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design multimedia to improve the speaking skills of SLA


Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners Abstract
The field of computer assisted language learning (CALL) has expanded rapidly over the last few years. However much of the research has been aimed at improving written communication skills and little has been done to address the issue of increasing oral proficiency. This article proposes a set of preliminary guidelines so that rational choices can be made from the various technologies available. It identifies the requirements for effective multimedia and introduces solutions, discussing the theoretical basis for these recommendations. The article attempts to demonstrate the potential multimedia has for improving the speaking skills of second language learners.

Introduction
Certainly email and chat rooms are suitable for practising reading and writing skills, but what about speaking skills? Liu et al. (2003) reveal a serious shortcoming in the research they reviewed, finding that most focused on the ’increase of written communication skills’ (2003:259). Where studies spoke of an increase in the quantity of oral output, there was some question as to the ‘syntactic complexity’ of the language output. On the other hand, another researcher has found multimedia to be highly effective in improving listening and speaking skills (Poon 2003). Anecdotally, students often report that their most important learning objective is speaking the target language (TL) and while oral language development is clearly an important skill for second language learners, it is best not taught alone. Second Language Acquisition (SLA) includes reading, vocabulary, grammar, writing, listening, speaking, and culture. However speaking is frequently underreported in course design (Volle 2005). So it is argued here that second language learning activities must also integrate other language components to serve as stepping stones to interactive conversation practice. Assuming then that interactive multimedia has a place in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), this article explores (cognitive or other) design rationale, instructional or remedial interventions, and strategies for representing interaction so that multimedia that helps to focus on improving the speaking skills of second language (L2) learners can be created.

Design Rationale
Scaffolding
Anderson (1983) found that L2 learners, go through cognitive, associative, and autonomous stages when acquiring literacy skills, In a classroom setting progression through these stages is usually facilitated by scaffolding, a concept that is central to the learning and teaching of language. Scaffolding therefore must also be operationalised in the instructional design of any multimedia. The concept of scaffolding is common in educational literature and is broadly referred to as any sort of teaching or helping of learners. But the need for a more precise definition of scaffolding is required for those involved in literacy and multimedia. Maybin et al. (1992) list three factors as distinguishing scaffolding from other forms of teaching. ? The task, skill, or understanding being scaffolded is a specific learning activity with finite goals.
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Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners

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Scaffolding is help that will enable a learner to accomplish a task, skill or understanding which they would not quite have been able to manage on their own. Scaffolding is intended to bring learners closer to a state of competence which will enable them eventually to complete the task on their own.

Multimedia lessons then must support meaningful production in the target language i.e. pronunciation, accent and intonation, responding to visual or aural input, etc. This type of goal setting is integral to monitoring, feedback, and students' reflection on their own learning. Multimedia must also be able to allow students to acquire information and recognise distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the target language and its culture. For example, Doughty and Long (2003) write about the use of ‘elaborated’ input. Elaboration is the term given to the way native speakers (NSs) modify their language to make it comprehensible to non-native speakers (NNSs). These elaborations can include, but are not limited to, confirmation checks, comprehension checks, clarification requests, and rearrangement of utterances. Answers to questions presented through multimedia are best not judged as only ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ with little or no feedback, especially in cases where there can be alternative answers, because additional explanations can help learners to focus on errors. Furthermore, adding hints where students have correctly answered questions can help learners to think about why their answers are correct. For example, in a review of a multimedia software program called ‘Connected Speech’, Egbert (2004) suggests ‘…when learners are working on determining the number of spoken syllables in words; it might be more effective for some learners to be shown an answer instead of just being told well done’ (2004:7). Kataoka (2000) found that second language learners (L2) face an extreme amount of anxiety and often feel more comfortable speaking to computers than in face-to-face situations. In other words, they can feel more comfortable practising pronunciation without feeling embarrassed by their errors. Moreover, when oral production is supported through the use of visual aids or help files, students are able to practise more effectively and confidently. Additional benefits to using multimedia can be realised where a networked environment is present. Interactive multimedia over a Local Area Network (LAN) can help to promote peer support and collaboration, encouraging students to produce considerably more output than each could on his/her own. This could more likely produce higher levels of negotiation of meaning and better comprehension. Basically any multimedia must be able to provide feedback if it is to reinforce positive learning outcomes and increase learner confidence.

Pedagogy
L2 language learners tend to differ in terms of culture, knowledge, ability, etc. and therefore multimedia must strive to create learning environments that accommodate a variety of learning styles. SLA research emphasises that literacy development can be improved by providing multiple opportunities for learners to interact in communicative settings with authentic materials that are relevant to students’ own needs (Krashen 1982). Omaggio (cited in Peterson 1998) has proposed 5 hypotheses based on the proficiency approach to language teaching.

2 2007 Galloway W. The author licenses this work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners

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Opportunities must be provided for students to practise using language in range of contexts likely to be encountered in the target language. Opportunities should be provided for students to practise carrying out a range of instructions (task universals) likely to be necessary in dealing with others in the target culture. There should be concern for the development of linguistic accuracy from the beginning of instruction in a proficiency-oriented approach. Proficiency-oriented approaches should respond to the affective needs of students as well as to their cognitive needs. Students should feel motivated to learn and must be given opportunities to express their own meanings in a non-threatening environment. Cultural understanding must be promoted in various ways so that students are prepared to live more harmoniously in the target-language community. (1998:35)

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A good example of this type of approach could be the construction within a web site of virtual environments for language learning, where learners from many countries can interact. Software programs such as CU-SeeMe ? or Net Meeting ? video chat allow multi person audio and video chat in real time. In these types of forums, interaction is promoted and cultural awareness can be fostered through participation in meaningfocused authentic discourse. The use of voiced audio e-mails is another good teaching strategy. With the use of voiced interviews conducted online, Volle (2005) found that students tend to think aloud in their first language (L1) to either translate the question posed or as a strategy to respond. With out anyone to actually talk to, students feel free to softly speak out their thoughts before attempting to answer. In other words, this helps L2 learners to develop their own metalinguistic awareness in order to stimulate a change in their own interlanguage. Kataoka (2000) also claims that the use of computer audio editing programs such as GoldWave ? have helped to improve Japanese students’ English speaking skills. In this situation a teacher records a dialogue using an audio editor. Students then listen to the dialogue and record their own corresponding utterances. The advantage here is that students can later listen to the recorded dialogues and re-record their responses if they so wish. Instructors can also review the recordings and offer constructive feedback. This type of activity is based on a common teaching strategy in SLA of pair talk, but gives students the opportunity to concentrate on their own parts, without the anxiety that may come with speaking with a partner. More important though, is the end result, where students are able to practise the same dialogues in face-to face situations with much more confidence. Recognition that language learning is culturally and socially contextualised is also essential to designing for effective multimedia. Henderson (1996, cited in McLoughlin 2000) notes ‘…a multiple cultural model of design that caters for diversity, flexibility and cultural inclusivity in the design process affirms the social and cultural dimensions of constructed meaning’ (2000:5). In other words multimedia based environments need to be culturally inclusive, provide activities with support, allow for flexibility, and offer learners a scaffolded and structured learning environment.

Cognitive Design
Cognitive monitoring and self regulation is known as metacognition. Simply stated, learners must be able to check their comprehension during listening or oral production
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Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners

while it is taking place. Multimedia therefore needs to encourage learners to reflect on their learning. But how much information can be embedded in a lesson before a student encounters cognitive overload? Well first off, it can be argued that no one has really found an effective way to measure cognitive load. But interestingly, research claims that multimedia should be designed to reduce the cognitive load on learners. Goolkasian (2000) contends that ‘…when material is presented in formats that are easily integrated, the load on working memory is reduced resulting in more efficient processing’ (2000:440). While to the contrary, Sharifin (2002) argues that ‘…retention may be enhanced by presenting materials within a dissimilar context or by increasing the amount of cognitive load on the part of learners’ (2000:6). So which is it? Ikeda (1999) found that advanced level students, when learning vocabulary, were much better able to connect images of words with meaning when sound was present. On the other hand, low level students did not always associate the sound with the image of a sound. This suggests that lower level students do not make good use of their metacognitive strategies, for controlling their own learning, when confronted with too much stimuli. According to Simons, it ‘…boils down to interpreting the signal-to-noise ratio for a particular learning task’ (no date:1). In general, lower level learners may perform better at simple tasks with fewer stimuli. If text will meet the learner’s needs, then do not add graphics or audio. Too much stimuli may become just noise to the learner. Advanced learners are more likely to benefit from more stimuli because of the greater levels of abstractness in performing complex tasks. As such an increase in stimuli will be interpreted as part of the signal, and not as noise, and therefore will be used by the learner to solve the task. Peterson (1998) suggests that multimedia-based language learning activities must be designed to help learners manage cognitive load, while at the same time providing opportunities for cognitive restructuring.

Instructional or Remedial Interventions
The question here is: how much can total performance increase in terms of phonological and grammatical accuracy, as well as communication, if the student is able to correct their own errors? One of the main stages in oral skills learning, and one of the main concerns in this area, is the use of feedback. Feedback can help learners ‘notice the gap’ between their interlanguage systems and the target language, so they can modify their output (Schmidt & Frota 1986). Swain and Lapkin (cited in Chapelle 1998) agree that ‘…noticing a problem “pushes” the learner to modify his/her output. In doing so, the learner may be forced into a more syntactic processing mode then might occur in comprehension’ (1998:23). This is where multimedia can be of great benefit. For instance, when learners respond to computer generated questions, speech recognition software can recognise an acceptable response and compose a reply. So for learners’ responses to be comprehended they would have to be syntactically well-formed and pragmatically appropriate. Some good examples of feedback within multimedia programs follow. ? Caroline in the City ? - where learners read a dialogue shown on the screen which uses the Microsoft Speech Recognition Engine to evaluate their output and give
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Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners

them feedback. Learners can try again, skip a sentence, or ask for modelling when the recognition engine does not accept their output. ? ? CNN Interactive English ? allows learners to record their voices and compare them with a native speaker using an on-screen voice. TeLL Me More Pro ? improves pronunciation by having learners listen to a selected word or sentence and try to reproduce it. The program scores the attempt by matching the user’s input with a model. TRACI Talk screens ? indicates when input is inadequate and subsequently responds with "Sorry, I do not [sic] catch that, could you say again" or similar sentences. (Chen 2001)

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Tsutsui (2004) notes that multimedia should provide a process of self-detection which allows students to recognise errors more consciously than otherwise; force students to retrieve L2 knowledge and test it more accurately; provide opportunities to rehearse utterances correctly; heighten students awareness of errors; and allow for self monitoring of performance which reinforces correct speech forms and helps to prevent errors from reoccurring.

Interactive Multimedia Strategies
Chapelle (1998) suggests that multimedia characteristics in SLA should evoke responses from learners rather than replicate exact conversations. Software then must be able to support interaction between the learner and the multimedia. Interaction must be viewed in the context of the larger task and particularly of task goals. Two task features have been identified as playing a role in prompting valuable interactions in L2 tasks: interactional activity and communication goal. For example, ‘interactant relationship’ implies that the task requires a ‘two-way’ exchange of information for goal completion rather than requiring information to travel only ‘one-way’ (Long, cited in Chapelle 1998). In Lyceum ? the audio-graphic conferencing software developed by the Open University, students use headphones and microphones to communicate in real time (Hampel & Hauck 2004). One of the strategies employed to promote interaction is through the use of sub rooms within each conference. Students can even create their own virtual rooms where they can communicate in pairs or small groups. Virtual learning environments (VLEs) like Lyceum ? ‘…have created a greater sense of interaction and intimacy among the students than many face-to-face courses’ (Shnierderman, cited in Hampel & Hauck 2004:76). However this is not arguing that all interaction must be between two or more individuals to be effective. Basically interaction can be broken down into two areas: individual interaction with learning materials (e.g. text, television, and computers) and social interaction between two or more individuals learning material (Bates, cited in Wang 2004). Both are equally important for learning and as such multimedia that improves pronunciation or vocabulary in isolation can also be used to help promote social interaction. One of the debates in video conferencing these days, however, is whether video mediated interaction is actually necessary or whether audio mediated interaction on its own will suffice. Arguably the ‘…lack of nonverbal information reduces verbal cues and impairs interaction’ (Sproull & Kiesler, cited in Wang 2004:91). Hampel & Hock (2004) also point out that when ‘tutors do not receive visual clues and body language, it’s easier for students unsure of what’s going on to sit quietly without participating and without getting help or
5 2007 Galloway W. The author licenses this work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners

encouragement’ (2004:78). Therefore, the use of video must be considered as crucial to reducing the impact of isolation in the design of any SLA multimedia.

Conclusion
This article argues that any multimedia designed to improve the speaking skills of L2 learners must follow the basic principles of second language acquisition (SLA) and must have the ability to incorporate views of learning in various contexts such as those embodying cognitive, meta-cognitive, social, linguistic, cultural, and authentic task elements. Multimedia must also provide for expansive feedback. Feedback is an indispensable part of the input in language learning. However the most effective feedback forms are those that not only indicate the incorrect form, but stimulate students to produce the correct forms themselves. Multimedia should also be able to support communication among peers in an environment that uses video conferencing to promote speaking activities while at the same time offering grammar and vocabulary support. Videoconferencing has the benefit of establishing a visual connection among participants and allows teachers to see and hear remote learners in real time. It also allows instructors to use conversation and body language to enhance communication, increase learner understanding, and encourage a more personalised instruction. Multimedia must also allow for activities that encourage socialisation and communication to take place. This does not mean that learning cannot take place in isolation. Software must allow students to access aural input in L2 and practise as often as they wish. Video conferencing has the added benefit of ensuring that learners are exposed to authentic and meaningful language. Instructors also have the opportunity to act as coach or facilitator in stimulating communication and interaction. Well designed and used multimedia can assist language instructors to bring learners together so that they can improve their L2 speaking skills. This article provides teachers and designers alike with a set of preliminary guidelines for using or developing multimedia to improve the speaking skills of their own L2 learners.

References
Anderson, J. 1983, The Architecture of Cognition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Doughty, C. & Long, M. 2003, ‘Optimal Psycholinguistic Environments for Distance Foreign Language Learning’, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 50-80. Chapelle, C. 1998, ‘Multimedia Call: Lessons to be learned from Research on Instructed SLA’, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 22-34. Chen, H. 2001, ‘Evaluating five speech recognition programs for ESL learners’, Information Technology & Multimedia in English Language Teaching, Papers from the ITMELT 2001 Conference. Egbert, J. 2004, ‘Review of Connected Speech’, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 24-28. Goolkasian, P. 2000, ‘Pictures, words, and sounds: From which format are we best able to Reason?’ The Journal of General Psychology, vol 127, no. 4, pp. 439-459.
6 2007 Galloway W. The author licenses this work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Designing Multimedia to Improve the Speaking Skills of Second Language Learners

Hampel, R. & Hauck, M. 2004, ‘Towards an Effective use of Audio Conferencing in Distance Language Courses’, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 66-82. Ikeda, N. 1999, ‘Language learning strategies with sound-hints in computer-based drill’, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol. 15, pp. 312–322. Kataoka, K. 2000, Computers for English Language Learning in Japan, US Department of Education, Educational Information Resources Center, pp. 1-28. Krashen, S. 1982, Principles and practice in second language acquisition, Pergamon Oxford, UK. Liu, M., More, Z., Graham, L., & Lee, S. 2003, ‘A Look at the Research on Computer Based Technology Use in Second Language Learning: A Review of the Literature from 1990-2000’, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, vol. 34, pp. 250-273. McLoughlin, C. 2000, ‘Designing learning environments for cultural inclusivity: A case study of indigenous online learning at tertiary level’, Australian Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 16, no.1, pp. 58-72. Maybin, J., Mercer, N. & Stierer, B. 1992, ‘Scaffolding learning in the classroom’, in Thinking Voices: The work of the National Curriculum Project, ed. K. Norman, Hodder and Stoughton for the National Curriculum Council, London. Peterson, M. 1998, ‘Creating Hypermedia Learning Environments: Guidelines for Designers’, Computer Assisted Language Learning, vol. 11, no.2, pp.115-124. Poon, A. 2003, ‘A Challenge for the Developer: issues of interactivity and linguisticcognitive appropriateness in English language learning’, Open Learning, vol. 18, pp. 135153. Schmidt, R. & Frota, S. 1986, ‘Developing basic conversational ability in a second language: A case study of an adult learner of Portuguese’, in Talking to learn: Conversation in second language acquisition, ed. R. Day, 237326. Sharifian, F. 2002, ‘Memory Enhancement in Language Pedagogy: Implications from Cognitive Research’, TESL-EJ, vol. 6, no. 2. Simons, J. (n.d.) Learning through Experience: the dialogue necessary to learn with technology, Associated Colleges of the South ISSN 1545-9284 Tsutsui, M. 2004, ‘Multimedia as a Means to Enhance Feedback’, Computer Assisted Language Learning, vol. 17, nos. 3-4, pp. 377-402. Vgotsky, L. S. 1978 Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Volle, L. 2005, ‘Analyzing Oral Skills in Voice E-Mail and Online Interviews’, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 146-163. Wang, Y. 2004, ‘Supporting Synchronous Distance Language Learning with Desktop Videoconferencing’, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 90-121.

7 2007 Galloway W. The author licenses this work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.


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