The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tech tools in EAP: an #EAPchat contribution

The topic for next Monday's #EAPchat is:

"What tech is good tech for EAP?"

As I'm going to be away and will miss the chat, I thought I'd share my contribution in advance here instead. To be honest, on the very short, intensive, pre-sessional courses I teach on, I don't get much chance to play around with all the tech stuff I'd really like to, but below are a few things I have managed to squeeze in successfully in the past:

Online dictionaries: Perhaps unsurprisingly with my lexicography background, I'm keen on teaching/ encouraging dictionary skills and I think for EAP, that element of independent learning is even more important, so I use dictionaries a lot in class. Having them up on screen means I can more easily highlight useful features like collocations in examples and specialist senses (which are often the ones relevant in EAP and which students often miss down at the bottom of an entry). I tend to swap between the different online learner's dictionaries available to demo what's available to students:
OUP:  http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ 
CUP: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Macmillan:  http://www.macmillandictionary.com/

Vocabulary Profiler: I try to demo the Compleat Lexical Tutor vocab profiler at least once with each class when I'm talking about the nature of academic language and the AWL. I put a text we've been working with through it to highlight the AWL words and show the breakdown of vocabulary (top 2000, AWL and 'specialist'). I don't generally make a big thing of the AWL (there isn't time on such a short course), but I find it helps students get a feel for academic vocabulary and style. Some students, especially from science and engineering tend to like the statistical/mathematical element of it and in my last group, a couple of students (one engineering and the other seismology) independently put their own writing through it and brought me the results. One lad consciously worked on getting his AWL 'score' up to 15% and I have to say, his writing style did noticeably improve! It's probably not an approach I'd actively promote, but if it works for some students ...

Corpora:  I also try to demo a corpus search at least once with a group and again, it depends on the type of students as to whether they latch onto it or not. (I don't push it if it doesn't get a good reaction.) A few years ago, I had a group of mostly Taiwanese English teachers preparing for an MA TESOL who were very into language and loved it. I try to introduce it when a language query has cropped up in class or in feedback on a writing task. I probably wouldn't risk doing a live off-the-cuff search as a first demo (in case it turns out to be messy and more confusing than helpful), instead I'll trial it at home first and if it's looking good, I'll repeat it in class. Patterns following a particular word (following prepositions or verb forms) work particularly well as they show up really clearly on screen (search for the key word then sort right and the patterns appear as if by magic!). Nowadays, I tend to use the BAWE corpus, made up of student writing, because it's the most relevant to what my students are aiming to produce. I know it's available on various platforms, but I access it via Sketch Engine: https://the.sketchengine.co.uk/open/ 

Whenever I use a tool or website in class, I put the link and some basic instructions on Blackboard (the university's online platform on which each class has its own space), so that students can follow up for themselves if they want. I'd love to experiment with other things, but on an intensive course there are so many competing priorities and things to fit in, I'm just pleased with whatever I can squeeze in and even more happy when it turns out to be just the thing to pique some students' interest.

Sorry I won't be able to join in on Monday, but I'll look forward to catching up on all your tips and links after the event ...

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Blogger abracadabra said...

Hi Julie,

Have you tried EnglishCentral yet? We've built some specific courses around the Academic word list but are essentially a "spoken video corpus' where you can search for words or pull up phrases/idioms and see clip list examples in content. Teachers get to track student vocab. learning and quizzing.... I'll try to attend Monday's chat but wanted to get you to take a look at EnglishCentral. TGIF.


6:54 pm  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Thanks, David. I'll check it out.

8:56 pm  

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