This chapter looks at how technology can be used to support project work, especially (but not only) for young learners and teenagers. Projects can help learners ‘develop confidence in using English in the real world, the world outside the classroom’ (Fried-Booth, 2002:5).
Projects are also a means by which learners become active participants in an experiential learning model. Experiential learning ‘is based on the ideals of active and reflective learning… requiring the personal involvement of the learner’, and it ‘ encourages learners to develop the target language skills elements of the target language’ (Knutson, 2003:52). One approach to experiential learning that is common in communicative language teaching is task-based learning (TBL), which focuses on learners doing meaningful tasks using the target language.
One such meaningful task is project collaboration. Through collaboration on projects, learners can work together to use language in communicative and meaningful ways, learning to help themselves and often using language in real settings.
In this chapter, the technology provides the support for some interesting projects, a very motivating way for learners to practice language. There is a focus on collaborative writing to produce an online magazine, an e-book, a class recipe book, or a short film that can be shown in a film festival. Other activities focus on speaking to make a TV programme or podcast, an audio file made available for downloading on the Web or on working together to produce a time capsule. Still others ask learners to work through a webquest, a structured, island that can be used as the basis for a long-term class project.
Project work here follows Wlihelm’s (1999) suggestion that it best occurs in situations encouraging negotiation of meaning, with the active participation and collaboration of the learners in tasks where they make decisions and plans.
Krutson (2003) divides all projects into phases. The phases used in this chapter are:
- Exposure. Learners are introduced to the idea of the project in a way that activities past experiences and previous knowledge of the subject.
- Participation. This is when the actual activity or experience takes place.
- Internalization. After the activity, learners can reflect on the experience and can also be questioned about the language learning that took place.
When conducting a project, instructions for learners should be clear, and a teacher should also be sure that there are definite outcomes when it comes to language use, content and participation. These outcomes should also be explained to the learners so they know the purpose of the project. Finally, you should emphasize to learners that you expect all members of the project groups to actively participate in the project.