Sunday, October 12, 2014

Entry 11 IDT1415 Reflections on Mitchell's: The Potential of the Internet as a Language-learning Tool

Mitchell (2009) provides a wide range of internet and experience-based reading and listening activities which are in line with current methodology researchers such as Grabe and Stoller (2011) and Field (2008) respectively. At the heart of Mitchell's chapter is the concept of authenticity and the benefits derived from it: variety not available before and the possibility to make our learners more culturally aware via interaction with authentic sources. I particularly find encouraging the fact that a low tech option is also available e.g. print the headlines and put them around the classroom as technology is not ubiquitous.

As regards the activities suggested these are defined and clearly justified in terms of MFL teaching theory and practice such as the need to activate prior knowledge when preparing students for a receptive skills activity building the activities up in terms of difficulty by going from skimming to scanning while using simple tech to aid students in this respect and to stimulate their curiosity e.g. using Google Images, web-based listening activities or giving students the power to control the speed at which audio is rendered via programs such as Audacity. In addition, script availability enables not only the learner but the teacher by making it possible to for them to work out the nuances of spoken texts once skills work has been done (Field 2008:45). Pre-teaching vocabulary along with guessing word-meaning from context are also mentioned as strategies effective readers use and although not mentioned in the article the internet and mobile technology allow for ease of access with language at our finger tips which was not available before. Harnessed adequately lack of vocabulary provides a fertile ground for search techniques strategy training with the view of fostering independent training.

Mitchell's suggestions grounded in his classroom practice and as such they are feasible when similar conditions are met. I wonder though the amount of student training required/done when he mentions for instance the use of Audacity which is not the most intuitive piece of software for the novice user. On the other hand, his report on the popularity of the French 'momes' forum provides evidence of how more than ever the digital generation is in their element in this type of setting. At work, we have been using Blogs and VLEs like Edmodo for a couple of years to provide an excellent opportunity for students to interact amongst themselves in a safe environment while involving their parents as 'observers' of such activity with very positive results for those involved.

Last but not least, Mitchell wisely identifies how the internet allows for a wealth of authentic resources that are not only exploited for language development but also for 'crucial' cultural awareness raising opportunities which, in my opinion, cannot be divorced from language. It is the 'how' these resources now readily available are used that matters - the pedagogy behind technology, our competence that shapes our performance using Chomky's terms, our conscious learning through monitoring and practice of how we use tech and how our competence changes as a result of acquired skills in Krashen's terms (Blake 2008:15-20).


Blake, R. J. (2008) Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Teaching. Georgetown, University Press. Online at [accessed: October 4, 2014]

Field, J. 2008. Listening in the language classroom. Language teaching library. Cambridge, Cambridge.

Grabe, W. and Stoller, F. 2011. Teaching and Researching Reading. 2nd ed. Harlow, Longman.

Mitchell, I. 2009. The Potential of the internet as a Language Learning Tool. In: Education and Digital technology: Foreign Language Learning with Digital Technology.  Continuum International Publishing. Online at [accessed: October 10, 2014]

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