Checking out the pros

Officially in the “future”
SOURCE: GIPHY

“The era where computers rule the world is here. Just as technology plays a major key role in business relations, entertainment, music, movies, and almost every aspect of our everyday lives, it plays an equally important role in education. Studies have shown that 90% of students have access to some type of computer or mobile device – whether at school, at work, or at home. So, it’s not surprising to see the evolution of classrooms and teaching methods gravitating in the direction of technology.”

Article can be found here.

This week I’ll be focusing on the pros of bringing technology into a language class.

Unlike my past posts, I feel as though this week will be a little easier for me as the media tends to lean in favor of tech use in the classroom.

“AYE!”
SOURCE: GIPHY

Whether technology is allowing people in remote areas to attend online university classes, or the fact that we don’t really have to rely exclusively on libraries to conduct our research for assignments (like many of us used to); having access to online and digital tools is definitely a “game-changer” when it comes to diversifying our teaching, our learning and our resources. For many students, tech is fun and engaging; it captures peoples’ attention and kids want to use it. Furthermore, not only do digital and online pedagogical tools allow students and teachers to have access to resources from anywhere and at any time, but they also make collaborating with others a lot easier thanks to cloud-based software (link).

Having access to the internet definitely has the ability to make every-day tasks much easier for teachers. Teachers can quickly share documents, ideas and lessons with colleagues with the simple click of a button. Contacting and keeping parents up-to-date is easier than ever with email, classroom blogs and online grading systems such as PowerTeacher’s Parent Portal.

Blended learning classrooms help students develop better research skills, learning independence, self-engagement, improved decision-making skills, responsibility and overall computer literacy. Others would argue that blended learning environments can also improve efficiency, save money and time, personalize learning and gain better insight of how your students learn and what type of support they may need from you.

“Basically, a blended approach ensures that not only is the learner engaged more and driving his/her individual learning experience to some degree, but also since different learners have different learning styles, a blended approach is more likely to cater to those varying needs. Of course there are also numerous benefits for the instructor – instant feedback, and the ability to quickly assess learner performance and needs based on reporting, testing or quizzing via the LMS. “

Link to article

With tech and blended learning environments, students have instant access to knowledge, teachers can personalize learning to better suit students’ needs, and with every passing day, teachers and students are gaining more and more access to newer and more innovating apps, software and tools. As this article mentions, technology can actually make our lives a little easier too:

“Educators should understand that if they employ technology in their classroom that is similar to the technology students use at home, their teaching job will be easier”

Unlike the old, stale textbooks many classrooms are still using to this day (sometimes from the 80’s and 90’s), online tools and resources can constantly be updated and can provide students with the most relevant and current content. (link)

Where the party at?
SOURCE: GIPHY

“This study investigated the potential benefits of a blended learning approach on the reading skills of low socioeconomic status students in Grades 1 and 2. Treatment students received English language arts instruction that was both teacher-led and technology-based. Comparisons were made with control students who received the same English language arts instruction without the blended learning component. Results showed significantly greater pretest/posttest gains on a standardized reading assessment for the treatment students compared to the control students. The greatest discrepancy occurred in reading comprehension. A sub-analysis of low-performing English language learner students in the treatment group revealed the largest reading gains. At posttest, these students performed at the level of non-English language learner students in the control group. Results indicated a blended learning approach can be effective in enhancing the reading skills of low socioeconomic students.”

Link to article.

The reasons are there you guys. Factor in the fact that the kids we’re teaching at school basically were born with devices in their hands; it becomes more and more clear as to why we should just welcome tech with open arms instead of dodging and demonizing it.

Technology’s the devil
SOURCE: GIPHY

I won’t bother going into everything that can go wrong either, because as teachers, we KNOW what can go wrong. But is that enough to make us want to quit while we’re still ahead?

As I read through my articles this week, I noticed a really interesting “pocket” that I’d like to explore in this post: using technology and blended learning while learning a second language.

oh snap!
SOURCE: GIPHY

There’s been a lot of research done in this field that’s worth taking a lot this week. According to my readings, there’s a lot to gain from tech for ESL students (or any students learning any language for that fact).
This article for example discusses how word processors can help students improve their writing abilities until their work becomes legible and comprehensible to others.

“We go through a process of creating and re-creating text until it is fully comprehensible to others and is accurate. We can create a draft, show it to others and, based on feedback, can make changes to improve the text. The tools can also help us by showing that our spelling or grammar needs work, too. Technology makes this much easier, and makes it more likely that learners will engage with the editing process to produce the highest-quality text that they can. This writing can then be displayed for others to look at and comment on.”

When I was learning French for example, this particular statement holds a lot of truth (for me at least). Having gone through the BAC program (French Education Program at the U of R), you are required to gain a masterful understanding of French. Students in this program must attend school at Laval University in Quebec for an entire year in order to gain the necessary skills to not only read, write and speak French, but also teach it. Writing for me was a big factor, as word processing tools, online grammar editors, dictionaries and writing tools all helped improve and develop my writing skills.

yeah, this is the 2014 model, it’s pretty cool.
SOURCE: GIPHY

Furthermore, although immersion is a major component to language acquisition, any additional methods that can either improve or augment the amount of social interactions and exchanges we have is going to benefit the learner:

“Trying to find ways for people to do meaningful spoken language practice in a class can be very challenging, particularly if, as a teacher, you lack confidence in your own spoken language skills. Linking your class to other classes around the world, using tools such as video conferencing, can give a reason for a learner to ask a question and then try to understand the response. It might also provide support for the teacher, too. The technology mediates the process, getting language out there and giving feedback that shows whether someone has or hasn’t understood what you have said.”

In the following article, the author makes a very interesting point in relation to social media:

“Using tech means that students can now turn to Twitter to use the language, without having to pack the class off on a school trip. Goria says: “Use of technology has moved towards the internet and social networks, rather than concentrating on pieces of purposely-designed technology that you would have in language labs. They increase exposure to the target language and allow you to join groups that share interests in the language.”

Although social media has a bad rap, if teachers start playing their cards right, rather than fearing and banning platforms such as Twitter and Facebook from the classroom, we could be using these tools to establish valuable social networks. If used correctly, these new connections can allow learners to connect with people around the world, potentially helping them grasp the language in more engaging and interesting ways. At the end of the day, we need to make learning a fun and engaging experience, so why not open up the experience to include as many people as possible?

oh I like that idea!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Another interesting point that was made in this post relates to confidence levels. When learning a language, one of the hardest things to do is actually speaking the language. Many students, including my very own French immersion kids, don’t always feel comfortable sharing in class because they don’t feel as though their language skills are adequate enough:

“Computers can also help oral interaction by creating some sort of safety for the speaker. You hide behind the monitor and it lowers your inhibition level.”

The article also points out the beneficial uses of video:

“Another major development in language tech has been the use of video, according to Stannard. “The potential of video is incredible,” he says. “It could be instructions, presenting learning materials or students producing videos themselves. They could pretend they’re telling the news in the foreign language, they could act out a job interview situation, or put videos online for students in Europe about their local town. We could even prepare for oral exams by working in groups, filming it and then watching it back.”

For some students, the traditional classroom setting isn’t always enough. Although the following article relates to ESL students, the same can be said with basically any subject taught at school:

“Learning English as a second language (ESL) in a conventional classroom means all students must crawl along at the same pace in class. However, if you are ahead of everyone then you might become bored. Computer programs and resources allow students to progress at a comfortable speed – quickly or slowly, depending on their level of proficiency. This allows the ESL learner to spend extra time on the sections where they require additional help. This important group of learners now has the opportunity to learn English more efficiently through the use of computers!”

This article touches on the subject as well:

“Further, some technology tools enable teachers to differentiate instruction and adapt classroom activities and homework assignments, thus enhancing the language learning experience. Distance learning programs can enable language educators to expand language-learning opportunities to all students, regardless of where they live, the human and material resources available to them, or their language background and needs. In sum, technology continues to grow in importance as a tool to assist teachers of foreign languages in facilitating and mediating language learning for their students. “

The following blog talks about how technology makes learning much more interactive and engaging, which helps solidify learning and understanding:

“Experts have studied and debated that language learning through input only is not only ineffective but is also not successful at achieving learner language development. The best way to learn something is through an interactivelearning environment created by technological tools and resources. For students learning a language, it‘s key to ‘do’ things with language rather than just learning about language from your teacher. Technology makes it possible for students to interact with their language courses and gather a more complete understanding of all of the language components. Some students feel more comfortable, less embarrassed to make mistakes and learn from them in this interactive, intuitive model.”

My final article once again addressed the question of writing:

“Web-based writing instruction has proved to be an important factor in enhancing the writing quality of low-ability English as a foreign language (EFL) students. In a study designed to examine the effectiveness of Web-based instruction in the writing of freshman EFL students, Al-Jarf (2004) found that the use of Web-based lessons as a supplement to traditional in-class writing instruction was significantly more effective than teaching which depended on the textbook alone. “

The article also discusses the possibility for collaboration and networking with other students from other places around the world:

“In another study, Hertel (2003) describes an intercultural e-mail exchange at the college level where U.S. students in a beginning Spanish class and Mexican students in an intermediate English as a Second Language class corresponded weekly for one semester. Survey results revealed this student-centered endeavor had the potential to change cultural attitudes, increase knowledge and awareness of other cultures, foster language acquisition, as well as boost student interest and motivation in language and cultural studies.”

At the end of the day, I’ve learned that some of the biggest benefits of tech in language classes is that not only can students work at their own speed, but they have more opportunities to challenge themselves when they are provided with the ability to connect with others outside of the classroom. Online and digital tools allow students to continue learning once the class is over. Students can build legitimate connections with native-speakers, who can provide the learner with different knowledge the teacher or class resources could provide.

This week was refreshing, as the past few weeks have definitely focused on the more negative aspects of tech, it’s nice to see the good that can come out of all of this. Although I am still on the fence on whether or not I’d be completely transforming my classroom into a digital and online learning space, it’s good to weigh both sides of the argument.

Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you all have a great week!

Dre

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5 thoughts on “Checking out the pros”

  1. I enjoyed all of your refreshing reminders of why incorporating technology in the classroom is so important. Your take on blended learning “Basically, a blended approach ensures that not only is the learner engaged more and driving his/her individual learning experience to some degree, but also since different learners have different learning styles” was right on in my mind. You also commented on differentiating/personalizing instruction, and the ability to learn outside of the four walls of the classroom which both have a big impact on engagement and instruction. Thanks for pointing out the benefits. It was apparent in your post that you read a lot of articles to find the positives. Great post!!

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  2. This seems much more up your alley, Dre! You bring up a lot of great points, especially in regards to second language acquisition. I would agree with you in that oral acquisition is so difficult, and students always ask me (even the 12s!) “can I say this in English so you understand it?”. So if technology can help with this, I don’t see why ANYONE would have enough consequences to argue against it. I also completely agree with the importance of technology for teachers as well – it can help us refine our lessons, improve them with more interactivity, and give us the information we need more easily to teach concepts we may need refreshing. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  3. Dre, Great post as per usual! I really appreciated that you notice that not all students are comfortable speaking and being engaged in classroom discussion/activities especially if it is in a second or third language. With the tools and resources available to use we should be able to create an environment, assignments, discussion tools etc. where all students feel comfortable and confident participating in our classrooms. I also agree with your statement that students are pretty much born with devices in their hands now days so why not use it to our advantage rather than look at the negatives. I truly believe in finding the positives in things and using that to our advantage, why pick battles that don’t need to be picked? Overall, your post was very informational and had a lot of supporting evidence. I look forward to reading your final blog next week!

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  4. Great post Dre!
    I touched on some of the same points in my own blog. The students we teach now were born with devices in their hands, so it only makes sense that technology is a part of their learning in school.
    You found some great articles to support the needs of your second language learners, one being blended learning. It is great to have tools available for the learners we have who are uncomfortable with speaking out, or are not at the same level as everyone. This way, students who lack confidence are able to work at their own comfort level using a technology tool and not feel as thought they aren’t ‘enough’ in some way.

    Liked by 1 person

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