Teachers, why not Learning Chocolate?

As an EFL learner, I always have a feeling that there is a lack of motivation for me to acquire new vocabularies after class as long as I am not aksed to do so. Although it is significant to 'import' new words when you are abroad like me, I definately say NO to boring dictations. It is soooo lucky that my tutor introduced this website http://www.learningchocolate.com/.

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

Attractive as its name, this website provides pictures to assist understanding. It is really more interesting than simply noting down words.  Moreover, around a topic for example Easter, it shows vocabularies related to this topic such as bunny and jellybean, which is a great assistance for acquiring those words systematically.

Don't forget!!! It is not just a vocabulary presenting platform. There are three different exercises: matching up, filling in and dication. In the matching up exercises, there are three sub-categories. Firstly, it lets you match pronunciation with spelling. Secondly, it lets you match spelling with pictures. Finally, it lets you match pictures with pronunciation. Therefore, Ss have opportunites to match pronunciation, pictures  and spelling all together. As with the last two exercises, it mainly focuses on spelling output, by providing pictures in "filling in"  and pronunciation in "dication".

Furthermore, there are ranged themes to be chosen and the topics are still being updated.

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

As mentioned above, this tool is a great creation of learning vocabularies for three reasons. Firstly, it offers various topics and these topics are being updated. Secondly, Ss can learn words with affordance of pictures and their families. Finally, the execises cover the main areas of vocabulary acquiring, namely pronunciation, meaning and spelling.

Students have fun in this wesites because of attractive pictures and vivid sound, which are of great importance to vocabulary learning (Margaurina, 2012). Therefore, it is more possible that they are motivated to learn words after class. Magford (2012) suggests independent learning is key to vocabulary development. Therefore, this websites are really helpful. (Magford and Margaurina are two participants in online forum on Research into practice: vocabulary, organized by IATEFL Research SIG, http://resig.weebly.com/1/post/2012/01/16-20-jan-2011-article-discussion-research-into-practice-vocabulary.html)

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

According to the topic of each lesson, I will choose related topic in this website. I will invite Ss to do exercises ahead of time at home. Thereofore, they will have a general understanding of both the topic of a lesson and some main words that should be acquired, which benefits for new lesson delivery.
Another way to use this webiste could be that, based on the word families, students look for new words to extend the families. In this sense, this website is used as a role of a motivator that guides students to develop their own vocabulary dictionaries.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

It only introduces concrete words which can be presented in pictures. In addition, the number of words around a particular topic is usually below ten, not so many. Therefore, the target learners' level of this webistes is limited among beginners or pre-intermediate. Moreover, Ss do not have a chance to practice speaking those words. That is one of the big concerns for Chinese students and it seems that this situation also happens in Japanese university. As Grogen (2012) aruges in the same forum talked above, it is hard to get students to speak  and they lack the awareness of the sound of English. I am still looking for a website that can get students to speak (www.languageguide.org might be an alternative since it covers a speaking session in the test).


Teachers, Why not TodaysMeet?

Are you in an embarrasing situation that students keep silent in the classroom? Are they really following you or just thinking about what to eat after class? Stop worrying now! Here is a tool used to record Ss thinking process in the classroom. You can read their mind only by creating a room before a class or speanding a few seconds at the beginning of your class. Here we are: TodaysMeet.

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

TodaysMeet is used to make audience heard in a presentation. Their  comments and questions can be promptly presented and the presenter thereby uses these feedbacks to adapt their speech in order to
get meanings across.

It is very easy to use. First go to this website http://todaysmeet.com/, Then name your virtual room and choose a period that you want to keep this room. Finally, entre your name and your room link is in the address sector of your browser. (http://todaysmeet.com/teacherswhynot, this is a room that I created for a year. You are more than welcomed to leave your comments there).

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

For learners, this tool is beneficial for them to get their voice heard. Instead of bothering listening to teachers' monologue in the front of the classroom, students can write down their immediate ideas. In the meanwhile, this tool provides a possibility of learner-learner interaction when teachers hold the floor. Learners can see what others are thinking and might be inspired somehow.


For teachers, it is good for teacher-learner interaction. Some students are shy of public speaking. By using this, their opinions are received by teachers. At the same time, teachers can adjust their presenting content according to students' feedback in lecutures. For example, if students are still confused about a terminology after explanation, teachers can elaborate in response.

According to Mason (2005), learning and knowledge are complex adaptive systems and depended on content, context and community. In a language learning classroom, the content is what teachers plan to convey, the context is consituted by the community "teachers and learners", also including other factors such as learners' learning style. TodaysMeet is on the right track in making it possible for teachers to adapt curriculums in response to immediate interaction, which fits into the natural character of knowledge itself: being organic.  This could lead to better learning outcome.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

TodaysMeet can be used in group discussion and whole-class presentation either by teachers or by students. In both case, students are given the opportunities to share ideas with the rest of the class, including teachers. Moreover, all the content can be presented by selecting 'transcript' on the right bottom of the chatbox. Teachers then can save that content for students. Surprisingly, to make it easier, you can even share the whole content via twitter. This transcript is useful for students to review others' brainstorming. In addition, it is a good recourse for educators to collect classroom data for research purpose.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

There are two limitation as far as I am concerned. Firstly, if the class size is too big, the data could be complex and teachers might find all infomation just bubble and hard to get the main point. Secondly, shy students find their way to express ideas in class thus the chance of speaking is avoided at the same time.

Mason, J. 2005. 'from e-Learning to e-knowledge' in M. Rao (ed.).  Knowledge management tools and techniques: practitioners and experts, Boston : Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.


Teacher! Why not Podcasting?

Myself have heard poscasts many times from my dear turor but ends NEVER trying. Until recently do I pick it up, when I read about how attractive it is in one of the coursebooks "How to teach English with technolgy". Curiously, I simply parcel my voice and get it published (via http://www.podomatic.com/)! Such a wonderful experience that leads me to dig deeper.

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?
A Podcast is a recorded video show that contains a series of pragrammes. Audience can subscribe via podcasting websistes (e.g. http://www.podbean.com/) or iTune and can get the latest version through RSS and iTune reminder. The content of podcast covers various areas. We focus on EFL/ESL here.

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

Basicly, for learners, they are good resources for listening and speaking. By listening I mean learners subscribe a quilifed podcast and listen to it regularly. There are even transcripts of listening texts available to check learners' understanding. By speaking, I mean students can make a podcast. Although that could be a big challenge, it worths doing because of the necessary process of searching, editing and producing contents themsevles.
For teachers, there is pedagogical disucssion where teachers in ELT voice themselves pointed to a topic. For example, ELTchat podcast in iTunes. This podcast contains the lastest news of ELT areas based on twice weekly twitter chat. 

When it comes to language learning approach, I think it belongs to task-based learning when they make podcasts. They are given the task of producing content with L2. In detail, the task could be tell a joke or give an interview or others.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

In terms of subscribing podacsts, it is convenient to do so. Leanrners are not stricted to just choose 'fixed' textbook materials. It is up to them to select the topic they want to listen to. Some of podcasts are quite nice actually, because they provide relaxed music as the background, learners could feel easy, which benefits learning outcome.

As for making a podcast, I would say that podcast is really a brilliant tool for students to be engaged in a real context speaking activities, specially for EFL students for three reasons. Firstly, as long as the production podcast is a complex task, there requires group work so that students are automatially connected with each other to do language task. Although, it is inevitable that they will use L1 as a mediation tool to do meaning negotiation. Secondly, the content of podcast varies from interviews, stories, jokes or even commentaries on a hot topic. Students are provided a real context, which is for the aim of podcasting, instead of being told to do so according to the textbook. Finally, whatever topics they do, it needs the skills of synthesizing, which is a higher oreder skills of using language.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?
Due to the large number of podcasts on-line, it is easy that learners could be lost. In the meanwhile, the quality of podcasts needs to be rethought. Even though the content is nice, the voice is not attractive enough (e.g. with flat intonation), learners could still get bored. Additionally, when producing a podcast, there is a risk that leanrners just read their prepared transcript in stead of speaking. In that case, speaking skill is hardly trained which is one of the skills that EFL students need to improve. We should also think about the feedback. Students could lose motivation if their piece does not be reviewed by potential social audience.

OKay! O(∩_∩)O

After my lenthy promoation of podcasts, you must be quite curious to see my effort on that! Right? haha, Hope you are still with me..


Jing: get rid of language anxiety

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

what: Jing is a basic tool to capture your screen for up to 5 minutes. It allows you to upload your video to a video e-portfolio screencast.com. Via this website, you got a link that can be sent to anywhere and also got a code used for embedding to web page or blog.

how: go to Jing, download it for free. After installing, it will appear at the central top of your screen. What you should do afterwards is choosing a scale you want and select capture image or video. Done!

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

As far as I am concerned, if this tool is used in a connected classroom (first raised by my tutor Russell Stannard), it is really a good 'shot' to lower anxiety. In detail, Ss can use it at home either receiving tutor's video feedback (assume it's negative), being less face-threatening, compared with receiving it in person;  or pointed to the given feedback, Ss can record their own reflections and practice before sending, to their tutors without worrying about e.g. ineffective retrieval of vocabulary.

You might argue if your students is a group of people with high language proficiency, then there is no need for anxiety reduction. Might be WRONG. A study conduced by Onwuegbuzie et al (1999), found that there is no considerable relationship between the anxiety and language level. However, there is a negative correlation between anxiety and L2 performance. That is to say, all L2 learners are more or less influenced by language anxiety, from perspectives of input, processing and output (MacIntypre and Gurdner, 1991).

As with input, high anxiety will lead to problems of TL (Target Language) receiving and encoding. Krashen's effective filter (1982) can explain this idea. some of the information fails to entre the cognitive processing system, with high effective filter. In terms of processing, understanding L2 could be problematic, due to disorder of storing, organizing and assimilating  L2. As to output, learners might use inappropriate vocabulary, wrong grammar or even can't respond when writing or speaking the L2.

BACK TO OUR JING, therefore, Jing is a great facilitator, which helps Ss charge themselves in the greenroom e.g. at home and facilitate them to performing well in the front-stage e.g. classroom.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

You can use it to give feedback on writing. You can send your feedback of a particular piece of Ss' work and send it via email to your Ss. Then, your students can also give their views about your feedback via the same way. This is really good form of feedback delivery that is friendly to Ss.

Firstly, by watching your video, they can look back and forth and repeatedly review the point they want. In that case, it avoids the embarrassment that Ss ask tutors for repetition more than once in face-to-face feedback tutorial. Secondly, Ss can mediate their language and organize their thoughts before sending tutors their opinions. On the one hand, this is a good way for students to get rid of anxiety. On the other hand, it is also a good chance to practicing speaking.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

The time limit could be a big concern (5 mins)


Kranshen, S. D. 1982. Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Pergamon.

MacIntypre, P. D., and Gurdner, R. C. 1991.  'Language anxiety: Its relationship to other anxieties and to processing in native and second languages'. Language Learning 41: 513-534.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Bailey, P., and Daley, C. E. 1999. 'Factors associated with foreign language anxiety'. Applied Linguistics 20: 217-239.

If you like, you can check my JING Video, talking about my writing plans before the deadline:


Wordle tells you a story of Word Power

Do you ever think about the power of words that can brings to you, teachers? A research conducted by McNaught and Lam (2010) suggest that Wordle can be a supplementing tool to faciliate preliminary analyisis in educational research. Based on the data of classroom talk, they can tell a research direction concluded from the data by visilizing some big-sized words. Unbelievable, right?? !!

1 What is Wordle?

It is a tool for generateing 'word clouds' from a text you choose. The more consantly appeared words are shown in a bigger size. You can change the layout, size and color whichever you like. Also, you can share the final version with friends.

Attention! it is very simple to use. Go to this site Wordle. Just follow three steps. 1. click 'Create'; 2. paste the text you want and GO; 3. see your production! (Oops, Java is needed ).

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

The visulized version of word display gives readers a general taste of a reading text itself. Instead of giving a boring WORD tag to your students to guess the main theme of a reading material, wordle gives you an opportunity to entertain your students before giving them tough work to do.

To a large extent, wordle is much more related to motivation and language learning, givin its fabulous outlook. In other words, students will be attracted at the first sight and would be motivated to do language learning related to this tool.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

Besides, what has been mentioned to give students a text guessing task, wordle could also be used in vocabulary learning. It can be a reasonable resource to facilitate vocabulary remembering for three reasons. Firstly, unlike traditional vocabulary list,  this visulized picutre might raise students' interests in terms of its flexiable layout and font. Secondly, students can just focus on frequently-used words  so that to equip them with basic vocabulary range in daily conversation, given those words will stand out by their bigger size. This is good for beginners' level. Thirdly, students not just learn isolated words but know the words that are associated with. It is good when learners actually apply words in real life.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

But, although there are massive layouts to choose, it seems only horizontal type is friendly to read. Addtionally, it could be possible that students could lose interests after they see this words toy several times.

Anyway, now I will present you a word cloud from a topic I am interested in today. 

So, can you guess what the content is, then? Haha, Happy Valentine's Day! (The text is from the definition of Valentine's Day, wikipedia.)

McNaught, C and P, Lam.  2010. 'Using Wordle as a Supplementary Research Tool'. The Qualitative Report 15/3: 630-643.


StrugglING for improving speaking? MailVU is just for YOU!

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

MailVU allows you to send video emails up to 10 minutes. You just need three steps to finish.
a) click
You need a webcam and a micophone and then click the 'allow' button to get the equipments standby.
b) record
Click the 'record' button to start. You can check your recording by click 'play'. If you are not satisfied with the previous recording, just click 'record' again to give a new try.
c) send
When finish recording, click the 'send' button. Type in your name, your email and your recipient's email address. That is! You even will be informed by email when the recipient see your recording.

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?
Apprently, this tool is good for speaking activity for both learners and teachers. For learners, as long as you record your speech, you have opportunities to review it as many times as you like. You can jot down the weakness part and practice many times until you are satisfied. For teachers, they have a chance to review students' speaking output on individual basis. Therefore, students have the opportunities to receive personal feedbacks.
Genearlly speaking, this tool makes the production part of speaking possible. In detail, when a teacher follows Presentation- Practice- Production approach, it is common that there is little time left in the final stage, production. By using mailVU, teachers can put production after class which make PPP complete.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

This tool could be an alternative monitor to push students to practice speaking after class. The speaking activity could be a follow-up task based on the content and grammar points introduced in the class.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

It is likely that students get bored to use it when they lose their curiosity of this new tool. The main reason could be that they are not invovled in an interactive context to practice speaking. In other words, it is mainly form-based learning.

Perhaps, if teachers give feedback also by this tool, there could build a fairly equal interaction context (a Video Community). Moreover, students can get the chance to practice listening as well from teachers video feedback. Or, if students like, they can send their recording to their peers and ask their fellows to give video feedback.


Teachers, why not Dvolver?

Have you ever thought about being a director? Look at this fabulous movie, can't wait to have a try, right?

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

Dvolver is a movie-making tool. The procedure is very simple. Just follow the instruction of the website. Firstly, select backgrounds and sky followed by choosing characters. Then you choose a plot among the provided four kinds. Throw out dialogues. Of course, add your favorite music and don't forget to name your title and leave your NAME. OK, that is all! You are a director now. Notice! you can send links of your movies via email OR copy the code and embed them to your personal virtual space like blogs here ^^

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

This tool is a fantastic facilitator of language learning. Firstly, it is a good resource for writing, which requires higher language mastery, compared with reading. In detail, learners are trained to use the language coherently, precisely and appropriately when making up dialgues. Swain (1985) explains this in his Output Hypothesis, stating that output such as writing pushes learners step from semantic processing to syntactic processing, compared with input such as reading. Secondly, this tool provides meaningful tasks which is an essential of learning, supported by H. Jonassen and Rohrer-Murphy (1999). 'Being meanful' here means that the acitivity should have goals, rules and larger community. Pointed this tool, it got a goal of making a movie. The rule is its procodures including adding background and music. The larger community is the potential audience. They can be teachers and peers. They can also be the online larger audience if movies are emebeded in for example blogs.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

Teachers could use it as a warm-up and post-activity. Based on the topic of current chapter, invite students to make up their own dialogues as a group activity at the beginning of a class. By this means, teachers could have an overall understanding of Ss prior knowledge both in the content and in the language such as vocabulary. Based on the existed knowledge, teachers could scaffold them by add "1" to their 'i' (refer to 'i+1' in socio-cultural theory by Vygostky). At the end of a class, students could be asked to make another movie, but this time use language point that teachers present in the class for example past tense. The whole class can vote the best movie then!

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

A limitation of this tool is that the provided scenes are too limited, especially the plot (only 4!). Ss might soon get bored.


H. Jonassen, D. , L. Rohrer-Murphy. 1999. 'Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments'. Educational Technology Research and Development 47/1: 61-79. 

Swain, M. 1985. 'Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensive input and comprehensible output in its development' in Susan M. Gass, and C. Madden (eds.). Input in second language acquisition . Cambridge, MA: Newbury House Publishers. 

Scoop.it: build your online e-portfolio

Today, I am enlightened by a definition of learning when I read about connectivism theory. “[L]earning must be a way of being – an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast to the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive, recurring events…” (Vaill,1996:42). Considering rapidly altering information online, how can we keep current while at the same time be well-organized in terms of our interested knowledge? I just dig a NEW tool called scoop.it which serves as an e-porfolio to gather related info together. 

1) What is the technology/ What does it do? 

Joining: Sign up for free with your facebook or twitter account. For me, my domain (EFL network) lays on twitter therefore I choose my twitter account. Then, what you should do is just type in e-mail address and password, of course. Next time, only these two info is needed for signing in, easy as other social tool.

Performing: You are right on the starting line! Keep in mind that you already got a social network either from facebook or twitter which means you are definitely not alone in this NEW virtual space. So, you can firstly check what others have scooped, and decide whether to follow their topics. Like twitter, you got an interface that gathers all the topics you follow. Unlike twitter, it has image and longer text. Better than twitter, it allows to create your own topic. THAT IS!! why this tool is so amazing. Go the dashboard label, type your topic, add description, add tag and add icon if you like. DONE! Then, it is very important to install the Bookmarklet and drag "Scoop.it" button to bookmark toolbar. Finally, you are ready to scoop every piece of on-line source, ranged from audio, video, or text to your curated page. 

EnjoyingSince many well-known people and event got their scoop.it page. For the people, it is not as simple as that you follow that people so you should scan about everything s/he scoops. NO! You are the decision maker. You just follow the topic you have interest. For the event, you got the most updated information. More reader-friendly than those events' official page. Why? because it looks like informal magazine style but actually conveys first-hand sources. For example, Glasgow IATEFL Bloggers

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

In my view, Scoops.it provides fruitful online materials for educators. The sources are from various social websites such as Guardian.com and social network such as twitter. Some sources are good for rethinking about teaching for example an article from Guardian titled 'Learning through crowdsourcing is deaf to the language challenge' and Some are good for teachers' communication '20 Twitter Hashtags Every Teachers Should Know About'.

Furthermore, it also provides loads of on-line learning resources for learners. For example, go to

It gives you learning websites like elllo (English Listening Online) or learning tips like the ten best vocabulary learning tips.  

Actually, this tool is a nice application of connectivism raised by Siemens (2004). This theory states that learners keep current in their specific area, relying on connected others. This requires the skill of self-organization which is a micro-process in institutional environments. In our knowledge economy, the capacity to form connection is of vital importance. Scoop.it just is positioned as a 'mediator' to scaffold students to develop this skill, starting from raising a topic, to grab related information into a single page from massive online resources. 

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

For me, I will use scoop.it as a language teaching resource, which is next to the concept of portfolio. I do not google my topic just a day before my class but prepare for the potential usage on  daily basis. If I find any interesting topics that will motivate my students, I will then present it out and it is really depending on the actual class process. (U will never predict what your Ss ask you!)

The next usage I am not so sure. Perhaps, I would use this tool as a pre-activity. For example, at the beginning of a term, I will invite my students to create their own topic in scoop.it. Perhaps two weeks later, I ask the whole class to vote for the best scoopt.it topic. The standard lies on the topic itself and the gathering info. The successful Ss can be my teaching assistant for the purpose of teaching a lesson around that elect topic. What about those who do not succeed?  If they like, They could give presentations on their topics based on the gathering info, in order to persuade their classmates to voting for them as the next teaching assistant. They could choose to present their topics via podcast, mailVU or youtube. The final decision is made by their classmates. In this sense, scoop.it is regarded as a research database.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

Something that worries me in terms of this tool is whether Ss will change its advantage into disadvantage. It means whether scoop.it contributes to knowledge filtering or just another composition of the crowd itself. Users should pay attention to select what to follow in case of getting missing among the self-contributed information flood.


Siemens, G. 2004. 'Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.' Retrieved from http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf

Vaill, P. B. 1996. Learning as a Way of Being. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Blass Inc 



Teachers, why not myBrainshark?

This is a video created in myBrainshark. I just upload a powerpoint to this website http://www.brainshark.com/mybrainshark, record my voice in every slide and finally "whoosh"!!

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

What is myBrainshark? Good questions!!! This is an on-line file sharing website that allows you to upload video, audio, photo, document and powerpoint. Distinguised from other file sharing webistes, this one let users add sound in written texts. It benefits audience for the reason that contents are clearly explained by written and spoken form.

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

It is soooo relevant to language learning because!! 1. It helps to practice speaking. It is so real like the public presentation except your gesture and facial expression. Therefore, learners can practice speaking at home annnd...Importantly! they can send their presentations via myBrainshark to tutor, in order to get feedback. 2. Tutors can also give their lectures via myBrainshark. It got powerpoint, got voice, which means this tool packages the essential elements of a lecture. Moreover, it gives Ss a chance to track back and forth. Are there any other exciting things can campare with that U decide which part to stop, and U can jot down notes, and U can replay if U like!!

I think the reason why this tool is appropriate to language learning is that it fits in with the applicaiton by Interactionist and Socio-cultural research. They demonstrate that second language interaction affects the learning opportunities. MyBrainshark extends the chance of interaction by second language after class thus increasing learning opportunities.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

I might use it as a tool of blended teaching, by which I mean to upload my lecture with embedded voice after class and send Ss the link. They can review my lecture at home and rethink about it. I could also ask Ss to give presentation via this tool. The topic could be varied, self-introduction, hobbies or interests. This is a fantasitc practice opportunites before Ss really give a formal presentation in front of their classmates.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

Although Ss can practice speaking, it is hard to tell if their body language is appropriate or not. As for teachers, it doubles their workload which means they should give presentation both lively and digitally. ><


Teachers, why not Voki?

Fancy role-play in practicing speaking, teachers? But, how to make your Ss feel they were really in their roles? Stop wasting time wondering my friends! Here we got http://www.voki.com/! As you might see right at the head of my blog page, there is an avatar in representation of me and speaking with human-like moving. Really motivating right? Then you could believe Ss can't wait to have a try^^

1) What is the technology/ What does it do?

Voki is a website that allows you to create avatars in your preference. You can add voice to your avatars. You can post them in any social networks e.g. blogs.

The tool is fasinating for the reason that it is so real! I mean it visualizes you as a virtual entity in the network which is very different from only hearing your voice. To be explained, most of us had the experience in skype. Do you feel the difference between talking with audio and talking through video? That embraces the idea of virtual entity that I mentioned above. That is to say, when you see the figure, it creates a context that you are with a real interlocutor.

Particularly to this tool, you can choose an avatar with customized appearance and also set a background which you like. It concludes indoors, cityviews, travel and etc. Interestingly, you can embed your voice in. To conclude, two features that Voki embaces is cutting edge. One, the avatar is so "U" by choosing appearance and uploading voice. Second, contexts are socially diverse that almost including various aspects of your daily life.

2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?

The point that I put forward above is relevant to language learning, especally in a context where there lacks language context for example in China. Students would be motivated to witness those virtual speakers, which in a way bring them into a virtual social context.

This idea is closely related to social constructivism which suggests learning processing happens in the social interaction (Palincsar, 1998). For the reason that knowledge is socially and cuturally constructed, individuals create meanig through their interaction with others. Voki here provides a social context, where learners act their roles. Although learners do not actually have conversations with other avatars, it more or less takes an initiative to set themselves in a social community. In detail, they can act as people from different career by different speech and pretend to be in different places by choosing various Backgrounds.

3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?

In the classroom, teachers can create tasks such as role guessing. Based on a created avatar, students guess roles according to their speech and appearance. These created avatars could be either by teachers or by students. I think, it would be more motivated if Ss participant themselves. By editing the speech before uploading their voice, by choosing a particular hair style, clothes and appearance, it is possible that Ss locate themselves in that role and act as real social beings.

Outside the class, Ss can edit their own avatars by which I mean create a CLONE of themselves. They can embed avatars into their social network online for instance facebook, blogs. In this sense, they can taste the interst of interacting with potential Internet friends.

4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?

However, it seems that this tool does not have a profound significance as a socially interactive tool. For example, in terms of creating an avatar to represent themselves, there is a risk this tool loses the function of soical interaction if learners do not receive feedbacks verbally by another avatar or textually by written comments.

Palincsar, A.S. 1998. Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 345-375.