Transforming Teaching

This page is a supplement to Regine Hampel & Uschi Stickler's talk entitled Transforming Teaching: New Skills for Online Language Learning Spaces, delivered as part of the Symposium Enhancing Online Literacies at the AILA 2011 World Congress of Applied Linguistics in Beijing, China, 23-28 August 2011.

See other talks in the symposium: Digital Tools (Mark Pegrum) / Tutor Skills & Qualities in Blended Learning (Linda Martin) / Preparing our Students for the Intercultural Reality (Aline Germain-Rutherford) / Learn English or Die (Hayo Reinders & Sorada Wattana) / Transforming Teaching (Regine Hampel & Uschi Stickler)

--Abstract-- The use of online tools and spaces has transformed language learning and teaching and today a multitude of online spaces are available that have a potential for learning. These spaces are multimodal, multicultural and multilingual, and serve a number of purposes. They offer teachers an almost unmanageable choice (Stockwell, in press), ranging from purpose-built educational learning spaces to authentic environments such as virtual worlds and MMPOGs (massively multiplayer online games). To understand and select from what is on offer and subsequently transform these online spaces into coherent and usable learning spaces, teachers and course designers require a number of new literacy skills.

Teachers need to draw on existing skills or develop new skills to deal with learning in online environments. The following skills pyramid summarizes these:

(based on: Hampel & Stickler 2005)

The transformation of online spaces into online learning spaces requires an awareness of the affordances of different media and the intercultural dimensions of online materials. In addition, an ability is needed to exploit new tools for specific pedagogic purposes; evaluate and select available online materials and tools; adapt materials – if necessary – to the appropriate level and format; and exploit the offered materials and tasks for language learning.

Although young learners in particular often bring forms of new literacies to the classroom, they are unaware of how to exploit them in the context of language teaching (Thorne 2003). Teachers wanting to exploit new learning environments need to raise the learners’ awareness of existing skills and cultures-of-use and encourage them to accept the new environments as potential language learning spaces. Learners can transfer existing skills regarding language learning, collaboration and emotional intelligence and socio-affective skills.

Regine2C.pngSuccessful language learning in online environments needs skills on the part of learners and teachers that go beyond basic technical competence in terms of the awareness of the affordances of the media, the intercultural dimensions of materials, and an ability to select appropriate tools and materials and create tasks. In other words, participants in online language learning need at least 4 types of digital literacy: basic ICT literacy, multimodal literacy, linguistic and inter/-multicultural literacy, and remix literacy.

Benefits of language learning using new online spaces include:
  • Making learning relevant
  • Making learning real
  • Making learning interactive
  • Making learning multi-/intercultural
  • Making learning fun

However, successful use of online spaces necessitates the negotiation of content as well as tools, boundaries, new roles for teachers and learners, netiquette and privacy issues between teachers and students, students and students, and students and external informants.


  • Hampel, Regine & Ursula Stickler (2005). New Skills for new classrooms. Training tutors to teach languages online. In: CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) 18 (4). Pp. 311-326.
  • Stockwell, Glenn (ed.) (in press). Computer Assisted Language Learning: Diversity in Research & Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Thorne, Steven (2003). Artifacts and cultures-of-use in intercultural communication. In: Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 38-67.

The above text was composed by Regine Hampel & Uschi Stickler. It is hosted on the E-language resource wiki maintained by Mark Pegrum. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us with comments, suggestions or questions.