Saturday, 28 May 2016

Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s novels are so readable in part because she wasn’t an ordinary kind of novelist: she wanted her work to help us to be better and wiser people. Her novels had a philosophy of personal development at their heart.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson taught us about the presence of nature and something a little divine inside all of us; simultaneously helping usher in what was considered, "America's intellectual declaration of independence."

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation to Learn

photo credits: Educational Psychology Interactive
The Web gives to both teachers and students an incredible source of learning and teaching tools. Time and place for learning a specific topic don't exist anymore.  But does this mean that all students are engaged in classroom activities and in taking advantage of cyberculture? Obviously it doesn't. In almost every educational context, the motivation factor, for learning and for school in general, is crucial and must be regarded by teachers as a key element to explore.
Regarding motivation as a set of biological and psychological mechanisms which allow triggering an action, its orientation and finally the intensity and persistence (Lieury & Fenouillet, 1997:9), it becomes impossible not to consider motivation as a crucial factor in the teaching and learning process, because the more motivated the student is, the more persistent and productive his activity will be. 
Lieury e Fenouillet mention two types of motivation: intrinsic (in which the activity is appealling in itself) and extrinsic (which depends on a wide range of outside rewards, such as, grades or prizes). From here we can conclude that the current use of the term motivation refers to the intrinsic type. Teachers always prefer this one because it creates better results. That is why it's so important to identify and promote factors as challenge, control, responsibility, curiosity, fantasy, cooperation and acknowledgement.  (Raya, Lamb & Vieira, 2007:62) These authors also highlight that intrinsic motivation is in inverse proportion of constraint, for example, surveillance or teacher control. It has been proved that students' discouragement is born out of a learning process.
Puzzle of Motivation (Lieury & Fenouillet)
On the other hand, the acknowledgement of competences, in other words, a higher value pedagogy, must be understood as a crucial factor in motivating students. We also need to pay attention to students who belong to ethnic minorities, lower socioeconomic groups and consequently more exposed to being considered less competent; the teacher's attitude towards these students can set the difference, as higher expectations may allow him to question social stereotypes. (Fontaine, 2005:44)
For all these reasons, it is very important to promote tasks that may increase intrinsic motivation (less exposed to constraint), such as, portfolios, group presentations, personal data files, where the teacher's role is much more of giving information, rather than controlling or evaluating, as students are intrinsically motivated and perform all tasks with pleasure. To sum up, motivation can be seen as the puzzle on the left, in which all the mentioned components find a match.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Multimedia in ELT

image credits: Robert Campbell
Integrating multimedia tools into teaching English supports the implementation of high-quality instruction and explores new issues in higher education. It fosters the pedagogical orientation from instructor-centered to learner-centered instruction. Multimedia tools like audio software, power point presentation, flash animation, and video are used in teaching English. The need for analysing these tools is becoming crucial nowadays.
English Language Teaching is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. The use of new technologies is an integral and driving component of this growth. Computers deliver multimedia presentations for entertainment, advertising, or education. Edutainment is the term used to refer to the applications which incorporate multimedia entertainment with educational objectives. Multimedia incorporates text, audio, graphics, animations, or real video into English lessons.
Curriculum developers and instructional designers collaborate with skilled teachers and subject experts to create effective, integrated learning strategies which strengthen teachers’ professional skills, make optimal use of classroom time, and broaden student access to learning materials. Audio Streaming, Power Point Presentations, Flash or Java Animation, Video, etc. are the different multimedia tools used in teaching English.
image credits: opened web
Vision and hearing are the dominant senses. Multimedia can provide a sensory and real learning experience; it presents a greater potential for learning. Audio software contains options like play, stop, record, etc. It does not contain images or animations. Power point presentation contains text and images. Audio files can be inserted, if necessary. Flash animations contain text, audio, images, and animations. Videos can be played in any media player. It contains sub-texts for easy understanding of the conversations.
Multimedia plays an important role in all the stages of second language acquisition. Multimedia tools are used widely by second language learners. The different multimedia tools available to teachers include video and data projectors, videos, Internet, and course management programs.
There are many advantages of using multimedia tools in the language classroom. These include more active learning, diversified teaching methods, better student attention, less time and energy for professors, and visual stimulation. However, there are some downfalls to using technology when teaching the courses. They are equipment failures, need for back-up plans, anxiety for teachers, time spent learning new technologies, etc.
The advantages for using technology often outweigh the disadvantages. Many of the problems with using technology and learning materials can be overcome by testing the equipments beforehand and learning how to properly use each multimedia tool. Multimedia has the potential for much more than text-based communication of ideas. It alleviates the loneliness of books, because it is interactive. Multimedia enables text, images, sound, and video to be combined into one and plays an important role in teaching English.

Why choosing multimedia resources?
Multimedia is becoming indispensable in the classrooms. It allows teachers to diversify their lectures, display more information, and enhance student learning. It helps them save time and energy; it allows for more attention to be paid to the course content. There are different multimedia tools available in the market. Audio streaming, PPT, animation, and video are quite familiar with the teachers and students. Pronunciation, accent, vocabulary building, note-taking or note-making skills, reading comprehension, writing skills, etc. are taught using the multimedia tools. There are different purposes for analysing the multimedia tools:
  • To decide whether the multimedia tool has had the intended effect;
  •  To identify what effect the multimedia tool has had;
  • To justify future courses of action;
  • To identify areas for improvement in a multimedia tool.
Multimedia tools prove to be effective in teaching English. However, they are not tailor-made. Teachers should analyse them predictively and retrospectively to use them effectively in the classroom. Feedback from the teachers and students can be utilised to improve the efficiency of the multimedia lessons. Multimedia tools should be used appropriately and frequently to increase the scores of the ESL students.
To sum up:
Cognitive models for multimedia learning with animated pedagogical agents (image credits: db-thueringen)
You may also like to have a look at Richard Mayer's Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning.