Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Some thoughts on using technology in class

Dear friends! I would like to share my thoughts which appeared due to my participation in one very interesting course of British Council that I am now attending. The course is Digital Literacies course and it basically teaches us using technology in class. It is held in the Moscow office of British Council and will last for 4 days. Russia is the third country where the course is presented after Thailand and Malaysia.We are actively participating in workshops organized by two wonderful trainers – Gavin Dudeney from the UK and Mark Pegrum from Australia. I would like to share some thoughts which I have after the first day of the course.
The first part of the day was like peeking into the future for me. Mark was telling us about the importance of technology in our life and why we need to use it in teaching English. So the first question is whether teachers of English have to use modern technology in their classes or it is all right to follow the traditional methods of teaching which have been accumulated for many years, safe to be used and proved to be effective for previous generations. Well my answer is – YES to using modern technology in class and that affirmative answer is a confident one with no hesitations. Of course it does not mean we have to overuse technology and apply it whether we need it or not every time and every class. The ideal variant is to use it when with its help we can do something that is impossible or less effective without it. So let me explain my position on that in more details. I will be using some information I got during the course and my own thoughts and ideas.
If we compare modern life with the situation several years ago the difference will be immense so it goes without saying that the methods we use while teaching English (or any other language) should correspond to with the modern conditions. Several years ago during their school and university years young people were prepared for more or less stable jobs when they just had to apply the acquired knowledge with no need to modify anything so much. Many people were connected to one working place for their whole lives and it was a general rule. Looking at the modern age we can surely say that the situation changed completely. People are not really sure what tomorrow will bring and have to be able to adjust to the changing situation and it changes pretty fast. Modern people have to possess numerous skills to be able to survive in the life which is rapidly changing. The idea of life-long learning came into existence. There is a need to always improve, educate oneself, to be knowledgeable in several spheres. Internet and technology being a substantial part of our life came into the picture. If they are used in our every day life so widely, why should we avoid using them in teaching languages? What technology has in stock for us are the numerous possibilities of making language learning more effective, interesting and enlightening. So why not make use of that all?
When watching science fiction movies or reading sci-fi novels we are amazed at some inventions mentioned. Some things described seem unbelievable to us. Let’s look at our life! There are so many inventions surrounding us now: personal computers, laptops, smartphones, iPads, tablet computers, electronic reading devices, touch-sensitive devices. Could we imagine that all of these devices would appear in our life and develop so rapidly? Maybe some of the incredible things mentioned in commercials seem unbelievable to us right now but several decades will pass and our children will be the witnesses of how they are used in life. Could we imagine we I was a schoolgirl that in only 20-25 years we won’t be writing on the board with the chalk but will write on a kind of computer screen with a pen (like we can do with the interactive board)? Maybe life shown in this unbelievable clip is not so far away, maybe soon all these things will be possible and won’t surprise anyone?
Younger generation already live in the world of technology. Their way of thinking is completely different from ours. They are technology-natives, they can’t imagine their life without it. They acquire and memorize information differently, they are more visual and plain text will not imprint in their memory as good as pictures. They eyes are accustomed to bright and rapidly changing images. Teachers should be in line with that if they don’t want to be left behind. We teach this new generation of future specialists who will be living in the new world of rapid technological development and are already living in it. Should not we try and prepare them for such life? And how can we prepare them if we have no idea about technology or are afraid to use it?
Maybe the time has come for the teachers to reconsider the methods they are using and introduce this new member of the society known as technology into the classroom. It is risky, it is not safe, there can appear problems and it is not always as convenient as it seems at first glance. It is still worth it. Though using traditional methods which were developed throughout the years and are well-tailored to teach our students seems convenient to us we should accept the fact that technology is an integral part of our life and without being computer literate how can we prepare our students for future life? My conclusion for today is –let’s develop digital literacies, support and develop the desire of our students to live with technology. It will help their autonomous learning in the future. Using new devices and gadgets they will be able to acquire the language more effectively and faster and hopefully the acquired knowledge will stay in their mind longer. Let’s use technology reasonably not forgetting about real-life communication which is still vital for language learning. Let’s have technology help us improve our classes. One very important thing here is the ability to look at technology with a new approach. It is impossible to look at something completely new with the same approach as before. The whole attitude and approach should be changed. Technology is there to make our pedagogy more successful and serve our needs to teach effectively. So let’s invite technology into our English-language classroom and try to be friendly with it. Good luck!