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Published March 21, 2019 | Languages and Literature

Should We Use Web 2.0 Tools with Lower Level ESL Students?

In this millennial time, it's quite difficult to avoid using ICTs in our ESL classrooms. The question is: for which purposes are you actually using ICTs: administration, facilitating teaching or supporting pedagogical objectives such as deep learning? Many of us are using ICTs without knowing how they specifically affect students’ learning. Going from being a reluctant Moodle user to a pro-active user, I used all sorts of ICTs in the last 12 years of teaching ESL. Students seemed to enjoy activities although they created stress or anxiety for some. Consequently, for my master research project with Performa, I decided to investigate how ICTs, especially Web 2.0 tools, could be a source of motivation for weaker ESL students, such as in 100-level CEGEP courses.

Framework and Tools

My research was based on the Socio-Educational model of R. C. Gardner (1985) and questions from its Attitude Test Battery were adapted to suit my needs and the technological tools being used. I also selected our Web 2.0 tools according to Chhabrah's list of tools used in ESL.

I designed the course using many ICT tools. As an administrative tool, I had to use the school platform Omnivox, but I used Moodle for class management. I mostly used it to organize weekly content: homework, documents, links and resources. I also used the language lab and students could also access the platform via their cell phones.

Furthermore, students had a Google for Education (G-Suite) account because it has a collaborative approach, sharing mode and facilitates producing online content. It is also easy to add extensions and other apps such as Lucidchart. This online anytime anywhere collaborative mode was quite suitable for the class since we didn't always have access to a computer lab. Students could then use their cell phone, tablets or laptop. Students downloaded apps and online dictionaries on their phones.

The last tool used is the free license of the ESL learning website EnglishCentral, mostly used to improve listening, to acquire vocabulary, to practise speaking and pronunciation, and to improve fluency. For instance, students had to watch a video, complete the script as the video would play back, repeat the sentences and would get immediate feedback. This is an aspect that students really appreciated. It improved their self-perception and self-assurance.

Screenshot of a video-based activity on EnglishCentral

Example of a Learning Sequence Rooted in Technology

Here is an example of how Web 2.0 tools can be integrated to practise different skills, while students worked on the theme of marketing and consumption habits.

  • Grammar notions were revised using a flipped teaching approach. Using grammar tutorials on the EnglishCentral website and other online tutorials, students had to take notes on prepared charts. They also had to complete online exercises. In class, grammar notions (homework) were reviewed using Kahoot quizzes. In teams, student had to find the appropriate answers to the questions. Explanations were added according to their answers. This allowed them to realize what part was understood and what wasn't. Further practice was then suggested on top of the speaking activities done in class.

    Example of a Kahoot quiz

  • On EnglishCentral, students had to watch short videos every week. They would practise listening, vocabulary and speaking. They also had to read texts and watched longer videos on the topic. For each of them, they had to create a summary map using LucidChart. The map would then be shared to peers and the teacher for feedback or marking.

    Example of a summary mind map produced with LucidChart

  • As a project, in teams, students had to create a survey using Google Forms on consumption habits. The survey was entirely in English and linked to what had been learned in the texts and videos. The survey was also shared and revised by the teacher and peers before being sent. The survey was sent by email to friends, family members and co-workers.
  • Once the data were in, they, individually, recorded an account of their results on the language lab in Moodle.
  • As a final step, they had to write an article on Google Docs on the topic of marketing. To facilitate their work, the teacher gave them a few choices. Using their summary maps and their survey results, they reused the information to support their writing. Their work was shared with their teacher, received online feedback and they were able to revise it before handing in the final version.

Using that many technological tools may seem quite overwhelming and you may think that it creates confusion in students, but, most students mastered them quickly as they were introduced one at a time. Only a few required more support and help when a new tool was used.

Outcomes and Observations

The question is; in the end, did these tools motivate students in learning English as a second language? The answer is yes, it did, but to what extent? Referring to Gardner's Socio-educational model, I observed that students’ attitudes toward the English language and its community changed:

  • There was an 8% increase in students feeling open to the English community compared to the beginning of the course.
  • They also confirmed the importance of the English language in order to communicate, and they expressed a desire to learn the language and to have anglophone friends.
  • They enjoyed learning English and the Web 2.0 tools made their learning interesting and motivating — an increase of 14%.
  • On top, the use of such tools in the English class gave them more pleasure, an increase of 10%.

Our results also confirmed that although they recognized the importance of the English language in their program and in the workplace, they don't think it's necessary to get a job. Unfortunately, but expected, students postpone their English homework, they don't take the time that it is needed to understand everything, and they don't necessarily value their English class over their other courses.

On a really positive and surprising note:

  • Factors influencing the level of anxiety were decreased by 15%.
  • Students were less shy to ask questions in class in front of others.
  • They were less worried about what others thought of them when they spoke.
  • They were less nervous when they had to speak English.

These results mean that these students were more inclined to take risks in speaking the language, practised more, and therefore, would, more than likely, improve. This research hasn't really changed any of my practices, but it validated the use of Web 2.0 tools to learn English as a second language. Obviously, my research had its limits, but it can confirm to teachers that using Web 2.0 tools has positive effects on ESL students.

What we need to research on now is how each Web 2.0 tool affects students and which tools are the most effective. Furthermore, studies on how Web 2.0 tools could reduce English learning anxiety would be profitable for 100-level students. One thing is sure; we are not done using technologies in our classrooms

About the Author

Lyly Lessard Cumulating nearly 2 decades of college teaching experience in Philosophy and ESL at Cégep de Matane and Cégep de Rimouski, Lyly Lessard has an unquenchable thirst for learning. She holds degrees from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and UQAR and has recently completed a Master of Education in College Teaching with Performa at Université de Sherbrooke. Her main interests lie in active and project-based learning approaches as well as cognitive and socioconstructivist frameworks. Motivating her students and supporting them on their road to success is central in Lyly’s teaching and she always seems to be working on at least one pedagogical project, if not more. Finally, Lyly also acts as department co-coordinator and the English help center “Cool-Aid.”

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    Sara Langevin wrote March 28, 2019 at 11:37 AM

    Very interesting, Lili! Did some students show hesitation in using 2.0 tools?

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    Lyly Lessard wrote March 28, 2019 at 12:25 PM

    Thank you Sara. Indeed, some were very hesitant, especially those who lack self-confidence using and understanding English or have special needs. I was very much available to support them in class, after class time and online. In class, students helped each other a lot. Great collaboration! As the semester went on, students felt more at ease using ITC's and it was easier to introduce new tools.

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    Susan Drolet wrote April 2, 2019 at 1:31 PM

    Hi Lyly. That is really inspiring. I really like your creative suggestions for activities! Susan

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