• Collaborative Reading - English and Cultural Literacy Learning Environment
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Knowledge Communities & Design Project Overview

The knowledge communities we want to design are for groups of second language educators and learners, who are interested in English literacy (reading and writing). These groups could more effectively communicate with one another within local and international contexts through a variety of literary activities, all contributing to a more authentic process of cross-cultural communication. It is really important for second language learners to be afforded the opportunity to not only practice the language itself, but to also experience and be immersed in diverse cultural environments. This is the reason why many English as a Second Language learners (ESL) study abroad to Canada or other English speaking countries to learn both language and culture. This situated learning has been stressed in ESL learning contexts (Study in Canada: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110313/Education/ed15.html).

However, not all students are able to travel abroad, because it requires a great amount of resources, such as time and money. In such cases where students have never experienced other cultures other than their own culture, it tends to be more difficult to acquire a second language without understanding different cultural aspects (Cultural/Language Literacy: http://multiliteracy.wetpaint.com/page/Cultural%2FLanguage+Literacy. Unfortunately, in many countries, public school classrooms have limited resources to provide their English language learners (ELL) with these significant cultural dimensions. Especially in English as a foreign language (EFL) settings, teachers who may not be a native English speaker are challenged to provide such type of experiential learning.

Technological innovations, predominantly web-technological development and distribution is suggested to be one of the most powerful alternative learning and teaching methods for ELLs in non-English speaking countries. There have been three different kinds of approaches to learning and teaching English using technological interventions. Firstly, many teachers in public school classrooms are using various multimedia teaching resources like video clips and pictures, which are available online in order to facilitate students' motivation and understanding of the English language. Secondly, many individual students have subscribed to online lectures, which are free and cheaper than traditional language programs; so students can access a variety of learning opportunities across time and space. Lastly, web-technologies such as Skype, MSN messenger, and various web-conferencing tools have enabled students to actually practice the language by conversing with native speakers.

Here are some representative examples of technology use for the ESL program and ELLs.

  • A personalized English learning recommender system for ESL students (Hsu, 2008)
  • Online communication in language learning and teaching (Lamy & Hampel, 2007)
  • Virtual interaction through video-web communication: A step towards enriching and internationalizing language learning programs (Jauregia & Bañadosa, 2008)
  • Differences that make the difference: a study of functionalities in synchronous CMC (Kenning, 2009)

Although there have been continuous efforts in applying technologies in K-12 public school classrooms, unlike personal or informal learning, and higher educational contexts, empirical research about how this type of learning is beneficial, and its implementation is lacking. A great volume of research and practices have emphasized technological intervention for personal language acquisition efforts, including after-school learning activities, but not for English classrooms activities. Furthermore, most research is focused on isolating components such as speaking, listening, reading, writing, and vocabulary acquisition, rather than integrating all competencies. It is questionable whether separating these aspects could provide students with situated learning experiences. The last possible concern about current technological use for ELLs is the minimal efforts towards integrating cultural aspects with language acquisition. This is ironic, given that learning/ developing cultural awareness is regarded as one of the most important competencies in our 21st century (global society), thus it should be stressed in language learning contexts. In our design project, we want to address these limitations.

Overall aspects of this design:
  • Target:
    For non-native teachers and students in K-12 English classrooms (primarily for secondary level)
  • Goals:
  1. To provide great opportunities to learn both language and cultural literacy
  2. To motivate non-native students in non-English speaking environments to participate in English learning
  3. To design global ESL/ELL communities through knowledge media and to facilitate situated learning
  4. To develop a successful technological intervention for K-12 English classrooms
  • Outcomes:
    Learning & Teaching model (or flow) design
    Virtual ESL/ELL environment design

Design Concept

We decided on the name Project Learn.Way for our design project. It reflects the stages for our design process and design output; out instructional model is based on three different learning phrases: 1) Doing Our Project, 2) Learning Other Cultures and 3) Following Different Ways.

Project Learn.Way is based primarily on Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle (1984), as well as Chris Argyris and Donald Schon's Reflective Learning Cycle (1983). This learning and teaching model is applicable for both learning English literacy and cultural literacy so it is important for students to practice and experience new skills while understanding and constructing new knowledge. Through these learning processes, students should reflect on what they are learning and pursue ongoing reflection.

We will be using loops (instead of phases) based on Kolb's cycle (1984), which consists of several different learning activities. Even though each learning activity has a different purpose and principle, the overarching learning perspective through the entire process is Constructivism (principally Vygotsky's Social Constructivism), Situated Learning, and Community of Practices Theory by Wenger and Lave. In addition, we have  focused on different ESL/ELL theories and motivational theories. Through our literature review, it is assumed that we should integrate all different language components- reading, writing, speaking, listening, and vocabulary. However, we want to focus primarily on reading since reading activities could be the most meaningful and relevant way to connect to other cultures.

To carry out the Project Learn.Way model in both physical and virtual learning environments, we present an online learning environment design and its imaginary screen shot. Finally, we have developed several important Knowledge Community Building (KCB) principles, which could be applied to our learning practices. We will also discuss various implementation issues related to our instructional model, and virtual learning environment design, which could be addressed in teacher development and/ or partnership development.

Design description

 An Instructional Model for Teaching & Learning in English and Cultural Literacy - Draft


Motivation is one of the key factors we kept in mind for our instructional model, because it is important to keep students motivated so they actively participate in different learning activities. Below, we outlined several problems related to ESL/ELL motivation towards reading activities.

Based on our teaching experiences and literature reviews, we concluded that most second language learners struggle with READING due to lack of:

  • Interest (related with reading topics or contents' relevance to their personal goal or life: Keller's ARCS Model, 1983)
  • Meaningful learning including situated learning opportunities, which could help learners apply reading contents to their daily lives
  • Support, including discussion opportunities for better comprehension (ex. no interaction with teachers and classmates; reading mostly tends to be an individual learning process)
  • Appropriate strategies in reading and meta-cognitive strategies for overall language learning (ex. classroom activities are usually limited to reading comprehension)
  • Personalized reading materials or texts (ex. Do the books and activities provide for a range of interests, abilities and learning styles? Is there a range of genres?)

1) Individual Reading

  • Pre-reading activities: Brainstorming by activating prior knowledge, use visual cues to make predictions (ex. based on title, images and structure of the text)        
  • A student (from Jeju Island, Korea) logs on, and is pleased so see that he/ she only has to accumulate 20 more points for the next Avatar purchase. He/ she makes a mental note to visit the day's recommended 'hotspot' after reading Splendid Gifts. The student focuses on the organization of the text, and he/ she recognizes that it is written in stanzas. The student skims over the rest of the text, and notices the colourful illustration of the sun beaming over a campground occupied with different sized tents and other belongings. The student chuckles when he/ she spots a drawing of the small squirrel peeping into one of the camper's sleeping bag, while the camper continues to sleep. The student is reminded about the time when he/ she went camping with friends, and how they often had the same furry visitor. The student draws his/ her attention back to the title and the illustration. He/ she predicts that this poem may be an account narrated from the squirrel's perspective, and how it finds company. The student predicts that the word Gifts from the title is not referring so much to the food the campers have left out on the campground, but more about how the squirrel finds the presence of these vibrant campers as a gift. Before recording his/ her prediction in his/ her online journal, the student sets his/ her status to 'curious'.
  • Independent reading: synthesizing information and integrating prior knowledge with new text information   
  • The student begins to read the text and stumbles upon a few unknown vocabulary. He/ she refers to the online dictionary and the grammar index to verify the use of the verb crawl in a verse. As he/ she is reading, the highlighting tool assists with marking the verses which the student will refer back to in future discussion.
  • Read to connect text to self (ex. prior experience/ this reminds me of...), to another text (ex. similar to another story) or to the world (ex. relate text to something relevant in the society)  
  • The title did not coincide with the student's prior prediction, but instead, the poem told about the powerful message of respecting the natural environment when enjoying it through leisurely activities. The student reflects on this message and connects it to the documentary called An Inconvenient Truth that he/ she watched a few weeks ago. He/ she relates to the poem on a personal level as it speaks about a topic that the student is passionate about. The student uses the sticky note and webspiration features to organize his/ her thoughts about the poem, and how it is relevant to the issue of global warming.

2) Collective Reading

  • Sharing of questions (ex. ambiguity in comprehension, cultural references, elements of text, etc.)     
  • The student discusses online with his/ her classroom peers how their Korean culture and own family use and regard the environment- the way it collectively and more uniquely enhances their lives (ex. religious or family traditions that involves more intimate interaction with the natural surrounding). The group uses the shared screen and pen function to guide their discussion, and records their responses in a google doc. A couple of students recorded their questions related to oral production over a voice thread. Ambiguity over pronouncing a few words have impeded on their comprehension for part of the text. Students who are confident in responding to these questions record their read-aloud, and then posts it through the voice thread feature.                                  
  • Making inferences and collaborate for cultural and language comprehension   
  • Students continue a higher level of discussion by accessing the literary graffiti tool to compare and contrast their inferences regarding two specific stanzas of the poem, and relates this to the current situation of global warming. Students also post hyperlinks to additional resources.

3) Group Design Project

  • Designing learning materials about my own culture for students in other cultural environments using multimedia
  • The group of students collaborate to complete a mind map, and a short comic converging their perceptions on how the issue of global warming is acknowledged, or lack thereof on a local and national scale. This calendar feature breaks down the assignment's components into a week and half time frame. All work is deposited into their group's repository.

4) Assessment

  • Basic information (factual, inference, rhetorical)
  • Reading to learn (organization and purpose, for main ideas and rhetorical functions)
  • Teacher(s) of this group may decide that this particular assignment could be used to assess students' level of extending their ideas. Teacher(s) may use an individual and group rubric to track students' progress throughout the assignment, and may even be an active group member by providing regular feedback . Students confer with their teacher twice via wiziq during the assignment period.

5) Reflection

  • Create meaning by reflecting on and responding to text, provide different levels of interpretation and adopt alternative viewpoints to understand 'cultural constructs', cultural beliefs by analyzing bias, propaganda and stereotyping in texts
  • Use of computer software to facilitate students' thinking and understanding
  • Upon completion of the assignment, several students create a graphical poster that summarizes their concluding remarks about the topic. Some students choose to utilize the word cloud function instead of creating a poster, in any case, students decide which feature or other accessible software on Project Learn. Way they will use to complete their reflection piece. Students post their final remarks on their individual diary page.
Loop 2: LEARN

1) Individual Reading

  • Pre-reading activities: Brainstorming by activating prior knowledge, use visual cues to make predictions (ex. based on title, images and structure of text)
  • Independent reading: synthesizing information and integrating prior knowledge with new text information
  • Read to connect text to self (ex. prior experience/ this reminds me of...), to another text (ex. similar to another story) or to the world (ex. relate text to something relevant in the society)
  • Similar to Loop 1
  • Students use audacity to practice their reading fluency, and to record their connection.

2) Classroom Discussion

  • Sharing of questions (ex. ambiguity in comprehension, cultural references, elements of text, etc.)
  • Making inferences and collaborate for cultural and language comprehension
  • Students may decide to set up a discussion forum on facebook or other social networking sites.

3) 1:1 conversation

  • Learners from two different cultural groups are matched to foster deeper understanding  
  • The group from the school in Jeju Island, Korea connects to a group of students from Kerman, Iran who have posted interest for the option in collective reading and discussion for the poem Splendid Gifts. Students are paired with another student from Kerman, Iran. The pairs confer about the meaning and other elements of the text (video-conference calls), students decided to explore their questions more independently by using a venn diagram as a graphic organizer to compare and contrast their shared experiences.

4) Assessment

  • Basic information (factual, inference, rhetorical)
  • Reading to learn (organization and purpose, for main ideas and rhetorical functions)
  • Teachers decide to opt out on assessing students for the second loop of the assignment, and will frequently do so since Project Learn. Way is treated as a motivating tool for students to network with other peers. Instead, students complete a feedback form for an assigned partner; three compliments and one constructive feedback.

5) Reflection

  • Create meaning by reflecting on and responding to text, provide different levels of interpretation and adopt alternative viewpoints to understand 'cultural constructs', cultural beliefs by analyzing bias, propaganda and stereotyping in texts
  • Use of computer software to facilitate students' thinking and understanding
  • Similar to Loop 1, but there is a higher level of reflection involved.
Loop 3: Way
  • Web-meeting
  • Different sizes or types of web-conference to conduct broader levels of discussion
  • Example: webinar
  • Role-playing game
    Situated simulation, act out a specific cultural context
  • Students may engage in readers-theatre to explore varying levels of intonation and volume. Students may modify a text, and integrate their own creative dimension by producing a script. Students will act out these scenes/ scenarios by incorporating a new cultural aspect learned by their new peer(s) (ex. a student in Kerman, Iran has learned that in most Korean families, youth will wait until their elders at the table have started eating first; if there is a dining scene, student will incorporate this cultural form of politeness).
  • Storytelling
    Given a scenario and students are to complete or modify the original text
  • Similar to the preceding activity, the difference is that this latter activity does not have an explicit cross-cultural component.
  • Responding primarily to stories by retelling and acting out (ex. WordSift).
  • Channel-Way
    Based on YouTube, broadcasting through channel
  • Students share their thoughts and reflection through a series of video responses (ex. form of a dialogue, compilation of images, other artistic forms, etc.)
  • e-Manito
    e-Pen-pal, randomly assign pairs

Knowledge media employed & Functions and features, etc.

Implementation issues

1. Join us through our website:
First of all, we are only open to English teachers, schools, and other educational institutions so individual students cannot really join us. This is a very important underlying rule for developing the sustainable knowledge community for this English and cultural literacy learning environment. It is actually necessary to keep the certain level of the quality of our learning, teaching, and cultural resources not only designed by us, but also by all classes here. Since all classes, teachers, and students are almost equally contributing to the development of our community resources repository, we could give full access to all of our members.

2. Review and acceptance by our members:
Secondly, to be invited by our knowledge community, applicants should have common goals and interests, which we are pursuing. Even though, this learning environment are providing our members with all different kinds of English learning tools and resources, the most critical goal for this knowledge community is for participants to develop a keen interest in our learning and teaching model of Project Learn.Way, which will lead to an even stronger desire be involved in our community practices. Our model is not very simple to manage for teachers and institutions the first time, therefore if applicants are not motivated to put forth additional effort and additional resources, it is impossible to conduct and manage the classes effectively. Moreover, as our model is interactive, there is a lot of networking between classes in different nations in, hence if one teacher or institution cannot manage properly, this will significantly affect all partners. All applicants will be reviewed by other members in our community, and as a whole knowledge community there will be a variety of support and scaffolding.

3. Needs Assessment interview and matching process:
Once one (either a teacher or a school) membership is granted, they are first a junior member. In the case of junior members, everything in terms of services and resources accessibility will be equal with senior members, but they cannot have private classes. In other words, their classes will be opened to other senior members in our knowledge community. This is to assist with their first classroom management , and to facilitate their legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) processes with other members (ex. caring, input/ advice). To find the 'perfect match' between two different classes, we will conduct a needs assessment interview with all teachers; all matches will be conducted on a class level. Through better understanding of each teacher's interests, goals, experiences, and teaching/managing styles, we can provide them with the best counter-part class. This matching process is the most important factor to successful classroom management and achievement. Basically, it is mandatory to change the counter-part class every semester, which is a month long in other learning environments that provides students with various cultural experiences, but if both teachers and classes want to pursue the initial match-up, then we can allow it.

4. Setting up your English and Cultural Literacy classrooms with our members (TA):
Fundamentally, we assume that all English teachers here do not have any expertise in technology, not because they cannot control or operate modes of technology, but because we want them to really focus on their teaching practices, especially in facilitating student collaboration and individual learning experiences. For this reason, we provide each pair of classes with two teaching assitances (TA), one content TA and one technology TA. If it is necessary, we could provide more than one TA. After being matched, teachers will meet their teacher-partner in different countries, and TA members at the kick-off meeting. The agenda for the kick-off meeting will be provided by the administrators, which is held ti mainly design the semester ahead. Teachers will also explore a variety of learning and teaching resources that have been developed by other members. We will check again whether two teachers have matched interests and goals for one semester, and whether both of them are comfortable in understanding how our model Project Learn.Way works during a month period.

5. Managing a semester of Project Learn. Way model:
After setting up, each class will be managed separately for the Loop 1 PROJECT for two weeks, and then for the next two weeks, in the Loop 2 LEARN module, two classes will be managed together as a pair. Most importantly, each student will have a chance to talk to one of the students in the partner class and teach his or her own culture as well as learn about their peer's. During student interactions, two teachers and TAs should complete the design of the Loop 3. Way module. They should select at least one of the five different activities, such as web-meeting, role-playing game, storytelling, channel WAY, e-Manito. All activities could be customized based on the classes' requirements and situations. This last module is also required to be managed by the pair of classes.

6. Evaluation for your own class:
After a month long semester, (based on how the Loop 3 module is managed, the semester period could vary), one class will officially be completed and evaluated. Other members in our knowledge community will participate in this evaluation process, although it is most significant that teachers reflect on their own classes and teaching practices. In this last step, all resources developed by classes will be assessed, edited, and saved into the community repository. Based on each teacher's need, they may decide to immediately begin a new semester, or concentrate on their physical class (on location) before returning again.

Important links and resources

Papers & Articles

What literature is relevant and any good links that you can provide?

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1 Comment

  1. I think that idea of providing an independent aspect to the learning is a great idea. People learn languages at different speeds so this will allow students who may find learning a second learning 'easy' can move ahead, especially with the customized Loop 3, and of course vice versa.