We asked Simon Brewster, Deputy Director General at The Anglo Mexican Foundation, his views on the way that technology is changing the way we teach languages…
As far as technology is concerned, there are obvious advantages for learners in terms of access to information, greater communicability and the reality of learning outside the classroom.
Where I think we need to be careful is in not assuming that technology somehow replaces the need for good teaching. It is in the end another tool at our disposal but you can still have a bad class even with technology.
I am also not convinced that the use of online courses and whiteboards is any more effective in terms of learning than using more traditional tools. No-one has been able to provide any evidence that they are. If it is true that you can learn a language using different approaches and methodologies, I think it is also true that you can learn a language with a fairly minimal amount of material and equipment.
I would say that good teaching affects learning much more than the technology available. I went to an interesting talk which contrasted e-centric teachers with t-(as in teaching) centric teachers which made the same point.
It is also not the case that everyone has access to technology. Mexico has 80 million cell phones but relatively few people have access to the most sophisticated technology outside the more privileged groups.
In the case of formal education, our pupils cannot take cell phones into class for obvious reasons. A lot of technology they use is for socializing not study or reading: facebook, twitter, text messaging etc.
Where I do see technology having a significant impact is in areas such as intranets which connect students, teachers and parents, access to Internet for research purposes and support from websites for everything from making a poster to producing video and the fact that technology makes everything much faster.
For our students in the language teaching centres, as opposed to schools, we are focusing on getting teachers to encourage students to use existing components such as CD-Roms and course related websites at the same time as we develop a support website for students to consult as a value added element to their courses. We will do this at low cost including elements that are available at low or no cost.
I have to mention that aside from cost issues – a whiteboard comes in at around US$300 – there are big security issues with technology for schools as well as related questions of cyber bullying. We have experienced problems in both of these areas and are now very active in raising awareness in pupils about the risks of social networking online.
By Simon Brewster
The Anglo Mexican Foundation
Do you share Simon’s experiences? Please let us know your thoughts…