A Note From The Authors
Creating the Touchstone Online Course
When we first approached the task of creating Touchstone as an online edition, it seemed a huge challenge. Touchstone print edition was written for students in classrooms with classmates and a teacher. It emphasizes conversation management skills and develops conversational fluency with lots of pair and group work, where students personalize the language presented. Touchstone employs a noticing methodology as part of the learning process, which a teacher guides students through. With the Touchstone Online Course, students would need to do all these things online at a computer and in a self study environment. However, it was a challenge that excited us and we were determined to keep the material true to the Touchstone values of:
• presenting natural language in natural contexts
• creating opportunities for genuine interaction
• enabling students to use the language taught in personalized ways
• including noticing as part of learning
• fostering good learning habits and autonomous learning
• making learning enjoyable and rewarding
Benefits of the online medium
When we looked at what the online medium has to offer language teaching materials, we realised the great many exciting benefits it has.
• are not confined by the physical limitations of a book - there is more “space” for explanation, practice, activities, pictures, games, and audio
• can integrate video and audio in ways that aren’t possible in a book
• offer exciting new activity types that print doesn’t have
• have more practice and hyperlinked support available on screen
We were lucky to work with the software developers to create new activity types that allowed us to adapt the activities in print. We soon saw how learning online can provide exciting new opportunities and motivating learning opportunities
for students. Above all, we realised that we could do all the things we wanted to do in Touchstone print, and more.
We found ways to do all the things that the print medium does, including:
• have students speak, respond, react
• have students personalize the language
• do inductive learning
In addition, we were able to:
• use more varied activity types with more pictures, audio, and video
• add a lot more practice and recycling of language and skills
• create animated presentations to teach the Grammar charts, Conversation strategies, Speaking naturally and Vocabulary notebooks, and also bring the In conversation corpus information to life
• integrate fun language games
• enable students to record their voices and compare with model speakers
• have students do video roleplay, creating interactive conversation simulations
• have students interact through blogs and joint writing projects
With the print edition of Touchstone as a base, we were able to create a new version of the material which keeps all the successful aspects of the original edition, and does a lot more besides in terms of scaffolding, learner support, recycling, and consolidation.
About the Authors
Michael McCarthy is Emeritus Professor of Applied Linguistics in the School of English Studies, University of Nottingham. He has also published extensively on corpora, vocabulary and discourse. He is the co-author of several of the English Vocabulary in Use titles, Exploring Spoken English and Exploring Grammar in Context as well as a number of applied linguistics titles for Cambridge ELT.
Helen Sandiford has extensive experience as an English teacher, teacher-trainer, and sales and marketing specialist. She spent nine years in Japan setting up English programs and teaching in Japanese senior high schools and vocational colleges. She has conducted training seminars for English teachers throughout East Asia.
Jeanne McCarten has taught in Sweden, France, Malaysia, and the U.K., and has many years of experience publishing English teaching materials, specializing in the areas of grammar and vocabulary. She was closely involved in the development of the spoken English sections of the Cambridge International Corpus.