I was wondering what you all thought of learning designs pertaining to English language teaching? What are the ways in which you design your lessons to achieve better learning in your students?Continue
You've posed an interesting question. It presupposes that there are advantages to using technology, and I'm inferring that you think that the advantages are self evident. I would agree, but I'm not sure this is the majority view. Proponents of Dogme, for example, have doubts about the use of technology in language teaching. I think the disadvantages are rooted in the purposes for using technology. My colleague Kevin Ryan has said two things I like about using technology:
1. Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should be.
2. If it can be done with paper and pencil, it should be.
So then, a disadvantage of technology is that it may be misused. If the technology is used as a substitute for good teaching, then it's being misused. One obvious reason technology is misused is that many teachers don't know how to use it. This means that teachers need to be made aware of this, and they need to learn how to properly use the technology before they introduce it to their students. Also, teachers, including me, assume learners have some basic technical literacy - only to discover in the midst of the lesson that they were wrong. The lesson then turns into a lesson on how to use the technology instead of a lesson on how to use the language. This isn't necessarily bad if the target language is used to do it, but often it's not because the teacher feels the learners' anxiety. The need to learn the technology in order to complete the task has doubled the learning burden, and as sensitive teachers we want to lighten the learning burden.
I've written an article describing some of the ways that I've used technology in my lessons. The article will be published in my university's bulletin. I'm not happy with the paper, especially the last two sections. I think I have a tendency to tire of a writing task and just rush to get it done at the end. Even still, the first part of the paper does give a pretty detailed account of the advantages and some of the disadvantages of using technology in the language classroom. I've uploaded the paper to googledocs. Here's the link: Web 2.0 and Mixed ability classes in Japan. Feel free to comment, or even edit the document. The paper is in press now, but I can make minor revisions still. As I said, I'm very unhappy with the paper and I plan to seriously edit and rewrite it. Once I've done this I'll publish the new version somewhere, perhaps online. Your input and the input of any member of the EFL Classroom 2.0 community would be much appreciated.
Here's another link to a good article by Mark Warschauer.
I'm going to read the Warschauer article this morning and reply in full. I have rather eclectic views on this subject and think too many are promoting too little - the proper paradigm and approach for using technology in education.
Assuming that you didn't manage to set aside that block of time you were speaking of. Looking forward to your thoughts. Wonder if you'd mind reading the paper I wrote too. Need your suggestions and insights. The biggest problem with the paper is that it promises to discuss the challenges and promise of Web 2.0, but doesn't deliver. I ran out of steam - and time, the paper was overdue ;)
Also, could you pls follow me on twitter. I can't reply to your tweets otherwise. I'm mickstout on twitter.
thank god for Sundays! I spend a very peaceful day , doing this and that, thinking this and that and really just being surprised by "stumbling". I need that to keep my mind/being healthy. Read yours and Mark's papers - both one beer papers!
First a reply to your reply. Then, some comments about your wonderful paper (that should be what professional development is about, sharing what is going on in our classrooms - the pitfalls, the attempts, the triumphs - you outline it all so well).
I really disagree with your colleagues aphorisms. they sound catchy and they sound right but like a lot of "catchy phrases", they make everything seem black and white. And if there is anything education is against, it is against paint by numbers - against one size fits all. We are all artists, each day a performance and there is no trick, no step by step playbook or guide. Just the spirit in action as we learn and are "being there".
1. Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should be
-- Computers can't replace ANY teacher. I'd take a drunk, unshaven, derelict guy over a computer any day. Call me crazy but I have a very eclectic view of technology and education. Much different than the party line and classrooms of shiny IWBs. What I mean is that teaching is always about PEOPLE. Even on the computer. It isn't teachers we want to replace - it is what John Grotto calls the "institution of failure" that we need to throw out the window. The manner by which we cage our youth and go through the motions of "educating". The problem isn't computer vs teacher. Not at all. The problem is curiosity vs authority. Technology allows us to flatten and open up classrooms but never replace teachers. David Warlich recently had a short post that deals with this too. Might be enlightening....his blog would have a wealth of stuff for you.
2. If it can be done with paper and pencil, it should be.
Nope. Depends on the objective. Also, depends on the learners. This once again betrays a knowledge of what technology actually is about. As mentioned at the end of Mark's paper, technology is not a substitute for paper/pencil nor in competition with it. It is a medium. It IS the knowledge. Not a means to knowledge. Just like McLuhan outlined in Gutenberg's Galaxy ( a book anyone into technology and culture/learning should read slowly and suck on like a lollipop!) - it is a new medium. We are in a period of transition just like how Gutenberg's press transformed things over a few hundred years (yes, took that long and wasn't like our history teachers make us believe - that over night everyone was reading and writing "books" . It will take time. But technology is a MUST with many learners these days. It is NOT an instructional aid as many blended learning advocates mis label. Technology shapes the knowledge it gives, it is a language in and of itself. As we use technology, we are opening up ways of knowing and being.... Of course, it offers new ways of interacting, new ways of organizing content, new speeds of processing info. , new ways of presenting information. However, that is just part of it. The medium is the massage - as McCluhan originally meant it. So in short, if it can be done with paper and pencil - don't do it like that! -- we are always teaching the future! Knowing the Pythagorean theorem with a pencil and paper is good - but if you learn it on a computer, you are not learning the same thing! Knowledge is three dimensional (but that is another topic.).
Okay, end of diatribe. I hope to write a book one day when I'm old enough to stop stirring so many soups.....but these are interesting times and I really smile each morning before jumping out of bed - smile to be so lucky as to be there and have another day to find out what's new in the world.
Now, some comments about your enjoyable paper and other comments.
I really would tighten it up by shortening the description of what you did. I would have enjoyed more and I think it would be more helpful to teachers to expound in more detail about all the proximate and also gross reasons why the curriculum you set up , didn't meet with total success or meet your own standards. There is a lot there and you are right, I think you did petter out a bit at that "end".
You are right to note how we can't assume that our students are technologically literate. That's a big mistake. However, I really think the main requirement with blended learning is "success". Giving our students the feeling that they are "going somewhere" and not just getting what the teacher wants done. I see your Voicethread on pop music along those lines. We really need I believe - to just put simple things and goals in place vis a vis technology. Too often, by teachers, these things are over designed. Thus, we get the quips about pen and pencil. However, technology does come very simple. We just have to think it through. It is an art :)
You might also address what I think is the proper goal of education - self - learning. We shouldn't really be "teaching" with technology. Students should be "learning" with technology. That's a big subject but what I mean is that we have to release them to pursue their own ends. Was there a lot of learner autonomy in your activities/design? I know it is hard , what with administrations, grades etc...but this is the proper direction and focus of technology. To liberate the learner from the tyranny of the teacher. (and I'm not just waxing here...this is true).
It is so funny that some people despite the different language and professed belief in technology - still carry around heads full of straw, the straw of Skinner's learning machines (that's an interesting paper of his, if you ever want to read something that if polished up, could really be a white paper for the kind of education that is happening around the world. Master this, go up a level. Master that, go up another. .... however, that's good as a drawing or organization but not how people learn!). I know my thoughts aren't your ordinary - technology is a tool. Just got to know how to use it type gospel. e have to trust our students more and throw them in. Unfortunately, too many still feel they must play the "teach" and like Vladmir and Estragon wait on a "Godot" that never arrives.
I really hope after publication, you let other teachers get a hold of this and comment more. Your openess about your classroom and efforts is making a difference. I know sometimes it seems not but people do see what you are doing , do read this kind of diarrhea I'm writing - and it does make a difference.....
Sorry about my long windedness. I let my fingers speak and my mind follow ....
PS. I've attached a report a wrote awhile back for some people. Never published, maybe I'll expand one day.... actually, I'll make this a blog post later this week. Might be of interest to some teachers.
Yes, I thought he was a smart cookie too! He almost went into blah blah blah land, but saved himself in the nick of time with the "what's your point?" slide : )
I like the visitor/resident viewpoint.
Off to Michael's now, which makes me happy and anticipatory by its very nature because it's from Michael! (I would never think blah blah blah about yours, Michael... honest : ) In fact, I am so appreciative that you are willing to show yourself as you really are as a teacher... that's special, I don't know if you realize that.)
I am impressed by the quick turnaround you were able to maneuver in your music class, Michael! I felt for you on that first day of class, when you find out that only one student in the class liked any music sung in English! Poor Mr. Stout! (They have no idea what they do to us :D )
So what parts of the classes do you think were most effective? What do you want to keep, what do you want to modify and try again, what are you going to dump? Anything new that you want to try? I feel like this is not quite a fair question to ask until I review your blog...
From my limited experience working with and observing young adults and computers, I don't think a sense of agency is a big motivating factor. They are pretty realistic about how fleeting any stamp they make on the world through their computer use is... chatting in real time and keeping in touch with friends both near and far are more immediate and powerful motivators. I think the sister class idea, if given the time and space to develop a real sense of community between the classes, can be an effective venue for learning languages, but the human element, the person-to-person contact and support, are essential to its success. A big part of this is having a real-time chat between the classes available, for in class and home use. And teachers involved in keeping the infant community going- keeping the chat box open while they are doing other computer work, noticing who is hanging out and engaging them in chat, introducing one student to another, just being a good host : ).
I think the key to a successful online classroom that pulls from various parts of the world is to get the students feeling some sense of commitment to each other- a commitment to respond to one another's efforts, to be a ready audience and practice partner for each other, to cheer each other on, to simply enjoy each other's company while practicing English.
Does that make sense?
Have you thought of creating a ning community for your classes? It's something that could be kept going from one semester to the next, you could invite other classes to join, there is a live chat, me page for individual expression, etc, etc.
I've got a suggestion for writing your next paper... why not start at the end, and work your way back? Write your evaluation of the classes, activities, what you liked, what you hated, what your students liked and hated, all that stuff with passion first... then once that is out, write the background details. That way if you start to peter out you'll already have all the juicy, most important bits written down...Once you've gotten it all out, you can go back and put it in chronological order. Just an idea ; )
Yes, there can be many disadvantages to using technology. Obviously, in this day and age, we cannot think about educating without it. All we have to bring to the classroom is our USB stick or less. I have experienced these moments, and observed it in many workshops - at exactly the moment that you want to start your glorious PPP, the computer doesn't work. In the classroom it's the same. The moment the computer lets you down, your class gets restless, looses interest, everybody gets loud and rowdy. And in no time a little chaos ensues.
Technology, the way we often use it, invites passivity amongst our learners. And, no matter how superb your pictures, photographs or special effects, kids in this day and age, are not easily impressed (although I still manage to get their attention).
The other thing is the sound. It's either too loud or too soft. And the touch screen - when you want it to work, it doesn't, and when you want to point something out in a picture, your touching the screen, makes the picture disappear and jump to the next. This amuses my students - so maybe it's an advantage.
The more you can teach out of REAL life, the better for your students. However, here in Korea, for example, a lot of the time virtual reality is much more enticing than reality.
It's the 21st century. It scares me, but I am also fascinated by what I can do for my students with the technology. If we can find a balance, I think it's a useful gadget.