What is MoPad?
MoPad is a public pad in which users can collaboratively write a document. What is great about this technology is the fact that the text is synchronized as you type. Therefore, everyone who collaboratively work in this document can view the progress of the text at any time throughout the whole procedure.
Before starting typing, each of the users is able to write his name and chose a colour for his/her text in order to distinguish between who is writing what. Mopad allows some basic modifications of the text. You can choose between different styles of text such as bold, italics, underline your text or change its size, It also gives the ability to toggle bullet lists which can be proved very helpful depending on the nature of the text you want to produce. However, the most important of the features that MoPad incorporates is the ability to export the constructed text into different file formats. For instance, depending on your needs it can export the pad into HTML, Microsoft word file, PDF, OpenDocument, Bookmark File as well as a plain text. In addition, it enables with the help of a time slider to monitor the progress of the text from the beginning to the end. Last but not least, a chat box exists, which users who co-construct the text can communicate without affecting the actual text.
Due to the nature of this tool, I will try to highlight situations where MoPad could possibly be used both inside and outside an English language classroom. To begin with, MoPad's ability to enhance collaboration in order to work towards a specific goal, makes this tool great for teachers who enjoy a TBL approach to their lessons. I will try to propose an example of TBL activity in order to see how and where MoPads fits into TBL.
Context: Last week our class went to the local theatre to watch 'As you like it' which is a Shakespearean play. This particular adaptation of the classic play has sparked a lot of controversy due to its revolutionised approach on a number of themes. Your job is to produce a review of the play for people who will want to watch this play in the future.
Materials: Stationery, MoPad
Group Size: Any (divide into working groups of 4)
Level: above B1
- Learners silently recall the key features that make this play controversial.
- They share, compare, negotiate, their ideas which had the larger impact on the play.
- They decide which concepts/themes are the most important to be included in the review (up to four)
- Learners use their devices (laptop/tablet/mobile phone) to create a new public pad with the help of MoPad.
- Through the built-in chat box, they decide who is going to write what in order to deliver the review. Every review should include an introduction, 2-3 critically expressed opinion on the play's themes and some closing thoughts)
- Learners co-construct the review
- The groups are divided into pairs in which half of the students present their review and the other half listen to another pair presenting their work.
- Then the two pairs are engaged into a conversation and critically comment on each other views about the play.
- Then the presenters become the listeners and vice versa.
Linking MoPad with research into ELT
In the above example, I tried to present a situation in which MoPad fulfils a very specific role in a TBL activity. Learners are engaged into collaborative writing activity in which they need to construct a piece of writing in groups. Generally collaborative work is considered to be essential in an English language classroom. This type of pair/group work is promoted by Vygotsky's (1978 in Shehadeh 2011) social constructivist approach in learning which expresses the idea that activities which promote social interaction are connected to human development.
Shahadeh in his study (2011) about the effects of collaborative writing found learners who engaged in this type of collaborative writing produced superior texts but also their content organization and vocabulary competence will increase.
However, collaborative writing is not an activity which was inconceivable in the past. In other words, this type of activity can be present in a task even without the use of MoPad. As a result, someone might suggest that the benefits of this technology might not be enough to cover the disadvantages of using technology in the classroom, I believe that this is not true for this particular technology. I believe that this technology not only can substitute the traditional method but also the functional benefits are of great importance in the activity's outcome. Learners can see the text's progress at any time; communicate and make suggestions relevant to the text without having to move around and lose time from the actual task. Therefore, according to Hockley's SAMR model, this activity along with this technology belong to the category of augmentation.
LimitationsIt can be said that during the writing process if learners had to use pen and paper, because of the absence of the chat box that MoPad has, the only way to communicate would be to speak. Therefore, this phase might have generated some language use, which would probably be relevant to the task. For example, vocabulary relevant to reviews, theatrical plays etc. As a result, learners will miss this opportunity to practise their speaking skills even though the focus of the activity is on writing.
One of the disadvantages which appears throughout the ICT tools which involves writing is the presence of a spellchecker. Similar to other pieces of software which can be used to produce a document, misspelled words will appear highlighted. As a result, learners by right-clicking the misspelled words can find the correct spelling. I strongly believe that this tools can only hide the learners' difficulties. Therefore, no learning happens during this process and learners spelling skills will not progress.
References:Shehadeh, A. (2011). Effects and student perceptions of collaborative writing in L2. Journal of Second Language Writing, 20(4), 286–305. doi:10.1016/j.jslw.2011.05.010
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Mind in Society The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Vol. Mind in So, p. 159). doi:10.1007/978-3-540-92784-6