Научная статья на тему 'Multimedia in esp courses: adding flexibilty and personalization to teaching'

Multimedia in esp courses: adding flexibilty and personalization to teaching Текст научной статьи по специальности «Языкознание и литературоведение»

CC BY
43
8
Поделиться

Аннотация научной статьи по языкознанию и литературоведению, автор научной работы — Yelenevskaya M. N.

This paper reports on the development of multimedia modules used as an integral part of ESP courses for students of science and engineering. The modules are structured as pedagogically complete and yet instructor modifiable units allowing for use in class and for self-study. The main pedagogical principles behind the modules are individual approach and flexibility. The modules cater to students of different faculties and different levels of language proficiency. Students can choose how much support they want to receive from the tutoring system. Multimedia courseware has given strong support to class-work by motivating students to do preparatory learning through interactive abilities that CALL effectively delivers. It has also expanded the learners' opportunities to practice language skills preparing them for natural face-to-face communication. This is especially important when classes are large and hours of frontal teaching are limited.

iНе можете найти то, что вам нужно? Попробуйте сервис подбора литературы.

Текст научной работы на тему «Multimedia in esp courses: adding flexibilty and personalization to teaching»

MULTIMEDIA IN ESP COURSES: ADDING FLEXIBILTY AND PERSONALIZATION TO TEACHING

MARIA N. YELENEVSKAYA

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

This paper reports on the development of multimedia modules used as an integral part of ESP courses for students of science and engineering. The modules are structured as pedagogically complete and yet instructor modifiable units allowing for use in class and for self-study. The main pedagogical principles behind the modules are individual approach and flexibility. The modules cater to students of different faculties and different levels of language proficiency. Students can choose how much support they want to receive from the tutoring system. Multimedia courseware has given strong support to class-work by motivating students to do preparatory learning through interactive abilities that CALL effectively delivers. It has also expanded the learners’ opportunities to practice language skills preparing them for natural face-to-face communication. This is especially important when classes are large and hours of frontal teaching are limited.

A major challenge in designing English for Special Purposes (ESP) courses is providing teaching materials that can engage students both intellectually and affectively. In addition, ESP courses should develop students’ autonomy by creating conditions under which knowledge acquired in the classroom can be applied creatively in a variety of real-life situations. Development of learners’ autonomy is closely related to the development of language awareness (Donmall 1985; Ellis 1994; Hawkins 1984; James and Garrett 1984; Little 1991; Benson 2001) and is defined by Little as language learner’s capacity for detachment, critical reflection, decisionmaking, and independent action. It presupposes, but also entails, that the learner will develop a particular kind of psychological relation to the process and content of his learning. (Little 1997: 94).

It has always been considered an advantage of ESP courses that they enable students to acquire specific language skills in a specific field in a limited period of time. As a result many of these courses develop one or two skills at the expense of others. In many cases the targeted skills are reading and writing. The widespread use of the Internet has intensified this trend: thousands of young people have become fast readers and writers (the quality of their writing notwithstanding) while their aural-oral skills in English lag behind. The de-skilling, which is an adverse side effect of any narrow specialization, can be partially remedied by the integration of multimedia teaching modules into the curriculum. Embarking on an educational project involving the use of technologies it is important to study how it affects perceptions and attitudes of the learner.

Technology and the Message

Different eras generate different thinking models, and these models are shaped by technologies. Following Mumford's and McLuhan's work, Bolter introduced the concept of a defining technology: "a predominating technology that structures and directs people’s thinking “through” technology" .(Bolter 1984). He distinguishes three defining technologies of the past: technology of the hand, the clock and the

steam engine. We can add another item to the list: the printing press as the printing technology and the dissemination of written sources have radically changed our way of thinking. Note that each of the defining technologies of the past has generated conceptual metaphors which people of different cultures use in describing their experience of the world. A few English idioms can illustrate this: When we ask people for help we ask them to give us a hand. When we describe an excellent system, organization or arrangement we say it runs like clockwork. When we have no energy or enthusiasm left to continue an activity we say we have run out of steam.

Hardly anyone will argue that information technologies (IT) have become the defining technology of our era. Radio, television, and above all the computer are related to production, storage and dissemination of information, hence the master metaphor of our time is: we live in the information age. IT shape our worldview. Most importantly, they structure our experience and the way we filter, symbolize, abstract and organize information about the world. While printed texts have developed human ability to linear, sequential, propositional, analytical, objective, hierarchical and rational thinking the visual media structure our perception in the horizontal way and present us with a structure of thinking that is not directed to objective abstractions but to subjective feelings (Norton and Sprague 2001: 188-189). Perception and information processing in a multimedia-environment bypasses to a large extent the language and print-dominated centers of the brain and taps on the more intuitive, pattern-seeking centers engaged in the perception and interpretation of visual information. But language teachers would not be too happy if infatuation with multimedia repressed the rational and discursive thinking in students. So one of the most important and difficult tasks we face is combining the two thinking models in a balanced fashion and taking advantage of both.

What are the essential features of multimedia programs?

They present information in a variety of modalities. Text, graphics, sound, animation, and video are all combined to communicate information. Colorful illustrations, complex layout and variation of fonts used in documents also convey information and contribute to the multimodality of text (Kress and van Leeuwen 2001: 1). Multimedia does not suggest HOW information should be used and HOW it should be organized, it is just that information is encoded in different media modes. (Norton and Sprague 2001: 191).

They explore new methods of structured discovery. First of all it concerns hypertext, whose reading is very different from linear reading. We can annotate the text, explaining vocabulary items, giving definitions of technical terms, providing links to encyclopedic entries or inserting links to relevant Internet sites. In addition we can encourage the user to return to the previously studied material and even give hints for further learning targets.

They rely on a flexible learning model. Multimedia programs should help us individualize instruction and adapt materials to the learner's need, language proficiency and cognitive style of learning. It means the same material can be presented in the video-audio format, or just audio, or only text, or a combination of a written text and a sound track. We can also give students a chance to repeat words, phrases and sentences after the tape. We can give students additional support by introducing vocabulary items, providing explanations of difficult grammar structures. We can devise multilevel exercises by enabling students to choose which items they want to study in depth and which to omit, etc.

They create user-centric environments, where the learner takes responsibility for his/her own learning, and the teacher, as Sampson et al. wittily remarked "acts as a guide on the side' rather than a 'sage on the stage" (Sampson et al. 2001).

Given the flexibility of multimedia learning programs, we have to determine how a student's interaction with the system is controlled.

Who is in control? Van den Brande classifies learning environments as

- tutor-driven

- mixed initiative

- user-driven

In the tutor-driven environment the system has complete control over each step of interaction. A student does not have a choice in the order of assignments, the depth in which he/or she wants to study any given item. In the mixed-initiative learning environment the system monitors the student's steps of interaction and provides advice not only when he or she makes a mistake but also when a student asks for more detailed explanations. The most advanced systems adapt the teaching model during run time to a more or a less complex one depending on the student's progress (Van den Brande 1993: 21). Totally user-driven approach is still well beyond our capabilities. Such an environment requires an enormous database which has to include complex models of individual learner and groups of learners. Our current learner models are based on the empirical knowledge of our student population and remain fairly crude.

Multimedia Teaching Modules "Technology and Environment"

At the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology compulsory English courses focus on reading comprehension of academic texts, technical reports and documentation. As part of the major goal the syllabus also includes remedial practice in grammar, systematic acquisition of vocabulary, and teaching of the grammar items relevant to scientific discourse. Since 1995 classes in the CALL (Computer-assisted Language Learning) lab have become an integral part of the English program. Computer programs written by a small but dedicated team of English teachers of the Department of Humanities and Arts of the Technion reinforce material taught in class and provide opportunity for students' autonomous studies and remedial work.

In an attempt to add a liberal component to the vocational context of language teaching we decided to supplement our syllabus with multimedia modules. Since development of educational software is labor-intensive, one of the primary tasks was to choose the content that would be relevant to students majoring in various fields. As a starting point we have selected the theme “Technology and Environment” and acquired documentary films devoted to development of pollution-free technologies. Besides language practice, these films serve an important goal: they increase social awareness of ecological issues among future engineers. While each module is thematically linked to the existing course materials and is integrated into the syllabus of English courses, it is also applicable for students’ autonomous work in the CALL lab.

Until recently most of our CALL programs were tutor-driven. In some of the first programs we even inserted commands preventing a student from omitting any assignment or changing their order. The specific psychological feature of our students is that they are not satisfied with incomplete answers or possibility of multiple answers. As a result we are bound to focus our development efforts on those types of questions and assignments, in which all the mistakes can be predicted and appropriate

feedback provided. Multimedia modules, however, are designed with the mixed-initiative principle in mind. The longer modules are supplied with the menu, and a student is free to choose the order and omit some parts, or return to those which he/she wants to review. Although we give students an option of choosing the path he/she wants, we monitor each step on the chosen path and provide feedback when he/she makes a mistake. We also provide explanations in case of a query, but these are limited to those items that designers considered particularly important, for example explanations of selected vocabulary items and grammatical structures.

As mentioned above, the core of each module is a documentary film. These range from 2 to 30 minutes. Depending on the English proficiency of a learner this is viewed in the first stage of work on the module or after a sequence of computerized exercises. The goal of the exercises is to introduce the subject of the video and facilitate comprehension and acquisition of the new vocabulary. For example, the module devoted to the ecological situation in Colombia provides encyclopedic information about the country's geography, economy and social structure. To mobilize a student's attention we inserted some easy questions about the climate of the country, languages spoken there and the reasons of the Colombia's problems in the recent decades. The introduction to the module dealing with problems of electronic waste disposal deals with various material used in the production of electronic equipment. The module dedicated to the destruction of corals in the Persian Gulf provides information about the spread of coral reefs in the world and conditions favorable for their growth. Pre-viewing vocabulary exercises are of different types. Some of them introduce vocabulary of the film in context others are structured as quizzes.

The second pack of exercises is designed for post-viewing activities and comprises exercises intended for the development of various language skills at different levels of difficulty. The student can watch the film or its fragments an unlimited number of times while working on the exercises. This is akin to scrolling up and down the text in search of the necessary information. While most of the exercises retain the closed format, we have varied their repertoire. Thus simple matching can allow a student to check whether he/she remembers the order of presentation of the information in the video, recall the context in which geographic names mentioned in the video are used, sort out materials according to their properties and so on.

It is important for future scientists and engineers to write definitions of terms. While the descriptive part of the definition is seldom a problem for our students classifying words according to specific categories is often difficult. To facilitate this task we include the following exercise in the post-viewing activities: students are presented with a list of words from the film and they have to distribute them according to categories the words belong to, for example, properties, activities, machines, methods, and so on.

As noted earlier, the documentary films deal with events in different countries. To increase the students' intellectual and affective involvement with the contents of the modules we add supplementary texts on the same subject as the documentary. Whenever possible these are devoted to the events in Israel. For example, the module on corals is supplemented by the text on the Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in the preservation of the ecosystem of the Red Sea, and the module on Colombia includes a text about river pollution in the North of Israel. The supplementary materials enable

students to consolidate new linguistic knowledge and to practice such cognitive skills as data gathering, data analysis and data classification.

iНе можете найти то, что вам нужно? Попробуйте сервис подбора литературы.

Besides comprehension exercises of various formats we include questions which check whether students have grasped the attitude of various speakers to the problems discussed and enable them to express their own position. The emphasis on critical reading and interpretation of information meets the requirements of tertiary education to promote an analytical rather than a reproductive style of learning that guides and challenges students to develop their own ideas and judgments. Such an approach enables students to focus on language as a medium for the acquisition and extension of knowledge (Ballard 1996: 152, 167).

LITERATURE

1. Ballard B. (1996) Through Language to Learning: Preparing Overseas Students for Study in Western Universities. In H. Coleman (ed.), Society and the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 148-168.

2. Benson, P. (2001) Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning. London: Pearson Education.

3. Bolter, J. (1984) Turing’s Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

4. Boyle, Tom (1997) Design for Multimedia Learning. London: Prentice

Hall

5. Donmall, B.G. (ed.) Language awareness. NCLE Reports and Papers, 6. London: Center for

Information on Language Teaching.

6. Ellis, N.C. (1994) Implicit and Explicit Learning of Languages. London: Academic Press.

7. Hawkins, E. (1984) Awareness of Language: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

8. Kress, Gunther and van Leeuwen, Theo (2001) Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Arnold.

9. James, C. and Garrett, P. (eds.), Language Awareness in the Classroom. London: Longman.

10. Little, D. (1991) Learner Anatomy 1: Definitions, Issues and Problems. Dublin: Authentik.

11. Little, D. (1997) Language Awareness and the Autonomous Language Learner. Language Awareness, 6(2/3): 93-104.

12. McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Men. New York:McGraw-Hill

13. Norton, Priscilla and Sprague, Debra (2001) Technology for Teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon

14. Sampson, Demetrios and Karagiannidis, Charlampos (2002) Personalised Learning: Educational, Technological and Standardisation Perspective. Interactive Educational Multimedia, (4): 24-39.

15. Van den Brande, Lieve (1993) Flexible and Distance Learning. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

Useful Electronic Sources

16. http://www.smoothstone.com/

gives you an idea of available multimedia products

17. http://www.maris.co/index.php3

updates you on what is new in educational multimedia

18. http://www.ub.es/iem

contains some survey and discussion papers

ИСПОЛЬЗОВАНИЕ МУЛЬТИМЕДИА В КУРСАХ АНГЛИЙСКОГО ЯЗЫКА: ГИБКОСТЬ И ИНДИВИДУАЛЬНЫЙ ПОДХОД К ОБУЧЕНИЮ

М.Н. ЕЛЕНЕВСКАЯ

Израильский технологический институт

Данная статья посвящена разработке обучающих программ по английскому языку с использованием мультимедии. Программы предназначены для будущих учёных и инженеров. Каждая из них задумана как автономный модуль, который может быть использован и для аудиторной, и для самостоятельной работы студентов. Ядро модуля -документальный фильм, снабжённый серией интерактивных заданий и упражнений. Студенты сами выбирают, насколько глубоко они хотят изучить предложенные лексические и грамматические темы и в какой мере они нуждаются в поддержке интерактивной обучающей программы.

iНе можете найти то, что вам нужно? Попробуйте сервис подбора литературы.