I recently explored the use of audio recording for developing spoken communication skills of language learners in an assignment for an online Masters in Learning, Technology and Education I am studying with the University of Nottingham. This built upon previous studies that had focused on the use of electronic portfolios for developing spoken language skills. These had either been case studies or reports on experiments and tended to focus on the impact on particular aspects of learners’ spoken foreign language development after repeated recording of their voice on various topics. Mention was often made of the advantages of publishing such audio for an audience and how peers were encouraged to comment usually through text-based online comments on the audio recordings made. I was interested in testing the effect of these comments on learner speaking performance and, taking things a step further, exploring the effect on speaking performance after learners reformulated a number of audio recordings created by their peers.
My assignment was an exercise in demonstrating understanding in research methodology so I have not applied the research. However, the idea of peer modelling through digital audio recording has caught my interest. Online applications make this more feasible. It’s relatively easy for learners to record their voice and share this. Social media or instant messaging services can be used by a facilitator to manage the project through the alerts that can be sent through to learners’ personal mobile devices. I looked at using multiple applications to carry out the recording, sharing and management as that seemed to reflect the authentic use of technology by students outside the classroom. But, these are just platforms to make this all possible. What is most interesting is the visual digital object that the audio recording creates so that just like writing, it can be shared, copied, listened to, edited and re-produced.
When I used the words ‘collaborative play’ in the title of this blog, what I was trying to convey was the opportunity afforded by the technology of producing, manipulating and reproducing audio products across groups and communities of individuals. Previously, text has been the main vehicle for such interaction and evolution of ideas. You have the obvious paper-based artefact that can be reviewed, edited, quoted and reformulated, helping to build and develop thinking. With online technology it is now easier for this to happen with audio and video. In the field of language learning at least, there is real potential here for developing spoken communication skills along with content knowledge, language noticing and acquisition and higher order thinking skills such as summation and evaluation.