Tools for CLIL Teachers
Caoimhín Ó Dónaill* and Ana Gimeno-Sanz**
*University of Ulster (Northern Ireland) | **Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain)
The EU-funded Tools for CLIL Teachers project has created a free online service where language teachers can author and share content-rich, multimedia learning units featuring the creator’s own choice of audio, video (e.g. from YouTube), text (e.g. a transcript) and images/graphics. No installation or setup of software is required. The authoring tools feature a unique and innovative element of functionality i.e. the ability to automatically link every word in a text to online dictionaries in over 100 languages.
The teacher will have the choice of either sharing the resulting webpage online from the system’s repository or of sharing a link to the webpage on websites, via email or institutional VLEs, for example. The beauty of this system is that technical knowledge of FTP/URL and online publishing is not required.
The online service also enables authoring of learning units from mobile devices (e.g. iPads) and is compatible with any operating system (Linux, Windows, MacOS, Unix etc.). The learning materials may also be accessed and used via smartphones, and materials may also potentially be authored from smartphones. We hope that the ability to access the learning materials from smartphones will encourage teachers to create materials.
The user friendliness of the system also benefits teachers of mainstream languages and results in bespoke VOLL (Vocationally-Oriented Language Learning) and CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) materials in the LWUTL (Less Widely Used and Taught Languages). The inclusion of Arabic also serves a large and growing target group teaching and learning that language.
We are convinced that the online system, both the content authoring tools and the repository of materials, will be of huge benefit to educational institutions and learners alike, not least because the service is free of charge and open source (i.e. to enable future development). Crucially, the authoring tools and resulting content can be used from inexpensive mobile devices and older computers as they do not require high data processing capacity or bandwidth. This is a key factor in facilitating the adoption of technology, as there is no assumption that end users will need to acquire new hardware or upgrade their existing hardware in order to avail of the service. Such unseen costs frequently prevent the uptake of new technology and are a source of frustration for potential end users who recognise the benefits of new technology.
In the following sections we shall describe Clilstore and its two integrated tools, Multidict and Wordlink. All three applications are accessed online at multidict.net.
Figure 1. Clilstore homepage.
Clilstore is a multifaceted site which (i) caters for teachers who wish to create or find multimedia language learning units to use with their students and (ii) offers a repository of language learning units in a variety of languages which students can access directly and use independently. Students are also welcome to register as authors and create and share units. The repository of existing units is open access, therefore, teachers or students wishing to use existing units do not have to register with the service before viewing or using the materials. Anyone wishing to create units must first register and have their email address verified. The authoring interface has been designed to be user-friendly, however, new users are encouraged to read the step by step guides provided on www.languages.dk/tools and if possible to avail of one of the many training workshops offered by the Tools team (details available on project website). The emphasis in Clilstore units is on multimedia i.e. using combinations of video, audio, images, text, hyperlinks and supporting secondary technologies which allow for the creation and sharing of interactive language exercises etc. In order for Clilstore language learning units to be most effective, however, they should contain a significant amount of text. The reason for this is that a key element of what makes Clilstore a unique language learning service is the way the software treats embedded texts. At the touch of a button all words are automatically linked to our bespoke dictionary interface Multidict, which places online dictionaries in over 100 languages at the learner’s disposal, thereby enabling them to interrogate texts at their own pace and according to their own learning requirements.
Multidict functions as a stand-alone online dictionary interface accessible at multidict.net or directly at multidict.net/multidict but also as the one stop shop for all of the language combinations featured in Clilstore language learning units. Once users of Clilstore units click on words in embedded texts, the Multidict interface opens beside the Clilstore unit thereby facilitating easy dictionary consultation for learners. The majority of the 100+ languages catered for by Multidict will feature multiple online dictionaries, therefore, if a learner is not satisfied with the first result from their search (which they will have performed by simply clicking on a word in the embedded text) they can simply consult another source by either selecting it from the drop down menu of available dictionaries or by clicking on the dictionary icons, without having to re-enter the search term. Multidict will also facilitate bilingual consultation between pairs of languages for which no print dictionary exists (e.g. Irish Gaelic to Scottish Gaelic).
Figure 2. Multidict stand-alone interface.
- Word entry field.
- Language pairs: source and target language.
- Selection of online dictionaries. Both drop-down menu selection and icon selection.
- Selected dictionary interface with translation.
It is important to select the dictionary which best suits the particular translation need. Each dictionary has strengths and weaknesses. If a dictionary does not have the word being searched for, a different dictionary can be selected either from the drop-down menu or from the dictionary-specific icons.
Wordlink can link most webpages word-by-word to online dictionaries. It is the software which facilitates the automatic linking of every word in embedded texts within Clilstore language learning units and can also be used as a stand-alone tool accessible at multidict.net or directly at multidict.net/wordlink for learners who wish to easily consult online dictionaries as they read through webpages.
Figure 3. Wordlink navigation frame.
When using Wordlink as a stand-alone tool to link all the words in a given webpage to the online dictionaries available from Multidict, the first thing we have to do is select the language of the page from the drop-down menu. After that, we have to paste the URL of the webpage we wish to link into the appropriate field and click on “Go” (see highlighted section 1 in Figure 4 below). This enables us to click on any of the words in the text and look it up in Multidict (see highlighted section 3 in Figure 4). As we can see in the Figure below, the word that has been clicked on in the text is “considerado”. This information automatically transfers to the Multidict navigation frame, as we can see in section 3 in Figure 4. Lastly, the translated entries appear in the native interface of the selected dictionary. In the sample below (highlighted section 4), the dictionary displayed is WordReference.
As we can only look up one word at a time, if we wish to translate a compound word, such as “look after”, we have to type in the missing word(s) in Multidict.
In order to save time, Multidict is capable of remembering which dictionary was last used and the language pairing that was being worked with, although the language and dictionary can be changed at any time.
Additionally, if we click on a link within the webpage we have “imported”, then the next page will also be converted by Wordlink. In case we wish to look up a word which is already hyperlinked, then we need to select “Remove existing links” and click “Go” (see highlighted section 1 in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Sample page from Wikipedia about Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes, linked to Wordlink.
In the following section we shall see how Multidict and Wordlink are used in the Clilstore student interface.
Clilstore student interface
Once we have entered the student interface by clicking on the arrow pointing towards “Students” in www.multidict.net (see Figure 1), learners encounter the screen illustrated in Figure 9.
First of all the learner has to select the language he/she wishes to practise. This is done by selecting a language form the appropriate drop-down menu (see highlighted sections 2 and 3 in Figure 9 below). Next, the learner has to select the target language level of his or her choice by clicking on one of the option buttons. A learner may also choose to select all the units that are available for a given language by clicking on “Any” (see Figure 5). This will call up a list of all the available units to practice that given language at the specified target level.
Figure 5. Language proficiency levels as describes in the CEFRL.
Once the list of units appears on the screen, additional information is provided to describe the contents of a given unit. As pointed out before, the level and the title of the unit, plus an icon describing the media type embedded in the unit, i.e. video, audio or none. However, if the learner selects “Student page – more options” from the drop-down menu (see 1 in Figure 9), a number of additional descriptors appear to allow learners to filter and find a particular unit; i.e. number of words comprising text in unit and duration of media file. These additional filtering options include:
- Id: Unique unit identification number.
- Hits: The number of hits, which gives the user an idea how many times a unit has been used.
- Changed: The date when the unit was last modified or updated.
- Owner: Who the designer of that unit is.
- Level: To select a range of levels from the CEFRL to make it easier for the learner to find units matching his/her level.
- Title: Word appearing in the title of the unit.
- Text or Summary: To search for specific key words appearing in the summary or the text of a given unit.
Figure 6. Clilstore student interface filtering options.
A very useful filtering option is that which allows the learner to enter key words into the “Text or Summary” filter field. In Figure 8, we can see that there is currently one unit featuring the keyword “plug”.
Figure 7. By entering a key word into this field the learner can easily find a specific unit where that item is featured.
Figure 8. List of units which appear after searching for a key word in the text and summary of a given unit.
As we can see in Figure 8, the result of our search has called up one unit; i.e. “UK homes are a minefield of electrical hazards” at the required language level.
Additionally, it is possible for the learner to sort the list according to any of the above mentioned preferences and to hide any of the information columns by clicking on the red-coloured “x” next to the sort-column icon. Lastly, it is also possible to restore everything to the default options by clicking on “Clear All” or “Restore”.
Figure 9. A view of the Student Interface where users (teachers or learners) can use a series of filters to find learning units specified by language, learner level (according to CEFRL), word count, video length or keywords.
- Drop-down menu allowing navigation between the Student Interface and the Author interface
- Filter by the source language of the unit, i.e. the main language featuring in the audio, video or text content of a unit.
- Filter by the learner level as specified by the unit authors in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL). The scale ranges from A1>A2>B1>B2>C1>C2, with A1 being the easiest and C2 the most difficult.
- Filter according to the length of embedded texts by word count.
- Filter according to the length of any embedded video files.
- Filter by keyword in the Unit Title.
- Filter by keywords in the author generated summary of the unit or the unit’s embedded text.
Let’s now have a brief look at a unit to see the options that are available for learners. A unit will typically consist of a media file –normally a video sequence–, its script (with all of its words linked to a wealth of online dictionaries thanks to Multidict), and links to further exercises or learning materials.
Figure 10. The view of a unit once it has been selected and a learner-determined word clicked on.
- The author of the unit will have already indicated the source language, therefore, this lets Multidict know where to begin.
- The learner can select the language they wish the search term to be translated into, or if they select e.g. English to English they can perform a monolingual consultation.
- The user can quick-switch between dictionaries by using the drop-down menu of available sources or by clicking on the dictionary icons. They are not required to re-enter the search term in order to switch between dictionaries.
A detailed step-by-step guide to registering with the Clilstore service and creating and sharing units can be found in the “do-it-yourself” videos listed below. These videos have been created to support teachers who wish to create Clilstore units and students/learners who wish to use the service independently. These videos are available in all of the project languages.
Teacher DIY Videos
Student DIY Videos
Table 1. Links to the Clilstore “Do-it-yourself” videos.
Further information, as well as manuals in PDF format and several eBook versions are available from the project website in Danish, English, Irish, Lithuanian, Portuguese and Spanish.
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Universitat Politècnica de València
e-ISSN: 1695-2618 http://dx.doi.org/10.4995/eurocall