From book to web: time to get creatical


A more course-integrated use of web tools

With more and more EAP teachers at our school bringing the digital world into their classrooms, we recently decided to take a leaf out of BECTA’s 2008 report on educational technology use and consider more concretely the idea of ‘pedagogy before technology’.

While individual teachers were experimenting with a variety of web tools and multimedia activities, we had yet to fully integrate these into a whole course and assess the impact they could have on student engagement and overall development. Last summer then, we chose an EAP book and got straight to work, mapping web tools and activities onto the language and skills areas in the book.concretely the idea of ‘pedagogy before technology’.

What’s all this about creatical thinking?

From Flickr to Google My Maps and Prezi, we developed a series of flexible, fun activities which I’ll be sharing with you on blendedmec in the coming weeks, along with the key insights we have gained from the project so far. We have found these technology-based activities to be powerful agents of increased student motivation, enabling us to start charting a path from critical thinking to creatical thinking: a model where students can be more actively and creatively involved in what Woo and Reeves call ‘meaning making’.

The activities

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about the following four web-based activities:

1. IELTS writing with Flickr: essays for the digital age (Monday May 7th)

2. Guided tours on Google MyMaps and Google Earth (Monday May 14th)

3. Trending with IELTS Task 1: a web journalism project (Monday May 21st)

4. Creative presentations with Prezi and infographics (Monday May 28th)

I hope you check out the posts and that you enjoy experimenting with web-based activities in your own classes. Certainly from my own experience so far, they really do make a world of difference!

And now, in the spirit of ‘pedagogy before technology’, a little theoretical background underpinning our work.

A bit of theory – analogue and digital

With our primary focus being on student engagement and motivation, we adopted Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design as a useful starting point. Keller states that motivation is made up of four elements: attention, relevanceconfidence and satisfaction. With these in mind, we then thought about how web-based tools might enable us to maximise each of these elements. The fit seemed very promising indeed…

• Attention can be encouraged through a variety of instruction, tasks and materials, so what better place than the web with all its multimedia, multisensory madness?

• Relevance relates to the need for more personalised learning experiences where students can express their identities. The social web of creating and sharing ideas and texts seemed tailor made.

• Confidence stresses the importance of self-efficacy, where students are given control and choices as to how they study. It also takes into account the need to work with students’ strengths and other, non-language skills. Students in charge of designing their own web-based texts, using a whole range of technical and creative skills, might be in a better position to develop this kind of confidence.

Finally, satisfaction refers to a student’s sense of achievement, for example from displaying their work. And if Mary Barr was right when she said that the existence of a real audience online and the professional appearance of texts could prove highly motivating, then our proposed activities seemed to bode well.

So join us here on blendedmec on Monday May 7th for the first post in the series: IELTS writing with Flickr: essays for the digital age!





Some interesting further reading

Barr, M., 1999. The motivational effect of web publishing on the writing process. M.A, California: Biola University.

BECTA, 2008. Web 2.0 technologies for learning: The current landscape – opportunities, challenges and tensions.

Chu, P., 2007. How students react to the power and responsibility of being decision makers in their own learning. Language Teaching Research, 11 (2), pp. 225–241.

Crookes, G and Schmidt, R., 1991. Motivation: ‘Reopening the research agenda’. Language Learning, 41 (4), pp. 469 – 512.

Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M., 1987. The support of autonomy and the control of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, pp. 1024–1037.

Dornyei, Z., 2001. Motivational strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Keller, J. M., 1987. Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional  Development. 10 (3), pp. 2–10.

Naidu, B., Neeraja, K., Ramani, E., Jayagowri, S. & Viswanatha, V., 1992. Researching heterogeneity: An account of teacher-initiated research into large classes. ELT Journal, 46(3), pp. 252–63.

Woo, Y. & Reeves, T., 2007. Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. Internet and Higher Education, 10 (1), pp. 15-25.



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