Google Search Applications in Foreign Language Classes at Tertiary Level: A Case Study in the Turkish Context

Google Search Applications in Foreign Language Classes at Tertiary Level: A Case Study in the Turkish Context

Buğra Zengin (Namık Kemal University, Turkey) and Işıl Günseli Kaçar (Middle East Technical University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 44
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8499-7.ch013
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Abstract

Given that it is challenging for EFL teachers to create an input-rich learning environment with ample learning and practice/production opportunities, the integration of online resources into language classes has gained importance recently. Although the effective use of technology in educational settings is viewed as a 21st century skill, the issue of providing EFL learners with systematic training in the use of online search techniques in educational settings has not been explored sufficiently and many learners are not yet aware of how to utilize technological resources for educational purposes. Hence, this chapter aims to investigate how EFL majors in an English preparatory program at a public state university in the west of Turkey use Google searching skills receptively and productively in pedagogical tasks, to highlight how Google search tasks can be used to raise language awareness and to offer suggestions for effective integration of search techniques into teaching EFL at the tertiary level.
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Introduction

It is considered a common challenge in English as a foreign language (EFL) settings to provide a learning environment for learners rich in both comprehensible input and in output production opportunities today. As the popularity of Internet usage and Internet communication tools has significantly risen in the last decades (Bicen, Özdamlı, & Uzunboylu, 2012; Tezer & Bicen, 2008; Uzunboylu & Özdamlı, 2011;), the number of EFL teachers who turn to the internet, mainly free online resources and search engines such as Google, to create such an environment full of learning and practice opportunities has grown exponentially. However, systematic training in the use of search techniques is usually provided in neither formal nor informal settings, setting aside the application of these techniques to learning and teaching languages. Inasmuch as it is possible to find videos, webinars or other online training programs introducing and illustrating search engines in detail, it is relatively hard to find out practical tips that are concerned with how to benefit from them to develop language skills.

With the recent breakthroughs and an upsurge in the popularity of the Internet and information technologies, enhancing learners’ web-based information searching ability has become a salient goal in the educational circles. However, the existing search engines are limited to catering for the individual learners’ basic knowledge acquisition, hardly addressing their specific learning needs and knowledge levels. As suggested by Yin, Sung, Hung, and Hirokowa (2013, p. 296), an ideal search engine is supposed to indicate both “the retrieval results and the analysis of the data”. Even though nonnative speakers try out collocational candidates on search engines, the search results returned are not likely to be accompanied with a form of analysis they can use to evaluate the degree of how natural their output is. Therefore, it is common to observe that nonnative speakers of English are grammatically accurate yet collocationally inaccurate. This leads to contextually inappropriate use of language which is likely to sound inauthentic, unnatural or artificial.

In order to optimize the conditions conducive to this awareness-raising action, it is of utmost importance to develop information literacy skills, which entails critical thinking needed to access, retrieve, analyze, evaluate and use information. With the emergence and sophistication of search engines, it is acknowledged that information literacy skills encompass online search skills as well. However, there is a prevalent lack of awareness concerning the benefits of online search techniques in educational settings on a global scale, particularly toward the goal of achieving authenticity. Although online Google search techniques have been used in non-academic EFL environments, to date the integration of such techniques into academic EFL environments from both a theoretical and a practical perspective has not received due attention.

Considering Google to be the most popular search engine with widespread usage all over the world, this chapter aims to demonstrate some guiding principles and a road map for EFL teachers at the tertiary level to enable them to apply Google search techniques in academic settings, with a view to integrating such techniques into the teaching and learning processes of English. It also intends to assist the EFL teachers in their feedback provision endeavour to help their learners navigate their search process smoothly and in addressing the latter’s challenges as well as those of their own in the relatively uncharted territory of Google search engine. The chapter incorporates some sample Google search engine applications, techniques, and tasks that can provide learning opportunities for EFL learners in the form of comprehensible input and practice opportunities to promote output generation to facilitate their zone of proximal development via different forms of scaffolding and to improve their accuracy and fluency in the English language. This chapter also aims to address the issue of the implementation of the online search techniques in traditional face-to-face learning environments and in blended learning environments by presenting a list of recommendations for the EFL practicioners to ensure the effective implementation of these online search activities. The learner reflections in and on action in the form of reflection reports on their Google search experiences will be included as well.

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