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From "solitary thinkers" to "social actors": OER in multilingual CALL teacher education

Quand le "penseur solitaire" devient "acteur social" : les ressources éducatives libres dans la formation à l'intégration des technologies en langues
Shona Whyte

Résumés

Parmi les nombreux problèmes que posent les pratiques éducatives dans un monde de plus en plus connecté figure la question de la préparation des enseignants de langue à un avenir imprévisible. Les enseignants de langues vivantes au collège-lycée sont confrontés à de multiples défis lorsqu'ils quittent l'université pour entrer en fonction dans les établissements de l'enseignement secondaire. Ils doivent effectuer la transition d'une tradition académique relativement fermée et typique des tours d'ivoire universitaires, souvent résistantes à la culture numérique, vers les salles de classe du collège ou du lycée, qui, elles, sont caractérisées par des attentes très différentes en matière de médiation de l'enseignement-apprentissage par les technologies. Les ressources éducatives libres (REL) peuvent jouer un rôle clé dans cette transition, tout comme les pratiques éducatives libres (PEL). En effet la déclaration de Paris (2012) se donne pour objectif de "former et motiver les enseignants (…) à produire et partager des ressources éducatives accessibles et de qualité, en tenant compte des besoins locaux" mais également de "promouvoir la recherche sur le développement, l'utilisation, l'évaluation et la re-contextualisation des REL, ainsi que sur les opportunités et les défis qu'elles présentent". Pour étudier la sensibilisation de futurs enseignants de langues aux REL, cet article prend comme point de départ un cours universitaire sur l'enseignement-apprentissage des langues assisté par ordinateur (Alao). En particulier, nous cherchons à examiner comment ces enseignants stagiaires abordent la création de REL, quelle motivation ils montrent pour l'intégration des technologies et pour les pratiques libres, et quelles conclusions pour la formation aux REL et PEL dans l'enseignement-apprentissage des langues peuvent être tirées. Sept enseignantes stagiaires de langues (allemand et espagnol) inscrites à une formation hybride de niveau master ont effectué des tâches individuelles et collectives impliquant l'utilisation de blogues, wikis et réseaux sociaux. Les participantes devaient partager leurs propres activités et séances pédagogiques, effectuer des recherches de ressources en ligne et définir une posture réflexive sur le rôle des technologies dans l'enseignement-apprentissage des langues. Nous examinons d'abord les activités pédagogiques proposées par les enseignantes-stagiaires pour en détailler les objectifs pédagogiques ainsi que les outils numériques proposés aux élèves, puis nous appliquons une grille d'analyse adaptée des travaux d'Erlam (2016) sur l'enseignement-apprentissage par tâches pour évaluer cette dimension. Dans un deuxième temps, nous considérons la motivation des enseignantes stagiaires quant à la création, la localisation et le partage des REL. Notre analyse permet d'identifier les difficultés éprouvées par les enseignantes ainsi que la mise en lumière d'un certain nombre de perspectives contrastées de l'enseignement-apprentissage des langues et de la formation professionnelle. Dans la dernière partie de l'article nous tirons quelques conclusions sur l'évolution des rôles sociaux des apprenants de langue et de leurs enseignants par rapport aux objectifs du mouvement REL / REP.

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1. Introduction

1The open educational resources (OER) movement in second or foreign language teaching and learning has roots in two different recent developments. The first is the digital revolution, described by Colpaert (2012: 383) as a "technological evolution: from punch cards and floppy disks to mobile devices and ambient intelligence". The second development is related, but essentially separate from the first, and has come to be known as the "sociocultural turn" (Johnson, 2006) in applied linguistics and second language acquisition research (SLA). This second watershed is generally dated to Firth and Wagner's landmark 1997 paper, in which the authors criticised mainstream cognitive SLA models for "fail[ing] to account in a satisfactory way for interactional and sociolinguistic dimensions of language" (Firth & Wagner, 1997: 285). These arguments have added weight to other trends towards socio-constructivist practices in education in general, leading language educators to seek ways of exploiting the new affordances of our technology-mediated world in new approaches to language teaching and learning. One avenue involves the exploitation of OER to "foster awareness and use" of publicly available teaching and learning materials; "facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing" of OER; and promote both research and teacher training in this area (UNESCO, 2012).

1.1. From the gatekeeping elite to superabundant resources

2Recent research in modern foreign language (MFL) teacher preparation has emphasised the complexities of the task of educating language teachers to transform language teaching and learning in the digital age. "Never before has so much information been available to so many people" (Katz & Gandel, 2008: 186), and the digital revolution "has profoundly undermined an academic elite's control over the circulation of knowledge" (Stallybrass, 2007: 1581). It offers new opportunities for humanities scholarship which encourage us to "think of knowledge as what we share for future creations rather than as the private property of past and present authors" (Stallybrass, 2007: 1585). The majority of today's practicing language teachers, however, have been educated in the ivory towers of traditional universities, originally built by a gatekeeping elite to preserve scarce academic knowledge (Whyte, 2014). Many of the defining principles of the OER movement–participation, openness and network effects (Zourou, 2012)–thus stand in opposition to traditional scholarship of teaching and learning in language education. Both practicing teachers and those in initial training are thus likely to need support to make the transition from a solitary, proprietary conception of teaching and learning towards open educational practices (OEP).

3A glance at an issue of any of the major language teaching journals in the past twenty years will reveal the scope of change in language teaching practices, from myriad forms of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and all manner of communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based language teaching (TBLT) methods, to telecollaborative and project-based learning activities connecting classroom students and informal learners with peers and teachers elsewhere. With these changes in language learning and teaching practices come changes in demands placed on teacher education programmes. Teachers need broad pedagogical grounding as opposed to narrow technical competence (Guichon & Hauck, 2011), as well as the flexibility and initiative to cope with technology and practices which cannot yet be foreseen (Hubbard, 2008). Training must therefore be anchored in teachers' own specific teaching contexts, prioritising pedagogical over technological objectives, and–crucially–developing peer collaboration among teachers. To date, however, research has documented limited success in implementing such approaches. In Finland, for example, Kuure et al. (2015: 13) note that "the historical bodies of teacher education and teacher professional practice still largely rely on individualistic ways of working in the classroom". They report on a carefully conceived English language learning (LL) project involving researchers, graduate students, class teachers and pupils in a participatory design framework. Although the project was perceived as productive by participants, the authors found that "the visions of future LL had not reached very far beyond the current classroom. Rather, the solutions were technology-enhanced modifications of accustomed practices" (Kuure et al., 2015: 11).

4Similarly, attempts to encourage innovation through teacher uptake of OER have often met with limited success. While the OER movement has undoubtedly "shaken the foundations of educational practices in all areas of formal, non-formal and informal education" (Beaven & Comas-Quinn, 2013: 8) and changed the focus of research from content creation to use and reuse, evidence of a certain reluctance among teachers to embrace openness has emerged. Rivens Mompean and Guichon (2013) describe efforts to transpose an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learning resource in a formal French university setting for learners of other languages and conclude that when such resources are institutionally imposed in a top-down process, "the probability is high that artefacts remain unused" (Rivens Mompean & Guichon, 2013: 45). In studies of teacher OER use in distance education, Beaven (2013a, 2013b) found that teachers tended to make "very personal" changes to the resources they downloaded from the institution's Languages Open Resources Online (LORO) website which were "seldom shared again via the LORO repository" (Beaven, 2013a: 4), only in "informal or more private ways" (Beaven, 2013b: 69).

  • 1 The German-speaking pre-service teacher used the French expression "acteurs sociaux".

5It seems, therefore, that further support for change in teaching practice is still required. Tomorrow's language teachers need both techno-pedagogical competences as well as ongoing professional development opportunities. They need to work with other teachers to share resources and practices. Just as language learners need to take an active role in today's networked, multilingual world classrooms–become "social actors" as one teacher in the present study put it1–so, too, should their teachers aspire to "switch perspectives" in Kuure et al.'s (2015) terms and take on new roles.

1.2. Secondary school language teacher preparation in France

6In many ways language teacher education in France is similar to that in many other European countries: pre-service teachers complete an undergraduate qualification in modern language studies before embarking on graduate language teacher training. The French ministry of education organises competitive national entrance examinations to select civil servants, including teachers. Until a 2013 reform, preparation for these exams was a university responsibility; practical classroom training was delivered by non-academic teacher educators and mentor teachers only after these entrance exams. Now, however, French teachers take a two-year masters degree combining academic courses in preparation for the teachers' exam with mentored teaching placements, and including a classroom-based research paper; academics and practitioners are involved in both spheres at both levels.

7This teacher education context presents both opportunities and challenges for the OER movement. On one hand, the involvement of university scholars in language teaching research may appear to open classrooms and schools to both new knowledge and new ideas regarding many aspects of language education. On the other, such opportunities are restricted by the normative effects of both teacher examination preparation and institutionally controlled practitioner mentoring. University preparation may aim

to move prospective teachers beyond teaching the way they were taught toward more theoretically and pedagogically sound instructional practices that meet the educational outcomes of the instructional contexts in which they will eventually work (Johnson & Dellagnelo, 2015: 11, emphasis in original).

8But this preparation is limited by parallel preparation for teacher examinations. Moreover,

newly minted teachers who enter the workforce often find that what they experienced in their teacher education programs is not the way things are done in the real world of classroom L2/FL teaching (Johnson & Dellagnelo, 2015: 11).

9Attempts to encourage innovative practice thus require new teachers to understand and accept a quite radical departure from both academic tradition and current classroom norms.

10Some support for this contention is provided by mixed methods studies of this population (Whyte, 2014). A pilot study of university language courses offering differing types of focus on language pedagogy and educational technology analysed data from 71 students in seven undergraduate and graduate language and language teacher education classes using an attitude questionnaire based on Lightbown & Spada (2000). Responses revealed a number of what Peacock (2001) has termed "detrimental trainee beliefs". Over 80% of the pre-service EFL teachers held behaviourist views regarding the role of imitation and transfer in L2 learning, for instance, and almost half were convinced of the importance of immediate correction of all learner errors. In fact our modern understanding of second language research is often dated to a 1967 paper devoted to debunking this misguided belief (Corder, 1967). This group of teachers also displayed low self-efficacy beliefs (Bandura, 1993) for the use of learning technologies both before and after an educational technology course, in spite of both actual and perceived learning gains in this area. These pre-service language teachers thus conform quite closely to the ivory tower stereotypes described in section 1.1.

11A second study involving 24 pre-service teachers of four modern languages (Whyte, 2014) found teachers valued technology mainly as a means to stimulate learner motivation and participation, rather than for any direct effect on language learning opportunities: while many cited webconferencing as a useful tool, for example, few prioritized oral competence as a pedagogical objective. Many saw the main affordance of technology as access to repositories of target language materials such as national news media, dictionaries, and encyclopedias, rather than resources especially created for language learning or teaching (Whyte, 2014). Following coursework involving an open wiki platform, curation tools and other social media, several participants saw the relevance of these tools for the language classroom, making a link between learner interaction and collaboration in class for language learning, and teacher collaboration outside class for professional development. More collaborative, networked approaches to teacher education can thus represent a mise-en-abyme (or self-reflexive embedding) of CLT, showing teachers how collaborative tasks can improve language learning opportunities (Whyte, 2014). What is missing from these studies is evidence of actual technology-mediated teaching activities to place alongside the documented attitudes and beliefs of these student-teachers. With the French teacher education reform described in the opening of the present section, conditions now permit this type of investigation.

1.3. Research questions

12The paper seeks to investigate issues arising from the foregoing review of the literature by addressing two recommendations of the Paris OER declaration: supporting the sustainable development of quality learning materials by training and motivating teachers to "produce and share high-quality, accessible educational resources, taking into account local needs", and contributing to research on OER by investigating the development, use and evaluation of OER, including "the opportunities and challenges they present, and their impact on (…) teaching and learning" (UNESCO, 2012: 2). The study reports on a course in technology for language teaching designed to foster awareness and use of OER among pre-service teachers of several modern languages. The research questions are:

  1. How do pre-service teachers in this specific French context approach OER creation, in particular

    1. What kinds of resources do they design and select for sharing?

    2. What factors influence their choice of tools and activities?

  2. What motivations for OER do novice teachers show?

    1. What perspectives on the role of technology in the second language classroom do they present?

    2. How do they view open practices in technology-mediated language teaching?

  3. What conclusions about language teacher education in relation to OER and OEP can be drawn?

13In the following section of this paper, the method used to investigate these questions is presented, including information concerning the participants in the study, their teacher education context, and the data collected for the study. Section 3 gives details of data analysis together with discussion of the results obtained. In the last section of the paper, the implications of this study for OER in this particular context are considered.

2. Method

2.1. Participants

  • 2 Planned for students of three target languages (German, Italian and Spanish) with an initial enrolm (...)

14The participants in the study were trainee teachers of German and Spanish in their second and final year of a masters in Teaching Languages programme. The majority had passed national entrance examinations for teaching their chosen language in French secondary schools, and were currently teaching with the support of a mentor teacher; for many, this was their first experience as teachers in the secondary school MFL context. Four Spanish and three German participants submitted assignments, published on social media and authorised use of their data for this study, and these seven student teachers form the focus of the present paper2. Table 1 gives the pseudonyms used for each participant, together with their L1 and L2, and information about course.

Table 1–Teacher profiles of participants in study.

Language taught

Native language

Class sessions

attended

Blog posts

Alba

Spanish

Spanish

3

3

Anke

German

German

2

7

Krista

German

German

0

9

Lucia

Spanish

French

4

13

Sara

Spanish

French- Spanish

4

4

Steffi

German

German

3

6

Zoe

Spanish

Spanish

3.5

6

15Table 1 reveals differences in types of participation in the course. The most engaged participant, Lucia, attended all face-to-face sessions and posted frequently to her blog, while another, Krista, was unable to come to class and contributed exclusively online; the others fell between these two extremes.

2.2. Course syllabus

16Figure 1 provides a schematic representation of the course in technology for language education. This hybrid course combined four 3-hour face-to-face class sessions over a 2-month period with online assignments to be completed both individually and in groups, using open-access platforms and tools to share with the wider language teaching community online. Students received the class input and participated in class activities summarised for each of the four face-to-face sessions on the left of Figure 1. The course platform was built on the open educational website creation platform Weebly, and the option to generate a set of blogs for the class was used for students to create individual reflective blogs, as well as group websites. In keeping with the aims of the Paris OER declaration, the main assignments were to a) design, implement and reflect on a specific language teaching activity involving technology, b) create, structure and share a resource site for secondary school teachers of their target language, and c) reflect on course implications for both language teaching and continuing professional development. These activities are depicted in the class and online bubbles on the right of Figure 1 and assignments are shown on the bottom right; see Annex for the final reflective paper prompt. All activity was shared openly, accessible both to the student teacher group and to any online visitors, with students encouraged to exploit social media both to share their work and identify peers with similar interests. Only the final reflective paper was shared exclusively with the course instructor.

Figure 1–Overview of technology for language education course design.

Figure 1–Overview of technology for language education course design.

3. Analysis and results

17The data obtained in the study comprise classroom teaching activities, collaborative websites and social media participation, and reflective blogs and papers; in what follows they are examined in turn.

3.1. Designing technology-mediated teaching activities

  • 3 French lower secondary schools begin at year 6 and end year 3, while upper secondary includes years (...)

18Participants presented ten classroom activities on their blogs and/or in reflective writing. The course did not cover materials design or lesson planning beyond a brief general orientation to the principles of CLT and TBLT, but these principles underpin French national FL curricula, which like many European countries are based on the Common European framework, (Council of Europe, 2001) and are expected to inform both university and school-based teacher education in the masters programme. For each activity, the age/proficiency level of the target class3 is given in Table 2, together with a brief description of the activity, its objectives, and the digital tools used.

Table 2–Teaching and learning activities designed by participants.

  • 4 Content and Language Integrated Learning.

TEACHER

LEVEL

ACTIVITY

OBJECTIVES

TOOLS

Alba

3

first lesson slides

classroom management

slide presentation

Alba

3

song listening comprehension

L2 culture; grammar and vocabulary

paper handout

Alba

3

IWB exploration

explore IWB technology with learners

interactive whiteboard, learning management system

Anke

6

Christmas e-cards

L2 culture; grammar and vocabulary

L2 e-card generator, PDF

Krista

1

slide presentations (Berlin historical sites)

L2 culture

computer lab, text files, slide presentations

Lucia

3

language practice on cultural topic (Mexican artist)

art history (CLIL)4, L2 culture, vocabulary

slide presentation, mindmaps

Sara

4

reading comprehension (Christmas traditions)

L2 culture, vocabulary

paper handout

Sara

4

song listening comprehension

grammar and vocabulary; L2 culture

YouTube, print-outs from online sources

Steffi

3

recipe writing

translation task;
grammar and vocabulary

computer lab, L2 image website, ppt

Zoe

1

written report on cultural theme (Latin American festivals)

L2 culture

PDF, class blog

19Table 2 shows that these student teachers proposed a range of examples of technology-mediated classroom activities, involving different learning objectives, different uses of technology, and different learner and teacher roles. The majority of activities had a focus on target language culture (7/10): of these, four involved learners in reading and preparing class presentations on cultural topics (eg, festivals, important figures or places in the L2 culture). The second most frequent focus, often in association with the first, was on L2 vocabulary (6/10) and grammar (5/10), with more reading and writing than listening or speaking. Most of these novice teachers proposed activities where technology was used mainly or exclusively by teachers to prepare class handouts and to project slide presentations, and by learners to research and prepare assignments outside class time. Two teachers did use the school computer suite, however, and one had learners use an interactive whiteboard (IWB).

20To what extent can these activities be said to correspond to the CLT and TBLT orientations which most closely match the socio-constructivist turn in language education, and technology-mediated learning more generally? One heuristic for gauging the task orientation of language teaching activities and units is proposed by Erlam (2016) in research into teacher uptake of TBLT in New Zealand. Erlam used an 8-item coding system covering four TBLT principles: a) prioritisation of meaning over form, b) existence of an information gap, c) use of learner-selected language forms rather than pre-taught lexis or structures, and d) the need for an outcome or result. Sample items used by Erlam to analyse the activities designed by the MFL teachers in her study, with the expected response in parenthesis, include

  • Does the learner function as language user and not a language learner? (Yes)

  • So that they can do the task, are the learners "taught" the language they will need? (No) (Erlam, 2016).

21The present study used a similar checklist, slightly adapted to take into account minor shortcomings identified by Erlam in her paper, and to incorporate a technological dimension (see Annex).

22When this task-based heuristic is applied to the activities proposed by the novice teachers in the present study, only a minority of activities show evidence of task orientation. Only Zoe's activity involving collaborative writing on aspects of the target culture meets almost all criteria, and only three other proposed tasks meet more than half (Alba's introductory presentation, Krista's learner talks, and Lucia's mindmapping activity). The two songs (Alba and Sara) and the e-card activity (Anke) met almost no task criteria; these more closely resembled pedagogical exercises. The teachers in the study were most successful in allowing for learners to use their own resources (7/10 activities), but least successful in focusing on meaning over form, and in designing an information gap (3/10 in each case). With respect to technology use, only two teachers (Alba and Zoe) designed activities where technology was both indispensable and of added pedagogical value. Fully half of the proposed activities could have been conducted without technology, and seven used technology only as a motivational aid. The activities which were most task-oriented and which best exploited technological affordances were all proposed to older, more advanced learners (upper secondary or last year of lower secondary classes).

3.2. Collaborative resources sites: selecting, structuring and sharing OER

23In addition to designing their own teaching materials, participants in the course were asked to research existing online resources, select and structure the most pertinent to their own teaching contexts, and share via social media. This work was carried out collaboratively in target language groups; an overview is provided in Table 3, which shows the number of pages and rubrics in each site, and the number of links included in each (individual student-teacher blogs, digital tools, teaching materials, and cultural websites).

Table 3–Overview of wiki content by language group.

Wiki pages and link types

German

Spanish

Number of wiki pages

3

4

1. Individual student-teacher blogs

4

9

2. Digital tools

10

3

3. Teaching materials

National educational websites

Local educational websites

Commercial materials

Traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers)

Dictionaries

National cultural institution

Teacher/teacher educator blog

1

0

1

1

0

2

1

6

11

4

3

3

1

3

4. Target culture

7

12

Total links (2 + 3 + 4)

23

46

24Table 3 shows differences between the two groups: the German website, with four contributors, offered fewer links than the Spanish wiki, with nine participants. The German teachers focused heavily on digital tools, which accounted for almost half of the links they selected (10/23); all but two figured in course materials or lectures (cf. Figure 1). The Spanish teachers concentrated on teaching resources and the target culture, with a strong orientation towards official education sites for French teachers. In addition to a stronger pedagogical orientation, the Spanish wiki offered more description of the links selected than the German site, and also highlighted more specific pages and materials as opposed to the home pages and portals preferred by the German teachers.

25There was little sharing of these resources on social media: on Twitter, the average number of tweets was three or four per participant, frequently the automatic message proposed via the Weebly platform to signal page updates, and generally without hashtags. Although the blogs and wikis were entirely open, there were few if any external comments; instead class members commented on each other's posts, most frequently to acknowledge, compliment and generally provide emotional support. Such exchanges were also largely limited to target language groups (German or Spanish), although most posts were written in French as the lingua franca for the group.

3.3. Reflection on technology in the FL classroom

  • 5 Participant comments have been translated from French by the author.

26Participant contributions to individual blogs and their final reflective papers were analysed in successive cycles of reading, coding and re-reading according to the principles of grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990) but also with reference to rubrics previously identified in earlier studies with similar populations (Whyte, 2014). Table 4 shows the eleven categories which emerged during this analysis, with a definition for each, grouped under broader headings for ease of interpretation5.

Table 4–Coding rubrics for reflective writing analysis.

DIMENSIONS

SUB-CATEGORY

DEFINITION

LEARNER

participation

allows or encourages more involvement and interaction among learners

motivation

attracts and engages more learners more deeply

LEARNING

autonomy

gives learners more control over their own learning

collaboration

allows or encourages learners to work together

special needs

helps meet specific individual requirements or address particular difficulties

TEACHER

efficiency

saves time in preparation or implementation of learning activities

collaboration

allows teachers to work together

TEACHING

task-based learning

facilitates teaching and learning in a task-based approach

authentic resources

provides access to target language materials not specifically produced for language learning

INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT

programmes

helps teachers to deliver content and meet curricular goals prescribed nationally

certification

allows teachers to meet other institutional recommendations and requirements beyond language teaching

27Comments related to each category were coded for each participant's reflective writing and the results are shown in Table 5 as raw figures and as a percentage of total codings (134). Participants were most concerned about the teacher dimension of technology integration in the language classroom: almost half of the themes identified in their writing concerned this variable. The next most commonly cited dimension involved learning, followed by learner factors. As Table 5 shows, there was little change in these concerns over the course: the proportion of codings in each category remained fairly constant, with perhaps only institutional variables assuming greater prominence by the final class session.

Table 5–Total participant comments by category.

Learner

participation

motivation

Session 1

7

9%

5

6%

Session 4

3

5%

7

12%

10

7%

12

9%

Learning

autonomy

collaboration

special needs

Session 1

12

16%

2

3%

5

6%

Session 4

7

12%

2

4%

2

4%

19

14%

4

3%

7

5%

Teacher

efficiency

collaboration

Session 1

32

42%

5

6%

Session 4

11

19%

13

23%

43

32%

18

13%

Teaching

TBLT

authentic resources

Session 1

0

0%

7

9%

Session 4

1

2%

3

5%

1

1%

10

7%

Institutional context

programmes

certification

Session 1

0

0%

2

3%

Session 4

3

5%

5

9%

3

2%

7

5%

28Table 5 suggests two slight shifts in participant attitudes to technology. The first concerns the two different aspects of the teacher dimension, that is, efficiency concerns versus interest in teacher collaboration. Whereas at the start of the course, these student teacher participants commented more frequently on the efficiency gains made possible through the use of technology (or conversely, the risk of wasting time and energy with technical problems), at the end of the course they were more likely to highlight the potential for teacher collaboration offered by educational technologies. This finding may in part reflect these teachers' experiences working together with technology in the course. The second evolution in participants' attitudes concerns the role of technology in teachers' institutional contexts; this variable was more frequently cited in participants' final reflective paper, again perhaps in reaction to their experience using technology in their own classrooms, but also no doubt due to a focus on official programmes and directives in preparation for approaching teacher entrance exams.

29Our third research question concerns these teachers' motivations with respect to OER and OEP and hence their needs in terms of teacher education. One participant noted:

Showing my slide presentation I was able to get my colleagues' views. Up until now I've only had my own perception of pupils' reactions (Alba).

30For several participants, the course represented their first opportunity to open up their own classrooms to peer input. In what follows, the views of these student teachers on the goals of technology integration, their current and future professional development trajectories, and collaboration with a wider online community are explored.

3.3.1. Teaching and learning objectives

31As noted earlier, participants focused to a great extent on the potential of technology to improve their efficiency in the classroom, as the following comments illustrate (emphasis added).

I'm quite technophile and I think that integrating technology in my classes is very important, first because it makes it easier to manage school activities but mainly because we're talking about learning a modern language and technologies contribute to use of the oral language by individual learners and as a class (Zoe).

Using technologies correctly means that we must be aware that use of technology is not an end in itself. The use of technology should permit us to work on a certain language competence and help the pupils to resolve a problem within the task-oriented framework of the CER (Steffi).

32Technology may improve the language learning environment, according to Zoe, but also aid institutional management; for others it helps teachers meet curricular objectives both for language teaching and in terms of general education. It is striking how little the teachers focus on the potential of technologies for improving learning opportunities: their focus is on their own position in their own classroom in their own particular institutional context.

3.3.2. Individual perspectives on teacher education needs

33This issue of teacher efficiency also predominated in professional development concerns, particularly the hope that an initial investment of time would be repaid by future gains.

We save time in spite of appearances. For example, it took me more than a month to become comfortable with Weebly to write my blog, but there's a knack to it, as they say. Now I know that everything I produce will be published and therefore archived, and this will really save time in the future. In the following years I will be able to reuse my sources and resources, with perhaps only a slight update, and not always even that (Sara).

34Regarding the use of time during training, sometimes one individual seemed to express contradictory desires and intentions. Here Steffi articulates a need for structure, while also underlining the importance of a hands-on approach.

I learned many things (creation and use of a blog, social networks, IWB etc.); nevertheless I would have liked a framework that was stricter and clearer so that I could perhaps have learned more.

I will try to take online courses (…) which will be indispensable because training in schools or with colleagues will not necessarily be available when we need them, and after all it's by using technologies that we can best understand how they work and what they are useful for (Steffi).

35Steffi designed a teaching activity that was not task-like, meeting only the criterion concerning free learner use of language, and her focus in discussion of technology was on teacher efficiency. Alba, in contrast, proposed more task-like activities, focusing on meaning rather than form and in one case involving an information gap; her technology orientation was towards the learner. She gives the following example of a very different approach to learning to teach with technology.

This week I used the IWB in the multimedia lab in my school (…) My knowledge was pretty thin, since you only showed me yesterday in class for a few minutes. My pupils were very happy to go to the multimedia lab. I told them that I didn't know the IWB very well but that we would learn together. They were wonderful and showed me things they had learned with their technology teacher. So I asked them each to think of something nice to say to their best friend and then write the phrases or words on the IWB. Then we converted some sentences. At the end of the session we all signed at the foot of the page and I printed the document as a souvenir. We were all delighted with the lesson! (Alba)

36In this example Alba takes a more socio-constructivist approach to learning both for her pupils in terms of language use, and herself, in terms of technology integration.

37For another teacher, the opportunity to create a technology-mediated activity, try it out in the classroom and then reflect on the outcomes seemed to bear fruit. Krista describes the design of the activity and superficial success criteria, then analyses its failure to engage learners fully as language users and help them gain autonomy as learners.

I noticed during lessons that all the pupils were not equally good with Powerpoint. I was also nervous that some would come to class without a USB key or deliberately waste time opening files. So I asked them to send me a text file with titles, keywords and photos for their presentations. I explained that I would make the slides myself and would just insert their information. Yes, I used technology in class, I defined a pedagogical purpose and prepared the sessions ahead of time.

But I don't think I explained the goal properly to the pupils. They believed, I think, that they had to give presentations for the sake of giving presentations. Because that's what we do in school and because their teacher needed a grade. But they weren't "social actors", they didn't get excited about a place in Berlin, and didn't have enough time to turn in a substantial piece of work.

I also think I "failed" in my aim of making them more autonomous by doing a large part of their work myself (Krista).

38Krista's general comments on technology use patterned like Steffi's, with emphasis on teacher efficiency but also learner motivation, and her teaching activity showed a similarly modest level of task orientation. Her comments above suggest, however, that she was better able to benefit from the opportunities offered in the course if not to immediately produce effective classroom activities, at least to reflect productively on their perceived shortcomings. Interestingly, Krista was unable to attend face-to-face sessions and participated only online, suggesting that entirely asynchronous instructional delivery is not necessarily a barrier to teacher development. This leads to the next question, that of ongoing professional development.

3.3.3. Motivations for ongoing professional development

39The participants in this course generally seemed to separate technical and pedagogical aspects of technology integration and understand the need to prioritise the latter. For Krista, "concrete examples" are most important.

In the future I would like to learn more about creating websites and take an advanced course on word-processing. But more importantly, I would like to have concrete examples of technology integration in class. In my view this is what is lacking the most at university, but it's the most important element if we really want to "bring digital technology" into teaching (Krista).

40This remark echoes previous findings regarding the perceived needs of even experienced classroom practitioners: teachers want to see not "perfect", idealised demonstrations, but "real people doing real lessons with real problems" (Whyte, Cutrim Schmid, van Hazebrouck Thompson & Oberhofer, 2013: 21).

41While Krista suggests that university teacher education can and should provide such examples, for Sara, it is in schools where support is to be found.

I generally get in touch with the technology coordinator in each school, but quite honestly there isn't always one, and when there are, these are not always the colleagues who are most committed or up to date. On the other hand, I have often exchanged with colleagues who were not official coordinators but just technophiles like myself. We form a little community within schools ready to expand through meeting face-to-face or online (Sara).

42Sara was the only teacher who also sought out potential collaborators online, via social media: "I've made contact with teachers in other schools though not universities. I made contact via Facebook". Other course participants were explicit about their preferences for exclusively local collaboration.

I don't like Twitter: I don't understand the benefits, and what's more I don't have much confidence in this social network (…) On the other hand, I think all my colleagues would agree that our collaborative page was the start of a good collaboration (Anke).

43This reluctance to go beyond immediate, local sharing is also evident in comments regarding the kinds of OEP exemplified in the course. Asked about the limits of such practices with respects to considerations such as copyright violation or plagiarism, some teachers were quite insouciant.

I admit that personally I didn't take precautions. Since our blog was a place for sharing and collaborating, I didn't think about this kind of detail. Because the aim is for all this information to benefit as many as possible (Alba).

44This section has shown that the novice teachers in this study identified their own relationship with technology as a central concern, both with respect to efficiency in planning and implementing teaching activities, and as a means of collaborating with other teachers. These teachers also frequently cited a role for technology in promoting learner autonomy, and ranked learner factors such as motivation and participation ahead of teaching variables like authentic resources or TBLT. It is therefore not surprising that the activities they designed were neither particularly task-oriented nor geared to maximising classroom interaction, since these were not the principal affordances of technologies perceived by this group. Instead, the classroom activities proposed focused on the target culture, and on the acquisition of vocabulary and syntactic structures. The range of technologies used was fairly narrow and conventional, rather than innovative or transformational, again reflecting relatively modest aims. Analysis of reflective commentary showed individual variation on the themes of teaching objectives, and present and future needs for professional development, corresponding to differing perspectives on course experiences. In the final section, we ask what the study reveals with respect to one of the broader issues identified in this special issue on social dynamics of OEP in language education, that is, the interplay of individual and collaborative practices and their implications for language teacher preparation.

4. Conclusion

  • 6 By my reading of the passage, "solely" is to be understood as "exclusively", as opposed to also out (...)

45There are a number of implications for this form of CALL teacher education with respect to the changing social roles of language learners and their teachers and the goals of the OER movement. First, we have seen that of major concern to this group was the question of teacher efficiency, or how technology could help practitioners to deliver language lessons and manage their classes more rapidly and easily. Their second priority was language learning, overwhelmingly in relation to promoting learner autonomy rather than participation or collaboration. This finding suggests a strongly individualistic view of language education, with the participants remaining "solitary" humanities scholars (Stallybrass, 2007) likely to become "traditional language teachers working solely in the classroom" (Kuure et al., 2015)6.

46On the other hand, the present study did document a substantial increase in attention to teacher collaboration over the eight-week course. Evidence of actual collaboration among group members was provided in the wiki resources they produced and in different individual accounts of this work. This finding suggests that participation in this type of teacher education can help change teachers' perceptions of their own professional roles, with the classroom no longer their sole preserve. In contrast, learner collaboration in the language classroom did not figure large in the design of technology-mediated teaching activities; teachers were less inclined to see their pupils as "social actors" in their own learning. The learning activities presented by the teachers were representative of a highly structured and culturally oriented approach to FL teaching, while activities which did require learner collaboration generally involved group work as homework, with class time devoted to the presentation and/or evaluation of the outcomes of such collaboration. Class activities generally corresponded more closely to pedagogical exercises than to authentic tasks. The use of technology in the majority of cases was not integral to the activity, and frequently served only motivational purposes, or indeed to comply with institutional requirements for teachers to demonstrate digital competences. Again, these findings are consonant with the views about learning technologies in language education expressed by these teachers, and with previous results in similar studies.

47Finally, with respect to teacher education in relation to OER and OEP, we found a measure of contradiction in the positions taken by different participants in the study. Several recognised the value of exploration and showed an ability to engage in reflective practice. A majority also expressed positive views of the collaborative opportunities offered in the course. These findings augur well for the future of open practices, since they demonstrate that courses on open platforms using open tools appear no less effective than more traditional face-to-face courses or ones run on closed institutional learning management systems. Two caveats should not be overlooked. First, some teachers still seemed to frame themselves as students/learners rather than teachers engaged in professional development, showing reluctance to take initiative, seek out resources, and take responsibilities. Only one of the seven participants actively sought to create and extend her own professional network with online contacts. The second caveat is related to this question of social networks, since the study found little evidence of teachers engaging with wider communities of practice outside the immediate circle of the course members. As Beaven (2013a) found, teachers were more comfortable sharing with one another than in wider, more public networks.

48The limitations of the present study obviously relate to the small number of participants and the participant observer status of the author, who combined instructor and research roles in the project and thus influenced the data collected in a number of ways. The study's findings of somewhat conservative and limited use of technologies by these teachers is also at least partially attributable to their limited classroom experience and their status as uncertified trainee teachers with exams and inspections still to come. Nevertheless, it appears from this study that more needs to be done to encourage the kind of collaborative learning practices we believe to be conducive to more effective classroom FL teaching and learning. Detrimental beliefs concerning language teaching and learning, the relationship between language and culture, and pedagogical objectives versus institutional constraints all make the task of learning to teach for tomorrow's world more difficult. But perhaps the main brake on professional development towards innovative practice is the persistence of individual approaches in opposition to the cooperative and collaborative practices embraced by the OER movement. We seem to have identified some of the causes of these beliefs, and also found ways to trigger some change. What is now needed is a more concerted effort to support new teachers in breaking traditional moulds to create new communities of practice where learners and teachers are social actors for change.

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Références

Les liens externes étaient valides à la date de publication.

Bandura, A. (1993). "Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning". Educational Psychologist, vol. 28, n° 2. pp. 117-148.

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Beaven, T. (2013a). "Qualitative methods for researching teachers' (re)use of OER". In OER13: Creating a Virtuous Circle, 26-27 March 2013, University of Nottingham. Available online: http://oro.open.ac.uk/37408/

Beaven, T. (2013b). "Use and Reuse of OER: professional conversations with language teachers". Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, vol. 9, n° 1. pp. 59-71. http://www.je-lks.org/ojs/index.php/Je-LKS_EN/article/view/802/792

Colpaert, J. (2012). "The 'publish and perish' syndrome". Computer Assisted Language Learning, vol. 25, n° 5. pp. 383-391.

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Annexe

1 Final reflective paper

Class work

Evaluate the activity you presented in terms of the tools selected, pedagogical value, and preparation time compared to time spent in class.

Did your activity help your pupils to collaborate, interact in the target language, and/or become more autonomous?

How could this activity be extended or improved?

Collaborative website

What selection criteria did you apply for the websites included on your site?

How did you organize your links?

What was your own contribution?

How did you collaborate in your group: what tools did you use, and how often?

What did you learn?

What steps did you take to avoid plagiarism or copyright violation?

Your blog and social networks

Evaluate the quantity and quality of your contributions to your own blog and on social networks (eg Twitter).

Were you able to make contact with teachers outside our class at the University of Nice?

Reflection

Are you a technophile or a technophobe? Is this relevant to using technology in your classes?

Can you learn to use technology without contact with pupils? What is more important in your view: pedagogical concerns or technological affordances? (In other words, should teachers start from class activities or learners' difficulties, or should they begin by learning how a particular tool works and what it can allow the teacher to do?)

How many of our four face-to-face sessions did you attend? How do you view the relationship between these sessions and your work online?

Do you see pedagogical value in taking a multilingual class with future teachers of different target languages?

As far as professional development is concerned (after you become a qualified teacher) what are your needs and wishes concerning educational technology? Do you expect to rely on colleagues, institutional training or perhaps online networks?

2 Analysis of teaching activities

Framework for analysis of technology-mediated tasks (see Erlam, 2016)

1. Meaning versus form

Are the pupils acting as users of L2, rather than learners of L2?

Are the pupils mainly concerned with expressing and comprehending meaning, not focusing on linguistic form?

2. Information gap

Do pupils close an information gap as a result of the communication that takes place?

As a result of the communication do pupils find out something that they didn't know?

3. Learner resources

Is it true that the language needed to complete the task has not all been specially pre-taught?

Does the task allow learners to use language they have learned on other, unrelated occasions?

4. Outcome or result

Do the pupils use L2 to achieve an outcome, and not as an end in itself?

Do they have to achieve a result to show that the task is completed?

5. Technology use

Is the use of technology integral to the task design? Would it be impossible to do the task without technology, as opposed to just more difficult?

Does the technology have an added pedagogical value, rather than just a motivational effect?

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Notes

1 The German-speaking pre-service teacher used the French expression "acteurs sociaux".

2 Planned for students of three target languages (German, Italian and Spanish) with an initial enrolment of 22, no Italian students needed the course to meet their masters requirements, so the class included nine Spanish and six German students.

3 French lower secondary schools begin at year 6 and end year 3, while upper secondary includes years 2, 1 and final. FL instruction starts in years 6 for a first FL and 4 for a second.

4 Content and Language Integrated Learning.

5 Participant comments have been translated from French by the author.

6 By my reading of the passage, "solely" is to be understood as "exclusively", as opposed to also outside the classroom; there may also be the implication of "in isolation".

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1–Overview of technology for language education course design.
URL http://alsic.revues.org/docannexe/image/2906/img-1.jpg
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Référence

Shona Whyte, « From "solitary thinkers" to "social actors": OER in multilingual CALL teacher education », Alsic [En ligne], Vol. 19, n° 1 | 2016, mis en ligne le 07 août 2016, Consulté le 27 mai 2017. URL : http://alsic.revues.org/2906

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Auteur

Shona Whyte

Shona Whyte teaches EFL and TEFL and runs the master's programme in teaching English for the Espé Nice (http://espe-nice-toulon.fr). Her research involves classroom interaction, LSP didactics, and language teacher education, and her recent book Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching is reviewed in Alsic (http://alsic.revues.org/2879). She also curates resources for technology-mediated language teaching and research (http://www.scoop.it/t/telt/).
Affiliation: université Nice Sophia Antipolis, UMR7320 Bases corpus langage.
Email: whyte@unice.fr
Web:
http://efl.unice.fr
Address: Faculté des Lettres, arts et sciences humaines, BP 3209, 98 boulevard Édouard Herriot, 06204 Nice Cédex 3, France.

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