Technology and principles in language teaching

Over the coming months, I’m going to try and start blogging about a whole range of different websites and technologies that I’ve been looking at and experimenting with in the classroom, and to offer up a critical eye on their usefulness.

To get started on this particular strand, though, here’s a guest post by my co-author on the OUTCOMES And INNOVATIONS series, Andrew Walkley, which draws heavily on a talk he did at Glasgow IATEFL this year and which frames where I think we both feel the whole discussion about technology in teaching should be headed.

Here goes:

“Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace those that don’t!” At least that’s what I was reliably informed by a rather stern and serious ex-colleague of mine about ten years ago. Now many of you reading this may well share her evangelical faith, whilst perhaps some may even believe tech WILL ultimately replace us all. We live in an era in which teachers are regularly pigeonholed as digital non-natives or as digitally illiterate, whilst British Council inspectors visiting schools in the UK often comment negatively on the lack of technology being used both within and outside of the classroom.

The aim of this post is to question these ideas – not out of any inherently anti-technology tendencies, but as a way to consider general principles of teaching – both WITH technology and without – and also to support good low-tech teachers, of whom there are many.

I’m going to be making six main points: using tech in and of itself means neither good nor bad teaching – and in a sense the discussion about the rise of technology has detracted from any wider discussion of principles; technology has created a burgeoning cult of the amateur – and the pseudo-democratic rhetoric that has facilitated this has the potential to ultimately backfire on us all; tech has ushered in a glut of so-called authentic texts – videos, websites, newspaper articles and so on – and I’ll be arguing that this isn’t necessarily a good thing; fourthly, I’ll ponder the problem of price. Even if you believe that tech and content CAN be welded together well, the issue of who pays – and how – is a huge one. Next up, I’ll be suggesting that technology isn’t INHERENTLY motivating. Any of you believing it to be so may well be better off developing other, broader, approaches to motivating your students! Nor, sadly, is technology any kind of magic bullet. It will not cure all our students’ ills – and can never hide the harsh reality that there are NO short-cuts in language learning and teaching! Finally, I’ll be suggesting that while we clearly DO need to find ways of increasing interactivity, Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) are often NOT the solution. I then hope to round off with an overview of some principles that can aid and assist our pursuit of hi-tech classes, but which can also be used to justify the NON use of tech as well.

So let’s begin at the beginning and state that simply using tech does NOT mean good teaching – and, similarly, NOT using it does not mean bad! Bad teachers can be tech users! The tech-obsessed teacher that provided me with my opening quote was on more than one occasion described as ‘cruel’ – an astounding adjective for a teacher to be labelled with, if you stop and think about it! I’ve seen classes suffer slow death by Powerpoint and plenty of examples of students interacting with technology, but NOT with each other! Positive interactivity is in no way tech dependent! Indeed, tech can even get in its way!

The bottom line is that we are LANGUAGE teachers and should, by definition, ensure that first and foremost it is language we are teaching! We shouldn’t be teaching digital literacy because it’s a life skill any more than we should teach cooking. Teaching LANGUAGE to help students use facebook or to send texts in English IS our role, but there’s no essential need for use to be using to technology any more than students have to make dinner in order to learn language for talking about cooking.

Part of the problem is that the vast bulk of new technologies for ELT are based on OLD – and I would argue discredited – theories of language. Many of the sites recommended by gatekeepers such as Russell Stannard and Nik Peachey focus very much on grammar rules and lists of single words and their meanings. Now, whether it’s intentional or otherwise, there are hints of a theoretical approach to language implicit in such sites: grammar and vocabulary are generally seen as being separate; usage is relatively unimportant; lexical sets abound; skills are at least as important as language itself; learning should be ‘fun’! There’s a very restricted view of language and usage inherent in these sites, often predicated on a desire for – and a focus on – creativity. Technology fits this well. It also falls into the trap of believing that more means better: here are fifty-six vocabulary exercises for my students to do online. They’re fun! They’re free. Surely if they do them all, they’ll get better, won’t they? Well, not necessarily.

Part of the problem of course is that ANYONE can write stuff and stick it online. Indeed, it is the two-way relationship, this reciprocity, which is at the heart of Web 2.0’s appeal. Web 2.0 blurs the boundary between user and creator. As a result, all manner of material is written, uploaded and then downloaded and used. Even sites that we tend to see as more reliable feature material that’s clearly been neither edited nor critiqued.

This creeping amateurism is infecting all areas of our profession. Now, of course, you may well believe that none of this matters; that the benefit of this natural abundance is that the cream will float to the top. However, such a view is naive. At best, what this all leads to is a lack of course coherence, an absence of in-built grading and recycling, a bitty-ness, a poverty of materials: all in pursuit of a magical dream, the dream of a free coursebook infinitely malleable and tailored to each individual teacher’s and student’s needs. But let’s get real. A book with the staying power and influence of, say, HEADWAY will NEVER be free. There’s too much labour and craft and research and investment that goes into any coursebook for it to ever be gifted away – and perhaps we would all do well to be more appreciative of what we have, whilst we still have it!

Similarly, as dictionary sales continue to plummet year on year and more and more if us are happy to rely on online amateur knock-offs based on plagiarism and Wikis, we run the very real risk of inadvertently killing off real lexicography for good! To sum up, whilst dictionaries, corpora and – to some extent – coursebooks focus on the most frequent words and collocations in the language, and on how these items are used, web sources are inevitably ungraded, whilst vocabulary tools either give no indication of frequency or else lead students to learn vocabulary extremely inappropriate to their level. Furthermore, pressure for ‘currency’ means template-written exercises rather than crafted materials for learning. Limited training often means unfocused use of web sources and bad learning. So, in short, the cult of the amateur can undermine: expertise, the publishing process, course coherence AND language and learning principles!

The focus on grammar rules + words + skills is not new, of course, and it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that this is one of the reasons why the Web has been embraced. When you focus on rules, interesting contexts and ‘variety’ become more important than possible usage. When skills are separated from language, any text deemed ‘interesting’ will do, irrespective of language. practising the skills become the goal, but as Jim Scrivener pointed out recently, doing things is NOT the same as teaching. The Web is just an infinite range of stuff to do!

One final point to make here is that just because a text is taken from the Web it’s not necessarily any more useful, real, motivating or ‘authentic’ than a text written specifically for language learners. Henry Widdowson and Guy Cook, among a great many others, have questioned the still dominant view of authenticity that exists within ELT. A specially written text that supports language learning and promotes discussion, such as those often found in coursebooks, can be at least as authentic to learners are something sourced online before tomorrow morning’s class! Rather than thinking about texts as authentic or inauthentic, we’d be better off thinking about how we intend to get the class we’re teaching to authenticate texts we are using: using texts to teach language is, in a language classroom, an authentic use; we also need to consider the degree to which the language we are focusing on is relevant – both in terms of its frequency and in terms of the outcomes we are trying to achieve; do students get the chance to exchange ideas and feelings around the text and does it encourage them to relate to culture and / or diversity – and finally, do they get the chance to authenticate (or personalise) the language taught via the text. If so, then all is well and good.

Now, let’s move on to consider time and cost. Sadly, all too often, the time invested in learning about new sites that could be used, in setting things up on them and then running them – which may well involve also training students how to use them – is very much the teacher’s own. I saw a presentation by a young teacher at Spain TESOL last year in which she talked about her blog projects with classes. When questioned, she admitted she only found time to do all of this astounding work by sitting up late into the night and by working weekends. Now, it may well be that these Herculean efforts were met with enthusiasm and gratitude from students, but they nevertheless set all manner of unhealthy precedents: schools take it for granted that motivated teachers will do this stuff in their own time; teachers set themselves high standards they will have to continue to match time-wise to gain repeat satisfaction, and colleagues who DON’T want to invest these hours in tech are made to look bad in comparison – or, even more insultingly, are labelled technologically illiterate!

We need to be clear and vocal about the fact that in order to use tech, teachers need to be trained and need to practise. Writing good materials takes time and expertise. Extending learning outside the classroom often leads to an extension of the teachers’ working day! Advocates of tech often appear to be more or less workaholics, happy to do this for free. Are we really saying that a ‘good’ teacher is only one who is prepared to work overtime for free? On top of all that, there’s the issue of the use of classroom time. Time is often needed to set students up and get them running with tech. Tech breaks down and takes time to fix. These issues are often underplayed in discussions about the use of tech in teaching – and I would argue that we need to be asking whether this precious time could not be put to better use!

Next, I’d like to consider the suggestion that tech motivates. We’re frequently told we’re teaching screenagers, but our students are only screenagers when using facebook to sort out a meet-up with friends or to post comments on recently uploaded photos. They’re NOT screenagers twenty-seven / 365. Indeed, some recent research has questioned even our most basic assumptions about the so-called Net generation. In a report funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Dr Christopher Jones from The Open University, claimed – and I quote – that “there is no clear link between the use of technologies for social and leisure purposes, and the ability to use them for educational purposes. Neither is there a clear link between using universal technological services, and the ability to use the particular services that students are required to engage with at university. Essentially, being able to use Facebook does not necessarily mean that you’ll be able to effectively search for a journal article. Things that students might do in their social lives do not easily translate into an educational context.”

Some argue that the use of tech is motivating in itself, but the fact that many students simply won’t use a tool or learn online unless it’s assessed suggests otherwise. There’s obviously also no evidence to suggest that students who make use of tech wouldn’t have been motivated to use non-tech solutions to learn in previous lives! Motivated students are motivated full stop.

Regardless of any of this, students do still need to make time to study if they are to learn. And we have a responsibility to ensure they are aware of this. Learning words from a notebook is no more or less easy than accessing them on a mobile. The choice still needs to be made to sit and learn as opposed to doing something more pleasurable or urgent to the person concerned. We might also ask why students come to class at all if technology is really so motivating. Why not just skip class and stay at home and use tech? I’d suggest it’s because they want to set time aside to learn, to have guidance to learning useful things and to have the opportunity to exchange ideas and feelings in English!

Disturbingly, plenty of recent research seems to be suggesting that our increased use of the Internet is actually hindering our attempts to learn better.  In a 2011 paper, Betsy Sparrow from Columbia University claimed Google is altering the way our memories work as we increasingly tend to recall location rather than content. Whilst there may be advantages to this in some fields, in language learning it’s clearly a definite downside! In a similar way, DeStefano and Lefevre, in a 2005 study into reading and recall found that students reading articles online or via Kindle-type devices scored significantly worse than those reading old-fashioned paper versions, both in terms of recall of content and also in terms of noticing of language. They argued that this may well be down to the fact that hypertext serves as a distractor and increases cognitive load. In short, we need to be very wary of assuming fun and easy = better and more effective!

Finally, there’s the myth that somehow technology makes our classrooms more interactive. The great hope has been that the optimistically entitled Interactive whiteboards will facilitate greater interactivity. yet far too often, in classes I observe, IWBs are simply used as giant held-up coursebooks, as another form of crowd control. Interactivity in the classroom has to happen between teacher and students – and among students themselves – not through technology! Partly we can achieve through asking interactive questions!

So there we go. This seems to be where we currently are – and if you’re happy with the status quo, then that’s fine. However, things don’t have to be this way. I’d like to move on to suggest that rather than worrying about tech or non-tech per se, we’d do well to first consider what our basic principles as language teachers are – and to use tech (or, of course, reject it) accordingly.

The Common European Framework suggests some eminently sensible core principles for language teaching, as you can see here. We need to teach towards the business of everyday life, to help students exchange ideas and feelings – and to understand other cultures better. In addition, we need to define worthwhile and realistic objectives, base teaching and learning on the needs, characteristics and resources of learners and develop appropriate methods and materials.

When it comes to principles for learning, I’d suggest there are essentially only five steps that are compulsory: you need to understand meaning, you need to notice language – both form and usage, you need to hear new language, you need to do something with it and then you need to repeat these first four steps!

This leads us on to some core principles for thinking about vocabulary: real usage is important; grammar and vocabulary are inter-dependent; vocabulary is ultimately more important than grammar; better skills come from a better knowledge of language; students’ wants, needs and current abilities should determine level, not a canon of grammar; and frequency and thought about outcomes should determine vocabulary input, rather than just convenient ‘sets’!

Out of all of this, we can extract some kind of mission statement about teaching. At University of Westminster, our ethos is as follows: we need to ensure our classrooms are language rich; that this language is useful; we try to use our students as resources; we encourage the exchange of ideas and feelings; we help students recognise and understand diversity and we make links to continued learning.

And finally, we have some principles for the use – or non-use – of technology: focus first on language and on outcomes; leave space for students; explore tech options, but always ask yourself if the results really merit the time spent on them and if a non-tech approach might not just as effective, if not more so – and don’t let workaholics be our role models.

There is, whether you realise it or not, more to life than teaching!


69 responses

  1. thoughtful and provocative essay, thanks. definitely we should as you say always keep learning/teaching principles topmost in our minds.

    a lot of learning tech available is very much based on an outdated conceptions, and a lot of this tech is from major publishers, :0.

    whatever the downsides of the “cult of the amateur’ as you put it , that is one of the key drivers imo forcing traditional publishers to rethink their approach and so i feel the upsides of that outweigh the negatives you mention.

    i feel the really interesting opportunities for moving our field can arise when research and practicing educators are able to communicate directly with the public. this is the real democratic effect of the current wave of general technology.


    1. Hi Mura –
      I think you’re right to say that a lot of the edu-tech stuff that’s based on fairly outdated conceptions of language is from major publishers.
      In that, it’s simply a replication of much of the more trad paper-based material that’s released as well, I guess!

      The idea of thecult of the amateur isn’t Andrew’s idea, or mine, but comes from a very good and readable bok of th same name by Steve Keen, who was an original Intrnet start-up whizzkid who became very disillusioned by the whole thing and who’s particularly interested in the way in which what’s sold as a democratization of expertise actually takes revenue away from experts in all manner of fields and slowly kills off the things it professes to love. He cites the huge job losses in journalism, the media, the music industry, movies and so on that have been caused to at least some degree by the Internet and by the proliferation of free stuff.

      That said, obviously I’d have to agree that being able to cuommunicate directly with a public is great.
      It’s certainly been good for me – and I still love it when teachers using our boks in far-flung places are able to simply facebook us and ask questions or make comments or whatever, so no agruing there.

      1. thanks for the Keen ref, it seems his first name is Andrew not Steve!

  2. As a low-tech teacher who makes very little use of fancy new gadgets in her low-tech classrooms (one of which is a mediaeval “baking house” with only cold running water), I had to chuckle when I read this… Funnily enough, my students keep on coming for lessons with me, despite my low-tech approach, and they still keep on learning, despite – or maybe *because of*??? – my low-tech approach.
    It’s also interesting that you point out that memory abilities are not enhanced by digital technology; here in Germany, a writer called Manfred Spitzer has just brought out a book called “Digitale Demenz” (= digital dementia). I still haven’t read it, but the basic tenet seems to be that, for school students, it is still better for them to write things by hand and not rely on computers. The mere act of writing forms more solid memories, it seems, than using digital technology, which means we should definitely keep on getting our students to keep paper vocabulary books and not encourage them to use their smartphones or other digital devices.

    1. Thanks for the comment Amanda.

      I’m very similar to you in that in the classroom itself, I basically use a whiteboard and CD player . . . and a coursebook and my students!
      The fact feedback is generally very positive – coupled with the fact that students often tend NOT to do homework or project work that’s more tech-oriented – leads me to basically very similar conclusions to you.

      The DIGITAL DEMENTIA book sounds interesting. This year, I’ve been reading as much as I can about tech and education, some positive, some much more sceptical, and I suspect there’ll be more coming out in the next few years that backs up claims like th one you mention. I know from ym own experience that the students who simply take photos of the boardwork in my classes don’t generally rtain the language as well as the mor diligent types who note it all down and thn often go home and re-note it in separate books. Purely anecdotal, obviously, but still pretty clear to me.

  3. The cooking analogy falls down easily – we don’t expect people to use cooking equipment in class, but if we do expect learners to use technologies in class then we have a duty of care to ensure that they do so safely – and that does involve dealing with things outside of ‘language’ alone.

    I shan’t go deeper into the rest of it…

    1. This argument is predicated on one hell of an IF, of course.
      What about if we don’t expect students to perform digitally literate activities – or financial planning skills like budgeting for the week, relationship skills, cooking, etc – in class?

      1. So you’re not going to teach any survival skills when people turn up in the UK? Nothing about where to get buses, how to open a bank account, where to get x or y on the grounds that it’s not pure language? If you don’t want to use any technologies, of course, you don’t have to – but if you do, then you’ll be entering into territory where online reputation, online safety, computer viruses, phishing and a whole lot of other things are liable to crop up as consequences or results of what you’re doing in class. If you ignore them, you’re not practising safe teaching… Course, if you want to just ‘do English’ and ignore the stuff going on outside the classroom, then that’s your choice…

      2. Gavin –
        this just sounds like further reasons not to bother using tech in class!
        You’ve not spelled out any seeming benefits of tech use, but instead have loaded up the guilt and fear about safe teaching.
        What else should English language teachers be helping our students guard against?
        Surely if we follow the line of argument – that use of tech in class necessitates guarding students against bad things that could happen to them when using tech – then as language teachers, we should also be warning them about bad things that can happen to them whilst using language? Maybe we should abandon language teaching altogether and simply focus on avoidance strategies for students?
        Warn against date rape, pick pocketing and aggressive telephone marketing?
        It’s a seemingly bottomless can of worms, this trajectory, surely?

      3. Do driving instructors merely teach the mechanics of driving and not bother with anything else related to being a ‘safe’ driver? I don’t think I’ll ever really understand the argument that English teachers should stick to the language and not get involved in anything else. It seems very counter-intuitive in an education setting.

      4. Again, I think the metaphors are ever so slightly over-wrought and hysterical.

        In what way is an English Language teacher not teaching students how to avoid phishing emails the same as a driving instructor – whose job it is to teach learners to drive safely and pass their driving tests and not be a menace on the road – equivalent?

        Incidentally, I never said teachers of English should never ‘get involved in anything else’ – unless I’m missing something.
        I simply asked where you draw the line and why awareness of the things you suggest should take priority over any number of other things that you might want to focus on, whether that be homophobia or saving the whales or dealing with strangers hassling you on the street or whatever.

        I’m all for these things being looked at, but basically if and when they ‘come up.
        You may be interested to hear that this very morning, I did a reading from OUTCOMES Intermediate Unit 12 – it was a kind of opinion piece detailing one person’s concerns about social networking, etc. Out of the comprehension questions and a discussion about what students agreed and disagreed with, there was some talk about phishing, about hacking and upgrading firewalls, about search monsters now stealing online photos and sending them to porn sites, etc. We even ended up with the following boardwork – the words I elicited / tried to elicit are in italics:
        Cyber crime is a huge business now
        I worry about people hacking in to my personal accounts
        Lots of gullible people fall for those phishing emails you get
        You need to constantly upgrade your firewall – to maintain your online security

        If this is what you mean – teach language as and when the need emerges and in response to discussions in class or materials in class – and have short discussions around these concepts, the I’m down with that.

        I suspect, though, you mean something else.

      5. I hate it when people come over all ’emergent’ on me 😉

        Glad to see you had an interesting tech talk in class. If someone in that class had said ‘I leave my wifi open to anyone passing’, would you have simply said ‘that’s nice’ and moved on, or would you have engaged in a discussion about how potentially bad that is if you’re a teacher and you don’t know if your neighbour might be a paedophile using your connection for nefarious means?

        I think these are interesting, useful and sometimes necessary conversations and they work nicely in class, because anyone using tech on a daily basis (perhaps your learners) has a vested interest in the conversations, and the knowledge to be gained from them (both linguistic and practical).

        And I never said (to coin a phrase) that tech stuff should be taught over and above anything else. But I do still think and firmly believe that if one asks learners to use technologies in class (and no, of course you don’t have to – but IF you do…) then one has a duty of care to those people. In that respect it is very similar to the car thing – it’s not just about getting the vehicle to move, or just about setting up and running a blog.

        As for when tech things ‘come up’, well… they come up every time you (or someone else) ask your learners to use technologies.

      6. Blimey! I switch off from the blog for a couple of days and the whole thing flares up!
        Interesting little debate I feel and one I’ve been thinking about through this week.

        My first thought on reading what you said above Gavin is that you’re assuming that everyone knows what the implications of leaving your wi-fi open are – and know what advice to give.
        (Incidentally, you’re also assuming students actually say – as opposed to do – things like this too, which is a slightly different issue, but in my experience about as likely as them saying something like “I enjoy walking down Oxford Street with a large expensive camera protruding from my backpack!”)

        I’m not saying it’s bad to know about the implications of wi-fi or that it might not be a brief discussion that a good teacher might want to have in this hypothetical situation.
        Rather, I’m just pointing out the fact that the vast majority of teachers, I suspect, wouldn’t know what you’re on about here!

        In terms of whether or not this is useful to learn, it obviously is.
        My beef would be that it’s NOT the job of an English language teacher to teach them this.
        Isn’t this what kids learn in IT classes or whatever?

        If it’s NOT, then in schools it’d surely need to be some kind of institutional policy – that all subject teachers, when using tech in class, educate students about various issues such as these.
        If that’s a policy and it’s shared, I have no issue with that.
        It’s not really any different to the way in which teachers at my university – whatever they teach – have a responsibility to tackle extremism of all hues, racism, homophobia, etc.

        I just fail to see why it should be our responsibility alone.

      7. Interesting discussion here! But with a lot of crossed wires, methinks. (To use a n old technological metaphor). Anyway, Gavin wrote this:
        ” If someone in that class had said ‘I leave my wifi open to anyone passing’, would you have simply said ‘that’s nice’ and moved on, or would you have engaged in a discussion about how potentially bad that is if you’re a teacher and you don’t know if your neighbour might be a paedophile using your connection for nefarious means?”
        It truly is difficult to know where to draw the line with such things. One of my “little hobbies” is that I enjoy reading about nutrition and have read various books on various minerals and vitamins. I’m also quite well read on the medical condition of having an underactive thyroid. However, although it often crosses my mind that my students could probably do with an extra dose of magnesium to cope with stress, that half of them probably have an underactive thyroid and most of them could do with more vitamin B12 in their diet or should take supplements, I practically never mention these things, even though I sometimes think, “Oh my God, I bet all these elderly ladies are B12 deficient and that’s why they’re getting forgetful. I bet that old lady there with the thinning hair has an undiagnosed thyroid condition.” And I sometimes feel negligent for not finding an opportunity to address these things. A deficiency in some of these things can cause DEATH!!! But I say nothing, because it’s not my remit when I’m teaching English.
        I’m also very gung-ho about people wearing helmets whilst cycling because my husband had a very nasty bike accident a few years back and ended up being operated on by neurosurgeons over Christmas (thank goodness, all he has to show for it is a nice scar). However, I can’t even get my elder daughter to wear one of the bloody things, so how am I going to get people in my English courses to do so? I might mention that I think it’s a good idea, but I have no way of actually ensuring that people will follow my advice, so why waste my breath saying something that people might happily ignore?
        So, to come back to your worry about people leaving their wifi open to anyone passing. OK, I might say, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea, your data could get hacked.” But more than that would be overkill. And besides, why the hell should anyone take any notice of ME, or the rest of the world’s population who teach English? A teenager would probably just think, “That’s not going to happen to me!” and take no blinking notice of what some ancient old adult says (ancient being anyone over 25). Why does our being English teachers make us more qualified than anyone else to give advice about how to cope with the world out there? And why would anyone then* follow* our advice, just because we’re saying it in a language classroom? I hope that my students will take notice of what I say about *English*, but I have no right to think that they will think my “words of wisdom” on anything else are worth acting upon.
        We’re there to pass on our knowledge about English and language; anything else we say or do in the classroom that incidentally happens to be useful is all well and good, but we don’t have a *duty* to inform our students about all the various dangers involved in using digital technology and the internet. Where would we draw the line? If we went into all these things “properly”, we might lose focus on our main classroom task: teaching English.

      8. Hmm… You may not be able to ensure that people follow your advice about health issues, but you can certainly ensure that they do so with the technology you use in class. After all, you’d all be in the same room, and talking to each other, presumably? Once again, I don’t think the comparison works.

        I don’t expect people to lecture their students about leading a good life. I don’t have any high hopes that any advice I (or you) might give based on a few decades (in my case) of experience will be followed. But again I see no relevance here.

        All I am saying is that if you ask people to use technology in YOUR class (not take vitamins at home, or wear a helmet on the weekend) you do have a duty to ensure that they can do that in a manner that will not harm them physically (make sure it’s earthed and the monitor can’t fall on their feet), psychologically (ensure they know how to avoid certain content / stalking / phishing and all the rest) or professionally (ensure that nothing they produce or post online can come back to cause them problems in their future professional life). It’s very simple, really.

        And, since this can all be done quite adequately in English, I don’t see why it’s a problem. And I don’t see why it might cause me to ‘lose focus’

      9. I guess I’d need to see this actually happen in an ENGLISH LANGUAGE classroom to really grasp what it is you want to happen here Gavin.
        I still struggle to picture how it’d work.

        You’d do what? Ask the kids to all turn on their iPads or something, access the wi-fi and then maybe make a comment / explain about not keeping the wi-fi open or something?
        And then check they’d done this?
        Am I on the right kind of track?
        If so, I don’t have any real issue with this.
        It sounds brief, practical and connected to a task at hand.

        Not sure that’s what you mean though, is it?
        Especially if you want to also ensure English teachers help students avoid stalking, phishing, posting drunk twat photos on facebook, etc.
        That sounds more like some kind of brief integrated tech core syllabus to me.

      10. This post has mainly reminded me of the fact that I keep promising my wife that I’ll get a helmet for when I’m cycling in and out of work, but still haven’t got round to it yet!
        Otherwise, I’m obviously in broad agreement with you.
        I suspect you may actually be underestimating the impact we can have on our students, though.
        For instance, after I went off on one – in a fairly light-hearted, but still perhaps visibly narked kind of way – about homophobia following some horrendous comments a student once made, said student came up at the end of class and apologised and explained they’d never had these kinds of conversations before and never met anybody ‘who knew the gays’. Who knows? Maybe some small shift in attitude occurred as a result.
        I know Gavin is certainly not saying it’s an either-or situation, but personally I find tackling that kind of stuff far more pressing and meaningful and possibly important than telling kids about wi-fi issues I’m not even sure of myself.
        Which is NOT to say I wouldn’t mention it if I knew about it or anything either, jut so we’re clear.

      11. Get that helmet, boy!!! Winter is on its way!!!
        Second point: I see what you mean about the fact that we may have *some* influence on our students and I’m well chuffed that your anti-homophobic rant had some effect on your student, BUT…
        Unfortunately, we can never predict what this effect might be and how many people will pay attention to our rants/pearls of wisdom.
        Coming from a similar lefty position as you, I always try to say something if someone in my courses/lessons comes out with something racist or in any other way offensive and I always will do so.
        And, as you mention, how many of us language teachers have much of a clue about all this tech stuff in detail.
        If I’m going to make any qualified pronouncements about proper tech use, I need to keep up to date with all this stuff. Given the rate at which all this digital technology changes, I’d have to spend a heck of a lot of time just upgrading my knowledge on these matters.
        And, to be honest, I’d rather spend that time reading about how to improve my students’ ability to remember vocabulary or other issues which are *directly* related to their ambitions and needs as regards English than read some computer magazine, of which I’d understand even less than some arcane applied linguistics tome!
        Of course, people can read what they like in their free time, but I don’t have much of that in the first place. I certainly don’t want to waste it on reading about tech updates.

      12. I think you’re voicing feelings, Amanda, that many many teachers have and that the tech folk need to take seriously: given that there is so much to learn both about language AND about pedgagogy, and there’s so much research out there into, for instance, how what we do as teachers affects learning, the way memory works, the nature of language, etc. what exactly makes extra time spent mugging up on technology – not only what’s out there, how to use it, what it might be useful for in the classroom, etc. but also now (seemingly) the myriad of issues around it – worth our while? What benefits will ensue that make this investment worth our while?

        I’d suggest that anyone who subscribes to something like Nik Peachey’s quarterly tech updates, as fascinating as they an sometimes be, will struggle to process fully even half of what’s there, even if they’re trying to find the time to keep up with this stuff.

        Much like many aspects of the modern world itself, the tech-in-education debates seem all too often to simply numb us into submission through sheer weight of information!

  4. How long does it take you – just out of interest – to do what you say above? What level language does the learner in question need to understand all that? Just out of curiosity. I wonder how much time is spent on explaining all the techy stuff and how much of that time is then taken away from actual teaching. Isn’t awfully easy for students to then start asking questions and then, before you know it, half an hour is up and you haven’t actually started work on the actual lesson you planned to do?
    I never have any of these worries with technology such as paper and pens and I never have to explain to anybody how to use them. We can get down to our lesson straight away. That’s my main concern with technology in classrooms: it wastes time.

    1. You’ll not be surprised to hear that I don’t agree 🙂

      Isn’t it great when students start asking questions – in English? Isn’t it great when they’re actually interested enough in something to ask a load of questions and get you away from your plan (I don’t call this ‘dogme’, by the way – simply good teaching)? You might be getting a lot more useful language out of some of these discussions some of the time. Everything in moderation, I suppose….

      I don’t find I have to spend much time explaining ‘techy stuff’ – they’re usually up to speed. The good thing about most computers, websites, apps, etc., is that they tend to follow a finite set of operational icons, practices, etc. Seen one word processor, seen them all. Signed up for one Web 2.0 site… etc., etc.

      Paper and pens are lovely things – I use them too. Except when students waste time by not bringing them, or losing them, or asking me if they can use their mobile phones, or whatever. Everything in moderation, I suppose…

      Last week I had two lovely chats with two different groups of Swiss students – they were very easily sidetracked by technology-related stuff. But they didn’t half produce a lot of English as they got sidetracked..

      1. Hi Gavin,
        Looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree! I *totally* take your point, though, about being flexible as to the lesson content: if the students get to speak a lot of English due to being side-tracked by tech-related stuff, that’s fine! I suppose it depends on what kind of teaching you’re doing and how much time you can afford to “lose” to unplanned input. (If I was teaching an exam-oriented course, or had to prep some kid for a test, then I would not necessarily welcome long interruptions). I’m thinking of some of the kids I teach who would use ANY opportunity whatsoever NOT to do what was on the menu that day. I have one 12-year-old who used to love telling me about his latest session with the Minecraft game – which I let him do, so long as he did his best to tell me in English, with me taking notes and following up afterwards with reformulations, which he then had to write down or participate in the production of the reformulations. Any subject matter “goes”, in my book, so long as it doesn’t just involve the students speaking lots of crap English at a stretch which then goes virtually uncommented.
        And, do you teach in Switzerland or did you just happen to have Swiss students? If you teach in Switzerland, could you let me know?
        Have fun with your technology and I’ll have fun with my pencils and paper, OK!!!
        Life is too short to have cyber arguments…

      2. Little to add to this except I suspect a point of mutual accommodation seems to have been reached all round, pretty much.
        Unless Gavin decides to start another ruck, of course! 🙂

      3. I’m actually basically in agreement with much of this – especially the bit about how Dogme has hijacked previously extant examples of plain old-fashioned GOOD TEACHING!
        I also agree that students getting interested in things, assuming they actually would bite at this bait, is generally good and can lead to some useful language work, in the hands of a teacher focused on recasting / reformulating output holistically.

        I don’t see students asking questions about pretty much anything as being an issue – though as I’ve said elsewhere the bigger concern is simply that most teachers won’t know much about this stuff and will thus be put very much on the spot.

    2. This is I guess what I was trying to get at it my last post on all of this.
      How much time is Gavin expected to be laid aside for all of this?
      I can see, though, a way in which a focus on the issues Gavin is banging on about could me married with language input and brought into a course as a thread.
      Upper-Intermediate and above would be my hunch, mind.
      The materials writer in me is already doing mental maps of how it’d look in a series!

      He’s still not actually explained why we should be using all this tech in an ELT situation yet, though!!

      1. As I mentioned, Hugh, I’m reading this book by a German guy called Manfred Spitzer about “digital dementia”. He’s just been talking about the introduction of smartboards and laptops in schools and has mentioned how the other problem with tech is that it breaks down, starts bleeping so that *nobody* at all can work till the bleeping has been dealt with, how a special systems administrator is needed to monitor all this stuff, how each computer has to be individually dealt with and updated every day to keep nasty viruses etc at bay, or to upgrade firewalls so that nobody hacks into the school system and steals valuable data – and so on and so forth.
        Pencils which “break down” don’t bleep. Paper only breaks down when you put it on a compost heap.
        It seems to me that the *benefits* of all this high-tech stuff are vastly over-rated and – because most people out there have this blind uncritical faith in a technocratic view of *progress* – all its downsides are massively underplayed.
        If one of the benefits of computers in classrooms is that they provide a talking point, then, in the end, it doesn’t really matter WHAT I bring into the classroom, really. If I present it in a way which provokes discussion then any old thing will do!
        In my ever-so-humble opinion, the amount of time that can be potentially lost in a tech-oriented classroom is not outweighed by the supposed benefits of the technology.
        What’s more, for us as language teachers in particular (although this must surely refer to all subjects which we wish to learn), the act of writing on paper, copying from the blackboard, leaves more deeply-scored traces in the memory than using a keyboard and screen. There are more parts of the body involved in the paper-and-pen work and this – so says Mr Spitzer – means that subject matter recorded in this way will be remembered better.
        For us, this means that if students want – for example – apps for their phones to improve their vocabulary, that we have a DUTY to remind them that whilst it may pass the time on the Tube going home, it may not actually help them to remember the words they see on the little screen very well. They’d do better trying to read something on real paper and then writing something down later.

      2. I’d just add a couple of things here – since one book does not make a summer (especially a book with the emotive ‘digital dementia’ element…

        1) Technology isn’t always breaking down. An iPad in the class project that I’ve been involved with locally has been going along merrily for months and months with nothing going wrong at all. My computers work fine. The mobile phones and tablets that some learners bring to class work fine (they make sure they do, because the like their gadgets). If Mr. Spizter has these problems, that does not mean we all do.

        2) Memorisation. Certainly what you write may be true at the moment, but we still have little idea what prolonged access to digital recording means is doing, given the recent advances in knowledge around the plasticity of the brain. What is true now (or in the past) is certainly not cast in stone for the future.

        Measuring technology against the past is unproductive and not necessarily relevant.

      3. I think the point about things not always breaking down is a valid one, Gavin, but as I’ve said elsewhere, the fact that things do SOMETIMES break down – or take longer to get up and running than many of us feel comfortable with – will inevitably affect the degree to which teachers are receptive to stories of iPad success and so on.

        In terms of memorisation, obviously we can’t know what the next hundred years will bring, but we CAN inform ourselves with what seems to be coming back from research thus far.
        And as for measuring technology against the past being unproductive, that’s just delusional.
        Surely this must be at the forefront of the concerns that folk like yourselves should have: if tech cannot somehow be made to ‘fit’ with the current practices and cultures of teachers, why should they be persuaded to switch? Teachers cannot now what it not yet known technologically speaking, true, but as a result will simply cling to what they do know, which is based on experience and practice and work over the course of the years.

        Incidentally, you’ve STILL not spelled out exactly why it is teachers that should be withholding judgement, keeping faith with the positivist tech visions of a better, brighter future and trying to switch yet!
        Just saying is all!

      4. Hugh,

        I don’t really think it’s my job to convince people, or explain why I believe it’s a good and valid idea… Ignoring what is happening outside our classes, ignoring the tools that the people we’re teaching will inevitably go on to use in the real world, in their professional as well as their personal lives (many/most of them), ignoring the things they bring in to class, and pick up as soon as we’ve stopped rabbiting on – well – if that seems logical to you, who am I to argue otherwise?

      5. If not you, then who, I would ask, to be honest!
        The ‘oh so you’re content to ignore the existence of the technology students use outside of class then are you?’ argument seems a weak one to me.
        I’d need more persuasion than that to invest a ton more time and effort into learning new skills, exploring new sites, etc. personally – and I’d like to think I’m relatively adventurous in my attitude towards these things in that I DO actually spend at least some of my precious free time trying to work out how sites work, what’s good / bad about them and how they might be used. I
        I need to be convinced that there’s actually a pedagogical / learning benefit to all of this, rather than simply being told “They exist outside of class and are used and therefore ought to appear in class.”

      6. Hugh,

        Tell you what, you convince me of the effectiveness of the coursebooks, or myriad methodologies and approaches that come and go in ELT and I’ll have a go with the tech side. Deal?

        I’ll start off, though… This is a box (edited) from the new book I’ve written with Nicky Hockly and Dr. Mark Pegrum (UWA):

        Box 2.1 Will new technologies improve my students’ learning?

        Conclusive evidence of whether new technologies improve teaching and learning is elusive. The No Significant Difference phenomenon, established in Thomas Russell’s review of hundreds of studies dating back to 1928, shows that new technologies generally do little harm. Actual improvements are much harder to demonstrate. Researchers note that it all depends on what we measure. Educational benefits may not always be reflected in traditional assessments: an exam focused on print literacy, for example, tells us little about students’ digital literacies.

        Nevertheless, those studies which do find significant differences tend to find improvements with the use of technology. This is the conclusion reached in Russell’s review of studies from the past few decades, as well as in a landmark 2009 US Dept of Education report, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, based on a review of over 1,000 empirical studies, which found small improvements in online learning relative to face-to-face learning, with greater improvements still in blended learning. But it has been suggested that improvements in technology-supported courses may be due to the enthusiasm of teachers or the (re )design of the courses, rather than the technology itself.

        It’s apparent that new technologies can be repurposed to support very different pedagogical approaches, but the affordances of the technologies do encourage some uses rather than others. The informational orientation of web 1.0, for example, sat well with transmission and behaviourist approaches, while the interactive tools of web 2.0 sit comfortably with contemporary collaborative, learner-centred approaches like social constructivism, inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning. Similarly, as noted earlier, many mobile educational apps are oriented towards consumption, being based on information transmission or drill and practice exercises, though productive apps which mimic or parallel the creativity and collaboration of web 2.0 are now appearing. To the extent that web 2.0 tools – and productive mobile apps – bring educational benefits, it’s more about the accompanying pedagogical approaches than the tools themselves.

        1. For more on the No Significant Difference phenomenon, see: Russell (2010), No Significant Difference.
        2. For more on the difficulties of assessing the impact of new technologies on education, see: Beins (2011), ‘A Brief Stroll down Random Access Memory Lane’; Egbert et al (2011), ‘Moving Forward’; Liu et al (2012), ‘Web 2.0 and Its Use in Higher Education’; Livingstone (2009), Children and the Internet; Richardson & Mancabelli (2011), Personal Learning Networks; Selwyn (2011), Education and Technology.
        3. For more on the fit between web 2.0 and contemporary pedagogy, see: Pegrum (2009), From Blogs to Bombs.

      7. I would’ve thought that if you’re arguing that a huge amount of time and effort should be invested in both buying tech and encouraging / training teachers to use it then you do actually need to have some kind of rationale for change other than ‘well, there’s a lot of this tech stuff around out there these days and anyway what’s so good about the way you do things already?!’.

        But hey, maybe that’s just me, eh.

        In terms of coursebooks, well . . . obviously there are coursebooks and there are coursebooks.
        As you may have seen, one of my beefs with the Dogme ultras is the act that they seem not to acknolwedge this that much.
        Different coursebooks come from different ideological perspectives and have quite radically different impacts on what occurs in class.

        As a coursebook writer, I obviously have my own axe to grind just as you, as someone who sells tech-oriented courses, do.

        My main argument would be that coursebooks bring (or CAN bring, if they’#re halfay deent) a clear, consistent approach to courses; they recycle and develop on what has come before; they provide structure for students and teachers alike; they can serve as developmental tools for teachers and can act as vehilces of stylistic and pedagogical change; they are graded and written explicitly for the language classroom; etc.

        Much of which I think you’d be hard-pushed to argue that a randomly accumulated mish-mash of stuff whizzed into classes via tech can do (see also my arguemnts against hardline Dogme incidentally!!)

        When i read of things like the Turkish goverment planning to stick a million tablets in classrooms, I just despair at the aspirational nature of the fallacy and the quick fix mentality. They’d be so much better off spending the cash on just better training for teachers and language (and / or language awareness) devlopment too.

        That said, I enjoyed reading the extract above (and appreciated the sly and subtle product placement you achieved with it as well, of course) and look forward to reading the whole thing – indeed, to possibly even ednorsing it and your expertise!

        However, a few points that immediately spring to mind:
        (1) Whilst it’s obviously true that an exam focused on print literacy tells us little about students’ digital literacies, it’s the former – not the latter – that stuents get tested on (quite rightly so!) in their English classes and in tests like CAE, FCE, etc.
        (2) I was very unclear as to what the claim that “studies find improvements with the use of technology” actually meamsn here. Improvements in WHAT? Or in the learning of what? of the lexicon? of writing? Compared to what? An intensive reading programme? One hour a week privte lessons? What?
        (3) as for Web 2.0 being well suited to “collaborative, learner-centred approaches like social constructivism, inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning” that may well be true, especially if compard to Web 1.0, but the classroom is itself already suited to a social constructivist approach because . . . um . . . well, it’s social and . . . um . . . oh yes, learning gets constructed there vie face-to-face discourse! Also, much language learning and practise ISN’T by nature about problem solving or ‘inquiry’ as such. It’s about learning language!

      8. Hugh,

        “Much of which I think you’d be hard-pushed to argue that a randomly accumulated mish-mash of stuff whizzed into classes via tech can do.”

        Who’s talking about a randomly accumulated mish-mash of stuff? I don’t recall mentioning that at all. I’m talking about a structured, thoughtful use of devices and approaches, apps and websites, etc.

        And I’m not talking about tablets in Turkey or IWBs in Mexico – as I never cease to remind people, poor technology implementations in education are not a reflection on the technologies, but on the ill-informed decisions of policy makers and governments – none of which makes any of the tech inherently bad, flawed or failed.

        You appear to be putting thoughts in my head and words in my mouth…


      9. Indeed.
        A lowdown dirty rotten rhetorical trick, but one that has served me realtively well thus far.

        The reason I mentioned the randomly accumulated mish-mash of stuff – not that the folk who brng such content to their classes see what they’re teaching that way, of course, so admitedly entirely my subjective perception – is because if not coursebooks, then what? Well, what I see being done instead is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, faciliated by tech: a Youtube clip here, a podcast there, some pictures here, a downloaded template-driven lesson written by who knows who there. Bitty and messy and incoherent as a COURSE. I realise of course that this isn’t what you’re suggesting is good practice, but it’s the sad reality in many cases.

        In addition, I’m still not really sure what else you’re offering the classroom . . . apart from more use of tech of course! 🙂
        What does your ‘thoughtful use of devices and approaches, apps and websites’ involve over, say, ten hours if it’s to avoid falling into the trap outlined above?

        On Turkey / mexico, etc. I suspect we may well basically agree, though you see it more in terms of providing tech training, I suspect.
        I’d just much rather see training in aspects of pedagogy and language awareness ebng purcahsed with that money!

        Of course, this doesn’t make tech inherently flawed or failed, no, but it does suggest that it’s being pushed on us on rather bigger promises that simply not being failed or flawed. That level of investment can only be pushed through on one hell of a wave of positivist optimism.

        Me? I prefer a bit of doubt.

      10. Hugh,

        No – not tech training, or at least not exclusively. My ‘tech’ training these days revolves around the kind of thing you might expect outside of tech with the focus on how the tech fits into the classroom and into current practices and methodologies.

        I do introduce people to tools and websites, but from the perspective of teaching rather than technology. A typical session for me might be ‘working with images’ or ‘working with words’. In, say, ‘working with words’ we will certainly look at word clouds, online concordancers and tools that allow for personal (blog) and collaborative writing (wiki) but we will look at what they do rather than how they work. In such a session we would cover learning theory related to any of those uses.

        For every one of your sad realities of ‘bits and pieces’ strung incoherently together I could find you one from Venezuela, Argentina, Russia, and elsewhere where technologies are used by creative, thinking teachers who integrate them properly into their teaching, using then for what they do best, and ensuring that the focus and aims are pedagogical rather than connected with flashing lights.

        Again, I do believe you only see what you want to see…

      11. Well, the notion of the view containing the viewer is true for us all, sadly.

        That said, I’d be surprised if what I’ve seen is what you’d hold up as good practice.

        Don’t get me wrong: I’m willing to be persuaded there’s good, principled use of tech out there that isn’t just doing it because it can be done, but is doing it because somehow it enhances – or, even better – improves on what might otherwise be happening in class. It’s just that the evidence hasn’t swayed me very much at all just yet. I’ve spent most of this reading – often under your own influence, ironically – reading about tech in teaching and watching conference talks about it too – and I’d hard-pushed to name more than one or two things I’ve seen or learned about that seem to embody the creative and principled uses you talk of. Would love to see examples of what you think is great work, though, and if there are any examples from the countries mentioned, hit me up with some!

        I remain skeptical that word clouds beat well written vocab exercises as ways of developing the lexicon around a particular theme, say.
        Or that online concordancer work trumps extensive reading.
        And in the end, there’s only so much time we have – and only so much time students have as well – to build the language in.
        Until folk like myself are convinced otherwise, you’re just preaching to those who believe shiny new bells and whizzy whistles will paper over cracks.

      12. “Until folk like myself are convinced otherwise, you’re just preaching to those who believe shiny new bells and whizzy whistles will paper over cracks”

        And with that pithy riposte you effectively denigrate the good, professional work of thousands of teachers worldwide. Nice job!

      13. No. With that pithy riposte, I’m simply saying that until I am persuaded – by seeing lessons that make sense to me and that utilize technology in a truly principled manner and do things with tech better than they could otherwise be done – that these hypothetical thousands of good, professional teachers out there worldwide are doing what you claim they’re doing, I remain profoundly skeptical.

        And also quietly furious at the increasing denigration of the thousands of good, professional teachers out there who don’t integrate tech into classes.
        NB: I am NOT accusing you of engaging in this, by the way, but we both know it goes on.

      14. I have to get a train to Cambridge soon…

        I think perhaps it’s time to draw a close to this conversation as it’s not getting anywhere. I could give you names, but I don’t see why I should – if you were truly interested, then you would have done your homework long before now.

        I look forward to the next tech-related post in the series.

        Have a good one.


      15. I suspect you’re right that we seem to have reached a bit of an impasse, and am pleased we’ve managed to do so this time without threats of violence lurking beneath the surface. The benefits of detached modes of discourse than don’t involve alcohol.


        Anyway, you’ll be unsurprised to learn I view the failure to provide names and examples as a cop-out. 🙂
        As I said, I AM interested and I am trying to find stuff that makes sense to me.
        I go to tech-related talks at conferences – and I read tech-related books and articles and I am still yet to see much that strikes me as great, principled practice.
        I live in hope, of course.

        If not expectation.

        Enjoy Cambridge.

      16. And.. as I have noted elsewhere, I would – on any day of the year – see money first spent on improving the pay and conditions of teachers, on ensuring everyone goes to school with some breakfast inside them, on ensuring there are resources in every school, etc., before I would have a penny spent on a tablet computer…

      17. On this we can of course concur.

      18. Hi again –
        I suspect part of what we’re going to see in the years to come is people on both sides of the (digital) divide making ever-more extravagant claims and trying to stake out turf for themselves to build careers on, and Herr Spitzer could easily fall into that neck of the woods. All I know is that the students I have who don’t physically take notes and instead simply photograph boards learn less well, though this may well be connected to all manner of other related traits such as general minimum effort principle approaches to learning anything, of course.

        It’s also interesting how students who already have real issues with handwriting in English – such as certain Arabic speakers – can sometimes do themselves few favours by developing tech-facilitated avoidance strategies and then really struggle to write well and clearly when having to take, say, the IELTS tests.

        I think the breaking down complaints stand up to a point.

        As Gavin says somewhere, there are also plenty of instances where things don’t break down and this is something that will presumably improve with time.

        However, I know that where I work, this is frequently still a real issue: just last week, students complained that one teacher who’s fairly tech-heavy spends to much time faffing around getting things set up and they feel this is time wasted.

        As such, tech evangelists can gloss over this as much as they like, but till this is no longer a reality for many many teachers, scepticism will often remain the norm.

  5. There are some interesting alternate views to the Carr / Spitzer et al opinions here:

    And on the need for education in terms of using technology, I give you the ‘salami story’: (as I noted, if you do – and of course you don’t have to – ask people to use technologies in class, then yoi do need to address certain issues, copyright being one of them)

    1. I’ll have to read that Guardian article, looks interesting! I’m by no means 100% convinced by what I’ve read so far in the Spitzer book, but I AM interested in the debate as far as internet/digital technology use affects my kids (two girls, aged 12 and 15) and for professional reasons.
      It seems to me that, if anything, a lot of people already use digital technology too much in their business and private lives. If we encourage yet more use of these technologies in the language classroom, too, this will just feed many people’s addiction.
      That said, I wouldn’t want to have NO internet connection at home, but I do know that I get stuck at the PC and find it difficult to turn it off sometimes. With my dear husband, it’s the TV; with my youngest daughter it’s her mobile and Nintendo; my 15-year-old has her PC going nearly all the time she’s in her room, as far as I can tell.
      Do we really need MORE contact with these technologies in the classroom?

      1. No, we simply need more discipline… You have the option to turn things off and do something else. I go for regular walks each day, I switch off my computer by about 18:00 every day, etc.

        One shouldn’t blame for technology for a lack of willpower…

      2. No. Cigarettes are to blame for that.

      3. I think you must be a superhuman being, Gavin: you have students with techy things that never break down; you have the discipline to go for walks and turn your PC off at 6pm. I’m impressed. Sadly, not all of us mere mortals have your abilities.

      4. It’s just an off switch, you know…

      5. There’s an off switch??? Why didn’t anyone tell me???!!!

  6. Like the cigarette comment, Hugh! I blame my lack of willpower on the internet; I managed to give up cigarettes eleven years ago so it can’t be them that’s to blame in my case. Discipline, schmisipline… Pffft…

  7. Although I agree with many of the points you make in this post, I must admit to feeling a little piqued by your references to “creeping amateurism infecting all areas of our profession”. As someone who “writes stuff and sticks it online” (i.e. an ELT blogger), I think I might have taken this rather personally. Here are a few points of my own:

    1) One of your criticisms is that the advent of blogging has given rise to a “blurring of the boundary between user and creator”, a boundary which you seem to suggest should not be crossed under any circumstances. Basically, there’s us lot, the “users” who consume your coursebooks, and the enlightened “Creators”, who lay down doctrine. Amateur bloggers who dare cross the line are guilty of undermining expertise to the detriment of sound teaching, and presumably should be met with a “Know your place you little upstart, don’t be getting ideas above your station. Just buy the book and follow the instructions!”. My apologies for putting words in your mouth – feel free to spit them back at me – but that’s a bit what it sounds like. However, in practice, I have my doubts about how hard-and-fast this boundary between “user” and “creator” really is, or should be. “Let’s get real” for a moment. The editing and critiquing of a coursebook doesn’t stop when it’s sent off to the printer’s because it starts up again with a vengeance when it lands on the teacher’s desk. Teachers obviously have their own ideas on what constitutes effective teaching and will have a thorough knowledge of their students’ wants and needs in a given context. This means that coursebooks often just don’t fit all of the time, the result being that all sorts of heretical tampering ensues: skipping some activities, supplementing others, restructuring units, rewriting exercises, giving classwork as homework and vice versa etc etc. The reality is that “the user” isn’t such a passive subject after all as they become engaged in some quite serious creating of their own – I’m sure this is not news to you. Like it or not, this has been going ever since course books started appearing on our shelves, and certainly predates the arrival of blogging on the ELT scene. Why you blame bloggers for the “blurring” defeats me. You never popped up and wagged your finger at us 15 years ago when we used to swap hand-written stuff around the staff room. Surely, “amateur stuff” is still “amateur stuff” whether it’s on-line or not. I can only think that maybe your singling out of on-line variety is indeed indicative of an anti-technology tendency, something you deny in your post. Or is it just the ambudance of on-line “amateurism” that worries you? If it is, I think you’ll just have to trust in most teachers’ good judgement to sort the wheat from the chaff rather than asking them to suspend their judgement all together.
    2) You also refer to “a magical dream, the dream of a free coursebook infinitely malleable and tailored to to each individual teacher’s and student’s needs.” Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think this is a dream I’ve ever had. I have always been a coursebook user and probably always will be – In fact, I’m using one of yours this year with a B2.1 group. Generally speaking, I like course books. They make my life easier and, as you say, are the end result of a long process of hard work, crafting and careful research. I can appreciate all this. But the aim of my blog (can’t speak for others) is not to substitute coursebooks, it is merely to provide teachers with a few ideas which might serve to fill the gaps that publishing processes didn’t, or couldn’t, anticipate. I certainly don’t propose that anyone builds a course around a series of blog posts. I can understand that this is more of a bread and butter issue for you than for me, but there is a big difference between the judicious supplementing of a coursebook and jettisoning it all together. Besides, if, as you say, blogs are full of “stuff”, I wouldn’t lose any more sleep over them. They will collapse under their own weight and we’ll all just continue buying your books. But I must admit I find the thought that my little blog might actually be threatening the true process of creation quite amusing. Maybe I should even feel flattered.
    3) Going back to dreamland, maybe a dream I have had is about the perfect coursebook, which of course will remain a dream. I think in one of Hugh’s replies to Gavin he admits that “there are coursebooks and there are coursebooks”, in other words, there are some books that despite the expertise, craft and research which go into their publication still leave a lot to be desired. As I mentioned above, course books, even yours, will always need a degree of tweaking, the better ones obviously to a lesser degree. You mention the staying power and influence of HEADWAY in your post, so I’ll use that to give you an example of what I mean: I think I only ever once got my students to sit at their pews and go through the 65 lines of that Somerset Maugham reading from The Lotus Eater. No offence to John and Liz, but I think once was enough. In Greek mythology, the lotus eaters were Mediterrenean island folk who partook of the narcotic lotus plant, which had the effect of making them sleep in peaceful apathy … not exactly the sort of stuff conducive to communicative language teaching. So what did I do? I can’t remember exactly what is was now, but I looked for another way of contextualising compound-adjectives … what did you do? More recently, I was asked to write a report for my university on the pros and cons of an on-line course produced by a well-known publisher which begins with M. The course was offered over the internet, but presumably was designed by “Creators” who were duly remunerated for their expertise, craft and research … in other words, it wasn’t just “stuff stuck online”. Well, one of the gems I came across in the syllabus outline was this: “This syllabus item provides practice of the language we need to talk about UFO sightings” … I kid you not … and I could go on, but I won’t. My point is, given the fact that the result of expertise, craft and research often results in … well … the above … why on earth can’t teachers look elsewhere for a helping hand? Sometimes this will be done when mingling around the photocopier, but why on earth can’t it be done on-line by having a butcher’s hook at what your favourite bloggers have to contribute?

    Was going to talk a bit about coherence, but I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve rambled on a bit more than I intended. So, to round off in a general sense, I’d just like to say that I usually prefer the “pseudo-democratic rhetoric” of the many to the psuedo-oligarchic rhetoric of an illuminated few. Btw, I’ll let you know how I’ve tampered with Outcomes if you’re interested.

    Ian James | @ij64

    1. Hi Ian –
      Thanks for such an epic and comprehensive response.
      It was sizable enough, as you’ll have noticed, to even rouse Andrew into a response!

      I’ll throw my tuppence worth into the ring as well.

      As Andrew said, the accusations of ‘creeping amateurism’ were not intended to be levelled at blogging, more at online dictionaries, but also – at least from my point of view – at online template-driven ‘write your own’ exercise sites and the general proliferation of homemade stuff that teachers post up in the hope of attracting wider audiences. The issue here for me what used to be, as you said, shared round the photocopier in a staff room can now, with the help of a fancy website, be presented as semi-‘published’ ready-to-roll classroom material, yet has undergone none of the rigorous processes that it really ought to have, such as being content edited, proof read, critiqued, piloted, etc. This is obviously not to say that all published material is better than all ‘amateur’ work. That’d be an insane claim to make. It’s more that I fear all of this leads to a diminution of the craft involved in learning to write properly. As Andrew said, publishers themselves are also guilty of this in the rush to bring more ‘product’ to the ‘marketplace’. It takes a lot of time, criticism, guidance, perseverance and slog to write well across extended pages – and I’d like to see more time and focus paid to helping people who are interested really learn to hone these skills. of course, you could easily argue that putting one’s work on a blog and making it available to the public is one way towards this, and there could well be some truth in that, although I suspect there’s also inevitably a kind of mutual back-slapping echo chamber effect that often kicks in as well, which is less constructive.

      In fact, my only real beef with the ELT blogosphere is that in the minds of some out there it seems to be replacing the notion of actually accruing a serious body of work. Time was that plenaries at big conferences went to those who’d not only taught and written commercial product, but who’d done serious academic work as well – the Michael Swans and Mike McCarthys of this world. Now I can’t lay claim to being able to really match any of those guys’ output, having basically avoided serious academic work in favour of the commercial route, but at least my books are out there and speak for themselves in terms of what I think should happen across courses. What seems to be happening now is that plenaries and the like go to those most able to sustain a presence online via blogging, Twitter, facebook, etc. Not a trend I’m a huge fan of and not one that bodes well for the future of the profession, if real academia is to lose out or die off as a result.

      I also worry that there are plenty of teachers out there – at least from what I observe in London anyway – who have more or less abandoned coursebooks in favour of a kind of pick and mix approach, downloading a lesson on Obama’s acceptance speech here, a sheet on -ing / to there and throwing it all at the wall in the hope that some will stick. This is more what I meant by the ‘dream of the endlessly malleable free coursebook’ comment. Obviously, by doing this, you lose all the in-built recycling, grading, focus, coherence, testability, etc. that even a cruddy published course has at least claims to possessing. One of the most invaluable comments I ever had when learning how to write was from Michael Lewis way back when who browsed through some of the material I’d sent him and quipped “Some nice-looking lessons . . . but that’s not the same as MATERIAL, you do realise that, don’t you?” At the time, I’m not sure I did. I do know.

      In terms of teachers adapting coursebooks, I’d be an idiot to say it should never happen. It’s only through using coursebooks myself and having to deal with things like the Somerset Maugham thing you mentioned that I started really becoming conscious of how books worked, what their ideologies were, what my issues with them were, how I felt they could be improved, and so on, all of which eventually led to be becoming a writer myself, a writing career born very much out of a sense of things being wrong and needing to be improved on. I think so long as teachers are clear and principled in what they’re selecting / rejecting / adapting that’s fine. At the same time, though, I do worry that CELTAs in particular, rather than training teachers to use books well and make informed judgements about published material, do all too often encourage a reinvention of the wheel for little obvious reason. I’ve seen too many lessons where teachers chop and change material simply because they want to see themselves as somehow being ‘creative’ or because they’ve somehow ended up believing that just ‘working through a coursebook’ is bad teaching. Clearly, the issue isn’t whether or not teachers should ‘change’ published material: it’s what you change, why and how.

      Ideally here the discussion would turn towards how we can best ‘supplement’ material. In my experience, for most teachers, this means Murphing them – adding pages of Murphy’s ENGLISH GRAMMAR IN USE – and adding idioms, obscure lexis, etc. from photocopied sources. Personally, I’d much rather see more done with the language that’s already present in the material – and more down recasting students’ output.

      Anyway, that seems enough for now, though I’m sure further thoughts will come to me during the morning.

      Incidentally, both Andrew and I would LOVE to know what you’ve been doing with OUTCOMES.
      Fancy doing a guest post of how / why you’ve ‘tampered’?

  8. Having watched the discussion, I thought I’d finally comment having written the talk in the first place! On Ian’s points on amateurism and blogging, I actually didn’t have blogging in mind at all. First of my concerns, actually, were dictionaries. When I look at tools such as lingro and many other wiki dictionaries, it is noticeable that the definitions, example sentences, information about collocation, grammar etc. are either poor in comparison to good learner dictionaries or simply lacking. In terms of coursebook material, obviously some books are poor just as some professional music is poor. Clearly, individual teachers adapt course book materials etc. I don’t disagree with that at all. However, I would suggest that the e-course you speak of is exactly the concern I have. The creators were almost certainly remunerated, but not on a royalty basis. It was probably a (small) fee that – if writing fast or with no redrafting duties – worked out at about £15 / hour – quite possibly less. The creators would have been very numerous with a focus on producing a discrete unit and not a whole course. There is little incentive to authors to spend time on their writing or think globally. I don’t know if this is driven by user demands or publishers – probably a bit of both, but there seems to be a risk there. Amateur may be the wrong word for this, but this was the main thrust of the book ‘cult of the amateur’.

    In terms of Gavin’s discussion with Hugh, my feeling is that some of these decisions need to be taken on a school level. Within secondary education, clearly teaching digital literacies and online safety are important. The question for me is in what class?
    The school may make a choice about doing it English or science or computing or across different subjects but it is a choice and quite reasonably may NOT include English even though computers are used in the English class. In a language school, you may also make the choice about teaching this or not, but again you can argue either way. On the whole, I’d suggest that we could assume students know as much about these issues as the teachers. Both perhaps could find out more, but I simply can’t see it as an essential part of a language class. Plus students are put into level according to their English not their knowledge of tech, so it’s very possible you might have proficiency digitally literate with digitally illiterate – not ideal I think.

    My point is not that use of tech is bad or that it’s wrong to teach use of certain tools. However, It seemed to me that there is a more predominant mood in EFL that we have to use tech, that teachers who don’t are dinosaurs of some kind and that, with tech, the only way is up . Teachers can have very legitimate reasons for not using tech and shouldn’t be seen as being luddites or poor teachers because of it.

  9. Hi, I am fine being a luddite, a kind of neo-luddite. More like a gate-keeper that makes sure I solve pedagogical problems at lowest level of complexity. The claw hammer is still the most elegant tool for getting nails in and out of wood. I try to make tech option pass the (hammer) test. Can this “…” really help me achieve certain learning objectives faster, cheaper, more elegantly? If not, discard. I think the “overheads” of high-tech solutions are not factored into the equation. The pencil industry must have an infinitely minute C02 footprint compared to the smart/mobile/multipurpose industry. It is not really a sign of efficiency if multimillion dollar R&D produces a thing that helps me read a book on screen, is it? Also, I think technology is not neutral (McLuhan “Medium is the Message”) which can be good and bad. Not to have the good escape, I try to have early adopter contacts, like scouts that bring back news of the territory ahead, because, of course, not everything in education is a matter of nails.

    1. Hi Thomas –
      Thanks for taking the time to post.

      I think we are basically in broad agreement.

      I like the idea of a claw hammer test.

      Just this morning I spent 45 minutes watching videos on Russell Stannard’s site about using Make Belief Comics before concluding it was basically an incredibly roundabout and long-winded way of getting students to write FOUR-LINE dialogues. I’d personally need a hell of a lot of persuading that this was in any way a more efficient or focused or worthy way of encouraging students to write such dialogues to bother spending any more of my life working with the site. Claw hammer test failed.

      I guess my question to your good self would be have you found ANYTHING yet out there that passes your test?
      If so, what?

  10. Hm, I think there is tech support for teaching that is rather handy. I can think of online concordances that help me as lay corpus linguist understand a bit more about language. And what would I do without my simple word processing software, slide shows etc. I am glad I do not need to carry packs of paper clippings to my classroom. And if I have a digital track of my class I can always go back and refine, revisit, try out new things. Noticing activities work great in slide show software. I use text animation to draw students’ attention to interesting language features, co-text and the like. I think these things pass the hammer test: paper based preparation would take more time; I think this meets the efficiency test, short and sweet. Also, text on paper does not move, so I can actually do things on a ppt that I can’t with marker, board and paper; I can cover up / show, highlight. The one downside, screen time concentrates student focal point which can lead to teacher fronted classes. Also, if you pull the plug the show is over. Of course none of this is in the mobile, web 2.0 league. There are so many aspects to this. Have to return to this later.

    (BTW, I am going to meet with a colleague this week. I gave him a challenge: convince me that IWBs are good teaching tools.)

    1. I hear you on the online corpora, though the single item that’s helped my most when it comes to learning about language (apart from my own inquisitive mind, of course!!) remains a decent Advanced Learner’s dictionary. Now, I know these are also derived from online corpora sources, but very thoroughly sifted and weighed. I may one day post up a blog post based on a talk / rant I once did called WHAT HAVE CORPORA EVER DONE FOR US? – it was loosely based on the famous Monty Python Romans sketch (!) – but for now suffice it to say that once Andrew and I were arguing about whether snow MELTED or THAWED, and which was more common. We decided to consult thee hallowed online corpora . . . and found out that the most common collocation of THAW was actually JOHN, as in Inspector Morse / Jack Regan from The Sweeney!

      What do you mean by digital track of your class, by the way?
      How does that work, then?
      And I’d be interested to see what you’ve done digitally to encourage noticing as well.

      My thing this term has been Vocaroo, which I’ve enjoyed but let no-one ever tell you its time-intensive!

      Oh, and let me know how you’re IWB talk goes.
      I remain resolutely sceptical.

      1. Being native, you’re ahead “feeling through” the language. On my part, I like checking concordances to calibrate my language use. Dictionaries are of course steps ahead of concordances. My favorites are collocation dictionaries.
        …digital track as opposed to paper stacks that wear out and have to be dumped, i.e. I can go back and re-work stuff I did digitally. I’m now working on a digital lesson planner format. I used to do weekly lesson planning…producing lots of paper with interesting annotations, new sequencing of activities, cross references to who-knows-what other sources…that at the end of the year would end up in the recycling box. Also, I think standard methodology is underestimating the importance of student note taking processes. I am toying with the idea of working on digital portfolios for students. I think learning, or learning efforts, should be made tangible as much as possible. Students frequently go the extra mile and elaborate nice notebooks. Again, being paper-based, once done they become static, never again to be seen. Digital always allows re-freshing, building on, expanding. The noticing thing has to do with an idea I took from a drawing course. We draw poorly because we do not really draw what we see; rather, we draw from conceptual memory. We draw a triangle when we think of nose. Students do not really see the text (as in shapes).So my visuals are very simple, often black on white, power point slides. I use different types of text animation to make students see. I want students to have a visual imprint. So, we have from input to intake or from imprint to priming.

      2. Portfolios sound interesting.

      3. One of the written language’s many benefits is that I forgot you were non-native when writing Thomas, given that there was nothing in your earlier output to remind me!

        I’m not averse to online collocation dictionaries or corpora or anything like that, of course.
        It’s just I find that once you’ve got your head round the basic ideas – words go together being the main one – you can start to work out much else yourself through intuition born of experience.
        Nothing wrong with having a way of checking hunches though.

        Curious to hear more about the portfolio idea.
        This is something we’re starting to experiment with at Westminster.

    2. Thomas, I’m just trying to understand what you mean when you write ‘convince me that IWBs are good teaching tools’ at the end of your comment. Do you mean ‘Are they better than a normal whiteboard’? If so, then really there is no comparison, especially if they are connected to the Internet (access to online resources, digital audio, video, etc). Or do you mean ‘Are they better than a computer and projector?’ If so, then it depends on how the IWB is used. If it’s used well, then your answer depends on whether you think the teacher and students should be passive or active, whether you think ‘Death by Powerpoint’ is all you can do with this technology. If you mean ‘Is an IWB worth the money?’ then that’s a different question requiring a different answer. But ‘Is it a good teaching tool?’ For me that’s like someone asking if a washing machine is any good? You’d have to be someone who’d never seen one to ask that question.

      1. nope. I mean just that,… good teaching tools. I am considering effectiveness/efficiency. The essence of doing laundry is getting clean clothes at the other end. The essence of teaching should be language acquisition. Anything that does that elegantly would be a good teaching tool. Washing machines produce clean clothes more reliably than handwash (though you ruin your clothes faster than handwash and ignoring environmental costs…) and I guess that’s why everybody still uses them. I recently moved from a paper-scissors-hand colored classroom to a tech enabled environment. We have CPUs, internet, data in the classroom, and mobile IWBs in the closet that nobody uses. I happen to have seen many IWBs collecting dust in other places. Which made me think that If end users have to be talked into making use of a great tool, then the tool might not be that great after all. Hence, my request to “convince” me.

      2. I think that you’re both kind of having the wrong discussion here, to be honest.
        Or at least maybe not asking the most pressing questions.
        It seems fairly obvious to me that there’s little point comparing and contrasting the two objects – a whiteboard and an IWB – when really it’s what teachers Do with them and why that matters.
        I was interested to see that one of the main ways Graham felt IWBs were superior was in the way they allow access to the Internet.
        For me, this begs a couple of questions.
        (1) What’s then done with the online material? How does it supplement / constitute the course?
        (2) Is an IWB with web access necessarily better per se than a whiteboard plus screen / beamer and Internet access via computer like what we have at University of Westminster? I’m honestly not convinced it is. Part of the problem with IWBs for me is that it’s still harder to write a lot on them than it is with old-fashioned whiteboards, and as for me writing on the board is a major part of how I teach – and how I think teachers in general should teach – that’s already a point against them.

        There’s also the sad reality that until teachers are generally better informed about how language works, about how they can use the board – whiteboard OR IWB, it doesn’t matter – to make these insights clear to students, and so on, most of what the vast majority of teachers do with IWBs, whether you like it or not, is use them in conjunction with coursebooks, essentially as glorified Powerpoints.

        I’d like the discussion really to shift to what can be done on an IWB – and on IWBs alone, and not on whiteboards – that’s principled and coherent and fits with ideas about teaching that are sound and make sense to me. That’s far more interesting. And, of course, far harder to articulate and demonstrate.

        Until I’ve seen more of that kind of discussion, I’ll remain in the curious-but-at-the-end-of-the-day-not-massively-bothered-not-to-have-one camp when it comes to IWBs.

  11. While I am not a big fan of technology in the classroom beyond the CD player or (the occasional DVD projector), I use it quite a lot for preparation (digital records of lesson plans, pictures, reference material, etc.) and communicating with my students – they email me when the miss a class or have a homework question; on my website they find basic information about all previous and the current week’s lesson (which pages in the book, what homework, …) making it easier for them to catch up when they have missed a class; and I ask them to submit any texts they write in digital form. It looks neater – both their writing and my corrections / comments – and chances of students filing and returning to previous work are higher, I can include hyperlinks to the LDCO or the OALD to encourage them to use these dictionaries at home – and a few times students actually bought the books; I have a record of the students’ previous work on my computer so I can refer back to earlier comments or praise them for progress they have made over the semester or years and all that without cluttering my office and allowing me to work anywhere during semester breaks. But this is not usung technology to teach, is it. It’s just using whatever tools are available and widely used to do your job. Students need to be familiar with and feel comfortable using these tools, though, which also eliminates the need for me to teach computer literacy.

    I agree on the time factor – I had to learn how to set up a website, for example. In retrospect I feel it was worth it because I’m more organised, more transparent, more focused and my students better prepared, even though some of my colleagues complain that it unfairly raises students’ expectations.

    As for online sources like newspapers and magazines, blogs, etc. I think the internet I great if you teach in a non-English speaking country. As you said, the internet is full of things to do and that’s what I recommend to my students – use the internet to do things: amateur cooks try out English speaking recipe sites instead of German-speaking ones, for example, or football fans look at an English review of a game they have watched on German TV. Before the internet some people hardly ever had the chance to use their English outside the classroom.

    1. Hi Antje –

      I think we’re coming from very similar places here.

      Pretty much the only tech I ever use in class is a CD player, but outside of class for the MA module I teach, I have a Blackbaord site where all the classroom material gets posted, and where I can add in hyperlinks, videos, etc.

      For my EFL students, I have a range of different things I do as homeworks using Vocaroo, which I’ll blog about eventually. I also send emails after each class with links connected top stuff that’s come up in class.

      I also recommend certain sites for self-study, though there’s a serious lack of decent vocabulary stuff online imho, and most grammar stuff is pretty poor too. There’s a reason why it’s only online and not published properly in many cases.

      In class, though, we talk and listen and read and explore the language.
      End of.

  12. […] comments in a year. Or almost one a week. Truly terrifying! The most commented on post has been the Technology and Principles in Language Teaching post, which I guess is very much a zeitgeist kind of issue, having attracted 66 […]

  13. […] I’ve blogged before about some of my concerns about the current state of affairs, and if I had to characterize my own attitude towards things at present, I guess I’d say I was skeptical, but curious. I think there’s a lot of snake oil being sold, there are plenty of administrators and bosses hoping (in vain) that tech will provide some kind of magic bullet and fast forward learning into some futuristic utopia and there are plenty of stupid and disparaging comments being made about the many excellent teachers out there who have not ‘embraced’ technology in their classrooms, but who continue to deliver excellent classes to satisfied students. Personally, outside of a Coomber for playing audio CDs, I basically don’t use any technology in my actual classroom, and we’re moving increasingly towards a ‘No mobiles in class’ policy too, simply due to the perennially disruptive nature of the things, with students (and, let’s face it, ourselves also) increasingly hooked on being in constant contact with our friends out there – and texting furiously throughout lessons! That said, I’d like to be convinced that there ARE sane things going on INSIDE classes that utilise technology, and I do try and keep abreast of what’s out there and what other teachers are doing. […]

  14. […] Shona Whyte:Hugh Dellar gives ELT Heinle co-author Andrew Walkley space to expand on his IATEFL 2012 presentation on technology in language teaching. The overal thrust is to question blind assumptions about teaching and technology: Impoverished acquisitional/pedagogical models- "the vast bulk of new technologies for ELT are based on OLD – and I would argue discredited – theories of language. Many of the sites recommended by gatekeepers such as Russell Stannard and Nik Peachey focus very much on grammar rules and lists of single words and their meanings." Walkley rejects this restricted view of language learning/teaching as "grammar rules + words + skills." Overestimation of technology's power to motivate- "We’re frequently told we’re teaching screenagers, but our students are only screenagers when using facebook to sort out a meet-up with friends or to post comments on recently uploaded photos." Our younger learners are not so tech-savvy or pro-tech as older teachers may fear. Unhealthy obsession with technology among some teachers- "Don’t let workaholics be our role models." Technology is time-consuming for teachers, but pro-tech teachers don't mind giving up a great deal of spare time for it. Technological versus pedagogical interactivity- "Far too often, in classes I observe, IWBs are simply used as giant held-up coursebooks, as another form of crowd control." [Author photo from ELT Heinle  […]

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