The need to foster critical thinking has long been one of the key issues in education. It is essentially vital nowadays against the background of an increased volume of cross-cultural communications due to the present-day demand for collaboration to tackle pressing global issues through joint efforts of different nations. While the format of debates has been recognized by researchers as one of the most efficient tools of setting off critical thinking, it is up to the new technologies in education to make it possible to bring this platform to a cross-cultural level. Since a cross-cultural dialogue in most cases supposes the mastery of a foreign language, e-learning in the form of cross-border video-conference debates present an invaluable opportunity for educators to enhance the pedagogy of foreign language acquisition around the globe. The present paper focuses on a case-study of an on-going project of implementing the tool of synchronous cross-cultural video-conference debates.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. It was first performed in 2000 and then repeated every three years. It is done with view to improving education policies and outcomes. The data has increasingly been used both to assess the impact of education quality on incomes and growth and for understanding what causes differences in achievement across nations.
The book Khroniki obrazovatelnoi politiki: 1991—2011 [Chronicles of the Educational Policy; 1991—2011] by Boris Startsev is a chronicle of modernization of the Russian secondary and higher education system in the period between 1991 and 2011 from the economic point of view. The events are seen through the eyes of a journalist and presented as a sequence of decisions by decision-makers. The reform is described using the names of ministers and top-ranking officials, and only rarely does one come across the opinions and names of teachers. The value of the book is in the integrity of the story about the process that has been modified more than once.
In the era of abundance of ICT in education, the focus of academics is gradually shifting from initial urge for testing all possible emerging devices in order to improve learning process to a concern over potential overload with digital media and thus the need for its sifting. Foreign language learning is no exception. The fundamental skills of reading, listening, speaking, and writing have all been ICT enhanced in the past decade in both successful and failed attempts to boost language proficiency of learners. At the same time, the only indisputable need for technology in foreign language acquisition in academic environment has always been traced in the sphere of developing listening skills. For many researchers, listening as a basic skill is closely connected to the ability of comprehension [3, 5, 9]. However, true for lower level language learning this argument is fading at a more advanced level of language mastery dominated by reinforcement of critical thinking. A qualitative leap from basic comprehension to critical analysis has to be addressed in the process of developing language competencies. Listening, in particular, requires the design of special learning material, which, on the one hand, meets the criterion of authenticity [2, 7] and, on the other hand, leaves room for scaffolding since formal learning implies the use of specifically-built system of learning tools and not just exposure to random language experiences. [3, 4] In this regard, digital audiobooks present a unique opportunity to tackle the development of critical listening at advanced stages. Audiobooks have recently found a wide application in education from its elementary stage to adult learning [1,16]. Primarily, audiobooks are used as a supplement to reading. The present study, however, is focused on the use of audiobooks for critical listening skills for ESL students without considering the reading component of the traditional approach to audiobooks. In such context, the present article deals with issues of developing a methodology of implementing the use of digital audiobooks in advanced ESL classroom, presents specific examples of scaffolding exercises and analysis of the data collected from field-testing this approach on the stage of higher education through the case study of the Russian students learning English at National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow.