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LINGUIST List 25.2546

Fri Jun 13 2014

Review: Applied Linguistics: Vilar Beltrán, Abbott & Jones (2013)

Editor for this issue: Mateja Schuck <mschuckwisc.edu>

Date: 04-Nov-2013
From: Elis Kakoulli Constantinou < elis.constantinoucut.ac.cy">kakelishotmail.com; elis.constantinoucut.ac.cy>
Subject: Inclusive Language Education and Digital Technology
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-2072.html

EDITOR: Elina Vilar Beltrán
EDITOR: Chris Abbott
EDITOR: Jane Jones
TITLE: Inclusive Language Education and Digital Technology
SERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language and Education
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Elis Kakoulli Constantinou, Cyprus University of Technology

SUMMARY
“Inclusive Language Education and Digital Technology”, edited by Elina Vilar
Beltrán, Chris Abbott and Jane Jones, collects nine chapters on the inclusion
of students with special educational needs (SEN) in modern foreign language
(MFL) classrooms. The book aims to illustrate how this can be accomplished and
furthermore to show how new technologies can play a key role in this process.
The book’s target audience, according to the editors, is teachers, advisers,
researchers, people with interest in inclusive language education,
postgraduate students, heads and governors, trainee teachers and teaching
assistants. The book is separated into two parts: The first, “The Key Issues”,
contains the first three chapters which elaborate on key issues such as SEN
and educational inclusion, MFL and digital technology. The second part, “Case
Studies” includes six chapters presenting case studies from different European
countries.

Chapter 1, by Jane Jones, carries the title ‘Modern Foreign Languages as an
Inclusive Learning Opportunity: Changing Policies, Practices and Identities in
the Languages Classroom’. The chapter consists of two sections. In the first,
Jones makes reference to various important policy changes over the years
concerning inclusive language education as well as the promotion of MFL. These
changes have resulted in the revised National Curriculum in 2007 in the UK
which promotes inclusive language education and the study of languages for
all, and it is supported by principles governing the Common European Framework
of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Furthermore, Jones refers to the rise of
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and the interpretation of this approach
as mainly oral. She emphasises the integration of all four language skills in
language programmes, and, by sharing some teacher practices and comments, she
stresses the importance of finding the appropriate reading and writing tasks
and providing learners with the necessary support to complete them. She also
believes that grammar should be used as a scaffold for acquiring language
proficiency.

In the second section, Jones expresses the view that inclusive language
teaching pedagogy could be achieved through viewing classroom as a
collaborative learning community in which teachers follow a personalised
learning approach that caters for the individual learner. Moreover, she
emphasises the necessity of formative assessment in which the learners’
progress is evaluated, providing them with constructive feedback, and she
shows how the CEFR and the European Language Portfolio (ELP) promote this
idea. In this context, she asserts the importance of motivation and positive
learning experiences to the creation of an “active” and “sensitive to the
needs of peers” (p. 23) learner identity.

Chapter 1 concludes by making reference to the roles of all the parties
involved in the learning process; pupils’, teachers’ and leaders’. Pupils’
feedback on their learning experience could prove very useful for the teachers
in improving their practices and teachers must be familiar with the different
SEN that their learners may have. Teachers should also implement new
technologies in their teaching working in partnership with colleagues and
providing the students with the necessary skills for autonomous and
personalised learning within the context of a learning community. Finally, as
far as leaders’ role is concerned, they should participate actively in this
change providing the ground for the integration of all the aforementioned in
order for inclusive language education to be achieved.

In Chapter 2, ‘Technology Uses and Language -- A Personal View’, Chris Abbott
refers to technologies used in language teaching through the times starting
from audio devices in the 1960s and moving to the use of computers in the
1980s. He mentions a wide range of tools such as multimedia resources stored
on DVDs and CDs, speech engines, faster networks, video-conferencing tools,
online virtual environments and avatar creations, interactive whiteboards
(IWBs) and mobile technologies. All these tools support the learning process
in students with SEN. Abbott also makes reference to social networking and
the Web 2.0 technologies through which other languages apart from English have
dominated the web, and presents a taxonomy of technology uses that facilitate
language teaching. The first category refers to technology for practising
language learning with software for drilling. Abbott sees a place in the
language classroom for such tools only if their integration is governed by
pedagogy. The second category, according to Abbott, includes technology
responsible for assisting language learning, in other words CALL (Computer
Assisted Language Learning) technologies which provide the teacher with the
flexibility to offer tailor-made tasks to the learners. Moreover, the author
stresses that technology also enhances assessment of language teaching and
learning. Last but not least, the chapter refers to technology uses to enable
language learning through computer-mediated communication (CMC). He evaluates
an online automated instant translator, admitting on the one hand that it is
unreliable most of the time but also seeing great potential in it. The author
highlights the importance of exploiting developments in technology for
language learning and teaching especially for inclusive language education.

Chapter 3, ‘Meeting Special Educational Needs in Technology-Enhanced Language
Teaching: Learning from the Past, Working for the Future’ by David Wilson,
presents six concepts, “lessons”, that need to be considered in MFL courses
with Information Communication Technology (ICT) usage for learners with SEN.
According to lesson one, the use of technology in language teaching does not
have geographical boundaries since it has spread worldwide with each country
making adaptions to suit its own situation. Lesson two focuses on the history
of technology in the long history of language teaching with SEN students.
Lesson three outlines the need to identify students as having SEN, done by SEN
professionals and in cooperation with schools, teachers, parents and students
themselves in securing special educational provisions and catering for the
special assessment needs of such students. According to lesson four, MFL
teachers need to differentiate their teaching practices and the tasks they
assign to match different types of students. Through 10 case studies Wilson
shows how important technology is in this effort and how important it is to be
based on pedagogy. Lesson five concentrates around the view that teachers as
well as software developers should observe carefully the reactions of learners
with SEN when they work with technology especially if their efforts are
successful since language proficiency might not always be the reason for their
success. Lesson six stresses the significance of teachers’ research, their
professional development and their communication and networking with other
colleagues to share ideas and practices.

Part 2 begins with Chapter 4, ‘The 21st Century Languages Classroom -- The
Teacher Perspective’, in which Elina Vilar Beltrán and Auxiliadora Sales Ciges
present a small-scale study in the UK and Spain, investigating whether there
is inclusion in the language classroom and if so in what way. The researchers
examine the situation in primary and secondary schools in the two countries by
first identifying the similarities and differences between the two systems and
second by observing how technology is integrated in the classroom to serve
inclusion. They investigate teachers’ perceptions regarding inclusive language
teaching with technology via interviews conducted in both the UK and Spain.
The interviews in the UK show that even though teachers receive some training
in using technology in their teaching and have the help of SENCOs (Special
Educational Needs Coordinators) and facilities for the inclusion of SEN
students in their classes, they are concerned that students are discouraged
from studying languages. The situation in Spain differs since MFLs are more
prominent in the educational system; nevertheless, teachers do not receive
systematic help from SEN specialists or training in the use of technologies
and facilities are inadequate. Finally, the authors stress the importance of
technology in inclusive classes as well as collaboration between
practitioners.

In Chapter 5, ‘Using Technology to Teach English as a Foreign Language to the
Deaf and Hard of Hearing’, Ewa Domagała-Zyśk asserts the significance of
technology in the life of deaf and hard of hearing students. In an era in
which English is considered to be a lingua franca in many countries, deaf and
hard of hearing learners have to cope with distinct difficulties in learning a
foreign language. According to the author, technology for these learners is a
prerequisite for educational success, and there are many kinds of
technological devices which can be utilised to enhance EFL (English as a
Foreign Language) teaching. The author presents her personal experience
working with deaf and hard of hearing EFL students in Poland, which taught her
that the methodology should not differ from other foreign language teaching
methodology; rather the “techniques of teaching” (p. 92) should differ by the
needs of each learner. Through providing some useful practical suggestions the
author suggests that teachers should use every possible technological device
available and may facilitate learning, always having in mind the rules of
effective communication with the deaf and also considering the challenges deaf
and hard of hearing students may face when using technology.

Chapter 6 is ‘Information and Communication Technology -- An Instrument for
Developing Inclusive Practice in the Training of Modern Languages Teachers’ by
Lynne Meiring and Nigel Norman. The main focus is the training of MFL teachers
who need to know how to cope with the needs of all language learners in an
inclusive curriculum. The authors focus on the situation in the UK, and refer
to the Qualified Teacher Status Standard in England and Wales (WAG, 2009)
according to which teachers must understand different types of SEN and the
importance of ulitising ICT in language teaching based on pedagogical
practices. In order to create effective language teachers, teacher training
must help teachers face various challenges, especially meeting the needs of
all their learners and using ICT in order to achieve this. The authors
emphasise the fundamental role of ICT in inclusive language education by
referring to ICT as a means of increasing motivation, as a pedagogical tool
and as an administration and resourcing instrument. They offer practical
examples from the classroom illustrating the special qualities of ICT such as
“speed and automation, capacity and range” (p. 115), etc., which teachers need
to bear in mind. They also argue that teacher training must prepare teachers
for appropriate selection of resources which should be governed by pedagogy
and should be in accordance with the learners’ needs.

In Chapter 7, ‘Foreign Languages for Learners with Dyslexia -- Inclusive
Practice and Technology’, Margaret Crombie suggests that dyslexic students
wishing to learn a language can succeed with encouragement and suitable help
from teachers and technology. She begins by explaining the terms dyslexia,
ICT, inclusive education through examples from personal experiences. She
states that an “interdisciplinary perspective” (p. 127) regarding dyslexia
should be adopted since all perspectives must be considered in an educational
setting, and discusses difficulties that dyslexic students encounter and their
impacts on learning. Moreover, Crombie believes that classroom language
learning should involve practice of all four language skills, despite the
difficulties of dyslexic students with reading and writing. She presents
principles of teaching and learning for language programmes, and she suggests
that learners will be successful if their metacognitive strategies are
employed and if technology is used. On this account, she provides a list with
useful ICT tools accompanied by recommendations on how they can be used to
facilitate learning. She advises that tools should undergo constant evaluation
by teachers. Additionally, educational institutions must be appropriately
equipped to accommodate the latest technologies and legislation must ensure
inclusion for all learners.

Chapter 8, ‘Creative Engagement and Inclusion in the Modern Foreign Language
Classroom’, investigates inclusion through engaging the learners creatively in
the learning process. John Connor highlights the importance of appropriate
pedagogy that should underlie the use of any interactive resources, and he
quotes a seven step approach for language learning for students with learning
difficulties as proposed in Coyle et al. (1994). Following this, he suggests
an appropriate methodology which, he asserts, must accommodate all learning
styles, involve all the senses, understand the cognition processes of students
with learning difficulties and enhance spontaneity among students teaching
language which can be useful to them. The author illustrates how this could be
applied, and makes reference to interactive resources that increase learners’
engagement in the learning process such as websites, blogs and wikis which he
considers as highly motivating since they provide students with audience and
purpose, two important motivation elements. The author expresses concerns
about the use of tools which relate to the filtering policies in schools for
safety purposes and to the hardware availability. According to the author,
interactive resources could be used to practise speaking and listening skills
through the creation of avatars (for which he proposes certain tools) as well
as reading and writing through the use of sites specially designed for
creative writing (for which again certain sites are suggested). Finally,
Connor once more asserts that the use of interactive resources should be
inspired by pedagogy.

In the last chapter, Chapter 9, ‘Conflicts between Real-Time Resources and the
Storage of Digitized Materials: Issues of Copyright’, Andreas Jeitler and Mark
Wassermann discuss issues around the provision of resources to people with
disabilities and especially blind or people with visual impairment. They
approach these issues by presenting the situation in Austria and their own
institution, the University of Klagenfurt, in particular. The authors explain
the difficulties visually impaired people encounter with printed material; the
only way they can access resources is through a combination of a Braille
terminal and speech synthesiser on their computer. They continue by showing
how institutions in Austria have established “workstations” (p. 159) which
have certain specifications to serve the needs of visually impaired people,
and explain the process of digitising printed material. Nevertheless, they
note that creating and storing digital copies of materials is expensive and
raises issues of copyright. Even though e-books may seem to be the solution,
they are sold at high prices and accessibility remains difficult for the
visually impaired. In order to eliminate these problems, institutions in
Austria provide students with disabilities with the right to use personal
assistance. The authors see significant improvements in legislation concerning
visually impaired peoples’ rights. However, issues of accessibility and
copyright still need to be addressed not only for visually impaired people but
for people with other kinds of disabilities as well.

The volume concludes with the assertion that nowadays language competence and
ICT skills are both very important for students and can be acquired in an
inclusive context in which all learning styles and needs can be served. The
editors finish with the hope that this book will contribute to the cooperation
among technology experts, language specialists and SEN professionals to ensure
learning of languages for all students.

EVALUATION
In an age when inclusive language education prevails in schools
internationally and competence in languages is considered to be an
indispensable skill, this volume is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to
language education in general. It definitely serves its purpose, to present
how the notion of “languages for all”, as expressed in the nine chapters,
could be achieved by exploiting all the technologies available.

The book is well structured with all the chapters forming a unified whole. The
fact that the book is divided into two parts provides an opportunity to become
familiar with the theoretical background on some of the most important
concepts discussed in the book in the first part and with practical examples
of how the theory could be realised in the second part. Therefore, the book
could not only be read by teachers, researchers, stakeholders or language
education students but also by anyone interested in the field of inclusive
education.

Apart from nine comprehensive chapters discussing various fundamental aspects
of inclusion, SEN and educational technologies, the book constitutes a
catalogue of useful practical suggestions on how technology could be used in
language education. Most authors provide examples of effective classroom
practices across the European context. They also present various technology
tools that facilitate learning in inclusive language classrooms and
instructions on how most of these tools function. In some cases authors
include a list of the tools they suggest, with URLs.

Despite all its merits and valuable contributions to the field of inclusive
language education, there is one important aspect on which the volume does not
elaborate. Even though all of the chapters make extensive reference to the key
issues regarding inclusive language education and its implementation with the
assistance of technology, they do not investigate in depth the role of
stakeholders who have the central role in realising this aspiration. With
financial constraints in education, as in every other aspect of life in most
parts of Europe and other countries, appropriate educational inclusion with
the use of technology is difficult if not impossible. This great challenge and
the ways it could be overcome could be the topic of future research. Moreover,
in the conclusion, the editors themselves identify a “gap” (p. 174) between
effective teacher training and collaboration between languages, technology and
inclusion specialists. This could be another focus for future research.

REFERENCES
Coyle, D., Bates, M. & Laverick, A. (eds.). 1994. The Special Schools
Dimension. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

WAG. 2009. The Qualified Teacher Status Standards Wales 2009, No.25. Cardiff:
Welsh Assembly Government.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Elis Kakoulli Constantinou is an English Language Instructor at the Cyprus
University of Technology. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature
and an MA in Applied Linguistics. She teaches Academic English, and English
for Specific Academic Purposes. Her research focuses on English Language
Curriculum Development, and she is also interested in the latest developments
in Language Teaching Methods including the Integration of New Technologies in
Language Teaching.
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