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Models and strategies for young learners using new technologies
Literature review

As mentioned previously, the project initially identified online voice tools, blogs and possibly pod-casting as e-learning tools and technologies that could engage young learners. Further investigation into blogging and pod-casting raised awareness of some of the issues around using these ‘social software’ tools within an educational organisation. Downloads are restricted and firewalls often prevent access to blogging and pod-casting sites.

Moreover, teachers identified digital storytelling as a first step towards engagement and an excellent vehicle for up-skilling both students and teachers. They saw the production and publishing of their stories online through blogs, video blogs and podcasting being the logical next step.

Other technologies such as online voice tools and digital storytelling programs can be accessed within most organisations’ IT infrastructure. The decision to focus on these technologies and on digital storytelling in particular was influenced also by
outcomes of the literature scan:

  • NESB youth in the main, are digital immigrants – i.e. they did not grow up with or have ready access to the technology
  • young people, and specifically NESB, wanted the choice of having their learning materials in audio and text,
  • young people need to develop a product – and through this process to build skills and confidence in ICT

The project developed a model that incorporated these key findings of the research, based on the teacher and learner skills profile.

Teacher ICT profile

  • Twelve teachers participated in this study, and they had a broad range of computer skills ranging from very basic to very advanced (i.e. having developed materials for online delivery).
  • Teachers were asked to make a qualitative judgement about their skills based on the activities they performed as part of their daily teaching.
  • Five teachers indicated that their skills were “OK” but that they needed support, or that they have not had enough opportunities to apply the ICT skills acquired during PD sessions.
  • Teachers that classed themselves as intermediate felt that they were competent in basic skills like emailing, Word, using the Internet and a variety of computer assisted language learning programs.
  • Only two teachers described their skills as “comparatively advanced”.
  • The teachers range in age, with a significant percentage described as digital immigrants.

Learner profile
The students who participated in the project varied significantly in their ethnic diversity, levels of education, ICT skills and language proficiency.

A learner profile was established across the participating youth classes. This indicated that:
• most learners had interrupted educational backgrounds
• educational levels varied from between 6 to 12 years of schooling
• ages ranged from 19 to 24.
• students demonstrated a very broad range of ICT skills. While some students were ICT literate in specific skills such as internet and email, they lacked basic word processing and typing skills.
• The students’ language levels ranged from ‘beginner’ to ‘intermediate’ covering Certificate I to III of the Certificate in Spoken and Written English (CSWE).

Teaching and learning strategies

  • In designing and developing the teaching and learning strategies for this project, the project team wanted to explore the possibilities of using digital storytelling to:
  • develop new instructional activities and strategies that use the unique characteristics of interactive electronic environments
  • prepare both learners and teachers for working with e-learning
  • shift the focus from electronic technologies to electronically mediated teaching methods
  • develop new understandings of the differences in generations of learners and incorporate these into instructional design for e-learning.

The project team wanted to develop an accessible model that would enable teachers to integrate the technology into their everyday teaching practice, and enable students to apply their knowledge and skills to a range of situations inside and outside the classroom.
Instructional model
The instructional strategy that was most effective in achieving these aims was a pedagogical practice widely used in ESL teaching, known as scaffolding.

Scaffolding, according to Hammond and Gibbons , is “task specific support, designed to help the learner independently complete the same or similar tasks later in new contexts,… effective scaffolding should also result in ‘handover’ with students being able to transfer understandings and skills to new tasks in new learning contexts, thereby becoming increasingly independent learners”.

High challenge, high support
The cornerstones of effective scaffolding are the concepts of high challenge and high support , both of which were taken into account in the development of the model. As outlined in the teacher and learner profile, the majority of the participants can be classified as digital immigrants. Scaffolding, especially where these two elements are present, is an excellent strategy for engagement for this cohort, as one student pointed out, it prevents boredom.

The support was therefore provided on two levels:
• to the teachers during the professional development stage. This was in the form of mentoring and training provided by experts within and outside the organisation. They also provided ongoing troubleshooting support both onsite and online during this stage of the project.

• to the learners in the classroom through peer mentoring and peer support. The teachers involved in the project supported each other and the learners as their confidence, knowledge and skills developed. Many students discovered new found confidence in that their skills in technology were recognised and valued.

The professional development model had the following essential elements:
• demonstrate a story that engages the teachers / students
• deconstruct the story by demonstrating how it was produced using easy, accessible software
• provide intensive support through clear, simple instructions as well as access to the tools and instructional materials

The high support model was implemented with the teachers and then the teachers adapted it for introducing the technology to their students. The teachers also incorporated language skills development and curriculum outcomes

The table below outlines how technology skills were integrated with language skills development and curriculum outcomes:

Steps

Technology
(Applicable to teachers and learners)

Language skills development
(Applicable to ESL learners)

1

Demonstration of an engaging digital story

Modelling of language

2

Teaching the skills through explicit instruction and materials

Provision of necessary resources and clear and simple instructions.

Acquisition of language specific to the software / topic.


Developments of language of instruction.

3

Supported practice : Recreation of the same story.

Note: provision of all necessary materials for practice eg: images provided

Writing, pronunciation practice.

 

Working in groups

4

Guided application: Creation of a story through provision of materials.

Note: provision of necessary materials for practice eg: images provided  

Writing, pronunciation practice.

 

Students write storyboard and record their voiceover.

5

Creation their own stories within specific parameters:

  • teacher negotiates topics
  • Students collect images with digitals camera / phone
  • Privacy / copyright issues addressed

Stories related to specific curriculum outcomes. Some CSWE learning outcomes addressed were:

  • Read a procedural text
  • Write a short information text
  • Give spoken instructions
  • Write a narrative text
  • Provide spoken information using spoken language
At the end of the training there was a showcase the students created a set of criteria to evaluate digital stories. The students vote for the best story and the winning student presented with an award.
 

Certificates of Spoken and Written English

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