentic information, authentic communication with other people and an active confrontation with a wide range of tasks, which help students to acquire a learning topic (cf. Huber 2009: 12). This is also indicated in Huber´s didactic triangle (see Fig. 1): The heterogeneous learning group is at the centre of this triangle; the teacher is part of this learning group since he or she takes the role of a tutor and is learning by means of authentic information from the extracurricular information world. The whole learning group, which participates in the learning process, exchanges information through communication, collaboration and cognition. Knowledge, skills, competencies and methods form a technical framework for learning in a digital media-based classroom (cf. Huber 2009: 15). As a result of an interactive, communicative and authentic learning environment, which is embedded into a non-didactic environment, this model is suitable for learning English as a foreign language in a digital media-based classroom (cf. Huber 2009: 15).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 - Huber´s Didactic Triangle

Barbara Bray summarises in her weblog about the future of teaching and learning the potential of digital media in a foreign language classroom in the following:

With more people and crowded conditions, new technologies will be necessary to support and sustain us. Video, audio, images, and interactive features open doors to worlds and cultures that children could never learn in a book. […]. It is [teacher´s] duty as educators to guide students and other educators as they become innovative producers, teach them to become cautious consumers, and learn how they can use these tools to reach their fullest potential. Furthermore, it is necessary to […] value each other’s culture. [Designed digital ways are able] to connect us not only to each other but to promote our values, to respect each other, and to encourage innovation as we develop a place for ourselves in the 21st century. (2007)

3. Why Teaching with Weblogs?

In this chapter, firstly, I am going to define what a weblog is and what the main features of this kind of communication platform are. Secondly, I am going to examine weblogs concerning their potentials and skills that the foreign language learners may acquire by using weblogs in a foreign language classroom in general.

3.1 A General Overview of the Features of Weblogs

Weblog is a social media tool that allows users to write a journal though posts and link to external texts through hyperlinks. Different typologies of weblogs, as art weblogs, audio weblogs, weblogs for occupational or educational purposes as well as economic weblogs show that weblogs do not appeal to the common run of mankind but, especially to target groups (cf. Chik 2014: 70). A social media tool as a weblog can be viewed as “the practice of expanding knowledge by making connections with individuals of similar interests” (Gunawardena et al. 2009: 4). In educational contexts, it is generally assumed that “weblogging facilitates interaction and the reconstruction of knowledge through content sharing and critical commenting.” (Chik 2014: 70).

Furthermore, the form of communication is remarkable. Quite apart from a weblog´s thematic priority, an individualisation of the communication form is recognisable. The author of a weblog has the opportunity to present his or her own writing style; the weblog´s length and formulation are not bound to any rules. (cf. Williams & Jacobs 2004: 241).

3.2 Skills That Foreign Language Learners May Acquire by Using Weblogs

This sub-chapter is divided into sections, which are simultaneously the skills which the students may acquire according to the educational standards. The skills are: communicative skills, media literacy, language awareness and intercultural communicative competence.

3.2.1 Communicative Skills

When a language teacher introduces weblogging activities within the language classroom he or she provides for the student the opportunity to interact with a large audience both within and outside the classroom (cf. Williams et al 2004: 232). According to Darabi: “The core principles of learning communities focus on integration of curriculum, active learning, student engagement, and student responsibility” (2006: 53). Weblogging activities realise these principles. When students write entries and comment on the entries of their classmates, weblogs become an integral part of a lively literacy community. Students can post on such topics as journal or diary entries, reflections on their writing process, details on their research projects, commentary on recent events or readings, and drafts for other writing they are doing (cf. Blackstone et al 2007: 2).

Once a student posts an entry, the whole learning group, the classmates as well as the teacher (cf. Huber 2009: 15), can provide supportive feedback, and offer additional suggestions or perspectives. Dieu asserts this by stating that weblogging “gives a learner the chance to maximise focused exposure to language in new situations, peer collaboration, and contact with experts.” (2004: 26). This combination of planned and spontaneous communicative exchanges inside and outside the classroom makes weblogging a meaningful and engaging social exercise. It is within this context that Williams and Jacobs argue that weblogging has the potential to be a transformational technology for teaching and learning (cf. Blackstone et al 2007: 2).

3.2.2 Text Competence and Media Literacy

Text competence and media literacy involve the ability to understand texts independently and purposefully as well as in their historical and social contexts, to interpret those and to support interpretations with reasons (Bildungsstandards für die fortgeführte Fremdsprache (Englisch/Französisch) für die Allgemeine Hochschulreife 2012: 20).

Media literacy in relation to the foreign language classroom means to know different media and to obtain and process information (cf. Huber 2009: 78). The students should learn to identify and use appropriate media which optimally supports them in the learning process on the basis of their individual skills, attitudes and needs. It is the task of the teacher to introduce weblogs Developing own media skills means also responsible, independent and critical handling of digital media as means of information and communication. Being able to understand and evaluate media messages is part of media literacy as well as being able to distinguish between reliable and manipulative sources. Further training in these skills is to be promoted in a foreign language classroom (cf. Huber 2009: 78).

3.2.3 Language Awareness

Language awareness implies sensitivity for and mediation on language and linguistically provided communication. This kind of awareness allows to the foreign language learners to use diverse expressions and variations; this includes a sensitivity to style, register and culturally determined forms of linguistic usage such as colloquialism. Since languages are always shaped by sociocultural features, language awareness leads to a sensitive creation of linguistic-discursive relations with other people. Hence, language awareness is basal for the development of foreign language competence and leads beyond that to both, intercultural learning and personality formation (Bildungsstandards für die fortgeführte Fremdsprache (Englisch/Französisch) für die Allgemeine Hochschulreife 2012: 22)

The text-based nature of weblogs provides learners with increased opportunities for noticing aspects of how the target language is structured. This can contribute to increased development of the students´ target language. The foreign language learners can also identify structures and vocabulary in the target language and adapt them to other situations outside the classroom (O`Dowl 2007: 31).

3.2.4 Cultural Awareness through Weblogs

In order to explain how foreign language learners can achieve intercultural competence it is necessary to briefly explain the rather complex concept of Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) by Michael Byram. In 1997 Michael Byram established a new model about how ICC works and skills it includes (see Fig. 2). The combinations of the following five skills represents the concept of ICC: In the context of ICC “attitudes” describe the mindset one person has about another.



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tefl digital media weblog blog skills foreign language foreign language learners teaching english as a foreign language media



Title: What Potential Do Weblogs Have and What Skills May Foreign Language Learners Acquire in the EFLC?