Online Tools for Language Teaching

June 2011 — Volume 15, Number 1

** On the Internet **

Jeong-Bae Son
jeong-bae.sonusq.edu.au
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Introduction

There are a large number of online tools that can be used for second/foreign language learning and teaching (Chapelle & Jamieson, 2008; Garrett, 2009; Godwin-Jones, 2009, 2010; Levy, 2009; Meskill & Anthony, 2010; Warschauer, 2010). The increasing awareness of the tools generates a need for computer-assisted language learning (CALL) researchers and practitioners to develop and implement CALL widely by exploring, selecting, using and evaluating the tools in a variety of contexts. In this paper, I discuss the place and role of online language teaching tools in CALL and present a categorised list of the tools, which provides a basis for further research and practice in CALL.

Language Teaching on the Internet

Internet-based language instruction (IBLI) can be defined as language teaching conducted on the Internet using Internet tools and resources (Son, 2004). In IBLI, computer-mediated communication (CMC) and Web-based language learning (WBLL) are two major topics, which have particularly attracted great attention among CALL researchers and practitioners. Chun’s (2007) survey of two CALL journals (i.e., CALICO Journal and Language Learning & Technology) supports this point by revealing that the two most popular topics in the journals during the period 2001-2006 were CMC and Web-based instruction. My own studies also reflect a similar trend with focuses on the use of online discussion groups (Son, 2002), the evaluation of language learning websites (Son, 2005) and the use of WBLL activities (Son, 2007, 2008) and Web-based portfolios (Son, 2009).

It is evident that online tools play key roles in the implementation of CMC and WBLL. Out of the 23 articles published in the Computer Assisted Language Learning journal in 2009, 20 articles employ some kind of online tools and report studies related to the use of the tools. Also, one of the questions I receive most frequently as a CALL teacher educator from in-service and pre-service teachers is: “Is there any online tool for this activity?” Consequently, I decided to make a list of online tools that are currently available and freely accessible on the Internet. My intention was to guide language teachers to explore those tools themselves and choose the right ones for their teaching purposes.

Types of Online Tools

The Online Tools for Language Teaching (OTLT) list presented below is a result of my own explorations, experiences and evaluations. During the process of information collection, interestingly, I discovered the Directory of Learning Tools (http://c4lpt.co.uk/Directory/), which provides a comprehensive list of tools for formal, personal, group and organisational learning, including general computer applications, standalone software programs and Internet tools. While the directory itself is an excellent database of learning tools, its extra wide coverage makes it difficult for language teachers to use their online time effectively in choosing particular tools with direct relevance for language teaching. In this respect, my OTLT list takes a different approach by addressing the needs of a specific group of professionals (i.e., language teachers) and focusing on Web-based tools that can be exploited for language learning and teaching
purposes.

Based on their main functions and features, the online tools are classified into twelve categories: learning/content management systems; communication; live and virtual worlds; social networking and bookmarking; blogs and wikis; presentation; resource sharing; Website creation; Web exercise creation; Web search engines; dictionaries and concordancers; and utilities (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Categories of online tools for language teaching

Table 1 shows a selected number of online tools for each category.

1. Learning/content management systems (LMSs/CMSs) include Blackboard, Drupal, Joomla, Moodle and Sakai. Moodle, in particular, is a very popular free LMS adapted to online courses at many universities and schools.

2. Communication tools include Gmail, Skype, TokBox, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Jabberwacky, Verbot, MyBB, phpBB, Tangler and Voxopop. A good example of the communication tools is Skype, which is widely used for voice chatting and video conferencing.

3. Live and virtual worlds are used for delivering live meetings and virtual word communities. Elluminate, Livestream, OpenSimulator, ActiveWorlds, Second Life, Ustream, Wimba Classroom and WiZiQ belong to this category.

4. Social networking and bookmarking sites encompass Delicious, Diigo, Elgg, Facebook, Grouply, MySpace, Ning, SocialGo, LinkedIn, Twitter, Lang-8 and Livemocha.

5. Blogs and wikis, including Blogger, Edmodo, Edublogs, LiveJournal, WordPress.com, PBWorks, Wikispaces and Penzu, are collaboratively used in many language classes.

6. Presentation tools such as 280 Slides, Animoto, Empresser, Prezi, SlideRocket and Zoho Show offer innovative ways of presenting language-related materials.

7. Resource sharing tools are one of the most valuable tools on the Web. They encompass Google Docs, TitanPad, Zoho Writer, Box.net, Dropbox, VoiceThread, Xtranormal, Flickr, Picasa, MyPodcast, PodOmatic, Glogster, Screenr, Slideshare, PhotoPeach, Dipity, OurStory, Jing, SchoolTube, TeacherTube, VideoPress, Vimeo, WatchKnow and YouTube.

8. Website creation sites such as Google Sites, Jimdo, KompoZer, Mahara, Movable Type, SnapPages, Weebly, Webnode, Webs and Wix provide teachers and students with simple and easy ways to create their own Websites.

9. Web exercise creation tools such as ContentGenerator, SMILE, ESL Video, JClic, Hot Potatoes, Quia, Lingt and Listen and Write enable teachers to create language exercises themselves.

10. Web search engines designed to search for information on the Web include Ask.com, Bing, Google and Yahoo! Search.

11. Dictionaries and concordancers are language reference tools, which include Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster Online, YourDictionary.com, Compleat Lexical Tutor, Forvo, Howjsay, Visuwords, OneLook Dictionary Search and VLC Web Concordancer.

12. Utilities that can be useful for language learning activities include CalculateMe, CalendarFly, Doodle, ClustrMaps, Currency Converter, Dvolver Moviemaker, Google Earth, Lesson Writer, Storybird, Cacoo, Mindmeister, Mindomo, Remember the milk, SurveyMonkey, Voki, Time and Date, TinyURL.com, W3C Link Checker, Wallwisher, Wayback Machine and Wordle.

The list (Table 1) is not exhaustive and can be modified and updated in line with changes to existing tools and developments of new tools. Also, there are tools that can be listed in more than one category due to their integrated features (e.g., Wimba classroom, Jing).

Table 1. Online Tools for Language Teaching

1. Learning/content management systems (LMS/CMS)

Blackboard

http://www.blackboard.com/

Blackboard Inc.

Drupal

http://drupal.org/

Free open source

Joomla

http://www.joomla.org/

Free open source

Moodle

http://moodle.org/

Free open source

Sakai

http://sakaiproject.org/

Free open source

2. Communication

Gmail

http://mail.google.com/

E-mail

Skype

http://www.skype.com/

Chats

TokBox

http://www.tokbox.com/

Chats

Windows Live Messenger

http://explore.live.com/windows-live-messenger

Chats

Yahoo! Messenger

http://messenger.yahoo.com/

Chats

Jabberwacky

http://www.jabberwacky.com/

Chatbot

Verbot

http://www.verbots.com/

Chatbot

MyBB

http://www.mybboard.net/

Forum

phpBB

http://www.phpbb.com/

Forum

Tangler

http://www.tangler.com/

Forum

Voxopop

http://voxopop.com/

Audio discussions

3. Live and Virtual Worlds

Elluminate

http://www.elluminate.com/

Live e-learning

Livestream

http://www.livestream.com/

Streaming video

OpenSimulator

http://opensimulator.org/

3D application server

ActiveWorlds

http://www.activeworlds.com/

3D virtual world

Second Life

http://secondlife.com/

3D virtual world

Ustream

http://www.ustream.tv/

Live broadcast

Wimba Classroom

http://www.wimba.com/

Live teaching

WiZiQ

http://www.wiziq.com/

Virtual classroom

4. Social Networking and Bookmarking

Delicious

http://delicious.com/

Social bookmarking

Diigo

http://www.diigo.com/

Social bookmarking

Elgg

http://elgg.org/

Social networking

Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/

Social networking

Grouply

http://www.grouply.com/

Social networking

MySpace

http://www.myspace.com/

Social networking

Ning

http://www.ning.com/

Social networking

SocialGo

http://www.socialgo.com/

Social networking

LinkedIn

http://www.linkedin.com/

Professional network

Twitter

http://twitter.com/

Information network

Lang-8

http://lang-8.com/

Language learning community

Livemocha

http://www.livemocha.com/

Language learning community

5. Blogs and Wikis

Blogger

http://www.blogger.com/

Blog

Edmodo

http://www.edmodo.com/

Blog & wiki

Edublogs

http://edublogs.org/

Blog

LiveJournal

http://www.livejournal.com/

Blog & journal

WordPress.com

http://wordpress.com/

Blog

PBworks

http://pbworks.com/

Wiki

Wikispaces

http://www.wikispaces.com/

Wiki

Penzu

http://www.penzu.com/

Personal journal

6. Presentation

280 Slides

http://280slides.com/

Multimedia

Animoto

http://animoto.com/

Video slideshows

Empressr

http://www.empressr.com/

Multimedia

Prezi

http://prezi.com/

Presentation editor

SlideRocket

http://www.sliderocket.com/

Creating and sharing

Zoho Show

http://show.zoho.com/

Creating and sharing

7. Resource Sharing

Google Docs

http://docs.google.com/

Documents

TitanPad

http://titanpad.com/

Documents

Zoho Writer

http://writer.zoho.com/

Documents

Box.net

http://www.box.net/

Files

Dropbox

http://www.dropbox.com/

Files

VoiceThread

http://voicethread.com/

Group conversations

Xtranormal

http://www.xtranormal.com/

Movies

Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/

Photos

Picasa

http://picasa.google.com/

Photos

MyPodcast

http://www.mypodcast.com/

Podcasts

PodOmatic

http://www.podomatic.com/

Podcasts

Glogster

http://www.glogster.com/

Posters

Screenr

http://screenr.com/

Screencasts

Slideshare

http://www.slideshare.net/

Slides

PhotoPeach

http://photopeach.com/

Slideshows

Dipity

http://www.dipity.com/

Timelines and news

OurStory

http://www.ourstory.com/

Timelines and stories

Jing

http://www.techsmith.com/jing/

Visuals

SchoolTube

http://www.schooltube.com/

Videos

TeacherTube

http://www.teachertube.com/

Videos

VideoPress

http://videopress.com/

Videos

Vimeo

http://vimeo.com/

Videos

WatchKnow

http://www.watchknow.org/

Videos

YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/

Videos

8. Website Creation

Google Sites

http://sites.google.com/

Pre-built templates

Jimdo

http://www.jimdo.com/

Website editor

KompoZer

http://kompozer.net/

Web authoring

Mahara

http://mahara.org/

E-portfolio system

Movable Type

http://www.movabletype.org/

Weblog management

SnapPages

http://www.snappages.com/

Drag-and-drop

Weebly

http://www.weebly.com/

Drag-and-drop

Webnode

http://www.webnode.com/

Website builder

Webs

http://www.webs.com/

Website builder

Wix

http://www.wix.com/

Flash Website

9. Web Exercise Creation

ContentGenerator

http://www.contentgenerator.net/

Flash-based

SMILE

http://clear.msu.edu/teaching/online/mimea/smile/

Flash-based

ESL Video

http://eslvideo.com/

ESL video quizzes

JClic

http://clic.xtec.cat/en/jclic/

Java platform

Hot Potatoes

http://hotpot.uvic.ca/

JavaScript authoring

Quia

http://www.quia.com/

JavaScript authoring

Lingt

http://lingtlanguage.com/

Spoken exercises

Listen and Write

http://www.listen-and-write.com/

Dictation exercises

10. Web Search Engines

Ask.com

http://www.ask.com/

Ask Jeeves

Bing

http://www.bing.com/

Decision engine

Google

http://www.google.com/

PageRank

Yahoo! Search

http://search.yahoo.com/

Yahoo! Slurp

11. Dictionaries and Concordancers

Dictionary.com

http://www.dictionary.com/

Free online

Merriam-Webster Online

http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Free online

YourDictionary.com

http://www.yourdictionary.com/

Free online

Compleat Lexical Tutor

http://www.lextutor.ca/concordancers/

English and French

Forvo

http://www.forvo.com/

Pronunciation dictionary

Howjsay

http://www.howjsay.com/

English pronunciation

Visuwords

http://www.visuwords.com/

Graphical dictionary

OneLook Dictionary Search

http://www.onelook.com/

Dictionary search

VLC Web Concordancer

http://vlc.polyu.edu.hk/concordance/

Server-based

12. Utilities

CalculateMe

http://www.calculateme.com/

Conversion utility

CalendarFly

http://www.calendarfly.com/

Free scheduling

Doodle

http://doodle.com/

Easy scheduling

ClustrMaps

http://www.clustrmaps.com/

Hit counter map

Currency Converter

http://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/

Currency calculator

Dvolver Moviemaker

http://www.dvolver.com/moviemaker/

Animated cartoons

Google Earth

http://earth.google.com/

Virtual globe

Lesson Writer

http://www.lessonwriter.com/

Lesson plans

Storybird

http://storybird.com/

Collaborative storytelling

Cacoo

http://cacoo.com/

Collaborative diagramming

Mindmeister http://www.mindmeister.com/

Mind mapping

Mindomo

http://www.mindomo.com/

Mind mapping

Remember the milk

http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

Task management

SurveyMonkey

http://www.surveymonkey.com/

Online survey

Voki

http://www.voki.com/

Speaking avatar

Time and Date

http://www.timeanddate.com/

Time zones

TinyURL.com

http://tinyurl.com/

URL shortening

W3C Link Checker

http://validator.w3.org/checklink/

Links and anchors

Wallwisher

http://www.wallwisher.com/

Sticky noticeboard

Wayback Machine

http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

Internet Archive

Wordle

http://www.wordle.net/

Word clouds

(Last updated: 25 May 2011)

Source: (http://www.apacall.org/member/sonjb/projects/tools/)

Discussion

Related to the use of the online tools in CALL contexts, CALL research and practice can be initiated and improved by asking and answering the following 5W1H (who, when, where, what, why and how) questions. These elemental questions lead CALL researchers and practitioners to choose and test certain tools with clear aims and objectives.

(1) Who uses it? – Learners? Teachers? Other users?

(2) When do we use it? – Class time? Self-study time? Meeting time? Free time?

(3) Where do we use it? – In the classroom? In self-access rooms? At home? Outdoor areas?

(4) What do we do with it? – Reading? Writing? Listening? Speaking? Course management? Communication? Collaboration? Social networking? Resource sharing? Website creation? Web exercise creation? Web search? Entertainment?

(5) Why do we use it? – To manage courses? To communicate with others? To collaborate with others? To experience virtual worlds? To share resources? To create Websites? To create Web exercises? To collect information and resources? To have fun? To make learning and teaching easier?

(6) How do we use it? How does it work? – By contextualising? By creating learning spaces? By contacting others? By working with others? By exploring online communities? By sharing information and resources? By publishing Websites and Web exercises? By reflecting on learning and teaching? By developing language learning activities? By integrating certain online activities into the curriculum?

In terms of facilitating the second language acquisition (SLA) process, Bush (2008) asserts that we need to find out “where and when during the SLA process each technique and tool can be applied to achieve maximum benefit” (p. 453). In a similar vein, Garrett (2009) states that “the availability of tools and resources that make possible student use of such aids does not guarantee that students will, in fact, use them in the way or to the extent that developers intend; only carefully structured assignments and follow-up work can effectively promote such use” (p. 722). She also says, “Being familiar with digital tools is not enough; students need guidelines on how to use them specifically for the purpose of acquiring greater language proficiency” (p. 730). This implies that teachers need to be knowledgeable and skilful enough to guide students when and how to use which tool for effective language learning. Best CALL activities are likely to be planned and conducted by competent teachers utilising online tools effectively and efficiently.

Conclusion

With the widespread use of the Internet, many online tools are increasingly available for use in educational and non-educational settings. Due to the abundance and sophisticated features of the tools, however, it is often difficult to select the right tools for specific purposes. In view of the need for CALL researchers and practitioners to find, choose, use and evaluate educational tools for further development and implementation of CALL, it should be meaningful to have a categorised list of selected tools that can be used for language learning and teaching. With this in mind, I have created and presented the OTLT list showing examples of such tools divided into twelve categories.

In this paper, I have stressed the need to use online tools purposefully. It is suggested that the OTLT list should be updated regularly while reflecting continuous changes and new developments. It should be also valuable to incorporate an evaluation system into the list so that teachers can make evaluative judgements of the tools and share their experiences of using the tools in and beyond the classroom. I conclude this paper by saying that, along with the expansion of CALL, research and practice should be constantly encouraged to improve our understanding of theoretical, pedagogical and technical aspects of the use of the tools in various contexts.

Note

This article is an abridged version of a plenary address given on 3 December 2010 at the Globalization and Localization in Computer-Assisted LanguageLearning (GLoCALL) 2010 Conference, Le Meridien Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

About the Author

Jeong-Bae Son, Ph.D. [http://www.apacall.org/member/sonjb/], is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics & TESOL in the Faculty of Education at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. His areas of specialisation are computer-assisted language learning, language teacher education and e-literacy. He is currently the President of the Asia-Pacific Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (APACALL), Co-Chair of the GLoCALL Conference, Editor of the APACALL Book Series, Co-Editor of CALL-EJ and Co-Editor of the International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning.

References

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