Posted in EFL

Refining aims and objectives

giphy.gifLooking for aims and objectives in course books

The courses in my school do not have a course outline, the teachers structure the course around the course book and adapt and supplement it to the needs and interests of the students. Is this the same for anyone else? Anyway, in most of the exam based books I failed to find anything but a list of items to be learnt. I wonder why this is, could it be because the objectives are set by the CEFR? I did manage to find some aims in the teacher’s book for an FCE book, but no aims for the learners in the student’s book. On the other hand, in Messages, a pre-intermediate book aimed at younger learners, there were aims and objectives in the student’s book but not in the teacher’s. The aims and objectives were labelled You study (aims) and So that you can do (objectives).

Where I looked for help

Some thoughts from Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT



Objectives are not included 

I found this page that helped me identify the aims and objectives in the Messages book.

Then I started to question the difference between objectives and outcomes and found this

But still a bit unsure on this. I think I found the answer I like in Moon, J. (2002) as explained below.

Original aims and objectives from learning event (lesson)

Messages: Pre-intermediate A2.2

As written in student’s book

You study: names of everyday routines and link words. (aims)

So that you can: talk about everyday routines and write about your average day. (objective)

These aims and objectives have obviously been simplified so that the learners can understand them. I will therefore reword them slightly from a teacher’s perspective without changing the meaning.


The learners will study the names of everyday routines and linking words.


By the end of the lesson the learners will be able to talk about everyday routines and write about their average day.

Revision thinking


The learners will study the names of everyday routines and linking words.

Moon, J. (2002, p.62) Aims are related to teaching intention, outcomes related to learning and objectives are often written in the terms of both and are therefore confusing.

If aims are an intention, then we need to change ‘will study’ to perhaps ‘will be introduced to’.


By the end of the lesson the learners will be able to talk about everyday routines and write about their average day.

Moon, J. (2002, p.64) outlines three elements for writing outcomes; A verb (‘what the learner will be able to do), A word (that indicates on what and with what the learner is acting’) and a word (indicating the nature in context and standard).

  • So in the example: the verbs .. and write… about routines/average day are in place.
  • The ‘on what and with what’ could be routines and their average day.
  • However, it would also appear that the nature in terms of standard is missing. Therefore ‘will be able’ could be replaced by ‘will be better able’.

Final revised aims and objectives/outcomes


The learners will be introduced to the names of everyday routines and linking words.

Or… To raise awareness of lexis related to everyday routines and linking devices.


By the end of the lesson the learners will be better able to talk about everyday routines and write about their average day.

In reference to SOLO levels

The outcomes of this learning event seem to be limited to quantitative: pre-structural/uni-structural and multi-structural demonstrations of learning. Perhaps the writing section could be considered relational as they put everything together. However, opportunities for extended abstract are absent, unless you consider students applying the lexis to their own lives.


Image source:

In reference to constructive alignment

If later assessment of this lexis takes the form of a gap fill or multiple choice exercise students might try to memorise the items rather than truly understand their use and context. Biggs, J. (2003 p.1). However, in this lesson the outcomes are a piece of writing (perhaps it should be an email or something to give it context) which could lead to more individualised ‘constructed’ examples of understanding. (p.2).

Constructive alignment seems to dovetail into backward design (p.2) (correct me if I’m wrong).

What is a more desirable outcome? Being able to complete a multiple choice test or  having a personal understanding of how they can use the language for real-life tasks? If I want the second one this is going to completely change the aims statement above.


Image source:

In reference to Bloom’s taxonomy

To be honest I have a limited understanding of Bloom’s taxonomy. the only thing I am familiar with is this pyramid. My understanding of this image is that there is often little opportunity to engage in the top three categories. In other words, our systems of education tend to focus on the bottom three most of the time. This could possibly be because of misguided outcomes or assessment procedures. As our society and workplace becomes ever more participatory, it would seem that this imbalance needs to be addressed.


image source:


Posted in EFL

Approaches to Course Design


I am back! After deciding to move over to blogger for my creative writing module, I’ve decided that I miss my WordPress blog 😦 So, I’m going to continue but this time I will be focussing on digital technologies for course design.

The first 3 weeks have been quite intense as we’ve looked at a wide range of approaches. Here were my initial reflections on my context and my impressions/understanding of the approaches we were about to focus on.

My current context

Most of my courses are aimed at Cambridge exams. KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE. Ielts is also becoming popular for EFL learners. The syllabus is usually dictated by the course book. However recently I have just found out that all non-exam adult classes in my school will be using MyClass, which appears to involve the use of prescribed lesson plans and materials for modular-type drop-in language courses. These will inevitably come with some form of pedagogy built into them and restrict the teacher’s freedom to adapt his/her approach to their context. more on this when I get more information. 

Traditional or discipline-based approach

Most course book syllabi also divide courses into topics based around important concepts, usually grammar points of increasing complexity. Also, topics are pre-selected and not necessarily related to students’ interests. However, unlike this approach, in EFL practical skills are considered important and are practised during a course.

Performance or systems-based approach

The communicative approach (karina’s slideshare), an approach on which most course books claim to adhere to, also stresses the importance of purposeful or meaningful activities. At the same time, some course books could be seen as being teacher-proof and providing a type of quality control, i.e. English File, like a systems-based approach. Adding to this, EFL courses also involve a process of practice and feedback with recommended remedial action. It would seem that this approach is very similar to my context if I have understood it properly.

The cognitive approach

Like the cognitive approach learners in EFL are often encouraged to work things out for themselves. This is achieved by using an inductive approach to grammar rules or guided discovery and opportunities to deduce meaning of lexis from context rather than explicit instruction. Also, learning strategies or study skills are often included alongside unit content. However, there is little emphasis on critical thinking and becoming lifelong learners in EFL course books.

Experiential or personal relevance approach

This is my favourite so far 🙂 And it is how I would like my classes to be. In reality, I have to make a compromise between prescribed course book content and personalisation. I have recently introduced PbWorks to my adult classes to give more power to the students. I often ask the students to delve deeper into topics from the course book. That said, participation has been low so far, I need to look into why this is.

The socially critical approach

I must say that most of my students come from fairly affluent families and I have felt the need to engage in activities and debates that might help raise feelings of empathy in my learners. I feel that I have a sense of responsibility to encourage discussion and reflection on social issues but at the same time I avoid explicitly expressing my opinion. Like the socially critical view of knowledge (p64), there is no doubt to my mind that EFL course books that we use are also historically, socially, economically and politically conditioned.

Posted in EFL

Moving over to Blogger


End of Module one

So, I’ve come to the end of module one! There were two parts to the module; one was this blog and the second was a piece of academic literature of our choosing. I chose to look into opportunities for learner agency in blended learning contexts with wikis. I presented my ‘essay’ as a pbWorks site, see the link below. I am still waiting for the results so fingers crossed!

Learner agency

Module two

The next module is in fact two modules, one on course design and the other on creative writing. For the creative writing part I will need to set up a new blog, so I thought I might as well try blogger. Here’s the link.

Creative Writing

You never know, I might be back here if I don’t get on with Blogger!


Posted in EFL

Identity and Virtual Worlds Week 11.1

The Self Illusion

In the self Illusion by Bruce Hood the author argues that ‘there is no you inside your head’ and that our sense of self depends on our bodies, environment and others around us (2012, p3). Despite this he stresses the importance of maintaining this illusion of self to feel in control of our lives, remain motivated and function in general (2012, p.218). Dörnyei. Z, sees the motivation to bridge the gap between our current self perception and our ‘ideal’ self as fundamental to language learning (2009, p.4) However, this transition from L1  identity to L2  cannot be seen as a journey with one destination if we consider our identity to be multifaceted, context dependent and in constant flux.

For a deeper understanding of the self illusion and the relationship between language learning and identity please see the video below:

The Third Place

Language is inextricably linked to culture and identity and when an individual acquires more than one language they may shift between identities or roles to suit different cultural or interactional contexts (Kramsch. C, 1998, p.82). Therefore, instead of a division between target and local culture, Kramsch suggests that learners create a ‘third place’ between cultures (Kramsch, C 1993, p.9). Creating an entirely new L2 identity is more difficult for adult learners though, as they have already established a strong culturally embedded L1 identity(Wehner, 2011 p.281). We should therefore encourage learners to find a third place, combining and consolidating parts of their cultural identity with the target culture.


Role play

Lemke claims that in order to communicate effectively in a language, we need to play an appropriate role or take on a specific social identity. He also expresses concerns over the ability of limited classroom instruction and context to provide learners with sufficient time and space to develop these identities. (2002, p.68) At the same time, Taylor claims that the medium in which we ‘exist’ and the experiences we have online and in virtual worlds can also reshape our ideas of self image and identity (Taylor, 2002 p.57). If this is true, virtual environments, such as Second Life, could provide an immersive third space without time restrictions that is removed from a learner’s L1 social context. This would allow learners to develop strong L2 identities, increase motivation and consequently aid language acquisition.


A closer look at virtual worlds

Second life

Apart from the benefits of identity recreation with avatars and role play, there are many more affordances of virtual worlds like SL for language learning, as outlined by Warburton below (2009, p.421).

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 15.37.04.png

Despite this, I have rarely seen second life or any other virtual worlds actively employed in language teaching. So why is this?


For me, Second life’s biggest problem is its complicated user-unfriendly interface which seems to require a laptop or desktop with keyboard to navigate. I also get the impression that people are moving away from these devices to tablets and mobiles, especially younger generations. The portability of mobiles and tablets make it easier to dip into a virtual world at any time and maintain an online presence. Adding to this are the rather dated graphics and jerky physics of the game which make it unappetising to the eye. With the wealth of graphically rich online console and tablet games, why would anyone bother with SL. Also,  As Milton mentions (2013, p.7), from an institutional perspective it would seem that the cost of computers powerful enough to run the software and the maintenance needed to keep it up to date is enough to stop SL before it even gets off the starting line in most schools.


An alternative to SL could be SmallWorlds which seems to facilitate shorter session times to complete simple tasks. In fact, the main attraction of this virtual world for me as a language teacher is the ease of use. It took me only ten minutes to choose a hair cut, a pair of trousers, order a cocktail, decorate my house, take a picture, share it, find the DTLT Garden and make a couple of friend requests. It also has a point and click interface making it potentially compatible with tablets and phones. Although this is currently not the case. Another feature I noticed is the ability to add it on to the social network Facebook, which makes it easier to integrate it into a PLE. The graphics might not be as sophisticated as SL but they are colourful and pleasing to the eye, you just have to accept that it is not trying to look realistic.

Here I am in the town centre on SmallWorld


My experience as a learner in SmallWorlds

When I teleported to the town centre in SmallWorlds I was surrounded by avatars, avatars with real human beings behind them. I suddenly started to behave as if I was actually there, by this I mean that I was aware of my body language and personal space. I avoided lurking around people without saying hello or staring at anyone for too long. I eventually moved away from the crowd and found a safe little corner of my own. I think I had experienced bodily presence in a virtual world. Taylor also found that avatar position in The Dreamscape could transmit feelings of anger, friendship or even love.(2002, p.43)

Language learner anxiety

Looking back at week 9 of the course, I find I disagree with Roed when he states that interactions online are less anxiety inducing (Roed, 2003, p.155). I also feel that Drayfus’s need for embodiment to connect with our ‘messy emotions’ is nullified by my recent experience (Drayfus, 2001, p37). I therefore agree with Blake when he criticises Drayfus’s emphasis on physical embodiment for effective language learning. I also agree with Blake’s focus on the role of imagination in creating feelings of commitment and risk online (Blake 2002, p385). This means that we might need to reconsider issues related to the affective filter and language learner anxiety in the context of virtual worlds.


At the same time, there seems to be a strong sense of anonymity in most virtual worlds. On the one hand this might be good for language learning anxiety but on the other it could encourage anti-social behaviour without fear of retribution. Despite this, I think it is great for meeting up with people you already know or have met online in other contexts.

During our tutorial we came across a few random people with animal heads and butterfly wings. Luckily, they were not anti-social.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 22.04.06.png

So, what next?

The most exciting realisation from wandering around SmallWorlds was how easy it would be to set up text-based pair and group work, mingles, surveys or even a find someone who. In fact, I can see classroom activities translating quite well into these environments but what is more interesting is how learning can be enhanced by virtual worlds. I have briefly introduced SmallWorlds to a pre-int class and an advanced class, and I intend to host a christmas party in the DTLT space which would otherwise be impossible to organise. Adding to this, virtual worlds  allow us to link up learners from different geographic locations to take part in the same ‘classroom’ activity. For example, each class could prepare questions for the other about life in their part of the world. Due to this global reach, these kinds of activities can also be used to facilitate immersive interaction with native speakers of the target language no matter where you are. Although using virtual worlds for language learning is not with out its difficulties, I think it is clear that there is great potential in them for language learning. Also with technologies like oculus rift and google glass on the horizon I believe that virtual worlds will play an ever more important role in education in general.

Here Michael Bodekaer looks at the future of science education, but it is easy to imagine the same concept applied to language learning.


Blake, N. (2002) Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational embodiment. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 34, 4, pp. 379-385

Dörnyei, Z. and Ushioda, E. (2009) Chapter 1, Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self: A theoretical Overview. Multilingual Matters.

Dreyfus, H. (2001) On the Internet (ch 2). Routledge: London

Hood, B. (2002) The Self Illusion UK: Constable

Kramsch, C. (1993) Context and Culture in Language teaching. Oxford University Press.

Kramsch, C. (1998) Language and Culture. Oxford University Press.

Lemke, J.L. (2002) Language development and identity: multiple timescales in the social ecology of learning. In  Kramsch C.J. (ed.)Language acquisition and language socialization: ecological perspective. London; New York: Continuum. pp.85-95.

Milton, J. (2013) Second Language Acquisition via Second Life. In Chapelle C.A. (Ed) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Roed, J. (2003) Language Learner Behaviour in a Virtual Environment. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 16, 2-3, pp. 155-172.

Taylor, T. (2002)Chapter 3, Living Digitally: Embodiment in Virtual Worlds
T.L. From R. Schroeder (Ed.) The Social Life of Avatars: Presence and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments. London: Springer-Verlag.

Warburton, S.(2003) Second Life in higher education: Assessing the potential for and the barriers to deploying virtual worlds in learning and teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40, 3, 414-426.

Wehner, A, K. Gump, A, W. Downey, S. (2011) The effects of Second Life on the motivation of undergraduate students learning a foreign language. (Computer Assisted Language Learning, 24, 3, 277-289.)


Matrix image (viewed on 8/12/15).

Second Life image shot taken by John chalk 8/12/15)

SmallWorld image 1 (Screen shot taken by John Chalk 8/12/15)

SmallWorld image 2 (viewed on 8/12/15)

Third place image (viewed on 8/12/15).


Bodekaer, M. (2015) Reimagining education TEDxCern. (Viewed on 8/12/15)

Hood, B. (2012) the Self Illusion: How Your Brian Creates You – TAM 2012 (Veiwed on 8/12/15)

Posted in EFL

Social Media Week 10.1

What is social media?

This week we were asked to critically analyse a piece of research on social media use in language classrooms. As I have been using Edmodo I was looking for something similar to compare with my experience of social media. But what exactly is social media?

This question is much harder to answer than it might first seem, the word social media is a huge umbrella term encompassing a wide range of web 2.0 tools. Under the term social media, we find subcategories, such as blogging, microblogging, podcasting and social book-marking. Each of these application types has a range of features that help distinguish them. For example, most social networks allow users to set up a personal profile, publish or share content on message boards and communicate though chat or instant messaging features.  Despite these seemingly distinct categories and affordances, there is a lot of cross-over between these constantly evolving Web 2.0 tools.  For an exhaustive list of social media tools follow the link below to an interactive PDF from

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 17.03.01.png


The research journal I found focused on the use of Facebook in language learning and students’ reactions to its use.  For further information, please see the the link to the research and my slideshow below.

Facebook-ing and the Social Generation: A New Era of Language Learning

My Critical Analysis on SlideShare

The journal starts out by outlining how the development of Web 2.0 tools and the social web have changed the way individuals interact with the world and the impact this is having on education (G. Blattner, L. Lomicka, 2012, p.2).  Many experts align themselves with this view claiming the widespread use of Web 2.0 tools require a departure from industrial mass-market approaches to education (K. Robinson, 2015, p.xv), (C. Mcoughlin, M. Lee, 2008 p1) (G. Dudeney, N. Hocky, M. Pegrum, 2013. p.5). C. Mcoughlin and M. Lee even go on to coin the term ‘Pedagogy 2.0’ to respond to these changes (2008, p.1).

‘Pedagogy 2.0 integrates Web 2.0 tools that support knowledge sharing, peer-to-peer networking, and access to a global audience with socioconstructivist learning approaches to facilitate greater learner autonomy, agency, and personalization.’

Notwithstanding the affordances of Web 2.0 tools, there are still many hurdles to cross before we can confidently dive into ‘pedagogy 2.0’. Although there may be many issues to consider, I would like to focus on the issue of privacy which came up in the research journal on Facebook mentioned above.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 22.08.41.png

Social Networks and Privacy

There is a general trend towards openness and sharing on the internet, marked by the multitude of blogs, YouTube videos and Facebook profiles (M. Weller, 2011 p23). However, not everyone is happy to share their personal information with the rest of the world or even their peers on a language course. In fact, in the study on Facebook one of the students did express concerns over the sharing of personal information (G. Blattner, L. Lomicka, 2012, p.11). Many teachers I know, including myself, refrain from using Facebook with students for the very same concerns. That said, G. Dudeney et al. argue that it is our responsibility as teachers to develop students’ ‘digital literacies’ for our networked digital age (2013, p.2). One solution suggested by Matt Britland from the Guardian is to use Facebook groups as they can be set up without participants needing to be ‘friends’(2012). Click here to read the article.

Education focussed alternatives

Tools like Edmodo can act as a more neutral space, where you can share as much or as little as you like with relative ease compared to Facebook. I have been using Edmodo for the last 2 months and it seems to be going well. It doesn’t have all the features and integration of Facebook but it’s good for sharing links, files, audio recordings, flipcharts and giving out assignments. Another use I recently discovered was using Edmodo to keep a running commentary of the lesson for absent students.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 22.11.48.png

Instant messaging

The instant messaging application WhatsApp has some similarities to Facebook, in the way that it crosses personal boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts some of my classes create L2 only WhatsApp groups to keep track of homework and share pictures of the board. There is a lot of pressure though from the class for students to divulge their numbers for the group and resistance to do so can create tension in some groups. On our MA we have started using Kakao as an alternative to WhatsApp to avoid these issues. I personally have never felt like joining WhatsApp groups with my students, but this does leave me out of the loop and makes it difficult to monitor students’ contributions.


Perhaps the issue of privacy hides a deeper unconscious resistance from teachers and institutions to engage in social media, that of losing control. According to Stefana Broadbent, cognitive scientist and tech anthropologist, this fear of losing control due to technology can be seen across all areas of society.

‘what is going on is that these institutions are trying to decide who, in fact, has a right to self determine their attention, to decide, whether they should, or not, be isolated.’


Are you ready for pedagogy 2.0?

Where does all this organic communication and collaboration between individuals fit in with our current content delivery models of education? If we decide to embrace social media in education, how can we effectively monitor and assess our learners’ progress in these environments? I fear that our current approaches to SLA do not address these questions adequately. I therefore agree with the need for a ‘pedagogy 2.0’ (C. Mcoughlin, M. Lee, 2008). And with Ravenscroft when he states that we need to ‘reconfigure and reformulate learning and pegagogy’ to take advantage of the social web(2009).


Blattner, L. Lomicka (2012) Facebook-ing and the Social Generation: A new era of Language Learning. Alsic, Vol. 15, n1.

Britland, M. (2012) Social media for schools: a guide to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The Guardian, Viewed 29/11/15) URL:

Dudeney, N. Hocky, N. Pegrum, M. (2013) Digital Literacies. Pearson.

Mcoughlin, C. Lee, M. (2008) Future Learning landscapes: Transforming pedagogy through Social Software (Innovate Journal of Online Education, Vol 4, Issue 5, p.1987-1989)

Ravenscroft, A. (2009) Social software, Web 2.0 and learning: Status and implications of an evolving paradigm. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Vol 25, Issue 1, p.1-5

Robinson, K.(2015) Creative Schools. Allen Lane.

Weller, M.(2015) The Digital Scholar, Bloomsbury publishing.


Social media image (viewed on 29/11/15)

Facebook privacy on 29/11/15)

Edmodo (viewed 29/11/15)

Featured image

Facebook control (viewed on 29/11/15)


Stefana Broadbent How the internet enables intimacy (viewed on 29/11/15)




Posted in EFL

Foreign Language Anxiety Online Week 9.1

Foreign Language Anxiety

It has long been accepted that anxiety can have a negative effect on SLA and there are various communicative approaches and methods that claim to reduce the affective filter, such as the Natural Approach (Krashen, S. and Terrell, T. 1983, p.59), Total Physical Response (Asher 1977), Community language Learning (Curran 1976) and Suggestopedia (Lazonov, G. 1960s). All of these approaches have foundations in face-to-face learning in classrooms, but could the classroom context itself be fostering foreign language anxiety?

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 17.18.00

Stress-free environment

Jannie Roed claims that students exhibit less language learning anxiety in online contexts using text-based SCMC due to a reduced sense of ‘social self awareness’ (2010, p.155). Roed’s findings suggest that this reduction in social anxiety encourages production of the target language in students that would be unlikely to contribute in face-to-face learning environments. (Roed, 2010, p.171). The assumption here is that learners feel more comfortable expressing themselves through synchronous written interaction than they would when speaking in a foreign language class. Results from the foreign language classroom anxiety scale (FLACS) are also indicative of the fact that anxious students refrain from speaking in L2 in classroom environments. (Horwitz, K. 1986, p.129).


At first it may seem that increased written communication would have little effect on spoken fluency but SCMC or online ‘chat’ with apps like WhatsApp blur the line between these two productive skills. Also, online written communication could provide the scaffolding insecure learners need to become more confident in face-to-face interactions. (Roed, J. 2010, p.170).


Pedagogy and Anxiety

However, Roed’s conclusion that the reduced anxiety in online text-based SCMC can aid SLA seems to underestimate the importance of pedagogical choices. According to Wörde’s research, it’s the teacher’s approach in the classroom that is vital to creating a stress free environment. (Wörde, R. 2003, p.7). Wörde gives examples of teachers needing to make the class enjoyable, not putting shy students ‘on the spot’, attitudes to error correction, using games and providing material that is relevant to the students’ lives. (2003, p7,8).

Digital Technology and anxiety

Adding to this, claims that online text-based SCMC reduce language learner anxiety fail to take into consideration a whole host issues related to distance education in general. These include, amongst others, feelings of isolation from your peers and the teacher, absence of immediate feedback and inability to gauge your progress against other students’ work (Hurd, S. 2007, p.495). We also need to consider the anxiety some learners may experience due to negative associations with technology or unfamiliarity.

A time and place for text-based SCMC

Despite these issues, Text-based SCMC does have some other advantages over spoken communication apart from the reduction of social awareness in reducing foreign language anxiety. These include less anxiety over accuracy due to spelling and grammar checkers, and less time pressure to type and reflect. (Yamanda, 2009, p.830). These affordances could even be used in blended learning contexts to encourage shyer learners to express themselves in classroom environments. So, perhaps we need to consider the fact that Text-based SCMC can have considerable advantages for less confident students and not rush straight to the latest video and audio features of digital technologies for the sake of it.

For a more in-depth look at foreign language anxiety please see the video below:


SCMC, synchronous computer mediated communication

SLA, second language acquisition


Horwitz, K. et al (1986) Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety: The Modern Language Journal, 70, 2 pp. 125-132).

Hurd, S.(2007) Anxiety and non-anxiety in a distance language learning environment: The distance factor as a modifying influence. System, 35, 487-508.

Krashen, S. and Terrell, T. (1983) The Natural Approach, Language acquisition in the classroom, Alemany Press.

Renée von Wörde, (2003) Students’ Perspectives on Foreign Language Anxiety: Virginia Community College System 2003, Inquiry, Volume 8, Number 1.

Yamada.(2009) The role of social presence in learner-centered communicative language learning using synchronous computer-mediated communication: Experimental study. Computers and Education, 52, 820-833.


Second language anxiety film Sarah Ferguson (viewed on 23/11/15)


WhatsApp image (viewed on 23/11/15)

Harry Potter image (viewed 23/11/15)

Featured Scream image (viewed on 25/11/15)

Posted in EFL

Emotion, Presence and Learning online Week 8.1

Bodily Presence and emotion in online learning

Garrison, Aderson and Archer (2000, p.87) outline three crucial elements of an educational experience in their community of inquiry template; cognitive, social and teaching presence. See image below.


(Garrison et al. 2000, p.88)

One sub category of ‘social presence’ is ‘emotional expression’ and is seen as being essential for achieving learning outcomes. (Garrison et al. 2000, p.95). Dreyfus also argues that learning may not surpass the stage of ‘competence’ without students being emotionally involved, and goes further to state that emotional involvement requires embodiment (2001, ch 2, p.39).  He also claims that students are more emotionally involved, and care more about their learning when an ‘intimidating’, physically present teacher is there in the flesh.


James Dwight supports Drayfus by bundling together emotion and embodiment but hints at the fact that technologies are, in a way, part of our bodily presence (2001, p.146). He also reflects on our symbiotic relationship with digital technology and our ‘posthuman’ state, combining biological, social and digital presence (2001, p.149). This is very much in line with Cousin’s view of digital technologies as an extension of the nervous system (Cousin. G, 2005, p.119). Seen in this light, your online presence could be considered part of your bodily presence and therefore not so easily separated from your emotions.

Imagination and emotional engagement

Adding fuel to the argument against the claim that online learning is devoid of emotional involvement, Blake (2002, p.384) gives examples of his experience with ‘flaming’ to demonstrate how online interactions can have significant emotional impact. He also highlights the role imagination plays in emotional engagement in both online and face-to-face interactions. From this he concludes that it is our imagination and psychological connections that make interactions emotionally engaging, not just our physical presence (Blake 2002, p385). In fact, our imagination can give us the illusion of presence or of ‘non-mediation’ where the technology seems ‘invisible’ as described by Lombard M. and Ditton T. (1997, p.8). Here is a popplet me and my peers created with their concept of presence laid out: Presence. It is easy to see how recent developments, such as the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens will help aid this illusion of presence and thus increase emotional engagement.

My Experience as an online learner

I agree with Drayfus (2001, ch2, p.39) that emotional involvement is fundamental to learning but, as a student on this course, I do not find online learning to be less emotionally engaging. On the contrary, my emotional engagement seems higher due to the exposure of my thoughts to a potentially wider public audience. Apart from taking part in discussion forums, I find writing this blog to be an enormously risky and emotionally charged experience. Rarely do you share your writing with other students and possibly the public in ‘traditional’ face-to-face learning environments.

My experience of online teacher presence

Garrison et al. suggest that teaching presence can also come from anyone within a community of inquiry and not just the teacher, i.e. your peers (2000, p.90). Despite this, the main responsibility for the design and facilitation of a course often lies with the teacher (Garrison et al. 2000, p.90). I must say that the level of support and teacher presence on my current course in Digital Technologies for language Teaching has been excellent so far, if not better than my experience in face-to-face learning environments. I am acutely aware that there are human beings at the other end of the line and I can feel their presence through our online interactions. That said, I come to this course as an adult, have clear objectives and clear expectations of what an MA entails. Higher education obviously requires a high level of learner autonomy, and my expectations of teacher presence were therefore relatively low. I am also a teacher who believes in the importance of peer evaluation and collaboration in learning. This means that I am happy to take more control of my learning and accept the teacher as a guide or facilitator. Other, less experienced or less autonomous learners may find online education more difficult due to their specific expectations, level of study, subject of study and context. That said, the level of support or teacher presence does not necessarily increase just because your course is face-to-face.


Blake N. (2002), Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational embodiment. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 34, 4, pp. 379-385

Cousin. G, (2005) Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. (London, Routledge Falmer. pp. 117-129.

Dreyfus H.(2001) On the Internet London, Routledge, ch 2.

Dwight J.  (2004) Review Essay. On the Internet. E-Learning, 1, 1,  pp.146-152.

Garrison et al. (2000) Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. Elsevier Science Inc; The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), pp. 87-105
Lombard, M. and Ditton, T. (1997) At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 3: 0. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.1997.tb00072.x


Community of inquiry image

Garrison et al. (2000) Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. Elsevier Science Inc;  The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), pp. 87-105

Featured image (viewed on 22/11/15)


Microsoft HoloLens (viewed on 22/11/15)

Posted in EFL

A break from Digital Technologies for Language Teaching Week 7

We are now, more or less, halfway through the first module of the MA, which is basically a week off. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to put a post together with links to all the posts so far. This is to organise my thoughts and for anyone who wants to to dip in and out of areas that interest them.

Preparing for the course

Before we started the course I read a couple of introductory books on the subject of digital technologies in education. Here is my initial introduction on why I am writing this blog and the first book I read about the roles computers can take.

Introduction and Language, Learners and Computers by John Higgins 

The second book was about M-Learning, which led me on to the idea of increased spontaneity in class.

Going Mobile by Hockly. N, Dudeney. G,

The third book made me reflect on how and why the music industry changed due to an economy of abundance and granul

The Digital Scholar by Weller. M,

Inspired by the same book I extracted some advice and features of blogs.


The fourth book focussed on the role of computer games in language learning.

Digital Play by Mawer. K, Stanley. G,

Back to Weller again, this post reflects on the open web and privacy.


Week 1 Induction 

Then finally the course began! The first post is about my hopes and expectations.

Week 1

My first experience with SCMC.


Week 2 Let’s get started

Week 2 and my drivers for using technology.


Some thoughts on personalisation.


Defining facilitators and learner agency.


A bit more on learner agency.

Learner agency

Week 3 SLA & technology

My response to Blake’s four myths.


My first experiences with Padlet, Voice recording and Edmodo.

Trying stuff out

Week 4 The digital natives debate

Discussion on Digital natives, immigrants and wisdom.


Experimenting with Quizlet, Popplet and Wikis.

Trying more stuff out

Week 5 CALL applications

Talking about the normalisation of technology.


Thinking about how to go about action research.


Getting my head round the idea of digital technology as an environment.


Week 6 PLEs and VLEs

Criticisms of virtual learning environments. 


My first impressions of personal learning environments.


Memes, Roles in PLEs and the evolution of education.


Posted in EFL

PLEs in the meme machine Week 6.3

Following on from the previous post on PLEs

Here is my PLE attempt

The meme machine

When I started drawing my PLE I put myself in the middle with all the pathways to other people and content around me, but as I progressed I found myself appearing at the edges of the map too. This made me wonder whether I had misinterpreted my importance in my PLE, perhaps the ideas are more important then me.

This reminded me of the theory of ‘memes’ as laid out by Richard Dawkins, in ‘The Selfish Gene’. The concept is as follows; ideas, melodies, images (memes) exhibit similar patterns or behaviour to genes. They make copies of themselves in books, songs, paintings and digital artefacts, and often end up in our heads. While they’re in our heads they get mutated by our experience and other memes. Then when they come out again in the forms of ideas, melody, images etc. they are slightly different. The ones which get copied survive and the ones that don’t, don’t. There are no inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ones and sometimes the proliferation of certain memes can do us more harm than good. So I could see myself as a ‘meme machine’ or a temporary vessel for the memes that I will pass on in my PLE.

The collective PLE

To bring this realisation a bit closer to our everyday reality, I basically use the information I am exposed to as inspiration for creative pursuits, which I then put back into circulation. These creations are digested by other conscious beings and provide fuel for yet more creations that may come back to me. It’s almost as if there is one giant PLE that everybody is connected to facilitating this process. Before the advent of the internet, the number of people who could contribute to the PLE was fairly small, now all you need is a device and an internet connection. This means that memes, like the PLE, are free to develop, evolve and spread like never before.

My role in the PLE

If I see my PLE as being connected to the people I interact with, then I must see myself as a collaborator. By this I mean that I work together with others to develop intellectually by bouncing ideas off each other. We learn together as we receive ideas and contribute to the community of people we are connected to.

My role in my students’ PLEs

Seeing a learner’s PLE as part of their identity, through which they can shape and contribute to in a language community, means that language learners are most definitely not passive receivers of content. Whats more, learners can continue to play an active role in the language community for the rest of their lives, learning is no longer confined to a course or geographical location.

So how do you teach a PLE?

From a teaching perspective my first role would be a as guide, in order to raise awareness of a student’s PLE and how to exploit and expand it. I would get students to reflect on what they learn from and even attempt a mind-map of their PLE. To encourage students in this task we could also consider the fact that interaction using L2 is authentic communication in the real world. After this, I could move on to a more facilitating role, monitoring students as they interact, select content and explore elements of the L2 culture they identify with. As students start to collaborate in their PLEs, I would become a collaborator too. This has interesting implications for teacher-student relationships as your social and professional lives become entwined and reach beyond the confines of a course or an institution.

The end of institutions

Even if PLEs have always existed, giving them a name and reflecting on what they represent is potentially revolutionary for education. The main reason for this is that they have very little to do with our conventional associations between educational institutions and education. Weller in ‘The Digital Scholar’ suggests that we should not ‘confuse function with form’ like we did with the album and track, the newspaper and information, and books and ideas.( Weller. M, 2011)  VLEs have gone some way to separate form from function but they are still walled-gardens, controlled by institutions and often based on linear content delivery.  Perhaps as we embrace the PLE we will no longer need buildings, managers, expensive directors, the government and all the other people and things that cost so much and often get in the way of ‘effective’ education.

I must admit, this ‘revolution’ is unlikely to happen overnight and might be more accurately described as an ‘evolution’. That said, the concept of PLEs is still a powerful evolving meme that I believe will have profound effects on the way we learn and teach.


Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, (Oxford University Press 1989)

Martin Weller, The Digital Scholar, (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2011)


Posted in EFL

Trying to draw a PLE Week 6.2

What is a PLE?

This week we were introduced to the idea of PLEs and asked to make a mind-map of our PLE as we see it.

So what is a PLE?

Castañeda. L & Soto. J, describe PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) as ‘a set of tools, information sources, connections and activities-experiences-that every person uses to learn assiduously'(Castañeda. L & Soto. J, 2010). This seems straight forward enough until you try to draw one on Popplet. Then you start to realise, as your mind-map gets bigger and bigger, that it’s an endless web of tools and people with everything connecting to everything else. Towards the end, I even started to question my own existence as a conscious entity.

The extended nervous system

Last week we discussed the shift from CALL to TELL, with computers/devices and web 2.0 ‘tools’ becoming part of the environment in which language is situated. But are we not also part of this environment?

Cousin. G, questions the idea that digital tools are neutral to pedagogy, seeing them as being inextricably linked to our identity, or even ‘an extension of our nervous system’.(Cousin. G, 2005). This challenges the assumption that pedagogy should be leading the use of digital technology in education because this ‘set of tools’ changes the way we view our world, interact with it and ultimately learn. As a result, technology should have an effect on pedagogy and visa versa.  If our PLE is, among other things, a collection of tools connected to our nervous system, then we become part of our learning environment and our learning environment becomes part of us. Therefore, when we interact with and create digital artefacts letting them loose on the world wide web, we are, in a sense, recreating our self.

Carving out an identity

Before digital technologies and the internet my nervous system was largely confined to my immediate surroundings, I could only really interact with and learn from my local community and environment. Obviously, I could write a letter or maybe even pick up the phone, but the level of interaction and emersion was nothing compared to what we can do now. Nowadays, we can interact with more people/things, from further away, in more ways and often at little cost. My digital nervous system can, or will one day be able to connect to almost anything or anyone in the solar system. If people learn from experience and interaction with their environment, there is now a lot more that we can learn. At the same time, other people can learn from me and my digital artefacts while I carve out my identity from cyber-space and the cosmos.

So, to sum up, my PLE should, include anything my senses can take in and anything/one I can have an effect on, whether it be next to me or in Australia, or on Mars via a robot. The only problem with this concept is that it is very difficult to draw.

Here is my first attempt:

In the next post I will look at my role in my PLE and the role of PLEs in education.


Castañeda. L & Soto. J, Building Personal Learning Environments by using and mixing ICT tools in a professional way. (digitalEDUCATION 2010),  18 []

Cousin. G, Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. (London, RoutledgeFalmer. 2005) pp. 117-129.