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How can technology lead to a more comprehensive education?

Diary submitted by Lisa L., Barcelona, 2020

From my experience as a language student and the time I spent observing classes, I have come to realise how difficult it is to picture teaching without using any sort of technology. The high number of blogs and articles on the subject even highlight how valuable it can be to pedagogy, encouraging teachers to make the most of modern resources. This reflective diary is going to focus on how using said resources positively impacts teaching materials and students, therefore contributing to a more comprehensive education. 

The first argument in favour of using technology to enhance learning would be that it improves motivation and behaviour. In fact, students tend to look forward to it due to its familiarity. This is highlighted by Janelle Cox in her article when she says that “just about everything that they do is connected in some way to technology” (2019). Thanks to this familiar resource, students adopt the expected behaviour when faced with a technological device. For example, I observed a class with children who were very energetic and needed to move all the time. However, when their teacher put a Youtube video on, they all paid attention to what was being showed – or said, when they could understand. This does not mean they suddenly stopped talking, on the contrary they made comments all along, but they still showed signs of knowing what to do because they were familiar with the concept of watching videos and therefore focused more. Besides, such an activity can be a way to break the writing/reading routine that sometimes becomes repetitive even for older students. The ones I taught during my internship were particularly partial to any kind of audio or video that meant taking a break from purely grammatical exercises. Technology also allows students to learn in a fun way, playing games such as Kahoot, or more independently by making PowerPoints, which factors in their desire to learn.

But if teaching with technology increases student motivation, it is also because it creates accessibility and “help[s] to overcome the obstacles they [students] met in classical educational systems” (Laabidi et al 2014, 29). Some learners need an adapted way of learning and can feel unmotivated when their needs are not catered for. Hence, technological solutions such as writing on a computer or a tablet can be a springboard towards a more positive attitude in learning. Another example is the convenience of projecting documents in wide letters on a white board. This allowed a student in my academy to follow lessons at the same time as her classmates; a feat that would have been achieved with difficulty had the school not been equipped with such simple technology. This shows that even the seemingly simple ways to use technology contribute to a better way of teaching since it breaks with the ableism that otherwise prevails.

Apart from improving student motivation and involvement, teaching with technology “provides learners with greater access to the target language” (Larsen-Freeman 2000,, 250). Firstly, even the most general course can be more comprehensive thanks to how the four language skills are more easily covered. With something as simple as a recording (played either on a phone, a computer, or a cd player), teachers are able to provide their students with a more global experience when it comes to hearing accents and vocabulary from all around the world. To a certain extent, it even expands their cultural awareness.  Secondly, if we keep focusing on the use of recordings, some courses will always rely on them. It is the case of exam preparation courses, which aim to prepare students to all parts of an English language exam and therefore require access to listening preparation. This shows that technology in the classroom opens the door to a wider range of courses.

All in all, technology is the key to a more comprehensive way of teaching because it improves the form and the content of what students learn. Combining a teacher’s experience with what technology offers optimises learning and can present more opportunities. However, some areas need improvement for equality in learning with technology, because not everyone benefits from the same resources, be it at school or at home, and sometimes teachers and students alike can struggle with the use of these new tools. 

Sources

Cox, Janelle. “Benefits of Technology in the Classroom”. TeachHub. 7 Nov. 2019, https://www.teachhub.com/benefits-technology-classroom. Accessed on 9/03/2020 and 27/03/2020

Laabidi, M., Jemni, M., Jemni Ben Ayed, L., Ben Brahim, H., and Ben Jemaa, A. Learning technologies for people with disabilities. Journal of King Saud University – Computer and Information Sciences, 26, , Issue 1, Supplement. January 2014. 29 – 45. (online)

Larsen-Freeman, D. 2000. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (2nd edition). Oxford: OUP. 2000. (online)

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