The expansion of ICT has determined changes in the technology use in every segment of language teaching proving an interconnection with the outside world, and bringing in the classroom the practical uses of language in context according to the worldwide demands, therefore extending the limits of language learning applicability through online tools.
More than that, the intrusion of Internet for teaching purposes generates discussion about Web 2.0 tools (or e-tools) more and more often (Fitzpatrick, 2004; Richardson, 2006; Dudeney and Hockly, 2007) obviously, insisting on the major improvements caused by these sort of technologies that permit language production because “in a sharp contrast with Web 1.0 applications including browsing and searching on the net and reading an operation, Web 2.0 technologies allow users to construct, that is, to write to the web” (Pandey, 2014: 26). This way, Web 2.0 and its developments enable for learners the possibility of communicating with other English speakers around the world more that ever, and enjoying the benefits of collaborative work with teachers and other learners.
The potential of virtual learning platforms of any sort cannot be questioned, thus the use of teaching blogs seems to be quiet popular and useful since “at its most basic, a blog is an online journal that can be used by teachers to publish information about a course, links to resources and other information directed to learners or other teachers” (Stanley, 2013:51-52). Another important evolution in the sphere of Web 2.0 tools is represented by wikis which are characterized by the collaborative work of some individuals on a certain topic, publishing various materials in order to provide a complex approach of the subject, but what makes them more popular is the fact that anyone can create and edit pages without any professional training, whatsoever.
Not as popular as wikis, but still among those that are used, mostly, by teenagers and young adults are the podcasts because of their audio or video content which “are broadcast via the internet and can be downloaded and listened to on a computer or mobile device” (Stanley, 2013: 52). Thus, educators can create and share these multimedia materials related to any language learning matter with their students, and also ask learners to create their own podcasts because these are the main ways of using podcasts (Dudeney and Hockly, 2007) in the English teaching process.
Needless to say that Web 2.0 is not limited only to blogs, wikis, or podcast, because there are plenty of websites designed especially for English language learning, and this is a real fact causing an entire global phenomenon of language learners that get in touch with loads of materials, watching and sharing them with others almost every day. No wonder that for some specialists Web 2.0 “perceives the transition of the World Wide Web from a disparate collection of websites to a fully-fledged computing platform, which delivers services and applications (software programs) to end users, wherever they may be” (Dudeney and Hockly, 2007: 150), this way providing huge amounts of information ready to be accessed anytime of the day.
The development of Web 2.0 tools reaches such a degree nowadays that offers teachers and methodology experts the possibility to enlist different e-tools according to the practice of language skills. As a matter of fact, learners can have in mind the idea that certain materials can help them enhance their proficiency in English on a certain level, use them appropriately, and therefore become self-disciplined while learning to use technology more and more productively. For example, Erben et al. (2009) have a detailed analysis of this topic in their book entitled Teaching English language learners through technology, and consider that reading and writing skills can be improved by using e-tools such as wikis, blogs, and even webquests which in particular help students increase their interest for collaborative interaction through web searching for certain information in order to create an only group work project according to a recommended structure.
As regarding the practice of listening skill, the Web 2.0 tools which are mostly recommended for listening and comprehension activities are those that include various podcasts (vodcasts and audioblogs) or videos shared by different national institutions as libraries on YouTube (Erben et al., 2009: 146). On behalf of the speaking skill, it goes without saying that the major aim of e-tools usage is related to the communicative skill, ideally increasing the opportunities for language production. Thus spoken or written, the production of language output can easily be reached by means of “asynchronous tools such as email, listservs, and discussion boards, as well as synchronous tools such as instant messaging, and Voice over Internet Protocols” (Erben et al., 2009: 119).
In other words, students enjoy the use of these technological tools that facilitate social interaction and have the possibility to communicate with other learners either through written texts as e-mails and short messages on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, or through oral communication permitted by a Voice over Internet Protocol special software like Skype or Yahoo Messenger enabling the possibility and permission “for any computer to call and speak to a user utilizing another computer or landline telephone” (Erben et al., 2009: 127), as a consequence the message is in this case a voice message and not a text as in the previous situation, while the process of communication takes place instantly.
In this way what seems to be familiar and normal to use outside the classroom environment, is being brought there for pedagogical purposes and integrated into learning activities for language practice, and as a result, social networking provides similar instances of authentic communication enhancing the possibilities of authentic language production. Consequently, students take part in engaging interactive activities that allow them to be more confident with less pressure of using a foreign language while sharing ideas with their partners and happily developing communication skills.
For some this may the peak of integrating the technological teaching aids within the educational process but there is little doubt that the development of this type of teaching tools will stop at this point and level since most of their uses provide such great benefits in the field of teaching foreign languages. Surely, their influence is going to expand more and teachers and learners will enjoy their innovative ways of using them, and even look for the presence of technology tools in order to become part of their teaching routine. Eventually, this will probably end in a state of ‘normalisation’ as S. Bax (2003) assumed, accepting technology as a powerful teaching aid of major importance for the contemporary educational system.
Bax, S. (2003). “CALL — past, present and future. “ System, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp. 13-28. Retrieved from doi.org/10.1016/S0346-251X(02)00071-4.
Dudeney, G., & Hockly, N. (2007). How to Teach English with Technology. England: Pearson Education Limited.
Fitzpatrick, A. (Ed.) (2004). An analytical survey on Information and Communications Technologies in the teaching and learning of foreign languages: state of the art, needs and perspectives, UNESCO Report, pp. 53-74. Retrieved from unesdoc.unesco.org/ images/0013/001391/139195eo.pdf.
Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for the classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Retrieved from u.bestbook.us/ download/blogs+wikis+podcasts+and+other+powerful+web+tools+for+classrooms+ will+richardson.
Stanley, G. (2013b). Learning Language with Technology: Ideas for Integrating Technology in the Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from www.abebooks.com/9781107628809/Language-Learning-Technology- Ideas Integrating/.
Erben, T., Ban, R. & Castaņeda, M. (2009). Teaching English language learners through technology. NY: Routledge. Retrieved from perpus.stkipkusumanegara.ac.id/ file_digital/Buku%20Digital%2086.pdf.