- Blending Technologies in Second Language Classrooms
This book explores the theory and practice of blending technologies in second-language classrooms in tertiary education and discusses many aspects involved in successfully combining face-to-face and online teaching approaches to enhance students’ learning. In a relatively short yet dense text, the authors provide advice and numerous guidelines around the book’s main theme of blended technologies. The two authors are highly experienced academics with years of practical experience in blended learning and second-language teaching. Paul Gruba is Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne, Australia. Don Hinkelman is Associate Professor at Sapporo Gakuin University, Japan. The authors explain from the start that they will develop a single thesis throughout the book: “the integration of technologies is best achieved if it is purposeful, [End Page 121] appropriate, multimodal and sustainable, and it is developed within a community of innovation” (xv). They assert that the key attraction in adopting a blended approach is that it creates a third space between colleagues who either strongly advocate, or strongly resist, the use of electronic technologies in language learning and teaching.
The book comprises eight chapters that address both theory and practice. The first chapter reviews the work that has been done to date around blended approaches to learning, discussing models and frameworks as well as success factors and unresolved issues. The authors also review the impact of learning theory on blended learning, influenced by social constructivist and social cognitive theories. Chapter 2 proposes a multidimensional view of technologies. A wide definition of technologies is proposed that includes variations in groupings, timings, texts, spaces, and tools. The authors also discuss ways that process-oriented, rather than tool-centric concepts of technology can foster more effective blended learning. In chapter 3, the authors assert that the development of blended learning can benefit from a three-tiered structure at the micro, meso, and macro levels. At the micro level, design considerations involve tasks, lesson plans, and syllabi. The meso level addresses the alignments of classroom practices with the policies of the course and institution. The macro level refers to international, national, and provincial/state policies and high-stakes language-testing standards. Another useful contribution of this chapter is the descriptions of potential mistakes in selecting technologies, their causes, and management tactics. Examples are provided at all three design levels.
Chapter 4 reviews concepts and key elements of assessment and discusses the variety of ways that technologies can be blended in assessments; it then describes the development of criteria called rubrics. The authors’ central focus is on formative assessment for use by teachers and their learners. They discuss four assessment elements: clear aims and objectives, authenticity and value, fairness and objectivity, and efficiency and practicality. In chapter 5, the authors define action research as “a small-scale study designed by an individual instructor or teaching team to investigate blended approaches that lead to iterative and sustainable improvements in classroom-based teaching in a range of possible areas” (71). They provide guidelines for conducting action research and also explain their post-positivist, qualitative views and methodology tactics regarding action research.
Chapter 6 provides a detailed ethnography of three blended learning lessons or tasks in English as a foreign language (EFL) classrooms in university settings. The first description is an oral communication task, the second deals with written communication, and the third is an [End Page 122] inter-class cultural exchange. The authors first describe the task aims and the curricular background. They then provide a step-by-step flow-chart and analysis of the technology descriptions and blended configurations. In chapter 7, the authors employ three themes to illustrate blended learning in practice from an institutional perspective: infrastructure design, faculty research, and materials development. They argue that a best practice view of describing cases of blended language learning has limitations and adopt a framework that attempts to view technologies from several dimensions such as purpose, appropriateness, multimodal use, and sustainability. Finally, chapter 8 provides a review of blended learning and...