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The alignment of language learning methodologies with the collaborative self-directed model of Bridge21

This paper explores the intersection of learning methodologies to promote the development of 21st century skills with the use of CMC tools to enhance language learning among adolescent learners. An emphasis on what students can do with knowledge, rather than what units of knowledge they have, is the essence of 21st century skills (Silva, 2009). A significant component of 21st century skills focuses on collaborative learning which is based on interaction among a group of students where experiences are shared, roles are assumed and the goal is to solve a common task with total interdependence. Students today have many opportunities to be exposed to differing opinions, perspectives, beliefs, experiences, and thinking processes. They can compare, contrast and combine similar information collected in dissimilar locations, communicating with a real audience, using text and imagery and expanding their global awareness (Harris, 1999).
Today technology offers a greater range of affordances in the teaching and learning of second languages. It has been well documented that the best way to attain oral fluency is to be immersed in the target language (Freed, 1995). Research also shows that student classrooms continue to concentrate on a linguistic competence and not on a communicative competence (Gilmore, 2011). Yet computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools can offer students synchronous and asynchronous methods of communication which allow them to communicate with native speakers in their home countries and access to more immersive contexts.
The Bridge21 model, which is technology-mediated, team-led and project-based, brings a particular approach to 21st- century learning and is distinguished by the mixture and focus of scaffolding and consistency in the application (Lawlor, Conneely, & Tangney, 2010). The model uses a collaborative learning approach within a social constructivist framework to allow groups of learners, in cooperation with expert mentors, to achieve learning goals through the creation of shared artefacts.
An exploratory case study was designed to extend the Bridge21 model to include spatially-separated teams, based in Ireland and Germany, learning together and enhancing the use of oral and aural skills for second language acquisition. Thirty-six students participated in a four day workshop using a CMC tool for face-to-face video, aural and written communications, working on project-based tasks focused on exploiting the use of authentic materials to improve second language acquisition. Data collection involved student questionnaires, teacher/mentor questionnaires, observations, focus groups and analysis of the student learning experiences including blogs, videos and presentations.
The findings suggest that using the Bridge21 learning model succeeded in allowing students to collaborate at a distance and to participate in second language acquisition. Students found that using technology to collaborate, in their own groups and with the native speaking groups, was conducive to language learning and enhanced fluency. Groups were also highly motivated throughout the workshop and highlighted a confidence to engage more in the target language. The results indicated the potential for the Bridge21 model to promote and develop 21st century skills and language learning together.

Author(s):

Ciarán Bauer    
CRITE/School of Computer Science & Statistics
Trinity College Dublin
Ireland

Having spent twenty years working in the IT industry, Ciarán Bauer moved into the educational sector and joined Bridge21, Trinity College Dublin, as Programme Manager in early 2012. As a former company director his role encompassed a wide range of duties including administration, training and finance. He received a Bachelor of Business Studies degree from Dublin City University in 1995. Interest in education and technology and its role in transforming learning grew during the Masters in Technology and Learning, which he received in 2013 from Trinity College Dublin. As programme manager working with Bridge21, an education programme based in Trinity College Dublin, Ciarán and his team offer a new model of learning, that can be adapted for use in Irish secondary schools. Designed to support an innovative 21st Century learning environment within schools, it has developed a learning model for second level education that is; team-based, technology mediated, project based and cross- curricular. His research interests are, 21st century learning, collaborative learning and the alignment of theses methodologies with language learning methodologies.

Dr. Ann Devitt    
Modern Languages/School of Education
Trinity College Dublin
Ireland

Dr Ann Devitt joined the School of Education, Trinity College as lecturer in modern languages in October 2008. Prior to this, she had been a post doctoral research fellow in the area of computational linguistics in the School of Computer Science and Statistics from October 2006. She holds a first-class degree in French and Italian and a Masters in Theoretical Linguistics and a PhD in Computer Science. In industry, she has worked on machine translation and speech synthesis products in the language domain as well as cutting edge prototypes for telecommunications network management systems. Her research interests include second language teaching and learning, in particular Computer Aided Language Learning, language in education and the discourse of the classroom and textbooks, threshold concepts for teacher education and applying computational linguistic and corpus methodologies in educational research.

Brendan Tangney    
CRITE/School of Computer Science & Statistics
Trinity College Dublin
Ireland

Founder and co-director of Trinity's Centre for Research in IT in Education (CRITE www.cs.tcd.ie/crite) a joint initiative between Trinity's departments of Education and Computer Science. The philosophy which underpins CRITE’s research agenda can broadly be termed social constructionist in nature. By this is meant that teaching and learning is not about the delivery, and passive reception of information, but is a process whereby the learner actively constructs their own knowledge. Technology can greatly assist in this process when it is used to provide tools which allow the learner to construct artefacts which aid in their own learning. For example they can learn about music by composing, and they can learn about distributed algorithms not by passively watching a simulation but building their own simulation of the algorithm in question. For a complete list of projects see www.cs.tcd.ie/crite/projects.htm. While eLearning is often interpreted to mean learning with the web, the technologies used by the candidate range from mobile phones through digital video to robotics. All pieces of learning technology are extensively used and evaluated in real learning settings which range from Primary School through 3rd level to informal educational settings. Brendan Tangney has published extensively in the areas of: the analysis of, and pedagogical approaches to, technology and learning; teaching programming; mobile learning and collaboration; music education; intelligent tutoring systems – see http://www.cs.tcd.ie/crite/pubs.php. Previously Brendan Tangney was a founder member of the Distributed Systems group in the Computer Science Department. The group is one of the most successful in the department and has a very strong international reputation. In his time with the group it gave birth to a number of companies most notably IONA Technologies and Wilde Technologies. He has published extensively on number of sub-areas within the discipline including: the structure of distributed operating systems publications; load balancing, migration and parallelism; distributed programming; fault tolerance and local area networks.

 

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