Using Web-Based Tools for Flipped ESL Learning in the Korean Language Education System

Using Web-Based Tools for Flipped ESL Learning in the Korean Language Education System

YunJoon Jason Lee (Busan National University of Education, South Korea)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2242-3.ch010
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With the continued proliferation of digital technologies, students are absorbing more information than ever. As a result, the relationship between students and teachers in a traditional face-to-face classroom can be limiting. As the flipped classroom approach has emerged, the classroom culture has changed. The active environment, interactive approach, and content-specific flipped learning has great potential for the ESL-learning context, especially for Korean college students. Korean college students were accustomed to the face-to-face, top-down structure of learning, and flipped learning provided an opportunity for them to look at and experience learning differently. More specifically, the top-down relationship between teacher and student shifted into a more balanced and interactive learning culture. The positive aspects of flipped learning were beneficial for the Korean ESL college students. This chapter features a case study of a college English language conversation class in Korea and explores how to set up a flipped classroom through web-based tools in order to keep the students motivated and generate a participatory environment.
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With the development of classroom technology, schools have focused on adapting new digital practices to enhance the learning experience for students. Teachers and educators have attempted to use movies and TV shows, as well as iPads and smartphones to increase student engagement. This movement assisted the transition of the blended classroom into the flipped classroom. In the flipped classroom, students not only engage in classroom activities in a traditional face-to-face (F2F) manner, but interact through online means and computer screens. The flipped classroom lets students explore the world through watching lessons at home, discussing their homework at school, and utilizing digital tools, such as iPads, laptops and mobile phones. Sung (2015) argued that educators (Brown, 2007; Vygotsky, 1978) have vigorously asserted the importance of student-centered learning. In Korea, the educational department has pushed student-centered education for many years, due to the fact that the Korean education system still remains very teacher-centered. Since Korea is also known as an exam-based culture (Seth, 2002), it is no surprise to see teachers focusing on trying to improve the students’ overall test results. In this culture, teachers focus more on giving out lectures, homework and tests that are primarily teacher-centered (Dailey, 2010). The introduction of the student-centered, flipped classroom helped change the traditional paradigm where students studied on their own through different media, while the classroom was dedicated to discussions and going over homework. This shifted the traditional classroom into an innovative one with a student-centered approach to teaching (Bergmann & Sams, 2012, 2014; Bretzmann, 2013; Sung 2015).

According to Ash (2012), flipped classrooms have emerged recently in the U.S and have also influenced Korean classroom settings, not only in K-12, but also at the college level. Kim and Kim (2014) and Kim, Chun, and Choi (2014) studied the effectiveness of the flipped classroom paradigm in the university setting, observing role-exchange discussions and motivation level changes in a language learning context. Kim, Chun, and Choi observed 39 college students in an exercise physiology class. The result of the research showed that students gained more confidence in participating in class activities. Through a pre-survey test, the researchers found that students were falling behind in class because of a lack of positivity, confidence, focus, and satisfaction. However, after setting up a flipped classroom, the students showed improvement in all four areas. In addition, Lee, Park, Kang, and Park (2014) looked into flipped classrooms in Korean K-12 settings. This research indicated that utilizing flipped classrooms in college or K-12 settings was effective and a game changer for students. Students showed positive attitudes toward classroom activities, as well as improved relationships with teachers and peers. Lee (2014a) stated that the positive outcome of the Korean flipped classroom represented a critique toward the Korean education system and suggested that innovation was needed.

A growing number of educators in Korea are proponents of the flipped classroom method. Currently, the Korean education system is undergoing an educational paradigm shift. The government is putting efforts forward to lower private lesson fees, especially in English language learning, while parents are pushing their children to overachieve in school. Mostly, the Korean K-12 education system relies heavily on rote learning and memorization. Thus, students are overloaded with studying and homework. Although students who can negotiate their way through this approach do manage to succeed in the Korean educational system, many others fail and lose interest in this repetitive and rote experience of study during high school. The government has attempted to make the Korean college entrance exam easier every year to help students who struggle because of the rote memorization process, but the students’ study burden hasn’t changed much.

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