From Parrots to Puppet Masters: Fostering Creative and Authentic Language Use with Online Tools

 From Parrots to Puppet Masters: Fostering Creative and Authentic Language Use with Online Tools

 John Milton (2005)


Zeng (1999) points out that people believe the force-fed pedagogy makes teachers and students find themselves trapped (cited in Milton, 2004). Traditionally, students, especially those in China are considered to be ‘parrots’ because of the exam-oriented English language education system. In the class, students are encouraged to repeat teachers’ words for several times. Also, teachers give students rules of knowledge and the students apply them to their studies. As a result, students, particularly those in EFL classes, in China are often thought to be lacked of creativity.

 In the article, Milton shows that computer and Internet would seem to be a way to address these problems (p. 243). The incorporation of online elements into a curriculum has been thought to promote instruction and autonomy (Barneet, 1993).  Therefore, in the study, Milton developed a course delivery and student management system specifically to manage language learning. In the system, Milton wrote four tools of lanauge learning. Firstly, ‘Targeting Oral Fluency: Asynchronous Voice Messaging was written. It focused on the fluency practice online. Secondly, ‘Online Data-driven Language Learning’ which helped students find out the collocation properties of the language.  After it, ‘Providing Feedback on Student Writing’ was written. It contributed to writing accuracy. Finally, ‘Online Role Plays’ which could motivate the creative use of language was included. The system encourages independence and life-long learning skills.

     Among these four tools, I am most interested in the last one, ‘online role plays.’ Although role play is often held in class, the setting of the classroom sometimes hinders the outcome of the activity. For example, students have to move to the front of the classroom from their seats. When they stand in the front of many students, they may feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. In consequence, it may probably affect the expected function of role play. On the contrary, online role play can reduce students’ anxiety which they face in classroom. In the Internet, students may feel freer to express themselves and show their creativity. Also, online role play provides students platforms to use the second language outside the classroom because they can seldom speak in L2 in their daily life.


     In conclusion, I think that online tools can benefit both language teaching and language learning. It liberates learners from the wooden limitations of traditional pedagogy by cultivating students’ independent learning. Therefore, it is necessary for Chinese teachers to try to adopt new and flexible teaching approaches.



A Reflection on Mobile Learning, Small Devices, Big Issue



     A Reflection on Mobile Learning, Small Devices, Big Issues from Sharples, M., Arnedillo-Sánchez, I., Milrad, M. and Vavoula, G.

     In the article, the authors point out that mobile technology can offer chances for learning within or beyond the traditional teacher-led classroom. This article purposes to address the meaning of mobile learning and the method to design it and evaluate it. It illustrates how people engage with their surroundings, peers and technology to create extemporarily place of learning.

     The article argues that mobile learning connects formal and informal learning. With the help of mobile technology, learners can systematically capture their experience of learning outside the classroom. For example, many students download some study apps to help them memorize vocabulary whenever and wherever possible. As a language learner, I also gain benefits from my Smartphone. When I was aiming at my bachelor degree, I chose Korean as my second foreign language. At that time, I did not have much time with Korean because I had to spend most of my spare time doing my English study. Therefore, with the intention to memorize Korean vocabulary, I downloaded an app for Korean learning. With this app, I could capture my learning experience when I was in bus or in the metro. Furthermore, I learnt vocabulary with one of my roommates who studied Korean as well when we were lying in the bed.

     The article as well demonstrates that the mobile Digital Narrative project embodies an approach to support collaborative creativity with mobile technologies. It involves the creation, from idea generation to final production, of a collective multimedia. Last Friday, we had the experience of learning through digital narrative project with image, music, and script. Similar to digital video project, this project motivates students both in and out of class. Learners have to design and propose their own project and make it attractive. Also, digital narrative project support collaborative study with students. For example, we worked in groups last week and each of us was assigned part of the project. One got the image, another found the appropriate music. After the preparation, students worked together on the record of the script with smart phone.

     Although mobile learning is a workable and practical approach, teachers have to think clearly how to apply this method. Inappropriate and excessive exposure to mobile phone may bring harm to students’ academic study, physical health, and mental health. As the article suggests, teachers should use mobile technology not only to “deliver” learning but to facilitate it. They can make use of the facilities in current mobile devices for voice communication, note taking, and photography and time management. 


Reflection to Fostering Learner Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technological Learning Environment.


Reflection to Fostering Learner Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technological Learning Environment.


This article mainly talks about the contribution of digital video project to learner autonomy in English. The authors of this article conduct a research in an English for Science and Technology course at a university. The study finds that digital video project and associated technological learning environment appear to encourage students to take responsibility for monitoring and reflecting on their learning.

In the article, the authors mention six main themes to support their findings. They are:

  1. Motivation
  2. Authenticity
  3. Independent learning.
  4. Teamwork and Managing the Learning Process
  5. Peer Teaching
  6. Reflection on Learning


As for myself, I am interested in three themes, including motivation, independent learning, and peer teaching.

Firstly, I agree to this article that digital video project accelerates students learning motivation. In the interview, the students thought that this type of project was new and interesting to them although they encountered some technological challenges when they worked on the project. However, many people focus merely on the challenges that students will come across during the process. They argue that digital video project is a waste of time because it acquires high level of technological skills. At the beginning, as a English major and a female, I am not so familiar with computer technology that I was worried about the problems which I would encounter. Fortunately, my anxiety has been abated since last Friday.  I found that creating a video is not as difficult as it seemed. In addition, I found myself really motivated when I was working on the project.

Next, I believe that digital video projects are helpful for students’ independent learning. In order to produce the video, students have to find information and choose the tools they would like to use by themselves. When I was aiming my bachelor degree, I took a course named ‘News and English.’ One of my assignments that time was to take a video about the foreign people’s lives around my campus. The teacher divided the whole class into five groups and each group had four students. My group decided to interview the foreigner about their attitudes towards their living in my city. Therefore, we designed our questions, looked for our subjects, and conducted the interview together without the teacher’s help. In this case, we learned and practiced our English out of classroom independently.

Lastly, digital video projects helps students learn from their peer. The article mentions that the collaborative group work project creates opportunities for peer teaching, either peer teaching of English and peer teaching of technology skills. For instance, when I was doing the project, I learnt more about how to use the software from my male group mates. Also, we learnt other language, such as French and Germany from our group mates when we interviewed the people who were from French and German.

All in all, I believe that digital video projects can probably help students learn autonomously. It is necessary for teachers to apply this project into language learning lessons. I suggest that language teachers in Mainland China to be retrained with technological skills and make great use of it to facilitate their teaching.


My Reflection on L2 Literacy and the Design of the Self: A Case Study of a Teenager Writing on the Internet

L2 Literacy and the Design of the Self: A Case Study of a Teenager Writing on the Internet is a research report from Wan Shun Eva Lam. In this article, the author presents her case study of a Chinese teenager on how electronic textual experiences in ESL figure in the identity formation and literacy development of the learner.

In her study in fall 1997, Eva used observation, interviews, and textual documentation to collect data on the student’s computer experiences. At the beginning, Eva found that her object, Almon felt frustrated with his English. He thus revealed a sense of marginalized position in society and a perception that his weakness in English would hinder his future life. However, 6 months after the first interview, Eva noticed that Almon made great progress in his English especially the writing ability. Consequently, Eva figured out that Almon improved his English level with the help of the construction of a personal Web site, the electronic media.

The results of this study show evidence of ‘design’ and ‘dramaturgical interaction’. In the Web site, Almon communicated in English with his Internet peers from Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and the United States. He designed his home page on a Japanese singer and used first-person possessive, such as ‘my’ in the site to establish his identity. Also, Almon’s dialogues with his pen pals constructed gendered social roles. In his site, Almon shows preference for female pen pals from which they built textual identities.

 Almon’s case reveals that electronic textual experiences not only benefit learners’ language studies, but also their establishments of identity. Therefore, it contradicts the school’s mandate to prepare students for the workplace and civic involvement.  Likely to Almon, many students in China experience frustration over English and have sense of out-of-group. In order to let students study and to pass the examinations, schools and parents force them to join many remedial classes. However, they do not trust the electronic media.

 In Almon’s case, he plays a role as the host of a home page. When he is out of class, he manages his English Web site. He feels comfortable and confident while using English in the internet. Thanks to the Web site, Almon, thus accelerates his motivation in learning language. Likely to Almon, people can create their identities which can be significantly distinguished from themselves to learn language online. For example, due to the history and political issues in China and Japan, Chinese can pretend to be the people from other countries if they want to communicate with Japanese online.  At the same time, Japanese can produce their identities online if they want to learn Chinese from Chinese people.


My Reflection on Productive Pedagogies

In this article, Marsh (2008) examined ways in which the introduction of children’s digital cultures into the classroom can accelerate ‘productive pedagogies’.  She pointed out that it was necessary for schools to adapt digital practices into classrooms in this media age or they might be locked into pre-21st century modes of communication.


The author had a case study of digital literacy practices in one primary classroom and found out that it could be beneficial to the development of productive pedagogies which gave students opportunities to build on out-of-school knowledge and practices.   Although she pointed out the significance of the incorporation of digital media and the curriculum, she at the same time mentioned the weakness of it.  


It is normal for parents to feel worried when their children surf online. Therefore, parents, especially the Chinese parents try their best to prevent their children from computer. The reason why parents think in this way is because they have not realized the advantage of Internet. As a result, both teachers and students can help parents get familiar with it. For example, they can teach parents to ultilize the mobile network, blogs, and wiki.


Firstly, although the mobile network is making our daily life more and more convinced, many parents cannot use it. In this case, parents should be encouraged to make good use of it. For example, children teach their parents to use the chatting softwares, including what’s app and wechat through the mobile network. As for many young people nowadays, they prefer chatting with texting to talking on the phones. In consequence, with the help of These softwares, parents can get in touch with their children easily. Moreover, children can set up chat rooms for their family so that all family member can exchange their ideas. In this way,thus,parents can not only narrow their generation gap but also figure out the benefit of Internet.


In addition, teachers can encourage both students and parents to use blogs in the Internet. After getting familiar with mobile network, parents may become less opposed to Internet. From blogging, parents an learn knowledge with the children. For example, as more and more parents want to learn English, teachers and children can ask parents to write some words which they want to know the English translation in the blog. After the students see their parents blogs, they can write down the translation in the comments. Also, they can put videos on the blogs to teach their parents how to pronounce the words. In this situation, students may feel comfortable with their parents because they are not subordinate to their parents and they can teach their parents. Meanwhile, children can learn or review vocabulary with the help of blogging.


By getting parents involved, teachers and students can probably change their traditional opinion on Internet. On the one hand, teachers can successfully blend their teaching with technology. On the other, students can combine their personal knowledge and creativity with their studies

Online learning: My experience

Hello, everyone. My name is Tiffany. Actually, it is the first time for me to have a English blog. This semester, I take a course with a name of ‘New literacies and language learning.’ In brief,  I will learn a variety of approaches to the use of new literacies for the purpose of language learning. As a result, this blog will mainly present the usage of  electronic literacy in terms of language learning.

I did not have many opportunities to get access to online learning before I was a undergraduate student. When I was in primary school and high school, the majority of my teachers merely used textbooks and blackboards while giving lessons. In my opinion, the reason why teachers in the Mainland China do not use online learning is not only due to the  education system, but also to the traditional way of thinking of the parents. On the one hand, teacher central classroom is prevalent in China. In the class, the students simply follow their teachers’ instructions and do what the teachers ask them to do. Therefore, teachers do not give their students chance to learn online by themselves. On the other hand, a lot of parents in China firmly believe that computer brings bad effect to their children. They do not realize that computer can be beneficial to their children. As a result, parents in China try their best to keep their children away from computers.

After entering university, as a undergraduate students, I knew how to learn from the internet. My teachers, especially those from the western countries, often uploaded information as well as materials of our courses to the online blackboard system. Thanks to this system, I could easily download the reading materials and  videos related to my lessons. In this way, students could have both sufficient preparations before classes and review after classes. What’s more, there was a course named ‘Information Retrieval’ in my university. In stead of sitting in the classroom, students of this course could have lessons with their computers in their dormitories at certain time. The teacher of this course taught the students how to obtain information resources from the internet. For example, students learnt  to use this systems to get access to books, journals and other documents. In my point of view, this course is significantly useful for students who are working on their dissertations. With the help of technology, students do not need to borrow everyone book they want from the library or buy many expensive books from the book shops. Consequently, online learning can not only save money but also time.

In conclusion, online learning is beneficial to learners. Although internet has its drawback, people cannot neglect its merit. In an era of information, internet is indispensable. It is significantly necessary for learns to learn to utilize internet while gaining knowledge.