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Fostering learner autonomy in English for science:
A collaborative digital video project in a technological learning environment.
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by Christoph A. Hafner
Lindsay Miller
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Created by B group
Introduction
Autonomy in Language Learning
An autonomous learner is one who is intrinsically motivated and learns outside the classroom, alone, and with no need for support from the teacher. However, learner autonomy can also develop in the structured learning environment of the classroom and become part of the pedagogical objectives of a language course.
New Technologies and New Literacy Practices in Language Learning
It is necessary to draw on an appropriate student-centered pedagogy, as well as consider the affordances of particular technological tools for autonomous language learning and how students will utilize these affordances
Does the technological learning environment promote autonomous language learning? If so, how?
Speech Bubble
CONTEXT, METHODS, AND DATA SOURCES
The EST course offered to the students was a required course, with one 3-hour class per week, over a period of 13 weeks. Students taking the course were between 18-23 years of age, with a roughly equal mix of males and females, and were studying Applied Biology, Applied Chemistry, Environmental Science and Management, or Mathematics.
Implementation of the Digital Video Project
In order to complete the project students worked in groups of three to:
(a) do background research and develop a hypothesis for the experiment;

(b)carry out the experiment, documenting the procedure and results;

(c) present findings to classmates in the form of a multimodal scientific documentary (group work due in week 7 of the course) and a written
scientific report (individual work due in week 14).
Implementation of the Digital Video Project
The design followed a modular system, incorporating a range of technological tools, which include:
(a) learning management system for course administration,
(b) course Weblog for weekly reflective discussions on coursework,
(c)DV cameras and editing software for video production,
(d) resources Web site for support with video editing software (in the form of screencasts),
(e) YouTube channel for sharing the videos created.
Data Sources and Analytical Methods
A cohort of 67 university science students participating in a course in EST. The students were first surveyed through an anonymous questionnaire (59 responses), with both open and closed items. This questionnaire was followed up by semi-structured focus-group interviews with approximately one third (21) of the students. In addition, the majority of students (62) reflected on their language learning in their weekly comments to the course Weblog.
FINDINGS
Motivation
The digital video project task appears to have been highly motivational for students.
Authenticity
Several students commented that this kind of task was suitable for “21st century” students and that the ability to create multimedia presentations could be useful for other courses and when they entered the job market.
Independent Learning
In constructing their digital videos, students reported two kinds of independent learning: independently practising and using English, and independently searching for information related to the content of the video or the use of technological tools.
Peer Teaching
The collaborative group work project created a social context for learning which provided ample opportunities for peer teaching, either peer teaching of English or peer teaching of technology skills.
Teamwork and Managing the Learning Process
There were many comments from students relating to this teamwork aspect of the project, with students describing how they learned to monitor not only their own learning process, but that of the whole group. Most students felt that it was necessary for one member of the group to take a leadership role, in order to facilitate time management and to co-ordinate the efforts of the whole team. In this respect, students emphasized the importance of good communication between team-mates for effective team functioning
Reflection on Learning
Related to the notion of peer feedback are the weekly interactions in the course Weblog, similar to interactions in an online discussion forum, which provided students with an opportunity to reflect on their learning.
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