Starting a Dialogue between Social Semiotics and Complexity Theory

We recently published Making Signs, Translanguaging Ethnographies edited by Ari Sherris and Elisabetta Adami. In this post the editors introduce us to the book and its unique Bricolage and Talmudic sections.

Preparing this volume has been a work of encounters which gave way to layers of experiences and we hope is just one possible opening to a new way of thinking about how we make and interpret meaning. It started as a serendipitous encounter between the two of us, when we met once at a symposium on translanguaging and ethnography and later began conversations on the possibilities of crossing perspectives, in an attempt at starting a dialogue between social semiotics and complexity theory. The experiences of the volume’s contributors form additional layers at the core of this volume from ethnographic/documentary linguistics, sociolinguistics, linguistic landscape, and multimodality (broadly conceived). The volume is also a site of encounters among four theorists of what we envisage as among the most innovative and promising perspectives on research and activism across inclusive approaches to communication, language and education with a Bricolage piece asking Jan Blommaert, Ofelia García, Gunther Kress and Diane Larsen-Freeman to answer ten key questions and trace interrelations with each other’s viewpoints.

Besides the eye-opening preface by Jeff Bezemer and Gunther Kress, and the introduction written by us, the volume hosts seven chapters presenting empirical studies that relocate margins at the centre, through investigations of phenomena and settings that have been little explored so far, and by attempting various entanglements between approaches that have rarely been combined. Research of and through these uncharted entanglements allows the authors (and hopefully the readers) to show how observing and documenting domains of communication that are often neglected can not only problematize traditional ways of knowing, but also shed new light onto social interaction, meaning-making and human communication as a whole.

Finally, the volume attempts at stretching the boundaries of (the often too limiting) academic genres. It does so first and foremost in the Bricolage; the process of its making has been a wonderfully enriching enterprise, for us, the editors, and (we like to believe) for the four theorists too, who had never met on (screen and) paper before. Working with them at the Bricolage, we have not only had further proof of the immense intellectual value of Diane, Gunther, Jan and Ofelia, but also experienced the immensely humane, thoughtful and caring characters of the four. We hope that the Bricolage may be the first of a series opening a new genre enabling academic dialogue through joint forms of writing. A second genre innovation is in the final chapter of the book, in which we draw from the Talmudic tradition to construct commentaries to each of the empirical chapters that add additional layers, imagined next steps in meaning-making and interpretation. The commentaries ask themselves how these studies would be reframed and (re)investigated further by adopting a social semiotic and a complexity theory perspective. This, too, is an attempt to start a dialogue between two approaches that have good grounds for potential mutual integration and yet had not met until now. We hope this dialogue will continue further with those who read the book. We look forward to hearing from you!

Elisabetta Adami e.adami@leeds.ac.uk

Ari Sherris arieh.sherris@gmail.com

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Engaging Superdiversity edited by Karel Arnaut, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Massimiliano Spotti and Jan Blommaert.

Q&A with the Authors of “Contemporary Christian Travel”

This month we published Contemporary Christian Travel by Amos S. Ron and Dallen J. Timothy. In this post the authors answer some questions about the inspiration behind the book and their experience putting it together.

What were your motivations in writing this book?

We have some motivations in common, as well as some individual ones. We both love religions in general, as they reveal a great deal about cultures and people, and their encounters with deity and nature. We have an awareness of the magnitude and impact of faith-based travel in general, and Christian faith-based travel in particular, which is an increasingly important phenomenon worldwide. We wanted to highlight that Christianity is diverse with many different denominations practicing their own versions of pilgrimage and manifesting in different patterns of travel, products and destinations. We also enjoy gaining knowledge and sharing it with others, which is why we decided to write this book to fill an academic gap as regards one of the largest faiths on the planet.

An additional motivation was to create a dialogue and understanding within Christianity, which seems to be important, albeit somewhat lacking, in our world. We believe that this book has the potential to contribute to this goal.

Amos at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

In my case (Amos), working on such a book is less obvious because I am not even Christian. However, my professional background is very relevant. Apart from my academic career in cultural geography and tourism studies, I have been guiding Christian pilgrims through the Holy Land for decades, and often these encounters encouraged me to know more. For example, I once guided an evangelical group that came on their pilgrimage with suitcases full of medications to give away to needy locals. At the end of the tour, I had boxloads of medications in the back of my car. Through this event and others I became more interested in humanitarian needs and volunteer tourism.

Dallen with his wife, Carol, at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

In my case (Dallen), I am a devout Christian and have personally undertaken spiritually-oriented travel that I found to be uplifting, enjoyable and relevant. I have many friends and colleagues of many different religions throughout the world. I also have numerous friends who belong to many different Christian denominations. I have spent years trying to understand different churches’ doctrines and practices associated with religiously-motivated travel, relationships with deity, the earth and other sojourners. Amos and I have been researching religion and tourism separately for many years and together for the past 12 years. There is always more to learn; this book represents a step in the right direction toward providing a deeper understanding of how religion simultaneously venerates, blesses, consumes and commercializes sacred places.

Did you enjoy writing it?

We definitely did. It took us a number of years to gather all of the information we needed and many site visits in order to experience Christian tourism for ourselves first hand. One of the reasons we enjoyed writing the book was the fact that this book is different, unique. It is not ‘more of the same’, and so far, the reviewers have agreed with us.

How was it to work together?

A pleasure. A very positive experience. Writing with others can be challenging, but for us it was easy, as we think in much the same way.

How will the Christian travel market accept this book?

We will find out, but we think that in addition to the academic aspects of this book, it is relevant to the Christian faith-based travel industry for the purpose of developing new markets, understanding consumers’ experiences, and connecting supply with demand.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism and Religion edited by Richard Butler and Wantanee Suntikul.

The Impact of English as a Lingua Franca on EFL Teaching

This month we published English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila. In this post the editors discuss the rise of English as a Lingua Franca and its impact on EFL teaching.

Thinking about the function and impact of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is not new. The fascination for the global character of English has been around for at least four decades. Scholars have been discussing and analysing the (mostly idiosyncratic) uses of English by so-called “non-native speakers”, predominantly people working in the field of banking and economics, since the late 1970s. Those were simpler times. As the 20th century gave its turn to the 21st, and as the internet took the world by storm, people, and not just businessmen, needed a quick and easy way to communicate, to exchange ideas, to become understood and to express themselves on a global level. English was the ideal vehicle for this. Everything happened so fast. Suddenly, there were millions and millions of instances where people (yes, mostly “non-native”) were using English without the least concern for established norms. When you want to communicate and be understood, you have to consider what the other person is able to understand and therefore you are bound to tailor your entire linguistic behaviour (i.e., choice of words, intonation, speed of delivery, etc.) to the communicational needs of the circumstance; you find that your interlocutors feel and act very much the same way.

This is fine, except that now it is suddenly happening everywhere and by everyone. Online and offline, in virtually all geographical latitudes, people use English when no other language is shared, and even when this is the case, English seems to be the “go-to” primary linguistic vehicle. All this makes the task of describing and making sense of what is happening fascinating but extremely taxing. There are simply countless contexts and situations where English may be used by the “non-native speaker”, and these contexts are now many many more than those demanding compliance to the native-speaker norms will ever be. Even native speakers have to buy into this ELF mindset if they want to successfully communicate with non-native speakers.

On top of everything, the critical perspective in applied linguistics, developed in the 1990s, shook scholars’ confidence in many of the perceptions and terms that had shaped the field for decades. Certain things that were considered fundamental in applied linguistics and foreign language teaching were fundamental no more, the very notion of the “native speaker” being one of the first in the fray. The cornerstone of modern linguistics, the native speaker, was deemed not useful and more a politically incorrect term that fails to describe reality and, to make matters worse, carries with it a string of convictions that are old-fashioned and, well, plainly wrong. Also consider the notion of “mistake” and that of “feedback provision” in the EFL classroom: what constitutes a mistake is arguably no longer a simple matter of looking up the grammar of English, and how the teacher will focus learners’ attention to different aspects of their use of the language is no longer straightforward.

Of course, we are not arguing that EFL, as we all understand it and have experienced (or are experiencing) it, is not still valid. Far from it. It’s just that it is now becoming clearer that so-called EFL-focused practices tend to be predominantly (some would say, exclusively) native-speaker-oriented, and this is the remit of a huge and highly profitable field in applied linguistics and teaching, called high-stakes testing. But the world is not the same as it was 30 or 20, or even 10 years ago and the point that we and the other authors make in the book is that this needs to be reflected in the way that English is taught.

In a nutshell, this book aims to present the case of ELF for EFL contexts. The colleagues that wrote the various chapters are top scholars in their respective fields and the cases they are presenting in each chapter are grounded in extensive research they have undertaken. What we are concerned with is making sense of the impact that ELF can have for teaching, and specifically EFL teaching. We have done our best to incorporate all aspects of EFL teaching, including pedagogy, materials evaluation, teacher education, policy, assessment and testing. Our ultimate aim is to kickstart a dialogue on the principles and processes of what we call ELF awareness in EFL teaching. ELF awareness is a lot more than awareness of ELF: it first and foremost incorporates an awareness of context and an appreciation of pedagogical style, learner needs and usage of English inside and outside the EFL classroom and, fundamentally, an awareness of our attitudes and convictions regarding English.

Nicos Sifakis, sifakisnicos@gmail.com

Natasha Tsantila, ntsantila@acg.edu

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda. 

Translation and the Interplay between Society, Ideology and Power

This month we published Translation and Global Spaces of Power edited by Stefan Baumgarten and Jordi Cornellà-Detrell. In this post the editors tell us what to expect from the book.

Translation is a key process in the circulation of values and ideas across languages and cultures. Translation is a key site of cultural production and contestation, it is a space where values and ideas are constantly challenged and manipulated, adopted or discarded. It is, therefore, a privileged platform from which to examine the interplay between society, ideology and power.

The contributions in Translation and Global Spaces of Power show that the crosscultural struggle over values and ideas is reflected in sectors as diverse as political journalism, elite sports, marketing or the film industry. The heavy reliance on translated texts in a huge variety of political, cultural and economic domains further highlights the need to investigate the importance and effects of translation in relation to social and historical developments.

Our volume presents a number of contemporary and historical case studies which examine how translators and institutions participate in the creation and circulation of knowledge and, importantly, the ways in which they can promote social and economic sustainability.

The intertwined logic of capitalist and technological evolution has, especially in the past few decades, become an unquestioned value which threatens social cohesion and environmental sustainability. It is essential, therefore, to examine how translational practices can develop new ways of representing individuals, communities and cultures and how this crosscultural practice can be harnessed to promote sustainability and social justice.

Translators and the institutions they work for have often been induced, whether explicitly or not, to comply with hegemonic rules and values, particularly in areas where political and economic interests are at stake. They can, however, also produce resistant and subversive translations which challenge the status quo and contribute to social justice.

Translation and Global Spaces of Power demonstrates that translation boasts both enormous liberating and democratizing potential, but that it can also be used to exacerbate and justify inequalities.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Ideology, Ethics and Policy Development in Public Service Interpreting and Translation edited by Carmen Valero-Garcés and Rebecca Tipton.

 

(Re)imagining Japan’s Internationalization via Akogare [Desire]

We recently published Transcending Self and Other Through Akogare [Desire] by Chisato Nonaka. In this post Chisato talks about the need to get the discussion moving on Japan’s internationalization.

A whirlwind of events have taken place since my recent move (back) to Japan. Settling into a new job, finding a new apartment, meeting new colleagues and students (and remembering their names!), etc. but above all, I’m experiencing a serious case of reverse culture shock on a daily basis. So much so that I’ve started to wonder if I’ll ever “recover.”

For instance, I stand out like a sore thumb at high-level meetings, full of male directors and professors—mostly middle-aged and well into their careers. These meetings follow the agenda to a T and few express support for or opposition to the speaker.

Why do we hold a meeting if nobody really discusses anything? I asked a senior professor point-blank (capitalizing on my “naïve” and “relatively young” “female” positionality). The answer I received from him was shocking – “because there is no reason why we shouldn’t hold a meeting.” This response in fact provides a clue to understanding the complex nature of Japan’s internationalization.

The author on her wedding day

In my upcoming book (Transcending Self and Other Through Akogare [Desire]: The English Language and Internationalization of Higher Education in Japan), I focus on Japanese higher education and its ongoing internationalization efforts. While I don’t necessarily take up the above case in my book, I show that the apathetic and strait-laced attitude towards something different, new, and/or the so-called “non-Japanese” is quite telling of Japan. In other words, for the meeting attendees above, not holding periodic meetings is perhaps more troubling than sitting through them. This may sound all too familiar to those who have done research and/or worked in the field of higher education within and outside of Japan.

The akogare framework

What is unique about my book, however, is that I showcase multiple versions of “Japan” that we need to acknowledge and honor, in order to finally get the discussion moving. Specifically, through the construct of akogare [desire], I demonstrate that Japan’s internationalization is more than what the statistics and bar graphs can show. It is more than just the range of internationalization policies and programs that the government is advancing. It is in fact “us”—educators, students, and others who may not even be living in Japan—that are responsible and accountable for (re)imagining what Japan is and where Japan is headed in the coming years. It is my sincerest hope that educators and students in similar circumstances will find a meaningful and constructive connection to my work, and in turn, I look forward to engaging in a further dialogue with fellow educators and students.

Chisato Nonaka

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Learning, Gender and Desire by Kimie Takahashi.

Dual Language Benefits All

This month we have published Profiles of Dual Language Education in the 21st Century edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Molly Fee. In this post, Beatriz explains the educational backdrop to the collection and explains the goals of its chapters.

“English Learners (ELs) and native English speakers (NES) gain access to key 21st century skills – bilingualism, biliteracy, and global awareness – through participation in dual language education programs.”(Lindholm-Leary and Genesee 2014)

The first Program in the US began fifty-five years ago, with Coral Way Elementary school in Dade County Florida. We have learned much about how to implement effective programs since 1963. In this volume we present the lessons learned across a variety of contexts.

Dual Language Programs, programs which use two languages for instruction, with the goal that students become bilingual, biliterate and culturally competent, are growing in popularity across the country. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of programs, in the last twenty years, their number has grown from 260 to over 2500. A recent report indicated that 39 states and Washington, D.C. were offering dual-language education during the 2012-13 school year, with Spanish and Chinese programs cited as the most commonly used languages (DOE 2015).

Initially, dual language programs focused on instruction in the elementary school years, K through 6th grade. Success has been found to extend to those students who participate for at least 5-6 years in a program (Valentino & Reardon 2015). With the increase success rate of elementary students, the model has now extended to Pre-K and K settings as well as middle and high school classes. While it is not clear if the language allocation model used in elementary schools (usually 50% English and 50% partner language), is appropriate for early childhood settings, or middle and high schools, the dual language instructional model now spans from Pre-K to high school. Today it is possible for a student to enroll in a Dual Language program in Kindergarten and develop their bilingualism through high school culminating in a Seal of Biliteracy upon graduation. The Seal of Biliteracy is currently offered by 36 states and documents that students have mastered bilingualism and biliteracy in two languages.

What does it take to have a successful program? As an evaluator of dual language programs, I have had an opportunity to see first-hand the critical factors that comprise effective programs. The articles in this volume speak to specific components that are essential to program implementation: program planning, teacher preparation, community participation, professional development, and leadership. The interaction of these factors is reported in case studies of legacy programs and in the implementation of district-wide dual language programs. Community contexts matter and vary greatly between programs as well. This volume distills what we have learned in the last twenty years, from the research and implementation of dual language programs in the US.

Beatriz Arias Ph.D.

Center for Applied Linguistics

barias@cal.org

 

References:

Lindholm-Leary, K. J., & Genesee, F. (2014). Student outcomes in one-way, two-way, and indigenous language immersion education. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 2(2), 165–180.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition, Dual Language Education Programs: Current State Policies and Practices, Washington, D.C., 2015.

Valentino, R. A., & Reardon, S. F. (2015). Effectiveness of four instructional programs designed to serve English learners: Variation by ethnicity and initial English proficiency. Retrieved from http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Valentino_Reardon_EL Programs_14_0326_2.pdf

Destination Dawlish: A Change of Location for our Head of Production

It’s all change in the MM/CVP office as Sarah, our Head of Production and Commissioning Editor of Channel View titles, is about to move back to her beloved hometown of Dawlish and will be working mostly from home from now on, with monthly visits to the office. We will really miss her and are very sad not to be seeing her on a daily basis. In this post we find out how she’s feeling about the big move…

What will you miss most about coming into the office every day?

My super wonderful colleagues/work family! 😊 We have a lot of fun in the office – I will miss Fridays especially when everyone is in with cakes/doughnuts and Spotify playlists. But will try to come up to Bristol for at least one Friday a month. I’ve worked with everyone (some longer than others!) for a number of years so I’m trying to prepare myself not to see their faces every day – it will be strange and not a welcome thought!

What will you miss about living in Bristol?

It’s a great city to live in – and I will miss many things about city life (including Uber and Deliveroo!) But for Bristol the street art and balloons will be missed. Just lucky I still get to visit regularly.

What are you most looking forward to about moving to Dawlish?

Being back with my crazy-big family will be lovely – and living by the sea again will be ace. I’ve missed it!

What do you think will be the biggest difference working mostly from home?

Well, there will be no-one forced to listen to my wittering apart from me so I will be monitoring sanity levels regularly 😊 I guess just the feeling of togetherness. Thankful for instant messaging though – should make it easier to stay in touch with colleagues and ask quick questions when necessary. Looking forward to sometimes working in my PJs if I feel like it – never felt it was appropriate in the office 🙂

Will you be bringing us scones on a monthly basis?

Of course! But you really have to put jam on first (even though it’s the Cornish way) and pronounce ‘scone’ properly.

Dawlish

We wish Sarah the best of luck with the move and are already looking forward to our first away day in Dawlish!

What is the Role of Teachers in the US Struggle over Mexican and Central American Immigration?

This month we published Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer. In this post she explains how teachers give her hope during the political struggle over immigration along the US southern border. 

I believe that in the United States we will look back upon these years as a dark time in our history. The political struggle over immigration along our southern border has led to more and more direct and blatant attacks on human rights, not only from angry reactionary citizens but from the government and its institutions. Since 2016 there has been an uptick in scapegoating of immigrants, Muslims, Latinas/os, and people of color. At this point, documented neo-Nazis and White Supremacists occupy official roles in the Trump White House and are running for public office in the upcoming election, and President Trump’s appointed attorney general Jeff Sessions – the official charged with protecting civil rights – has a long history of racist stances.

At the same time, for many years US foreign policy in Mexico and Central America has contributed to increases in gang- and drug-related violence, which in turn continues to drive more and more people – often unaccompanied youth and families with young children – to seek safety in the United States. Mr. Sessions and the Trump administration have moved toward a “zero tolerance” policy toward these immigrants and refugees.

I find this concept, “zero tolerance”, to be emblematic of Trump’s era in our country. Why would so many Americans, most of whose ancestors came into the country as religious or economic refugees, embrace an ideology of intolerance?

As a teacher educator and former bilingual teacher, I constantly ask myself what is the role of teachers – particularly bilingual teachers – in the face of “zero tolerance”? In truth, elementary bilingual education and ESL teachers offer me hope. These are professionals on the front lines of our immigration crisis, working every day with the children and families who are the target of the worst attacks. Critically conscious teachers engaging in culturally sustaining pedagogies, give their students a safe and welcoming space every day where they can learn and grow, where they are not merely “tolerated” but fully embraced and welcomed in the United States.

Teachers have long inspired me. Whenever I am concerned about the state of the world, I turn to critically-engaged teachers, and draw inspiration from their work. The work of teachers is complex and multi-faceted; teaching well, and teaching diverse multilingual communities of children, requires a wide range of skills and dispositions. In my work with experienced teachers seeking their master’s degrees, I’ve begun to notice some patterns: teachers who are successful at creating and enacting curriculum that will support diverse students’ identities and build their academic skills all seem to share at least the following characteristics: they are willing to take risks and take stands; they are deeply reflective and aware of larger systems of oppression and the tools to counter oppression; and they network and connect with other teachers, families and communities to find the resources they need.

For example, a pair of fourth grade teachers in Austin, Texas developed a curricular unit on the topic of immigration that integrates high quality multilingual/multicultural children’s literature with their students’ own families’ stories to engage students and their families in a month-long exploration of history/language arts/geography. One of these teachers, working with her school librarian, has developed a webpage offering resources for locating and using culturally-relevant literature for the elementary classroom. Another former pre-kindergarten teacher from Austin has moved into full-time activism as a union organizer and has organized resources to put on periodic citizenship drives for the immigrant community. A team of dual language bilingual teacher coaches from Round Rock, Texas (outside Austin) worked together within the leadership structures of their traditionally English-dominant school district to offer all their growing population of Spanish-speaking students – and many of their English-speaking students too – a strong, enriching dual language bilingual education program.

Teachers are so often the ones who build systems both within and beyond their classrooms to ensure their students can adapt and grow in their new homes. Bilingual teachers in particular are bridges; they are advocates for their immigrant students, and they are among our best ambassadors.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Restrictive Language Policy in Practice by Amy J. Heineke.

The ‘Hotel Rat’: Personal Identity, Social Relationships and Hotel Space

This month we published Histories, Meanings and Representations of the Modern Hotel by Kevin J. James. In this post Kevin explains what first sparked his interest in hotel history.

Until I read the report in the pages of an 1833 newspaper, the story seemed to belong only to the madcap antics in one of the most memorable episodes of the John Cleese television classic ‘Fawlty Towers’. A German baron, ‘about 35 or 36 years of age, of slender make, with light hair, and sandy moustachios’, speaking imperfect English, arrived in a hotel near Berkeley Square. The baron impressed the management with impeccable credentials, including letters of introduction to Foreign Ministers, and ‘one of the principal embassies’. He declared that he was undertaking crucial diplomatic business. In the conduct of those important affairs, he hired ‘a dashing cabriolet and livery servants’, ordered a number of luxurious hand-crafted goods, and entertained lavishly. Only when the keeper of a hotel at which he had previously stayed paid a visit to the keeper of the smart establishment was the swindler – and the extent of his fraud – revealed. The single trunk with which he travelled was discovered to be completely empty, and the names under which he had commissioned expensive craft work were false!

This story played out many times, and drew my interest: yes, these cases were especially sensational (and the press knew that). But they also raised profound questions about personal identity, social relationships, and hotel space. Under what pretences could people identify themselves as guests? What systems of surveillance operated in the public and private spaces of the hotel? How were agents of the law involved in hotels? How, in an age before credit card authorisations, when people still travelled long distances for business and pleasure, was risk addressed by keepers of grand hotels keen to fill their rooms with the best sort of guest, and thereby accrue prestige? No place seemed immune from the designs of the figure who became known as the ‘hotel rat’ – a man or woman who appeared well dressed and respectable, and insinuated themselves into the spaces of, and exploited, the hotels which accepted them, and their credit, at face value.  No place was immune from the seductions of high rank: The Evening Telegraph in 1883 reported that a ‘spurious Duke of Richmond’ travelling in New York had ‘traded rather unscrupulously on the veneration which many people in that democratic capital feel for a title’. In a world in which the petty nobility of the continent boasted a range of lofty-sounding titles almost unfathomable in number, the ease with which a swindler could claim aristocratic birth and a swift place in the high society of a foreign city, including access to its finest hotels, is sometimes shocking to the modern reader.

Thus began my quest to understand more about the nature of ‘modern hotel life’, and how other historians have handled it. In researching and writing about hotels, I have encountered cases of adultery, and of thefts of hotel articles as mundane as towels monogrammed with the initials of a railway hotel. I have also discovered reports of spies operating under the cloak of anonymity in restaurants and lobbies of an institution – the hotel – so complex and compelling that it demands as close attention from today’s readers as the press accorded the most notorious imposters who savoured the hotel’s splendour, and then failed to pay their bills.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Histories of Tourism edited by John K. Walton.

 

Update Your Foreign Language Classroom

This month we published Multilingual Computer Assisted Language Learning edited by Judith Buendgens-Kosten and Daniela Elsner. In this post Daniela reflects on the relationship between technology and language learning.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe.

It’s a long-standing wedding tradition that brides wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue on their wedding day for good luck. As technology and language learning have become an inseparable couple – at least in language education theory – I would like to donate some old, some new, some borrowed and some “blue” thoughts to support this relationship.

Something Old

In her book The Importance of Media in the Classroom (2003), Donna Walker Tilestone offers a collection of good reasons for “why” media should be an essential element of classrooms. Some of them are:

  • Media in the classroom engage students in learning and provide a richer experience.
  • The great majority of learners prefer visual and tactile ways of learning.
  • The integration of media has a positive impact on behavior management.
  • Interactive learning that includes the use of various media requires little intrinsic motivation.

15 years later these arguments still hold true, yet we have certainly overcome the question “if” technology / media should play a role in classrooms. As Alice Armstrong explains in an article (Armstrong, Alice Technology in the Classroom: It’s Not a Matter of ‘If,’ but ‘When’ and ‘How’. Education Digest, Vol. 79, No. 5, Jan. 2014, pp. 39-46) it’s now more the question of “when” and “how” to integrate technology in the classroom.

Something Borrowed

The latest KIM Study (2016) of the German Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS, or Pedagogical Media Research Center, Southwest) on the meaning of media and technology in the everyday life of children aged 6 to 13 shows that technology plays a significant role in the children’s private lives, however not yet in school contexts:

  • Every child has a television at home, 98% have access to a smartphone or mobile phone, 97% have a computer (desktop or laptop) at home and have access to the internet.
  • The majority of the children in this age group uses the available media at home at least once or twice a week, 42% of children say that they use a smartphone or mobile phone on a daily basis.
  • Their main activities online are: searching the internet for information; texting via WhatsApp; watching YouTube videos; visiting websites for kids or simply surfing the internet.
  • Yet, only 31% of children go online when they are in school.

Something New

In order to find out, if, how and why/why not primary school foreign language teachers make use of technology in their classrooms, the author of this blog article interviewed 12 German primary school teachers, all of them teaching English as a Foreign Language in classes 3 and 4.

Here are their answers:

Which kind of technology do you use most often in your language classrooms?

CDs; DVDs; Reading Pens (e.g., Ting or tiptoi)

Which media would you like to integrate more often into your classroom?

Smartboard, CD-Rom, iPad

Why?

Assumption that students will be more motivated to participate, autonomous learning, differentiation/individualized learning; method change

What hinders you from using these media more often?

Lack of knowledge with regard to how to integrate iPads, Smartboard, internet properly into the class; preparation time; technology doesn’t always work; lack of knowledge with regard to suitable apps or computer games/activities for language training.

Something Blue

According to Jennifer Bourn, owner and author of the creative blog Bourn Creative, blue is, among other things, associated with open spaces, freedom and inspiration. It also represents meanings of depth, wisdom, confidence, and intelligence. (Jennifer Bourn, 15 January 2011) https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-blue/

Reading the endorsements of my newest book Multilingual Computer Assisted Language Learning, I believe that my colleague Judith Buendgens-Kosten and I have produced something blue – even though its cover is green and yellow – that will inspire and inform those who are searching for new ways of using technology in diverse language classrooms:

“This inspiring volume sets the stage for a radical shift in language learning pedagogy…” Janet Enever, University of Reading, UK; Umeå University, Sweden

“This inspirational and timely volume demonstrates that we have finally reached a tipping point with respect to the impact of digital technologies on education….” Jim Cummins, University of Toronto, Canada

(The) Sky(pe) is (not) the limit.

Daniela Elsner

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education edited by Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier.