The good dinosaur. Visuals in the classroom

The good dinosaur. Visuals in the classroom



Text extracted from: Temario de oposiciones Inglés-Primaria. Self-learning method. Road to your Post. 





It is a fact that in the last few decades there have been remarkable changes in the main aims of foreign language teaching, which include the shift from analyzing to using the foreign language in different contexts and with varied purposes. Moreover, the modern European society shows an increasing concern for population to have access to an effective acquisition of foreign languages enabling people to satisfy their communicative needs. In this sense, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL, 2001) intends to overcome the barriers of languages, providing a valuable framework through methodological guidelines and a common basis for the description of objectives and content.
Our State legislation, LOMCE 8/2013 and RD 126/2014 28th February establishing the basic teaching requirements for Primary Education (a reference to the curriculum of the Autonomous Community should be included here), include the knowledge of a foreign language and the development of a basic communicative competence as one of the objectives to be achieved along this stage. The term “communicative competence” refers to enabling the learner to communicate through oral and written means, using the foreign language in real and meaningful contexts.
On the other hand, the teaching of foreign languages (FL onwards) has been affected by technologies over the last few decades, from the use of old tape-recorders in FLL classrooms to the appearance of the video, the CD-player and DVD. More recently, information and communication technologies (ICT) and the internet have not only provided FL teacher with a massive amount of materials and resources; but also with the possibility to get students to make real use of the FL in different contexts. Moreover, the initial use of the internet as a passive source of information has turned into a worldwide interactive tool in which people can interact, express ideas, ask for help, collaborate etc.
Along this presentation we shall analyze the way in which audiovisual materials can be integrated in the FL classroom. However, due to its importance, special attention must be paid to the use of ICT and its integration in FLT. After all, we cannot forget that our students are “digital natives”; they have grown up using technology and they feel comfortable and confident with it.

A brief history on Technologies and foreign language teaching.
The phenomenon of bringing “real English” to FL classrooms started with the appearance of tape-recorders and CD-players. Although nowadays “the ancient tape-recorders” have vanished from our schools, these first technological devices gave students the opportunity to listen to authentic use of the FL; and hence have access to different accents, authentic speed, intonation, and the like.
Undoubtedly, the burst of the tape-recorder (and more recently CD-player) in the FL classroom contributed to set the bases for some methodological guidelines which are still perfectly valid and applicable to other audiovisual materials, like the DVD or even the use of internet audiovisual resources. As an example, we may mention the division of tasks in three different stages: pre (motivation, elicitation and presentation of language items), while (devoted to listening and showing understanding) and post (which refers to the integration of knowledge by taking what has been learnt to other situations). Thus, when implementing an active video session may be divided into three stages:
Previewing activities: This stage involves several aims. First and foremost, we want to motivate and engage students in active viewing, so that we need to create expectations towards the DVD sequence (i.e. getting them to predict from a frozen picture). On the other hand, we should also elicit the students´ previous knowledge to activate their schemata. And finally, we can introduce some language items related to the DVD to favour comprehension.
Viewing activities: In this stage students primarily watch and put understanding skills into practice. As Stempleski (2002) suggests, the activities in this phase involve playing and replaying the entire sequence or relevant parts and require students to focus on important aspects such as factual information, plot development, or the language used in a particular situation.
Post viewing activities: This stage is characterized by the integration of the new language learnt. It is usually done through using the new language in a different situation. There is a wide range of Post viewing activities, some of them may be: role-plays, related reading or writing, creative group activities (i.e. students have to imagine and write a different end for a story) or personalization of the video (i.e. what would you do if you were the main character?).
Together with the use of tape recorders and CDs, the video and DVD represented a step forward towards the use of technologies in the FL class. Videos and DVDs were an invaluable source of real input, providing learners with real and understandable contexts for the presentation of new vocabulary, structures, and functions; and stimulate students for speaking. Perhaps, the most remarkable feature of DVD is their ability to introduce students to communicative situations in meaningful contexts. These natural contexts in which communication is presented facilitate understanding, being many factors of communication perceived by learners from contextual visual or aural clues.
Brewster, Ellis and Girard, 2002 pointed out some of the benefits of using DVDs:
• Children find it fun, motivating and stimulating. It provides variety.
• It caters for different learning styles, can provide successful learning experiences and therefore develop confidence and positive attitudes.
• The combination of sound and vision provide a full context for language, so children see language in use making it more memorable and accessible.
• It shows all factors in communication, including non-verbal aspects.
• It can develop all skills.
• Watching an attractive DVD can be perceived as a motivating shared social experience in which students develop collaborative skills (i.e. group work to watch and understand a story).
• It enables learners to maximize their abilities to infer meaning from the context.

The revolution of new technologies.
During the last few years, teachers have witnessed how technological advances have entered the FL lessons providing a world of resources, but at the same time challenging teachers to develop new abilities and technological knowledge. In this scenario, in which making use of ICT when learning a language at the beginning of the twenty-first century is widely acknowledged to be an obvious course of action, the lawful framework has echoed these educational needs. In accordance, the Curriculum Act RD 126/14, Art. 7 concerning the Stage General Objectives establishes: “Begin to use information and communication technologies, developing critical awareness of the messages sent and received”. Similarly, Order ECD/65/2015, 21st January, describing the relations amongst competences, content and evaluation criteria, stresses the role of digital competence as a weighty aspect in the practical knowledge required in a competential curriculum. The development of the learners´ digital competence entails creative, critic and confident use of ICTs as a tool for learning where different learning strategies are embedded.

ICT is an umbrella term which includes any communication device, including computer hardware and software and associated services like the internet. As we know, ICT has provoked an unprecedented impact on teaching, particularly on the teaching of FLs. The rapidly changing ICT scenarios have added some new skills to the traditional school objectives. These skills (“new literacies”, “digital competence”, amongst other names) are necessary for students to find, select, organize and make use of information. In this sense, learners are not only acquiring knowledge, but also the skills to “emancipate” from the traditional knowledge transfer (from teacher to learner) and develop autonomous learning mechanisms (learning to learn competence).
The use of computers, laptops, tablets, interactive white board (IWB; also known as smart board) and the internet have gained momentum in current teaching practice and offer a wide range of possibilities in FLT. In fact, the potential of ICT in FLT is still to discover, as we are just adapting to these changes; in many cases acquiring these skills ourselves before putting them into practice in the FL classroom.
According to the UNESCO report on ICT and the teaching of FLs, some advantages can be highlighted regarding multimedia learning environments:
• Enhance learning in different locations and institutions of diverse quality.
• Present opportunities to students working at different rates and levels.
• Provide repetition when repetition is warranted to reinforce skills and learning.
• Compensate, in the short term, for high student populations and limited numbers of trained and experienced teachers – in combination with robust teacher development initiatives and improvements in teachers’ working conditions.

Nonetheless, the vast potential of ICT should not make FL teachers lose their way to the authentic goal of FLT, which is the attainment of an acceptable degree of communicative competence. Seen in this light, ICT are an instrument and a resource to facilitate learning and develop the aims of FL education. In other words, ICT cannot be a goal in itself but a medium; therefore, to make the most of this potential, ICT must be integrated in our syllabus and in our daily practice.
Vallance M.; Vallance K. and Matsui, M. (2009) detail a series of key factors for the integration of ICT:
• Activities should be flexible enough to address different learning styles.
• Instructor´s skills to create opportunities for interaction.
• The use technology should contribute to create constructivist environments to support higher level thinking skills.
• If ICT is used in learning then it should be done with the intention of adding value to good tasks; technology should make these tasks more worthwhile.
• ICT activities should promote collaboration, cooperation and increase the learners´ opportunities to communicate.
• ICTs should be implemented as tools to relate skills to daily life situations.
The integration of ICT in FLT classrooms requires reexamining the roles of teachers and learners as essential participants of the teaching learning process. To start with, we should take into account that recent literature has shown that the use of ICTs in the language classroom has a lot to offer to both learners and teachers, with learners enhancing their vocabulary, improving their reading and speaking skills, and with teachers having to hold a double role; the role of the educator and that of the facilitator, while having to cope with complex situations which include lack of training or lack of equipment in the language classroom.
The teacher as facilitator and guide for learning must be aware of a variety of materials available for improving students’ language skills; and also, be flexible enough to respond to the students´ needs. The teacher must not only know about ICT, he/she must also know when best to deploy technology. Similarly, in order to help learners how to learn, the teacher should model how to use ICT with learning intention (i.e. search for the lyrics of a song as a simple treasure hunt).
Obviously, the implementation of ICT implies that the teacher has to assume the role of researcher, in order to keep up the wide range of possibilities that ICT offer; being able to adjust continually to the demands of their professional competence.
It is worth noting that the role of the FL teacher as creator of teacher-produced materials is enhanced by the vast amount of possibilities at the click of a mouse. In guise of an example, the interactive white boards (IWB) at schools offer the opportunity to devise creative, attractive and personalized materials for our specific groups of learners. In this sense, we can copy and paste a music Youtube video in a blank document, paste gapped texts and write the missing words (or images) to be dragged to their corresponding place in no more than five minutes for a skilled ICT teacher.

On the other hand, the roles of learners are also to be adjusted to the integration of ICT in the FLL process. In this sense, the learner is seen as subject rather than object of the teaching actions; she/he has to take on responsibilities and learning autonomy. Along the learning process, the students´ involvement should be manifested through willingness to take greater responsibility, self-reflection, risk taking, and the practice of ICT learning strategies. 

It is also worth considering that the management of ICT in the FL classroom shall depend on the school facilities and the ICT materials available. In an ideal situation, students should have access to a digital classroom or at least have a computer or laptop for every two or three students. In the latter, pair or small group organization seems appropriate to approach collaborative tasks. Similarly, the current use of the Interactive White Board (IWB) is particularly useful not only to present content and information, but also to model learning to learn strategies. Another weighty use of the IWB is related to the teacher´s elaboration of authentic materials, instead of just using commercial sources. In this light, the sophisticated software of these resources offer the possibility to create working units in which we can insert videos, documents in word processor, photographs and images, and the like. Besides, these “blank pages” for creating teaching materials are invaluable resources to work on all communicative skills; and have the advantage of being absolutely adapted to our specific group of students.
In the following point, we shall refer to practical use of ICT materials in the FL classroom to cover different functions: communicate and collaborate, to present content and to assess learning. Finally, we shall present some concrete examples of the use of audiovisual and technological resources in a FL communicative classroom.
All teachers know about the motivating power of sound, images and animation amongst children. Although some teachers may perceive that the huge range of possibilities that technologies offer may result bewildering, we must not forget that our “digital natives” students have been born in this rapidly changing and technological environment. Therefore, we should take advantage of their curiosity and natural interest towards audiovisual and technological means to maximize their interest and enhance their communication possibilities in the target language.
The opportunities offered by the use of technology in education are many. It transforms the pedagogy and can lead to an improved and more engaging learning experience. These effects are not limited to the classroom. In this sense, the ability of students to utilize ICT has become a new requirement for effective education systems. Beyond education, ICT can also represent a new source of economic growth and a powerful tool for social transformation. Hence, through their economic and social effects, ICT contribute to creating a knowledge society and economy.
Using ICT procedures and activities:
As Read (2007) points out, “through the use of specific IWB materials, interactive CD-ROMs and ready-to-use website activities and games, children develop language and ICT skills in an integrated and enjoyable way”. The most remarkable roles of ICT in the primary FL classroom can be summarized as follows:
Using ICT to communicate and collaborate: The use of web-based tools to communicate in the target language is one of the greatest advantages of ICTs.
The first practical example of using ICT to communicate is the creation of email groups to provide a communicative framework for learners to communicate with the teacher and with other students from their class. This communication can also be extended to students from other countries if we set a partnership exchange with another school. This activity can be highly motivating for learners to develop an interest towards real use of the FL and the FL culture. Some European programs like e-Twinning program or Erasmus+ project may provide a safe digital environment for students to meet other European children and share some experiences that enrich their communicative and sociocultural competences. The experience of implementing European programs in the FL class, entails practising the language communicatively; but also meeting new aspects from the FL culture in a highly motivating way.
A variation of these activities would be to work on oral skills rather than on written ones. Therefore, instead of creating an email group we can carry out the activity in small groups or pairs through videoconference (i.e. messenger, skype) under the supervision of teachers from both schools (in the case of a collaborative task carried out with a partner school). It must be pointed out that these activities require careful preparation to delimit (up to certain point) the topics to be covered (i.e. Creating a classroom blog in an easy-to-devise and simple way to get students to receive information at home and use the FL to express their feelings and opinions …


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