How do we cater for the needs of our learners in this digital age? #ELTchat Summary 16/03/2011
Once again I’ve voluntered to write the summary and I’d like to thank Marisa Constantines for this opportunity and apologize for the delay. Sorry!
The topic of this discussion is something that I consider very interesting and thought-provoking: “How do we cater for the needs of our learners in this digital age?”.
Participants started the discussion by defining Mobile Learning. The definitions were:
- it’s about using your mobile phone as a learning resource
- learning using mobile devices (such as phones, iPads, netbooks, games consoles, etc)
- mlearning is the kind of learning that enhances and promotes autonomous learning. Learning beyond the classroom
On a more technical note: Mobile learning refers to any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. In other words mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices.
The use of technology in education has gained a lot of attention on the part of teachers, students and community as well. The benefits of it are undeniable; however most of the teachers do not know how to effectively make use of this powerful and transforming tool. Some chatters tried to tie up the concept of technology with language teaching. It was stated that digital integration promotes communication, collaboration and creation skills. We are all well too aware of the fact that technology always changes a language. Printing, telephone, broadcasting, and lastly the internet all are somehow responsible for changes in the language. Mainly due to the great number of technological apparatus that have been/will be invented, no one can precisely predict how much language has been affected by the technological processes we are exposed in today’s world. Nevertheless, it is a fact that each one of these technologies which can be referred as new opportunities for communication produce a kind of language. In the case of English a new style of English. This is easily recognized when we pay attention to the fact that the language we use when blogging is not the same as when twitting, or updating a Facebook status, or sending IMs or SMSs. To my mind, although the actual language has not changed much, the language has become expressively richer due to the advancements in technology.
Many participants exposed their experiences with technology in class and therefore commented on the benefits of it:
- for adult learners who haven’t got much time for lessons, technology can be a great way of bridging between face-to-face meetings.
- When integrating technology students are more motivated to self-explore the topic and apply it after class.
- Digital integration may potentially promote communication outside the boundaries of a classroom
- Effective digital integration depends a lot on teachers’ and students’ choice of activities and tools.
- Our role should be showing students how to explore technology and thus make topics more meaningful.
- Chatting with students through IMs has proved to enhance students’ sense of self-confidence about their learning.
- Social media has narrowed down the gap between speaking and writing.
- We must draw students’ attention to different types of discourse styles and rules.
- Teachers need to be competent at languages to use abbreviations and texting speak correctly.
- Some students feel that updating a status on Facebook or Tweeting is less intimidating than speaking in class or in real contexts.
Going from the classroom outwards, the power of breaking down the walls is beyond question. In the past, radio and TV allowed us to connect with the outside world to a certain extent. However, this was done very much indirectly through their media. Nowadays through the internet and all the technological devices we have at hands, students can access more authentic language and also through computer mediated communication teachers can connect with other classes over the globe asynchronously. But if teachers manage to connect with educators in similar time zones, we can actually have synchronous interaction. Another point worth mentioning is that teacher can also break the walls coming inwards. Basically it means that learning management systems allow students who cannot go and communicative with the outside to have access to material, resources and activities that teachers have prepared from their home.
After some time, a question made by one of the chatters got them discussing about the impact of effective technology integration has on learners. And their comments were:
- It’s important to survey our students to see which technologies, social media sites and tools they already use so that they feel more eager to take part in a project or activities.
- Tech integration promotes involvement and willingness to use the language outside the classroom.
- It can back fire when teachers are not familiar with it
- Students are more motivated when they are learning the language and the skills needed for the kinds of technology they already use.
- An easily recognizable sense of language confidence.
- It can improve students’ lexical repertoire from the former class by avoiding net vocabulary or slangs when using IMs for example.
- Teachers must aware of the fact that although students’
- Online communication is a new genre and needs to be illustrated among others.
- Students thrive when teachers connect the learning content into an existing technological behavior.
- Social media offer students the authentic meaningful interactions we strain to achieve in class.
I’m of the opinion that it is extremely important that technology plays the role of support to the learning and not just a gimmick or something temporary. It has to serve as aid to teaching and learning. Another important thing we need to ponder is the balance of the use of technology and make sure there is not only all one thing and this includes the use of non-tech resources as well. Sometimes I wonder what the risks, if any at all, of NOT using technology in class since I cannot picture myself without integrating tech into my teaching practices. It is not that our students will not make progress, will not learn. But why not taking advantage of the new tools that are out there? Especially if they make the teaching-learning process more efficient or perhaps if they save you from long hours of preparation and planning. We should use technology not only because our pupils use it or will be expected to in their careers. We need to use technology to tear down our classroom walls. We should use technology to show students that their voices can travel the world just like ours do when we tweet, blog or update a status on Facebook. We need to use technology to motivate students to continuously research and to show them that their work transcends beyond the class syllabus.