Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Digital News Stories: Building Language Learners' Content Knowledge and Speaking Skills

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Digital News Stories: Building Language Learners' Content Knowledge and Speaking Skills

Article excerpt

Introduction

The advent of Web 2.0 technology1 brought new dimensions to foreign language learning and afforded learners new avenues to explore functional use of the target language. Because it is challenging to help students develop communicative language skills during limited face]to]face class time, language practitioners have embraced computer]mediated communication (CMC) technology to maximize use of the target language beyond the classroom walls (Guth & Helm, 2010; Kessler, 2013; Rosell]Aguilar, 2013). In addition to the traditional face]to]face instruction, CMC provides not only a personalized but also a collaborative and engaging setting where learners create, share, and build second language knowledge together. As a result, learners gain language competence and increase their oral skills (Lee, 2010; Levy & Stockwell, 2006; Lys, 2013; Sun, 2009; Thorne & Reinhardt, 2008; Volle, 2005). With CMC, students have a more equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion and feel less anxious as well as more confident in expressing themselves than with face]to]face interaction (e.g., Arnold & Ducate, 2006; Leahy, 2008; Sun, 2009). According to Lee (2011), CMC fosters learner autonomy, as students take an active part in decision making and problem solving within a virtual learning community. Unlike realtime CMC, such as Web chat and audiovideo conferencing, asynchronous CMC, such as wikis, blogs, and podcasts, engages learners in constructing second language knowledge at their own pace and reflecting on content without time pressure. Students thus tend to be more reflective and thus produce more thoughtful responses (e.g., Kitade, 2008). However, asynchronous CMC may not encourage social presence and community building due to lack of a timestamp, students' ineffective use of time due to lack of self]discipline, and insufficient interpersonal communication (Rourke & Kanuka, 2009; Rovai, 2002). This study addressed one form of CMC.digital storytelling. and sought to determine how the creation of digital news stories in conjunction with a four]skills, integrated approach to task]based instruction2 promoted the development of learners' content knowledge and oral language development. In particular, the study addressed the effects of peer comments on asynchronous CMC from sociocultural perspectives.

Review of Literature

Digital stories are created with a mixture of media, including images, audio, and video elements. Like other asynchronous CMC technology, digital storytelling has been increasingly used for instructional purposes, including second language learning (Alameen, 2011; Barrett, 2006; Lambert, 2007; Ohler, 2008; Reinders, 2011). From personal narratives to accounts of historical events and discussions of a wide range of course]related topics, digital storytelling empowers learners by giving them voices to share and exchange their views in an open and interactive environment (Gregori]Signes, 2008; Robin, 2008; Sadik, 2008). In contrast with traditional pen and paper forms, digital storytelling solicits the use of multiple skills, from searching and organizing information, writing a script, and weaving together voice, images, and music to publishing a finished version online (Robin, 2008; Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009).

The process of crafting digital stories affords students opportunities to build many 21st]century skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, and multi]literacies (Gregori]Signes, 2008; Ohler, 2008; Sylvester&Greenidge, 2009; Yuksel, Robin, &McNeil, 2010). Students use various types of literacies, including multimodel (e.g., audio, video, animation) and multimedia forms of communication (e.g., text, image, voice) to compile digital stories. They also engage in higher]order thinking (e.g., critical, reflective, and creative thinking) to understand, synthesize, evaluate, and make use of the information to create content (Sadik, 2008). Furthermore, digital storytelling promotes student]centered learning and creates a community of practice (Hafner & Miller, 2011; Hull & Katz, 2006; Ohler, 2008; Sadik, 2008). …

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