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.
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.