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Innovative training of oral communication: Berlin Kompass

In a classical language classroom setting, the practicing of communication situations, where language use is combined with certain actions, e.g. describing and finding a route, the student work often stays on a level where isolated phrases and sentences are produced without actually testing their relevance. In contrast to actual real life situations, there are no consequences even if the advice given is incorrect or misunderstood. In real life the descriptions need to be adequate in order to lead to an intended goal. In this paper a collaborative virtual language learning environment called Berlin Kompass is presented. In this approach the technology is used to create as realistic communication and action environment as possible which creates learning situations where what is said and done matters. Compared with earlier approaches the purpose is to offer a new kind of holistic approach to learning oral communication. The communication happens in an immersive virtual context, in which problem solving and description of complex visual surroundings are trained collaboratively and combined with embodied interaction. The use of different modalities aims to strengthen the learning effect and support different types of learners, especially those, who learn most effectively by doing things themselves and by moving during the learning.
In the environment two remotely located users communicate using a foreign language in the context of a wayfinding task, one providing guidance to the other. They negotiate through this virtual environment until the goal is reached. The interaction in the system is done via gestures and the physical setup of the environment consists of two separate locations, which are connected via audio and network connection to enable two-way spoken communication. The system offers a realistic 360 degree panorama picture environment to communicate and move around in, as well as scaffolding. This means that lexical and phrasal help is offered on user’s request with hints in the panoramas. By pointing at the hotspots (i.e. objects of interest) user receives related supporting phrases and words. The guide also has a map to help navigating around the city.
In this paper the aim is firstly to introduce the pedagogical and technological ideas of this innovative application. Secondly, interesting findings of the series of pilot studies in autumn and winter 2013-2014 will be presented. The early pilots with around 250 language learners in secondary, upper secondary school and at university level have shown, that the Berlin Kompass system enables a high freedom for the language learners on different levels to exercise their oral communication skills in target language. Remarkable variation was found in the ways and strategies that the users made use of in utilizing the information given by the panorama environment itself and by the hotspots. The motivation to jointly reach the goal kept the language production alive longer than in a traditional classroom setting: the focus shifts from fear for mistakes into concentrating on finding relevant ways to communicate in order to reach the goal. This promotes learning of oral communication in an effective, constructive and rewarding way.


Laura Pihkala-Posti    
School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies
University of Tampere

LAURA PIHKALA-POSTI: M.A.; Studies in German language and culture, Scandinavian languages, Pedagogy and Interactive media at University of Tampere; Doctoral student, Project researcher at University of Tampere, Language teacher, Author of a series of schoolbooks for German as a foreign language “ Kurz und gut” courses 1-8, Otava Publishing (1999-2008), Teacher trainer, Expert and In-Service Trainer in Foreign language E-Learning Pedagogy; .Halonen I., Pihkala-Posti L. (2008). Kurz und gut Course 6 Web-Exercises.; Pihkala-Posti L. (2001). ,,Kurz und gut” oder Ein Österreicher in Köln. In: Ausblicke. Mai 2001. Zentrum für Österreichstudien, Skövde, 27-29;Pihkala-Posti, L. 2011. Zur Stellung des E-Learning im finnischen Deutschunterricht In: Bonner W. & Reuter E. (Eds.) Umbrüche in der Germanistik. Ausgewählte Beiträge der finnischen Germanistentagung 2009. Finnische Beiträge zur Germanistik; Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2012 b) The digi-native and global language learner challenges our local foreign language pedagogy. Publication of the Conference” Vikipeda, Global trends meet local needs”, Vaasa 2011. Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2012 c), Mit Internet und sozialen Medien Deutsch lernen. Motivationssteigerung durch ,,diginative” Lernwege (approved for publication in GFL); Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2012 d) Web-Kurs für fremdsprachliche mündliche Kommunikation? Eine Videokonferenz-Plattform und Web 2.0-Tools machen es möglich. (Approved for publication: Wagner & Heckmann (Eds.) Web 2.0 Good Practice in the Foreign Language Classroom guide).

Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2011) Zur Stellung des E-Learning im finnischen Deutschunter¬richt. In: Bonner; Reuter (Hrsg.) (2011), Umbrüche in der Germanistik. Ausgewählte Beiträge der finnischen Germanistentagung 2009. Frankfurt am Main: Lang. 369-380.
Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2012a) The digi-native and global language learner challenges our local foreign language pedagogy. In: Bendtsen, Marina; Björklund, Mikaela; Forsman, Liselott; Sjöholm, Kaj (Eds.) Global trends meet local needs. Vasa: Åbo Akademi University Faculty of Education, 33/2012, 109-121.
Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2012b) Mit Internet und sozialen Medien Deutsch lernen. Motivationssteigerung durch “diginative” Lernwege. GFL 2-3/2012 (Themenschwerpunkt: Innovative Wege des Deutschlernens), 114-137.
Pihkala-Posti, Laura (2012c) Web-Kurs für fremdsprachliche mündliche Kommunikation? In: Wagner, Jürgen & Heckmann, Verena (Hrsg.) Web 2.0. im Fremdsprachenunterricht. Ein Praxisbuch für Lehrende in Schule und Hochschule. Glückstadt: Werner Hülsbusch, 223-230.
Pihkala-Posti, L.( 2012d) Mediamaailman muutos, syntynyt digikulttuuri ja kielenopetus. Muutostarpeita kielenopettajien koulutukseen ja täydennyskoulutukseen? ( Media change, digital culture and language teaching. Needs for changes in language teacher education and in-service training?) In:Yli-Panula, Eija; Virta, Arja; Merenluoto, Kaarina (toim.) (2013-03-14) Oppiminen, opetus ja opettajaksi kasvu ainedidaktisen tutkimuksen valossa Turun ainedidaktisen symposiumin esityksiä11.2.2011. Turku: Opettajankoulutuslaitos, Turun yliopisto, 200-213.
Pihkala-Posti, L. (2013) Design-tutkimuksella kohti toimivia aktiivisia kielenoppimistiloja. (With design research towards active language learning spaces) In Viteli, Jarmo, Östman, Anneli (Eds.) Tuovi 11: Interaktiivinen tekniikka koulutuksessa 2013-konferenssin tutkijatapaamisen artikkelit (pp. 82-91) Tampere: TamPub.
Pihkala-Posti, L., Uusi-Mäkelä, M.E., Viteli, J. & Mustikkamäki, M. (2013). True Implementation of Technology in Language Teaching through Peer-learning?. In T. Bastiaens & G. Marks (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2013 (pp. 940-945). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Kallioniemi Pekka , Hakulinen Jaakko , Keskinen Tuuli , Turunen Markku , Heimonen Tomi, Pihkala-Posti Laura,Uusi-Mäkelä Mikael, Hietala Pentti, Okkonen Jussi , Raisamo Roope (2013). Evaluating Landmark Attraction Model in Collaborative Wayfinding in Virtual Learning Environments. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM '13), Article 33.
Pihkala-Posti Laura & Uusi-Mäkelä Mikael (2014). Kielenopetuksen tilat muutoksessa. (Language learning environments in translation) In: Eija Yli-Panula, Harry Silfverberg & Elina Kouki (Eds.). Ainedidaktisia tutkimuksia 7
Opettaminen valinkauhassa Ainedidaktinen symposiumi Turussa 15.3.2013. Turku: Suomen ainedidaktinen tutkimusseura.


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