oh sentiment in the air

Before this course, I never thought that maintaining a blog could be such an

educational and fun experience. I read academic articles of other courses too, but

by maintaining a blog, I felt my learning took a slightly higher level. I had chances

to share my ideas and opinions with my readers, read my fellow classmates blog

posts, and occasionally engaged in discussions with my classmates along the

course. All these would have probably never happened if we were not asked to run

blogs for the course. Since the course is about new literacies, this blogging

experience really gives me some insight into the incorporation of new technologies

and language teaching and learning, as well as what it brings to the teacher and

the learner.

Have Fun while Learning

As current ‘dot-com’ generation (Purushotma, 2005) grows up, old ways of learning and homework exercises are in need of transformation into something more interesting to engage young learners.  Purushotma (2005) believes that learning and having fun are not adversarial to each other, and there are a variety of fun ways to incorporate entertainment elements into educational content with the help of the Internet and other new technologies, such as making modifications to video games to form a bilingual gaming environment, or taking advantage of modern massively multiplayer online games to suit young people’s motivation and attention. To extend the principle of ‘edutainment’,  Purushotma (2005) proposes other applications such as music videos, typing tutors and voice-navigated games. Interestingly, the time spent on waiting for Web pages to load or walking to class, which commonly considered as wasted, can be utilized to learn if you have portable smart devices with you.

After reading about the concept of ‘edutainment’,  I realized that the best learning experiences of mine only came only when I engaged in activities I actually liked. Looking back at my undergraduate years as an English major student, I don’t think that I learned much in formal classroom settings. And that’s partly why sometimes I skipped classes and just stayed in to watch English TVs. To me, watching English TVs is a much better way to learn the language as it provides real contexts for using the language, so I can learn the way native speakers actually speak in their ordinary everyday life.

Another way to learn English while having fun that I used and am still using is to listen to English songs, especially for learning or improving pronunciation. By casually listening to English songs, I found that some pronunciation of particular words are weakened and some are strengthened when the singers sing. Of course, singers exaggerate the pronunciation of words to some degree, but generally, the pattern can be inferred into speaking in daily life. It might be a effective way to master the native-like tone, intonation and stress of speaking. 

Now even though I am swamped by tons of academic assignments related to the very subject of English, I found that learning casually in informal contexts is still possible and surprisingly I don’t resist it a bit. Mostly owing to my smart phone, playing English version games and reading bits of  English on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram anywhere anytime all became fun learning experiences.

Online Spaces and Language Learning

As a student majored in English language, I actually muddled through my undergraduate years by spending almost all my time on the Internet as well as watching tons of English televisions. My parents always got furious when they saw me had to eat in front of the computer screen. But I seriously think that I learned more about the English language and cultures of Western countries from those TV series than from the lessons. More importantly, to me, it was and still is a fun way to learn. In terms of online spaces, since mainland China blocks certain websites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, we couldn’t get access to some pretty useful resources of English language learning or have much chance to interact with native English speakers. However, in mainland China, we do have our own versions of those foreign websites and people do share a great deal of information and great resources regarding English learning with those who have the similar interests.

Personally speaking, I don’t think I have much experience of learning English through social networking or online communities. But I has a friend, who is crazy about the comic series ‘The Avengers’, and I bet she must have benefited a lot from her experience. At the very beginning, she watched the movie ‘The Avengers’ and felt instantly in love with the characters. Then she started to search for the original comic books of ‘The Avenger’ published by Marvel Comics on the Internet but only to find all the the dialogues printed on the pages were in English. It was okay for her because she was an English major student and reading only a few words a page weren’t much difficult. But not all the fans of ‘The Avengers’ are that good at reading in English, so she formed a community with a few capable fellow fans to translate the English version of ‘The Avengers’ into Chinese. And later, she started to browse the fan-fiction websites of ‘The Avengers’and ask for some authors’ permission to translate what she thought to be good ones, originally written in English, into Chinese. All these took up almost all her spare time and all her extra energy, but I would say that her time and energy were well invested, because she seemed to understand the culture and humor of the Americans’ much better than the rest of us fellow students did. I really admire those who are able to combine his or her passion(s) with actual learning.

Online learning: My experience

Hi, everyone. This is a blog set up to record my learning in the course of New Literacy and Language Learning, as well as to exchange ideas with the professor and my fellow classmates. I’m excited to get it started!

Even though technology is everywhere in everyone’s life, it was a bit strange for me to associate it with language learning at the very beginning of the course, because what I usually thought of language learning was with a book and/or dictionary. But I started to think about my own English learning experience and realized that technology has been playing an important part in it.

Before I became a English major student in college, in another words, during my primary and secondary school years, my English learning activities were limited within the classroom and rather passive, just with the purpose to pass exams. In class, the teacher started to employ the computer and multimedia in teaching, usually to replce board work and play recordings of texts. After class, I needed to tackle tons of homework and exercise s which preparing myself for the exams, and when I finally got the time to sit in front of a computer, studying would be the last thing I wanted to do.

Years of endless exams and homework finally  ended after I enter university. Hooray! The teachers were less focus on exam-passing techniques and grammar drills but acted as a guide and facilitator in our language learning. Most of the teachers – especially younger ones – used computers skillfully in class, showing pictures and video clips while demonstrating abstract ideas and concepts. They also introduced us useful English learning materials, among which were online resources. But the main focus was still on the textbook,  and how to communicate through e-mails and on online forums, as well as those trendy abbreviations and words/phrases English speakers use, which now I know is related to electronic literacy, was never mentioned or taught in class during my undergraduate years.

As the pressure of passing exams alleviated, I had more time to myself and with my laptop, browsing webpages, reading posts on social networks and watching American TVs. In these ways, I unconsciously gained some knowledge about electronic literacy. However, after the first week of the course, I started to look at the term ‘new literacy’ seriously, and realized there is much to learn about the topic and how to apply new literacy into English language learning and teaching.

Blogging is one of the ways to stay connected with people who have the similar interests. Reading and commenting on others’ blog can generate new ideas and new perspectives of things. Over the course of this semester, I will blog about my ideas on topics discussed in class, and share my reflections after reading journal articles on new literacy and language learning. New literacy is a rather new concept to me , and it seems to have great potential in language learning and teaching now and in the near future. I hope that I will learn how to synthesize it into my English learning and teaching and make the most out of it!