Why use technology to teach language?

In one word – Differentiation

I have thought about this long and hard. I’m not a big proponent of using “tech for tech’s sake” or just because it is “cool” and students like it. I sympathize with the argument that we should use technology because it is such a ubiquitous part of our life/living (or that of our student’s). However, I still think we need a strong pedagogical reason, a rationale for its use.

In general, technology is valuable for what it does to the continuum of space and time. Technology allows us to access knowledge like never before – the library doors are wide open and so many can enter. There is no bottleneck and no 9 to 5 access. So I did consider the #1 reason to use tech as being “time on task” or “connectivity”. Students have more access to “real” language through tools like EnglishCentral.  The distinctions between ESL and EFL are blurring, students can have more contact with language through online immersive experiences and contacts. Still, I’m voting for differentiation when it comes to “teaching”, when it comes to the typical language classroom.

Technology allows students to encounter language in control. It provides levels and support so the language learner won’t be bewildered and overwhelmed. Think of our typical language classrooms and be honest – 70 – 80% of students are usually tuning out after the first 5 minutes because there second language brain just gets too hot and they can’t cope. Technology makes the chaos of authentic language manageable and can provide students with material at their own level and pace. This is, if it is used correctly and in a self directed fashion not just as a one size fits all thing on a screen. Here’s a wonderful example of a school in South Carolina.

No matter how good your placement test, you are going to have so many students with such differing levels and knowledge in your language classroom. It is impossible to cope, to find a common space. Technology solves this problem and gives learners the tools to learn what they want, at the right time and moment.

This is why we’re working hard and so excited about the video corpus and suite of tech tools for language learning we are creating on EnglishCentral. Learners can acquire language in a safe, controlled environment. They can practice and repeat, review, rewind, rerecord, redo, respeak until they feel ready to speak and test themselves in the town square that is life.

Let’s make a promise to ourselves. Every student is “special”.  Every students should have an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Technology is one part of the puzzle that will help make that happen.

Comments

  1. Thank you for an excellent post.
    I am using a blended learning/ training and flipped classroom approaches.
    The traditional physical classroom settings are not efficient enough, for my lessons.
    In my view, technology gives us countless new possibilities.
    We the teachers have an obligation to fit into our student’s needs.

  2. Reblogged this on Halina's Thoughts and commented:
    I am using a blended learning/ training and flipped classroom approaches.
    The traditional physical classroom settings are not efficient enough, for my lessons.

    In my view, technology gives us countless new possibilities.
    As I have already specified, I prefer blended learning, which means, taking advantage of both, traditional f2f techniques and opportunities confronted by new technologies.

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