Technology and task design
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Technology and Task Design. Discussion. Do you currently use webpages as a source for realia in your language class, or require students to refer to webpages (etc.) outside of class? What purpose do these websites serve? Are you satisfied with the outcomes? Are the students?

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Technology and Task Design

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Technology and task design

TechnologyandTask Design



  • Do you currently use webpages as a source for realia in your language class, or require students to refer to webpages (etc.) outside of class?

  • What purpose do these websites serve?

  • Are you satisfied with the outcomes? Are the students?

  • HOW do you use them?

What is a task

What is a task?

  • “an activity or action which is carried out as the result of processing or understanding language”

    • Richards, J., Platt, J., & Weber, H. (1985). Longman dictionary of applied linguistics. New York: Longman, p.289

  • Tasks provide a purpose to learners, encourage interaction, and promote target language use as a means to an end.

What is a task1

What is a task?

  • Tasks generally share common characteristics:

    • purposeful and goal-oriented

    • lead to an attainable objective

    • require comprehension, manipulation, and production of the target language

    • focus on a meaningful exchange of information

    • engage learners in an activity in order to carry out operations

    • can be problem-solving or consensus-building

What is a fl task

What is a FLtask?

  • How does this information about tasks relate to us as foreign language teachers?

    • Discuss with a partner how you conceive of “tasks” in your classes.

    • What materials or equipment do you generally incorporate to carry out these tasks?

Tasks and communication

Tasks and communication

  • Communication extends beyond a question-and-answer exchange between a student and teacher or a student and a computer

  • The notion of communication encompasses “expression, interpretation, and negotiation of meaning”

    • Lee, J. F. (2000). Tasks and communicating in language classrooms. New York: McGraw-Hill., p. 1

  • Tasks require communication, and communication in any medium requires an exchange to take place.

Tasks and technology

Tasks and technology

  • Therefore, technology in and of itself…

    • does not lead to an attainable objective.

    • does not require students to focus on the meaningful exchange of information.

    • does not require comprehension, manipulation and production of the TL.

    • does NOT encompass expression, interpretation and negotiation of meaning.

    • does not promote meaningful communication.

  • “Technology” is not a task!

Tasks and technology1

Tasks and technology

  • Technology is a tool through which we can create meaningful, innovative, useful and exciting tasks for our students.

  • HOW?

    • By keeping in mind a few simple guidelines as we prepare our technology-based tasks...

Technology based tasks

Technology-based tasks

  • 1. Identify task goals; make them clear and keep them in mind throughout the activity.

    “When we choose authentic materials, there should be a purpose–not simply to decorate the page or to fill (or kill) time but to introduce learners to a specific cultural concept, to illustrate something that has just been taught (or that is going to be taught), to serve as a stimulus for an activity”

    Terry, R. M. (1998). Authentic tasks and materials for testing in the foreign language classroom.

    In J. Harper, M. Lively, & M. Williams (Eds.), The coming of age of the profession:

    Issues and emerging ideas for the teaching of foreign languages (pp. 277-290).

    Boston: Heinle & Heinle, , p. 282

Technology based tasks1

Technology-based tasks

  • 2. Prepare learners for the task.

    • Relate the activity to previously studied linguistic and/or cultural concepts.

    • Activate appropriate background knowledge at the beginning of the activity.

Technology based tasks2

Technology-based tasks

  • 3. Provide navigational aids.

    • Learners should be given explicit information regarding the technical nature of the task (how to run a program, how to log on, etc.) so that they may proceed quickly to the task itself rather than lose time trying to set it up.

    • Give learners navigational instructions to direct them quickly and efficiently to the necessary information on a website.

    • Monitoring may be necessary to ensure that students remain on-task, avoiding the temptation to surf irrelevant websites.

Technology based tasks3

Technology-based tasks

  • 4. Have learners do something with the information.

    • Engage learners in verbal exchange of the information gathered (peer survey, partner interview).

    • Draw generalizations, see what trends exist in the class, compare their responses with their partner, etc.

    • Target language is the means of achieving some ultimate purpose

The abcs of task design

The ABCs of task design...

  • A is for analysis.

  • B is for back-up.

  • C is for the 5 Cs.

  • D is for diversity.

  • E is for evaluation.

Sample activity

This is an activity that a TA had planned for a class I observed once (in Spanish, obviously). While there are some positive aspects of the activity, it fails to meet a number of the characteristics of a successful technology-based task. Why?

Sample activity

  • Critique this “task” based on the above.

  • Go to: www

  • Find an apartment that fits your lifestyle (real or imagined).

  • In your own words, write a brief description (10-15 sentences) of the apartment you found. Explain why you chose this apartment and why you like it.

  • Check spelling and grammar in MSWord.

  • Send the instructor a copy of your work via email.

Now what

Now what?

  • Over the course of the next week and a half, we will learn how to:

    • search for and evaluate appropriate and useful webpages

    • explore tools for collaborating and communicating

    • design pedagogically sound tasks utilizing these resources and tools

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