In my continuing teacher development I have tried, not always successfully, to become familiar with the myriad of online applications promoting SLA from interactive self access sites to the endless variety of websites that we can access for ideas. I have always been a bit wary of technology in the classroom (always putting myself firmly in the land of the luddites). However, I am determined not to be defeated by progress and after attending an IATEFL PronSig event came across a great IPAD app that I have used lots of times. The app is called ‘Cool Speech’ and was created by Richard Cauldwell. As it is an IPAD app (and I have no idea how I could link this up to an IWB for example) I have only used it in one-to-one lessons as the small IPAD screen negates its use in a large classroom. At the conference I attended there was a particular emphasis on receptive pronunciation activities as opposed to productive pronunciation and I think that this app is ideal for providing good examples of authentic speech spoken spontaneously, with good listening exercises for learners of an intermediate level and above.
The last time I used this app in a lesson was with a French student of B2 level who said that wanted to practise his pronunciation. As he often misunderstood me (as he was unfamiliar with my northern accent) I thought that he would also benefit from a couple of lessons using the Cool Speech App as there is also an emphasis on comprehension. The student had the option of choosing a character who he wanted to listen to (there are 8 options) and then he listened to that character responding briefly to a question. In itself this activity is no different to any listening activity available on a CD or tape, however the follow up tasks in which the learner can ‘explore’ each sentence is, I think quite unique. For example, the character’s spoken response is then broken down into chunks providing tasks on different parts of the speech ie: word stress, prominent and non-prominent syllables, rthythm and intonation etc. It explores the elements of speech in more detail than any other listening activity that I have done in the past and gives the learner the opportunity to really listen to, and practise different components of the sentence at a comfortable speed. (The sentences in the listening tasks can be slowed down or speeded up by the learner). There is also a section on the individual vowel and consonant sounds within a sentence that can be repeated as many times as required by the learner. I think that the French learner I used this app with really enjoyed the exercises on the app and found them quite challenging even though he considered himself a competent speaker. Finally, another advantage of this app is that it can be used autonomously by the learner for further practice outside of the classroom.