Technology in the Language Classroom: Tool or Method?

From an article by Randall Davis on the role of technology in the language classroom:

For years, technology has been viewed as a method, rather than a tool to facilitate and support teaching, and not the other way around, and it is sometimes assumed that if computers are placed in the hands of teachers, these devices will transform teaching.

I truly believe that technology can be an incredible tool for both teachers and students, but only when balanced with strong pedagogical methods. Often times teachers are given the tools and told that this will transform their teaching. The reality is, their teaching will transform the technology. The major problem is that schools often don’t provide the proper training on how to use these tools or not given any training at all. Randall goes on to state:

Even when in-service training is provide, it often takes the form of shotgun instruction in which teachers are overwhelmed with information in one gigantic burst without additional follow-up sessions for review and hands-on application.

I have seen this over and over again. People who are so familiar with how to use these tools are not able to bring the training to the level that helps all levels of digital immigrants and end up frustrating and discouraging them. What is needed is a simple scaffolding that teachers can adapt and use in their classroom with minimal training.

In 1995, Bernie Dodge came up with the simple structure called WebQuests. I believe that WebQuests have survived as an education tool this long because it provided a simple framework in what seemed like an overwhelming barrage of information. While this tool is now becoming dated, it should provide as a blueprint of how to approach technology in the classroom. Simple approaches for what seems like a complex task. Make it broad enough to be adapted to whatever approach the teacher wants to use or whatever subject is being taught. This is the real challenge, not the technology itself.

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