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Avatar Languages Blog

Archive for the ‘ACTIVITIES’ Category

Emergent Syllabus – a syllabus for dialogic language learning

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The challenge

A student recently expressed that he wanted greater structure for his Spanish lessons and also wanted to have a clearer sense of what he would be learning when.  He said that he wanted a textbook and practice exercises.  I am reluctant to head too far down the coursebook path for various reasons such as the likely greater focus on grammatical forms than on communicative competencies, the lack of individualization (and therefore relevance to students’ lives) and the limited amount of textbook-like resources for Spanish that are available online.

The solution

To address the student’s concerns, I have developed a kind of syllabus that gives greater structure to the classes and yet is naturally student focused.  This syllabus is based around situations that the student may well find himself in and themes that he is interested in.  There is a tendency for certain communicative skills to be foregrounded according to the situation, but neither specific linguistic skills nor grammatical forms are the driving force behind this syllabus. Instead, there is considerable flexibility with how the student and teacher jointly interpret the activities proposed by the syllabus.

Syllabus contents

The syllabus contains the following sections…

  • Subjects for discussion: My World activities are suggested topics of conversation that focus on the students’ own lives.  There are also suggestions of how to ensure that these in-class conversations are pedagogically fruitful.
  • Situations for role-play: Practical Simulation activities are unscripted role-plays that allow students to prepare for everyday scenarios that they anticipate encountering in the near future.
  • Teacher’s guide to help teachers use the syllabus.  The guide includes support on preparing lessons and on how to teach using the syllabus.
  • The student guide helps students understand what their role could and perhaps should be in the learning process.


Real life listening comprehension exercise – mlearning with GPS navigation

Friday, August 6th, 2010

One of my students, Federico, uses a car navigation system to find his way around the streets of his own country in English.  Over the last few weeks he has been using the sat nav in English to help him improve his foreign language skills.  Sat navs are GPS controlled devices that read aloud navigational instructions to the driver.  The device references satellites to track where the car is and so is able to give directions according to the car’s exact location.  Some allow you to change the language and Federico has changed his to English even though he is using it in his native Italy.  Interestingly, he is able to recall the exact phrases he had learned, such as “bear right” and “take the third exit at the roundabout”.  Clearly this approach has worked well, so it is worth pondering on why using a sat nav system seems to help learn a foreign language.

sat nav listening comprehension


Twitter for language learning: reading tweets

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

In a recent lesson with Pierre we read some tweets together by the CNN correspondent Nicole Lapin. It was Pierre’s suggestion that we look at her twitter page because he was having some difficulty understanding the tweets.


Dogme for Virtual World Language Learning (Presentation at SLanguages 2009)

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

At SLanguages 2009 I gave a presentation on Dogme language teaching and its relevance to virtual world language education. Here is the presentation as text…

I have been using virtual worlds such as Second Life for approximately two years and during this time I have done some interesting and engaging activities with students. However, I have also being looking for methodologies to draw upon to ensure that these activities are pedagogically sound and beneficial to the students’ learning. More recently I have taken a closer look at Dogme ELT as a pedagogy to guide these virtual world activities and Dogme has stood out as an approach that has much to offer virtual world language learning because of its focus on real life communication as the basis for developing language competencies.


Second Life as a Social Learning Environment (Presentation at SLanguages 2009)

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

One of our students, Pierre Moussy, has been using the 3d virtual world, Second Life, to gain conversation practice. His presentation below was given at the SLanguages conference (for language education in virtual worlds); you can listen to Pierre’s presentation and follow his PowerPoint. Pierre’s talk is especially interesting because it gives us some insights into how languages learners actually use second life to talk with others in a foreign language. It also shows us how they benefit from such experiences and how language teachers can better guide their students so that they gain the most from virtual worlds.


Augmented Reality Language Learning – Discussion in Second Life

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Last Thursday I met with other language educators in Second Life to discuss Augmented Reality Language Learning and in particular the ideas and suggestions I presented in the “Augmented Reality Language Learning – virtual worlds meet m-learning” blog post last week.


Photo of Dennis’ Villa in Second Life (image by Sanja).

Carol Rainbow kindly recorded the audio of the meeting and you can listen to it on Blip.TV or download/play this mp3 recording of the discussion about Augmented Reality Language Learning in Second Life.

The event took place at Dennis’ villa on EduNation – so thank you Dennis for hosting the meeting. And thank you to all for attending and making it such a interesting conversation.

I think you can only hear 3 voices (most participated via text-chat within Second Life) and they are of Dennis Newson, Scott Thornbury and me.

Augmented Reality Language Learning – virtual worlds meet m-learning

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Talking with Graham Stanley last month and seeing Pierre Moussy’s G2 Android smartphone in action got me thinking more seriously about mobile learning for languages. Some of the G2 phone’s features make use of augmented reality, which seems to fundamentally change (indeed improve!) the possibilities of Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL).

This blog post is an attempt to sketch out some initial thoughts on how Augmented Reality Language Learning (ARLL) could be used in a student centered way. Both Task-Based Learning (TBL) and Dogme approaches seem to offer guidance, as do the experiences with Virtual World Language Learning (VWLL). The focus here is very much on mobile access to geo-tagged Wikipedia (Wikitude) and location-based social networking (Google Latitude and BrightKite).

Avatar Languages has yet to develop ARLL lessons, so this blog post merely looks at what may well be possible.

What is Augmented Reality?
AR is the combination of real-world and computer-generated data so that computer generated objects are blended into real time projection of real life activities.

Wikitude – An Immersive Wikipedia
is a program that overlays information in Wikipedia about physical places onto the camera screen of a mobile phone.

Wikitude places markers and summaries on the screen exactly where you can see the relevant building or location. These markers also link to the relevant Wikipedia article, which then opens up in the phone’s internet browser (via a 3G connection).


Wikitravel and other wikis – students as authors

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

I intended to write this blog as a follow up to the one on students writing for Wikipedia – and I checked back to see when it was written – almost exactly a year ago. Since then quite a few articles have been written by our students for Wikipedia. And now we are looking at other wiki sites, such as Wikitravel


Language learners often travel and so they have plenty of travel experiences to write about. Even those students who aren’t travelling much can write about where they live or another place they know well.


How To Add 3 D To Language Classes

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Virtual worlds such as Second Life can be easily added to classroom-based or online language lessons. Virtual worlds offer a 3D immersive experience to be included as an optional extra.


Relevance, Motivation and Communication: Connecting Dogme and Web 2.0

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

The previous blog post on Dogme 2.0 sketches out how the web is becoming increasingly a normal part of our lives as well as an enormous source of both language learning content and opportunities to interact with others as part of the learning process. However, it is really the questions of relevance, meaning and motivation that are the key links between Dogme ELT and web 2.0.

If we see learning as a process of constructing meaning, and therefore one where relevance is key to enabling the learner to both find and create meaning, then the actual medium (be it online or offline) is not necessarily so significant. What seems more pertinent is the ability to create excitement and engagement such that language learning opportunities surface in class.