Language-Teaching and Technology

Technology; cold, relentless, and idolised by much of humanity, is here and doesn't look like it will lose its momentum any time soon. English-language teachers, on the other hand, are often light, whimsical, caring entities, prone to having a fondness for people over machines, and a tendency towards the 'real' over the 'virtual'.

With this hyperbolic introduction, I wanted to set up a dichotomy, which in reality perhaps doesn't exist. Many teachers nowadays do indeed use technology to educate, many in fact rely upon it completely as they teach through Skype to learners the world over. Others though, we must have seen, are well, not too keen to move with the times and much prefer a handout to an attachment. Let's think briefly (technology has apparently rotted my ability to think about anything more than briefly) on the implications of technology in education in general, and then its affect on English-language teaching. 



The Omnipresence of Technology

Technology exists in every part of lives, both personal and work. It's effect on education, however,  has been slow, and there are many reasons for this. Firstly, although teachers are by their nature often flexible and able to adapt, it has been difficult to train teachers on how to incorporate technology into education. Some teachers, especially those we call 'digital immigrants' have found it difficult to understand the degree to which technology has affected the mindsets of the 'digital natives', and therefore a gap has been created by the teacher and the learner. The teacher used to 'one cap fits all', the young learner used to creating personalised content. 

Aside from this, many of the educational institutions are run by digital immigrants and so the necessary changes and training haven't occurred. In general, we still have an approach to education which was prevalent over 100 years ago, despite how much our cultures have changed. We can see this especially in how e test children: sitting in a room, by herself at a desk, with a pencil and sheet of paper: completely different from the world which awaits her outside the school doors. 

What is this to teaching English? 

Above, I speak about education more generally. I am thinking of formal education; primary and secondary school, and universities. However, technology has already usurped the English teacher. No longer do we need to pay a teacher to talk to us about the differences between 'should' and 'could' when we can find masses of quality resources and lessons online for free. An English teacher is no longer the most intelligent being in the room, the student's smart phone is. 

So what can we do?

We can use the spaces we have for speaking and interaction -- the modern skills of collaboration, creativity, and communication, as well as for giving presentations and networking. We can facilitate the use of English instead of lecturing about its rules. We can encourage and verbally correct, rather than hand out paper and give answers. We can share culture and encourage our students to do the same. Technology has opened a door to English teachers, perhaps we just need some help to see where it is.


Comments

  1. In France we are way behind ! Well, I don't work any longer, but I used to teach English to adults (often face-to-face tuitions) and later by phone. Now I am just retired and to keep in touch with my former ' students ', I run a blog of short stories (one a week). In the near future I'd like to use videos and all that jazz.
    I do agree with you, teaching grammar for grammar's sake is just deadly boring !! You are right, there are scrores of reliable sites for that.
    People want to communicate , to be in touch with real life , and new tech can help a lot !

    Thanks for your post

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dany. I am not an expert with technology by any means, and I am (just about!) probably considered a 'digital immigrant' due to my age. But I do see that especially young peoples' approach to language and content, be it in books or online. is different. We access information differently now, and people are getting used to being responsible for their own learning path. I'm fascinated to know where this will lead us with English-language teaching.
      Thanks for your comment!

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