During LLU#11 I mentioned to Jan the idea of using (recorded) Skype calls as assessment tools for language learning. I thought it might be helpful to give a couple of examples.
For my students final project (on a topic of their choosing) they were asked to post their research, questions, ideas in their blogs. They were also asked to have at least one conversation with a native speaker and post it to their blogs. After posting it, I asked them to write about it and explain what the convesration was about, how they thought it went, ect.
The next time I do this with students I am going to really work on getting them to use these conversations as a form of self-evaluation. Far too often, I found, they were looking for what I wanted vs what they actually thought about the recordings. It was also pretty obvious that they did not (always) listen to the conversation after completing it, they just posted their impressions…a fact that came out several times in the final oral interviews I had with them as a final step of their projects.
Listen, for example, to this conversation between Gigi (my student) and Rita (in Argentina). They had never met before, nor had they talked before. Gigi is interested in learning more about using technology in language teaching, particularly ESL teaching. Rita teaches ESL in Argentina (and her class had collaborated with us several times by exchanging podcasts…more on that later).
In this conversation it is clear that there is a give and a take, a sharing of information…and a conversation that evolves over time…not just a list of questions that need to be answered. Gigi then commented in her blog about the conversation and tried to both synthesize what she learned in the chat but also engage others in the conversation (feel free, by the way to add your comments if you are reading this and would care to do so…Gigi will still be notified when she receives a comment to her blog).
In this conversation, the endproduct was less positive, although it was illuminating. I am not certain if the student actually listened to the native speaker’s responses, be it during or after the conversation. Curiously, she thought it was a positive experience, but I think that was more because she was able to get it done having struggled for most of the semester to find someone from Granada. In her blog, she did not comment on the interaction… just the post m’am.
The conversation we had this student’s final interview was interesting, albeit too late in the term to really help her improve before she left for Spain. We went over the conversation and listened to sections together, she soon realized as had I that they were not communicating as much as they were talking. Subtle, but important differences.
I encouraged her to listen to this recording upon her return from Spain…or maybe even while there this next semester, and to add her comments to her own blog. I suggested this after remembering a similar experience after my first trip abroad. I found a book that I had thought –pre trip– was unreadable…too hard. Post language immersion, I could not believe how easy it was to read. I have a funny feeling my student (in about a month’s time in-country) will hear anosomething quite different. She will also realize how far she has come since then.
Part of my reasons for making my students post these conversations is to allow the brave ones, the ones who really want to hear the changes in their abilities, the opportunity to listen in again, and to feel the changes that are happening in their language prioficiency. To be able to assess their growth over time, using these sound files as snapshots of what they were able to do on X date.
What I need to do is to ask my students to take these snapshots more often and more regularly within the semester. The more they did them, the easier they became to create and the less intimidating they were for the creators. And the snapshots ~~~> each told an interesting and significant story about that learner’s ability at that particular moment and time.
I also need to work more on making my students comfortable with this task, helping them brave the sometimes uncomfortable and awkward task of listening to yourself speak another language…and make mistakes. So many of us are trained to be fearful of making mistakes, of seeming less than perfect… I want my students to embrace failure when it happens…but then try to avoid it the next time through, if they can.
Quantifiable/qualifiable assessment tools and social software…whodathunkit?