A number of new techniques for teaching English have been developed during the last decades thanks to the fast development of new technologies and the decrease in price of appliances such as TV sets, video machines, camcorders or computers. Besides, the educational authorities have tried to develop their use, lately the use of computers in particular with programmes such as Aldea Global, Info XXI, Educared, etc.
These machines have not only made our lives easier but have also greatly contributed to the diversification of teaching activities when teaching a foreign language. Consequently, new products have been launched. New video methods, new computer programs, make learning more enjoyable and enable the teacher to widen current classroom teaching techniques. We could say that these audiovisual technologies started to expand in the late 1970s or early 1980s and are becoming more and more widely used.
However there are other techniques based on technological development which are still used in the classroom and which date back a little farther. These techniques are not really “audiovisual”, but we will study them: newspapers, radio, cassette recorder, etc.
When talking about the use of technology in the classroom advantages and disadvantages should be taken into account.
– language is taught in its context
– high motivation
– it provides creative opportunities
– it broadens horizons and extends contacts
– it means a great potential for a wide variety of activities
– it provides flexible responses to learning problems
– difficulty in comprehension (language and structural) because this material is not easily gradable.
USING AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS. Our student belong to the so-called “image and sound generation”. Therefore, the learning process must include visual and audiovisual materials which are so familiar to them. These images will encourage the student to communicate, as they are natural and motivating stimuli for them. They make the language used in the classroom seem more real.
The main functions of image in the English classroom are:
– motivating function: the students become more receptive.
– it brings reality into the classroom.
– it creates situations: the student gets involved with it.
– informative function: it transmits cultural aspects (customs, landscape, art, celebrations… of the country)
– checking function: the image is used for checking the students´ understanding of the verbal message.
– concentration function: it focuses attention on something.
– reinforcing function: the image supports understanding and memorising.
Newspapers contain a very wide variety of text types and an immense range of information. They are therefore a natural source of many of the varieties of written English that become increasingly important as learners progress.
Reading newspapers is a way to transfer skills from the mother tongue to the language learning classroom. Those pupils who normally read newspapers in Spanish will be receptive to the use of English newspapers in the classroom. Reading newspapers we exercise skimming and scanning skills. Newspapers are about the outside world so using them in the classroom is an interesting way to bring the real world into the learning situation. But newspapers are not very useful for us for several reasons. They are too difficult and they fall outside the range of interest of our students, who are children, not adults.
The activities we may use with some third cycle students include:
– writing and replying to small ads
– re-ordering jumbled cartoon strips
– completing cartoon speech bubbles
– predicting horoscopes for class members
All these activities can only be done at a very basic level with our pupils. However, it is important to familiarise them with newspapers.
Other visual materials are photographs, the overhead projector, realia, flashcards or drawings on the blackboard, wall pictures, slides, etc.
Here we can include the radio, the cassette recorder, the laboratory. The radio is not very common in the English class. Though it is a very useful way to develop listening skills, our students do not have the necessary linguistic abilities to cope with radio programmes. The foreign language lab is hardly used now and it can be replaced by a computer lab.
We will speak more about the cassette recorder. Though much can be done by simply speaking while all the children follow what we say, it is clear that the development of listening skills in our classroom situation relies heavily on the universal availability of a cassette of pre-recorded material.
All new Primary English coursebooks have a teacher´s cassette with the corresponding texts and songs. These cassettes provide a good model of spoken English and real language.
We can accustom our pupils to listen to recordings of simple stories or fairy tales with activities to follow if we set up a listening corner in our classroom where we can have two or three cassettes and the activity books. The children will of course need to be trained in how to use a cassette player on their own, but they probably know how to play it already. It is a good reinforcing material for slower students, who can work autonomously.
If we use the cassette player to introduce new language we can always give our pupils the possibility of listening to the recording more than once. Listening materials suitable for our levels are very simple and the range of activities they include are somehow limited. We must try to widen the range of activities including pre-, while- and post- listening activities which will improve the listening skills of our pupils.
Recording devices can also be used to improve our pupils´ oral skills. They can record themselves noticing differences between their own pronunciations and the pronunciations of the cassette. This is also motivating for our pupils. One activity which promotes oral skills and motivates our pupils is recording their own songs in a tape.
2.3. AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS
Audiovisual materials proper (propiamente dichos) include both sound and pictures. We next study how to use the television, the video and the camcorder in the classroom.
In relation to television, we can say that it is inherently a medium that has a great potential for motivating learners. It provides a wide variety of situations, accents, topics and presentation techniques. The real situations provide a context for language exploitation. The language used offers the necessary authenticity. It offers the possibility of exploiting students´ current interests. Television provides a wide range of paralinguistic clues – facial expressions, body movements, etc. – that are very useful for comprehension. Television can introduce the culture of the country – food, clothes, buildings, etc. -. A major advantage is that the same programme can adapted to different levels, depending on the task students are asked to do. The role of the teacher becomes crucial to take the decision as to how to work the programmes.
Children may not understand a real TV programme, but that is not a problem. Watching regularly TV programmes especially made for native children is very beneficial. But we cannot expect children to answer questions or reproduce what they hear, even if they spend hours watching programmes in English. TV programmes, such as cartoons, do not teach the language, but help internalise it. This kind of material must be authentic and interesting.
As an addition to the teacher´s resources, video offers an interesting and motivating aid to learning. It brings the outside world into the classroom, it offers examples of new language and is a stimulus to the classroom communication. The combination of sound and vision is dynamic, immediate, and accessible. This means that communication can be shown in a context; it is what we could call language in action. We find out straight away about the speakers in dialogues since they can be seen and heard. This way, we find out about their ages, their sex, whether they are related or not to each other, the place where the situation is taking place, etc. Watching video, students can judge relationships and feelings from the speaker´s gestures, facial expressions, posture, dress and surroundings, etc. All these factors influence or reflect what people say and how they say it, and only video can show them fully.
Like any feature film (largometraje) or TV programme, a video will use close-ups of people, places and things to emphasise or explain what it is going on. The camera technique helps learners to understand the narrative and the character´s behaviour and motivation.
One more important aspect to think of is that learning a language is not only a matter of structures and words. Cultural factors are a very important part of language learning. Video allows the learner to see the target language at work.
All these aspects make the video material interesting.
We have to make it clear that the video recorder cannot and does not replace the teacher. It changes his or her role so that teachers become more facilitators adapting the materials to the needs of individual classes or pupils.
An adequate approach could consist of three phases:
– in the first phase the video is just being played so that pupils become familiar with the materials they are going to watch
– before the second phase takes place, some vocabulary might be taught but it is not necessary. In this phase the video is paused frequently so that attention can be focused on specific items of vocabulary and the actual teaching and learning activities can be initiated.
– phase three is aimed to reinforce the work that has been done. Depending on how challenging the materials have been, the video can be played through or paused at different stages for pupils to process what is being said.
Some techniques for the use of video are: (elige algunas)
1 Silent viewing: playing the video with the sound turned down for no more than two minutes. The learners watch it and decide what is happening and what the speakers are saying.
2 Freeze frame: pressing the Pause button on the video recorder to freeze the motion of the screen. This allows the learner to look more closely at individual images or utterances within a sequence. It is useful for detailed language study, observation, and description.
3 Roleplay: it is, together with acting, one of the most useful ways of using new language through a video. Acting out involves practising the exact words of a dialogue, while roleplaying means that the learners use their own words and personalities to act out the situation they have seen on the screen.
4 Behaviour study: it concentrates on the non-verbal ways in which people express themselves – facial expressions, gesture, posture, dress, physical contact, etc. The main aim is to sensitise learners to conventions of behaviour in another culture.
5 Prediction: the teacher stops the video and elicits from the class what happens or what is said next. They can predict the topic after looking at the title, predict the end, guess the title, write the dialogue, the synopsis, etc.
6 Thinking and feeling: this technique is designed to focus on the thoughts and emotions of the characters in a sequence, and their relation to what is said. The learners have to say how the speaker is feeling, giving reasons for their choice. The teacher can also as “What are the characters thinking?” or even “How would you feel in a situation like this?”
7 Sound only: the opposite of silent viewing. Instead of not listening, the learner can listen but has to imaging the picture. The technique provides practice in describing things or people, identifying things or people from their description and following an oral description of something.
8 Watchers and listeners: half the class watch the screen and the other half listen. Then the watchers explain to the listeners what they have seen. This provides practice in speaking, observation and accurate reporting.
The video camera. At a certain stage (after rehearsal, but at any level) students can be invited to produce their own material and record it in video. It is a high motivating task, but it requires time and technical mastery.
If the teacher can operate the video camera and equipment competently, a wide variety of stimulating projects can be undertaken. Speaking abilities are developed, but also self-confidence, work in groups, organisation and order, care for the class materials, etc.
Four steps can be suggested to make use of the camcorder:
– a talking head: one person talks to the camera
– dialogues: two or three people are filmed talking together
– group discussion: a larger group of people are filmed in discussion
– project work: a freer use of the video facilities
The exploitation of the video camera can be very stimulating for students, the little ones as well as the older ones.
COMPUTERS AS AN AUXILIARY RESOURCE FOR LEARNING AND IMPROVING FOREIGN LANGUAGES
Although they have been used for teaching since the 1960s, computers only became practical and affordable for language learning in the early 1980s, when relatively inexpensive personal computers first became available. The first Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) programs were mainly used for manipulating words and sentences, playing games with students, testing them, and giving them feedback on their performance.
As computers became more powerful, and multimedia software became practical, the early 1990s saw the emergence of CD-ROMs, storing complete encyclopaedias or language courses with text, graphics, and audio or video. Commercial products of this sort, which are professionally produced, reliable, and straightforward to use, have a place in many classrooms.
Of course, the teacher must know how to work the computer and the program. The students have the mastery already. Every school has now its computer room and each learner can sit down and work.
The number of interactive programs on the market has increased a lot, but not all of them are useful for the class. Many are for adults and are still focused on the language, not on the content, as the machine cannot grasp meaning. They work on pronunciation, repetition, grammar and vocabulary exercises. The communication is still something that has to do with human beings.
Programs that children can use are made especially for them, some are for the learning of English but do not focus on grammar, but on concentration games, memory games, tales, numbers and letters, paintings, etc. Others are not specially sold for learning English, but have the option of using it in this language. They are very motivating for our students and they learn the language unconsciously and in a playful way.
In many ways, however, the challenges presented to both students and teachers by the Internet can provide a more interesting, rewarding experience. The Net is a huge, rich resource. Its main distinguishing feature is that it is a medium of exploration, which releases creativity and imagination.
The Internet is beginning to transform language learning:
– first of all by making available to teachers and students an enormous range of information and resources
– as a means of communication
– not only in writing, but it is beginning to allow audio and video communication
– it leads to more cross-curricular work
– for their potential to motivate.
Materials from the Internet can be used with a variety of levels by allowing students themselves to choose the kind of material they work with, and by varying the kind of task they are asked to perform. For example, if students have to visit newspaper sites in order to produce their own newspaper, they can be given a choice of Websites, of the kind of news they select, and of the task they are to carry out with the news they find.
There are also steps to work with computers:
1.Pre-computer work: in some cases, before beginning an activity on the computer, it will be necessary to pre-teach vocabulary, or a specific function or structure. In every case, however, you will need to ensure that the students know exactly what they have to do when they begin work on the computers.
- Computer work: If the activity has been well prepared, and the students suitably trained, the teacher should intervene only if s/he is asked for help. Instead, the teacher will monitor what the students are saying and doing.
- Post-computer work: it is important that anything done in the computer room should be transferable to the normal classroom, and any Internet activity should be planned from the outset with some kind of follow-up activity in mind. Wherever possible, students should have something physical that they can take away with them from the computer room, so that they have a record of what they have done for follow-up work or for end-of-course- revision.
One drawback of the Internet is that it is a huge, rich resource, much of it yet unplanned. The variety of resources is so great that deciding how to exploit resources once you find them can be a challenge in itself. You have to plan the lessons very well in order to ensure your students´ Internet time is productive in terms of language learning.