The results of this research suggest that if teachers are to remain relevant and effective, then they need to use 'learning technologies' to help students reach the world outside the classroom.
69% of learners around the world said that they learned most effectively when socialising informally
This result suggests that a lot of students learn best from their friends and family. Perhaps that isn’t so surprising. The things we learn from our loved ones are often more immediately relevant to our lives than what we learn from a teacher in a classroom. Also, when we are relaxed (such as when we are at home or in a café), then we are more open to suggestions and new ideas.
Does that mean teachers should start taking their students to cafés more? No, of course not. However, a lot of teachers take their students outside of the classroom once a term to try and create a different experience, atmosphere and dynamic for their teaching and learning.
There are other implications from the result above. For example, teachers might find they are more successful if they:
- organise group work in their classes
- make the exercises they give their students fun, since students are motivated when they are having fun
- give their students work to do outside of the formal setting of the classroom
- take on the role of 'facilitator' rather than the role of 'giver-of-knowledge'.
The average young person in the world today owns £500 of technology (Prensky)
It feels like everyone has a mobile phone today. In China, more people have mobile phones than land-line phones. In some African countries, people own more than one phone each on average.
What these findings mean is that sometimes young people get more new information from the technology they use outside of school than they do from their teacher in the classroom. Sometimes, young people learn more from using the Internet at home or in a café than they do at school.
When young people are on the Internet, they feel 'connected' to people and the world’s knowledge. In the classroom, they can feel 'disconnected' and 'isolated'. They sometimes feel that school isn’t particularly relevant to their lives.
The implications, therefore, are that teachers might:
- try to use 'learning technologies' in the classroom whenever they can, to make the learning experience relevant to their students
- show students how to find and access information and opportunities through technology
- focus on developing students’ networking skills (both online and face-to-face) so that the students become 'connected' to people who can give them information, help them learn and keep the learning experience relevant to the student’s life
- take on the role of 'trainer' rather than 'engineer'.
Students with strong social networks perform well academically
The research done by the British Council showed that students who felt they were getting enough opportunities in their lives to socialise informally were also successful in their learning. You might wonder how a student finds time both to study and socialise as much as they want. Well, it’s important to understand that successful students combine studying and socialising, and that combining the two things helps them to be successful at both.
The implications here are that teachers might:
- find out what social networking sites students like to use
- show students what free learning opportunities are available through social networking sites like Second Life (http://secondlife.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com)
- show students how they can set up their own blog site for free using sites like WordPress.Com (www.wordpress.com)
- take on the role of 'network administrator' rather than 'materials writer'.
Five top social networks for teachers and learners of English
- TeachingEnglish - have you registered yet?
- Facebook - has a growing number of teacher and learner groups. And have you tried Wordshake?
- Ning - allows anyone to set up their own private social network, so very popular with teachers.
- Orkut - particularly popular in Brazil and India, and full of English language groups.
- Second Life - an online world in which you have a character that can walk around and meet people. For more information, read on.
Teaching and learning English with Second Life
Second Life (http://secondlife.com) is an online world in which you have a character that can walk around and meet people. It is a social networking site that has very similar functions to Facebook. You can send friends invitations, talk to individuals, talk to groups of people and use learning applications or games. But sometimes the best way to explain something to someone is to simply show it to them. So here's a clip for you to watch:
Second Life for teachers
There are two parts to the Second Life virtual environment: the Adult Grid and the Teen Grid. The British Council has built an island in the Adult Grid to train teachers in approaches to e-learning. You can read about the experience of Anna Begonia, a language teacher who was given a guided tour of the island, here: http://aberriolo.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/british-council-isle-on-the-main-grid/.
Second Life for teens
The British Council has also built an island for teens to visit for free (http://teen.secondlife.com). Teenagers between 13 and 17 years old can make friends from all over the world, visit the UK (virtually!) and go on learning quests to improve their English and learn more about UK culture. They can talk to the Loch Ness monster, visit Stonehenge and ride on the London Eye!
You can register and visit the island for free by going to http://secondlife.com. You will need a broadband connection to use Second Life, however. Alternatively, if you wish to register your whole class for the Teen Grid, you can contact Graham Stanley at the British Council (Graham.Stanley@britishcouncil.es). Graham is a learning technologies expert. You can read one of his blogs on this site: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/bcgstanley.
- Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants – in On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9, No. 5)
By Adam Dalton