Digital Tools in the EFL Classroom. Teaching English as a Foreign Language

An Analysis of H5P in Relation to Theories of Language Teaching

Bachelor Thesis, 2021

41 Pages, Grade: 2,7



Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Table of Figures

1. Introduction

2. SLA Theories and EFL Methods in CALL
2.1. Behaviorist Stage of SLA in CALL
2.2. Communicative Stage of SLA in CALL
2.3. Task-Based Approach
2.3.1 Digitally Mediated Task-Based Approach (Tasks 2.0)

3. Digital Change in the EFL Classroom
3.1 Background and Importance
3.2 Multiliteracies
3.3 SAMR-Model

4. H5P Analysis
4.1 General Information on H5P
4.2 Possibilities and Limitations in using H5P
4.3 Examples
4.3.1 Grammar Exercise
4.3.2 Project work / Writing Task
4.4 To sum it up

5. Conclusion


For copyright reasons, some figures have been removed from this

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table of Figures

Figure 2 - SAMR-model by Ruben Puentedura

Figure 3 - Audio Recorder

Figure 4 - Dictation tool

Figure 5 - Essay 1

Figure 6 - Drag and drop

Figure 7 - Fill in the blanks

Figure 8 - Rating Drag and drop

Figure 9 - Rating: Dictation

Figure 12 - Fill in the blanks exercise (Sentence 1 and 2)

Figure 13 - Information on Fill in the blanks exercise

Figure 14 - Results: Fill in the blanks

Figure 15 - Score range: fill in the blanks

Figure 16 - Score

Figure 17 - Deepening exercise

Figure 18 - QR Code: Deepening exercise

Figure 19 - Jobs: first page

Figure 20 - Jobs: second page

Figure 21 - Information on jobs

Figure 22 - Jobs: third page

Figure 23 - Jobs: fourth page

Figure 24 - Jobs: seventh page

Figure 25 - Essay

Figure 28 - Scaffoling opportunity in the Documentation tool 3

Figure 29 - Keywords writing task 3

1. Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic put the spotlight to schools and the school system in general. After 18 months of home schooling and remote education it became obvious, that digitalization had not reached the classroom before and very little progress has been achieved until now. Even though theoretically digital tools were available it lacked on a working infrastructure in schools in the sense of Wi-Fi, hardware or well-trained teachers. Whether it is for the missing devices as a result of the paperwork to apply for the ‘Digitalpakt Schule'1, because of the missing reasons to deal with digitalization in schools as such, or because the teachers are not trained enough to use them - digitalization in schools did not seem necessary, nor wanted, and that was no subject to change for a long time.

In the last few years loads of books, training courses for teachers, congresses, blogs and tweets appeared and at least theoretically digitalization reached schools and classrooms. Sooner or later researchers will read about Professor Dr. Müller-Hartmann and Professor Warschauer. Both are professors for English didactics and investigate in the field of digital learning. It seems that ‘digitalization in the English language classroom' has finally reached teacher education programs at universities and raises a whole new generation of teachers. For me as a future teacher this seems like a topic that is contemporary, if not overdue, to deal with. Not only future teachers, but also current ones should be keen to know why years ago schools stopped to keep up with digitalization, why it needs to be implemented in schools, what it offers, where its limitations are and how traditional teaching methods can be modified into digital settings.

This leads to my motivation to write this thesis and raise the questions why we need digitalization, what it can offer and to analyse how it can be implemented in the classroom. In order to answer this question thoroughly and analyse the software in great detail, the first chapter of this thesis lays the theoretical basis for some didactic theories. In order to follow the topic of this thesis, it is not only necessary to elucidate the didactic theoretical background, but also the aspects of digitalization itself. Therefore, the second chapter provides insights on that, in context with multiliteracies and the SAMR-model. In chapter three the analyzation of the software H5P answers the initially raised questions.

2. SLA Theories and EFL Methods in CALL

In the history of teaching and learning English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language (ESL) there have been many approaches, theories and methods, through which English has been taught in the language classroom. Some of them are more effective than others and are still being used (possibly in a modified form) - others could not keep up with the time in terms of social and educational changes and the changing requirements according to the learners' wants and needs.

Especially the last 30 years have presented a great change regarding second language acquisition (SLA) theories and ESL/EFL teaching methods as a new era began when the usage of the MS-DOS computer in the classroom became more and more popular. In line with this development a new research area emerged - computer assisted language learning (CALL). Levy defines CALL as “the search for and study of applications of the computer in language teaching and learning” (Levy 1997 as cited in Davies, Otto & Rüschoff 2013: 30). This definition shows the essence of CALL, namely to find answers to the question of how the ‘computer' (not further defined by Levy) can be implemented in educational settings.

It can be divided into three stages: behavioristic CALL, communicative CALL (constructivist theory) and integrative CALL (Davies et al. 2013; Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Dittfuhrt 2016; Warschauer & Healey 1998).

The invention of the personal computer and its relatively fast development into a multimedia machine has the potential both to offer an even more authentic learning environment, and to turn the teacher-centered classroom into a more learner-centered one in the progress” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016: 133).

Müller-Hartmann and Schocker-Von Ditfurth are pointing out the more authentic classroom and the shift of the learner role while using digital tools in the classroom. In connection with the task-based approach these aspects are further considered in chapter 2.3.

This chapter presents the behavioristic and the communicative stages of CALL, as they to a certain extent are still present in modern computer-based language teaching and learning and focusses on the task-based approach and its adaption to the digital classroom.

2.1. Behaviorist Stage of SLA in CALL

The main influences on Behaviorism were the American psychologist John B. Watson and the behaviorist Frederic Skinner. Behaviorists assume that a certain behavior gets achieved through repetition, rewards and punishments (Kiyunja 2014; Warschauer & Healey 1998). Learners are rather passive and learning in the behaviorist theory focusses on the relationship between the environment and the learners' behavior. It “occurs through a process of events [and is] the result of forming connections between stimuli from that environment and related responses” (Skinner 1953 as cited in Kiyunja 2014: 95). Learners learn from repeated practice and a positive feedback (reward) for every right answer and punishment for every wrong answer. This is what Skinner calls ‘conditioning'.

First implemented in the 1950s/60s, the behaviorist approach to SLA set the basis for CALL in the English language classroom. Even though the communicative approach of second language teaching has already been established, teaching methods went through a rethinking and turned back to behaviorist approaches as it was easier to implement them in combination with binary learning systems on the computer (Davies et al. 2013; Warschauer & Healey 1998). “In this phase [...] the computer played the role of the tutor, serving mainly as a vehicle for delivering instructional materials to the learners. Drill-and-practice programs [emphasis added] were a prominent feature” (Warschauer 1996 and Warschauer & Healey 1998 as cited in Davies et al. 2013: 30) that were able to give pupils direct feedback, never got tired or judgmental and enabled students to work individually (Warschauer & Healey 1998). The researcher drew parallels from the computer to ‘Skinner-machines'2 as the features they provided were no different (Bündgens-Kosten & Schildhauer 2020).

The following example taken from Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth (2016: 135) indicates behaviorist computer-based language learning:

Computer: Fill in the correct form of the past tense or present perfect tense:

I in London since 1999. (to live)

Learner: I lived in London since 1999.

Computer: Wrong. [emphasis in original]

CALL programs with the use of drill-and-practice (or drill-and-kill) tools were an innovation regarding the implementation of digital media to the language classroom but had, and still have, their limitations. Because of their lack of complexity these programs are not able to analyse the learners' mistakes, hence no detailed feedback can be given (as can be seen in the example above) - therefore the individual errors as such cannot be identified with regard to further explanations or suggestions for exercises that train a certain part of grammar learning in that mistakes were made (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016). “The use of language was rather unimaginative, [.] lacked any form of creativity” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker- Von Ditfurth 2016: 135) and fulfills the purpose of repetition of what has already been introduced (mostly grammar structures), but does not serve a basis for introducing new structures. Computer programs are binary systems that in the past could only classify answers in the categories ‘right' or ‘wrong' and were not able to deviate from it.

In today's ‘analogue' EFL teaching those drill-and-kill exercise3 types still are common but combined with other types they can complement each other well. It is important for students to repetitively practice grammar structures for being able to use them unconsciously if needed. These drill-and-kill exercises have negative connotations, but that is not appropriate as the purpose is to repeat known knowledge and that clearly is what it provides. They should not be the only format of exercises that are being used in class but there is nothing wrong in using them from time to time to refresh prior knowledge.

In today's digital learning software, the behaviorist approach is still present to a great extent but the possibilities regarding feedback and implementation extended, as can be seen in the H5P analysis.

2.2. Communicative Stage of SLA in CALL

The communicative stage of CALL (as named in Davies et al. 2013; Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Dittfuhrt 2010; Warschauer & Healey 1998) builds on the constructivist theory of SLA by Piaget in the 1920s and was further developed by Bruner and Vygotski in the late 1960s and 70s. It is a form of social constructivism. Whereas the behaviorist theory claims that learning happens through student-teacher interaction, repetition, rewards and that knowledge is transmitted from the teacher to the learners, the constructivist approach beliefs, that knowledge is constructed from the learners' insides themselves.

The focus shifted from the learners' behavior (behaviorist theory) to their prior knowledge and the assumption “[...] that learners gain knowledge and construct meaning from the interaction between their own experiences and ideas” (Piaget 1923 as cited in Kiyunja 2014: 97) through two processes, namely ‘assimilation' and ‘accommodation'4 which then lead to ‘adaption' (Kiyunja 2014). Vygotsky supplemented this theory by the Zone of Proximal Development which can be explained “as the level of competence on a task in which a learner cannot yet master the task working by himself/herself but can complete the task successfully if given appropriate support by a more capable mentor” (Kiyunja 2014:98). The mentor plays an important role in this approach as the learners need another individual that is able to assist or to eliminate uncertainties to successfully complete a task. Learners and the interaction within themselves move into the center of the learning process. By being actively involved in the process of speaking and therefore interacting with the environment, the focus is set on the communicative act rather than on drill-and-kill exercises or grammar rules. Bruner suggests that teachers present examples to the learners and explain them. Afterwards, without telling them the learning objective, new examples get presented and collaboratively through questions and parallels to the earlier presented examples (activate learners' prior knowledge) the teachers and learners try to reach the learning objective together.

It was only the late 1990s when the communicative stage entered the digital classroom as at that time the developing of computer software advanced and were for instance able to combine pictures, audio files and texts (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016). Even though learners still act “‘ within a closed system' [emphasis in original] which guides them in terms of the interaction by what the designers of the programs have chosen to provide” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016: 136), there now are loads of software packages developed that enable learners to interact communicatively and individually.

The following example of an interactive storyboard is taken from Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth (2016: 136) and shows the implementation of the communicative stage in the digital classroom:

“Excuse me!”


“Could XXX tell me XXX way XX XXX station, XXXXXX?”

“Certainly. Turn right XXXX XXX leave XXX school. Turn right XXXX XX XXX end XX

XXXXXXStreet [...]. XXXstationXXXX XXXendXXXXXXXXXX.” [...]


“ XXX XXXXX fve XXXXXXX' walk.”


“XXX'X mention XX!” [emphasis in original]

In this example it is wanted that the students communicate interactively and simulate a communication situation. Even though they have the possibilitiy to act individually, there are still phrases that need to be used at an exact time in the communication, which limits the individuality to great extent.

Different than in the behavioristic stage, this communicative stage provides opportunities for the learners to interact with the software itself in a more creative way and ensures communication within the community as they can provide each other with assistance and ideas when needed (scaffolding). Nevertheless, it is still a system that allows open space only to a certain extent as computer software still have their fixed ideas of what the solution needs to be.

2.3. Task-Based Approach

Phiebos book ‘ Kommunikative Kompetenz als übergeordnetes Lernziel im Englischunterricht' which was published in 1974, triggered a debate about the communicative competences5 in the foreign language classroom (Biebighäuser, Zibelius & Schmidt 2012). On that basis the task­based approach emerged and in the late 1980s Prabhu (1987) and others developed task-based process syllables which saw language development not as a result of focusing on form, but as an outcome of natural processes of interaction in which learners used language to produce meaningful content (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016: 40).

This approach grew out of the communicative approach and is based on the idea that language acquisition (in the sense of linguistic competences) gets achieved best through tasks6 that do not focus explicitly on the form of the target language but on authentic content7 (Biebighäuser et al. 2012; Davies et al. 2013; Ellis, Skehan, Li, Shintani & Lambert 2020), such as planning and presenting a trip the learners are actually going to take or write recipes for their favorite meal. Van den Branden (2006) defines it as an approach, in which learners are invited to focus on meaning superficially rather than on form while dealing with a task and communicate, so that it seems that the language is used in a real-world and non-linguistic setting.

It needs to be noted, that even though it prioritizes meaning it does not neglect form (Ellis et al. 2020) but “learners may choose whatever language they have available and they learn to take risks by using language creatively” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016: 42). By taking risks and learning the language in a ‘learning by doing' context mistakes may occur - in Gonzalez-Lloret (2015), Chapelle (1998) and Doughty and Long (2003) suggested to deal with those mistakes in a sense as to promote language output which should give learners the chance to notice errors by themselves and correct them. If that is not the case the teacher is allowed to give corrective feedback at the very end of the task.

Gonzales-Lloret (2015: 17) points out that one of the principles [.] that separates it [the task-based approach] from other language teaching methodologies is the emphasis that it places on student-centered tasks that derive from the learners' [.] real needs and wants. The design of a TBLT [Task-based language teaching] curriculum [.] should always begin with an empirical, multi-methodological analysis of learners' needs, wants, and goals.

Even though Gonzales-Lloret argues that the task-based approach is different from other teaching methods, in a sense as that it focusses on and arises of the learners needs and wants, Müller-Hartmann and Schocker-Von Ditfurth (2016: 40) write “TBLL [Task-based language learning] has become an important approach which allows psycho-linguistic and sociocultural approaches to language learning to find common ground.” Basically, the task gives the learners all the input they need for working on a task and gaining knowledge8. Richards and Rodgers (2001) (in Surkamp & Viebrock 2018) support this idea of a common ground as they claim that the task-based approach is a part of the sociocultural approach to SLA, as both focus on communication as a key element, for example in scaffolding or planning and presenting a task. The learners also re-construct the task while working on it according to their own performance options, understanding, experience and cultural background - the task-based approach presupposes flexibility and improvisation from both, learners' and teachers' side, that can also be achieved in the sociocultural approach.

In terms of increasing learners' motivation, the task-based approach is a huge improvement - by authentic tasks the willingness for cooperation in the target language gets improved as the learners get to participate actively in the process (Biebighäuser et al. 2012). In 1989 David Nunan published his work ‘ Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom' and shaped the SLA classroom in means of differentiating between pedagogic tasks, which are generated for practicing linguistic skills (like answering a true or false questionnaire) and would only occur in the classroom and real-world tasks, which reflect the social background of the learners. They learn the language through simulating a real and authentic situation (for instance booking a hotel room or planning a holiday trip). Willis (1996) argues that a task should be designed in terms of open and closed tasks and should involve the following components as a framework: pre-task, task cycle, language focus9. In the pre-task, the teacher presents what is going to be expected from the learners. The task-cycle is a closed system in the framework of the task itself and consists of three stages: (1) task, (2) planning and (3) report. The task-cycle works as a closed system within the framework Willis developed. The last component of Willis framework is the language focus where the learners get to practice their new skills and are getting feedback on their language skills.

That framework can be extended by various components such as pre-tasks or post-tasks as the following quote shows:

And just as there is variation in the definition of tasks, there are also multiple methodological approaches to TBLT. Depending on the TBLT method chosen, the syllabus may be composed of pre- tasks, tasks, and post- tasks [...] or it may be formed from sequenced pedagogic tasks [.] These models are briefly described [.] as representations of the two poles of a continuum (on one side are tasks that look more like classroom activities; on the other are tasks as things we do outside classrooms, in the real world) (Gonzalez-Lloret 2015: 3).

2.3.1 Digitally Mediated Task-Based Approach (Tasks 2.0)

When the task-based approach was ‘invented', digital media was not a popular part of the language classroom - therefore possibilities for real-life tasks were rather limited and, under the circumstances, often largely fictious. With the rise of digital opportunities, the task-based approach in combination with the constructivist approach found new common ground and became common practice, as some digital tools give the opportunity to focus on authentic communicative contexts and tasks (Davies et al. 2013). Never before was it so easy for EFL learners to get direct contact with native speakers.

The task-based approach is the ideal approach for fully realizing the potential of technological advances to engage learners in a use of language that generates high-quality language learning with a sense of authenticity and relevance both inside and outside the language classroom (Gonzalez- Lloret 2015).

There are five pedagogical choices suggested by Chapelle (1998) and Long (2003) that have to a certain amount already been mentioned before but are described in greater detail here as their implementation to the digital classroom is of great significance. As cited in Gonzalez-Lloret (2015), Chapelle and Long suggest


1 German federal government approved 5 billion Euro for digitalization in schools.

2 Information about ‘Skinner-Machines':

3 Exercise (mostly linguistic outcome and focus on grammar) Task (communicative act, mostly without focusing grammatical structures)

4 “Assimilation refers to the way in which people change new information so that it fits with their existing knowledge. [.] accommodation refers to the way we change our current perceptions based on new knowledge” ( Growth as a Learner and Educator: A Master's Portfolio 2021).

5 See also ‘ Gemeinsamer europäischer Referenzrahmen‘ and ‘ Common European Framework‘.

6 “They [tasks] are communicative in nature, meaning oriented, and focus on the content of the message and not on the language [.]. Tasks should be as authentic as possible, incorporating real contextualized language with application outside the activity itself.

7 They are also goal oriented; that is, a task's success lies in completing it and achieving an outcome— in doing something with the language rather than just using a determined language” (Gonzalez-Lloret 2015: 2).

8 For further information on how confident learners needs to be to be able to do a task successfully and how much knowledge there needs to be in advance see: Salimi, A., Dadaspour, S., & Asadollahfam, H. (2011). The effect of task complexity on EFL learners' written performance. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 29, 1390-1399.

9 For detailled information see Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-Von Ditfurth 2016; Willis 1996

Excerpt out of 41 pages


Digital Tools in the EFL Classroom. Teaching English as a Foreign Language
An Analysis of H5P in Relation to Theories of Language Teaching
University of Dortmund
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Didaktik, Mediendidaktik, TEFL, Teaching, Lehramt, Fachdidaktik, Digital classroom, Teaching English as a foreign language, h5p, theories of second language aquisition, SLA, hausarbeit, theories of language teaching, digital tools, digital tools in the classroom, classroom, digital tasks, tasks, behaviorist theory, Computer, computer assisted language learning, task-based approach, task based, tbll, digitally-mediated task based approach, tasks 2.0, digital change, SAMR, multiliteracies
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Anonymous, 2021, Digital Tools in the EFL Classroom. Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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