Practicing listening and speaking with technology

If you have been teaching a foreign/second language since a long time, you may come cross many problems finding suitable resources before the revolution of the web. But now things has changed for good. The focus will not be on any specific language as this article can be applied to any taught language, which is known as EFL /ESL.

I will focus in this article on the online audio and video materials which may help in improving the listening and speaking skills.

The web provides teachers and learners with lots of opportunities to work with online audio and video- both listening to, watching it and creating it. There are lots of materials online. However, before accessing these materials it is important to consider what to use and how you are going to use them with your learners.

Recent improvements in technology design and connectivity have led to significant developments in web-based video communications. It is now not only very simple and easy to connect and communicate across the world through video both synchronously and asynchronously, but it can also be done for free.

The implications of these technological advances for the development of students’ speaking and listening skills are substantial. It is now possible for any student with a computer and webcam, a cheap mobile phone or tablet computer to record themselves speaking on video and send the video clip to their teacher for evaluation. Students and teachers can now also communicate live online through video conferencing for real time lessons or tutorials.

Online audio and video files are useful because they can be very up to date and, thanks to the range of materials to choose from, relevant to your learners’ interests. They provide authentic L1 and L2 models of language. You can also find resources specifically made for language learners.

As you design your listening and speaking practice materials, do your best to ensure the materials are intrinsically interesting to your learners. Choose something they would like to listen to or watch outside your classroom. Then devise tasks that promote the listening and speaking strategies we use in L1. Here are some of the strategies we use for Listening:

  • listening for the main idea
  • predicting
  • drawing inferences
  • summarizing
  • listening for specific details.

When selecting listening and speaking materials you should consider the following:

  • Who has it been recorded for?
  • Why has it been recorded?
  • How can it help your learners?

When asked if they use online video in class, most teachers said they would love to but they were afraid of technical problems. When asked to be more specific about technical problems, teachers referred to the time it takes to stream videos, the reliability of sites, and the quality of the sound and pictures. This is the case in many countries including mine. Another issue is the language level. Teachers say it is hard to find materials suitable for all levels they are teaching. However, this will not be an excuse to stop using them in class.

Here are some tips to help you with online video resources:

  • Use an external drive to download and run your videos.
  • Choose short online videos to project in class because they are easy to download and practical to deal with as you would have more time to discuss with your students
  • When downloading videos from YouTube, make sure you save them in a format that is supported by your PC.
  • Try to find videos with subtitles that may make things easier for the low-level students.
  • Try to download a HD format if you are going to show it on a video projector for better viewing.
  • Download videos whose language and speed of talk are appropriate for the students’ level, not to discourage them.

The more you master technology and know how to use them in class, the more your students will benefit. Technology alone cannot change anything if there is not someone who lead it; which is in this case the teacher. Students now are more familiar with the new technology, but still, the teacher is the pedagogy man who will train them how to use it in a purposeful way to enhance their skills.

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