Language and technology
Navigate to resources by choosing units within one of the unit groups shown below.
Delivery guides are designed to represent a body of knowledge about teaching a particular topic and contain:
- Content: a clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: expert guidance on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: a range of suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected that best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
This guide will focus on the A level Section B of Dimensions of Linguistic Variation (Component 2): Language in the media. The focus of this section is on discourse in a multi-modal media text, the ways language varieties are shaped by mode of communication and how different modal influences impact language use beyond that of specific mode. Candidates should consider relevant theories of language and power, language and gender and language and technology in their analysis as well as an in-depth focus on context.
This section is examined externally as Section B of the A Level English Language exam paper and covers the key skills of candidates being able to analyse and evaluate how contextual factors and language features are associated with the construction of meaning (AO3) and demonstrate critical understanding of concepts and issues relevant to language use (AO2). Although AO1 is not covered in this component (apply appropriate methods of language analysis, using associated terminology and coherent written expression) candidates will need to use these key skills to some extent in their writing.
However, this guide can also help with providing a conceptual and contextual background for Section B, Component 1 of the A level as well – ‘Writing about a topical language issue’. This question has an equal weighting between AO2 (a critical understanding of concepts and issues relevant to language use) and AO5 (Demonstrate expertise and creativity in the use of English to communicate in different ways). This guide cold help to prepare students for the AO2 part of this question and also give them some indications of how to present a point of view in a digital format which might help students with A05.
Learners should study the ways technology has influenced language, how language is being used in various modes and evaluate the effect of the context. Included in this guide there are a range of opportunities for students to examine a variety of various technology, most of which they will be familiar with – ranging from analysing text messages, Twitter and the power of social media in the Arab Spring Revolution, social networking and bloggers of fashion, food, football and lifestyle. They will be expected to apply critical skills in close reading, description, evaluation, analysis and interpretation of texts and discourses, in addition to examining the language levels and making informed judgments on whether these are appropriate for purpose.
Approaches to teaching the content
Teachers would find it useful to have access to a computer room or at the very least, the Internet for a number of the suggested activities.
A useful way to begin would be to establish what types of technology learners are familiar with, what they perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of technology and establish a starting point. They should have a thorough knowledge of what Standard English is and whether this has led to changes when utlising technology, particularly for a global audience. This will begin to address AO3 in understanding the importance and effect of context. An understanding of topic terminology would be useful and candidates should be encouraged from the outset to consider whether ‘text-speak’ has had an impact on language and language standards; thus entering into the language debate. Watching the video clip of David Crystal discussing texting and its effect on language would be of benefit to visual, aural and kinesthetic learners.
Exploring how men and women’s language has changed would be interesting and helpful for learners and they should be able to apply this to analyse their own or other learners’ text messages /email in addition to other texts. This will enable learners to show how the different areas of study connect across their course as a whole.
Learners should be given Crystal’s chapter on ‘Printing and its consequences’ and encouraged to watch ‘The impact of the Printing press’. Teachers could then this opportunity to gauge understanding and analyse emails for use of Standard English and debate whether the lack (or not) of Standard English has had an impact on the audience. Leaners will need a general understanding of author, subject matter, original audience, date of posting and be able to debate the impact on a specific audience in comparison to national or global audience. This will lead to learners considering lexis, semantics and pragmatics from the language levels.
Writing a blog post in the style of a blogger of their choice should aid learners’ understanding and encourage discussion and an opportunity to apply critical skills in close reading, description, evaluation, analysis and interpretation. This guide gives a variety of options for currently popular bloggers but learners should be motivated to research or use a blogger they may currently follow.
Common misconceptions or difficulties that students might have:
- Candidates may need to be reminded, when completing analysis to consider context, production and reception of texts and the impacts of texts on diverse audiences, in addition to the language levels.
- They should not be drawn into a micro analysis of the author but consider other aspects of language and power and language and gender.
- Candidates should be taught how to select material effectively, particularly if the source material is lengthy.
- Candidates should remember with multi-modal texts to consider both the visuals impact in addition to commenting on the verbal.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification - useful ways to approach this topic to set students up for topics later in the course:
The suggestions listed above to encourage students to look beyond the idea of a ‘right’ global English and instead enter into the language debate of what is global English and how we see this exemplified through our use of technology. The requirement for leaners to consider contextual aspects of texts in addition to effectively analysing and evaluating language use n media texts.
In addition to this, a good grounding in language concepts and issues related to language and gender/ power will aid candidates in comparing different modes and types of texts.
As mentioned in the introduction, this guide can serve as a part of an introduction to Section B, Component 1 of the A level – ‘Writing about a topical language issue’. It would cover the conceptual half of the question (AO2). It could help to perhaps integrate approaches to that question into the teaching of this unit – there is a Delivery Guide and Topic Exploration Pack to help with that.
Learners are recommended to read as widely as possibly looking at other websites, blogs, Twitter accounts etc. These can be shared (by a nominated student every lesson) and students can thus construct a compendium of wider text types that they have analysed. It would be considered relevant to identify how language use in regard to technology has changed.
Teachers could judge how useful it would be to allocate research aspects to groups of students looking at various topics e.g. the history of the internet, the future of global English, the impact of social media, what happens when a personal email is made public, specific features of email, texts, webpages and Twitter and thereby encourage learners to think about language and technology as a whole picture.
Ask students to discuss and give examples of the technology they use e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Viber, Twitter, Chat Roulette, Facebook etc. It would be helpful to consider presenting this as a mind map and see what else students can add to this list. Discuss their use of technology. Has it increased or decreased as they have grown?
Possible discussion questions: Which are the most popular? Why? Does a gender split exist anywhere? Do more boys than girls use Instagram than girls? Who do they follow on Twitter? Why? How do they believe gender, power are represented on-line? Do they change the way they message depending on their audience?
Resource: Text message abbreviations (see resource).
Resource: Crystal, David (2011). The story of English in 100 words. London: Profile Books. P237-245 – which details the history of the words App and LOL.
Resource: Crystal, David (2011). A Little Book of Language. USA: Yale University Press. P182–187 – Chapter 29 The Electronic Revolution
Resource: Crystal, David (2007). How Language Works. 2nd ed. USA: Avery. P153-159 – Chapter 24 How the Electronic Medium differs
Work from ‘Introduction to Language and Technology’ will be useful here as is Andrew Moore’s work ‘Interaction by Text messaging.’ (See 'Universal teacher' resource)
What links can students make between these and how we write emails today? Can they comment on the use of Standard English? What have the consequences been for how we use language? What differences are there in spoken and written language here and how/who decides which is ‘correct’?
Resource: Hitchings, Henry. (2012). Technology says 'whatever' in: Hitchings, H. The Language Wars. London: Picador. P290-299 could be read here. A thought provoking and personal chapter on the impact of wired life.
David Crystal’s lecture in Belgrade (see resource) November 2013 deliberating ‘The Effect of New Technologies on English’ should engage students and encourage debate.
This lesson starts with a number of resources which deal with the role of Social Media so that the students have a background to the development task.
Resource: Clay Shirky TED talks – ‘How social media can make history’ contextualizes this point well.
Resource: Background to the Arab Spring revolution (see Arab Spring 1 resource); Arab Spring in 2 minutes.
Arab Spring; The Documentary is available if there is more time (25 mins; see Arab Spring 2 resource)
Resource: Srinivasan, R. (2012). Taking power through technology in the Arab Spring (see Arab Spring 3 resource). Last accessed 20 June 2015. Is an interesting research based article.
Resource: Batty, D. 2011. Arab Spring heralds a new way to capture the world. The Guardian 30 December 2011. Available from News Bank. This article reports on how social media was used.
This section is best taught where students have immediate access to the Internet. Andrew Moore’s ‘Language and Technology’ makes for good background reading (see resource) as it gives some interesting points to consider.
Resources: Students should access a variety of web pages e.g. BBC News, Nigella Lawson’s webpage, Moto GP, Royal Horticultural Society, Victoria and Albert Museum and be encouraged to search for web pages of their choice, possibly looking at hobbies and interests.
Printing the relevant pages and asking to students to carousel and make notes on the pages with feedback at the end of the lesson can also complete this development task. They should apply critical skills in close reading, description, evaluation, analysis and interpretation of texts.
As a starter activity, the class could watch ‘Social Media in Plain English’ (see resource).
Resource: The simple story about ice cream makes the impact of social media apparent and works well for visual and auditory learners.
Individually, students should create a table that lists the advantages and disadvantages of social networks / media. This table can then be shared and discussed in groups.
Resource: They should then read: Cutting, S. (2011). A Face that's too familiar? Taking a Look at Social Networking Sites. Emagazine. 1 (1), p9-11.
They must also watch the clip from 'The Social Network' (see resource): (the film that recounts the story of how Facebook was created) which shows how Zuckerburg added the relationship aspect to Facebook and discuss. Was this really the key to Facebook’s success?
Resource: David Crystal’s book ‘Language and the internet’ is a useful and accessible text, particularly chapter 8 ‘New Varieties’ that covers both blogging and instant messaging.
Crystal, David (2001). Language and the Internet. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P238-257.
This section is best taught with internet access where students can research vloggers and bloggers e.g Zoella, Pixiwoo, CAUGHTOFFSIDE, Baldhiker, Liberty London Girl, Geeky Gadgets, The Londoner, A Girl Called Jack and Spitalfields Life (see resouces for each bloggers/vloggers webpages) looking at the precise linguistic features used and analyse using the language levels. Some degree of close reading description, evaluation, analysis and interpretation of texts will be necessary if students are to complete the development task.
Students who are unfamiliar with blogs may find the Common blog features resource helpful (see resource).
OCR’s resources are provided to support the teaching of OCR specifications, but in no way constitute an endorsed teaching method that is required by the Board and the decision to use them lies with the individual teacher. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the content, OCR cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions within these resources. We update our resources on a regular basis, so please check the OCR website to ensure you have the most up to date version.
© OCR 2015 - This resource may be freely copied and distributed, as long as the OCR logo and this message remain intact and OCR is acknowledged as the originator of this work.