eZB Workshops – Shakespeare course

The results of this workshop were published in English Language Teaching. The  article is available on researchgate.

The twenty students participating in the workshop had signed up for an elective Shakespeare literature class as part of their English as a Foreign Language requirement. The students were French undergraduate engineering students having studied English in secondary school for over ten years. Students had an advanced level in terms of everyday English, but they had never had to read works of literature extensively. They were highly skilled in using new technologies and were especially motivated to use the eZB tool in their assignments. However, they were somewhat apprehensive about having to read plays and, in particular, Shakespeare’s plays. The project aimed to demystify the reading task through a different presentation mode (electronic and not paper) and give readers more control over the level of difficulty (the zooming in and out function coupled with learning enhancements).

The material covered included both Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. After several teacher-led classroom sessions on the background to Shakespeare’s plays had taken place including several extracts of cinematographic adaptations, the eZB task was presented to students: to collaboratively create an enriched version of Romeo and Juliet. Possibilities for multimedia enrichments included links to different theatrical interpretations of scenes on YouTube or multimedia sequences produced by the students themselves. At the end of the semester, the teacher uploaded the eZB on the University’s intranet.

The following tabs on the eZB template were the architecture for building the eZB and students were assigned sections of the play.  They summarized the material within the tabs and searched for potential enrichments of the text:

  1. Summary tab: selection of quotes and summary lines to link them.
  2. Comprehension question tab: text-related questions (“What happens when Romeo spots Juliet for the first time?”).
  3. Old English/Modern English tab.
  4. Multimedia enrichment tabs (links to Shakespeare scenes on YouTube, teacher resource sites, such as: https://www.tes.com/teaching-shakespeare/?utm_campaign=GB-RES691, etc.)
  5. Critical commentaries tab

Internet sources guided the students in selecting the content for the above tabs. Students were encouraged to explore, sample, and choose the resources that were meaningful to them. Here the information search process was one of the learning goals as students learned how to make effective use of the information sources available and collaboratively make judgments about the pertinence and quality of what they found on the Internet. Having done that, the students could then write their introduction to their given scenes as well as their comprehension questions, commentaries and quizzes.” (Evain, De Marco, 2016a)

This example shows how it is possible to use an eZoomBook with a pre-constructed structure and guidelines, all the while leaving the corpus choice to the students. Indeed, the students chose the specific Shakespeare scenes they wanted to work on and they were responsible for cutting and pasting the text in the eZB. The student input (comparing old and modern English, text analysis, comments, etc.) was pre-defined. Most of the work was in-class.  At the end of the semester, students presented their work.

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