TBLT & CALL: challenges and obstacles in ELT

An introduction to computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and task-based language teaching (TBLT) for student teachers in our Masters in Teaching English programme at the University of Nice. I’ve linked to a number of examples of CALL projects and classroom technology use, as well as references to other resource sites and a short annotated bibliography. Feedback welcome!

Technology-mediated CALL in your classroom

Story Slam

Moth story

an example of a technology-mediated task: storytelling with second year students of English, Media & Communication.

  • the teacher prepares introductory lesson using a Moth story with transcript prepared on storyscribe
  • students talk in class, record on smartphones, then upload a recording to SoundCloud
  • the teacher creates a Google Form to collect SoundCloud links (see also Form tips here)
  • the teacher creates a generic message on gmail for individual feedback
  • the teacher makes a webpage for general feedback including resources for further study (WordPress, Google sites or Weebly)

NB: play safe (learner/parental authorisation) and play fair (copyright/creative commons). Voir également cette présentation en 180 secondes en français.

Technology-mediated CALL to connect classrooms

Who’s who? task

Primary EFL class exchange (France-Germany)

The French primary class makes a set of video selfies to send to a partner class in Germany, using English as a lingua franca. The German class does the same, and each class watches their partners’ videos to identify the pupils in a group photo.


  • Tablet technology: to make and share their video selfies, the learners used the iPad camera
  • Online sharing: for exchanging videos, the teachers used Google Drive and Gmail.
  • Classroom exploitation: to watch the videos, the teachers used
      • iPads
      • a laptop computer (with projector)
      • an IWB.
  • Video-stimulated recall: to facilitate discussion of classroom activities, the teacher educator used
    • camera, microphone, tripod
    • iMovie video editing application
    • Vimeo video sharing platform (http://vimeo.com).

Technology for professional development

Peer filming in task-based language teacher education

This activity was designed for first year students in our Masters in Teaching English programme at the University of Nice. It involves peer filming, where student teachers watch each other teach an activity in a secondary school EFL class and make video recordings using their smartphones. They then select an episode for discussion in their university class, and write up their analysis in a reflective paper.

Going further

Digital tools for the language classroom

iTILT mini-guides to technology for language teachers

  • digital resources
  • digital tools
  • digital networks

12 tools plus 1: Basic tools for language education

Going open with LangOER: advice for using and sharing open educational resources

ViLTE project

Task-based language teaching

Musicuentos Black Box video series (YouTube) – a set of presentations explaining classroom implications of second language research

PPP or TBLT? (slideshare) – explaining the difference between presentation-practice-production (PPP) and task-based language teaching (TBLT)

Language educators in ELT

EFL Classroom 2.0 (D Deubelbeiss)

TESOL teaching and learning website (P Chappell)


1. Goals for language education

    • Kramsch, C. (2018). Is there still a place for culture in a multilingual FL education? Langscape Journal, 1. doi 10.18452/19039

A recent discussion of critical approaches to foreign language education tackling intercultural and symbolic competence and multilingual practices, including criticism of stereotypical attitudes to FL culture in textbooks. Read some extracts here.

    • Unsworth, S., Persson, L., Prins, T., & De Bot, K. 2014, An investigation of factors affecting early foreign language learning in the Netherlands. Applied Linguistics.

Research on young and very young learners of English in the Netherlands (summary)

    • Whyte, S. (2016). Who are the specialists? Teaching and learning specialised language in French educational contexts. Recherches et pratiques pédagogiques en langue de spécialité, 35(3) [link]

Modern foreign languages, second language research and languages for specific purposes: what are the intersections and what does this mean for language teaching and learning?

    • Whyte, S. (2014). Digital pencil sharpening: technology integration and language learning autonomy. EL.LE, 3(1): 31-53. Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia. [PDF]

This article discusses pedagogical goals in language education and gives suggestions for how teachers can create conditions for language acquisition to occur using classroom technologies.

2. Language teacher education

    • Bland, J. (Ed.). (2015). Teaching English to young learners: critical issues in language teaching with 3-12 year olds. London: Bloomsbury.

A collective volume on ELT with younger learners focusing on research and practice in key areas of language education.

    • Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.) (2014). Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use. A resource book for teacher development. London: Bloomsbury.

This book offers a collection of classroom case studies showing how different language teachers integrated the interactive whiteboard into communicative approaches in a variety of contexts (ages, languages, proficiency levels).

    • Edwards, C., & Willis, J. R. (Eds.). (2005). Teachers exploring tasks in English language teaching. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

A collection of action/exploratory research projects conducted by graduate students in language education to address questions and problems arising in their own teaching contexts. A good source for replication for student-teachers new to classroom research.

    • Whyte, S. (2015). Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching: The Case of Interactive Whiteboards for EFL in French Schools. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

A study of 9 French EFL teachers (4 primary, 2 lower secondary, 2 upper secondary, and 1 teacher educator) learning to integrate interactive technologies in their classrooms through an extended collaborative action research project. It seeks to explain differences in uptake of new pedagogical and technological affordances.

3. Task-based language teaching

Compare these two articles:

    • Anderson, J. (2016). ‘Why practice makes perfect sense: The past, present and future potential of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education’. ELTED, 19: 14-21.
    • Ellis, R. (2013). Task-based language teaching: Responding to the critics. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 8(1), 1-27.

See also

    • Erlam, R. (2015). ‘I’m still not sure what a task is’: Teachers designing language tasks. Language Teaching Research.
    • Erlam, R. (2013). Listing and comparing tasks in the language classroom: Examples of Willis and Willis’s (2007) taxonomy in practice. The New Zealand Language Teacher, 39,7-14.

The Moth story slam: le numérique et l’apprentissage par tâches pour communiquer en anglais

Journée Parlons pédagogie à l’université
UNS, 6 novembre 2018

The Moth story slam: le numérique et l’apprentissage par tâches pour communiquer en anglais

Pour améliorer les presentations à l’oral des étudiants il est important de trouver une motivation pour communiquer et d’assurer une correction ciblée pour chacun. Le format “story slam” permet aux étudiants de raconter une histoire personnelle sur un thème commun devant un public et un jury de leurs pairs. Ils s’enregistrent avec leur smartphone et partagent leur fichier audio avec l’enseignant sur une plateforme de distribution audio pour un retour personnalisé (lexique, grammaire, phonologie)

How do you like your syllabus – synthetic or analytical?

This post takes a look back to the early days of task-based language teaching (TBLT) to consider how and why tasks-based approaches differ from the traditional – synthetic – grammatical syllabus. The references are to a 1992 article in TESOL Quarterly by Long and Crookes.

Summary of synthetic versus analytical syllabuses

The first distinguishing feature of TBLT syllabuses is that

their rationale derives from what is known about human learning in general and/or second language learning in particular rather than, as is the case with lexical, structural, notional, functional, and relational syllabuses, primarily from an analysis of language or language use

Secondly, task-based syllabuses
reject linguistic elements (such as word, structure, notion, or function) as the unit of analysis and opt instead for some conception of task
Long and Crookes consider Wilkins’ (1976) synthetic versus analytical syllabus dichotomy, and suggest the two perspectives are better seen as points on a continuum rather than in binary opposition.
Here is Wilkins’ original distinction revisited by Long and Crookes:

Synthetic syllabuses segment the target language into discrete linguistic items for presentation one at a time:

Different parts of language are taught separately and step by step so that acquisition is a process of gradual accumulation of parts until the whole structure of language has been built up. . . . At any one time the learner is being exposed to a deliberately limited sample of language. (Wilkins, 1976,p. 2)

Synthetic, that is, refers to the learner’s role:

The learner’s task is to re-synthesize the language that has been broken down into a large number of small pieces with the aim of making his [sic] learning task easier. (Wilkins, 1976, p. 2)

The synthetic syllabus relies on learners’ assumed ability to learn a language in parts (e.g., structures and functions) which are independent of one another, and also to integrate, or synthesize, the pieces when the time comes to use them for communicative purposes. Lexical, structural, notional, and functional syllabuses are synthetic.

In contrast

Analytic syllabuses offer the learner target language samples which, while they may have been modified in other ways, have not been controlled for structure or lexis in the traditional manner. Users maintain that

prior analysis of the total language system into a set of discrete pieces of language that is a necessary precondition for the adoption of a synthetic approach is largely superfluous. . . . Analytic approaches . . . are organised in terms of the purposes for which people are learning language and the kinds of language performance that are necessary to meet those purposes. (Wilkins, 1976, p. 13)

Analytic, that is, again refers not to what the syllabus designer does, but to the operations required of the learner. Wilkins (1976) writes:

since we are inviting the learner, directly or indirectly, to recognize the linguistic components of the language behavior he [sic] is acquiring, we are in effect basing our approach on the learner’s analytic capabilities.
(p. 14)

Updating Wilkins’ definition a little, analytic syllabuses are those which present the target language whole chunks at a time, without linguistic interference or control. They rely on (a) the learners’ assumed ability to perceive regularities in the input and to induce rules (or to form new neural networks underlying what looks like rule-governed behavior), and/or (b) the continued availability to learners of innate knowledge of linguistic universals and the ways language can vary, knowledge which can be reactivated by exposure to natural samples of the L2. Procedural, process, and task syllabuses are all examples of the analytic syllabus type.

Crookes and Long go on to compare Wilkins’ synthetic/analytic distinction with a similar contrast described by R.V. White (1988) who uses the labels Type A and Type B. (As in Friedman and Rosenman’s (1959) study of personality, Type A is the one to avoid, though perhaps not as a harbinger of coronary heart disease.)

Type A syllabuses focus on what is to be learned: the L2. They are interventionist. Someone preselects and predigests the language to be taught, dividing it up into small pieces, and determining learning objectives in advance of any consideration of who the learners may be or of how languages are learned. Type A syllabuses, White points out, are thus external to the learner, other-directed, determined by authority, set the teacher as decision maker, treat the subject matter of instruction as important, and assess success and failure in terms of achievement or mastery.

Compare Type B:
Type B syllabuses, on the other hand, focus on how the language is to be learned. They are noninterventionist. They involve no artificial preselection or arrangement of items and allow objectives to be determined by a process of negotiation between teacher and learners after they meet, as a course evolves. They are thus internal to the learner, negotiated between learners and teacher as joint decision makers, emphasize the process of learning rather than the subject matter, and assess accomplishment in relationship to learners’ criteria for success.
Long and Crookes go on to situate TBLT in the analytic/Type B purview. To clear the way for this (then) new approach, they attack the traditional, synthetic/Type A syllabus. These traditional syllabuses are flawed, they claim, because
  • they lack authenticity; some purport to be task-based but
    • “seed dialogues and texts with the linguistic items of the day”
    • use tasks as “carriers” for traditional syllabus items to “elicit particular structures”
  • they assume a model of language acquisition unsupported by research findings on language learning in or out of classrooms […] research shows that people do not learn isolated items in the L2 one at a time, in additive, linear fashion, but as parts of complex mappings of groups of form-function relationships
  • attempt to elicit immediate targetlike mastery of those forms. Where syntax is concerned, research has demonstrated that learners rarely, if ever, move from zero to targetlike mastery of new items in one step.
  • the analysis is conducted on an idealized native-speaker version of that language. SLA research offers no evidence to suggest that nativelike exemplars of any of these synthetic units are meaningful acquisition units that they are (or even can be) acquired separately, singly, in linear fashion, or that they can be learned prior to and separate from language use.
And Long and Crookes conclude their argument thus:

SLA is sufficiently difficult that most learners’ attempts end in at least partial failure. Whatever the relative merits of one unit compared to another, therefore, the psychological processes involved in learning would seem to have priority over arguments concerning alternative ways of analysing the ideal, but rarely attained, product. While it also involves the acquisition of social and cultural knowledge, language learning is a psycholinguistic process, not a linguistic one, yet synthetic syllabuses consistently leave the learner out of the equation.


We see that Long and Crookes follow Wilkins in taking the learner perspective. In a synthetic syllabus, the work of analysing the target language has been taken care of by teachers and/or materials writers. It is used to identify and sequence discrete language elements which the learners are then responsible for putting back together in L2 communication.
Put like this, the synthetic syllabus does seem to foreground structured input to the learner at the expense of support for language production in meaningful contexts. It begs the question why linguistic input needs to be deconstructed in this manner at all. Or as Cobb (2006) suggests, if such ‘grappling’ is called for, let it be the learner who grapples (Whyte, 2015: 16)

Communicative and task-based methodologies […] owe more to constructivist learning theory. In this view, grammatical analysis is at least partially the responsibility of the learner. Constructivist linguist Thomas Cobb claims that

learning is more effective when it is the learner who reflects on the language and struggles to formulate rules, rather than the teacher: representations constructed from grappling with raw data, as opposed to representations resulting from someone else’s having grappled, are not just generally ‘better’ in some vague way but specifically are more successfully transferred to novel contexts and form a better preparation for further independent learning. (Cobb, 2006)

With an analytical syllabus, such prior linguistic analysis by teachers or materials writers is considered “largely superfluous” (Wilkins 1976: 13) since language learning is viewed as a product (or indeed process) of at least partially subconscious recognition of chunks and patterns in comprehensible target language input. (The article is of its time in its reference to Chomsky’s universal grammar (see Cook & Newson 2007) and Krashen’s (1982, 1985) input hypothesis.) As noted above, this approach is so different from the synthetic syllabus that writers and teachers find it hard to abandon structural principles and instead disguise them with a patina of task-based terminology.
If we take a teacher perspective, we can see the attraction of the synthetic syllabus. It provides information about linguistic elements and structures, which learners often expect and want, and teachers sometimes struggle to provide (third conditional? middle voice? secondary stress?). It also gives structure to a lesson or a course without going to all the trouble of conducting needs analysis (particular in school contexts where students are numerous and their needs often nebulous).
While the natural approach of the early days of CLT seemed at first to free teachers from the structuralist yoke, the analytical syllabus represented by task-based approaches brings its own set of difficulties. Not least among them is understanding the difference between tasks and pedagogical exercises. Adopting a task-based approach is also difficult in educational contexts organised on synthetic principles: can Type B teachers flourish in a Type A world?
I leave it to the reader to decide; in the meantime, Long and Crookes (1992) may be worth revisiting.


  • Cobb, T. (2006). Constructivism. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics.

    Cook, V., & Newson, M. (2007). Chomsky’s universal grammar. New York: Wiley.

  • Friedman, M. & Rosenman, R. (1959). Association of specific overt behaviour pattern with blood and cardiovascular findings. Journal of the American Medical Association. 169: 1286–1296. doi:10.1001/jama.1959.03000290012005.
  • Krashen, S. D. (1985). The input hypothesis. London: Longman.
  • Krashen, S. D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
  • Long, M. H., & Crookes, G. (1992). Three approaches to task‐based syllabus design. TESOL Quarterly, 26(1), 27-56. PDF
  • White, R. V. (1988). The ELT curriculum. Design, innovation and management. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • Whyte, S. (2015). Implementing and researching technological innovation in language teaching: the case of interactive whiteboards for EFL in French schools. Palgrave.
  • Wilkins, D. A. (1976). Notional syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

An audio-visual corpus of technology-mediated classroom language teaching: two CALL OER projects

Teaching and Language Corpora (TaLC) Conference
University of Cambridge, 18-21 July 2018

An audio-visual corpus of technology-mediated classroom language teaching: creating an open repository for CALL teacher education


Historically, corpora have often been developed with an eye on practical applications, and as Boulton and Tyne (2014: 301) remind us, “in many cases, these applications were pedagogical in nature.” Cheng (2010) detects a shift in recent years from teaching to learning, with more attention given to tools and training for teachers to support learner use of corpora via data-driven learning. This goal of encouraging greater learner autonomy is mirrored in teacher education in what Farr (2010a: 621) calls “a cocoon of post-transmissive and post-directive approaches” which favour “independent and self-directed learning, and critical and reflective engagement.” A useful tool for teacher education in this respect is offered by teaching corpora, which O’Keefe, McCarthy and Carter (2007: 220) view as a unique application of corpus linguistics, since they focus not on “what we can learn about language use from a corpus” but rather on “what corpora can tell us about our own teaching.”

O’Keeffe and colleagues have used transcriptions from audio-visual teaching corpora to raise language awareness (O’Keeffe & Farr, 2003; O’Keeffe & Walsh 2012) and to support pedagogical development among trainee teachers (Farr 2010a, 2010b), using both discourse analysis and conversation analysis frameworks. Research in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) research has also investigated teacher corpora, using multimodal corpora to explore the semiotic dimensions of online language teaching, such as multimodal interactions via webcam (Cohen & Guichon 2016; Guichon & Wigham 2016; Holt, Tellier & Guichon, 2015). To date, however, little research has considered video corpora in CALL teacher education.

Our research in this area is built on two funded European projects supporting language teacher integration of classroom technologies. A first project collected short video clips of actual classroom practice with interactive technologies in a range of target languages at different age/proficiency levels. These practice examples were tagged for a variety of language, pedagogical, and technological features to create a searchable open repository for teacher education (Whyte, Cutrim Schmid, van Hazebrouck Thompson & Oberhofer 2014). A follow-up project was designed to address techno-pedagogical concerns identified in the first corpus (Whyte 2015), this time adopting a specific pedagogical approach (task-based language teaching; TBLT), a wider range of technologies (mobile devices and videoconferencing), and longer videos showing edited teaching sequences.

This presentation analyses this second teaching corpus, ITILT 2, constituted by 117 video examples of learning activities prepared by 28 pre- and in-service teachers in 15 schools and universities in 5 European countries. The poster shows the background to the project and an overview of the teaching corpus created. The videos are analysed in comparison with the original corpus in terms of language, pedagogical, and technological features, as well as with respect to the new dimension (TBLT sequences). Secondary data on teachers and learner perspectives provides additional insight on this open learning project and the opportunities for teacher development afforded by this kind of teaching corpus.

Poster presentation

Background: ITILT 1 and ITILT 2, teacher education in classroom technologies

ITILT  2 data: fewer practice examples, languages, (more young beginners) in second project. 76 videos from 31 tasks by 23 teachers of 4 languages in 5 countries at 3 educational levels.

First project findings: the effect of IWB on interactivity, learner engagement in interaction, and task-oriented teaching was somewhat limited.

ITILT 2: there was more group work compared to teacher-fronted activities, technologies were used for learner action rather than L2 input, and activities focused on listening and speaking rather than grammar or culture. More communicative activities as opposed to drill and display were presented, though display was still common with young learners.

Task-based language teaching: practice examples show more TBLT criteria were met, and no increase with proficiency.

Discussion: new corpus suggests mobile technologies allowed greater interactivity, interactional engagement and task orientation across languages and educational levels. Practice examples included activities without technology and some gratuitous uses. IWB coding system adapted to mobile devices.

Previous work

ITILT open educational resources: http://www.itilt2.eu


Boulton, A., & Tyne, H. (2014). Corpus-based study of language and teacher education. The Routledge handbook of educational linguistics, 301-312.
Cheng, W. (2010). What can a corpus tell us about language teaching. The Routledge handbook of corpus linguistics, 319-332.
Cohen, C., & Guichon, N. (2016). Analysing multimodal resources in pedagogical online exchanges. Language-Learner Computer Interactions: Theory, methodology and CALL applications, 2, 187.
Farr, F. (2010a). How can corpora be used in teacher education. Routledge Handbook of Corpus Linguistics, London and New York: Routledge, 620-632.
Farr, F. (2010b). The discourse of teaching practice feedback: A corpus-based investigation of spoken and written modes. Routledge.
Guichon, N., & Wigham, C. R. (2016). A semiotic perspective on webconferencing-supported language teaching. ReCALL, 28(1), 62-82.
Holt, B., Tellier, M., & Guichon, N. (2015). The use of teaching gestures in an online multimodal environment: the case of incomprehension sequences. In Gesture and Speech in Interaction 4th Edition.
ITILT, Interactive Teaching in Languages with Technology, http://itilt2.eu
O’Keeffe, A., & Farr, F. (2003). Using language corpora in initial teacher education: Pedagogic issues and practical applications. Tesol Quarterly, 37(3), 389-418.
O’Keeffe, A., McCarthy, M., & Carter, R. (2007). From corpus to classroom: Language use and language teaching. Cambridge University Press.
O’Keeffe, A., & Walsh, S. (2012). Applying corpus linguistics and conversation analysis in the investigation of small group teaching in higher education. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 8(1), 159-181.
Whyte, S. (2015). Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching: The Case of Interactive Whiteboards for EFL in French Schools. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan

Whyte, S., & Alexander, J. (2014). Implementing tasks with interactive technologies in classroom CALL: towards a developmental framework. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 40 (1), 1-26. PDF

Whyte, S., Beauchamp, G., & Alexander, J. (2014). Researching interactive whiteboard use from primary school to university settings across Europe: an analytical framework for foreign language teaching. University of Wales Journal of Education, 17, 30-52. [link]

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., & Beauchamp, G. (2014). Second language interaction with interactive technologies: the IWB in state school foreign language classrooms. AILA, Brisbane.
Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck, S., & Oberhofer, M. (2014). Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27 (2), 122-148 doi: 10.1080/09588221.2013.818558


Teacher education and language corpora
Developing resources for language learning and teaching

Peer filming in task-based language teacher education

This is a series of three short videos on the topic of peer filming in language teacher education. They were made in connection with the Video in Language Teacher Education (ViLTE) project at Warwick University which showcases different uses of this medium to support new teachers of English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL).

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

My contribution is based on an activity I designed for first year students in our Masters in Teaching English programme at the University of Nice. It involves peer filming, where student teachers watch each other teach an activity in a secondary school EFL class and make video recordings using their smartphones. They then select an episode for discussion in their university class, and write up their analysis in a reflective paper.

Part 1: background to peer filming in language teacher education

Here I look at three types of teacher education: one of my first experiences, which involved temporary EFL instructors in our English department; a second primary school initiative on video-conferencing in tandem exchanges; and two European projects where we used short video clips to illustrate different types of technology integration in the language classroom. This provides some background on video-stimulated recall and peer observation/discussion, both techniques which proved helpful in overcoming difficulties these teachers experienced in making pedagogical changes.

Whyte, S. (2011). Learning to teach with videoconferencing in primary foreign language classrooms. ReCALL 23(3): 271–293. doi.org/10.1017/S0958344011000188

Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (2014). A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB: a French-German primary EFL class exchange. In Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.) Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use. London: Bloomsbury.

Whyte, S. (2015). Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching: The Case of Interactive Whiteboards for EFL in French Schools. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Part 2:  Peer filming in the secondary EFL classroom in France

Building on the background of task-based language teaching (TBLT), video-stimulated recall (VSR), and peer discussion described in the previous film, here we show the advantages of peer filming in bridging the gap between school and university during the school placements organised for our Masters in Teaching English students at the University of Nice (UNS). This video sets out the five steps involved in peer filming, where the students

  1. design tasks in groups
  2. teach and observe the activity in school
  3. film the activity on their smartphones
  4. share critical incidents at university
  5. write a reflective paper on the experience

In the film we discuss

  • the example of a driving instructor task designed for lower secondary EFL,
  • excerpts from class activities filmed on students’ phones, and
  • feedback from a student teacher who is now a practising teacher. We end with some practical advice for implementing this procedure in initial teacher education, and a link to the next video which offers two possibilities for exploiting peer films for teacher development.

Whyte, S. (2015). Taking to task(s): Exploring task design by novice language teachers in technology-mediated and non-technological activities. XVII International CALL research conference proceedings, 30-36.

Part 3: Design briefs and critical incidents: preparing tasks and exploiting peer films

This video builds on the three main stages of peer filming: a) the use of a design brief to create classroom tasks, b) the recording of a ‘quick and dirty’ record of the activity in progress, and c) the discussion of critical incidents to consolidate student teacher learning from the process. It then focuses on the first and last dimensions by presenting two frameworks for discussing peer films with student teachers. The first involves criteria for assessing language tasks from a TBLT perspective (Erlam 2013, 2015), while the second takes a more inclusive perspective, focusing on critical incidents (Breen et al 2001). We conclude with some recommendations for this aspect of peer filming in language teacher education.

Breen, M. P., Hird, B., Milton, M., Oliver, R., & Thwaite, A. (2001). Making sense of language teaching: Teachers’ principles and classroom practices. Applied linguistics, 22(4), 470-501.

Erlam, R. (2015). ‘I’m still not sure what a task is’: Teachers designing language tasks. Language Teaching Research.

Erlam, R. (2013). Listing and comparing tasks in the language classroom: Examples of Willis and Willis’s (2007) taxonomy in practice. The New Zealand Language Teacher, 39,7-14.

Samuda, V. 2005. Expertise in second language pedagogic task design. In Johnson, K. Expertise in language teaching. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Whyte, S. (2015). Taking to task(s): Exploring task design by novice language teachers in technology-mediated and non-technological activities. XVII International CALL research conference proceedings, 30-36.

Overview texts

1 Background
2 Peer Film
3 Design Briefs and Critical Incidents


ViLT resources

Mackay, J. (2018). IATEFL conference presentation on ViLTE project by Steve Mann

ViLTE project seminar, February 2018

ViLT YouTube channel


Is task-based language teaching just a variation on presentation-practice-production?

Many language teachers are interested in the question of what makes a task a task. Pre-service teachers are often under pressure to conform to some see as the hegemony of task-based language teaching (TBLT) which they feel is imposed on teachers by the Common European Reference framework (CER). They want to know whether their textbook which claim to follow CER principles offer genuinely task-based teaching activities. Or they wonder how the demands of “authentic” language use associated with TBLT can be squared with the seemingly artificial language used in the foreign language classroom where everyone shares a native language.

Teacher educators, too, struggle with strong versions of a task-based approach, as opposed to weaker, task-supported incarnations, which often seem to overlap with the production phase of the PPP approach, where structures are Presented and Practiced with the teacher before learners are encourage to Produce their own contributions. Does this seem a reasonable compromise, or does it mean abandoning the principles of TBLT?

In the slides above I summarise two articles, one by Jason Anderson in defence of PPP, and another by Rod Ellis, one of the main proponents of TBLT. Anderson argues that PPP has admirably stood the test of time and is suited to a wider range of teaching contexts than TBLT. Ellis, on the other hand, defends TBLT against a number of misconceptions about this approach, and to my mind invalidates many of Anderson’s points. My own view is that TBLT is quite different from PPP, and that there are good reasons, related to how languages are learned, to favour TBLT (see Jordan for instance).

Update January 2019: For further critiques of PPP see also How do you like your syllabus? and posts by other ELT teachers and trainers Geoff Jordan Does PPP really make perfect sense? and Neil McMillan Why PPP is a political issue.


Anderson, J. (2016). Why practice makes perfect sense: the past, present and potential future of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education. Practice, 19.

Ellis, R. (2013). Task-based language teaching: Responding to the critics. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 8(1), 1-27.

Jordan, G. (2018). Does PPP really make perfect sense? applingtesol.wordpress.com

McMillan, N. (2019). Why PPP is a political issue. animalisingelt.wordpress.com

Teaching languages with technology: 2 reviews

9781623569334Two reviews of our edited volume on communicative language teaching with the interactive whiteboard (IWB):

Davidson Devall, K. (2015). Review of the book Teaching Languages with Technology: Communicative Approaches to Whiteboard Use. The Modern Language Journal, 99(4).

Guichon, N., & Merlet, E. (2016). Critique : Teaching Languages with Technology: Communicative Approaches to Whiteboard Use. Canadian Modern Language Review / Revue Canadienne des Langues Vivantes, 72, 1, 284–286 doi:10.3138/cmlr.72.1.284

Preview on Google Books

These reviews focus on different aspects of this collection of case studies from the iTILT project on the integration of the IWB in classroom foreign language teaching. Both pick up on Colpaert’s reminder in his foreword to the book that technology is only one aspect of the learning environment, and go on to highlight the pedagogical dimension of technology integration, and from there to teacher education concerns. Davidson Devall sees the potential of the volume to inform action research in IWB-supported language teaching, and for language teacher education with technologies other than the IWB, while Guichon and Merlet underline the importance of progressive appropriation of the technological and pedagogical affordances of digital tools.

This post offers some short quotations from each review, followed by a summary of some of our recommendations for teacher development given in the final chapter of the book.

Davidson Devall (2015)

This review in the Modern Language Journal considers its implications for teacher education “even in contexts different from those in the book,” that is, beyond the primary school classroom which is the focus of several chapters, and beyond the IWB itself.

As Colpaert states in his Foreword, “What makes IWBs [interactive whiteboards] very interesting is their unique position in the technological spectrum: on the one hand they feature a specific set of limitations and affordances, but on the other hand they easily fit within many learning environments as one piece of the puzzle” (p. xii). The editors of this volume seek to encourage further research and material development efforts for the interactive whiteboard by presenting specific applications and opening a dialogue for discovery learning amongst instructors and students.
As evident from the title, the book is intended for teacher education and development. The overview of the development of technology- enhanced language learning as well as pre- and post-reading reflective questions for each chapter provide excellent support for implementation in a pedagogical methods course.
the criteria for designing materials structured by Cutrim Schmid and Whyte could be helpful for use with other interactive technologies as they touch on “methodological principles,” “pedagogical activities,” “learner engagement,” “tools and features,” and practical considerations” (pp. 245–248).


Guichon & Merlet (2016)

This review is in French and appears in the Canadian Modern Language Review. It notes that the book aims to suggest avenues for pedagogical exploitation of the IWB based on research rather than simply promote this tool, and that one of the most interesting aspects of the volume lies in the recommendations in the final chapter for the training of teacher educators.

D’emblée, que ce soit par le biais de l’avant-propos de Jozef Colpaert qui déclare que « no technology, not even the [Interactive Whiteboard] , carries an inherent, direct, measurable and generalizable effect » (p. xii) ou dans l’introduction de Shona Whyte qui prend le soin d’ancrer la réflexion dans l’approche par tâches, le lecteur est assuré que l’objectif de cet ouvrage n’est pas de faire la promotion d’un outil, mais de proposer des pistes d’exploitation pédagogique d’une manière critique et informée par la recherche et les données empiriques.
L’un des aspects les plus intéressants de cet ouvrage est qu’il fournit des axes pour guider la formation de formateurs à l’utilisation du TNI dans la classe de langue (c’est d’ailleurs l’orientation du dernier chapitre). L’enseignant, dont le rôle primordial est rappelé, est invité à s’engager dans une réflexion pédagogique, cherchant à impliquer réellement ses apprenants dans les interactions. Est ainsi souligné avec acuité l’importance du processus de l’appropriation de l’outil qui ne peut se faire qu’en se donnant le temps de l’expérience et en mettant en place des projets de formation par étapes. Le processus de formation gagne à inclure des phases de réflexion, personnelle ou collective, à partir de pratiques de classe contextualisées et répondant aux besoins et à la réalité des enseignants désireux de s’approprier le TNI comme un nouvel élément de leur environnement et de leur répertoire pédagogiques.

Supporting teacher education for technology integration

In Chapter 8, our conclusion to this edited collection, we propose the following principles for teacher education.

Principles and guidelines for IWB-supported language teaching practice

In work on teacher professional development elsewhere, we suggest a number of principles for the design and implementation of IWB training (Cutrim Schmid & Schimmack, 2009; Cutrim Schmid & Whyte, 2012; Whyte et al., 2013). This section will review these recommendations in light of the findings presented in this book. The present volume includes studies of IWB teacher training courses in Belgium and Turkey, which revealed interesting aspects of the challenges and complexities involved in such endeavors. Other chapters have also dealt with this topic indirectly, since all studies contained an element of reflective practice, a component of continuing professional development in both informal and institutional settings.

Although most of these principles apply to the majority of technology professional development contexts, the examples given to exemplify the guidelines are drawn from IWB-based studies. This will help readers understand how these principles can be applied to their specific context. We suggest five key principles to inform the design and implementation of IWB training programmes.

4.1 Pedagogical framework based on theoretical foundation

IWB training programmes should have a sound theoretical basis and a clear pedagogical framework.

All chapters have emphasized the value of IWB professional development rooted in established language learning theory. From this perspective, the affordances of the technology with respect to teaching goals constitute the best starting point for an attempt to understand the potential of the IWB. The first question teachers should ask is not “What can I do with an IWB in my language lesson?” but rather “How can I use the IWB to support language learning?”

4.2 Contextually embedded professional development

IWB training programmes should focus on teachers’ immediate pedagogical needs and be embedded in the work teachers actually do.

In most chapters, the participating teachers reflected on IWB use that was embedded in their own practice. The pre-service teachers in chapters 3 (Kegenhof) and 4 (Sailer) worked in tandem with practicing teachers, but their reflection is based on the materials they developed and the lessons they designed and implemented in this collaborative context. This approach allowed teachers to experiment with ways the IWB could support and enhance teaching, thereby gaining a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of this technology.


4.3 Reflective practice

IWB training courses should create opportunities for teachers to reflect on their practice.

All studies presented in this book include an element of reflective practice, since participating teachers and teacher researchers were involved in critical reflection
through various means. The insightful discussions and recommendations provided by the participating teachers and teacher researchers in this volume underline the value of reflective practice as a powerful impetus for professional development, confirming much earlier work in this area (e.g. Mcniff, 1988; Bartlett, 1990; Wallace, 1998; Allwright &
Lenzuen, 1997).

4.4 Professional collaboration

IWB training courses should create opportunities to establish professional contacts and undertake collaborative projects.

Several chapters in this volume have dealt with the relationship between collaboration and professional development. Chapters 3 and 4 report on research projects within a larger professional development program for pre-service EFL teachers involving school-based research projects where pre-service teachers design, implement, and evaluate technology-enhanced EFL lessons in collaboration with in-service teachers (Cutrim Schmid & Hegelheimer, 2014). This type of professional collaboration has been widely recommended in the CALL literature to encourage the all-important integration of theoretical with procedural knowledge (e.g., Meskill et al., 2006).

4.5 Ongoing support for professional development

IWB teacher training courses should provide teachers with enough opportunities for gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience within their constraints of time and energy.

Although the majority of studies described in this volume do not have a longitudinal design, several authors emphasize the importance of providing teachers with the opportunity to construct knowledge gradually with the support of peers or trainers. In the area of materials design, we propose a list of 38 criteria for IWB-mediated teaching resources, organized in five main areas, which may be useful for teachers and trainers in developing and evaluating their own teaching materials.

Regarding classroom interaction, we suggest and illustrate a four-level interaction/interactivity framework which can inform the analysis of IWB-supported language teaching.

We believe that the language teacher plays a primordial role in effectively integrating IWB use in the language classroom, hence the priority given to high quality teacher education. Similarly, without attention to interactional opportunities both as these arise in instruction and through the careful planning of teaching materials, much effort devoted to IWB integration simply goes to waste. As Colpaert notes in his foreword,

“IWBs cannot generate a learning effect on their own, but they are indispensable cornerstones for creating powerful learning environments.”

We hope our contributions in this final chapter, together with the rich and varied classroom case studies in this volume, can inform and inspire language teachers throughout the world to make the most of this potential.



Allwright, D. and Lenzuen, R. (1997), ‘Exploratory practice: Work at the cultura inglesa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’, Language Teaching Research, 1, 73-79.

Bartlett, L. (1990), ‘Teacher development through reflective teaching’, in J.C. Richards and D. Nunan (eds.), Second Language Teacher Education. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cutrim Schmid, E. and Hegelheimer, V. (2014), ‘Collaborative research projects in the technology-enhanced language classroom: Pre-service and in-service teachers exchange knowledge about technology’. ReCALL, 26(03), 315-332

Cutrim Schmid, E. and Schimmack, E. (2010), ‘First Steps towards a model of interactive whiteboard training for language teachers’, in Thomas, M. and Cutrim Schmid, E. (eds.), Interactive Whiteboards: Theory, Research and Practice. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, pp. 197-214.

Cutrim Schmid, E., and Whyte, S. (2012), ‘Interactive whiteboards in state school settings: Teacher responses to socio-constructivist hegemonies’, Language Learning and Technology, 16, (2), 65-86.

McNiff, J. (1988), Action Research: Principles and Practice. London: Routledge.

Meskill, C., Anthony, N., Hilliker, S., Tseng, C. and You, J. (2006), ‘Expert-novice teacher mentoring in language learning technology’, in P. Hubbard and M. Levy (eds.), Teacher Education in CALL. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 283-298.

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck Thompson, S. and Oberhofer, M. (2013), ‘Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project’, Computer Assisted Language Learning, (ahead-of-print), 1-27.

Wallace, M. (1998), Action Research for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.