One subject that I keep returning to is extended reading.
In the recent eltchat on the subject one thing we all agreed on was that reading extensively means reading a lot, and that this is extremely useful for the language acquisition process. We, of course, are not alone in this and there is a wealth of research into the phenomenon, ranging from Krashen to Richard R. Day from the University of Hawai and Julian Bamford from Bunkyo University. As a result of this I am in the middle of a project with my university students here in Bolzano, and it is something that I have been mulling over for a while. This is to use Google Reader as a basis for students to receive articles from blogs or journals of their interest. The project was structured simply like this:
1) set up a Google Reader account for yourself;
2) find three blogs, journals etc. That you are interested in or that are related to your area of study;
3) over a period of one month read the articles that are published in your reader and choose three that you find particularly interesting for whatever reason.
At the end of the month the students will give a presentation of their findings. So, last week we duly looked at Google Reader and how to set up an account, and add feeds to it. I was quite surprised in fact to see that nobody had ever even heard of Google Reader. I don’t know if this is because of waning interets in subscribing to journals, or simply that they use other methods… I still haven’t had an answer to that one.
The first pitfall came this morning when various students from this group told me that they had tried to add links to sites but had not been able to do so, and they automatically assumed “It doesn’t work.” Actually, when I looked into this I realised that they hadn’t really understood the principal of subscribing to a blog or journal and were just trying to link sites they had come across. Since I don’t really want to be prescriptive about the way they collect the material they are reading (I’m trying to be as learner centred as possible here) I decided to add anoter site to the project which is Evernote. Evernote will simply bookmark anything they find of interest and they can add a comment or summary directly and organise the items they collect into various categories that they tag. I was thinking of using Scoop.it as well, but I hav decided that as, at the moment you still need an invitation to use Scoop.it, I can let them use Google Reader and Evernote to collect material and then, at the end of the project, we can make a Scoop.it topic together in class, with the artices of most interest that will then be online for others to read and access.
Well, that was week one, so I decided that we needed to do some work on what Google Reader was. I told the class the story of how, once upon a time, in the olden days, people used to subscribe to a newspaper, by means of the post or by going to their local newsagent’s and paying once every six months or so, and how the newpaper was then, physically delivered to their front door. Ok, ok, I know that’s overdoing it a bit but the message did getbthrough. We then looked at the Internet Explorer and I showed them that the Rss feed icon on the top on the right is orange, if there is a feed from a site (and grey if there is not). After that they got the message wuite quickly and were happy to use Evernote as well, so tomorrow (the end of the second week) they will have a discussion of where they are up to, what they have read, and set goals for next week. We’ll see what happens. What I have noticed, however, in a purely anecdotal way, of course, is that the language competence of the whole class, as well as their confidence, is improving by leaps and bounds, which is partly due to the fact that they are engaged both in classroom work and projectwork, but may well also be because they are motivated to read.
Well, I’ll let you know what happens, anyway.