LANGUAGE CLASSROOM 2.0: FROM RESEARCH TO PRACTICE
Catholic University of Milan (ITALY)
The changes that European Union (EU) is experiencing together with the wide phenomenon of globalisation, involving the whole world, are two of the main reasons to rethink the way languages are learned/taught. The circulation of knowledge and culture amongst the members of EU encouraged the single countries to sustain and improve the study of European Languages. At the same time globalisation has facilitated the movement of information in an even greater extent, and amongst heterogeneous groups of people, as a consequence the role of technology at school is positively evolving. The aim of this paper is to report about the steps taken during the last four academic years, moving from a research in the field, developed by Catholic University (2008/2010), to the practice of CLIL classroom 2.0 involving both university (2010/2012) and school (2011/2012).
The research in the field wanted to investigate the needs of students in terms of foreign language fluency and digital competence and to find solutions to improve both of them, considering the different mindset of the new generations. It took into account the needs of teachers, as well, in terms of professional development and university training. In fact the research was developed in two levels: the first involving a primary and a lower secondary school of Lombardy (Italy) and the second based on the course of General Teaching of the School of Education of Catholic University (Milan), where a new generation of teachers are trained. The development of the two levels was different: the school research lasted one school year and ended the next year with interviews (2008/2010). On the contrary the university research lasted two academic years (2008/2010) and was regularly implemented in university from the next A.Y. (2010/2011) proving very successful. The positive result of school research in the field encouraged to introduce the language classroom 2.0 in a higher secondary school, not in terms of experimentation, but as a regular practice.
The research had a multi focus perspective based on theory, research and practice working together (van Lier, 1996) and it used qualitative tools thanks to its naturalistic nature. The research considered the use of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) with the support of new technology, in particular web tools, e.g., Wiki, Blog, Video and Photo-sharing, together with the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). The school teachers, as well as the professor of the university course, were asked to contribute to the creation of original CLIL materials. The investigation demonstrated the positive effect of digital tools in enhancing CLIL. Both students and teachers showed to be satisfied with the results. According to the university level of the research, the two years of experimentation allowed to improve the quality of the project and to offer the next years a CLIL module adapted to the needs of the future generation of teachers. They are preparing to teach in primary school and they will be asked to teach English, as well. Experiencing Technology Enhancing CLIL (TE-CLIL) during their university career allow teacher-students to develop a better awareness of what they are theoretically studying and to be well prepared to manage it when they become teachers.