Our longitudinal project investigates second-language learning pedagogy in two different contexts; a secondary school in the UK and an all-age school in Spain. Comparing motivation, attitudes and pedagogy for language learning between UK and Spain is yielding valuable insights into the complex influences of socio-educational context that have potential for widespread application. The project had a dual focus: 11-12 year old pupils’ attitudes to and motivation for learning another language; and teachers’ developing understanding of the pedagogic potential of iPads for language learning. The teachers in our project were concerned about motivation for learning a second language in general and in boys in particular, and in the development of pupils’ confidence in speaking in the language they were learning. They wanted to see how the introduction of technology, namely iPads with their capacity to run many different apps, might affect learning and motivation.
A sociocultural approach characterising language learning as emerging not through interaction but in interaction (Ellis, 2000) is reflected in many aspects of our project. Researchers and teachers in the UK and Spain worked together to plan lessons to teach Spanish, English and French to 11/12 year olds, using generic iPad apps including apps to make animations. Pupils worked together using particular apps learning as they interacted with each other and with their teachers; in addition teachers from the two countries learned from watching and talking to each other, and from interactions with local authority personnel and academics also involved in the project. The cross-national element of the project led to swapping lesson plans and video recordings of each other’s lessons gave teachers insight into their own practice and how it was different from the practice of their counterparts in the other country, thereby surfacing the taken for granted, encouraging reflection and reshaping research questions.
Data analysis is ongoing, but includes investigation of the potential of iPads in L2 lessons to offer simulations of communication experiences (such as role play and avatars) in the same way that subject-specific apps in science and geography have been show to support learning previously gained only through lab work and field trips (Baggott la Velle et al. 2003; Poland et al. 2003). For Spanish pupils, iPads offered new opportunities to practice verbal skills in a more creative context than language lab drills. We also found evidence that the use of ICT (specifically iPads) changed the social context of speaking and writing; pupils felt more comfortable about talking in another language and the use of animations apps gave more point to writing in the target language.
Ellis. R. (2000) Task based research and language pedagogy. Language teaching research 4.3, 193-220
Poland, R. Baggott la Velle, LM, and Nichol, JD. (2003) The Virtual Field Station (VFS): using a virtual reality environment for ecological fieldwork in A-level biological studies. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34 (2) 215-232.
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