** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
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 there 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 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 language, the distinctions between ESL and EFL are blurring, they 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 different 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 I’m 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, re-speak until they feel ready to speak and test themselves in the town square that is life.
Differentiation – so important in language learning for language is a type of knowledge that is so personal and so close to us.