Teaching Foreign Languages in the Context of Information and Communication Technologies

Teaching foreign languages should always be a creative process. We are constantly tapping into new ideas, monitoring trends, pursuing best practices and researching the latest developments concerning the use of information technologies in our teaching practice.

Generally speaking technology can be used in order to acquire necessary digital skills, enhance access for learning, engage learners and enable students to learn regardless of their location.

In teaching foreign languages the use of information and Communication technologies is of great importance because they help to achieve the concrete aims, help to make some topic comprehensive and make communication effective. But of course curriculum design and its implementation should be taken into account.

As professor of Instructional Systems technology at Indiana University Curtis J. Bonk has said “we are experiencing ten key learning technology trends across the planet that are opening access to both formal and informal education”. These trends are:

1. Web searching in the world of e-books
2. E-learning and blended learning
3. Availability of open source and free software
4. Leveraged resources
5. Learning Object repositories and Portals
6. Learner participation in Open Information Communities
7. Electronic Collaboration and Interaction
8. Alternative Reality learning
9. Real-time mobility
10. Networks of personalized learning

The number of instructors, teachers, professors and students affected by online course practices and activities has grown tremendously. Teachers of foreign languages pay great attention to the blended learning that has advantages of both face-to-face and online methods.

Blended and e-learning has been a key aspect at Moscow State University of economics, statistics and informatics, Russia, which, for example, uses the system of virtual camp based on the program Share Point that is aimed to build the process of communication distantly especially with students who can’t attend the real lessons.

This virtual camp has several main parts that are all incorporated into the process of learning of all students:

1) The use of forum where students can practice written communication and discuss problematic things
2) calendar
3) The list of materials necessary to understand a topic
4) The list of web links
5) The list of necessary books
6) The function to send tasks and to write commentaries
7) Testing system

This system of e-learning education helps us control the work of students; they can get advice about how to do this or that task. Besides, with Share Point the composition of teamwork continues to be expanded.
But at the same time in teaching languages we try to concentrate on different ways of creativity and communicative approach. In this case three basic conditions take place:

1. We must have something that we want to communicate
2. We must have someone to communicate with
3. We must have some interest in the outcome of communication.

That is why we are inclined to search for new methods based on the use of ICT in order to arouse and keep students’ interest to the communication in the English language.

For example while teaching the practice of translation we use the American site Dot Sub where one can create subtitles to any video passage. This kind of work teaches students to listen to the foreign speech attentively and to think of the possible and correct ways of translation. They can work independently or in pairs and after that demonstrate their video with the subtitles. All students assess the work of each other elaborating rubrics for evaluating different kinds of group work.

For the lessons of speech communication we use different kinds of blogs that help students form their thoughts, teach them to use good written English and besides it’s a way of public communication because their opinions can be read by anyone else.

To make a process of teaching general linguistics more interesting and engage students in different kinds of tasks we created a WIKI for which students should find interesting information about foreign and national linguists and their achievements and add and edit pages.

During the seminars connected with general linguistics students should participate in the Web quest that includes such parts as search of necessary information, analyzing it, writing a scientific article, group discussion and final debates.

It seems interesting for us to use the possibilities of Second Life reality because we suppose that it is a highly visual instructional platform that can be used for revising studying any topic. For example, studying the topic of art it’s possible to give virtual tours of architecture or walk into and become part of famous paintings. Any courses where writing and also communication are key parts can be implemented into Second life environments.

When it’s necessary for students to find out the opinions of people of different nationalities and generalize information about mentality they can get a task to use different sites used for communication with other people and after that tell before the audience about their experience and analyze the positive and negative sides of such kind of communication.

In conclusion it’s necessary to stress that the use of ICT in our educational process influence positively on the effectiveness of lessons and develop the following skills:

-the skills of team-work;
– the ability to create something for a short period of time;
-the skills of critical thinking;
-the skills of a professional written speech as the creation of articles in wiki, for example;
-listening skills as the creation of subtitles, for example.

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