CLEAR’s directors and staff are delighted to announce that CLEAR has been granted Title VI Language Resource Center funding from the US Department of Education for a sixth funding cycle, which will run through September 2018.
Michigan World Language Association (MIWLA) Lansing, MI, October 23-24, 2014
In my work with preservice ESL teachers, I’ve seen both native speakers and international students find worksheets online that purport to teach students how to, for example, invite, compliment, or disagree in English. I have observed my student teachers give their students lists of expressions that most English speakers would never say. One particularly glaring example on a website for teaching invitations was “How do you fancy going to the restaurant for dinner?” One can only imagine the reaction an ESL student would get if he or she used this expression, even in the UK. Conversely, an ESL student may hear someone say, “How ‘bout havin’ lunch tomorrow?” and not understand that this is an invitation. When students’ exposure is limited to textbook language, they miss out on learning how language is used in real life.
The conventional classroom is not an ideal environment for second language acquisition. There are too many students per class, and never enough time in the day. Under pressure to keep the class progressing according to schedule, students’ individual needs and questions can be neglected. Thus, the learning gap between high achievers and low achievers can widen as the course progresses, and at the higher levels, achievement gaps can lead to proficiency gaps. There is no single solution to this problem, but technology offers a way to address some of the inherent weaknesses of the classroom language teaching format. In 2006, CLEAR launched its “Rich Internet Applications for Language Learning” initiative. Web-based tools were designed to offer functionality that is beneficial to language learning, while exploring how technology can enhance language teaching. This article discusses the design principles behind the RIA initiative, explains how the tools are intended to be used, and shares some examples of classroom use.