Global gathering in Korea

GloCALL Conference
Daejeon, South Korea
13-14 November, 2015

Daejeon, South Korea. Photo by Mark Pegrum, 2015. May be reused under CC BY 3.0 licence.

Daejeon, South Korea. Photo by Mark Pegrum, 2015. May be reused under CC BY 3.0 licence.

After an absence of a couple of years, I was glad to be able to get back to the GloCALL Conference, which took place this year in Daejeon, South Korea. As usual, it brought together a wide range of CALL practitioners from around the country, the region, and further afield. Key themes included an emphasis on situated and contextual mobile learning; the development of students’ intercultural competence; and the development of students as autonomous learners able to make judicious use of self-study resources.

In her plenary, Running wild: Out-of-class mobile learning, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme mentioned some common characteristics which may apply to mobile learning: mobile, informal, serendipitous, incidental, experiential, rhizomatic, ubiquitous, contextual, situated, augmented, playful, social, seamless, and/or self-directed. She spoke in some detail about the MASELTOV Project, which has recently ended. It produced an integrated collection of smartphone tools for immigrants to Europe learning local languages. The target learners include those with a low level of education, with cultural backgrounds that differ greatly from the host countries, or who are isolated individuals. There are some issues around cost, surveillance and privacy. While the resources include useful language learning and translation tools, it is still hard to show gains in terms of social inclusion. Many of the key points are summarised in the Mobile Situated Language Learning report.

She also spoke about a related project called SALSA (Sensors and Apps for Languages in Smart Areas), which is designed for English language learners in Milton Keynes as part of a local smart city initiative. It relies on beacons placed around the city, which trigger location-relevant content sent through an app to mobile devices in the vicinity. Thus, the beacons trigger situated language learning lessons, which are also available later on the mobile devices. Place thereby becomes significant for learners, who are sensitised to learning resources around the city. This encourages learners to think about their learning strategies and to better identify their own needs.

Overall, there is a need to harmonise formal and informal learning; we need to understand informal learning better, and to connect it better to formal learning. Language may serve as a bridge connecting formal and informal learning through mobile devices.

In his presentation, Mapping the city: Map-based tools for language learning projects, Stephen Welsh spoke about new literacies, geolocation and language learning. Students can get out into the community outside the classroom, and connect their learning with the wider world. He spoke of the spatial turn in the humanities, and the recognition that spaces contain embedded stories. He also spoke of deep mapping, which is the concept of mapping rich, everyday stories to geographical locations. He suggested that using common platforms like Google Maps and Wikispaces, students can be encouraged to create multimedia materials linked to real-world locations. He showed an example of a global simulation project called Ma vie parisienne, where students create an imagined walk-through geography of Paris, with their texts attached to a map of the city. He also showed a free tool called Cityscape created in the Language Resource Center at Columbia University in the US, where students are able to add a wider range of resources to maps. He suggested that the following are fundamental instructional design principles for these types of student tasks:

  • minimise student confusion
  • provide ample technical orientation
  • make objectives clear and manageable
  • provide good models for student work
  • get out of the way!

It’s also important to think about how structured or flexible the tasks should be, and whether they will be more instructor-centred or student-centred. Digital tools are needed for capturing, editing, hosting, geolocating, and sharing/reflecting on students’ work.

In their presentation, The complexities of digital storytelling: Factors affecting performance and production, Peter Gobel and Makimi Kano described a 6-month digital storytelling pilot project involving both group and individual storytelling. A more familiar or personal topic seemed to result in marginally better products. Students’ views of their own skills remained stable even as the project demands increased; there seemed little motivation to learn to use the technology better. In future, the presenters plan to experiment with interactive presentations, different formats (like movies, chat, and Google Maps), digital storytelling with mobile devices, and online peer review at each stage.

In my own presentation, Language and cultural exchange online: Lessons learned from running a Chinese-Australian digital storytelling project, I spoke about the successes and challenges of the Australia-China Council-funded Multimedia Stories for Language and Cultural Exchange project which ran in 2013-2014, highlighting the lessons learned by the project organisers in practical areas like motivation to participate, organisation and timetabling, and technology; and cultural areas like educational/school culture, and pedagogy.

In his presentation, Online social interaction: More interculturally aware and autonomous learners?, Pasi Puranen spoke about telecollaboration for autonomous learners in cultural exchanges. Telecollaboration takes learners outside textbooks, promotes critical awareness, and fosters awareness of cultural differences in communicative practices. Students can develop intercultural communicative competence, learning to interact with others who are linguistically and culturally different. He described a telecollaboration project where Finnish and Spanish students interacted with each other over 6 weeks on Facebook, working in English for 3 weeks and Spanish for 3 weeks. The project increased students’ motivation through dynamic interaction online, enhanced their understanding of each other’s cultures, and helped them become more autonomous learners.

In his presentation, The ICOSA Project – Creating interactive, integrated self-access English language exercises to enhance student learning while fostering inter-institutional collaboration, Mark LeBane spoke about the work of 5 Hong Kong higher education institutions in developing an  indexed repository (known as ICOSA, i.e., Inter-university Collaborative Online Self-Access) of online self-access English language learning materials for students. He spoke about the need to guide students in finding their own resources for self-study, helping them to draw on the ICOSA repository as well as seeking other appropriate materials from the wider internet.

In his presentation, Learner training in mobile language learning, Glenn Stockwell pointed out that there is a large gap between students’ intended and actual uses of mobile devices for learning, and that technology by itself will never lead to autonomy, which is dependent on a combination of motivation and skills. Referring to the work of Phil Hubbard, he suggested that teachers need to operate within principles-based learning frameworks involving the following elements:

  • experience CALL yourself
  • give learners ‘teacher’ training
  • use a cyclical training approach
  • use collaborative debriefings
  • teach general exploitation strategies

Referring to Romeo and Hubbard, he went on to say that we need to consider 3 domains of training:

  • technical training (how to use technology), which is where most of our training is currently focused
  • strategic training (what to do with the the technology specifically to learn a language)
  • pedagogical training (why to do it)

He spoke about a 2-year study where technical and strategic training only were used in the first year, and technical, strategic and pedagogical training were all used in the second year.  In the second year, students engaged in far more online learning activities, and used mobile phones for a much greater proportion of them. Students also became much more conscious of why they were making certain choices about using certain devices in certain ways. All in all, channels of communication were opened up between the teacher and the learners. Students took more responsibility for their own learning, and the teacher took on even more of a role as a motivator.

In her presentation, Exploring the concept of assistance in language learning, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme also focused on learner training, coupled with the notion of changing roles for teachers. Questions are now arising around configurations of human assistance combined with digital assistance through mobile devices like smartphones. After considering historical examples, she mentioned the development of a ‘mobile assistant’ in the MASELTOV project, which integrates a collection of tools and services including ways of finding local help, a social network, information resources, translation, a navigation guide, language learning guidance, and a serious game. These are all joined together by a recommender system which to some extent fills a traditional teacherly role, including the role of sequencing learning activities, as well as progress reporting. One challenge for language teachers is how to support students’ out-of-class language learning at a distance; another is how to support language learning in the age of digital assistants. She concluded with a list of different types of assistance that might be required by learners:

  • motivation
  • well-being support (including healthy studying)
  • progress monitoring (including feedback)
  • cognitive support (including noticing support, scaffolding and fading, and memorisation support)
  • organisation (including preparation and reminders)
  • individual requirements (including understanding individuals’ needs, e.g., for those with disabilities, and experience capture)
  • enrichment (including providing real-world contexts for practice, and augmentation of experiences)
  • direct help (including instruction, guidance, recommendations, and emergency help)
  • sustained help (including learner training and habit formation)
  • personal development (including support for imagination and creativity)

When we are developing new tools, we need to think about how these kinds of support can be built in, and how digital support can and should be balanced with teacher support. These are conversations that teachers need to be having with technology developers.

In her presentation, No more computer lab: Flipping your CALL classroom, Heyoung Kim explained that she has transferred lectures and readings to online-only sessions, complemented by online activities, leaving face-to-face class time free for in-depth discussions, group activities, and brief mobile-based reviewing of online resources. When working online, her students used Google Drive, and she was able to easily view their work folders. She reported that students were much more active in class because they were better prepared; task outcomes were better; students talked more in the classroom; and overall her classroom instruction was better organised and prepared. However, there was an increased preparation time involved in pre-recording lectures; an unfamiliar class sequence required lots of explanation; and there were technical problems with mobile quizzes and the learning management system (though Google Drive solved some of these problems). Some recycling of teaching materials should be possible in the future.

In the final plenary, Computer-assisted language learning: A reality check, Jeong-Bae Son noted that CALL is still not available in many schools, it is difficult to implement in many places, and there is a lack of teacher training in this area. He indicated that recent areas of particular focus in CALL are mobile learning and personalised learning. As more institutions move towards BYOD policies, there is a stronger connection between school learning and everyday life. There is also a broad move towards OERs, or Open Educational Resources, which are free and accessible to everyone. CALL, he suggested, can cover CMC (computer-mediated communication), WBLL (web-based language learning) and MALL (mobile-assisted language learning).

As always, GloCALL offered an eye-opening opportunity to pick up on the latest themes in CALL and MALL as they’re emerging from the practices and research of language teachers and learners around Asia and the world. It was interesting to have these conversations in the context of the country with the fastest broadband in the world. In fact, I’m typing the conclusion to this blog entry on the KTX train up to Seoul, and will shortly update it online thanks to the freely available wifi on the train … This, surely, is a glimpse of the future of internet connectivity around the world!

It’s (nearly) all about mobile

ACEC Conference
Perth, Australia
02-05 October, 2012

At the recent ACEC 2012 Conference, held in Perth, Western Australia, it was clear that almost everyone is starting to think mobile: there was a plethora of papers about iPads, iPods, XO laptops, BYOD models, and indeed mobile technologies in all their shapes and forms.

In her talk, Pedagogy! iPadology! Netbookology! Learning with Mobile DevicesTherese Keane reported on a study comparing two schools, one with a 1:1 netbook programme, the other with a 1:1 iPad programme.

In general, the iPad was used for more interactive tasks and the netbook for transactive tasks like handing in work. Teachers on the whole were more enthusiastic about the iPad. The students thought the netbooks had a positive impact in all subjects where they were used; the iPads were seen as particularly beneficial in some subjects rather than others.  This may be connected with individual teachers’ enthusiasm and use of the devices. Keane noted: “The iPad and Netbook seem to have both influenced and enthused teachers and students. Time for professional development was always at a premium and dedicated teachers needed and wanted more of this.” She highlighted three main findings:

  • Finding 1: The actual digital device was not as critical as the presence of a dedicated curriculum programme.
  • Finding 2: New pedagogical strategies were the key drivers of change.  The digital tool was only a means to an end, not the goal of the programme.
  • Finding 3: Student engagement was highly related to the enthusiasm of the individual subject teacher rather than the type of device. The device itself was almost inconsequential.

In conclusion, teachers said the key success factor in a netbook or iPad programme is not the device itself, but its use by engaged, supportive and prepared teachers within the context of a broader pedagogical change programme.

In our own talk on mobile technologies in schools, entitled Choosing to Teach with Mobile Technologies: Guidelines from Early Adopters, my colleagues Grace Oakley, Robert Faulkner and I gave an overview of our recent AISWA-funded research project, Exploring the Pedagogical Applications of Mobile Technologies for Teaching Literacy, which focused mainly on iPads. We outlined the nine general considerations about teaching with mobile technologies, with associated recommendations, which we derived from this project:

  1. Consider analogue vs digital tools.
  2. Consider free vs proprietary tools.
  3. Consider technology vs pedagogy.
  4. Consider traditional vs contemporary pedagogical approaches.
  5. Consider consumption vs production.
  6. Consider teachers as learners vs teachers as experts.
  7. Consider collaborative use vs personalised use.
  8. Consider formal vs informal learning spaces.
  9. Consider lower vs higher year levels.

We wrapped up with brief overviews of two case studies conducted as part of the project. The full report, with discussion of the nine considerations and four detailed case studies, can be read online or downloaded.

In her talk, Transforming Learning Using iPods and Web 2.0 Tools, Romina Jamieson-Proctor reported on a study of students’ use of mobile technologies for learning, with a major focus on creativity and 21st century skills. Observations were made of students using iPod Touches to support their learning in a Queensland school context. The project has now been extended to include iPads.

The project is still ongoing but there are some early findings. More teacher PD is needed. Teachers need to find creative ways of using the devices, and not just use them in mundane ways. Teachers also need more time to explore apps, and to become familiar with how the devices work. Completing tasks for assessment can be limiting for students if they are not allowed much variation in how they respond. Parents have questioned the use of the iPod Touches at home instead of students doing ‘real work’ – this may be because students didn’t get a chance to play with them in school, so they were doing this at home.

Emerging themes included:

  • Control – students can’t be creative if their work is too controlled
  • Transformation – devices are changing the way teachers think about the content and the classroom
  • Motivation – increased for students
  • Attitude – iPods impact attitudes to creativity
  • Learning Processes – iPods are beginning to change learning processes

In the One Laptop Per Child (Australia) Workshop, Rangan Srikhanta, the CEO of OLPC Australia, noted that a child born today will be entering the workplace around the time when computers are becoming as powerful as the human brain. While traditional numeracy and literacy is important, digital literacy is going to be crucial. There will be no concept of national unemployment in the global workplace of the future. Our kids need to be able to compete on a global level.

There are a number of market failures: One issue is teacher turnover, especially in rural and remote communities; another is maintenance and support of devices; and a third is childhood learning, because a lot of devices are designed for content consumption rather than education.

Srikhanta then described the rollout of XO laptops to remote communities in Australia.  It was noted that there were early adopter and late adopter principals and, similarly, early adopter and late adopter teachers, and even early adopter and late adopter students. Early adopters were people who ‘got it’ instantly and began using the XOs in effective and often original ways, which sometimes hadn’t even been considered by the OLPC team. Now the schools have to pay $100 per laptop, which means that there is greater commitment from the principals and teachers who buy into the programme.

OLPC Australia is now working with a new slogan: “Think globally, act digitally” and a new brand: “One education” (which has started in Australia). Any disadvantaged school in Australia can sign up for this programme, which is heavily subsidised by the Federal Govt. Amongst other things, children can complete certifications as XO-champions and XO-mechanics. Another initiative is the XO-Box programme, where children engage in a robotics programme developed with LEGO.

In her talk, Digital Content for a BYOD World, Kari Stubbs demonstrated the BrainPOP site, which is now also available in the form of a mobile app (which is essential since the web-based version relies on Flash, which doesn’t work on Apple’s iOS). It is now possible for educators to design their own quizzes and activities on BrainPOP.

In his insightful keynote presentation, Schools and Computers – So Where Now? A Cautionary Tale from the UK, Neil Selwyn argued that there is often a gap between the rhetoric and the reality of technology use in education. Technology in education is about politics with a small and a large ‘P’. It is important to take a historical view, a long view, in a field which is often rather ahistorical.

The UK has been pushing technology into schools for around 30 years now, starting with putting computers into schools in the 1980s. IT became a major part of the national curriculum of 1989, and developments continued well into the 2000s. Smartboards and VLEs were a major part of schooling. There was lots of interesting practice around. But things changed in May 2010 with the election of the Conservative Govt, which reversed much of the earlier policy – Becta was disbanded, Building Schools for the Future was cut, and many other programmes were also cut.

But then in 2011, Eric Schmidt from Google spoke about the fact that computer science isn’t taught as standard in UK schools. Students were learning how to use software, but not how to make it. This talk provoked a turnaround from the UK Govt. The NESTA Next Gen report, which made the case that UK industry was suffering from a lack of trained computer science students, gives a good idea of where the UK is going with technology in education. The Royal Society report Shut Down or Restart? made similar points. This led to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, talking about the importance of technology.

There is now huge hype in the UK about programming, coding, computational thinking, and the idea that every child should understand what goes on under the hood of a computer. There are initiatives springing up to help get coding into schools. The BBC, for example, is upgrading its technological literacy offering.  There’s a Code Club movement to get kids interested in coding. At the same time, the Govt has suspended the ICT subject as of last month. The plan is for it to come back in 2014. The Govt is saying it will be flexible and open source. The British Computer Society and the Royal Society of Engineering have been given responsibility for this. Meanwhile, big technology companies are moving into the role previously filled by the Govt in advising schools and providing equipment and materials.

There could be advantages and disadvantages here. The emphasis on programming is interesting, and fits with the arguments about coding from the likes of Douglas Rushkoff.  Old school ed tech is back, ICT is dead. People are talking about Seymour Papert. It is arguably good to take IT out of the control of governments and give it to specialists. By comparison, Israel has had coding in the curriculum for 12 years and is progressing towards a digital economy. Estonia has announced it will introduce coding in school. Business and companies like Google and Facebook are very happy about this.

But there is also much to worry about … Inequality could be an issue, since it’s not clear how the majority of schools and students will have better access to technology skills. These policies may reinforce the digital divide.  Is Raspberry Pi really going to be more exciting and interesting for children, or will it just be a 21st century version of the school computer club? Will suspending the curriculum really bring improvements, if schools just focus on things that they are accountable for? Coding may not really be the answer for the UK economy; we don’t need a whole generation of computer programmers, since there are limited jobs. In the rush towards coding and programming, what is being lost? Functional Office skills are still really important. The highly creative aspects of the ICT curriculum – as well as collaboration, communication, etc – are still really important. It’s important, too, to retain ICT throughout the curriculum. Indeed, warned Selwyn, the kinds of ‘cool’ innovations being talked about at the ACEC Conference no longer have a place in UK schools. There’s  a loss of the kind of evidence-based research previously done by Becta: now, he suggested, there is evidence-free practice. The Govt is withdrawing from technology in schools, and leaving schools and companies to it. The current Govt has given a Bible to every school – which is very different from a former govt which gave a micro to every school.

The key question should always be: Why? What problem are we trying to solve? A vague notion of the future, and the games industry, is not a good enough basis for these changes.  If education should be about empowerment, then:

  • We need strong Govt commitment and involvement. Computers in schools should not be governed by the marketplace; computers should be a key part of education as a public good.
  • We need digitally strong schools. There’s no such thing as a digital native. Schools have an important role to play here – kids are not effective users of technology when left to their own devices.
  • We need digital technology to be integrated throughout the school system.
  • We need a proper debate about these issues. There is great public alarmism about the use of technology in schools and a very low level of debate, when it occurs at all. The reality is that most people don’t care very much about the topic.

The take-home message which Selwyn left the audience with was this: the politics of educational technology are really important.  We should get more involved in the politics of ed tech before the politics come to us.

These kinds of political issues are certainly important macro-considerations, which we shouldn’t forget in the rush to employ mobile technologies on the more micro scale of individual classrooms, or even individual schools.

Skip to toolbar