Leveling Up: Using Motivational Digital Technology to Create Meaningful CLIL Experiences

Leveling Up: Using Motivational Digital Technology to Create Meaningful CLIL Experiences

Mercedes Ruiz (University of Cádiz, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2318-6.ch018


In this chapter, a framework to design engaging CLIL units that make use of motivational digital technologies is introduced. The framework collects the eight-year experience of the author as a content trainer using CLIL in a university context. The proposal grounds on consolidated knowledge on CLIL training, imports validated knowledge from the gamification domain, and applies it to assess the level of engagement of the individual tasks included in a CLIL unit, as well as the CLIL unit itself. The steps included in the framework guide the trainer to make and justify decisions regarding the selection and inclusion of motivational digital technology based on the level of engagement it produces. The framework will be useful for trainers designing their own materials, adapting or reusing existing ones and assessing the level of engagement that their units can produce.
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The rapid digitalization of today's society is changing most of the patterns of our daily lives: from the way we manage our companies, the way we learn and educate our children, how we work, how we interact with friends and family, our consumption habits, or the way we take care of our health and our lifestyle. The challenges that education in general, and CLIL education in particular, are facing for the coming future are enormous.

In 1999, the United States Department of Labor reported that 65% of today’s schoolchildren will end up at works that have not been invented yet (U.S. Department of Labor, 1999). Even though that 65% number has been a matter of controversy due to the lack of qualifying data to support such statistic, the reality is that there is a common agreement that the world is changing and education needs to evolve as well (Morimoto, 2018). Very recently, Michael Servoz elaborated a report for the European Union in which he explores the policy choices and recommends how to address the work of the future, highly influenced by automation and artificial intelligence (Servoz, 2019). In his report, Servoz particularly suggests a rethink of education, in which more space should be given to soft skills and critical thinking and a definite orientation towards skill acquisition rather than rote learning. His conclusions are consistent with the findings of Barbara Holzapfel, who concluded that by 2030 occupations will demand higher problem solving and critical thinking skills and 30-40% of jobs will require explicit social-emotional skills (Holzapfel, 2018). These and other similar reports anticipate a future society that will be much different from the present one and for which the current educational processes are challenged to prepare their future citizens.

Aware of the important changes in the future society, in 2006 the European Parliament recommended the eight core competences for lifelong learning (European Parliament, 2006). Among them the ability to communicate in a foreign language, which includes the appreciation of cultural diversity and intercultural communication, shares the spirit of CLIL core principles. Another core skill for lifelong learning is the digital competence, described as the ability to confidently use technology for work, leisure and communication. In the same way that CLIL approaches content and language learning under a strategy of skills acquisition integration, it seems reasonable to consider the option of expanding the integration to other essential skills, such as the digital competence in particular.

The integration of digital technology in education and in CLIL settings is not a new topic. There has been numerous works describing the benefits and the challenges of using technology in education. Among the clear benefits, the improvement in the motivation and the engagement of the learner remain without any doubt (Ahmadi, 2018; Pokrivčáková & Bozdoğan, 2015; Rodinadze & Zarbazoia, 2012). However, the experiences reported rarely describe the reasons why a specific technology was selected for a particular situation. The most frequent reasons found in the literature for the inclusion of technology in CLIL units are: a) it is included because of its engaging nature (ICF Consulting Limited, 2014; Panagiotidis, 2018) or b) as an attempt to place the learning unit within a domain that is more familiar for the learners who are born digital natives (García, 2015; Şenel, Deren, & Akman, 2015),

Key Terms in this Chapter

Crowdsourcing: The activity of giving tasks to a large group of people or to the general public, for example, by asking for help on the internet.

Role-Play: A type of task in which participants act imitating the character and behavior of someone different. It helps students to apply content in a relevant, real-world context.

Motivation: The reason for people’s actions and decisions. It can be positive, as when we do something because we feel a positive stimulus or negative, as when we do something because we want to avoid another thing.

Engaging: A learning task that increases the learner’s attention and focus and motivates them to practice higher-level thinking skills.

Radar Chart: A graphical method of displaying multivariate data in the form of a two-dimensional chart of three or more quantitative variables. Radar charts are a useful way to display multivariate observations with an arbitrary number of variables.

Realia: In language teaching, an authentic object or real-life resource used to connect language learning with real life.

Persuasive Technology: A type of technology that is designed to change attitude or behavior of the users. When applied in a learning domain, it helps design engaging and motivating learning experiences.

NFC Tag: A Near Field Communication tag, aka smart tag, is a simple and cheap device that can be easily programmed to store any sort of information that can be read with a NFC-enabled smartphone.

Gamification: A practice consisting in adding game-like elements in non-game contexts like education with the goal of increasing the learner’s engagement.

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