I have seen it, I have lived it. Being a student since 1999, I lived the more traditional and paper-axed teaching, but I also had the chance to live the technologies immersion into classroom when I was older. I also had the chance to see students using iPads in class, as well as smartboards during my practicum. More than ever, technology is a self-standing part in teaching. However, is it essential and worth the investment, or are they as good as more traditional teaching?
While most parents are struggling to get their children off the screens where they spend most of their time offs, students are subject to stare at screens for entire days in their classrooms. However, we have to admit that childrens’ reality is not the one of their parents; and technology defines many of the changes. As classrooms had barely evolved in ages, it is now tending to change with the arrival of all the interactive tools related to technologies teachers can get access to. Well used technology can, indeed, be a great way to catch the attention of students. They are more likely to listen when there is an interactive visual support than to a simple teacher lecture. Children nowadays were born with technologies in their hands, and adapting to their lifestyles in classroom is just a good way to keep them attentive on school benches. I have seen it, and I can say that a classroom with great usage of technology is far more interesting for students. If students can access some contents online on a platform and can interact with the content, the technology will then have a positive impact. Some people, like Cindy Matthews, thinks technology is a must in today’s classes. She supports that technology is a great tool for learning and is more than only computers. It is all the environment suitable for learning it creates. For instance, it is much more interesting for a student to listen to a teacher while he uses PowerPoint slides. She also thinks that it is interesting for students to be able to print notes before writing them down rather than having to focus on writing them instead of actually acquiring knowledge.
Technology, however, has to be used properly. If the only way it is used in the classroom is by writing on a smartboard, there may not be many difference to a regular classroom. But, if the teacher gives interesting tools and immerses the students into a new kind of experience, which does not feel like teaching, students may feel more cooperative. I strongly believe that English is learned by getting involved into it rather than listening to a lecture. The more you speak it, the more you feel at ease. On the downside, sometimes, technology is seen as a solitary tool. Everyone staring at their screen, with not much interaction. This is where all the importance of using well technology comes in. There are plenty of activities that can be fun and interactive, but there is also place for students discussions as much as possible. Keep their eyes off the screens sometimes, and please do not only evaluate their communicative competence recorded on a software, where the student speaks only to a machine. Samantha Cleaver says that in order to incorporate technology, it requires a double innovation from the teacher. It sometimes take more time to set up workshops or lessons, but she says that it is worth it. It makes the students much more involved and makes the learning process a lot faster. That way, students can spend more time on learning more stuff. On the other hand, teachers have to be more aware because of the possible distractions related to technology.
The debate of the essentiality of technology in classrooms also brings another important debate: Does the student has to adapt himself to the teaching system rather than the teaching system that has to adapt to students. In my opinion, in order for students to get better results and get higher grades, teaching systems have to fit their lifestyles. Of course, it would be aberrant to say it is essential, as it had never been before. However, implanting it really does give a new life to school and enhances the students’ interest.
As an ESL teacher, technology can be a great way to enhance the participation and interest of students in the classroom. The more interacting the class is, the more students will be eager to participate. I would definitely use applications such as ChallengeU to post my homework and make students work on the computer. As a student, I already felt very demotivated to work on paper and I feel like it is very encouraging to work on the computer. On the other hand, it can be somehow distracting; but at this point, students need to build a discipline and resist the desire of doing something else while they are doing their homework. Moreover, I think that building some interactive activities on the smartboard really give the desire to participate to some students. In addition, I feel like short or long-term project should be oriented toward technology. For example, I think it would be interesting for them to record themselves on applications like Audacity to gauge their speaking. I would make my students record themselves in group conversations. In the end, many apps are good for supporting learning, especially for ESL learning.
If you choose to take advantage of technology, don’t forget the importance of the social aspect when it comes to language learning; use it as much as you can, but use it well. Try to get your students speaking as much as possible!