What I may foresee for the future is, in the
context of Spain and Madrid specifically, is an extension of
relationships among the different curricular areas, in which language
teachers contribute to the linguistic development of both teachers of
other sub-jects and students. The uses of ICT will enable to facilitate
the intercommunication of teachers and students, and I think there will
be an extension of communities of users hooked to wider thematic areas.
This is what I have in mind.
IMPROVEMENT ICT BRINGS TO TEACHING
Professional background to justify my views:
Language teacher (English):
I am no expert, but I am convinced that tools are helpful if we are able
to provide a reason for use and a safe atmosphere to use them. As stated
I am a language teacher, an English lan-guage teacher. So the main idea
I have always had is that it is my duty to use a foreign language and
help others become reasonably good users of this foreign language. I
have used all kinds of approaches and elements to make my subject close
to students’ experiences and relatively safe for my personal self.
Computers came to me as one of these gadgets for which I was not fully
prepared (still do not know a terrible lot), but was intrigued enough to
investigate how to use them. In this sense I consider that ICT provide
for the language teacher a relatively safe environment (provided the
teacher "feels" con-fident with the media), but also a
strongly realistic use of language, thus providing a reason to learn.
There is little doubt that we, language teachers, need to focus on the
use of lan-guage, and ICT make it easy for us to do so.
Views on Language learning:
It is not very easy to define the key question “how students learn”.
In my view (which is “a”, but not “the” view) I believe that
students learn by using the language and by reflecting af-ter their
language use. My main task is then providing opportunities for
meaningful language use, and building up a sense of community between
the students and myself, so that we generate a relaxing environment. A
second aspect to be taken into consideration is the issues that may come
in a classroom as a consequence of a different role demanded for
teachers and students: a more open, flexible class structure may defy
certain educational institutions or administrators. The ac-cepted role
of the teacher as “controller” in a language classroom, in what
Jeremy Harmer calls “lockstep” (teacher ex-plaining everything,
providing all the contents and students assimilating the information
received), is severely defied. So we, and our institutions, are to adopt
more flexible patterns of classroom distribution and clearly redefine
the patterns of be-haviour. One last aspect to be borne in mind would
be, especially in the institutions I have had the opportunity to teach,
State Schools in Spain, is the difference between attendants (and even
those who do not wish to be where they are when they are in a classroom)
and students, which also raises classroom issues. Again flexible
patterns of class organization and an accepted code of behaviour have to
be established as a pre-requisite for language learning.
Eagerness for new perspectives applied to teaching a FL.
To sum all the views, I believe we must agree on the necessity to show
an eagerness for new trends, so long as they are in-clusive (for all
students, regardless their abilities) and adapt-able to the varied
reality in which we work.
Benefits of ICT
Real life learning: reality of virtuality.
Language appropriacy. There is little doubt that we, language teachers,
need to focus on the use of language, and ICT make it easy for us to do
so, especially after the use of internet as a didactic tool. Bringing a
sense of reality also contributes to facilitate learners be less
dependent, fostering their autonomy. Of course this has created an
intense demand on the teacher to be selective (to tell the trees from
the forest) and to adapt the wide variety of resources at hand to the
variety of students.
It is clear that the concept of meaningfulness has two main sides:
meaningfulness in terms of teachers’ curricular demands/aspirations
and the obvious second would be students’ interests and expectations.
The presence of a virtual environ-ment proves to be attractive. The main
goal is to make it last beyond the mere visual impact, in other words,
make it memorable so that the contents and abilities may remain. For
such a purpose we still need a great deal of careful planning.
Teachers’ roles: redefinition of literacy
It is not easy to be up-to-date, and this is a social requirement, if
not a demand. In many cases these new virtual environments are not so
teacher friendly as they are required to be, but this is no excuse to
prevent teachers from using these resources. I believe that we cannot be
stopped by technological challenges. Again, teachers’ attitude may
allow a role of a teacher as an average user, not a master. Probably
this simple lack of reliability in a role of teacher not holding the
strings of knowledge in a class is the single most outstanding obstacle
to the extension of ICT in teaching, at least in language teaching.
Language learning and CALL
Initial programs tended to adopt a role similar to that of a
“traditions” teacher, providing acceptable/unacceptable responses.
CALL tends to be good for reinforcing structures and acquiring
vocabulary. Not so much for creativity. New applications are developed
that intend to provide resources for teachers to generate their own
materials (Hot Potatoes, for example), websites provide free software or
support to generate or adapt existing materials.
If there is a field where technologies have to provide resources is in
Special Educational Needs. This is also the area of prime interest for
me. I think there is a vast amount of material, mostly in English,
though most materials developed in websites require the adaptation to
the specific needs of the real students that we have.
I must admit I am not a great materials creator. I have always been
keener on adapting what others had done (mostly better than I would
dream to ever do) than generating my own mate-rials from scratch. I do
feel an urge for my students generating materials and using those
materials with other students (effort-outcome balance of a reasonable
quality. Reading John Simkin’s information about textbook writing I am
also concerned about 1st world market demands, but I am still unable to
come to grips to a solution to the problem posed.
In my view, as I stated before, I believe it is more a question of
attitude than a question of knowledge. There is little doubt that a
certain level of computer skills is more and more a necessity, but it is
also true, at least in the environment I work (a Teachers’ Support
Centre) more and more resources are devoted to implement teachers’
knowledge of ICT.
What I said before, eagerness for change, but also a perspective of the
roles of the teacher and the student in a classroom.
* Technological Equipment availability
* Class control.
* I will not insit on this idea of agreements for classroom behaviour. I
sincerely consider it is a must.
The future to come
It seems to me that one of the many uses that internet may bring for
contributions of language departments to teacher development.
I do think it is necessary to reinforce the links between the school
members, and it is a must the collaboration among the institution de-partments
to carry our common processes. This is particularly relevant in the case
of State Secondary Schools in Spain. European pro-jects are a good way
to incorporate more and more teachers into collaboration, and bridging
No one (at least, not me) can tell what the latest craze is about to be.
The tendency that I notice goes towards easy-to-use, reasonably-priced
youngish compressed “walkable” items. I know of language teachers
who bring their MP3s or iPods to the class to have the choice of support
music for the lessons (used as background to the class, to encourage
oral practice, or in many other ways, such as for intensive or extensive
listening). That availability and the capacity of storage have made
their life easier. Still and all, I have met too few a teacher who do
Reliable technology and teacher friendly software:
Not everything seems to be valid for classroom work. Technology needs to
develop items who are adaptable to classroom environments. The same can
be applied to the software to be used. As I have been able to read
through the very many posts on the subject, I find the HELP project has
many talented members who may well develop tools to help teachers.
1st World 3rd World teaching: differences matter.
We are part of a whole. We teach in responsible institutions (grin!)
where a variety of school cultures exist. We are placed under pressure
by the different community sectors. In the end it is our students who
tell of our teaching and how big the impact is in their future
(professional and personal life). Our students are, then, members of a
community where what they know is essential for the social texture.
Hopefully they are armed with “the necessary skills to function as
citizens of the country”. And society demands that the students we
teach have a high technological proficiency, the difference that may
allow them to be active members of a specialised labour market. Yet, I
still wonder if we are contributing or not to widening the gap be-tween
But essentially, are we doing anything different from what others did
2000 years ago? I was shocked by John Simkin’s words when “he
thought he was debating this issue with himself” and stated “the
structure of what is going on in the classroom has not changed (in fact
it has remained the same for over 2000 years)”. Shocked, as I guess
expected by the author of such opinion, I experienced a feeling of
panic: Are we moving? Or it is just introducing new gadgets to preserve
the isolated mastery of knowledge and let others out of the race? Is
there a 1st world learning, sophisticate, technology-oriented,
I still consider that the act of learning, if we consider that an act of
apprehension of content in a memorable and independent way, is always
affected by those who participate in the process (Teacher and Student).
Still my idea of a teacher is more that of a facilitator than that of an
content instiller, by that meaning that a teacher needs to lead to
knowledge, create ways in which this content is graspable by the
students (in their diversity) and LET THEM LEARN by using. As the
English saying goes “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t
make it drink”. In my view what I intend to do is making my students
(was tempted to continue with horses, but resisted temptation – I am
closer to sanctity now!) as thirsty (of using the language, that is, of
needing to express their ideas regarding a particular field) as possible
so that they do want to participate, do want to join in, and
consequently discover that “the water” that satiates their eagerness
to participate is the knowledge they have acquired by using the
lan-guage object of study. The image is clear to me: the water (the
content) flows from their inside (their use of the content). Not a bad
metaphor after all.
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