ICT, International Cooperation and the New Challenges.

There are several new trends in ELT which are developing right in front of our eyes today.

• ICT is an obvious one, with a difference. Some years ago the main topic was the appearance of the new devices, their use in the classroom, and the integration of technology into the national curriculum. Though most new textbooks now routinely include web resources and URL-links instead of tapes and CD’s, no plans or programs so far include an instruction which states, “For this lesson (theme, unit) every teacher should use the following URLs”. Distance and online learning, electronic class journals, virtual conferences and international projects are a reality, but we still have our regular PTA meetings, the teachers still spend their lessons explaining the new topics in real time standing by the board, and students still take notes! The difference lies in the degree to which the formerly new means of education are used. Now every student is more or less attached to a device; teachers use ICT as a matter of course too. Homework can be formulated and emailed or downloaded; parents can watch their offspring’s progress and become aware of the problems by simply clicking on a link daily. There is more cooperation among EL teachers worldwide. When my new post is published at TE or my national weekly newspaper , I copy-paste the link and send out a group email to my colleagues. I also get lots of comments and reactions from EL teachers in my country and abroad directly to my own email. If I have some questions, I may ask a large number of people globally. I don’t have to actually know them personally: I reply to questions and requests, and most educators do the same. I also write to various authors, to newspapers and magazines when I like an article, a book, a film. Surprisingly I usually get a reply! True, I follow the old rule beautifully (and in funny way ungrammatically) formulated in the cartoon “Bambi”: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!”

• Education and Science are the topic of the day and the issue at hand today more than ever before. It is understandable: we are living in the era when universal education finally became a must and a standard in the developed countries. What is more, for the first time in history both boys and girls get a chance to study; co-educational classes are no longer a rarity or a surprise. Consequently there are plenty of new free resources; in addition to the educational sites like Teaching English, practically every serious periodical and publishing house has an educational page. There is YouTube where one can find videos on any subject. The only problem is that of choice, there are so many options one is hard put to it to choose “the right one”. Probably there is no such thing, but rather we can search and find whatever suits our needs and interests. Many international educational organizations help teachers and students in the world connect, perform various projects together or simply get acquainted and thus learn a lot about other countries.

• Youth Mobility is a phenomenon which has probably always existed but which came to the fore in the twenty-first century. Young people are often curious about the world in general and are ready to travel, to expand their horizons. In my little Siberian academic town. I regularly meet visitors from the USA, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, most European countries, and more recently from Africa. Most of them are indeed young, but there are quite a few older specialists. They come here for a year or two, and some of they stay longer in spite of the long Siberian winter. The first reason for their coming is naturally the desire for adventure, the wish to see some exotic new lands and to gather new impressions. Many of them teach at the local language schools. A continuous inter-change of knowledge and information is going on to the mutual benefit of all parties involved.

• Non- Native Speakers working as ELT’s is also a common trend now. I have met colleagues in other countries whose native language is not English, but they are ELT’s by education and vocation. In a way I think it is very good for the students if their teacher speaks really good English but doesn’t speak their own native language! This creates an atmosphere of immersion, helps build up a really intensive course of EL study. For many students of all ages today neither English nor any other European language is their first language. Any EL teacher today may be faced with a class in which students speak a dozen different languages and/or dialects, none of them being the country’s state language.

• Language teachers, not only ELT’s, face more challenges today than ever before. We are expected to cope with the new situations, new unfamiliar classes, customs and traditions. One of the ways to manage is international cooperation, exchange of information, sharing our experiences with each other. Teaching English is one of the platforms which provide a great opportunity for all of us to do just that.

Nina MK, Ph.D.

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