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March 2006
Gender and Academic Performance in English Communication Courses
July 2007
A Case Study Of A Japanese Learner In The UK
September 2007
Student Opinions on the Use of Course Blogs for Overseas Study Preparation
September 2007
An Emerging Japanese English
February 2009
Observations on One Japanese University's General English Program
December 2013
Incentivization and In-class Participation in the Japanese University English Language Classroom
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Student Opinions on the Use of Course Blogs for Overseas Study Preparation

Sept, 2007

By

Philip Beech, (MA Asian History, Dip. TEFLA)

Assistant Professor

&

John C. Westby, (Bachelor of Arts, Doctor of Jurisprudence)

Associate Professor

Meijo University, Faculty of Human Studies

Nagoya, Japan

Introduction

Language teachers using Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in their classes have a wider range of new Internet tools at their disposal than ever before. These include some of the most popular blogging software (or blogware) such as WordPress, Blogger, MySpace and ipernity. Since the 1999 launch of Blogger there has been a very rapid growth in the number of personal blogs in cyberspace (Blood, 2000) and an increasing acknowledgement and awareness among educators that the new media presents new and exciting possibilities in the field of language education.

Most blogware operates using a straight-forward WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) text editor interface allowing easy formatting and hyper-linking of text (Campbell, 2005). Thus, the new blogware applications enable the teacher (or student) to make simple web pages which can be easily maintained and updated by an individual or group without detailed knowledge of html coding.

Sounds and indeed whole lectures can be stored as podcasts at Archive. Video clips that can be embedded in blogs can be uploaded and stored without cost on such video sharing sites as YouTube and Veoh. Photo sharing applications such as Picasa and Flickr allow users to easily upload photographic images, tables, maps and graphs to a class or student blog or website.

We attempt in this research paper to analyse the reactions of a group of around 70 Japanese university students to their experience of CALL lessons using a variety of the new media applications mentioned earlier. The mainly second and third year students were following a weekly, pre-departure English course before a three-week study trip to Oregon State University (OSU).

The mandatory pre-departure course has been held since 2001 each semester on Monday afternoons in the 5th period 4.30-6.00pm time slot. Due to the large number of (mixed-ability) students enrolled on the course a multi-media, web-based format was adopted to a) hopefully present an alternative method of English study to general English-language courses available on the curriculum and b) save resources which would otherwise be used in paper-based presentation and teaching methods.

Method

Much has already been written on using blogs and photo sharing applications in an interactive way (Campbell, 2006) with students creating their own personal blogs and photo galleries for classroom comment and possible feedback from other users worldwide. Our approach was nearer to the traditional presentation and practice methodology with short dialogues, listening / reading practice and pair-work presented through the medium of a class blog - oregonkenshu.blogspot.com

Previously presented paper materials, quizzes and answers were uploaded to the blog and integrated with video presentation and speaking practice in the computer classroom. Exercise types included traditional gap-filling, quizzes and reading comprehension in the form of guided internet searches from relevant links placed in the blog entries.

Emphasis was placed on 'survival English' techniques and strategies to help prepare students for a home-stay in the US, getting through immigration, eating out and interacting with American students and instructors on campus.

We collected and examined the reactions and opinions of 52 second and third year students of the Department of Human Studies at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan enrolled on the kaigaikenshu, 15-week pre-departure course using a bi-lingual (English and Japanese) questionnaire of fifteen questions. We applied a statistical analysis to the data and published this in the form of pie-charts. Only seven of the fifteen classes were taught using CALL as the other classes were taken up with administration, risk-management, health insurance briefings and feedback from students who had experienced the overseas study tour in previous years.

We approached the survey of our students' attitudes towards using CALL bearing in mind previous research on students' reactions to language learning through CALL (Zhong & Shen), which stresses a learner-centered approach and student autonomy and the need for both instructors and students to understand their role in the CALL classroom. While much research stresses the validity and "effectiveness of multimedia technology in language learning indicating significant improvement of students' language learning," (Suwanthep & Seepho), learners' expectations and understanding of the concept of autonomous learning is necessary to increase the likelihood of successful adoption of CALL materials and methodology in the language curriculum.

Results

Students were asked to grade their responses to the questions on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is strongly agree and 5 is strongly disagree.

In answer to the question "I have enjoyed the computer content of the Kaigaikenshu classes" the majority of student responses were satisfactory (3) to more positive (1 & 2).

Figure 1

Fig. 1

In answer to the question "I prefer learning English using a computer than by other methods" their is a slight majority of 56% of students responding positively by choosing 1 or 2.

Figure 2

Fig 2.

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