1 Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (SPAIN)
2 Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (NETHERLANDS)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 1710-1715
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
In today’s society there is an increasing demand of online education, both in the format of distance learning programmes, as well as blended learning formats which are becoming the norm in mainstream education. However, not all institutions and teachers have easy access to the necessary infrastructure and technologies. The area of second language learning, with its strong need for access to resources in the target language and communication tools, is often at the forefront of innovation in the use of new technologies in education. An area which is still presenting a challenge is the development of oral skills, both production and interaction, in the second language.

In this presentation we describe the SpeakApps project, funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission, which addresses the problems language teachers and students are facing in relation to speaking skills:

• Formal second or foreign language acquisition settings do not provide enough room for everyone to practice the language.
• The ephemeral nature of speaking which makes it difficult for students to obtain feedback on their performance, preventing them from properly revising and improving their oral skills.

In order to address these issues, SpeakApps is developing the following Open educational resources:

- Tools: Langblog (an audio/video blog for oral productions), Videochat (a videoconferencing system for oral interaction with easy recording and archiving features) and Tandem (a content management system for real time tasks).
- A platform with virtual classrooms where the teachers can try out the tools with their students, and communication spaces for the teachers to exchange ideas and materials.
- Learning materials
- Technical and pedagogical guides and manuals.

We describe the process of development based on a user-centred design approach. Second language learning needs are the starting point for development which is guided through iterative pilots, incorporating feedback from users at every step of the process. All developments in the project are made freely available in the platform which has resulted in an incremental number of pilots which has been extended to different educational sectors (Higher, Vocational and Secondary education as well as language schools and centres) and language learning settings (second and foreign language learning, distance and blended). From this experience innovative ways of teaching speaking skills have emerged through the use of Langblog, Videochat and Tandem by teachers working in different settings, teaching different languages (English, Catalan, Dutch, Swedish, Polish and Irish) to different types of students. The three main tools will be available by the end of the project for integration into VLEs and further development.
Video blog, videoconferencing, second language learning, speaking skills.