by Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield
CUP 2017 978-1-316-62917-8

interaction online book cover

Interaction Online has been specifically designed for teachers using online platforms who wish to enhance their students’ abilities in communication and interaction. Each of the 75 activities has been carefully thought-out and is explained with clarity, and there are follow-up exercises to stimulate the students’ participation and further desire for interaction. Many of these activities can also be adapted for offline, face-to-face communication in the everyday classroom setting. In the introduction, Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield point out that ‘while education technology has made considerable advances since the 1990s, the same weak interaction in online courses prevails’. This book not only addresses this problem, but also brings into play a plethora of fanciful, critical and creative interactive ideas.

Don’t be put off by the dark, impersonally digital look of the cover design or the rather academic introduction: if you are new to online courses, Chapter 1 is just for you. The authors give excellent information on how to both set up and manage online courses. They start with tips on how to get familiar with online platforms, including the writing out of clear instructions for the students to follow, in order to enable easy access to the forums. Chapter 1 also includes an interesting section on ‘Setting up rules for engagement’. Here, there are some valuable guidelines for ‘Netiquette’, or online etiquette. To paraphrase the authors: as the students are operating in a foreign language, it is easy to misuse language or misinterpret meanings, leading to misunderstandings of various degrees. In this section, stress is put on the importance of mutual respect and the avoidance of
angry or abusive language.

It is in Chapter 2, ‘Personal Interaction’, where you jump into the activities with ‘A sense of adventure’. In this activity, after looking at an introductory in-class picture, the students are asked to find their own picture of a sport or activity they would or would not like to participate in, for example kite surfing or boxing. They then post the picture online, together with a few reasons for wanting or not wanting to do it. This is followed by some tasks involving agreeing or disagreeing with the reasons. Finally, by checking all the students’ reactions, conclusions can be drawn as to who in the class is the most adventurous.

In another activity, ‘Coat of arms’, the authors broach the field of creative design. This begins with showing the students pictures of coats of arms and explaining that each one has different images which symbolise the important values of the family which uses it. This then develops into a design project, with the students choosing personal symbols for their own coat of arms and guessing what their online partner’s symbols might mean. Later, with further online interaction, the students can suggest mottos for each other’s coats of arms.

The wealth of activities continues through Chapter 2 up to Chapter 6, with a different take on the forms of interaction in each chapter. Chapter 3 is ‘Factual Interaction’, Chapter 4 ‘Creative Interaction’, Chapter 5 ‘Critical Interaction’ and Chapter 6 ‘Fanciful Interaction’.

In the language classroom, mobile phones are rarely encouraged – and they are often banned completely – but the authors have taken a different approach, particularly in Chapter 3. In the activities ‘Wit and wisdom’ and ‘Connections’, to name but two, after initial warm-up exercises, the students are encouraged to use the internet in pair or group races, to see who can be the first to find the endings of witticisms or discover the most connections between Barack Obama and Jackie Chan, followed by two famous people of their own choice.

The book is nicely rounded off in the final two chapters, ‘Feedback and Assessment’ and ‘Task Design’. Both these chapters will be particularly useful for teachers who are not so familiar with online teaching forums or how to assess them. The authors give some excellent models of how to incorporate feedback techniques, using specific examples from activities in the book. Throughout, encouragement is stressed as a vital key.

Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield have pieced together an amazing array of fascinating activities in this book, all of which have easy-to-follow instructions, and which include fun tasks to keep both students and teachers on the edge of their seats, revved up for more ‘interaction online’.

Andrew Starck
Tainan, Taiwan