This is my second academic blog, but I am not sure if it is the last one. All my assignments of the course ‘New literacies and Language Learning’ will end by this Friday, which also means the date of graduation is approaching. I have the feeling that the postgraduate studies are like many TV episodes and now the finale is coming; it is impossible to freeze the time and we have to say ‘good bye’.

As for my blogging experience in this course, first I shall express my great appreciation to Dr. Hafner and my dearest classmates. I shall say ‘Thank you very much for your valuable comments!’ If there is no one responding, I will not feel so motivated to write so many posts. The schedule of this course is hectic and some pedagogical approaches introduced in this course are complete new concepts to me. Therefore, it is necessary for me to read more relevant articles to get to know more about the teaching approaches. To be honest, maintaining this blog helped me keep a good reading habit. Sometimes, I was slacking off and not willing to read the academic articles, I kept reminding myself that I had to read every week because I needed to keep posting my reflections online as a part of assignment.

By the end of the semester, I finally realized that I have achieved the aim of the assignment. Through keeping this blog and writing the reflection online, I have developed a deeper understanding about the approaches which were introduced in this course. Besides simply learning the definitions of the pedagogies, I can also evaluate them critically. The group is often smarter than the individual. This blog provides me with opportunities to learn from other classmates. Through reading other people’s posts, I could get different ideas towards the same issues. Classmates and Dr. Hafner’s comments also helped stimulate my thinking.


Reflection (Milton, 2005)

In this article, Milton (2005) first discusses the common problems in English teaching in the EFL contexts. He also proposed four online tools that can be used to address the problems.

Milton (2005) argues that generally people in SE Asia are teaching and learning English to the exam. The examination-orientated educational system  has many drawbacks. Firstly, the students only focus on the exam and don’t have opportunities to practice the language for real use outside the classroom. Secondly, students has weak communicative competence in the target language.

Nowadays, the various online resources can be used by teachers and students to address the problems. Therefore, Milton (2005) comes up with four online tools which can broader student’ learning opportunities.  Before using the online resources, the first step should be establishing a coherent development and management system. The system can provide teachers and learners with the guidance and principles so that they can create engaging and meaningful learning activities with online resources.  Milton (2005) gives his own criteria of the system.  With the system, teachers and students can manage their language learning behaviors more effectively.  The first one is asynchronous voice messaging. One common problem among the SE Asian English language teaching and learning is that students are often observed to have relatively low spoken English fluency. Therefore, Milton (2005) suggests that students and teachers can make good use of some online tools to hold conversations via the Web. Some possible ways can be : teachers record the messages and put it online; students form groups to record some voice messages and put it online. The online voice messaging practice provides the fluency practice and  can help students access online activities directed at lexical acquisition and improve accuracy. The second one is online data-driven language learning.The teacher may introduce some online lexical look up tools for students to aid their writing. The third one is providing feedback on student writing.  Every teacher understands the importance of teachers’ feedback for the development of students’ writing, but they seldom use online resource to help them when they are writing feedback to their students. Milton (2005) suggests that teachers can develop the corpus of writing of students  and compare the students’ writing with the native language users’ writing online. Through comparing and analyzing  teachers will have a better understanding about the common language mistakes that EFL learners may make. They can make more effective and specific feedback for students. Teachers can also make a online marking tool to make the learning process more efficient  Students can submit their assignments and receive the feedback online. Finally, Milton (2005) proposes that more online role play activities can be applied in the language classroom. The role play activity can motivate the creative use of language through scripting of spoken language. Besides the language skills, some generic skills such as critical thinking and problem solving skills are developed as well.

In this article, Milton (2005) focuses on talking about the advantages of using online resources. The benefits that online tools can bring to the language users cannot be ignored, however, using online tools is also a big challenge for the language teachers. Firstly,  they need to be the expert of those online tools themselves, because they are not only teaching students the language but also teaching students how to use the particular IT tools. Also, teachers need to be careful when designing the language class with the use of IT tools, because there are various resources online. Teachers need to give students clear guidance that which resources are relevant to the teaching content, which are not.

Fostering learner autonomy in English for science: A collaborative digital video project in a technological learning environment

In this article, Hafner and Miller describe a collaborative student digital video project as a part of a course in English for Science and Technology. Through the case study, they focus on evaluating the potential of a technological learning environment to foster language learner autonomy.

First, Hafner and Miller review the concepts of language learning autonomy and new technologies in language learning.  learner autonomy is defined as the ability to take control over one’s learning. The learner-centered approach should be promoted to develop learner autonomy. The authors also mention the significant role the project-based approach plays in encouraging students’ learning autonomy. Through project-based teaching and learning, new social contexts and rich language environment are developed in the classroom, which will be beneficial in promoting collaborative learning. Then the authors review some previous studies that are related to new literacy practice in language learning. They suggest that new technologies can foster learner autonomy in learning languages by providing learners with a range of authentic resources.

In order to explore the educational potential of the new technologies in developing students’ learning autonomy, Hafner and Miller describe and evaluate the implementation of one digital project. In a course about English for science and technology, in order to complete the project, students need to form in groups and then do some background research, carry out the experiment and present findings. The primary focus will be on students’ learning process. New technologies play an important role in planning, filming and editing, and sharing stage. Specifically, in planning stage, students utilize the internet search tools to do some background research. In filming and editing stage, DV cameras,DV editing softwares and resouces websites are used for documenting procedures of  experiment . In sharing stage, students maintain a course weblog to share their finds and comment to each other. They also develop the Youtube channel to present their project. During these three stages, the teacher will also provide some in-class support (e.g. conducting some workshops) to facilitate students’ learning.

In order to evaluate the project innovation, three methods are used: questionnaires (open and closed items); focus-group interviews and analysis of the comments on students’ weblogs. The key findings are 1. The project appears to have been highly motivational for students. Most of students think this is a very interesting and challenging project. 2. Students agree that this project is a meaningful and authentic task. 3. Students reports two kinds of independent learning: independently practising English and independently searching for information by technological tools. 4. Students think it is a collaborative task and each of the group member needs to take his/her role in order to complete the task. 5. Students said they asked their group mates for help in their English and preparing videos. 6. Many students think that through weblog, they have opportunities to  reflect on their learning and learn from each other’s project.  Based on these findings, Hafner and Miller get the conclusion that new technologies learning environment enhances the autonomous language learning and the project-based learning creates a realisitc social contexts to help students develop their autonomy. They suggest that language classroom should combine the digital materials with other resources in order to foster the development of language learner autonomy.

I strongly agree with the Hafner and Miller’s opinion in this article. Based on my learning experience in undergraduate studies, new technologies can always work very well among the university students. Through digital tools and Internet, students can get as many authentic materials as possible. Also, university students are mentally mature enough to distinguish which information is useful for them. They can also self control their behaviour and try their best to finish the assignment before the deadline.   Therefore, University  teachers do not need to worry too much about negative effects of Internet. I think new technologies-assisted project based learning have been promoted in universities in Hong Kong very successfully. Probably most of students in Hong Kong universities have experienced in using digital tools to conduct a project. However, in many universities in mainland China, teacher still prefer the transitional ways of teaching.    It is essential to let them notice how important new technologies is in promoting language learner autonomy.




You are not studying, you are just…

Many of us have experienced in playing online games but only few have ever thought about the educational potential of those entertaining applications. In this article, the author examines how content originally designed for entertaining purposes can be modified to provide natural and context rich language learning environments, without sacrificing its entertaining value.The author also provides some examples of embedding language instruction into games and other applications. In this reflection, I will talk about several interesting teaching ideas the author have presented in this article.

1. The sims— it is is a strategic, life simulation video game. In this game, the player needs to control the daily routine of a virtual family by doing different types of tasks. The author uses his personal experiences on learning German to prove that this game can be well developed to facilitate students’ language learning through providing learners with a bilingual environment. He states that teachers can modify the game through combining game data from the English edition with data from other language’s edition. The purposes are to increase students’ L2 vocabulary and to provide them enough L1 support.

2. The massively mulitiplayers online games. In online games, players need to communicate with other live plays on the Internet. Therefore it provides opportunities to interact with native L2 speakers.

3. Speech recognition technology. There are many online programme that allow the learner to engage in simulated conversation by presenting them with some possible response to choose. The programme will also match the learner’s response to the closest of the available responses and provide corrective feedback.

4. The author also suggests learners to use some online tutorial to practice language grammar. He gave two examples in the article. (online Spanish tutorial and .about.com German)

5. Music. It is one of my favorite. The author proposes that music can be used as a teaching material to teach language. Since many students are interested in listening to music, teachers may examine the lyrics of a song and design some teaching activities. I remembered in my third year in undergraduate studies, I took a course called teaching vocabulary and grammar. In that course, the tutor introduced us some ways to use music to teach grammar. The example she gave us is the song ‘If I were a boy’ sung by Beyonce. (plz click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWpsOqh8q0M to watch MV) This is a perfect song which can be used to teach second conditional. Most sentences in the lyrics are second conditional structures. The teacher can develop many grammar activities and exercises based on this song.

Here is a worksheet I found in the Internet which was designed by a teacher who taught second conditional and vocabulary based on this song.



Guys, this article may make us rethink the role that games and other entertaining applications play in language teaching and learning, can you think about the following questions? We will also discuss them in tmr’s seminar.

1. Considering your own learning and teaching experience, do you think gaming is an effective way to learn a L2? If yes, how do you learn L2 through playing games?
2. Do you think English language curriculum in Hong Kong or mainland China is flexible enough to embed the language teaching into games or other entertaining applications? What challenge might teachers and learners face?

Thank you! 

Reflection: L2 Literacy and the Design of the Self

Based on the ethnographic and discourse analytic methods, , Lam (2000) conducts a case study of a Chinese immigrant teenager’s written correspondence with a group of peers from different nations on the Internet and investigates how online interaction helps that teenager develop identity in the use of English.


Firstly, the author provides some relevant theoretical concepts: identity, voice, design and self. She also points out that the current study focuses on how new literacy is bound up with some particular social contexts. She viewed literacy learning as a process by which learners can be socialized with in specific communities and enact a particular social role.  In other words, the term ‘Identity’ is emphasized in the process of promoting literacy learning.


In this case study, the author utilized methods including participant observation, in-depth interviews and textual documentation to gather the data on students’ computer experiences and activities. The target subject in this case study is a boy named Almon, who emigrated from Hong Kong to the US with his family when he was 12. After he arrived at the US, his main concern was his poor English. His found that his difficulty with English negatively influence his feeling of belonging to the US community. Later, in 1997, Almon started to get interested in Internet. He learnt to make personal home pages and conduct online chat and found it was easier for him to express himself online. He constructed a personal website talking about his idol –a young Japanese popular singer and introduced himself as Mr. Children. In this website. he interacted with people from different nations who shared the same interests with him through multiple channels of communication (e.g. ICQ, email…etc.) Through communicating with his pen pals, he made great progress on his English skills, especially writing skills. However, the English that Almon developed online was the global English rather than academic English taught in English classes. online interation helps him develop a sense of belonging and connectedness with a global English community.  As stated before, in this study, ‘Identity’ was the central issue the author concerned. In the discussion session of the case study, the author states that Almon developed a textual identitied that are related but different from his biographical identities online.   In other words, what Almon reacted online was different with the real him in the real world.


In the conclusion, the author raises a critical issue for language and cultural identity in an age of globalization and the populatization of Internet-based communication. I totally understand that why the author states that one may have different identities on the Internet and in the real world. I believe most of teenagers have some secrets. They prefer to share them with strangers online (such as pen pals) rather than thier friends and families. They may express thier feelings or thoughts differently online. That’s a natual phenomenon. Therefore, when the language teacher decide to assign some online project to students, they should be aware of the identity issue. I think besides helping students develop language, another advantage of new literacy practice is to let teacher get to know their students better because they have a chance to understand different sides of one person through thier online identities.


Also this case study reminds me of my friend’s experience of learning English. Like Almon, She is a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. Everyday she spends lots of time gathering every piece of his news (including his interviews, reports in magazines, gossips, dramas….) She also writes lots of film summarys about that actors. Since most of news are English, she also needs to translate it into Chinese and put the translations online to share them with other fans. She told me that being a English actor’s fan really helps her improve English. Since you are particularly interested in a English guy, you will take the initiative to get to know him more through reading and writing. Now she has moved to Australia. I believe that her cultural identity is useful for her to adapt herself to a new environment easily.BTW, her personal webpages on douban and weibo are very famous among the Chinese fans of Benedict. You may have a look 🙂 http://www.douban.com/people/rainleo410818/  http://weibo.com/rainleo410818


I think the teacher should be aware of the power of pop culture and cultural identity to language learning and understand that nowadays it’s not enough to only practise standard language with students in traditional classrooms, the teacher should creative opportunities to encourage students to expand thier target languages through getting in touch with the target language communities. The learning activities about pop culture may not necessarily have to be very formal.The teacher may introduce some western pop culture to thier students and let students share their interests to a particular culture with each other. The most important thing is to let students find thier culture identity and cultivate their own interests in expanding the target language as they are learning it.





Productive Pedagogies–Play, Creativity and Digital Cultures in the classroom: summary and evaluation

In this article, Marsh (2009) tries to explore different ways to promote productive pedagogies and to bring digital culture into classrooms. Marsh (2009) first comes up with many advantages of promoting digital practices among children. First of all,  meaningful digital practices can reflect students’ real interests and help keep a balance between home and school literacy practices. Also, parents in US hold positive opinions regarding the prominent role of digital literacies in students’ lives. More importantly, some online tasks are effective in developing students’ language skills and generic skills. Specifically, Marsh (2009) explores a teacher’s using blogging to develop ‘productive pedagogies’ in details.

Marsh (2009) analyses the notion of productive pedagogies from four dimensions: intellectual quality, connectedness, supportive classroom environment and engagement with difference. All the dimensions play the important role in implementing the digital literacy practices. In this case study of blogging, two primary teachers (one from UK, one from US) collaborate together to develop a project with their students. Their students needed to maintain a blog on dinosaurs and also had the responsibility to respond to other students’ blogs. This project promoted the cross-country communication. Marsh (2009) analyses this case study from the ‘connectedness’ dimension. Specifically, this project integrated knowledge across different subjects, helped activate students’ background knowledge,  encouraged students make a connection to the world through searching online resources, and developed students’ problem solving skills.

I think the case study gives all the educator a good example of the use of digital literacies to promote students’ out-of-school’ learning. Through blogging, students are motivated to utilize different resources to facilitate their learning. More importantly, cross-cultural interaction is created. I think It’s  wonderful for kids to get to know foreign friends at such young age. Blogging can effectively help them develop social skills and broaden their social network.

I think more digital literacies should be used in Hong Kong classroom to enhance students’ language learning. From the case study presented by Marsh, we can clearly see that digital practice benefits both students and teachers.In traditional classroom, teachers play the main role of instructor; students passively sit in the classroom and listen to teacher’s talk. However, digital technology has been well developed in today’s society. In this context, traditional ways of teaching are that beneficial to students compared with 20 years ago. There’s a need for the teacher to apply some digital literacies to teach in the classroom. Digital literacy practices provide students opportunities to work together and share information. Through searching and collecting information by themselves, they are not improving their language skills but also some generic skills such as communication skill, cooperation skills, problem-solving skills, IT skills and so on. However, we have to accept the fact that digital literacies are still not that popular in Hong Kong classrooms. I also mentioned this in Abia’s blog. Different stakeholders have different concerns. Hong Kong education is still exam-oriented. Parents are worried about the effectiveness of using computer stuff in developing their children’s academic results. Teachers also have tight scheme of work; some long-term activities are not applicable  since they have to finish one unit within a short period of time. School heads are also worried they don’t have enough money and resource to support the digital literacy teaching and learning… Even though there are many concerns, every teacher and educator should be informed the importance of digital literacy in motivating students’ learning. We can start from the simple digital literacy practice and evaluate its effectiveness in Hong Kong educational contexts. There’s still a long way to go.