TEACHING AND LEARNING THROUGH PROJECTS USING THE ICT: PRACTICE OF THE ENGLISH WRITING THROUGH BUSINESS DOCUMENTS
Project-based learning is an authentic instructional model or strategy in which students plan, implement, and evaluate projects that have real-world applications beyond the classroom (Blank, 1997; Dickinson, et al, 1998; Harwell, 1997, Eduteka, 2006). PBL are instruction relating questions and technology connected to students’ everyday lives to classroom projects. The students engage in design, problem solving, decision making, and investigative activities. Learning activities that are interdisciplinary, long term, and student centered are emphasized, rather than short, isolated lessons (Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project, 1999). Students today are using online resources to create research reports. They are designing, critiquing, and presenting products using interactive technologies. According to Dickinson et al, 1998; Katz & Chard, 1989; Martin & Baker, 2000; Thomas, 1998, these projects must be: students centered, students managed, clearly defined, with a significant meaning for the student, directly observed in their environment, real problems, academic connected with real life and with work competences, opportunities for feedback and for students´ reflexion and auto assessment.
Students from the University Jaume I (Castellón, Spain), taking the subject ‘technical and business English for computer science’ had to carry out 13 projects during the first semester of the academic year 2009-2010. Students practiced, on the one hand, their competence in the writing skill in the English language and on the other hand, they acquired conceptual, linguistic, syntactic and morphologic knowledge about specific documents in the business field. Projects were developed with the teacher´s help and also, additional material could be found in a virtual environment specifically designed for this subject. In this virtual environment, several links to websites and documents for each project were located. The aim of these projects was to improve students´ level of English in the writing skill, working with standard business documents such as CVs, memos, letter of orders, business presentations, invoices, methods of payment, etc. In order to accomplish the tasks, students made use of the ICT, as this case is the Internet.
In this study, we also work with three generic competences: instrumental competences: written communication in the English language, knowledge of a foreign language, basic skills in computing and capacity of planning and time managing; systemic competences: information management, capacity of learning and capacity of generating new ideas; personal competences: working in an autonomous way, initiative spirit and project design and management.