Communicating in a Foreign Language: Speaking as a Web-based Activity
WIMBA (a web-based vocal communication product) is used to facilitate and promote vocal instruction, collaboration, coaching, and assessment beyond the traditional language laboratory environment. WIMBA allows learners to record their speaking, send it to the instructor and receive oral or written feedback. It increases opportunities for developing fluency. Students have an opportunity to practice, record and re-record their voices before submitting the assignment to the instructor. This tool appears to help students achieve a confidence level that promotes active learning, helps diction, and motivates further study. It provides more speaking opportunities for all students but especially for those who have difficulty with oral production.
The paper will present a variety of WIMBA-based exercises and will analyze students’ performance and feedback. The questions we seek to answer: 1) Can use of the web for oral production replicate or replace teacher-mediated classroom instruction? 2) What kinds of web-based oral exercises do students find most efficient: a) real-time voice conferencing feature, b) voice messaging, threaded voice boards that allow speaking and reading at the same time, c) voice-enabled e-mail? 3) Do students produce more language when speaking on the web or face-to-face? 4) What do students find more satisfactory in the web-mediation: speaking practice or grammar instruction? We conclude that based on our data that many of the communicative activities can be done on the web while the bulk of the grammar instruction needs to be done in class. This result contradicts some current curricular thinking and administrative practices.
Keywords: WIMBA, Oral proficiency, Teacher-mediated classroom, Web-based activities
Dr. Olga Kagan
Director, Language Resource Center, Language Resource Center