Martha Castañeda, OFLA Executive Vice-President, Miami University
In online culture and etiquette, lurking is the action of observing but not necessarily actively participating in an online discussion (Bishop, 2007). I have observed with admiration as my colleagues discuss on the OFLA listserv ways to present information and assess students to meet the Student Learning Objectives (SLO) goals and requirements. As a university faculty member, I can’t help but link the practices my colleagues discuss online to the theoretical underpinnings of each method or activity presented on the OFLA listserv. I “listen” as my colleagues talk about and provide resources for best practices in language teaching.
The OFLA community is currently discussing contextualized language learning and assessment. Context Matters! Each unit and lesson should be centered around a setting, topic, situation, purpose, actors, roles, cultural implications, and motivation for communication (Shrum and Glisan, 2010). Our OFLA colleagues are creating exciting units, lessons, and assessments that are contextualized in nature. Similarly, you will find examples on the OFLA listserv of meaningful communication and assessment. The model Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) posted on the listserv and SLO weebly website focus on meaning rather than form. Form is important to get your meaning across, but the main focus of an activity should be meaning, especially at the novice levels of proficiency. Do we understand a child when s/he says: “I eated all my food.”? Of course we do and the child will eventually notice, or figure out, that eat is an irregular verb conjugated differently in the past tense. The IPA examples created by my colleagues focus on real world communication that our students will need when they travel abroad and/or speak to a native speaker in the community. Real world communication is what we want in the language classroom and your colleagues are creating and sharing great assessments that focus on real world communicative tasks. Moreover, the IPAs ensure our students are cognitively engaged. It is only when students learn novel information in the foreign language class that they will truly be engaged in the content. Finally, I have read many posts and have seen a plethora of authentic materials that have been shared with colleagues on the OFLA listserv. Our students need to engage with materials made by native speakers for native speakers. The example of listening to YouTube videos to identify the numbers read by the disk jockeys is an excellent way to present authentic materials to our students that are cognitively engaging but proficiency level appropriate.
I have “listened” to my colleagues discuss best practices on the OFLA listserv and I can honestly say that I am proud to be a member of the OFLA community. It is an exciting time to be a language teacher as our students learn new information in the foreign language classroom and gain real world skills that will serve them for a lifetime. I encourage you to join the conversation, maybe mostly through lurking as I do, or as an active participant of the conversation. Click HERE to join the listserv!
Bishop, J. (2007). “Increasing participation in online communities: A framework for human–computer interaction”. Computers in Human Behavior 23 (4): 1881–1893.
Shrum, J. & Glisan, E. (2010). Teacher’s Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction. Fourth Edition. Heinle: Boston.