Innovations in technology have lead to radical changes in the way we’re able to teach languages to students. Long gone are the limitations of relying solely on a textbook to accompany lesson plans as we incorporate multi-media platforms to support and enhance our teaching, engage students in learning processes, and create stronger cultural connections across the globe.
In the past, using technology to shape language teaching may have meant the occasional class trip to a computer lab, but with an abundance of resources now available, it can involve anything from interactive whiteboards, social media, video, apps, podcasts and everything in between.
The correlation between languages and technology
The virtual learning environment (VLE) enriches each of the four fundamental attributes to language development – speaking, listening, reading and writing. It also caters to different learning styles, and so teachers can create a varied and interactive learning journey for their students, increasing productivity and enhancing understanding through greater exposure to authentic materials.
Audio-visual material, for example, can be paused, replayed or slowed down to suit the needs of the class. Visual learners, who think in pictures respond well to the chance to form vivid mental images to aid their learning. Auditory learners rely on listening and think in words. Listening and re-listening to recordings will help them further retain information and formulate an understanding of what’s being taught. Similarly, recording devices allow learners to produce their own content then use playback to analyse it.
Not to be overlooked, the use of education apps in the classroom is also increasing in popularity. There are lots to choose from, including translation apps, content generation apps and video and photography apps, but those that aid or automate grading are useful for feeding back to students regularly. Games or quizzes can be created for a novel way to engage learners individually, or in group settings, and gauge progress without the pressure of a formal test or exam. This can be shared on large-scale if paired with other technologies. At the New College Group, we use Interactive White Boards to do this, for example. The focus is on fun learning and maximising teacher-student time in lessons.
Technology is the tool; teaching is the service
Incorporating technology into the classroom should not be taken lightly. Unless, as a teacher, you have a fundamental understanding of the technology you’re proposing to introduce, you risk adding no value to your teaching, nor students’ learning.
Remember that the learning journey is only ever improved by tech that actively encourages learners to use the target language appropriately as a tool for accomplishing genuine tasks.
If particular tech devices and platforms are difficult to set up and use, then you run the risk of eating into valuable learning time, which raises questions about the validity of these resources. It’s important to remember that the key role of technology in language teaching is to support it and not replace it.