Melody & Joy
Advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)(what is ICTs? Click here) have witnessed the emergence of new literacies in online contexts. The features of the new practices are as follows:
- Representation, which includes visual and hypertexual modes;
- Increased interaction and communication.
Individuals have opportunities to produce, share and interact through digital media. Most importantly, ICTs facilitate autonomous learning, for “globalized online spaces”, where people can share and discuss artifacts, are available for everyone.
Learner autonomy is the ability to take control over one’s learning fully (Miller, 2009). It can take the form of out-of-class learning where learners are in control of all aspects, and it can also take the form of classroom learning that is student-centered, teacher-assisted, collaborative, independent at different points as well as reflective. Hafner and Miller (2011) pointed out that the capacity and willingness to act independently is a crucial goal for language education. In order to achieve the goal, a student-autonomy-based pedagogy should be adopted.
Digital storytelling, as a student-autonomy-based approach, combines traditional literacies with new literacies, including the use of multimodal forms of representation with images, videos, and audio (Hafner&Miller, 2011). It is an integrated task that requires research skills, technology skills, problem-solving skills as well as evaluation skills. Teachers in this case should help students focus on language skills instead of technology use. Hafner&Miller (2011) think such projects also provide students with an opportunity to interact with one another in order to create a multimodal artifact. In addition, it facilitates the inflection of their learning.
They introduced a digital video project (what is this project? Click here )in order to examine to what extent the approach fostered learner autonomy. In the study, students who attended an EST course in an English-medium university in Hong Kong were selected to implement the digital video project. With upper-intermediate standard of English proficiency, they were asked to work in groups to
- Conduct background research and put forward a hypothesis
- Do an experiment, documenting procedures and results
- Present their findings to their classmates
In order to support students throughout the digital video project process, Hafner and Miller (2011) designed a technological learning environment which included a variety of technological tools, including:
- Learning management system for course administration;
- Course weblog for weekly reflective discussions on coursework;
- DV cameras and editing software for video production;
- YouTube channel for sharing videos.
In this paper, Hafner and Miller (2011) consider how the digital video project and the associated technological learning environment promoted learner autonomy, encouraging students to take responsibility for, monitor and reflect on their learning. The main themes appearing from the data are:
- The digital video project task is highly motivational for students;
- Students think the digital project task is a meaningful and authentic task;
- While constructing the digital videos, students reported two types of independent learning: practicing and using English independently, and searching for information related to the video content or the use of technological tools;
- One of the important features of project-based learning is the opportunity for teamwork. Students also described how they manage their own and team member’s roles in the project;
- The digital video project task created a social context for learners in terms of providing sufficient opportunities for peer teaching, either teaching English or technology skills;
- In terms of peer feedback, the students interact weekly on the course weblog. This is similar to interactions on the online discussion forum, which provided students the opportunity to reflect on their learning.
Hafner and Miller (2011) described how the undergraduate science students went about completing the digital video project for language learning. They noticed how students took advantage of the affordances of the technological learning environment in order to exercise high degrees of autonomy. They argue that the reason why students invested in the digital video project is because: first, the students were engaged in a challenging task using multimodal text, media, and online environments; second, students could share their videos to the wider public. Hafner and Miller (2011) also suggest that language educators may use online spaces to design activities for autonomous learning in a formal context. Meanwhile, the educators should be aware that when a syllabus is designed to promote learner autonomy, the focus is on a student-centered approach (Gardner & Miller, 1999).
- Do you think that adopting a digital video project like this one has the potential to foster learner autonomy? Why or why not?
- Would you draw upon this approach to engage your students in L2 learning?
- What advice would you have for teachers who are interested in using such an approach to L2 learning?