In particular, this chapter looks at the potential role of Web 2.0 technologies and podcasting to act as a transformational force within language education. Using a case study approach, the researchers describe a project to create a series of podcasts called “Splendid Speaking” based on authentic speech recordings of English language learners from around the world. The aim of the project was to utilize a Web 2.0 technology, podcasting, to improve the speaking skills of upper-intermediate to advanced level learners. Central to this project was the question of how popular a podcasting service would be with the target audience of English language learners and teachers. The Splendid Speaking podcasts were enabled by the use of Skype, a free Internet telephony system, and other low-cost and free software to edit and publish the podcasts. It is hoped that teachers and curriculum planners reading this chapter will be able to evaluate the possibilities of creating podcasts to deliver elements of their language courses.
The Internet and Learning
The Internet has had a tremendous impact on learning and brought new opportunities for learners to find and retrieve information, access learning resources, as well as to connect with other learners. However, since 2004, media commentators have observed that the Internet appeared to be entering a new phase of development with a newer range of applications, tools and services, collectively known as Web 2.0, and exemplified by blogs, wikis, podcasts and video-sharing platforms. Therefore it was only a short time before educators began to consider the impact of web 2.0 on learning.
The first phase of e-learning generated much excitement, and with some justification. Teachers and learners were able to use technological tools such as: interactive quizzes to test knowledge; search tools to retrieve information online; as well as discussion boards, email and live chat, which facilitated communication. These tools certainly had the potential to enhance the learning process, by offering more flexible access to the curriculum and providing opportunities for support outside the classroom.
However, Downes (2005) asserts that far from being radical, most e-Learning to date has generally followed a similar model to traditional education. Whether e-learning is used to support face-to-face teaching or delivered as a “standalone” course, he states: “Content is organized according to this traditional model and delivered either completely online or in conjunction with more traditional seminars, to cohorts of students, led by an instructor, following a specified curriculum to be completed at a predetermined pace” [our emphasis] (para 7). He cites the way that a course syllabus and learning content is often packaged up and delivered to the learner via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or a Learning Management System (LMS), rather like a coursebook or lesson plan. He argues that the next phase of the web will bring about a “social revolution” with important implications for education.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Connectivism: A theory of learning that describes the process of learning which takes place through the building of online connections between people. The theory was outlined by George Siemens in “Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age” (2005).
Feedburner: FeedBurner is a web-based service which provides RSS feeds for bloggers, podcasters and other users who publish frequently updated content to the web.
Powergramo: A commercial package which acts as a plugin for Skype to allow users to record conversations and conference calls.
Wordpress: A very popular open-source content management system popular with bloggers. A plugin for Wordpress called Podpress allows users to publish podcasts.
Podomatic: One of several podcasting services which offer a free starter account for those interested in learning more about this technology.
Splendid Speaking Podcast: A series of recordings featuring advanced learners of English participating in exam-style speaking tasks carried out remotely using Skype.