New technologies offer a world of help?so how do we get at them? English teachers are encouraged to use
English teachers are encouraged to use diverse materials and approaches to reach students across the range of learning styles. Information and communication technologies ' computers and the internet ' provide access to an array of engaging and enriching materials, which any teacher might long for. If only we could feel confident that in starting down this road we won't just be heading for frustration or disaster. Using a computer has been likened to driving a car (Davies, 2006). It takes a while to learn, and it can be really bad when big things go wrong. But in return it offers us unparalleled capabilities.
Digital resources allow students to practice at their own pace, and the variety means that specific needs or learning styles can be accomodated. Through software packages or online, students can consult reference works. Word processing tools, which allow endless revisions, enable students to work fluidly with texts. The internet provides access to the target-language culture, and perhaps most rewarding of all, students can now have speedy and regular contact with native speakers (Becta, 2004; Harmer, 2001; Milton, 2002). For teachers, information and communications technologies ('ICT') help create and present attractive materials, provide access to an enormous range of materials, and to research and articles about how these new technologies can best enhance language learning. But lack of confidence and lack of knowledge can inhibit us from using these marvelous professional resources (Becta, 2003; Fitzpatrick & Davies, 2003). How to start' Especially when one is on one's own, not working in a school with programs that support professional growth, and perhaps far from the developed world.
Where there's a will, and an internet connection, there's a way. One approach is through the European or International Computer Driving License (ECDL or ICDL): seven modules leading to certification of basic competence in using a personal computer and particular applications (such as word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and the internet). These ICDL or ECDL courses are available online, for example, from WorldWideLearn ($33 for 12 months' access). Moderately priced online tutorials are also available via internet, for example, 'Getting Started with PCs' from Learn2.com ($20 for 6 months' access). Where they are obtainable, two books from the hugely popular American series, PCs for Dummies and Internet for Dummies, have excellent reputations.
Once we've got a base of computer knowledge, we're ready to launch into cyberspace for language teachers. Anyone who has searched the internet, however, knows how easy it is to get overwhelmed or sidetracked by the sheer volume of available information, not to mention having to separate the junk from the gems. It is, therefore, a happy discovery to locate the website of Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers ('ICT4LT') , a set of Web-based training resources designed by a European universities-based project for teachers of Modern Foreign Languages (Davies, 2006).
ICT4LT offers free and frequently updated training modules at three levels, starting with an introduction to the new technologies and going on to discuss software and hardware terminology, text tools, computer assisted language learning ('CALL'), and the internet. How to integrate ICT into the language classroom is a key concern reflected in the professional literature (Fitzpatrick & Davies, 2003; McCarthy, 1999). ICT4LT's intermediate level modules look at integrating CALL, introduce multimedia CALL, internet resources, concordancing, and writing programs. The third level is strictly high altitude, as it gets into setting up a website and helping to write software.
[Note: Because of the discomfort of reading onscreen, and the consequent 25% reduction in reading speed, ICT4LT recommends printing out the modules. This is a substantive training program, and printing is quite an undertaking: the basic and intermediate levels average 175 pages each.]
ICT4LT's website also has a 'Resource Centre' with links, a bibliography, and information about professional associations; a glossary; and an ICT skills and experience 'can do' self-assessment form for those who haven't been 'certified.'
The website of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency ('Becta') , while aimed at all teachers, also contains some real gems specifically for language teachers. Becta links to Intute, the Virtual Training Site, which has 'Internet for Modern Languages,' a free interactive tutorial to improve internet research skills. Among the many treasures to be found here are links to the peer-reviewed online journal Language and Learning Technology , with loads of useful articles, and the University of Iowa-based 'Phonetics' website , which features animations of tongue movements and audio-video clips for every English sound. Another section of the Becta website, 'Teaching and Learning' focusses on practical applications of ICT in the classroom. A search of the Resource Bank in the category of ESOL turned up forty-one teaching ideas, including Podcasting basics; a comic-strip writing task, tasks using rhymes, capital letters, singular and plural, or personal pronouns; and listening comprehension tasks, all ready to download and use. Brief reviews of research in ICT and teaching are located on the Publications page of Becta's website.
The new information and communications technologies don't offer a comprehensive solution to the difficulties of teaching (or learning) a foreign language. They do offer us a range of capabilities, can help engage and motivate learners, and expand student contact with the target language and culture. No sane person ever said teaching is an easy job. With moderate expense, and an investment of time, we can lift ourselves into the digital age by our bootstraps, and start working those high-tech global networks for all they are worth. Our students will appreciate it. Bibliography
Becta (2003) 'What the research says about barriers to the use of ICT in teaching'
Ref: BEC1-15304, Report 11 [Online]. Available from: http://www.becta.org.uk/corporate/publications/documents/Research11_I CTTeaching.pdf [Accessed 20 November 2006].
Becta (2004) 'What the research says about using ICT in modern foreign languages'
Ref: BEC1-1524, Report 23 [Online]. Available from: http://www.becta.org.uk/corporate/publications/publications_detail.cf m'show=all&orderby=title_asc&letter=W&pubid=169&cart [Accessed 20 November 2006].
Davies G. (ed.) (2006) Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers (ICT4LT), Slough, Thames Valley University [Online]. Available from: http://www.ict4lt.org [Accessed November 20 2006].
Fitzpatrick, A. & Davies, G. D. (Eds) (2003) The impact of new technologies and internet on the teaching of foreign languages and on the role of teachers of a foreign language, a report commissioned by the Directorate General of Education and Culture of The European Language Network [Online]. Available from: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/docs/ICC_Grahams_Report_Final.htm [Accessed November 20 2006].
Gookin, D. (2005) PCs for Dummies. IDG Books Worldwide, Foster City, CA.
Harmer, Jeremy. (2001) 'Educational Technology and other teaching equipment,' Chap. 10 in The Practice of English Language Teaching. Pearson Education, Harlow, England.
Levine, J.R. (2005) Internet for Dummies. IDG Books Worldwide, Foster City, CA.
McCarthy, B. (1999) 'Integration: the sine qua non of CALL' in CALL- EJ, Vol.1, No. 2, September 1999 [Online]. Available from: http://www.tell.is.ritsumei.ac.jp/callejonline/mod/resource/view.php' id=8 [Accessed 20 November 2006].
Milton, J. (2002) 'Literature Review in Languages, Technology and Learning', a report for Futurelab [Online]. Available from: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/research/reviews/lang01.htm [Accessed 20 November 2006].
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