Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Mark Powell on Web 2.0 technologies in language training

Mark Powell will be coming to the "Sprachen und Beruf" Conference in Düsseldorf (15-17 June 2009) where he will be delivering the keynote speech. In an advance interview with the organizers of the conference he was asked: "How are you using technology yourself at the moment?"

"Mark Powell: I am a huge fan of online video. YouTube is just the best thing on the internet and a gift from the gods to language trainers, as far as I am concerned. Because so many companies have firewalls and restricted internet access, it is vital to be able to download what you are going to use, but the range of business interviews, news features, presentations and movie clips is now so enormous, there is no need to buy a cheesy language learning DVD ever again! The secret, however, is having an equally broad range of techniques for exploiting online video without too much of a time investment on our part. Otherwise, at worst, it is just video for video’s sake and, at best, a huge amount of extra work for a tailor-made training session we may never be able to use again.

I also do a lot of one-to-one training, so for me it makes sense to work on things like e-mail writing and telephone skills using internet telephony like Skype. Coupled with a webcam, you have got the cabability to reformulate client output as they write, whilst multi-tasking in a semi-teleconference environment. Online whiteboards that allow you and your client to write on the same electonic document simultaneously, such as, are also invaluable here. And free video e-mail like is just great for phased role play activities, sending short video messages back and forth. What is more, all this kind of stuff is pretty much disaster-proof. I am no technological wizard, so if I can get it to work, it has got to be good.

(...) If we take the analogy of the language trainer as a personal fitness trainer, then online self-study (perhaps using quiz-making software like Qedoc, Quia and Quizlet) would be the food supplement regime and in-class technology (podcasts, video clips, PowerPoint slides, digital recording devices, etc.) would be the exercise machines themselves. But it remains the trainer’s job to put the clients through their paces, motivate them, fine-tune the exercise programme and assess progress."

The complete interview is here.

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