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Teaching a Foreign Language? Use Web 2.0

Por: | 02 de diciembre de 2013

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By Maria (Melina) Laina, University of Athens

Teens spend a lot of time at school or with friends and family and adopt many ways of socializing in their daily life. They may communicate in person, but often communication is not in person; rather, it is performed remotely through a myriad of other means — Facebook, Twitter, email, multimedia messaging services (MMS) and short messaging services (SMS), smartphones, or via e-teaching and associated learning platforms such as smartboards. All these remote methods have enhanced the communicative creativity of the new generation and have altered the way they act and react as well how they learn. Based on those changes, it seemed that teenage secondary school students might be good candidates for assessing the integration of many of these networking/communication tools into a German language course. To that end, a study using Web 2.0 (an expansive Web-based system of communication/information tools) was undertaken.

In that study, the students were divided into teams. Those teams decided on the topics on which they would like to work and selected the topic from the school’s foreign language curriculum. Immediately, individuals and teams started sending SMS, expressing their opinions in a “chatroom”, uploading their news and experiences of the weekend on Twitter, and uploading videos on Facebook and YouTube. All of those activities took place in German. In addition, the students recorded many of these actions and prepared team blogs (Web-based logs) that presented their activities and opinions. Each team willingly accepted and welcomed the various postings of the other teams.

In that study the currently used tools, methods and ways of life of adolescents were transformed by the students to become useful tools for learning German. The students, being in a familiar, highly connected classroom environment, managed to cope with their learning goal and were able to communicate, both orally and in writing and using familiar everyday tools, in the German language. Feeling that they were in a safe, familiar environment, they were able to develop their skills in German by operating with their own highly connected way of life. In addition, they had the additional incentive of picking topics that reflected their own interests.

The study indicated that the integration of Web 2.0 into a German language course, by providing learning tools that were more relevant to “connected” students than those offered in conventionally taught courses, could motivate students to learn. It is important, however, to stress out that this teaching approach is not only appropriate to the teaching of the German language — it is also appropriate in the teaching of any foreign language. The students’ results indicated successful development of skills in understanding and producing both written and spoken language. The consolidation and implementation of newly learned grammatical and syntactic structures in the German language syllabus appeared to be realized quite effortlessly. Moreover, based on evaluation of their learning, student performance in the completion of objectively difficult topics showed an increase over that expected. Improvement was also seen in student-student relationships and in their ways of communicating, presumably a result of the inclusion of teamwork in the course. The development of dialogue, including agreements and disagreements, brought to the classroom an indication of the need for dialogue skills in society. The class created a microcosm of the outside world by asking the students to play various roles in order to achieve the objectives of their group. The use of groups and group discussions contributed to enhancing student self-esteem and self-confidence.

The study results suggest that learning a foreign language through the tools contained within Web 2.0 is effective for secondary school students. The approach motivates these young learners because they are using popular tools that they use in their everyday life. The Web 2.0 approach is capable of helping students develop skills in a foreign language. In addition, the approach can result in positive changes in the personalities of teens and teen groups. To teachers who may be considering such an approach—do not be afraid! If you embrace the tools used in the daily life of teenagers, bring those tools into the classroom and make them relevant to a specific course, you will see that teens will willingly embrace their learning.


Maria (Melina) Laina
University of Athens

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