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.

The multilingual turn and multilingual integrated curricula

In November 2014, Gabriela Meier, one of the authors of The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education gave a talk at Leeds and Exeter University in the way of a book launch. The talk at Exeter was recorded and can be accessed here: http://tinyurl.com/q38knrr

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationGabriela presented the ‘multilingual turn’ in languages education, talked about one of her chapters in the book on ‘multilingual integrated curricula’, and provided  a short overview of its contents.

For more information on the book please see our website or read our recent blog post written by Gabriela and her co-editor Jean Conteh.

Multilingualism in education is on the agenda

Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier’s book The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education is out this month. They have written this post about how the book came together and the importance of multilingual education. 

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationThe origins of this book emerged about 3 years ago in discussions about the different ways in which multilingualism was being talked about, not just in research, but in the lived experiences of people around the world. As editors, we both noticed that there was increasing interest in multilingualism in education – we refer to this new trend as the multilingual turn in languages education. We use languages in the plural to show that we are thinking about individuals’ whole language repertoires as resources for teaching and learning, not just the ‘target language’ of teaching.

A new era has started – Multilingual Matters setting the agenda

Our new book offers an invitation, including some guidelines and ideas, for teachers, researchers and policymakers to consider multilingualism in a new light as a key item on their agenda. The ideas underpinning the book began to be discussed around 20-30 years ago, when some authors started to recognise that monolingual language practices in schools can disadvantage many learners. During that period, Multilingual Matters was founded in 1976 and has since played an important role in influencing and shaping what people in their different spheres, including ourselves, talk about and what they deem important, i.e. what goes on the agenda.

The multilingual turn: ideology, theory, pedagogy

While the multilingual turn offers many opportunities, there are, of course, still many challenges before ideas can be put into practice in classrooms. As we and the authors in this book suggest, there are many positive ways in which this can happen. The opportunities and challenges are explored in the three parts of our book by taking into account the multiple layers of society, policy and classroom practice – all embedded in and informed by research.

First, in part one, we consider prevailing ideologies and language hierarchies, for instance about which languages have status and are therefore seen as useful, which languages are ignored and why and what the implications may be for individuals and groups. Then, through the chapters in part two, we argue the need for a theoretical basis for multilingual approaches to education. Finally, in part three, we show, through presenting different examples of innovative classroom practice, how educators in every situation need to find their own ways of taking account of their local circumstances and their learners’ resources.

Thanks to everyone

Gabriela visiting the office
Gabriela visiting the office

We are very grateful to Multilingual Matters, and Viv Edwards (see her recent blog post here) for supporting our book project. It was a pleasure working with you all! Furthermore, we were very lucky to find authors working across the world (Australia, Greek-Cyprus, Mauritius, China, France, Germany, USA, Switzerland, UK and Europe more generally) who embraced the idea of the multilingual turn. Their contributions present research from very varied teaching contexts and cover TESOL, EAL, SLA, MFL and two-way bilingual immersion. Thanks to you all, we were even able keep to our initial timetable!

Many thanks again to all at Multilingual Matters, all our authors and everyone who contributed to this book. We hope that through this book some ideas may make it from the agenda into practice.

For further information about this book please see our website.

Celebrating 40 volumes in the New Perspectives on Language and Education series

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationThe publication of The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education edited by Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier this month marks the 40th volume of our New Perspectives on Language and Education series. Here, the series editor Viv Edwards writes about how the series has evolved over the years.

The titles that form part of the New Perspectives on Language and Education series tend to cluster around three main themes – English as an international language, modern language teaching and multilingual education, with a host of other issues hovering around the edges that refuse to be pigeonholed in this way.

Identifying and disseminating new perspectives on ‘big’ topics like these requires Janus-like qualities. On the one hand, you need to recognize proposals which, while resonating with issues that you know are trending, hold the promise of taking things a few steps forward, not simply being more of the same. On the other hand, you need to be prepared to take risks: is this something new and original with the potential to make people rethink long-held assumptions? As Multilingual Matters prepares to publish the 40th title in the series, this seems a good time to offer my own particular take as editor.

NPLE coversHot topics

Looking first at the new and original, NPLE has a proud record. In terms of ‘hot topics’, Testing the Untestable in Language Education, edited by Amos Paran and Lies Sercu, and Joel Bloch’s book on Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing have made important contributions to debates in two fiercely contested areas, while Andrey Rosowsky’s Heavenly Readings focuses on literacy practices associated with Islam, an issue which has received remarkably little attention to date. The quality of the contribution made by any individual title lies, in my opinion, in its power to challenge readers to revisit and even reconsider deeply held beliefs. An excellent example is Jean-Jacques Weber’s Flexible Multilingual Education, which controversially places the needs and interests of children above the more customary approach which focuses on individual languages.

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In the case of topics such as English as an international language, it is possible to argue that the impact of NPLE titles is cumulative. Let’s take some recent additions to the list that specifically set out to bridge the gap between theoretical discussion and practical concerns: Aya Matsuda’s edited collection Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language and Julia Hüttner and colleagues’ Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education. In the case of Julia Menard Warwick’s English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines the focus is on different constituencies and stakeholders as she compares controversies around English as a global language with similar tensions surrounding programmes for immigrants.

 

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Another interesting cluster of titles concerns innovations in pedagogy and the management of multilingual classrooms. Take, for instance, Managing Diversity in Education, edited by David Little and colleagues; Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classrooms where Jennifer Miller and colleagues explore new dilemmas for teachers; and Kathy Mills’ The Multiliteracies Classroom. The 40th and most recent addition to the NPLE list, Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier’s The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education is a welcome addition to a strand of scholarship helping to develop a clearer understanding of classroom challenges.

Politics

Books such as these are underpinned by important political questions. In other examples, however, the political theme is even more clearly foregrounded. Particular personal favourites include The Politics of Language Education, edited by Charles Alderson which, with the value of hindsight, looks at the institutional manoeuvres that shape projects charged with innovation and change; Maryam Borjian’s English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, which chronicles the changing attitudes to English teaching and qualifies as the only academic book I have ever read which could be described as a page turner; and Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha, which raises uncomfortable issues of market abuse and exploitation.

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Innovative methods

Innovations covered by NPLE authors go beyond pedagogy and policy to include new approaches to data analysis. Roger Barnard and colleagues have been responsible for a trilogy of highly original edited collections: Creating Classroom Communities of Learning, Codeswitching in University English-Medium Classes and Researching Language Teacher Cognition and Practice. Each of these edited collections aims to promote dialogue around a particular theme by inviting a second researcher to interpret the same data, or to comment on the approach of the first author.

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Updating classics

Occasionally we have the opportunity of updating important works by major international authors. A case in point is the second edition of Gordon Wells’ ground breaking The Meaning Makers which sets the findings of the original study of language and literacy development at home and school in the context of recent research in the sociocultural tradition, also drawing on new examples of effective teaching from the author’s collaborative research with teachers. Another good example is Sociolinguistics and Language Education, edited by Nancy Hornberger and Sandra Lee McKay, a state-of-the-art overview of changes in the global situation and the continuing evolution of the field.NPLE covers 7

Think globally, act locally

While decisions about what to take forward have to be commercially sound, Multilingual Matters values coverage not only of global interest but also takes pride in showcasing more local issues. Obvious examples of this include Lynda Pritchard Newcombe’s case study of Social Context and Fluency in L2 Learners in Wales; Anne Pitkänen-Huhta and Lars Holm’s edited volume on Literacy Practices in Transition, which showcases perspectives from the Nordic counties; and Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language Education edited by Katy Arnett and Callie Mady.

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A personal coda

As someone who has worked for longer than I care to remember with both large international publishing houses and Multilingual Matters, one of the last of a vanishing breed of small independents, it seems fitting to end on a personal note. Many readers of this blog will be aware that it is now just over a year since the death of Mike Grover, who together with his wife Marjukka, founded Multilingual Matters over three decades ago. Their finest legacy, embodied in their son Tommi and his current team, is the company’s continued openness to the new, the innovative and even, very occasionally, the quirky. Those of us privileged to work as editors and authors with Multilingual Matters appreciate the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with knowledgeable and committed individuals rather than anonymous, corporate players. Long may this last!