Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Breaking News English

What is "Breaking News English" ?

This website supplies loads of news articles which are accompanied by their mp3 files and PDF files as handouts.

Why is this particular tool relevant to language learning? What research underpin the use of this technology?

Updated news could be designed as authentic reading materials for students, at the same time, the accompanied mp3 files might become an ideal practice for listening skills. The well organized PDF handouts greatly free teachers from generating items for class-room based formative assessment. With them, teachers could assess their students in class, and give them instant feedback,which could raise standards of achievement (Black and Garces 1998). Interactive activities could make peer assessment possible.

What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

We could reagard this website as an item bank in class-room based context. Suppose teachers choose to leave these exercises to students as homework, it would be better to give them clear instructions on how and to what extent, some of the exercises could be used. Too much homework or "over-test" could lower their motivation and lead to negative washback.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sing an English Song
Coldplay - Viva La Vida (Live)
Last summer, my niece prepared to study abroad for high school.As an English language teacher,naturally, the responsibility of teaching her some spoken English fell on my shoulders. I taught her like I did with my students, and found it turned out unsatisfactorily.The main reason came from her low motivation for learning. Until one day, I found a method to change this situation: singing an English song!

As a teenager,she was a fan of Justin Bieber,and could sing along with the original vocals without any strain.At that time this method was just limited to her practising by herself.From now and then, she asked me some new words or expressions from the lyrics.

Now,with the help of Lyrics Training , Sing an English Song could be developed into a task for L2 students to learn English.

What is Lyrics Training?

It is an "easy and fun method to learn and improve your foreign languages skills through the music videos and lyrics of your favourite songs".Theoretically, you could learn to sing songs in 7 different languages, i.e.English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and German.The whole process is quite like the item of gap filling  in a language test.You could select different game mode according to degrees of difficulty.This website provides three levels:beginner, intermediate and expert.The more difficult, the more gaps you are supposed to fill.The song will be automatically paused when you fail to fill into the gap.


Firstly, as it has been promoted, it is fun and could motivate L2 learner to learn English by listening a song. "Motivation is listed by Rubin (1975) among the three variables on which good language learning depends" (Ushioda 2008:19).

Secondly,this website could be used to design tasks in practising listening language skills and could enlarge students' vocabulary as well.


First,you cannot refer to a tip when you come across a word you did not remember.You could always open another website to google it; however, it makes the process less convenient. Second,this task will be more practical suppose teachers could integrate it with some other methods, like listening to authentic radio broadcasting, after all, you cannot expect only this method alone to learn real-life English. As you know, lyrics sometimes are more like poems which obviously could not meet sutdents' future academic needs for English.

Brainstorming by Using Wallwisher

What does wallwisher do?

Wallwisher is a web page where users could post their comments, ideas, thoughts and so on.

Why is this particular technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning underpin the use of this technology?

Teachers could set up a wallwisher wall for their class on a specific topic. For example, they could collect their students' feedback or suggestions for next lecture's content. Secondly, students could post their questions on the wall, where other students could brainstorm. It's not only helpful to sudents' linguistic competence, but also good to connect everyone in the class to foster interdependence. Interaction, negotiation, collaboration, etc., are important things in generating learner autonomy (Little 1994:435).

What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

First, there is a word amount limit to each poster(160 words at most).
Second, suppose your class' size is big, the posters sticked on the wall could become clustered quickly. Maybe, it would be better to limit up to two ideas that each students could post most within a ten people group.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Say Goodbye to Mocrosoft Word Feedback Now!

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

What is Jing?

Jing, is a software which could let users capture an image of what they see on their computer screens. It could also record up to 5 minutes of onscreen video.

Why is this particular tool relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning underpin the use of this technology?

With the advent of Jing, teachers could give feedback instantly and vividly to their students. This could greatly foster the learner autonomy. “autonomy is a capacity---for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making, and independent action” (Little 1991:4). Students could improve their language learning result under their teachers' guidance in the video feedback.

How might you use it to foster language learning outside class?

This feedback could be not only helpful to just writing skills, you can always rewind the video to practise your other language skills, for example, listening skill.

What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

Firstly, teachers who give feedback are supposed to be a fluent speaker in target language, if not, the efficiency of this tool could not be reflected.

Second, you might still need to write an email, suppose your students' language are not  so competent to follow what you said in the Jing feedback video.

QuestGarden,where great WebQuests grow

What is a WebQuest?

A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. (Bernie Dodge 1995)

What is QuestGarden?

As its slogan shouts: it is "where great WebQuests grow"!

The following link provided was a group work undertaken by Daphne and me.

 Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning?

In large sized class, implementing learner autonomy by using QuestGarden could greatly motivate every student to participate into a task allocated by teachers.

      The identification and tailoring of activities, tasks, and materials
    toward a student’s preferred learning style in order to promote
self-discovery, self-appropriation, and, thus, satisfaction is
     possible through the adoption of the Learning Style Inventory(Kolb 1999).

At the same time, this website makes the production of a WebQuest more easily and technically practical.


Teachers are supposed to be aware that students are working under the guidance of task requirement. After all, some students could be distracted by the overload information from the Internet.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


What does myBrainshark do?

This tool allows you to upload PowerPoints, documents, videos and pictures. It could even make podcasts for you.The most striking feature of this technology is that users could add their voice recording to the PowerPoints.

Why is this particular tool relevant to language learning? What research to language learning  underpin the use of this technology?

Teachers could not only post their lecture notes' PPTs to their students, but also they could add their voice recording to some specific PPTs which could be problematic to their students. This will be obviously facilitate students to review the lecture content.

Of course, language learners could use this tool to practise their speaking skills. By comparing their previous recording, students could easily know if they have made progress or not. This definitely foster learner autonomy.
“Autonomy is a situation in which the learner is totally responsible for all the decisions concerned with his [or her] learning and the implementation of those decisions” (Dickinson 1987:11).

What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

Even the free version myBrainshark is powerful enough to let people who are not so keen on technology might feel a little bit complicated. Obviously, you cannot say it's limitation anyway. 

The Beauty of Words

Pale Blue Dot

What does wordle do?

Wordle is a tool for producing  “word clouds” from text (articles, sonnets, or even documentary evidence,etc.) that you input. The more frequent the word appears, the larger the font size could be. You could tailor your own word clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color choices at will. 

How might you use it to foster language learning in class?

In class,  it could be used  in two ways.
First, we could teach intensive reading by displaying this wordle image to students. As shown above, which I generated by inputting one of my favourite articles (Pale Blue Dot, written by  Carl Sagan ), key words or to be specific, theme words come out.We could design tasks, for example, let students predict according to a Wordle picture , suppose they were this article's writer and how  they might produce their articles. Obviously, this method could greatly motivate students to understand this article.

On the other hand , we could employ Wordle in anlysing an essay, for instance,a letter, or an academic writing. We could input a model essay in specific genre into Wordle, common words like the, a(an), to,numbers excluded by default, some words and expressions which used frequently in this genre might appear prominently. This way could be more striking and stimulating to your students in teaching them writing an article.

What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

First, suppose you just store it in public gallery like I did, theoretically, everyone who found it can use it.

Second, Wordle does not support to input ideographic fonts, for example, Chinese!