Member’s Profile: Nicholas Yates


In this month’s Member’s Profile Nicholas Yates presents his views on the use of Moodle in the EFL classroom and the benefits which it can offer to students.

Member’s Profile

Nicholas Yates

Upon arriving in Japan 3 years ago I was introduced to a piece of educational technology that has helped me immensely in my quest to create more student-centered lessons, maximize language learning opportunities, and increase student collaboration. Since then I have come to realize that there is a large potential for the creation of innovative, technology-based language learning activities which do not require a great deal of technical expertise in order to be successful. Moodle is a course management system (CMS) that has helped me facilitate learning in all of my university level courses, due to its flexibility.

Moodle offers the teacher an extra dimension which extends beyond the study of fixed language goals. Teaching students how to use Moodle in a communicative manner has been one of my most satisfying experiences. Lately, I have been creating activities which I use to teach students how to use various technologies and software programs. I have been video recording two sets of information gap instructions for different functions in commonly used applications such as Moodle, Photoshop, and iMovie. I then upload them to YouTube and ask pairs of students to each watch one set of instructions and fill in a small worksheet detailing these instructions. After they’ve finished, they practice what they learned individually before finally coming together in their pairs to teach their partner their respective function.

I’ve received positive feedback because students can watch the video as many times as they want, they can control the video (pause, rewind), and they can watch it online after class. Students often comment that they enjoy the responsibility because they have to know each function in order to teach their partner. I also believe that this kind of activity enhances language learning as students need to integrate various language skills in order to complete the activity.

Interaction is an important part of Moodle activities as well as my own teaching philosophy. Promoting student interaction is easy on Moodle through the use of Moodle forums. These asynchronous online discussions are a great resource for students in or out of the classroom. I believe the key feature is that the students are permitted time to think and reflect before they post their questions and answers. Tailoring the content to match particular language objectives is also easy. Forums can target different sets of vocabulary or discrete grammar points. They can also allow free responses, encouraging fluency in content and ideas. I use forums in a media English class to give students extra practice producing vocabulary from the week’s news article. During the subsequent class, after posting on the forum, students read other posts as a basis for pair or small group discussion. Even if students aren’t physically together, they can experience virtual interaction with the whole class. I feel this kind of interaction is crucial, as it permits students more opportunity to use language and discuss ideas with other students.

Collaboration is another important element in the language classroom and an integral feature of wiki activities on Moodle. A wiki represents a collaborative effort to construct or build knowledge. Within the classroom context, such collaboration can take many forms; students can discuss things face-to-face or use computer-mediated communication software. Students can collaborate when deciding, writing, and editing the content of the wiki. My students have often commented that they will work individually on something unless forced to collaborate with a classmate. They also say they want me to give them more opportunity for peer collaboration. Using Moodle to create a wiki gives students this opportunity. Students in my Freshman English class completed a wiki project on the cultures of Japan. Students enjoyed the opportunity to write and finish their project for a wider audience than just the teacher.

Many of my colleagues often discuss the lack of English use outside of our classrooms. I always witness students reverting back to their mother tongue as soon as I finish the lesson. The previously mentioned activities enable students to maximize their learning opportunities and extend their English usage beyond the standard 90-minute class. I don’t use all of the activities in every class, nor do I use Moodle in every class I teach. However, it gives me another option, another way to mix, and provide student-centered lessons that engage students in language learning.

Nicholas Yates can be contacted at <>

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