Научная статья на тему 'VoiceThread as an online tool for developing listening and speaking skills outside the language classroom'

VoiceThread as an online tool for developing listening and speaking skills outside the language classroom Текст научной статьи по специальности «Науки об образовании»

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Ключевые слова
ДИДАКТИЧЕСКИЕ СВОЙСТВА ВЕБ-СЕРВИСА VOICETHREAD / СМЕШАННОЕ ОБУЧЕНИЕ / ДИСТАНЦИОННОЕ ОБУЧЕНИЕ / ИНФОРМАЦИОННО-КОММУНИКАЦИОННЫЕ ТЕХНОЛОГИИ / ИКТ В ОБУЧЕНИИ ИНОСТРАННОМУ ЯЗЫКУ / РАЗВИТИЕ УМЕНИЙ АУДИРОВАНИЯ И ГОВОРЕНИЯ / DIDACTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF AN ONLINE TOOL VOICETHREAD / DISTANT LEARNING / BLENDED LEARNING / INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES / ICTS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING / DEVELOPING LISTENING AND SPEAKING SKILLS

Аннотация научной статьи по наукам об образовании, автор научной работы — Fadeeva Viktoriya A.

The article examines technical features and didactic characteristics of an online tool VoiceThread which can be considered to be essential for developing learners’ listening and speaking skills, communication and collaboration skills as well as promoting students’ engagement outside the language classroom. To meet these goals, the developers have created it as a cloud application, in other words, there is no software to install as it works in any modern updated web browser and on almost any internet connection, allowing for digital media (images, videos, documents) to be uploaded, commented using voice, text, webcam etc., and shared with other people. The main focus of the article lies on the description of experience of implementing an online audio tool VoiceThread in an author’s blended language course “Information Technologies in Intercultural Communication”, which combines face-to-face classes and a virtual classroom in Moodle learning management system. A number of VoiceThread practical activities developing the abovementioned skills was elaborated by the author and is under discussion in the article as well. Conclusions drawn from this research show that VoiceThread activities encourage language learners to purposefully acquire knowledge of relevant semantic fields and plan their speech strategies to fulfill communicative tasks, as well as to develop listening comprehension skills and enrich their knowledge of the subject with the help of their peers previous experience.

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Текст научной работы на тему «VoiceThread as an online tool for developing listening and speaking skills outside the language classroom»

Вестн. Моск. ун-та. Сер. 19. Лингвистика и межкультурная коммуникация. 2017. № 2

Viktoriya A. Fadeeva

VOICETHREAD AS AN ONLINE TOOL FOR DEVELOPING

LISTENING AND SPEAKING SKILLS OUTSIDE

THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM

Lomonosov Moscow State University 1 Leninskie Gory, Moscow, 119991

The article examines technical features and didactic characteristics of an online tool VoiceThread which can be considered to be essential for developing learners' listening and speaking skills, communication and collaboration skills as well as promoting students' engagement outside the language classroom. To meet these goals, the developers have created it as a cloud application, in other words, there is no software to install as it works in any modern updated web browser and on almost any internet connection, allowing for digital media (images, videos, documents) to be uploaded, commented using voice, text, webcam etc., and shared with other people. The main focus of the article lies on the description of experience of implementing an online audio tool VoiceThread in an author's blended language course "Information Technologies in Intercultural Communication", which combines face-to-face classes and a virtual classroom in Moodle learning management system. A number of VoiceThread practical activities developing the abovementioned skills was elaborated by the author and is under discussion in the article as well. Conclusions drawn from this research show that VoiceThread activities encourage language learners to purposefully acquire knowledge of relevant semantic fields and plan their speech strategies to fulfill communicative tasks, as well as to develop listening comprehension skills and enrich their knowledge of the subject with the help of their peers previous experience.

Key words: didactic characteristics of an online tool VoiceThread; distant learning; blended learning; Information and Communication Technologies; ICTs in foreign language teaching; developing listening and speaking skills.

INTRODUCTION. Rapidly developing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have caused pervasive and radical changes in all spheres of human activity, education not being an exception. Modern education paradigms are shifting to include more distant learning, online learning, blended or hybrid learning and collaborative models. ICTs integrated in these learning formats are believed to create opportunities for learners to develop their autonomy, flexibility, creativity, critical thinking and problem-

Viktoriya A. Fadeeva — Candidate Degree in Teaching, Senior Teacher at Linguistics & IT Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University (e-mail: insatiable_in@mail.ru).

solving skills, communication and collaboration skills, — features and skills, essential for students to be successful in the 21st century. As for educators, obvious benefits of integrating ICTs in the learning process are: time-saving (all materials are online), the growing number of students who can enroll on the course, flexibility in management (monitoring, assessment etc.), archiving and tracking students' work, overcoming limitations of classroom time, easier management of a variety of learning styles etc.

When we consider the role of technology in teaching and learning foreign languages and cultures, it is evident that modern ICTs connect people living in different cultures and speaking different languages and contribute to the development of communicative skills coupled with productive (speaking & writing) and receiptive (listening & reading) language skills, providing types of practice required to enhance each of these skills. This paper describes the experience of implementing media-based discussion via VoiceThread in a blended language course in order to develop listening and speaking skills and to promote student engagement.

CLOUD APPLICATION VOICETHREAD. VoiceThread is an environment of constructive communication aimed at providing an opportunity for people all over the world to communicate, collaborate and connect. To meet these goals, the developers have created it as a cloud application, in other words, there is no software to install as it works in any modern updated web browser and on almost any internet connection, allowing for digital media (images, videos, documents) to be uploaded, commented using voice, text, webcam etc., and shared with other people.

The VoiceThread online platform is not free, though it does have a free license, including basic tool options. Pricing depends on the type of license (K-12, Higher Ed and Business) you purchase. The number of features available for participants of VoiceThread varies greatly, depending on the type of license. Educational licenses, for instance, include: accounts within a secure collaborative network Ed. VoiceThread; creating groups and classes; management tools; creating online Identities; customized web-address; uploading over 50 different types of media; unlimited number of VoiceThreads; 500 slides per VoiceThread; voice, text, unlimited video (web-camera), phone and audio-file upload commenting; threaded commenting; sharing (public/ private/shared with specific people); integration with Learning Managements Systems (LMS).

In comparison, a free license offers: uploading over 50 different types of media; 5 VoiceThreads; 50 slides per VoiceThread; limited voice and video (web-cam) commenting, text and audio-file upload commenting; sharing (public/private); creating online Identities.

Importantly, notwithstanding the limitations of a free member account, it preserves options and features claimed by developers to be key ones for communication, collaboration and connection.

Taking into account the abovementioned features, VoiceThread provides certain benefits for education: highly interactive and engaging discussions; creating a sense of being a member of a virtual classroom; collaborative learning; increased social presence; multiple commenting options for people with different learning styles.

DESCRIPTION OF EFFECTIVE PRACTICE. With this in mind, we decided to implement the VoiceThread tool in a blended language course for developing listening and speaking skills as well as for promoting student engagement outside the language classroom. The course "Information Technologies in Intercultural Communication"1 is designed to improve students' cross-cultural, information and communicative competences through communicating with the representatives of other cultures by means of ICTs. It is based on the international project "Global Understanding"2, initiated by East Carolina University (USA) (http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/globalinitiatives/ course.cfm), in which Lomonosov Moscow State University has been participating for over 11 years. Today "Global Understanding" is a freshman-level course offered through both international studies and anthropology courses. The program provides a unique format for students when they can communicate with their peers through live video conferencing and chat technologies without leaving a classroom. Partner countries swap in a round fashion during a semester so that each culture is partnered with two/three cultures, one at a time for 4 weeks. Students discuss a number of set topics: College Life, Cultural Traditions and Family, Meaning of Life and Religion, Stereotypes and Prejudices and carry out collaborative projects with their individual foreign partner. In addition to live video links there are local introductory and summary classes before and after classes with each partner university, where students, together with the teacher, discuss what they have actually learnt about their partner country, its culture and traditions. As a result of mutual dialogue and interaction, students become more culturally aware and develop important skills for their future intercultural communication. Due to being learning sources for each other, as there is no textbook to rely on, students exchange adequate, relevant and reliable information by means of a target language.

However, the experience has shown that Russian students have difficulties expressing their ideas about their native culture and country in a foreign language due to various reasons (age, different backgrounds, level of school education, psychological barriers in speaking English as a second language), therefore they are not actively engaged in live discussions. Consequently, it

1 Information and Communication Technologies in Intercultural Communication. URL: http://moodle.ffl.msu.ru/course/view.php?id=6 (accessed: 17.11.2016)

2 Global Understanding. URL: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/globalinitiatives/course.cfm (accessed: 17.11.2016).

was decided to create a supporting online course, using Moodle LMS, to prepare our students for more efficient and fruitful participation in the project. A combination of a supporting course in Moodle and local classes (live videoconferences and chats, when all Russian students and the teacher are physically present in one classroom plus traditional face-to-face introductory and summary classes) explains the blended nature of the course "Information Technologies in Intercultural Communication". Moodle LMS, being a unifier of cutting-edge asynchronous and synchronous communicative tools as well as a means for creating learning content, provides a lot of advantages for both learners and teachers, which were already discussed in previous articles [Nazarenko, Sizykh, Fandei, 2013]. Nonetheless, it lacks a tool for developing speaking and listening skills simultaneously, using visual support at the same time. Thus, it was decided to use VoiceThread, providing a visual-centric, participatory learning environment, to supplement the course designed primarily in Moodle.

VoiceThread Practical Activity. Aim: to develop students' speaking and listening skills, especially in expressing opinions, as well as increasing students' engagement and breaking psychological barriers in speaking English as a second language.

Interaction: group of 10.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: An internet connected computer with a microphone. A free VoiceThread account for the instructor. Each student is required to create a free VoiceThread account (which requires an email address and a name). In our case students already have accounts because they study VoiceThread as a part of university IT course.

Technology: a VoiceThread with 4 slides, each containing a thought-provoking image with a question from the teacher, uploaded using text and voice commenting.

Rationale: Learners have different abilities in speaking and listening skills. It may be well be that those who are shy in speaking (because of natural shyness or lacking confidence in English fluency) may express themselves more confidently. For instance, they may adopt a new online Identity (Voice-Thread feature available for all license types). Besides, students can practise speaking as many times as they like before sharing it with their teachers and groupmates, improving their pronunciation, language use etc., using a Voice-Thread function of making multiple recordings before saving one and an opportunity to work asynchronously at whatever pace and time is convenient for them. Moreover, by listening to each other speaking in English on the topics that are relevant to them, they develop listening comprehension skills and enrich their learning experience from the previous students' and the instructor's guided responses. As far as student engagement is concerned,

due to a highly interactive discussion, learners collaborate more actively, expressing their ideas on the topic and constructing common knowledge of the subject, and thus become more involved in the learning process. Furthermore, getting peer voice feedback as well as teacher's guided questions keeps them motivated and encourage them to continue media-based discussion.

Before class: It is supposed that students already have some experience in working with VoiceThread from an IT university course (studying Web 2.0, VoiceThread included, is a part of the curriculum). Still, it is recommended to provide them with tutorials and handouts, if needed, describing basic options of the cloud application.

Procedure.

1. This is the last task in a series of pre-class activities in Moodle to be completed before a video link with foreign partners. It means that before taking part in VoiceThread discussion students should have studied informative texts on the related subjects, sample questions to be discussed during live communication, viewed topic-based mind maps and done tasks aimed at mastering thematic vocabulary (studying glossary and doing a quiz on matching terms and their definitions) — all of which are Moodle based tasks.

2. Learners study carefully the task explanation in Moodle (VoiceThread Task). VoiceThread tool is integrated in Moodle, so there is no need to open the cloud app in a separate tab, it is enough to be signed into your Voice-Thread account.

VoiceThread Task description (College Life):

"Dear students, please, study the first slide and give an answer to the question "What do you like most about your University Life?

Ybur answer should last for no less than 2 minutes. Please, listen carefully to the answers of your peers, by tapping the play button at the bottom of the screen or Identity images in the conversation channel on the left side of VoiceThread, discuss your ideas, leaving a voice comment to their audio posts. To do it, tap the plus button at the bottom of the first slide, then choose a microphone button and agree to use microphone to record your message. Start speaking, when you see a red signal and a button Stop recording. To stop recording press the button Stop recording. You can Save it if you're satisfied with your answer or Cancel, if you want to try again".

3. The teacher may wish to give feedback on anything she/he noticed in terms of the use of language. The students might receive individualized text or voice feedback about their responses via built-in Messages in Moodle or via a private link to a Vocaroo3 (an online voice recorder) recording made by the teacher.

3 Vocaroo. URL: http://vocaroo.com (accessed: 17.11.2016).

4. The effectiveness of VoiceThread pre-class media-based discussion is measured during live communication with foreign partners by the content& structure of students answers to the discussed questions.

CONCLUSION. All things considered, it should be noted that Voice-Thread contributes to improving students' English speaking and listening skills. Learners purposefully acquire knowledge of relevant semantic fields and plan their speech strategies to fulfill communicative tasks. Moreover they develop listening comprehension skills and enrich their knowledge of the subject with the help of their peers previous experience and teachers' guidance. Besides, students become more actively engaged in the learning process outside the language classroom through an ongoing interactive media-based discussion which keeps them interested and motivated. With this in mind it might be concluded that practical activities via VoiceThread promote the development of language competences, which, coupled with general ones, develop the communicative competence of learners, regarded by Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment4 as the global aim of language education.

References

1. Dugartsyrenova VA. 2013. Organizatsiya interaktivnogo obucheniya in-ostrannym yazykam v epokhu informatizatsii obrazovaniya [The organization of interactive foreign language teaching in the era of informatization of education] Moscow State University Bulletin. Series 19. Linguistics and Intercultural Communication, no. 2, pp. 134—143. (In Russ.)

2. Nazarenko A.L. 2010. K voprosu ob informatizatsii obrazovaniya [On the issue of education informatization] Moscow State University Bulletin. Series 19. Linguistics and Intercultural Communication, no. 1, pp. 114—122. (In Russ.)

3. Nazarenko A.L., Sizykh L.G., Fandei VA. 2011. Teaching through Technologies: Communicative and Information Competences. Global Partnership in education Journal, vol. 1, no 3, pp.8—12. URL: http://www.gpejournal.org/ index.php/GPEJ/article/viewFile/4/1 (accessed 17.11.2016).

4. Pacansky-Brock M. 2010. Voicethread: Enhanced Community, Increased Social Presence and Improved Visual Learning // Online Sloan Consortium. URL: http://olc.onlinelearningconsortium.org/efFective_practices/voicethread-enhanced-community-increased-social-presence-and-improved-visual-lea (accessed 17.11.2016).

5. Sharma P., Barett B. 2007. Blended Learning (Books for Teachers). Macmil-lan ELT.

4 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment // Council of Europe. Cambridge University Press, 2001. URL: http://www.coe. int/t/dg4/linguistic/Source/Framework_EN.pdf (accessed: 17.11.2016).

В.А. Фадеева

ИСПОЛЬЗОВАНИЕ ВЕБ-СЕРВИСА VOICETHREAD ДЛЯ РАЗВИТИЯ УМЕНИЙ АУДИРОВАНИЯ И ГОВОРЕНИЯ В ДИСТАНЦИОННОМ И СМЕШАННОМ ОБУЧЕНИИ ИНОСТРАННОМУ ЯЗЫКУ

Федеральное государственное бюджетное образовательное учреждение

высшего образования «Московский государственный университет имени М.В. Ломоносова» 119991, Москва, Ленинские горы, 1

В статье рассматриваются технические характеристики и дидактические свойства веб—сервиса VoiceThread5, оправдывающие методическую целесообразность его использования в процессе обучения иностранному языку с целью развития умений аудирования и говорения, навыков самостоятельной и групповой работы, а также активного вовлечения студентов в процесс обучения в рамках дистанционного компонента. Функционал онлайн-сервиса VoiceThread позволяет создавать мультимедийный контент, представляющий собой изображение, документ или презентацию, сопровождаемую комментариями в виде аудио-, видеозаписи или печатного текста. Имеется возможность работать как индивидуально, так и в сотрудничестве, организовав, например, групповое комментирование. Впоследствии есть возможность интегрировать созданные работы в другие веб-сервисы и образовательные платформы, получив код для встраивания проекта, или поделиться ими, отправив ссылку на электронную почту. Особое внимание уделяется описанию личного опыта интегрирования веб-сервиса VoiceThread в авторский смешанный курс по иностранному языку «Информационно-коммуникационные технологии в межкультурной коммуникации» ("Information Technologies in Intercultural Communication"), сочетающий очные аудиторные занятия и удаленную работу в системе управления обучением Moodle6. Представлены авторские методические разработки (практические задания) с использованием веб-сервиса VoiceThread, направленные на развитие вышеперечисленных навыков и умений в рамках работы в дистанционной форме. В заключение приводятся выводы об эффективности использования веб-сервиса VoiceThread для оптимизации умений аудирования и говорения, обусловленной возможностью тщательно спланировать процесс речевой коммуникации, выбрав необходимую речевую стратегию и построив лексико-семантические поля для решения коммуникативных задач, опираясь на опыт взаимообучения.

Ключевые слова: дидактические свойства веб-сервиса VoiceThread; смешанное обучение; дистанционное обучение; информационно-коммуникационные технологии; ИКТ в обучении иностранному языку; развитие умений аудирования и говорения.

5 VoiceThread. URL: https://voicethread.com (accessed: 17.11.2016).

6 Moodle. URL: https://moodle.org (accessed: 17.11.2016).

Сведения об авторе: Фадеева Виктория Александровна — кандидат педагогических наук, старший преподаватель кафедры лингвистики и информационных технологий факультета иностранных языков и регионоведения МГУ имени М.В. Ломоносова (e-mail: insatiable_in@mail.ru).

Список литературы

1. Дугарцыренова В.А. Организация интерактивного обучения иностранным языкам в эпоху информатизации образования // Вестн. Моск. ун-та. Сер. 19. Лингвистика и межкультурная коммуникация. 2013. № 2. С. 134-143.

2. Назаренко А.Л. К вопросу об информатизации лингвистического образования // Вестн. Моск. ун-та. Сер. 19. Лингвистика и межкультурная коммуникация. 2010. № 1. С. 114-122.

3. Nazarenko A.L., Sizykh L.G., Fandei V.A. Teaching through Technologies: Communicative and Information Competences. Global Partnership in education Journal, vol. 1, no 3, pp. 8-12. URL: http://www.gpejournal.org/in-dex.php/GPEJ/article/viewFile/4/1 (accessed 17.11.2016).

4. Pacansky-Brock M. Voicethread: Enhanced Community, Increased Social Presence and Improved Visual Learning // Online Sloan Consortium, 2010. URL: http://olc.onlineleamingconsortium.org/effective_practices/voicethread-enhanced-community-increased-social-presence-and-improved-visual-lea (accessed 17.11.2016).

5. Sharma P., Barett B. Blended Learning (Books for Teachers). Macmillan ELT, 2007. 160 p.

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