“Interaction Online”: Book Review

“Interaction Online: Creative activities for blended learning”

I was excited to receive one of the latest publications from Cambridge University Press, Interaction Online. The book is co-authored by Lindsay Clandfield, who has written other titles including the successful Global coursebook series, as well as Jill Hadfield, who has written the recognisable photocopiable resources: Communication Games. As with other Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series, this latest publication is edited by Scott Thornbury.

Interaction Online” is aimed for teachers who are keen to incorporate an aspect of online interaction as part of their course. It also encourages use with not just face-to-face courses but also with online or blended learning courses. As you read further into the Introduction of the book, the authors focus on interaction and tools to promote online interaction. These suggested tools include message or chat services such as WeChat or WhatsApp, audio or video tools such as FaceTime or Skype as well as discussion forums or message boards. The Introduction is logically organised and well paced with suitable information for any reader who is keen to implement an element of online interaction with their course. The final section of the Introduction provides a comprehensive breakdown of suggested interactive online activities in their corresponding chapters: ‘Personal interaction‘ (Chapter 2), ‘Factual interaction‘ (Chapter 3), ‘Creative interaction‘ (Chapter 4), ‘Critical interaction‘ (Chapter 5) and ‘Fanciful interaction‘ (Chapter 6).

The initial Chapter which looks at ‘Setting up and managing online interaction‘, looks at platforms for consideration when developing online facilities to support student-to-student online interaction: do you use social media sites (Facebook, or Google +) or do you use a devoted virtual learning environment (VLE) such as Edmodo or Moodle? This chapter further considers rules of use for an online community, encouraging participants to post profile photos or having clear instructions for tasks. It is very thorough and supportive and it will require readers a period to reflect and then incorporate suggested ideas when developing a system for online interaction.

Within Chapters 2-6, each lesson suggestion is accompanied with detailed aims, levels, timing, staging and the preparation required. Readers can follow the procedure given with the lesson. Some of the suggested lessons throughout the chapters include a variation on the task which readers could incorporate to personalise the lesson. Chapter 2, ‘Personal interaction‘, focuses on the interaction of personal information such as sharing personal stories, sharing photos or reacting naturally to such information. There are 13 lesson ideas within this particular chapter and my favourite lesson within this chapter is “Finish my sentence” (p.34-35), whereby students are prompted with the start of a sentence, ‘After class I’m going to …‘, and they must complete the end of the sentence about themselves.

The following chapter, which focuses on ‘Factual interaction‘, involves the sharing of information on a factual topic. There are 19 lesson ideas such as finding out information about a festival or presenting information about a country. This focus of lessons could accompany exam preparation quite well, particularly for the reading and writing elements of an exam such as IELTS or FCE.

Chapter 4, ‘Creative interaction‘, encourages interaction between students to create a story, poem or advert. There are, just as in the previous chapter, 19 lesson suggestions which the reader could use in class. The ideas behind this chapter focus on projects and tasks which are familiar especially with young learners: “Design a festival” (p.94-95), “Art Monologues (creating a story from portraits or pictures)” (p.85-86) as well as many other tasks. Yet, Chapter 5, ‘Critical interaction‘, essentially encourages students to voice their opinion or ranking items or ideas, a total of 15 topics. You have the common ideas such as a “Balloon debate” (p.127-129), “Making improvements” (p.137) or “Cause and consequence” (p.154-155). Most of these tasks take a period of a week or so.

The final chapter for online lesson activities, ‘Fanciful interaction‘, involves students in role-plays or rewriting parts of a story with interactive activities such as “Fairy tale rewrite” (p.166-167) or “Murder mystery” (p.171-173). There are 13 suggested tasks within this chapter a reader could incorporate online.

Chapter 7, ‘Feedback and assessment‘, focuses on the use of online feedback and assessment, with ideas about how to go about delivering feedback. There are some useful thoughts about how feedback could encourage or promote online interaction as well as error correction techniques. The final chapter within the book, ‘Task Design‘ suggests different ways the reader could create their own tasks to generate useful and invaluable online interaction. It is logically structured and readers will be guided with some choices to consider before creating personalised tasks for students.

Overall, the latest publication further supports previous series by Cambridge University Press associated with technology such as Language Learning with Technology or Language with Digital Video. If you are a teacher who is keen to develop confidence and techniques associated with online teaching or online courses, then this book would be one to get.

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

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