I have already posted on the topic of using internet-free technology in the classroom but there is another question which has to be dealt with before we start talking about practical solutions. Instead of repeating the words ‘digital natives’ and ‘new generations’, lets get a bit more practical and see life as it actually is around us.
I have spent most of my life in my native country (because I am still very young!!!) where people are very conservative when it comes to adding each other in their social networks which basically means no matter how many friends you have on your Facebook page, almost all of them speak your own language, come from a similar cultural background and fancy the same free-time activities1. (Doesn't this remind you of monolingual classes?)
It took me, personally, a couple of years until I found out the importance of social networks in language learning. It was during my first trip abroad where a new friend asked, ‘Are you on Facebook?’ The answer was simple, ‘Yes, I am on Facebook.’ but it was hard to say there is nothing for you to communicate with as I have never posted for an international audience! The number of my ‘global’ friends kept sky-rocketing in all my social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. and I had to adopt a ‘global’ approach to keep everyone interested in what I post. I developed a feeling that I have to give short English explanations for things which were easy to grasp by my native friends but needed some cultural understanding of my people for a global friend of mine. As a result, my everyday language use, when I was in my home country, was a combination of Facebook posts, chats and comments, Twitter posts and replies and Instagram comments. Considering the higher rate of smart device integration into people’s everyday lives, the idea of having a ‘global’ language for the ‘global’ or ‘outside’ audience becomes prominently important.
This is the same thing which happens to our learners of any age, from any cultural background. They have (or will soon have) smart devices in their pockets which makes the whole world more accessible and global friends more digitally available. Can we deny the fact that communication is (or will be) taking place there? So, to me, now, technology doesn’t mean a fancy method to attract attention, it is now a part of my everyday language use and asking learners to tweet their answers to a specific question in 140 characters using a specific hashtag doesn’t sound ridiculous any longer! I think even if one doesn’t believe in ‘connectivism’ as a ‘learning’ theory, it is undoubtedly a perfectly valid ‘communication’ theory and communication has always been at the heart of language learning.
So where does that ‘resistance’ come from?
The concept of ‘change’ is always associated with ‘resistance’ and that’s why people in management positions have to learn about ‘change management’. ‘Tom Hutchinson’ at the IATEFL SIGs Symposium in January 1991 said: ‘Change is not a professional concept. It is a natural part of the human condition. It is likely that people react to professional change in the same way as they react to change in other aspects of their lives such as marriage, accidents, growing up, etc.’2 ‘Technology integration’ is just another ‘change’ which needs to be managed in order to be successful. Some years ago when I was in charge of a language department, the centre managers spent a huge amount of money to buy IWBs for all classrooms and wanted all teachers to use them and stopped giving board markers to the teachers. The teachers’ reaction was easy to guess! They took the digital pens to the classrooms, put them on the desk, took their traditional board markers out of their bags and used them! I believe enough management has not been done in the proper way for the culture of using technology in our classrooms. It suddenly entered our world and because of being attractive in the market, most schools started using tech devices. But has technology entered our lives from the proper channels through appropriate layers or have we been suddenly thrown into the ocean of internet and technology in our classrooms?
On the other hand, tech devices tend to be traditionally associated with ‘entertainment’ and there is a concern that integrating too much technology into our lessons will distract us from our main aims and we can’t prevent some learners from playing their favourite game in the middle of a carefully planned lesson! There might be enough reasons to re-construct our classroom management techniques to suit our techie lessons in order to keep our learners focused. (Any new modern Attention Getting Strategies in teacher training courses?)
Technology is an essential part of everyone’s life and even if it is not, it will soon be and if we are teaching our learners how to survive in this world, no matter what cultural background they have and what level of internet connectivity they experience, we need to teach them how to live and communicate digitally with the global audience. While I have discussed the importance of integrating technology in our lessons, no matter where in the world we are, we are still allowed to be badged as ‘entirely perfect teachers’ and use virtually no technology in any of our sessions!
What do you think? Regardless of your internet connectivity issues; Technology, yay or nay?
1. Things have changed now and people don’t have to have been abroad to have international friends and it’s easier now to socialise online and make social networks multi-lingual than it used to be when I was younger.
2. Hutchinson, T. (1991) ’The Management of Change’, The IATEFL L&M SIG Newsletter Number 5