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Technologies for ESP

on Sat, 04/22/2017 - 16:02

Technologies for ESP

There are many different technologies that are successfully used in ESP courses

from the traditional tape recorder or CD player, to interactive whiteboards, ICT,

Web 2.0 tools, mobile technologies and 3D virtual environments. It is impossible

to list them all. Therefore, in this section, I will look at some more widely used ones

in greater detail and will show practical and concrete examples of how they are

used by teachers in different ESP courses around the world.

Skype/online conferencing tools

There are many online voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) services that allow users to

make telephone or video calls and conduct group conferences using their computer,

and Skype is one of the better known and is widely used (Mullen et al., 2009). In its

basic form, the application is freely downloadable and calls made between computers

are without charge. Audio and video conferences can be made between participants,

however, free video calls are restricted to two participants. The new version of Skype

also allows screen sharing, which means that the teacher or students can show Word

documents, slide presentations, or websites on their screen to the other participants

in a Skype session, to talk about them or explain something.

There are free and paid add-ons and services and third-party applications that

can extend Skype’s functionality such as whiteboards and software that allow

the recording of voice or video conversations on Skype. Text chat can be used

concurrently with voice and video and is recorded automatically. Skype can also

be integrated into Moodle, a free open-source learning management system

(Godwin-Jones, 2005).

Skype is used in many different ways for formal and informal language learning

and teaching. A search on the Skype community platform shows how many language

courses, language chat groups or conversation clubs there are. Many teachers

also offer online courses via Skype, which are often individually bookable lessons.

Technology-integrated English for Specific Purposes lessons | 95

There is also a special social media language course and materials integrating Skype

called English Out There (, which can be used by online

teachers or as self-study material by learners. Wisniewska (2010) mentions the use

of Skype in one-to-one language lessons in her book Learning One-to-One.

Other teachers invite guest speakers via Skype into their classrooms thus breaking

down distance barriers. I have, for example, been invited to talk with students at a

language school in Morocco, on several occasions. Skype is also used for tandem

language learning either on a one-to-one basis or arranged by teachers for whole

classes to bring them together with classes in other countries or regions in order

to practise the target languages (Godwin-Jones, 2005; Elia, 2006; Mullen et al.,

2009; Eröz-Tuğa and Sadler, 2009). Besides the obvious advantages of practising

the target language in authentic communication with a native speaker, tandem

language learning can help learners become more autonomous (Elia, 2006).

Mullen et al. (2009: 101), who emphasise ‘a task-based approach based on the

principles of tandem learning’, stress the fact that although the familiarity with the

tandem concept might make learners and teachers think that they can use the same

principles as face-to-face or asynchronous email tandem, this would be a mistake

because Skype is a real-time or synchronous communication tool and activities

would need to be different. Hampel and Hauck (2006: 3) also emphasise that ‘it is not

sufficient to see the new learning spaces’ such as the internet, video conferencing

tools, or email ‘as replica[tion]s of conventional face-to-face settings.’

The convenience of learning from a distance from the comfort of one’s home or from

any location where one happens to be, in the case of frequent travellers, and having

access to teachers and native speakers around the world are some reasons for the

popularity of Skype for language learning. Other reasons might be the mostly free

service, availability for major computer platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.), the

reliability of the service, the relatively good quality of audio and video if used with

a broadband connection, and also its ease of use. Many language learners are also

already familiar with the tool from their professional work and use it to communicate

with colleagues or business partners.

However, just because a particular technology is widely used does not mean it

will automatically enhance language learning. Its particular affordances that lend

themselves for language learning need to be considered and appropriate tasks need

to be devised, in order to be able to make effective use of it (Levy, 2009). Skype,

like any other technology, is just a tool, and it needs to be used in a pedagogically

sound way to have a ‘value for language learning’ (Levy, 2009: 775). For example,

when students do tandem-learning activities, giving learners tasks to do (Mullen et al.,

2009) or asking them to keep a learning journal with reflections on the exchanges or

creating a portfolio (Elia, 2006) can help enhance the learning of such exchanges.

Some teachers integrate Skype into their course in a more structured way as part of

a blended learning solution, as in the first case study in this chapter contributed by

Cornelia Kreis-Meyer, the head of a language school in Germany.