Integrating IT is key

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Successful integration of learning tech needs clear guidelines

Graham Stanley examines the findings on using learning technology

In the world of language teaching and learning, context is king, and it was with this in mind that I looked at the Research Assessment commissioned by the Welsh government (see pages 18-19). As a committee member of IATEFL’s Learning Technology Special Interest Group, I was interested in the relevance of the findings to technology-supported language learning. So, what did I think?

The research teams were initially asked to treat learning technology as a discrete methodology/approach, but did not find enough research evidence to fit their criteria.

This is hardly surprising. The use of learning technology is neither an approach nor a methodology, but a way of enhancing teaching. Chambers & Bax (2006) stated the aim is to work towards a state of ‘normalisation’ when technology is, “completely integrated into all other aspects of classroom life, alongside coursebooks, teachers and notepads.”

The reports found that technology can support language learning, but clear guidelines on how it is used are necessary, and it needs to support specific learning objectives. They also state that support is necessary for pupils and teachers in order for the use of technology to be successful, and in particular that classroom management can be a challenge.

This makes sense. Many language teachers have realised the importance of using technology as it has become integrated into everyone’s daily life, but struggle with integrating it into their classroom practice.

What may be surprising for some is the evidence that supports the use of technology in areas of language learning that are not obvious. There is evidence, for example, that using ASR (automatic speech recognition) to help with pronunciation, particularly when it is gamified, is effective with 7 to 9-year-olds.

Finally, for me, the findings highlight the importance of timely and context-relevant CPD for teachers, and the need for teachers to support each other. They can do this by joining a teacher association and/or a community of practice, whether that is at the teachers’ school, face-to-face or online.

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