One of goals of many teachers is that their students become autonomous learners. According to Stockwell (2013) there are two kinds of motivations that may shape why language learners engage with a particular technology: (a) an inherent interest in the technology, which then leads to discovering its benefits for language learning and to strengthening language learning motivation; (b) a strong motivation for language learning, prompting interest in a particular technology that can support and enhance this process.
The potential value of technology in language teaching and learning lies in facilitating multiple opportunities for language learners to engage with the language as frequent as possible in a meaningful way. The effectiveness of technology is strongly connected to how technology is perceived and the degree to which students feel comfortable and confident in the use of particular tools. In the mobile space, researchers have agreed that there is a need to provide choice, flexibility and autonomy in how students work with mobile technology. Ushioda, E. (2013). By exploiting these features, teachers and materials designers may well be able to promote internalized motivation for independent learning. Here are some examples of tools which can be used by teachers in class but also by autonomous learners.
Youglish is one of the many useful tools which focuses on both accuracy and fluency. “With more than 100M tracks, YouGlish gives you fast, unbiased answers about how English is spoken by real people and in context.” (youglish.com). Youglish is very easy to use, a word or phrase is typed in the search box and relevant videos taken from the internet are offered as examples. The variety of functions such as: increase or decrease the speed of the video, go back 5 seconds, go to the next video offer the user a personalized experience. Expected outcomes:
– Improves pronunciation
– Develops fluency
– Creates interest in improving accuracy
– Generates curiosity in using a new learning tool
– Develops learners’ autonomy
– Improves communication skills
READABILITY TOOLS – WEBFX READABILITY TEST TOOL, READABILITY ANALYZER
When selecting an authentic text, readability tools help us find out how difficult the text is or if it is appropriate for a certain level. Readability tools such as WebFX Readability Test Tool or Readability Analyzer offer valuable information. Here is an example of the results found: “Your directly input has an average reading ease of about 81.7 of 100. It should be easily understood by 11- to 12-year-olds.” (webfx.com/tools/read-able/check.php)
Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease – score 81,7. “The Flesch Kincaid readability scores are the most widely used measures of readability in the USA. “. “A Flesch score of 60 is taken to be plain English. A score in the range of 60-70 corresponds to 8th/9th grade English level. A score between 50 and 60 corresponds to a 10th/12th grade level. Below 30 is college graduate level. To give you a feel for what the different levels are like, most states require scores from 40 to 50 for insurance documents.” (datayze.com/readability-analyzer)
Complex words: 12
Percent of complex words: 7.23%
Average words per sentence: 13.83
Average syllables per word: 1.31
The readability analyzers are extremely useful for both adapted texts and authentic materials. Teachers can evaluate the texts easily and based on a trustworthy report.
LINGRO- A VOCABULARY TOOL TO USE WHILE READING
When reading online, learners have the possibility to use a dictionary called Lingro. The URL of the text has to be typed in the given box and the text becomes readable with the features provided by the Lingro dictionary. All the words on the page become clickable so that when a new word comes up, the learners can look it up easily. They move the cursor there and click on it and a box with the definition of the word appears attached to it.
VOICE OF AMERICA LEARNING ENGLISH
Voice of America Learning English is a multimedia source of news and information for millions of English learners worldwide. It has got a section called “News Words” specially designed to teach new vocabulary. In this section words taken out of news stories are emphasized and used in short videos/mini lessons.
COCA – CORPUS OF AMERICAN ENGLISH
It is a large collection of American English texts, available online. The corpus contains words of texts from eight genres: spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, academic texts, TV and Movies subtitles, blogs, and other web pages. It is usually used for linguistic research. Teachers and students can look up words to see how they are used in different contexts.
Online Fandoms are “the local and international networks of fans that develop around a particular program, text or other media product and which foster the sharing of responses to the source material, including the production of novel fan-generated content.” Prof. Shannon Sauro, University of Maryland, Baltimore. Within these online fandoms, fans interact a lot in different activities, the best-known being fanfiction. This is defined as “writing that continues, interrupts, reimagines, or just riffs on stories and characters other people have already written about.” Anne Jamison. Fanfiction is one of the practices that engages learners and leads to vocabulary learning.
In conclusion, in spite of the inherent motivating characteristics and affordances of technologies or different applications and online tools for language learning, what matters is the motivation that learners have when using technology and how meaningfully this is facilitated. It is absolutely necessary to attend to and nurture students’ personal motivations and perspectives that remain of paramount importance for all learning environments. Individual motivation is always the engine in the learning process.
Bibliography and further readings
Ushioda, E. (2013). Motivation matters in mobile language learning: A brief commentary. Language Learning & Technology, 17(3), 1-5
Godwin-Jones, R. (2015). The evolving roles of language teachers: Trained coders, local researchers, global citizens. Language Learning & Technology, 19(1), 10-22. Retrieved from llt.msu.edu/issues/february2015/emerging.pdf
Iowa State University, The Online Professional English Network (OPEN) (2020). Using Educational Technology Course
Harmer, J. (2015). The practice of English Language Teaching: Pearson