Technology is very much part of language learning throughout the world at all different levels. We are as likely to find it in the primary sector as much as in adult education.
I no longer need to make the case for computers to be provided in education, because computers are there in abundance in all their modern forms.We may see traditional computers in labs, teachers and students walking around with laptops or tablet PCs, and many people will have a mobile phone in their pocket that is capable of doing rather more than the mainframe computers that started computer-assisted language learning in the 1960s. I do recognise that there are many kinds of digital divide, and that this is not true everywhere.
What is still sometimes an issue is the reliability of these technologies for classroom use. This can discourage teachers from making use of technology as often as they would want to. It’s compounded by the fact that, if these teachers are working in schools, they are faced with classes of learners who may, on the surface at least, appear to be more digitally competent than their teachers are. Learners can therefore challenge their teachers, in ways that put the latter off using the technologies that could potentially make such a difference to what happens in the classroom.
In my recent book for the British Council, Innovations in learning technologies for English language teaching, I argue that digital technologies are ideally placed to help teachers working with learners, and learners working independently, to do the necessary ‘languaging’ (M. Swain) that makes their language development possible. We are talking here about doing things with language rather than just learning about language. Swain argues that learners can’t simply develop based on input. We must engage with other people using that language, and try to make meaning together. Whenever I speak or write something, if I don’t produce language with someone else in mind, I have no way of knowing whether others can understand what I say or write. Of course, I need to read and listen as well, but unless I progress to this further stage, I can’t complete the process.
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc