Articles by Eva Gyarmathy
by Eva Gyarmathy
Dyslexic individuals have many exellent abilities to use in learning. For example they are visual, they are holistic. They are good in activities where visual stimuli help the solution, they areeffective when they can manipulate, and stirring events happens. They like intellectual challange if the tasks is by their leading abilities.
On the other hand dyslexics have some deficiencies. Most of the deficiences stem from their different way of thinking. That is why their deficinecies sometimes root from the same abilities which can be excellent. Dyslexics are holistic, so they leave out of consideration details, thus they confuse similar things. They are poor in the perception of directions, orientations, relations. Their sequential abilities, the step by step information processing is weak. Their poor phonological abilities don’t help them. These are traits that hinder literacy skills. They make many mistakes and the incorrect forms rival always with the correct forms. That is the reason they mustn’t produce anything before they have learnt it properly.
The materaial has to be as much as possible multi-sensorial, interactive and follow the natural way of literacy skill’s learning. It has to be built up to lead a slow, gradual progress. The material that has been learnt in a phase, has to come again and again on a higher level. There are three main phases and many sub phases in the teaching of the language.
1. No reading and no writing
2. Reading – phonological abilities to improve
3. Reading and writing – spelling and grammar to achieve the phonological awareness
No reading and no writing
The material consists of situations, games and tasks where the learner can hear and see the words, sentences and the short instructions and see pictures of the words and situations of the communication .
¨ The learner is not expected to produce sentences or give any feed back in the first time.
¨ Production is the learners decision.
¨ Production is expected as repetition of the material.
¨ The learner answers questions
¨ The learner creates own sentences
Reading – phonological abilities to improve
The learner mustn’t pronounce incorrectly the words. The reading production is starting only when it is 100% sure that the learner knows the pronounciation of the given material. The matarial is based on the material of the first phase. The games, situations and tasks should support the graduality.
¨ The learner reads the text together with the computer while follows the words. (Colours or any other signing is good for it.)
¨ The learner repeats the text after the computer, while follows it.
¨ The learner reads the text, and the computer repeats. Thus the learner can check own production.
Reading and writing – spelling and grammar to achieve the phonological awareness
The learner should write only when the production is 100% surely correct. The learner mustn’t see the words incorrectly written.
¨ The learner copies the words and sentences. The computer gives feed back.
¨ The learner writes those words and sentences that are already in the inner lexicon. The computer gives feed back.
¨ The learner writes sentences. The computer gives feed back.
a. The material has to be visual, auditive and verbal in the same time. The words and sentences have to be seen in a picture, have to be pronounced and the written form has to be seen together.
b. The material has to be interactive. Games, situations, tasks, choices, decisions make the material living.
c. The material cen be improved by songs and ryhms. Karaoke is a very good tool.
d. The grammar tasks have to be clear. Visual and auditive clues should help the understanding and usage of the rules. Colours, shapes and drawings diagrames can be good aids. A good sample sentence helps a lot.
e. The material should contain links where other materials on a given level can be found.
SLD do not stem from a single reason. Specific learning difficulty is a broad term that covers a pool of possible causes, symptoms, treatments and outcomes. SLD can show up in many forms, and it is difficult to diagnose or to pinpoint the causes. However we may decrease the number of endangering factors, and compensate their injurious effects. The earlier we start the more we can achieve.
Specific learning difficulty (SLD) is a summing name of a syndrome which is controversial in its definition, origine and even symptoms. Thus it is not surprising that more different names are used for the concept – specific learning difficulties, learning disabilities, dyslexia. In the UK the term specific learning difficulties is often regarded as synonymous with dyslexia. Indeed the British Dyslexia Association states on its headed notepaper that it is “The national organisation for specific learning difficulties”.
However, an increased understanding that there are many different underlying cognitive modules (Anderson, 1992) that affect the learning process has led to a plethora of different terms the meaning of which will change depending on context and users. Examples include dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, which are sybtypes and syndromes of SLD
Seeing that lack of a consistent name there are many misunderstandings in the research, literature and in the practice, as well. For the name “specific learning difficulties” describes to the best the syndrome, that name is to be used in this work. However in citations we took the term used by the authors.
Specific learning difficulties as a category is rather new. Firstly Samuel Kirk used the term “learning disabilities” (Kirk & Bateman, 1962), and it became generally accepted on a conference, where specialist argued the issue (Kirk & Becker, 1963). However the syndrome under different terms has been described already in the 19th century.
Berlin (1887) is accredited as the first to use the term dyslexia, in his monograph “Dyslexia eine besondere Art der Wortblindheit”, when referring to the acquired loss of reading ability, though ten years earlier Kussmaul (1877) had proposed the term ‘word-blindness’ or ‘caecitas verbalis’ for an acquired loss of words.
Dejernine (1895) deduced that lesions in the medial and inferior portions of the left occipital lobe could lead to acquired dyslexia, and that fibres connecting the occipital lobes were also significant.
Morgan (1896) referred to “congenital word-blindness”, whilst Hinshelwood (1917) defined word blindness as a pathological condition due to a disorder of the visual centres of the brain, which produces difficulty in interpreting written language.
The Hungarian psychologist, Ranschburg Pál whose work is still in advance of what is currently carried out now in the name of dyslexia research, and his findings are still largely unknown, described legasthenia and arithmetimia (Ranschburg, 1905). He worked out the theory on homogeneous inhibition, which was an important point in the understanding of memory and its mistakes (Ranschburg, 1939).
The principle of homogenous inhibition (Ra-effect named after its describer) says that the more different the adjoining contents and processes of the mind are, the least they interfere with each other’s development. Uniformity according to the degree of the uniformity endeavour to merge into a joint unit. This phenomenon operates among others, in our perception, speech and in our memory errors.
The worldblindness, the specific reading difficulty is called dyslexia in the literature recently. If it is caused by a known injury, it is called acquired dyslexia, contrary to the case, when there aren’t diagnosable neurological injuries, and the syndrome is caused by hardly identifyable congenital differences in the nervous system. In this case the term we use is developmental dyslexia (Chase & Tallal, 1992).
From the different types of SLDs dyslexia got the greatest attention. Most of the studies on SLD deal with dyslexia, though there are many different types of SLD. The child whose development is normal otherwise, but the acquisition of speech seems to be difficult suffers in developmental speech disorder. Similarly the developmental writing, counting and social skill, conduct disorder describes the deficit on the given area.
Abbreviated as ADHD, the attentional deficits/hyperactivity disorders is related in its origine and in some of its symptoms to the above mentioned syndromes (there is neurological disorder in its background, and SLD can be concomittant), yet usually it is treated separatelly from other SLDs, and it is considered rather medical than educational problem, as medicine is an important factor in its cure. However behaviour therapy and appropriate rearing are more and more significant in the treatment of ADHD.
There are four main trends in the research of the syndrome according to the researchers viewpoint. The four trends draw four aspects of the concept:
Neuropsychological theories represent the first widely accepted theory. Neuropsychological approaches describe various brain injuries that cause the problem. Children with SLD show symtomps very similar to symtoms of persons with cerebral lesions.
The idea that the SLD steams from minimal ogranic injury is based on the similarity between the symptoms of children withh SLD and brain injured persons. The injury is slight enough not to cause general mental retardation, thus it has only selective consequences. The POS (psycho-organic syndrome) name became general very quickly especially on the German language area. This expression emphasizing the psychogen factors drove the attention to the need of psychological intervention.
The specialists hve drawn attention to the fact that the early injury of the brain does not lead to local deficits, but causes unusual processing. According to Wewetzer (1959) the brain-injured children are characterized rather by the deficits in processing, control and activational abilities, than by deficiencies in whole functions or difficulties in izolated, well-defined functions.
Wolfensberger-Haessing (1985) analyzis a less known weakness of the POS children, which causes learning problems. The learning and memory difficulties of the ‘serially weak’ children are caused by the disability of storing the successive information. These children have serial problem because thay can grasp only a limited time-Gestalt. Tasks requiring no serial, time processing are solvable for them. Slowed down speech makes the speech more difficult to understand for the ‘serially weak’ child, because the short time-Gestalt doesn’t allow him to connect the next word. Rather small units and longer breaks before the next unit should be used to help these children in the processing of the information.
However provable organic damages are very rarely, thus increasingly the SLD is explained by brain-disfunctioning (Kirk & Becker, 1963). The term MCD (minimal cerebral dysfunction) arose with this change of the viewpoint. There are two approaches to this term. The “continuum notion” hypotesis argues that the seriousness of the functional damages is accordance to the degree of the damage caused by the brain trauma.
The “syndrome notion” theories attribute the disfunctions to genetically defined biochemical deviations (Rutter, 1982). The new findings back up this theory. Familiar accummulation was proved in the appearance of the SLD (Pennington, 1990; Smith, et al, 1990), and genes responsible for the deficits were found. (Cardon et al, 1994).
Already at the beginning of the eighties according to his foetus studies Geschwind (1979) assumed that the temporal area of the brain develops differently in the children with SLD. The brain structure of these children doesn’t facilitate enough the verbal processes, more concretely they are not inclined to acquire reading, writing, etc. verbal abilites. Geschwind analogized this phenomenon to the poor inclination for drawing or singing, which are more widely accepted disabilites, and nobody assumes neurological dysfunctions behind these difficulties.
The perceptional and perceptuo-motor theories can be classified in three groups according to the emphasized dysfunction.
Some specialists deal only with the perception and its deficits. They don’t examine the background factors, they deal with the adjustment of the perceptional deficits, and try to work out methods and programmes to improve the weak abilities (eg. Frostig).
Theories emphasizing the role of the visuo-motor integration and eye-motion consider the reason of the SLD the deficit of the eye-movements and balance system. There are more information of these theories eg. in the book edited by Rayner (1983).
The perceptuo-motor theories consider the insufficient integration of the perceptuo-motor functions the cause of the learning problems (Hallahan és Cruickshanck, 1973). In the lack of the order of the perceptual and motor system, the visual processes can’t provide well-structured patterns for the motor activity.
Among other also Ayres (1972; 1979) see the senso-motor integration as the cause of the SLD. According to her therapic conception a continous interaction must to be built between the sensory input and the motor output. Her program is to develop adaptive behavior with the help of tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive stimuli in children with SLD.
Brigitte Sindelar considers important the proper functioning and synergy of the partabilities. Her program aims to develop the senso-motor system (Sedlak & Sindelar, 1993). The program is based on Affolter’s three dimensional perception developing modell (Affolter, 1972).
The modell describes the development of the higher cognitive functions. The visual, auditive and tacto-kinestetic perception leads to the superior abilites through three cognitive areas, memory, perception and attention and on three different developmental level, modality specific, intermodal and serial processing. The achieved higher abilites make possible the acquirement of the reading writing and counting. A deficit on any point of the trestlework may be the impediment of the development of the abilities and cause SLD. Sindelar’s assesment methods are to discover these weak points, and the exercises serve to strengthen or restore the problematic partabilities.
In the eighties Porkolábné Balogh Katalin started a widerange research on early identification of SLD. She considered the prevention the most important in the impairment of SLD. As the sensitve period of the senso-motor functions falls mainly to the nursery period, she concentrated to this population. She worked out a programme which can be built into the nursery activities. The programme provides an enhanced level sensory and kinestetic sensation for the children (Porkolábné Balogh, 1981; 1992).
The psycholinguistic theories attribute the learning and behavior problems to abnormal psycholinguistic processes. According to Francis-Williams (1970) difficulties in the articulation can indicate the later arising problems. For example she experienced at many children at whom later SLD had been manifested that they don’t use the language as a symbolic process. Based on such theories developmental programmes were worked out to decrease the linguistical disadvantages. Dyslexia prevention and therapy was built on psycholinguistic bases in Hungary. Meixner and her colleagues used linguistic improvement to prevent and treat dyslexia (Meixner & Justné Kéri, 1967; Meixner, 1974).
The behavior theories consider SLD a kind of behavioral abnormality, and they refuse to deal with the background factors. They consider behavior therapy the most appropriate treatment. They deal with the symptoms, though it never could bring real succes. The treatment of the impulsivity and attention deficit brought very few outcome. Leary and others (1976) dealt with the school achievement and the social behavior of children with SLD. They set achievable requirements, and the children were rewarded when they carried out the academical and social goals. That way the right behavior were reinforced while the incorrect actions were inhibited. However the effect of a symptom-level treatment with the total ignorance of the basic causes is questionable.
Many changes happened in the research of SLD in the last decades. Wiederholt (1974) analyzing the history of the SLD investigations attributes the changes in the definition to the integration of the different theories on roots, effects and possible treatments. From the sixties the specialists of the different fields – brain injuries, developmental disorders, supportive programmes, perceptuo-motor trainings, etc. – made a united effort to understand the phenomenon. For a long time there was no specialist for SLD, but reading therapist, speech therapist, psychiatrist, etc. dealt with the different symptoms of the SLD.
However the integration is formed very slowly, the different specialists work on different fields, which makes difficult the shaping of a generally acceptable definition. As we already mentioned, even the name of the phenomenon is questionable. Still the expression ‘dyslexia’ is widespread among specialist dealing with the reading disorders, but also the ‘legasthenia’ is used for the same syndrome. In the North-American literature the name ‘learning disability’ is used, which is the expression in the UK literature for the rather mentally retarded children, who have an overall learning problem. In the UK the phrase ‘specific learning difficulties’ is in use.
As far as the definitons, over forty different definitions of the syndrome have been collected in the literature (Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Wesson, Algozzine & Deno, 1983). For decades theorizers and practitioners have been trying to form useful definition for this syndrome with manyfolded appearance and diverse origine, yet, not too much has been changed since Kirk’s first definition: Learning disabilities are caused by neurodevelopmental disorders affecting academic learning in otherwise normal children. Specific learning disabilities are different from general learning difficulties caused by low IQ, sensory, physical, or emotional deficits, or socioeconomic disadvantage. (Kirk & Bateman, 1962).
The definition emphasizes the disorder’s connection to the school-behavior and its manifestation to the injured psychological processes. Essentially this definition is the base of all later definitions.
We have chosen one of the most frequently cited definition to use for our work. The definition of Berk (1983) is the following: “Learning disabilities is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction.
Even though a learning disabiilty may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g., sensory impairment, mental retardation, social or emotional disturbance) or environmental influences (e.g., cultural differences, insufficient/inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors), it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences” (Berk, 1983)
Berk’s definition is appropriate for the identification of specific learning difficulties in older children and adults, but we should work out a definition that could help us in the early intervention – prevention and therapy. Thus we need a definition that helps to identify the early signs of specific learning difficulties and shows the basic disturbances we have to cease or at least reduce.
We supplemented the definition with going into details about the central nervous system dysfunction: In the background of the syndrome different degree of disturbances in motor, perceptional, sensomotor functions and information processing can be identified. The disturbances can appear in the behaviour as one or more of the following problems: disturbed body scheme, poor balance, poor spatial orientation, impairment in visual, auditive, tactile perception, poor sequential information processing.
To complete our view of the SLD we argue that: In most of the cases SLD can be considered as a special way of information processing. Appropriate stimulation and instruction can impede the formation of the disturbances and the consequently developing learning problems. That is why we suggested to call these children ‘different learners’ insteed of any other label which suggests disfunctioning (Gyarmathy, 1996).
Since the cut-off point used to determine if an individual dyslexic or not is arbitrary, it is impossible to objectively justify any stated statistics on the occurrence of SLD. This issue is further clouded when one considers if the statistics refer to an entire population, or are restricted, such as to a geographic area. The measure methods will also affect the outcomes.
The research of Vellutino et al (1996) looked at 1407 children. Of those, around 9% were reported to be showing signs of specific reading difficulties. Six months intervention reduced that to 1.5%. The criteria used were that the child fell below the 15th centile in word identification or word attack, with had an IQ of at least 90.
This raises several issues including asking if those who improved were still, or were ever, dyslexic, but knew how to find strategies, the nature of the intervention procedure, as well as questions about the norms used and statistical procedures.
(Based on information in Maggie Snowlings book.)
The Health Council of the Netherlands suggested that the prevalence depends upon educational support provided, which suggests that dyslexia is not inate but environmentally dependent. Their report says that they do not wish to suggest how many children there are with dyslexia (as opposed to those requiring helped because of it or those assessed as being dyslexic). However, they noted that “a few projects in the (Dutch) educational system indicate a figure in the region of 1% to 3% of children who should be referred.” That is “approximately 6000 out of 200,000 new students per year who would qualify for the specialist diagnosis and possible treatment.”
Shaywitz et al (1992) noted: Our findings indicate that dyslexia is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon, but like hypertension and obesity, occurs in varying degrees of severity.Although limitations on resources may necessitate the imposition of cut-off points for the provision of services, physicians must recognise that such cut-offs may have no biological validity. It is often suggested that dyslexia affects 4% of the population severely, and a further 6% show some dyslexic characteristics. However attempts to trace back to the origins of this figure have been futile.
Table 1. Percentages of dyslexia reported in different countries and languages From The International Book of Dyslexia.
Mazi & Everatt
Boldyreva & Inshakova
Gaddes (1985) examining international data estimated the prevelance of SLD in the average primary school 15%, however there are large differencies between the countries in his database, too.
The strongly varying rates can be attributed to the methodological difficulties in the definition and consequently in the identification of SLD, however the different language and cultural background makes the international and crosscultural comparative studies very difficult, too. Smythe (19??) started a wide-range croos-linguistic study on the dyslexia in different languages, and found that dyslexia touches slightly different abilities in different language.
Beyond the language differences the various insruction and educational policy of the countries makes the comparision very hard. A good example is Hungary, where the rate of dyslexics were estimated about 3%, but after the introduction of the global reading method the number of the dyslexics arose to tenth of the former rate. As the Hungarian language is rather phonetic, the most suitable reading instruction were the former analyzer-syntethizer method. And indeed, most of the dyslexics were curable by the traditional method used by speech-therapists.
The connection to the intelligence is a cardinal and very neuralgic point of the definition of the SLD. Since Kirk (1963) the name of the syndrome suggests much more positive approach of the syndrome than the former, rather the brain and sense injury centered definitions.
The deviation in the neural system which influences the mental abilities appears in the intelligence tests, too. Yet, the overall mental retardation must be strictly differentiated from the SLD. The differentiation of the mentally retarded and children with low overall mental abilities joint with SLD is not unsolvable task. The mentally retarded individuals show an overall and usually unified backwardness, but those with SLD show a rather unbalanced cognitive profile (Gaddes, 1985)
Sarkady and Zsoldos (1992/93) on the basis of their investigation found the group of mentally retarded children with SLD separatable from the population of the mentally retarded. They regard as SLD the academic achievement which is significantly lower than it can be expected on the basis of the intelligence level. It evolves on the neurological functional disturbances, and shows a typical cognitive syndrome. Thus SLD can appear as joint symptom with mild mental retardation, sense organ injuries and speech defections.
The differentiation has very important consequences. On one hand it is very important to identify correctly the problem for the planning the therapy. On the other hand it is not the same for the children with SLD and their parents what kind of label the children get: (prefarably nothing), SLD, ‘different learner’ or mentally retarded.
The development of the children’s abilities can be very seriously influenced by their judgement. It is understandable that those, who has a high or at least average intelligence wish to differentiate themselves from those with low intellectual level or mental retardation. However children with poor intellect need correct provision, too, and if they have SLD beyond their low mental abilities, they have to get special remediation therapy. If we left out this population from the definition, they would have less chance to get the right provision.
It is obvious that while defining the SLD many factors, and sometimes not clearly scientific facts, should be considered.
The difficulties of the identification of SLD begins with the shakiness of the definition of the syndrome. The uncertainty is heigthend by the different appearance of SLD. Karvale és Nye (1985-86) found in their large volume investigation that the SLD hasn’t got a one dimension base, it is rather a mixure of more deficits. Thus it is crucial to classify the different types of SLD, and identify their symptoms.
To make easier the identification of SLD specialists created different classifications. SLD was classified mainly on symptom level, like dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc., but beyond this traditional grouping different combinations and further subtypes were described.
A subtyping which turned out to be useful in the everyday practice was created by Boder (1973). It has two principle components of dysphonetic and dyseidetic which reflect the possible failures of the two routes in the dual route model of reading. However, Boder also noted that whilst there were 67% she categorised as dysphonetic, and 10% as dyseidetic, there was also a mixed group which represented 23% of the cohort. The difference is based on the system that are disabled in children with literacy difficulties. If the child is not able to use phonetic transcription, that is the phoneme-grapheme correspondence (PGC) system is incompletely developed, they would be classified as dysphonetic. However, if they have problems with irregular words such as ‘yacht’, then their orthographic lexicon is incomplete, and they are said to be dyseidetic.
Bakker, Bouma, & Gardian (1990) uses a classification based on Boder’s work. They tried to bound the reading mistakes to neuro-psychological processes. There are three types of dyslexia based on the speed and accuracy of reading:
· Linguistic – reads fast but makes many mistakes.
· Perceptual – reads with acceptable accuracy, but very slow.
· Mixed – mixis the characteristic of the former two types.
The research evidence suggests that in certain individuals it may be possible to classify them in accordance with this theory by analysis of reading errors, yet it is not as widely accepted as other systems.
Masutto et al. (1994) worked with groups of dylexic children selected by Bakker’s classification and control groups. All the dyslexics showed poor Performance Quotient in the WISC-R. They were significantly worse than the control in Digit Span, in non-verbal tasks and short term memory. In coding the perceptual and mixed groups were poor.
However the authors have skated over the fact that the dyslexics were significantly better than the control in the Vocablary test. That way the very low score in Digit Span were compensated in the verbal quotient.
The linguistic and mixed groups showed left hemisphare dominance alike to the control group, but the perceptual group did not gave such unanimous result. The authors explain the low performance results of this group by their possible left hemisphare injury, which caused the transfer of the left hemisphare’s functions to the right hemisphare. That would push into the background some right hemisphare cognitive functions (Masutto, Bravar & Fabbro, 1994).
Summarizing the studies on subtypes Shafrir and Siegel (1994) show different trends of classification of the specific learning difficulties. Verbal and non-verbal sybtypes are differentiated in many studies. By the school achievement there are reading, counting and writing difficulties, and attention deficit. Shafrir and Siegel introduce their examinations and describe the reading, counting and reading/counting difficulties. They found these subgroups homogeneous, and the groups differ from each other in the test results.
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Written by Eva Gyarmathy
There are two comprehensive models to describe teaching and learning with technology:
According to the constructivist model, knowledge is constructed by the learner by drawing on prior knowledge and personal experience. It finds its diametric opposite in the objectivist epistemology according to which knowledge is external to the learner and is imposed upon him or her and then replicated under controlled condition (ALLADIN, 2001).
It is the process, not the product, which is crucial to the learner’s construction of knowledge, the way in which the learner arrives at the solution is of more important than the solution itself.
The process requires the active use of a wide variety of materials to support the learning process, e.g. raw data, secondary sources, interactive materials.
Real tasks, including case studies and problem-based learning methods, are used to anchor the learning process in realistic contexts.
Rather than being simply spoonfed ‘answers’ by the teacher, the learner is prompted to relate concepts to pre-existing knowledge and experience in order that new ideas become meaningful in the learner’s own frames of reference (Jonassen et al, 1999).
“Learning is active mental work, not passive reception of teaching.” (Woolfolk, 1993: 485)
ICT and constructivists
Using ICT the teacher plays the role of task designer and knowledge facilitator. The teacher creates the learning environment in such a way as to enable the acquisition of new knowledge.
“From a constructivist perspective, the primary responsibility of the teacher is to create and maintain a collaborative, problem-solving environment, where students are allowed to construct their own knowledge, and the teacher acts as facilitator and guide.” (Tam, 2000: 53)
At the start the learner comes in the learning process with his or her own preconceptions of thegiven subject. By setting a task, the teacher then engages the learner in further exploration of the subject. Having the teacher’s feedback on the task, the learner will then reconsider prior understandings and knowledge and form new conceptions of the subject matter. The final part of the first ‘cycle’ of this model is the setting of a new task to guide the learner toward the next stage of subject enquiry. This stage is formulated in such a way as to account for the learner’s response to the initial task (Pask, 1975; Entwhistle and Ramsden, 1983).
Teacher and learner must make their conceptions of the topic and task meaningful to one another. They must respectively generate and receive feedback on these descriptions. The teacher must adapt his or her tasks in light of the learner’s actions to enable knowledge to be constructed in meaningful terms.
The learner must receive feedback on his or her carrying out of the task in order for understanding to be achieved. The teacher must reflect on the way in which his or her feedback to the student is linked to the original task. The learner must be able to control the pace of the learning process in order for him or her to consider feedback and reformulate a new response (Laurillard, 1999).
By educational media means also technological tools and programs which must be conceived in such a way as to simulate the tutorial-type exchanges we discussed earlier. Teacher could therefore be replaced by educational medium.
The idea of technology as a total replacement for a human being – complete with an indeterminate range of epistemologically and empirically reflexive and adaptive behaviours – is the stuff of cyberfiction (Davies, 1997). Laurillard (1999) admits that certain educational media are not susceptible to operating on all of all the levels mentioned here, and that functional add-ons would be required to engage a learner in higher cognitive skills development. A poorly designed language teaching program, for example, would require no more of the learner than a flexible index finger with which to click his or her way through a given task towards the correct answer.
ICT and conversationals
The Internet has gained a place in almost all of our lives and has also basicly changed the language teacher’s resource base in the teaching. The challenge which the aspiring techno-teacher faces today is no longer that of mastering program languages in order to fashion the teacher’s tools, but rather, of manipulating and exploiting pre-existing technological resources.
When we speak of designing courses which integrate ICT today therefore, we refer to the type of tasks we will set to facilitate academic learning and the technological tools we will select to carry out these tasks, as well as the type of technical and administrative support mechanisms required for this to take place (Davies, 1997).
Foreign language learning technology
I found 17.300.000 matches in a web search for the words: foreign language learning technology.
The area of technology-based learning is assigned by different acronyms. Originally referred to as CALL (Computer Assisted or Aided Language Learning), it is now also known as TELL (Technology Enhanced Language Learning). WELL (Web Enhanced Language Learning) is a component of CALL and TELL, with an exclusive focus on web-based resources (Delcloque, 2000).
Technical equipment in the assistance of the daily work of learning and teaching is well-known to language teachers. Over the years, they have battled variously with tape machines and the acquipments of language laboratories, audio and video cassette recorders later dictaphones. While some of these tools are by no means outmoded, the multimedia capabilities of the networked PC are at once more practical to the teacher and more appealing to the student.
The constructivist nature of technology for language learning is characterised by knowledge developed through the negotiation of meanings through dialogue with the target language and its many socio-cultural expressions.
The successful language learning can’t be attributed merely to communicative skills, but also to intercultural competence which is developed through exposure to language use in authentic contexts (Warschauer and Healey, 1998).
The concept of the independent learning is known in many forms: autonomous learning, flexible learning, open learning, resource-based learning, self access learning, or self-directed learning to mention but a few. While some of them privilege the arrangement of the resources or the resources themselves, others focus on the role of the learner. These terms are by no means mutually exclusive. Indeed, they emphasise different aspects of the same phenomenon.
Recent research in the field of language education describes independent learning variously as the following:
· situations in which learners study alone
· skills associated with self-directed learning
· inherent capacity suppressed by institutional teaching
· students’ responsibility for their own learning
· students’ right to choose how to proceed with their own learning
While providing motivation, collaborative modes of independent learning engender certain key skills such as interpersonal, communicative and learning management skills and increased metacognitive awareness. On the level of target language learning, pair and group work can also promote an environment conductive to knowledge construction through dialogue and negotiation. As such, this mode is entirely consistent with the conversational and constructivist theories of learning (Benson and Voller, 1997).
Researchers have identified the following barriers on successful CALL use in the fostering of learner independence (Jones, 2001):
· low level of learner ICT skills
· lack of learner interest in ICT
· lack of learner motivation for autonomy
· poor interaction between learners
While it appears from this list that the responsibility falls very much to the student, these barriers serve as the stimulus for a discussion of the role of the teacher in independent language learning (Laurillard, 1993):
· absence of technical support
· lack of integration into the former teaching and learning process
· lack of adequate learner training
· lack of administrative and senior management support
· lack of electronic materials for the advanced language learner
· unreliability of live online resources and technical equipment
However carefully conceived the independent learning programme, and however abundant the technological resources available, students and staff alike may show resistance to it if they do not understand the rationale behind it. This can be particularly true if this part of the language course attracts no formal credit. Learners and teachers need time to adapt to the new responsibilities which independent learning involves (Esch, 1994).
There are necessary elements for independent ICT language learning. Language teachers should
· attend staff development meetings as necessary to update ICT and learner training skills
· familiarise with the available resources
· consider how feedback will be delivered to students
· contact with resources and technical staff
In the absence of smart tutoring programs for language learning, one of the most exciting uses of electronic resources for language learning purposes is the use of communication technology or CMCs (Computer-Mediated Communications). The rapidly growing body of research and case studies into student email exchanges, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and MOO (text-based virtual reality environment) bears witness to this (Bowers and Churcher, 1989).
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Written by Eva Gyarmathy
When students are studying a foreign language that is based on the same linguistic properties as their native language, they use the same skills as they do in their first language for new word recognition.
Students with dyslexia often find they are unable to fulfill high school and college foreign language demands. In their review of research on the characteristics of students who have trouble in the learning foreign languages, Ganschow, Sparks, and Javorsky (1998) mention a number of studies recirding how one's native language learning ability influences one's potential for learning a foreign language. In addition, they dicsovered similarities between the linguistic profiles of students who fell into the "high risk" category on foreign language aptitude tests and later did poorly in foreign language courses, and students who had a history of language difficulties, including difficulty in learning to read.
Both groups had troubles making connections between phonemes and graphemes and remembering and applying spelling rules. The researchers found that students who did poorly in foreign languages had a corporate profile of weaknesses similar to the profile typically described for students with dyslexia.
Students who have inordinate difficulties meeting foreign language may not have been formally diagnosed as being dyslexic or suffering of specific learning difficulties, or possessed academic records marked by repeated failures. For example, Dinklage (1971) described that certain students who had been accepted at Harvard and who obtained overall GPAs of 3.5 or higher had failed to fulfill their foreign language requirement at the university. However, in revaluation the educational histories of these students, he found that many had experienced learning difficulties in earlier grades that were similar to dyslexia, such as learning to read and spell, letter/symbol reversals, sound confusion, poor discrimination of sounds and syllables in words, and poor verbal memory.
TPR classes as a solution?
In most traditional foreign language classes, the underlying organization of the course is a progression through the grammar and syntax rules of the language, from simple to complex. In a TPR class, grammar and syntax are not taught directly. Rather, the teacher designs activities that expose the student to language in context, especially in the context of some kind of movement. With enough exposure, the grammar and syntax of any language will be internalized by the students through synthesis, not analysis.
Typically, the initial TPR lessons are commands involving the whole body - stand up, sit down, turn around, walk, stop. Those actions are demonstrated by the teacher, who then invites students to participate with her as she continues to say the words. Fairly soon, the teacher quietly stops demonstrating, and the students realize that they somehow just know what to do in response to the words. There is no translation. There is no such thing as cheating - you're encouraged to look at what others are doing if you're not sure what to do. You're also encouraged to trust your body, because sometimes it knows what to do before your brain does!
As class proceeds, nouns, adverbs, prepositions are added until before you know it, Students are performing commands like, 'Stand up, walk to the door, open it, stick your tongue out, close the door, turn around, hop to Jessica's desk, kiss your right knee four times, and lie down on Jessica's desk." In fairly short order, students begin to create their own commands and order one another around the room. There's a lot of laughter, and a lot of learning taking place.
It's not always and forever commands. An expert TPR teacher can teach the indicative, all tenses, idiomatic expressions - everything covered in a traditional class, using these techniques and others that dovetail nicely with them. It's just that the instruction is designed to facilitate language acquisition, not learning a language through analysis, memorization and application of rules (Ascher, 2007).
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