CSLC Technologist Publishes Articles on Media and the Language Classroom

Author: Selena Ponio

With a multitude of language learning software purporting to facilitate foreign language acquisition, CSLC Educational Technologist Joachim Castellano helps identify innovative tools and techniques for language teachers at Notre Dame. Last month, he published two articles in two separate publications focusing on how to incorporate media into the foreign language classroom.

Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, Joachim Castellano taught a course titled Advanced Media English at Kanda University for International Studies in Chiba, Japan and Digital Media at New York University’s American Language Institute Tokyo Center. Castellano’s goal was to expand students’ breadth of media literacy while also facilitating English learning through the collaborative nature of the projects.

His research article about this experience, titled “Advanced Media English - A Modern ProCALL Course,” was published in CALL-EJ Electronic Journal February issue. The data for his project took over two years to collect and included participation from 128 students.

“What it did was it turned the classroom into a newsroom,” Castellano said. “They had to essentially become 21st century journalists which meant producing texts beyond printed articles. This was really ambitious because it combined a lot of technology and ways to express themselves in ways they hadn’t done before.”

Castellano said the students he taught were in their junior or senior year at the university and developed new skills in order to tell stories through new mediums such as blogging, videos and podcasts.

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“This paper I published covers those two years and some of the interesting findings is that as a result of the class they felt a lot more confident in expressing themselves through modern media,” Castellano said. “There was a halo effect that even though I didn’t teach them a particular tool their confidence and skill carried over to another social media network.”

Some projects that Castellano had his students create were an info graphic, photo essay, audio podcast and videos. He said by partaking in these projects, his students assumed a role as content producers instead of just consumers.

“I think our notions of text have to expand beyond the written word because we as a society we are communicating in media-rich ways,” Castellano said. “So it’s more than just words on paper. We’re communicating through multimedia … It’s of particular importance for me to train my students how to grow beyond just consuming this content. I wanted them to become confident participants of this field in a second language.”

Castellano said one of the focuses of this course was to help students realize the power behind the messages they consume daily through video, pictures and other forms of media.

“Hopefully that opened up not only competence in a second language, but economic opportunities as well because these are skills that are attractive to employers,” Castellano said.

Another one of the findings from his study was that one of the most effective times for language learning was the planning stages before the project that involved lots of communication with other team members.

“What they didn’t notice was they were working on their English fluency by negotiating with their partners about what they wanted to happen,” Castellano said. “That was the trick to the class. I built in all these fluency building activities so that it was really subtle.”

Other than to improve student learning, Castellano also utilizes technology to improve the efficiency of instructor feedback for student presentations. The second article Castellano published last month focused specifically on using video as a feedback tool. His article titled “Integrated Video Feedback for Student Presentations” was published in the TESOL International Association’s Video and Digital Media Interest Section Newsletter. His findings in this article suggest a positive reaction from students who received feedback from screen capture video files as opposed to the more traditional written feedback.

“It started with the idea of providing a video highlight reel of things [students] did well and things they can improve on. So not only would they get the complete video of their presentation but they’d get a second video that evaluated their performance,” Castellano said. “With the video file that they would receive they’d have a clearer understanding of why they earned a certain score. It is a really precise feedback instrument; you can’t hide from video playback.”