ELT and the Crisis in Education: Technology in the Classroom
Sunday 9 January 2011
by Nik Peachey
In my last posting ‘ELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Reading Skills’ I took a look at how I feel the process of reading has been impacted by digital technologies and suggested that we need to address this and change or at least expand the way we deal with developing reading skills in ELT.
In this article I’d like to question how effectively we can attempt to do that in the language classroom as it appears in its present state.
One of the most common criticisms leveled at teachers who do attempt to integrate technology into their classroom environment, is that this often results in a lot of ‘faffing around’ or time wasted while struggling to get the technology to work properly. To some extent I feel that this criticism is fair, but I don’t think it’s a criticism that should be leveled at teachers, but would be better directed at the people who control the way technology is layered onto the classroom environment, so lets look at that.
These are two of the most common ways I see technology injected into schools. The first is the multimedia classroom / computer lab.
I’m sure, many teachers who have no computer access for their students will look at these images with envy, but is this really an effective way to implement technology into our teaching practice? You may ask what’s wrong with this kind of arrangement and this would be my answer.
* Having booked a time slot, teachers have to take the students out of their usual classroom environment and get them reorganised in a new classroom with a new seating pattern. Once in the media lab teachers feel pressured to fill all the time there with computer use, after all why take 5 – 15 mins getting students reorganised, getting computers turned on and students logged in, only to leave and go back to class again a few moments later?
* Many computer / multimedia labs aren’t in fact multimedia. There are computers there which are capable of delivering multimedia, but in many cases they don’t have headphones or speakers, there are no microphones and very few have webcams, so much of the multimedia capability and more importantly the part that supports oral / aural communication and audio visual creativity has been rendered ineffective.
* The arrangement of most computer rooms, with computers in long rows, makes it very difficult for teachers to manage the class, get students attention and create any kind of off screen communication between students as their attention is dominated by the computer.
* Most computer networks are jealously protected by IT managers who do their upmost to make sure the computers are kept free of viruses and not used for ‘unsuitable’ purposes. This often involves disabling any kind rights to upload, download or instal programs, software or applications and also often disables many of the browser based plugins that can be so useful to teachers and students. So in short the protection of the network takes priority over enabling teachers and students to use the computers effectively.
The second common scenario for technology integration into schools is the interactive whiteboard / single computer and data projector in the classroom.
Again many teachers would welcome the opportunity to have these kinds of tools, and they do solve the problem of having to take students out of class and into a new environment, but they do also create problems of a different kind when it comes to developing students digital literacies.
The interactive whiteboard puts complete control of the computer in the hands of the teacher. This may make the teacher feel good and make classroom management easier, but there is no way for the students to develop their digital literacies in this kind of environment where they don’t have hands on access to the technology.
So what’s the solution?
There is a third alternative and one that is becoming increasingly more common and that is the wireless classroom. As more schools are becoming wirelessly connected, this opens the opportunity for much greater flexibility in the way technology is used in class and which technology is used. Providing classrooms with wireless access can enable students to use their own devices in class and allows for a greater range and diversity of devices. It solves some of the problems of keeping school computers up to date with software and plugins and shifts responsibility for protection from viruses etc. It means that teachers and students don’t have to leave the classroom or even their seat to access the internet. Schools do however have to be prepared to provide adequate bandwidth to make it possible for reasonable numbers of students to start accessing media rich sources such as YouTube without bringing down the network.
Despite the fact that wireless networks are becoming much more common place in schools and at educational conferences I’m still surprised at how little utilisation these networks get.
Over the last year I’ve attended a good number of conferences and done workshops in a number of schools most of which have a wireless network, and yet still most teachers and students turn up to classes or sessions with pen and paper and only use the network for checking their email or Facebook between classes. The fact is very few tutors and trainers take advantage of the network during their sessions. This is something we desperately need to change. We must try to change the culture of our educational training at conferences and workshops and start to build the expectation that if students in classes or teachers at conferences bring along an internet capable device they will have the opportunity to use it in a way which will enhance their learning and participation in that event.
So what do you think about this?
* How is technology being integrated into learning in your institution?
* Are teachers’ efforts to use technology in your school being supported or obstructed by the institution?
* Is there a wireless network and do teachers and students use it in class?
* Do you have a computer lab? Does it get used?
* Do the computers in your school have microphones, headphones and webcams?
* Is technology something your students use in the classroom or just outside of it?
* Do you take your laptop or mobile device along to conferences and actually get to use it?
Delta Development Blog
This blog will be updated at least once a week, so add it to your bookmarks. You can also subscribe to the feed to be notified when it's updated.
Meet the Bloggers
- Bob Dignen & Steve Flinders (February to April 2013)
- Hania Kryszewska & Paul Davis (April to June 2012)
- Louis Rogers (January to March 2012)
- Ken Paterson (December 2011 to February 2012)
- Richard Brown & Lewis Richards (September to November 2011)
- Liz Walter & Kate Woodford (September to October 2011)
- Kyle Mawer & Graham Stanley (April to August 2011)
- Nik Peachey (from November 2010)
- Nicky Hockly (September & October 2010)
- Julie Pratten (July & August 2010)
- Gill Johnson (April 2010)
- Chaz Pugliese (March 2010)
- Luke Meddings (August 2009)
- Lindsay Clandfield (July 2009)
- Duncan Foord (June 2009)
- Scott Thornbury (May 2009)
The Company Words Keep
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.
Culture in our Classrooms
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Culture in our Classrooms acknowledges the role of culture in the English Language Teaching classroom and provides lesson content which is relevant, useful and engaging for students.
The Developing Teacher
The Developing Teacher has been awarded the 2009 Duke of Edinburgh/ESU Award for Best Entry for Teachers. The Developing Teacher suggests that teachers themselves are the most powerful agents of change and development in their own professional career.
DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.
The Book of Pronunciation
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Book of Pronunciation is a definitive account of the key role pronunciation plays in teaching and learning, providing a highly authoritative but hugely accessible overview of the essential elements of English pronunciation as well as a wide range of classroom practice.
Teaching Online is essential reading for any teacher interested in online teaching and course delivery. It deals comprehensively with both the tools and the techniques necessary for online language instruction.
Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Being Creative takes you on a journey that reveals how all teachers have the potential to become creative. Whether you are experienced or new to the classroom, Being Creative allows your teaching to take flight.
The Business English Teacher
From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.
11 Feb 16
8 Jan 16
2 Jul 15
16 Jun 15
2 Jun 15
29 Apr 15
10 Apr 15
8 Apr 15
1 Apr 15
13 Mar 15
13 Feb 15
30 Jan 15
16 Jan 15
11 Dec 14
27 Nov 14