Autonomous Technology-Assisted Language Learning/Other tools

Research toolsEdit

  • Survey Monkey is a tool (both free and paid versions) for creating online surveys.


Rich Internet ApplicationsEdit

According to the Wikipedia entry "Rich Internet Application,"

Rich Internet Applications (RIA) are a cross between
web applications and traditional desktop applications,
transferring some of the processing to the client end.

Macromedia, the software company which makes, among other programs, Flash and Dreamweaver, is credited with introducing this term in a 2002 whitepaper.

In the context of ATALL, RIAs represent a set of technologies that materials designers (be they practicing classroom teachers, resesarchers, or learners) can use to create ATALL-enabling on-line environments. This section of the ATALL Wikibook will present a specific set of technologies which may be used to support solitary and collaborative ATALL and research into ATALL.

Relevant TechnologiesEdit

Flash MX 2004Edit

Flash MX 2004 (hereafter, "Flash") is an authoring program which allows users to create applications (often called "movies" in the Flash literature) with varied user interfaces (UI), featuring still and animated graphics as well as audio elements. It features drawing tools (e.g. lines, boxes, ovals, shading, paint brushes), an animation timeline, and a programming language, ActionScript (version 2.0), which is based on the proposed standard for version 1.5 of Javascript. Applications authored with Flash are exported as Shockwave files (with .swf extension), which may then be run by the Flash Player plug-in or a stand-alone player.

GUI resources include...

  • text fields (both plain text and HTML)
  • buttons
  • movie clips
  • audio and video display and capture objects
  • custom mouse pointers
  • pull-down menus
Example GUI DesignsEdit

Text Chat: A collaborative application (see discussion of Flash Communication Server) may be easily authored using a multi-line text field (for display of the transcript), a single-line text field (for entry of messages), and a button (for sending a new message entered in the single-line text field).

Total Physical Response (TPR) Tasks: A solitary activity might use a collection of so-called "drag-and-drop" movie clips as items to be manipulated in response to text and/or audio prompts. Feedback would be provided when each item is moved to the proper location. For example, a learner might hear "Place the table to the left of the chair." Placing the table anywhere except to the left of the chair would result in the application informing the user that the table had been misplaced.

Asynchronous Audio/Video Electronic mail: Flash's audio and/or video capturing functions make it possible for learners to save their speech for later listening and viewing by a partner.

Flash Communication ServerEdit

Flash Communication Server 1.5 (hereafter, "FlashComm") provides real-time audio, video, and data exchange between connected applications running in the Flash Player plug-in from Macromedia. FlashComm servers may also interact with other FlashComm or web servers (e.g., the Apache server) in order to access dynamically generated data via a scripting language such as PHP, Perl, or ColdFusion. Such interaction is frequently used to retrieve, add, or update information to a database (e.g., MySQL or PostgreSQL). Though this scripting and database interaction is also available to SWF files running in the Flash Player, routing the interactions through FlashComm may be preferable when the results of each interaction should update all clients or when extra layers of security are desired.

PHPEdit

One of the possible readings of "P" in "LAMP" (the first three letters standing for "Linux," "Apache," and "MySQL"), PHP is a scripting language that features a broad variety of capabilities such as text searching, database connections, file management, and HTML form processing (via CGI). In general, the LAMP suite of software is popular because it is free for anyone wishing to set up their own web hosting, and it allows web hosting companies to offer very cheap (under six U.S. dollars per month) web hosting. As noted in in the Wikipedia entry for the LAMP acronym, "Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, runs software that can be characterized as a LAMP application. Wikipedia's MediaWiki software is developed primarily under Linux, using the Apache HTTP Server, with its content being stored in a MySQL database, and the program logic being implemented in PHP."

AMFPHPEdit

One particular technology built with PHP, AMFPHP (available for free at http://www.amfphp.org), is especially useful for RIA-enabled ATALL. This collection of scripts decodes and encodes Macromedia's Action Message Format (AMF, a data format that allows for the exchange of almost every type of data object defined in ActionScript such as numeric and string variables as well as custom objects. In contrast to extensible markup language (XML), also used to exchange a wide variety of data types, AMF is designed so that information may be transmitted quickly. An immediate benefit of this format is the time saved by not having to program conversions of the applications data into XML for transmission as well as conversion of XML from a server back into an application's data structures.

One of the most important reasons for using an implementation of AMF is the availability of AMF-compatible scripts libraries for the free scripting languages Perl and Python (the other possible readings of the "P" in the LAMP acronym) in addition to the native support for the format in Macromedia's proprietary ColdFusion scripting language. This almost guarantees that the particular model in which an RIA is deployed may be changed (e.g., using Perl and PostgreSQL instead of PHP and MySQL) with minimal alteration of the Flash and/or FlashComm code.

MySQLEdit

A free (for non-commercial use) database server, MySQL (or any other database) is primarily responsible for making Internet applications rich. The long-term, centralized, and rapidly searchable storage provided by a database enables an application to minimize, if not completely eliminate, the data it must contain within itself each time it is loaded. Once loaded and running in the Flash Player, for example, an application can request only those data sets which are needed at a given point in a user's interactions with the system. Free web-based utility applications such as PhpMyAdmin, installed with most scripting- and database-enabled hosting services, make modifying, archiving, and moving database entries easy for most moderately skilled users, thereby insuring data integrity and security.

Use of These TechnologiesEdit

Because PHP communicates easily with Flash Player applications and with FlashComm via multiple connection methods (e.g., AMFPHP), these connections allow PHP to return information retrieved from a database (e.g., MySQL). This functionality may be used for a variety of ATALL-related purposes such as...

  • presenting pre-prepared texts to users
  • logging user behavior (e.g., quiz results or text from chat sessions)
  • tracking user behavior over time
  • matching users by common interests, languages, skill levels, etc.

Resources and Further ReadingEdit

an initiative of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The goal of this effort is to encourage Americans to develop proficiency in languages other than English. Annenberg Media can help with this effort through our foreign language series, "Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish" <http://learner.org/redirect/october/destinos2.html>, "French in Action" <http://learner.org/redirect/october/french3.html>, and "Fokus Deutsch" <http://learner.org/redirect/october/deutsch4.html> -- all currently airing on the Channel. Click on "Broadcast Dates" for the schedules. The Year of Languages focus for October is early language learning. Our "Teaching Foreign Languages" video library <http://learner.org/redirect/october/tfl_lib5.html> (Web site <http://learner.org/redirect/october/tfl_lib6.html>) is an excellent resource for building teaching strategies. Also see our related "Teaching Foreign Languages" workshop series <http://learner.org/redirect/october/tfl_ws7.html> (Web site <http://learner.org/redirect/october/tfl_ws8.html>), particularly Workshop 5, "Subjects Matter," which looks at ways in which language acquisition can be promoted through subjects across the curriculum, such as geography, life science, math, and language arts. For general background on the psychology of language acquisition, you may be interested in "Language Development," Program 6 of our series "Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition" <http://learner.org/redirect/october/psych9.html>, or "Let's Talk About It," Program 12 of our series "The Whole Child: A Caregiver's Guide to the First Five Years" <http://learner.org/redirect/october/child10.html>. For more information about The Year of Languages or the teaching of foreign languages, visit the ACTFL Web site at <http://www.actfl.org/>.

  • Intervention Technology as Intervention Strategies

This is an interactive series of activities and games that teachers using McMillan Treasures Curriculum in elementary grades for language arts can access via the Internet. Students can try at home or they can interact with the website in the classroom during center time if the capabilities of computers will allow it. These activities are related with the story, vocabulary, and grammar that the students are studying in class. http://activities.macmillanmh.com/reading/treasures/

  • Resources for Interventions

1. Just as important to identify the student's learning style is to identify the stages of language acquisition in the second language. Here is a great resource link to better understand the stage of language acquisition. http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/language_stages.php

2. Once the teacher is able to identify the best combination of learning styles to implement in the classroom, the stage of language development needs to be identified. Then a series of interventions and strategies are implemented, here is a good resource link on issues of identification and intervention methods. http://www.crosscultured.com/articles/accult_cogn_handouts.pdf

3. What to do when you have an ESL\ELL student with special needs? Here is link to a great article on this matter and it is a source for great strategies to implement in the classroom. http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/0108ortiz.html

4. Research Study: Early reading intervention for English language learners at-risk for learning disabilities: student and teacher outcomes in an urban school Published by: Learning Disability Quarterly - September 22, 2001 Author: Diane Haager http://www.colorincolorado.org/articles/cld_earlyreadingint.php

5. This is a list of accommodations and interventions strategies that could be adapted for ELL students; however these are specifically for Special Education students. http://atto.buffalo.edu/registered/ATBasics/Foundation/Laws/AccomList.pdf

Last modified on 22 February 2011, at 02:26