Project-based learning

The first time I heard of project-based learning, or rather, pédagogie de projet, was at a teachers’ training workshop at the University of Montréal in 2009. What an eye-opening workshop that was! A teacher by the name of Nicole Lavergne introduced us to this approach of learning that seemed, at that time, to have taken the world of teaching and research by storm.

Project-based learning (or PBL) is based on John Dewey’s learning by doing approach to learning (click on the link to read about it). It is a type of instruction, where students work together (often in groups) with the sole aim of carrying out a particular project. The project will often be situated in a real-world context, and will require students to practically apply whatever is learnt in theory. Used mostly for teaching physical sciences, this approach is also very interesting from a language teacher’s point of view. One can for instance teach all the possible grammatical notions with its nuances in a language class, but push the student in a real-world context where he/she is to use the language, and you’ll see just how far the grammar holds out!

If, on the other hand, students have to collectively participate in, and carry out a project that has a specific aim, they will use the language taught and be able to learn in a constructive manner. Moreover, this will encourage students to learn from each other, at their own rhythm. This will also teach them to organise their work, set their own objectives, take decisions, face problems collectively and learn to solve them.

With various Web 2.0 tools at our disposal today, here are a few ideas for creating your own virtual projects. Suggestions for websites that can used have been put in brackets.

Essentials of concours

There are three principal entrance tests that students who wish to enrol in commerce schools in France target. These are ECRICOME, CCIP and IENA.

The presentation (“Essentials of concours“) takes you into the essentials of what the writing component of these tests entail. Globally speaking, there are three major sections in the writing component: version, theme and expression orale. Each test has its own set of rules, regulations and grading scales for each of the sections.

Understand the system so you can work better to achieve your goal!

The 13 killers

A group of teachers at the university of Grenoble 3 teaching at the Applied Linguistics department of English studies have identified thirteen grammatical mistakes that students make while translating from  French into English. In the first year of university, students are expected to work very hard at not making these mistakes and if they continue to do, are penalised very heavily at the exams. These mistakes have thus been baptised “13 Killers” as the presence of even a single one of them can result in a straight zero out of four marks!

I personally feel that these rules are not only applicable to students studying translation but also to those who want to avoid making basic mistakes in the English language.  Avoid them and your language will know new heights. 

Here’s a list of the 13 killers:

  1. Incorrect use of the present perfect with a past time reference
  2. Incorrect use of for, since, ago and during
  3. Incorrect formation of common irregular verbs
  4. Incorrect formation of basic tenses 
  5. Incorrect use of auxiliaries in questions and negation 
  6. Incorrect formation of modals
  7. Incorrect formation of the passive voice
  8. Basic errors involving the genitive
  9. Basic errors involving the article
  10. Incorrect use of “-s” with adjectives or noun groups
  11. Incorrect expression of quantity and price
  12. Absence of capital letters for days, months, nationalities, languages
  13. Gruesome gobbledygook and truly awful barbarisms

The powerpoint presentation The killers” should give you a better idea of what these killers mean and how to avoid making them. Feel free to download it, study it, work on it.

Don’t forget to drop me a line if you find this useful.

Extracting music from YouTube

You need an audio-visual document to use for the purposes of teaching a language or any piece of content. You do however have no access to the Web during class hours, or perhaps the speed of your Internet isn’t fast enough for you to use the material in real-time. Here’s an option you can use to download the clip and use it later for pedagogical purpose : SaveFrom. SaveFrom is not a tool that needs to be downloaded but it is an online site which means that you can have access to it from any computer you want. You need to copy and paste the URL link of the video you want (from YouTube for example) onto the site and click on download.

Now, let’s say that you require only the audio element from a video sharing site like YouTube, but don’t want to download the entire video. Use YouTube Mp3 in this case. Again, you copy and paste the URL link of the video you want onto the site and it instantly converts it for you in the Mp3 format that can be downloaded.

Hope this tip helps you to download material that you can use for teaching.

Do let me know what you think of it by leaving a comment below.

Till then, cheerio!

What is web 2.0?

Nanni_no bckrdEveryone seems to be using the term Web 2.0 these days without really understanding what it means.

Web 2.0 was a name suggested in 2003 during a conference brainstorming session by Dale Dougherty, a member of O’Reilly Media and since then, the name seems to have caught on and is often used synonymously with the word ‘Internet’. Tim O’Reilly has himself, on several occasions, tried to warn users from ‘defining’ the term, suggesting instead that each user feel free to appropriate the term as he/she so wishes.

So, how exactly can we understand Web 2.0? We can do so by studying its characteristics, one of which is the ability for any human being, irrespective of having received prior education in technological know-how, to create material on the web. In the early 90’s, creating something on the Internet was considered to be the privilege that solely programmers or web developers had. Today, just about any man or woman (sometimes, child) can generate content: writing down your thoughts, commenting, leaving a remark on a website, starting an online fan club, creating a wiki, etc are all representative examples. So, as it turns out, the web has become a gigantic pool of resources, which although not intentionally created for education, can be used for the purposes of education.

As a language teacher and trainer, I understand that it may be difficult for teachers to choose from among the plethora of available resources. How does one choose? How does one decide? These are  questions not easy to answer. And while we’re at it, lets not forget the golden rule of teaching: whether conventional or digital, tools are just as good as the teachers who use them.

Creative pedagogy, class management, the very presence of a teacher are irreplaceable and fundamental to great teaching. Digital tools merely add to these, making the classroom a fun place for teachers and students to be in.

General reading

Demaizière, F. (1986). Enseignement assisté par ordinateur, Paris, Gap : Ophrys.

Desmarais, L. (1998). Les technologies et l’enseignement des langues, Montréal : Editions logiques.

Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based Language learning and teaching, Oxford University Press.

Grosbois, M. 2012. Didactique des langues et technologies – De l’EAO aux réseaux sociaux. Paris: Presses universitaires Paris-Sorbonne.

Lancien, T. (1998). Le multimédia, Paris : CLE International.

Legros, D., Crinon, J. (2002). Psychologie des apprentissages et multimédia, Paris : Armand Colin.

Levy, M. (1997). Computer Assisted Language Learning, Context and Conceptualization, Oxford University Press.

Mangenot, F & Louveau, E. (2006).  Internet et la classe de langue, Paris, CLE International.


De Wever, B., Schellens, T., Valcke, M., Van Keer, H. (2006). Content analysis schemes to analyze transcripts of online asynchronous discussion groups: A review, Computers & Education, 46, p. 6-28.

Germain, C. (1997). Les paradigmes de recherche en éducation : remarques d’ordre épistémologique, in Duquette et alii, Méthodologies de recherches empiriques en langues secondes et étrangères : nouvelles perspectives, p. 2-7, université d’Ottawa, CREAL.

Karsenti, T. & L. Savoie-Zajc (Eds.). (2011). La Recherche en éducation: Étapes et approches(3e édition revue et corrigée). Saint-Laurent: ERPI, 183-211.

Van der Maren, J.-M. (2003). La recherche appliquée en pédagogie: des modèles pour l’enseignement. Bruxelles: De Boeck Supérieur.