University of Warsaw
This paper explores the works that describe the need discovered in digital natives, i.e. the generation that was born when computers, the Internet, smartphones etc. were not only invented but also widespread. They have a constant need to use some technology. This paper presents a wealth of resources for those who seek for inspiration to enrich their practice and meet the digital natives’ needs. Moreover, it shows the possibilities modern technology gives to teachers when combined with the pedagogical knowledge.
Keywords: technology, ELT, FLT, MOOC, authentic communication, applications, MLT, materials for teachers, TBLL
Using technology in teaching
Nowadays, teaching extends beyond the coursebook – notebook – teacher boundaries (Cecilia Goria as cited in Williams, 2014). One of the reasons for such a trend are the needs of learners, who are accustomed to doing everything using technology. They tend to do shopping, chat, look for a recipe, pay a bill or even flirt via the Internet and using their equipment. As there is a strong tendency for learner-centred teaching, it is considered a good practice to understand and meet – if possible – the learners’ needs. As the present generations of young learners are growing up along with the technology being constantly developed, the teachers should implement some IT into their practice in order to stimulate the interest, motivate and increase the dynamics of the lessons.
Yet, as many of the present teachers are not digital natives, they need to learn it just like their learners learn the language. After all, technology is a tool, just like language. A variety of devices – cellphones, tablets, computers, interactive boards – are available now, but still a massive number of teachers do not know how to use them effectively. Nevertheless, there are some Modern Foreign Language (MFL) classrooms, where these novelties are used. Instructors exchange ideas, discuss core curricula or just ask for advice on Twitter (e.g. MFLtwitterati), on Facebook (e.g. ‘Nauczyciele języka angielskiego’ [English language teachers]) or in other online communities. Teachers invest time in self-development, using some Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) like coursera.com or edx.org for instance. They can also seek for applications, sites and programmes that would increase the students’ motivation and involvement in the classes.
A common belief among teachers is that the learners should turn off their cellphones the moment they enter the classroom. However, is it really necessary? Would not it be better if the teacher asked them to use their phones sometimes? During my practice I observed a teacher who actually requested using the smartphone for exercises where the mono- or bilingual dictionary was needed. It was also used for writing assignments, for example pupils searched for synonyms on thesaurus.com or checked the proper collocations on prowritingaid.com. In lower grades, usually the bilingual dictionaries were used (e.g. pons.eu) due to the lower language proficiency level.
However, it is not only smartphones that can be helpful during a foreign language lesson. Children can use theirs tablets, computers (due to some SES issues it may be worth considering to conduct some lessons in the computer lab) in order to get acquainted with the material provided by the instructor (e.g. pre-taught vocabulary uploaded on showbie.com) or to check their knowledge (e.g. answering the questions from the quiz, using Socrative or Quizlet). Widespread access to devices such as computers, mobiles, Internet, interactive boards etc. triggered the invention of the term “technology-based language learning” (TBLL) that has its different forms:
computer-assisted language learning (CALL), mobile-assisted language learning (MALL), Internet-based language learning (IBLL), online language learning (OLL), Google-assisted language learning (GALL), and technology-enhanced language learning (TELL)
Educators who lack the skills can obtain help from more experienced teachers in social media groups (e.g. on Facebook), enrol for a course (e.g. Learning Technologies for the Classroom on British Council Teacher Training sit), they might even get the MA in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching (via distance learning offered by the University of Nottingham) or search for inspiration on sites like freetech4teachers.com or educationalappstore.com. Becoming a part of ELT community might be a real asset, especially if – like MFL Twitterers – they not only eagerly share their knowledge, work and ideas but also willingly gather on ICT and Languages Conferences at the University of Southampton. As Joe Dale persuades in his post Have you heard of the MFL Twitterati (2012) on networkforlanguageslondon.org, it “has proved to be an invaluable professional and personal support for many of its members “ thanks to the MFL Flashmeetings, MFL Twitterati Dropboxes and the MFL Times, which provides a free daily set of twitteratis’ shared contribution, depriving people of the excuse of having no spare time. It shows that they actually do not need to devote much of it for their development – just read MFL Times.
It is not only teachers who can benefit from using the modern devices and the content they offer. In another article the same author tries to convince that new technologies help to “foster the four c’s: communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. ICT lets learners easily draw on authentic resources that promote inter-cultural understanding and interact with virtual peers in real non-fabricated contexts.“ (Dale, 2014). It can be compared with the four dimensions (4 Cs) which form a conceptual framework of Content-Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) (Coyle 2005; revisited Coyle, Holmes, King 2008): ‘content, cognition, communication and culture’. CLIL and ICT are believed to produce considerably better results than ESL without those components. Dale (2014) enumerates the resources that may promote collaboration (e.g. Padlet, Popplet, Linoit, Pinterest), increase the lexicon (e.g. Quilet), encourage self-assessment (e.g. Textivate, Triptico), enhance motivation (e.g. Yakit Kids, Puppet Pals, Explain Everywhere screencast), improve pronunciation (e.g. Cue Prompter, the Visiopromt app), make homework more student-friendly (e.g. Edmodo, Duolingo or Showbie). There are also sites where learners can experience the meaningful, real-life communication context that makes them more concerned. It can be facilitated thanks to videoconferencing, blogging, contacting friends (e.g. penpalworld.com, trillian.im, google.com/hangouts). Students can practice their pronunciation and fluent speaking with the inhibition level lowered, using present.me or voki.com.
Communities in social media constantly share different resources. Recently on ‘Nauczyciele języka angielskiego’ educators exchanged their favourite places where they find extra materials for their classes. One of those is kizclub.com that supports young learners teachers with worksheets, songs, ideas etc. Another one is clilreaders.com, where they can find books adjusted to their students’ level and containing some extra content knowledge.
Sites where various games are presented are eslgamesplus.com and learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en, where in addition there are some stories and songs. Starfall.com promotes teaching reading using phonics method. Engames.eu presents vocabulary, CLIL, functions and grammar posts. The author of engames.eu decided to present all his posts in a form of interactive mind map, using thinglink.com.
Some teachers have their own blogs, where they present their ideas, like on english-nook.blogspot.com/, isel.edu.pl/blog/index.php or planetaangielskiego.pl. However, it is also useful to read also blogs written by teachers from other countries – like on larryferlazzo.edublogs.org, where the author usually posts a couple of times per day. Learncreatelove.com might be really useful for all CLIL teachers of Arts.
You could also look for inspiration on pinterest.com. It is possible to find there lessons or games for interactive boards for instance.
Technology is obviously extremely helpful for teaching in various ways. It gives learners multiple opportunities to experience real-life communication. The teacher’s role is to promote distance learning outside the classroom as it may not only improve the students’ language skills but also increase their confidence and promote personal development.
On the other hand, foreign language teaching should not only involve technology. I would strongly oppose to the applications like Firefly, where the teacher sends the homework assignments to everybody in the group, as I think that the students should feel that they are the ones responsible for their own learning. In my opinion, it is not the duty of the instructor to remind the learner of the tasks. What is more, I believe that teachers do not have much time after preparing their lessons, checking tests and assignments, and devoting their time to the professional and personal development.
All in all, I would strongly recommend looking for the best techtools and then using them with learners since the only limit for their possible application is the teacher’s creativity. Nevertheless, the teacher’s toolbox should not only contain technology but also pedagogy. As Stannard puts it (Williams, 2014): “You’ve got to know why you’re using it [technology]. Teachers do need to learn to use new technology, but the driving force should always be the pedagogy behind it”. It can make the learning more attractive and can support the educators, but it can never replace them (Warschauer, Meskill, 2000).
Warschauer, M., & Meskill, C. (2000). Technology and second language learning. In J. Rosenthal (Ed.), Handbook of undergraduate second language education (pp. 303-318). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Williams, M (2014). Is technology a silver bullet for language teaching and learning. The guardian. Retrieved from:http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/may/12/technology-language-teaching-learning-pedagogy
Dale, J (2014). Teaching languages with technology tools that help students become fluent. The guardian. Retrieved from:http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2014/may/13/modern-foreign-languages-technology-tools-students-fluent
Dale, J (2012). Have you heard of the MFL Twitterati. Retrieved from:http://networkforlanguageslondon.org.uk/blog/have-you-heard-of-the-mfl-twitterati/
Coyle, D. (2005) The Teaching Observatory: exploring zones of interactivity in Holmberg, G.; Shelley, M.; White, C.; (eds) Languages and Distance Education: Evolution and Change, Clevedon: MultiLingual Matters
Strange, W (2014), Three ways to use iPads in the languages classroom. The guardian. . Retrieved from:http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/may/19/three-ways-use-ipad-languages-classroom-tech-teaching
Saqlain, N. (2012). Technology and Foreign Language Pedagogy: What the Literature Says. Retrieved from: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/technology-and-foreign-language-pedagogy-what-literature-says