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"Second Languages Matter"

Kimberly A. MacDonald, Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Introducing Internet Based –Computer Assisted Language Learning and WebQuests: FSL teaching, learning, and cultural experiences at the post-secondary level.

Description of the project:

Introducing Internet Based –Computer Assisted Language Learning and WebQuests: FSL teaching, learning, and cultural experiences at the post-secondary level.

The purpose of this project is twofold. First, to offer my post-secondary, beginner French-as-a-Second-Language (FSL) learners the opportunity to take part in virtual cultural “exchanges” while working collaboratively with members of the target language group in an interactive, Internet Based-Computer Assisted Language Learning (IB-CALL) context using an Internet authoring tool known as a “WebQuest” as a means to increase exposure to French, to improve attitude towards FSL, and to enhance proficiency.

Second, to provide FSL educators, in other classrooms and language learning contexts, with a model and practical step-by-step guidelines that will allow them to use the Internet to plan, to develop, and to construct their own interactive, communicative, and intercultural language learning experiences according to students’ needs and abilities.

Research studies show that intensive exposure to the target language makes French real for FSL learners, improves attitudes towards FSL, and enhances proficiency; that the best way to make French real is through face-to-face interaction with the target language group (Lapkin, Hart, & Swain, 1995; MacFarlane, 2001; Warden, Lapkin, Swain, & Hart, 1995). However, face-to-face interaction is not always possible, especially for post-secondary, beginner FSL learners, who wish to continue their core French studies and who do not have the opportunity to participate in exchange visits. In response to the Government of Canada’s (2003) Action Plan for Official Languages, which has set an objective to double the number of young Canadians who are functional in their second official language by 2013, Lapkin (2003) inquires, “How could we achieve similar attitude change and enhance proficiency for all FSL students, including the vast majority who have no out-of-classroom contact with French?” (p. 7). One way is by means of IB-CALL and an Internet authoring tool, known as a “WebQuest”.

The project aims to further research concerning IB-CALL design and development of L2 learning environments, and, more broadly, research on innovative pedagogical approaches related to second language acquisition. To this end, it may serve to enhance the professional development of L2 educators and, in turn, the revitalization and extension of FSL programs at all levels of education.

The method of my project, known as a “WebQuest”, is a collaborative, student-centered, and inquiry-oriented activity, in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. “WebQuests” are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The model was developed in early 1995 at San Diego State University by Bernie Dodge with Tom March.

Traditionally, “WebQuests” consist of a learner and a teacher section. The components of these sections, as well as steps involved in creating “WebQuests”, will be detailed in my project. This will provide the necessary information for FSL educators, in other classrooms and language learning contexts, with practical step-by-step guidelines that will allow them to duplicate this activity.

Given the collaborative, communicative, student-centered, and inquiry-oriented nature of “WebQuests”, the theoretical foundation used to ground the project will be a modified version of the conceptual framework for a multidimensional, four syllabus curriculum that was the outcome of the National Core French Study (NCFS), initiated in 1984 by H. H. Stern. The “WebQuest” will be developed with a Communicative/Experiential Syllabus, a Culture Syllabus, a Language Syllabus, and a General Language Syllabus.

Success of the project will be measured using pre-activity and post-activity comparisons, based on several writing samples and an oral presentation, both of which will be marked using holistic scoring rubrics. It will also be evaluated on the basis of student perception interviews and an educator journal. Finally, given that the project will be readily accessible on the web, other educators will be contacted (via list-serves, mail lists, etc.) and invited to take part in an online, perceived effectiveness survey.

Autobiography of Kimberly A. MacDonald

Kim is presently an Ed.D candidate in Second Language Education at OISE/University of Toronto and is writing her doctoral thesis on FSL and IB-CALL. Kim is also an FSL instructor at the undergraduate level and Coordinator of the Multimedia Language Centre at St. Francis Xavier University. In addition she has experience teaching FSL (Core and Immersion) and Science at both the elementary and secondary levels in Canada. Her research interests and areas of specialization include: FSL teaching and learning, Internet Based-Computer Assisted Language Learning, Second Language Writing, and the Output Hypothesis. She has earned degrees in B.Sc., B.A., B.Ed., and M.Ed. from St. Francis Xavier University and Université Ste-Anne, Nova Scotia.

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