Review of the article:
Technology as an Assessment Tool in Language Learning
by Taher Bahrani
Bahrani (2011) advocates the use of technology as a means of assessing the language proficiency of EFL students. When used effectively, this alternative assessment gives students a chance to use what they have learned. He sees this as preferable to traditional paper-and-pen assessments, which fail to show what learners can do with the acquired language. This approach places emphasis on student creativity and self-assessment, which is not done in traditional testing.
Using technology for assessment requires three primary criteria: The method must be: 1) Authentic, 2) Valid, and 3) Reliable. Assessing in this way should also allow students to use their language skills as a whole, increase motivation, increase group work, and reduce the affective filter.
The author provides several technology-based activities which teachers can use for assessment of language learning: 1) Podcast, 2) Chat, 3) Mobile Phones, and 4) Recorded Interview and Role Play.
1. Podcasts. The author encourages the use of “websites which enable (students) to record and upload their own voices”, in order to leave comments. Perhaps the author actually was thinking of “audioblogs”, but his principles would still apply. He wants other students to then listen, and to leave comments about what they hear. Students get helpful feedback, and teachers can later score the students. Scoring criteria should correspond to course objectives. Students have freedom to talk about what interests them, thereby reducing the affective filter.
Teachers can also assign projects, which students work on outside of class; and then share with other students via podcast. Teachers can avoid linguistically inappropriate topics by letting students state their preferences for topics, and then selecting one of the topics for a project.
2. Chat. The author introduces the idea of using online chatting services, but then expands this to show the value of various types of social networking sites, such as Facebook. But, then he returns to chatting services, saying that the chatting must be oral, not written. Chatting with students in other countries is to be preferred but, if not available, this can be done with peers. Teachers can raise a topic in the classroom each week, and ask students to discuss it via chatrooms. He is not clear about how the teacher will monitor the chats or do assessment.
3. Mobile Phones. After reviewing the potential impact of mobile phones on language learning, the author suggests a specific activity. He says teachers can encourage students to use the target language in their every-day conversations with one another on their mobile phones. They are to record some of these conversations, and bring them to the classroom for assessment by the teacher and other students. He admits students may have difficulty achieving this at first, but will progress as they see its value.
4. Recorded Interview and Role Play. Students should select a topic and interview other students about it, preferably using a camera or mobile phone. The teacher can later view this and make assessment. Students can also re-record to correct errors before submitting it. Other students should also be allowed to listen and evaluate, thereby increasing students self-monitoring, which has been shown to help language learning.
The author concludes by stating that the activities introduced are both for language learning and assessment. Teachers should be aware of assessment methods via technology. He underscores the need for authenticity, validity, and reliability in this process. Activities should be based on students’ interests. Technology can help teachers to make a connection between the real world communication and language assessment.