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What Research Says About ICT in Language Learning

What Research Says About ICT in Language Learning

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Published by: Mourad Diouri on Jul 02, 2010
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What the research saysabout using ICT in modernforeign languages
 This report is based on an analysis of available research abouthow primary and secondary teachers are using ICT in theteaching of Modern Foreign Languages.It summarises the keyfindings and suggests resources for further reading.
ICT can contribute to the key Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) skills of listening,speaking,reading and writing through a variety of ways:
Digital resources such as those on the internet,CD-Roms,vocabularydatabases and video clips give access to a vast range of information andlearning opportunities
Pupils can work at their own pace as digital resources can be slowed andreplayed repeatedly according to individual need
Access to authentic materials,and communication with schools abroadvia video conferencing,email and discussion forums in the targetlanguage facilitate cultural awareness
Multimedia presentation software enables a range of MFL skills to bepractised and supports a range of learning styles
Word-processing applications allow pupils to plan,draft and edit theirwork and develop skimming and scanning techniques
Digital video can offer feedback on pupilslanguage performance forself-critique,teacher or peer evaluation
Personal interest in MFL can be encouraged by watching films in DVDformat with subtitles and multiple audio tracks in different languages.
 This report considers not just the technologies themselves but also thepedagogical implications and the support necessary to enhance learningand teaching of MFL.
Key research evidence on theuse of ICT in MFL
Explanation of findings
Bibliography and further reading
 The following key benefits have beenidentified from the research evidenceabout the use of ICT in Modern ForeignLanguages (MFL):
Increase in pupils’motivation,enthusiasm and confidence
Positive association with attainment
Learning possibilities expanded viacollaboration,interaction andcommunication in the target language
Potential for differentiation accordingto individual pupil need. Teachers can maximise the impactof ICT in MFL teaching by:
maximising access to ICT resources
using the advantages of multimedia toengage learners’interest and developtheir key skills
using ICT to interact with nativespeakers and authentic materials.
Applications of ICTin the MFLcurriculum
Montgomery Combined School is a large urban school catering for children from the ages of 4 to 12.In 2000,the school establishedvideo-conferencing links with Ecole Sanquer,a school in Brittany.A series of projects were involved in the link:
Daily conversation
 Thanks to the video-conferencing system,young pupils inboth schools communicated every day in the foreignlanguage.Every conference was different,and all were highlybeneficial.After years of disembodied voices emerging fromcassette recorders,devoid of interest,context and any of thepara-linguistic clues which aid understanding,pupils now had‘real’children to talk to.Suddenly there was a reason tocommunicate.
The Virtual Tour
Each class made a videotaped tour of their school,complete withcommentary.These were shown through the video-conferencinglink and were followed by a question and answer session.
Eurovision Karaoke
 The French link teacher emailed two songs,one in French
and one in English,which the classes then sang together.Thechildren had pronunciation modelled,and used new vocabulary.
 Trina Ferguson,a teacher at Montgomery Combined School,commented,"The change that we have seen in many of ourless motivated children has been astonishing.Irrespective of the improvement in their French,we have seen an increase intheir confidence and motivation across the board."
The French Perspective
Philippe Le Bian,Headteacher at Ecole Sanquer,was also verypositive about the use of ICT in this work:"… when childrenuse video conferencing they discover language.It suddenlymakes sense! They can see for themselves that what theyhave learned has meaning.Communication is direct andspontaneous.It was very interesting for both pupil and teacherto compare learning styles and in particular to see the audio,visual and kinaesthetic methods being used in the Englishclassroom.We are not used to so much moving about." The full version of this case study can be found in
VideoConferencing in the Classroom:Communications Technology across the Curriculum
et al.,
2002) and can be viewedat http://www.becta.org.uk/page_documents/technology/vc/vc_classroom/case5.pdf.
Use of ICT in MFL – a Case Study
Key research evidence about ICT inModern Foreign Languages
On the basis of Becta’s analysis,ICT can have positive effects in the teaching and learning of MFL,as outlinedbelow.There are references for further reading supplied alongside some of the findings.
Benefits for pupils
Digital resources enable pupils topractise individually at their own pace(Passey
et al.,
Digital resources can be slowed downfor greater understanding
Communication worldwide via videoconferencing with native speakers canbring a rich and real experience(Teachernet,undated)
Pupils can be assisted by wordprocessing applications to effectivelyreview,edit and summarise texts
Email correspondence with ‘e-pals’canhave a positive impact on grammar,vocabulary and tenses (Blyth,2001)
Benefits for teachers
 There is a positive association of theuse of ICT in MFL with attainment(Harrison
et al.,
Interactive whiteboards enableimproved delivery and pacing,whole-class teaching,interaction anddiscussion,and relate to increasedmotivation for both teachers andpupils (Passey
et al.,
Individual learners’needs can besupported (Passey
et al.,
A variety of resources can be utilised tomeet specific needs and demands
Practicable access to native speakersand culture is made more feasible(Harris and Kington,2002)
Multimedia resources enable teachersto utilise a variety of visual,audio andtext experiences in the target language,providing MFL teaching and learningthrough a range of learning styles
Factors for effective use
 Teachers need regular access to ICTresources in order to embed it in theirMFL teaching
Video conferencing with a schoolabroad works best when thoroughlyplanned and when pupils have time tofamiliarise themselves with theequipment
 Training and ongoing professionaldevelopment for teachers encouragesinnovative and effective use of ICT inMFL teaching (ICC,2003)
About Becta’s ‘What theResearch Says…’series
 This series of briefing papersis designed in particular forteachers,ICT co-ordinators andschool managers,in order toprovide an initial idea of theavailable research evidence forthe use of Information andCommunications Technology(ICT) in schools and colleges.We welcome feedback andsuggestions for further titles inthe series (contact details can befound at the end of this briefing).
Key areas for furtherresearch
Further areas for future enquiry couldexamine:
developing and evaluating an ICTin MFL school strategy
the potential to embed ICT usein MFL teaching
the impact of ICT on MFLpedagogical practice
the use of ICT to engage primarypupils in MFL.
Explanation of findings
Compared to other subjects,the research specifically looking at ICT usage inrelation to MFL is not extensive.Furthermore,the degree of ICT take-up by MFLteachers is widely varied between individuals and also affected by differing levelsof ICT resources and access across schools (QCA,2004).Despite this,the researchshows that when ICT is used in MFL teaching and learning,there are a range of positive benefits.Any positive impacts depend on the ways in which ICT is used.Improvements inattainment and motivation will inevitably be reliant on the capacity of teachersand students to use ICT as an effective pedagogical tool in the pursuit of particular learning objectives.
Key questions for teachers and schools
Is there adequate access to ICT facilities and resources?
Are ICT resources resources being used to develop key skills in MFL?
 To what extent is ICT use embedded in MFL teaching?
How can the effectiveness of ICT use in MFL be monitored?
About the researchliterature
 The extent of research looking specificallyat the role of ICT in MFL teaching andlearning is limited,compared to that forother subjects.Much of the researchavailable draws upon case studies fromtime limited projects,perhaps using newcontent and equipment,and givingexamples from a specific learning situation. These do provide useful models of teachersusing ICT in their MFL practice,andhighlight many positive outcomes,butfurther long-term academic studies areneeded in order to obtain a clearer pictureof the uses and benefits of ICT in theteaching and learning of MFL. Twenty per cent of MFL teachers still makelittle or no use of ICT to support theirteaching,although this figure is declining(DfES,2003).The extent of potential accessto digital resources for MFL is increasing;30 per cent of secondary schools (whichhave a school network) have all theirclassrooms networked
Key skills
A report on ICT in Foreign Language Technologies (ICC,2003),which looked atcurrent developments across Europe,notesthat MFL is different from many othersubjects in that it is both knowledge basedand skills based.ICT can be used to support and developall the key curriculum MFL skills of listening,speaking,reading and writing;often withoverlapping benefits across them (TOP,2001).Digital video can provide a particularlyeffective means to support languageacquisition in the classroom (Tschirner,2001).Video conferencing has shown benefitsin listening and speaking skills (Harrisand Kington,2002),with non-verbalcommunication also contributing tounderstanding.The key skills required forMFL can all be facilitated by multimediaapplications,from interactive animatedsoftware,video clips,CD-Rom dictionaries,to digital voice recordings.
 The ImpaCT2 project (2002) found that whereICT was used in teaching and learning in MFLit had a positive association with pupilattainment at Key Stage 4.When comparedto other subjects,the degree of use of ICTshowed the greatest mean difference inrelative gains.Even though the overall useof ICT in MFL was quite low,when it wasused,the extent of use made the greatestdifference.Similarly,various case studies(Blow,2001;TOP,2001) also demonstratethe positive effect of ICT upon pupils’motivation and attainment.Interactivevideo conferencing has been linked toimprovements in use and understandingof language,confidence,and examinationperformance (Superhighways Initiative,1997).ICT can help pupils become more confidentand effective in their learning;boys inparticular appear to be positively affected(Passey
et al.,
Cultural experience
 The use of digital media enables thecharacteristics of a culture to be brought intothe classroom (Tschirner,2001).ICT canprovide contact with native speakers and theirculture,either through digital resources ordirect interaction via video conferencing.Email correspondence,used to supportcollaborative projects with schools abroad,canencourage language learning (Usher,2001),and encourages pupils to aspire to greateraccuracy and achievement.These are usefulfor pupils,both in language acquisition andin developing cultural awareness.It has beenargued that it is the potential benefits of interactivity with native speakers which maybe of the greatest importance (Milton,2002).Authenticity is brought into the learningsituation and the use of ICT in MFL facilitatespupilsexperience of other cultures,enablingthem to appreciate differences and similarities.Communication with native speakers,andinformation from authentic sources such asinternet sites and satellite TV broadcasts,allcontribute to language learning.Case studiesand teacher interviews during the ImpaCT2project (Harrison
et al.,
2002) indicated thevalue of establishing a link with a schoolabroad,ranging from basic emailing to videoconferencing.In particular,contact with nativespeakers and the culture of the targetlanguage,were highly thought of.Culturalinsights and experience of less formalisedforms of the target language can be gainedby the use of ICT (Harris and Kington,2002). The integration of ICT into classroom activitiesis invaluable,allowing the conditions tobecome close to those of the target culture,andrecognises that MFL learning is a social as wellas a psychological process (Tschirner,2001).
Differentiated learning
Digital resources for MFL can permitdifferentiation in the classroom,allowingpupils to progress at an appropriate andindividual pace,receive personalised feedback,and an independence of learning.Teachers areable to monitor individual progress and offerformative as well as summative evaluation.Passey
et al.
(2004) write that ICT also enablesa multi-sensory approach to be exploited,potentially engaging pupils who wouldotherwise not explore their full potential.In one of the case studies
increasedindependence was attributed to ICT,enablingpupils to study languages in more depth anddeveloping their thinking processes.

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