Thanks for your considered response.
My inclination is to plan a rich and authentic experience and
analyse it later to see what was covered (or at least what
opportunities learners had to meet which structures and so on). I
agree that the group processes are the important aspect and this is
what is largely invisible when viewing a course website.
I suppose one concern I have is that, unlike the Streetlife project
which I implemented myself, what I am being asked to do here is for
general consumption so I need to pay attention to making both the
teacher's and learners'roles explicit and visible.
In the end I feel that there is an inherent contradiction in trying
to apply constructivist principles to what is going to be, in the
end, a tradable product (one major reason by the way why I wouldn't
feel comfortable asking for webhead contributions on this in the way
you suggested). Perhaps what I need is a different perspective;
instead of course book equivalent, maybe I should be thinking more
on the lines of motivational training and how that is done! ie It's
technique rather than content. I guess I'm wondering how to
mainstream constructivist principles.
--- In email@example.com
, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith
> Anne raises some really important considerations for
> online teaching and learning.
> Though I am away from home and can't give you good
> references, all of my professional teaching experience
> would indicate that learning a language is much more
> like athletics or music than the kind of segmental,
> incremental knowledge learning, say, a spreadsheet
> application implies.
> So it is a huge problem to reconcile the short
> segmented time you are given with authentic tasks, but
> I think it could work. Each task would lend itself to
> learning particular kinds of language, but ultimately,
> completing the task would provide the practice that
> makes the whole (what is learned) greater than the
> individually learned parts. Performing the task in a
> structured group setting would be ideal, as
> participants would have to also practice social
> language while learning the language of the task.
> I think one could start from either end--either the
> task or the structures/vocab/grammar needed. Maybe
> Webheads could contribute some units of this together,
> as a way of testing out this approach?
> Anyway, my sympathies on the difficulty of your
> Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 11:59:14 -0000
> From: "Anne Fox" <af@g...>
> Subject: Is language learning different?
> Reading through Vance's great speech with his clear
> explanation of
> where we are now with language learning made me decide
> that this was
> the right place to ask about something which is
> bothering me.
> I am becoming more and more deeply involved with
> producing materials
> for e-learning. My task is to produce materials for
> learning English
> but that is only part of the package which also
> includes IT and
> accounting. What troubles me is that I realise that we
> are going down
> the route of dividing all the learning into `learning
> (direct translation from the Danish but I presume it
> originates from
> the English). This is to enable `just in time' and
> as needed' learning. So what it implies is that I
> have to break
> the process of learning a language (here English) into
> chunks which would take 20-40 minutes to
> deliver/assimilate. This
> makes me uncomfortable because it almost forces me to
> go down the
> grammar/structures/vocab group route when sources such
> as Vance's
> synthesis emphasise the scaffolding, constructivist
> and authentic
> approach which I think is impossible in the framework
> I've been given.
> Of course I could simply try to produce a whole suite
> of 20 minute
> authentic tasks but the job doesn't end there since
> for every
> unit I have to identify what learning it is intended
> to promote so
> that the learner and/or his tutor can identify which
> bits he or she
> needs, also so that a needs analysis can be carried
> out which would
> result in a recommended learning path. Is language
> learning really so
> different from learning how to use a spreadsheet or am
> I just making
> it up? Am I being given an impossible task? The
> Streetlife project
> which I trialled last autumn with the support of
> several Webheads
> would not fit these requirements for example because I
> saw the module
> as a process which had to be completed as a whole and
> not something
> which learners could pick and choose from which bits
> they wanted to
> do or felt they needed to do. A pragmatic solution
> would be to go
> down the structures route anyway but I feel that this
> would be very
> second rate.
> Most people would accept that you cannot learn
> practical skills such
> as swimming through e-learning so the question is, is
> learning more like swimming or more like learning to
> use a
> spreadsheet in its ability to be divided up into
> learning units?
> I'd be really grateful to have some opinions on this.