Should we use technology to help us learn a language?
This morning I read an article in a national newspaper looking at mobile technology in the language learning classroom
It divided schools up into two groups:
- Schools which allow learners to use technology in lessons (such as UKLP Bristol where our Spanish courses in Bristol allow phones and electronic devices in the classroom)
- Schools which don’t allow learners to use technology in lessons
From the teachers’ part, there is always the argument that smartphones and tablets “disturb lessons” – they are a nuisance and distract learners from the focus of the lesson.
However, the opposite argument is that mobile technology can bring a lot to lessons and learning in general. For example:
- You need a word but can’t think of it in the language you’re learning: look it up using the Google Translate app or another mobile dictionary app.
- Your teacher uses a word that you think you know but you’re not 100% sure: look the word up in your own language or in the language you’re learning on Google Images and then show it to your teacher to confirm if it is what you were thinking about.
- You’re not very good at taking handwritten notes? Then download a voice recorder, such as Voice Record Pro on the iTunes store or Smart Voice Recorder on Google Play, and record the lesson – that way you can listen back to what the teacher said in your own time.
- You’ve been a little behind in class and don’t have the time to take down all the notes from the board because the lesson is about to end: use the camera on your smartphone to take a photo of the board. Or even if you miss a class – take a pic of your classmate’s notes.
Mobile Phones are a Gateway to the Internet
Once you start looking at mobile technology as a gateway to the Internet, then the possibilities for its use in the classroom start to become endless. Within a matter of seconds you can be reading something of interest in your chosen language. Something only a few years ago would have been impossible to even imagine. If you need help with reading take a look at our 5 step guide to improving your reading skills.
To mention another important use: if you can access your school’s Wi-Fi, then get yourself on Twitter through your mobile phone.
Twitter is a great way to connect with other language learners, language specialists and dedicated language learning profiles and websites. Putting a question out on Twitter can bring back fantastic results in a matter of seconds.
If you log in to Twitter and type in the hashtag #BYOD you’ll find a wealth of information on this new phenomenon: Bring Your Own Device.
Should Technology be Involved at all?
In short, the idea is simple: we live in a world where the number of digital natives is starting to outnumber the non-digital natives, so why take away what they live and breathe? Why remove technology from the classroom, put it in a special ‘computer room’ and let learners only use it when the teacher deems necessary.
Digital natives use technology all day, every day – why change this in the classroom? They know how to use it to their advantage when finding out information, contacting people or sending files – surely these skills can be transferred to the language classroom.
In fact, the Austrian Institute for Applied Telecommunications (OIAT) recently produced a pamphlet in which they outlined advice for learners, parents and teachers on how best to use technology in the classroom. In short, it states learners should use it to their advantage and appropriately i.e. not for messing around.
Of course, there is always the risk of learners using technology inappropriately in the classroom: they could be playing on Facebook instead of doing their work.
Although this is always possible, I think it makes more sense to take a ‘trusting approach’ – educate learners about the benefits of using technology appropriately in the classroom and then place the trust in their hands to take the reigns of their own education.
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A polyglot and international traveller. Anthony speaks 6 languages and loves sharing his passion of language learning through his writing.
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