IATEFL Hungary: Michael Carrier on use of mobile devices and other technology in ELT (Plenary)

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Event date: 
Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 13:15
 - hancockmcdonald.com/blog/archive/201210

Michael began by pointing out the now overwhelming reasons people have for learning English. Statistically, it’s proven that increased English means increased income (except perhaps for English teachers, as one member of the audience pointed out, to much laughter!). He went on to point out that more and more, academic programmes are conducted through English. And last but not least, with technological advances, the world is everybody’s oyster, and the predominant global language is English.

Technology is both a reason for learning English and a means for learning it. Michael suggested that, with the potential benefits of technology, teachers and institutions still insist on making students switch off their devices in class. After all, as someone once said, “cellphones are (or will soon be”, the gateway to all human knowledge”.

Michael then moved onto the theme of 21st Century skills, many of which are associated with new technologies (just google that for further details!). If the wider educational objective today is to develop 21st century skills, then it seems coherent to develop them in our language classes too.

Michael then went on to concretely specify the kinds of gadgets he has in mind for “Technology Supported Learning”. These included interactive whiteboards (or at least, projectors), wifi, good speakers, and individual devices for each student. The later may be tablets or cheap laptops provided for them,  or they may be BYOD – “bring your own device” – i.e. smartphones, iPads, mobiles etc.

Practically speaking, the revolutionary aspect of this technology-rich new learning environment is the possibility of the “flipped classroom” – where much of what was traditionally done in class may now be done at home instead. Michael used the image of “breaking down the walls of the classroom” to convey the idea of how this allows English language learning to accompany the student outside the class into the real world and back. As a concrete example, he cites a class in which students go out into the street, take photos, make recordings and so on, and then put this all together into one project, which they then put online and publish for all to see.


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