Teach English in TiAnyi Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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The battle between the resistance and the acceptance of technological advancement is woven into the human meta-narrative: the on-going story which binds us all together. We are biologically wired, thanks to evolution, to fear and hold in suspicion that which is new, different, and unknown. Yet for most people, a new tool also suggests the possibility of a brighter future; a different approach from the accepted standard suggests that ordinary individuals each have a unique and dignified purpose; and an unknown result suggests that critical and creative thinking will be paramount to the journey ahead. While that may seem to be a grandiose introduction to a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course summative essay, students—particularly the young—are the future of our world. It is therefore incumbent upon any aspiring educator in 2020 to carefully consider the challenges, opportunities, and the place of smartphones in their respective learning environments. Firstly, the challenges of utilizing the smartphone as an effective tool when teaching English as a foreign language cannot be understated. Everyone has witnessed the presentation or the class which is plagued by phones ringing that distracts from the learning points in a difficult lesson. And this is not to even mention the potential distractions of individuals’ phones that can be kept silent while checking social media and gaming applications which are inherently designed to demand users to check back for updates during any free moment. When it comes to using smartphones for teaching English, their many tricks and instant access to valuable resources through the internet appears to most teachers to outweighed by the issues which arise from supporting their use for an English class. With that said, the opportunities which come along with smartphones in the hands of nearly every student are endless. There are dictionaries (instant, vast resources), there are applications which allows users to quickly create flashcards in order to practice, test, and challenge others to advance their progress (technical tools), and there are messaging/social media applications. While the first two categories (resources and tools) are certainly enticing to educators and students as they offer easier ways to continue old English teaching methods, the third category, messaging/social media applications, offers the resources and tools desired from the reliable past and connects these to the living, breathing potential of discovering language alongside others. Starting a group in a popular messaging app, for example, provides students with a sense of community to which they’re responsible and in which they are cared for. From the starting point of knowing others well, the intricacies and the follies of the English Language can be practiced more confidently in an engaging space in real-time. And this can all be done both one on one as well as shared among the entire group depending on the current task or context. Finally, with regards to smartphones, the goal of educators should be to adapt to technological trends (thereby demonstrating they are willing to try new things alongside their students—things which their students often understand and use better than the educators in many cases) as well as to offer students a much needed break from technology which demands their attention every waking moment of their lives. And if this is done with thoughtfulness and care, educators can boldly guide English language learning while reminding students what learning a language is all about: communicating with other people.