Knowledge from the Blended Learning of Foreign Languages MOOC - Spanish4Teachers.org

Sharing Some Knowledge from the “Blended Learning of Foreign Languages” MOOC

I have now been following the LTMOOC for about three weeks. It is not what I expected, as it revolves around a tool called ‘Instreamia” and not entirely around blended learning of foreign languages as the name suggests. However, interesting and useful information, theories and methodologies have been shared. I have also learned about other productive ways of using Google Drive and Google+. I will talk about the theory in this post and share the tech part in another.

21st Century Foreign Language Instruction

Some of the theory shared on the MOOC

  • Content Based Instruction

On the website “Best of Bilash: Improving Second Language Education“, Content Based Instruction is defined as: “an approach to language teaching that focuses not on the language itself, but rather on what is being taught through the language; that is, the language becomes the medium through which something new is learned… The language is being learned and used within the context of the content.”

 

But, what is “Content” exactly referring to? Well, some say content should be something students are learning in another subject (history, math, science, etc.). Others say that any kind of topic can be considered content as long as what is being taught and discussed is not language instruction related (current affairs, health, culture, life, sports, music, arts, people’s lives etc.)

Example of “Subject Content Based”:

 

Example of “General-Topic Content Based” (This is what I use in my classes):

Take a look at this blog, Cultura y Civilización, by Spanish Teacher Kara Jacobs. She creates her own units around authentic material. For example, look at the unit El Fútbol y La Coma Mundial, a unit created around authentic resources such as Spanish music videos and articles. This is the Unit Packet she created for the unit.

 

Zachary Jones’ materials are another great example. In his Website’s index he organizes his material by topics that are generally taught in foreign languages, but all materials are based on authentic resources and all of them focus on the topic itself. This is an example of how he creates communicative activities around commercials: Gracias Mamá Commercial and its activity. This is an example of how he uses comic strips: Frio en Nueva York and its activity. He also uses music videos, news, maps, movies, and more.

 

The Content Based Approach encourages the integration of Authentic Materials to set up real and contextualized activities so that students use the language communicatively. In other words, to learn the language, use the language!

To learn more about Authentic Materials, this is a good video to start out with:

Now, what does this have to do with blended learning? Well, if you are thinking about blending, this is the best approach – around authentic content and embedding technology to enhance communicative opportunities. Using technology to do a worksheet online instead of on paper defeats the whole purpose of blending.

 

  • Social Instruction 

When encountering the term ‘Social Pedagogy’ (‘Social Instruction’), the first thought that comes to mind could be “this is only applicable to distance or online learning”. But it is actually what we should aim for in our face2face language classes as well.

 

Social Pedagogy is a term that refers to “students working together and representing knowledge to real audiences“. This approach also states that Social Interaction is directly related to student motivation: “students use the social power of learning to build community”; “because their efforts will be viewed by someone outside the classroom, students feel more accountable for the quality of their work”; “the focus of interaction encourages students to use the language”; “interaction provides students with the feedback they need, thus students become more actively engaged in their learning process.” More on Social Instruction can be found here: Social Instruction Strategies.

 

So, how can our students present and interact in the target-language when it is difficult to find target-language audiences (other than the class itself)? Here are a few ideas that I apply and others that come to mind:

 

  • Global classrooms: connect with another classroom learning the target-language and collaborate on projects, presentations, feedback, interviews, etc.
  • Design projects that give students’ “creations” a real purpose: How? Look for opportunities to get your students involved with a real cause in your community, online and in school . For example, have students create an orientation video for new students who speak the TL, or find a cause in the TL and have students help create awareness. Look for real blogs written in the TL where students can write conscientious comments.

 

In conclusion, a blended approach (technology and media integration) should help us head towards personalized and student-centered classes, where students use the language in real and purposeful situations.




9 Responses to Sharing Some Knowledge from the “Blended Learning of Foreign Languages” MOOC

  1. Elena Yoo May 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Hi Emilia,
    I, too, was disappointed in the LTMOOC as it became clear that they were promoting their product. I find the program with so many flaws that is almost a joke to be used as an educational tool, at least for Japanese language.
    I enjoyed reading your blog entry about social instruction. An article, Languages for Specific Purposes in the 21st Century, which was featured in the current ACTFL magazine might interest you as it talked about global fluency as part of career development for K-12 students. http://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/TLE_pdf/TLE_Apr13_Article.pdf

    • Emilia Carrillo May 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

      Hola Elena,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing the ACTFL article. I found it very interesting.

      I am disappointed at the MOOC, especially for those of us who took a chance on signing up for a MOOC for the first time. I know there have been amazing MOOCs out there and I hope people do not get the wrong impression and toss them aside because of an “unexpected” first experience.

      Saludos,

      Emilia

      • Ryan May 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        Hola Emilia,
        Thanks for participating in LTMOOC and for sharing this really insightful post! I think you make some great points regarding the aims and merits of content-based instruction and learning and technology’s role therein. I’m really sorry to hear you are disappointed at the MOOC. We’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, so this comes at a bit of a surprise to us. I appreciate your understanding as we try to accomodate the many different purposes for which participants have joined the MOOC. A huge number are here specifically because they plan to use Instreamia in their classroom and wanted to learn how (as we pointed out in the main description of LTMOOC). If there is anything we can do to improve the MOOC experience this time around or in the future please let me know!

        Hi Elena,
        Thanks for giving LTMOOC a try and for being candid with your reactions. I’d love to hear the specifics of your criticism of Instreamia Japanese (beta). We’ve designed the Japanese portion drawing upon my personal experience studying Japanese for more than 10 years and the experience of hundreds of Japanese students, many of whom agree Instreamia solves many important problems of Japanese learners. However, we certainly know we haven’t figured everything out yet and welcome your ideas.

        • Emilia Carrillo May 16, 2013 at 1:22 am #

          Hi Ryan,

          Thanks for your comment. I understand your point about Instremia. However, I did feel like the MOOC was a bit disorganized and difficult to follow. It was hard to communicate with other participants and that, to me, is the most valuable aspect of online learning. An idea is to have participants use Twitter more often for communication, since you do recommend that people open an account if they do not have one.

          People who started a blog for this purpose, felt really lonely and gave up on it because of the lack of interaction with others. This could be managed better as well.

          Instremia has a lot of potential but unfortunately, it did not work for me, as I pointed out on the MOOC website.

          Thanks again and good luck!

          Emilia

          • Ryan May 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

            Hi Emilia,
            Thank you again for participating in the course and for your invaluable feedback. This is really helpful. We’ll think about how to better encourage more peer-to-peer communication among participants, such as using Twitter.
            I’m sorry you had trouble with using Instreamia. Was the “video player too small” error your main issue? This is a known bug with the embedded YouTube player that we are trying to find a solution for. (We’ve tested this on dozens of environment combinations on our end and still do not see this error occurring, nor did we see it with SpanishMOOC participants).

            Again, thanks so much for joining us. Along with many participants I appreciate your insights, the discussions you led, and the opportunity to get to know you.

            Ryan

  2. Jamie Fries May 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    This is really inspiring stuff. I remember being taught the importance of ‘realia’ when I trained as a language teacher which I always tried to use as much as possible. With tech where it is now there are some amazing things we can do to offer our students as deep an experience as possible!

    Jamie

    • Emilia Carrillo May 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Jamie! Yes, we should aim to provide purposeful communicative opportunities for our students, with material that allows for language immersion.

  3. Maria Colussa(fmArgentina) May 15, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    I found your blog entry very interesting especially coming from someone who has been “blending” for quite a long time, thank you for sharing such practical ideas. I especially liked what you said here:”Using technology to do a worksheet online instead of on paper defeats the whole purpose of blending.” I highlighted this as something very important to bear in mind when planning my lessons, not doing so would certainly be a waste of potentinal communicative opportunities. Thanks again, see you around!

    • Emilia Carrillo May 16, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      Hola Maria
      Thank you so much for your insightful comment. I am glad the post was useful. Do you teach Spanish? If you would like to collaborate on a project please let me know.
      Emilia