Saturday, October 1, 2011

Research Trends: Podcasting in Second Language Teaching

As the technology of computer and the Internet changed communication capacities in ways that shaped our lifestyles, offices, as well as educational practices, one of the recent developments of the educational software support tools is web-connectivity features: the basic tools (e.g. video, audio, movies) allow “live” web page links, and allow documents to be exported and viewed on the Internet (Roblyer & Doering, 2007).
 Podcasting, the recording of class lectures to make them available online, so students can download to their iPod/MP3 players for later review, is a web-based technology appeared in colleges recently. Purdue University (2006) has delivered their podcasting of lectures from more than 70 classrooms; both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2007) and the University of California at Berkeley (2007) allow for studio and video streaming of some campus lectures and events (O’Bryan & Hegelheimer, 2007).
What are the potentials of implementing podcasting into second language classroom?  O’Bryan and Hegelheimer (2007), researchers of Applied Linguistics and Technology at Iowa State University, conducted a small sized study on using podcasting with language learners.  Six college and graduate level ESL students participated in this 15-week-long research project on academic English listening strategies.  Hosted on a course weblog, 14 podcasts (12 audio, 2 video) designed specifically for the listening course were assigned throughout the semester to coincide with the topics covered in class: academic and general listening strategies students would use as they listen to the lectures, take notes, and address difficulties that may come up in class.  Students had the choice to either listen or view these podcasts on a computer, or download to their personal computers or MP3 players.  After each podcasting assignment, students completed a quiz or task over the content of the podcasts in webCT, a course management system, in order to assess their comprehension. 
The researchers’ instructional goals of utilizing podcasting included:
1.     Make language input salient by having vocabulary repeated and more likely to be acquired by the language learners;
2.     Provide multiple modes of input (verbal, audio, and video), so that students have access to the same information in different modes that bring out better understanding and retention;
3.     Offer outside and authentic perspectives, through interviews of other language learners or professors in real life.
4.     Increase intrinsic motivation, by embracing the motivational appeal inherent in many multimedia-based language learning tools.
The project was evaluated at the end of the semester, both instructor’s and students’ reflections were investigated:
The instructor reported two main benefits of using podcasting:
1.     Podcasts extended class time by allowing students to spend additional time working with the concepts taught in class outside of class.
2.     Students have the opportunities to gain more exposure to different types of spoken English since some of the speakers on the podcasts have accents.
The students’ feedbacks were collected through an 18-item survey.  They responded that podcasting is interesting, closely linked to the class content, formative, and helpful, and they believed podcasts were a positive component of the course.
The researchers concluded that although small-sized (6 students and 1 instructor), this research provides a detailed example of how computer-assisted language learning can be achieved through the technology of podcasting.  Researchers also raised 2 issues that were important in implementing technology into classrooms:
1.     The instructor needs to be well-trained in realistic uses of technology.
2.     Face to face meetings between students and instructor is helpful to bridge the gap between what goes on in class and what they are doing outside of it.
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