Student Opinions on the Use of Course Blogs for Overseas Study Preparation
Philip Beech, (MA Asian History, Dip. TEFLA)
John C. Westby, (Bachelor of Arts, Doctor of Jurisprudence)
Meijo University, Faculty of Human Studies
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.
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.
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
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).
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
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