Working towards Digital Literacy, Learner Autonomy, and Student Motivation in an Intermediate Level Language Course

Robert Godwin-Jones, Virginia Commonwealth University

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The optimal teaching and learning environment for intermediate language learning provides a solid core of basic language resources, but also allows for sufficient flexibility to accommodate a variety of student abilities/backgrounds, learning goals, and personal/professional interests. This is difficult to accomplish using a traditional print textbook. What is needed is a modular approach, which combines content common to all students enrolled, with options to work in areas of need or interest.

This is crucial in creating and maintaining student interest and motivation for language study. I have created a modular e-textbook for German to be shared as an OER textbook, combining a basic grammar reference and a reader. The content represents different disciplines (literature, history, science, art, business) so as to address individual student areas of study. Also included are modules on language self-study, which include annotated guides to online language resources, such as dual language dictionaries, idiom finders, translating tools, language learning services, proofing tools, and target language media sources. The module on Google Translate, for example, walks students through sample translations to illustrate those areas in which the service works well (individual expressions, short sentences) in contrast to those that are problematic (longer or idiomatic texts).

Today’s language learners have a wide array of technology options available to help in all aspects of language learning, but the wide variety can be overwhelming, given the lack of readily available information about which might actually be useful for them, given their proficiency level, degree of interest, and reason for studying a second language. The goal of these modules is to encourage students to learn the usefulness and cultures-of-use of essential tools and services. This should serve them in life-long language study, first with the language they are currently learning, and second with the ability to leverage the skills they have acquired for learning additional languages in the future. This kind of digital literacy and learner autonomy are essential for students to be able to be intelligent consumers of on-line language tools and services, so as to allow them to guide and customize their language learning.

Robert Godwin-Jones

Virginia Commonwealth University