From Parrots to Puppet Masters: Fostering Creative and Authentic Language Use with Online Tools (by John Milton, 2005)
The exam-oriented English language education is very popular in South East Asia. Students become “parrots” as they are encouraged to do many imitative practices and they learn much exam language skills instead of real language skills as they only focus on how to handle different kinds of standardized assessment well. Due to lack of creative English teaching approach, students become less innovative. Besides, their exam-oriented language skills are not enough for their life outside the classroom.
Luckily, internet and computer ownership are common so many useful online resources can be used for teaching and learning in English as a Foreign Language (EFL). These kinds of language learning tools are objective and productive with automatically graded tasks. Teachers can provide computer-enhanced feedback for the subjectively evaluated activities too.
As Milton supports more collaborative as well as individualized creative language teaching pedagogies instead of exam-oriented teaching method, he recommends four useful tools which provide broader teaching and learning opportunities for teachers and learners worldwhile.
Four tools are listed as follows.
(1) Targeting Oral Fluency: Asynchronous Voice Messaging
(2) Online Data-driven Language Learning
(3) Providing Feedback on Student Writing
(4) Online Role Plays
This encourages students to become independent and life-long learners by using these tools because the tools aims at providing practice in speaking the second language (L2, same as English language), making L2 lexis, structures and texts more accessible, improving teacher feedback and promoting creative use of the L2. This also addresses the cognitive, affective and social learning needs and allows students to pursue their own language learning goals without any limitations. The online activities can let students extend and enrich their in-class tutorials.
I think the language learning tools are very motivating, convenient and useful for every language learners because they can learn from easy to deep language skills. Learners can even do different role plays and make the learning fun and creative. The tools also provide chances for learners to collaborate with their schoolmates or other online users. It can enhance their interpersonal skills, critical thinking and language-related problem solving skills. Language education is not just teaching a person how to handle the exams/tests and do assignments/projects efficiently. It is more important for educators to inspire students how to use efficient study tools and learn sufficient life skills so that students can continue their life-long learning procedures, unleash their potentials, and handle their different future challenges well.