Flickr for “Low Level” EFL Students
A co-worker made a comment recently discouraging the use of Web 2.0 internet applications for our “low level” EFL students, arguing that their ability to even grasp the basics of English was too low to even bother trying. While this argument could be made for the use of weblogs, I think a photo sharing application like Flickr is ideal for beginning and lower level students.
Students can begin by constructing their own galleries and profiles, while adding short descriptions and ‘notes’ to their own photos. This can be coupled with tag searches for themes of interest, followed by building a contact list and making simple comments on interesting photos. It doesn’t take a linguistic expert to carry out these tasks, and they are fun to do, too.
Many of our lower level EFL students have already had six years of English study, but have retained little, due more so, in my opinion, to their lack of interest in learning the language rather than a cognitive handicap. Furthermore, they are required to take another year or so at the university level if they want a degree. Placing them in a Web 2.0 environment and showing them how to use its tools to meet people and express themselves, is far more likely to motivate them to want to learn further than sitting in a traditional classroom with their peers doing pair work - they’ve already been exposed to that and it has obviously failed to do the trick.
Imagine Kenji, a typical low level learner at our school: he doesn’t want to learn English because it has no relevance to him and his worldview. He does, though, like Japanese hip-hop and old American cars, particularly candy paint Chevy Impalas from the 60s. He dreams of owning one someday. In the meantime, he works at a local convenience store and spends his money on stylish clothes. In his dreaded ‘required EFL class’, his teacher introduces him to Flickr, and actually encourages him to take pictures of cool cars and trendy clothes with his cell phone, and construct a gallery of images. “Sweet” he thinks to himself, “Thank God I don’t have to spend all that time looking at some stupid textbook.” He happily goes about taking photos and uploading them - painless.
Suddenly he receives a comment from a guy named, Jose, in Miami, who owns several lowriders, including a ‘64 Impala with hydrolics and stainless steel rims. Kenji follows the link to Jose’s gallery and is blown away at his taste in cars and fashion. Having a contact in Miami would be an good source of new information, not to mention something cool to tell his friends. Kenji quickly grabs an English-Japanese dictionary to try and decipher Jose’s message. The journey begins….
How likely is a traditional classroom environment to tap into Kenji’s intrisic interests this way? Is it really a waste of time to introduce “low level” students to the Web 2.0? Why bother?