UIC among language schools seeing opportunities to use social media in education

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Following claims made in a recent marketing campaign that the Oxford University Press Network Programme is the first of its kind being disputed, teachers are reminded of social media’s potential in the classroom.

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People who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the internet.

Languages Out There, a relatively small company in the ELT world, have approached Trading Standards after Oxford University Press published marketing material stating that their new product is “the first course to use social networking to help students succeed in English”, something which they allegedly know to be false, having consulted Languages Out There about their English Out There programme, which uses such methods, back in 2010-11.

“We are concerned about the claims that are being made by the Oxford University Press and we have taken that up directly with them and are still thinking about how we will deal with that,” a spokesman for Dorset Trading Standards said.

A spokesperson for Oxford University Press explained: “We recognise that other services which harness the power of social media are available for English language students, and accept that some of our marketing messages might not have reflected that.”

Such a dispute reminds us of how powerful a tool social media can be in the classroom, and how it is already being used as a tool for people to practise their English in the real world.
“That's because people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the internet where less attention is paid to grammar and spelling and users don't have to worry about their accent,” says Jane O’Brien in a recent BBC article.

Professor of linguistics at The American University in Washington DC adds: "The internet enfranchises people who are not native speakers to use English in significant and meaningful ways.”

Language school UIC London encourages students to use social media while they are in the UK and combines this with its own e-learning system to give students more exposure to English. For example, students can access admin in the school through the e-learning system and download a variety of documents and letters. The system is also linked to social media so the school’s blogs, social programme and news are automatically posted onto the school’s Facebook pages and Twitter account. Teachers are also experimenting with social media in classes, for example using Facebook as a realistic platform for reading and writing skills, and as a topic for discussion of students’ use of language in social media. UIC also uses social media to promote and engage students with its foreign language teaching. Director David Wilkins reports “a massive demand for his school’s Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish and Italian courses offered in London.

“A lot of people who come to the classes might have done languages at school and not got on very well with them or they might be doing it for professional reasons. For whatever reason, we’ve got massive demand that hasn’t slowed with the economic situation over recent years,” he adds.

About UIC London
UIC London is a British Council accredited English school offering modern facilities, experienced staff and a mature, social environment. As well as being a ‘highly trusted sponsor’ of the UK Border Agency, the school has won both the Star Award (voted on by travel agents worldwide) and the British Council Award for Innovation. Visit UIC London for more information.

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David Wilkins
UIC London
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