ELT predictions

InnovateELT is over for another year – and what a buzz it was! There were so many debates, ideas and meaningful moments. Once again attendees took part in a lot of conversations and we’re sure some sparked bright new ideas that will have a positive impact on our future.

Some of our highlights included Winnie Gomez’s drop in session, which shared insights into how teachers can use Pearson’s Global Scale of English (GSE) and Teacher Toolkit to great effect.

We also enjoyed Mike Hogan’s talk about making ourselves more employable. This went into 5 key areas; including giving elevator pitches and looking at creativity, communication, teamwork, leadership and critical thinking.

However, today, we’d like to share with you Nikki Fortova’s keynote titled “Should we go back in time for class?”

Below you can read Nikki’s predictions and see some of the biggest changes we should expect and look forward to in ELT. She also explores the new reality in the ELT classroom and how teachers will certainly adapt to incorporate new technology.

Should we go back in time for class?

Some fine art work from @sallyTrowbridg1 of Nikki presenting

Without doubt, technology is advancing rapidly. Since the first InnovateELT conference in 2014, a mere five years ago, things have changed a lot. Wearable technology, touch ID – a fingerprint recognition feature on phones – and augmented reality in the form of Pokémon Go, have slotted seamlessly into the everyday lives of many.

However, as we bear witness to these developments outside of the classroom, is the story inside the classroom adopting a slightly different narrative? Will many other countries follow France’s example of legally banning the use of devices in schools? And if they do, will this see us going back in time to a more traditional classroom?

Of course, no one knows what the future holds. And though it may be foolish to predict, it’s safe to say that technology we use in our everyday lives will at least have some impact on our teaching contexts – and that it is here to stay.

Here are four bite-sized ‘educated guesses’ concerning areas where the use of technology may well gain momentum. In the coming five or so years, I predict they’ll move from novelty to normality in our language teaching and learning contexts.

Prediction 1. Artificial Intelligence and assisted speech recognition (ASR)

2019: ASR, that is, technology that can recognize spoken words and convert them to text, is currently used in many contexts. Today, you can find it in the form of personal voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant.

At a very basic level, learners, inside and out of the classroom, can check their pronunciation by asking the assistants on their phone to spell words for them, or show them pictures of certain things. Depending on the assistant’s reaction, that is, whether they do what the learner intended, learners receive automatic feedback and gauge a level of success.  

2024: Could we see ASR used to record learners carrying out speaking tasks, produce a transcript of the discourse and highlight areas of language that we ask it to? For example, the use of discourse markers or linkers. Could the annotated transcript also then reference learner language against frameworks such as the Global Scale of English to help us to measure learner progress?

Prediction 2. Testing and assessment

2019: The belief that a one size does not fit all approach to learning has led to a growth in adaptive learning and formative assessment. These both allow content to be modified according to students’ learning needs. Adaptive learning is when materials are adapted to the learner based on past performance.

Popular cross-platform mobile and desktop flashcard creators, such as Anki and Quizlet, use a form of adaptive learning called spaced repetition. This is when there is an increased amount of time between previously learned items. In other words, things that you do not know will be repeated more frequently during study than the things that you know.

Formative assessment (i.e. assessment that happens whilst the learners are learning, rather than at the end) allows us to decide whether learners need more or less help with certain things. This is being facilitated by mobile and desktop applications such as Kahoot, Socrative and Goformative.

Computer based testing (CBT) is being advocated and adopted by many institutions over pencil and paper based testing (PPT).

2024: The use of adaptive learning and formative assessment are likely to continue growing. Could the rise of CBT see the removal of the physical restraints of testing?  If so, could it become more commonplace for learners to take high-stakes tests in locations more convenient for them rather than in designated institutions? And if so, will we then see a rise in biometric recognition, such as with eye-movement and voice, and cameras, being used to enhance test-taking security?

Prediction 3. Blended and online learning

2019: The ease of access that learners now have to mobile devices – twinned with the ease of access to reliable and inexpensive/free language learning content – has seen the rise of the app in language education. Blended and fully online courses have become more mainstream, due in part to saving space and better fitting learners’ busy schedules.

2024: More institutions are likely to adopt online platforms such as virtual learning environments. In addition, the use of the app and blended/online learning are likely to become more widespread.

However, as this becomes more mainstream, so does the need to educate learners about digital responsibility. Hopefully, therefore, courses on digital citizenship and literacy will also be more commonplace in education.

Prediction 4: The role of the teacher

2019: We are very much alive and kicking in our face-to-face and/or virtual contexts, having moved our position from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side. We are instrumental and important in the learning process for many, applying our eclectic methodology and adopting technology in a principled manner where context allows and when we see fit.

2024: Despite rumours that the robots are coming, and that they will not require a salary or pension, they are likely to be far less visible than anticipated. Although chatbots may be more commonplace in language teaching – and they may be better placed to help learners with form-focused tasks – it is unlikely that they will be as effective at tasks with a meaning-focus.

What’s more, as long as relationships continue to play a vital role in teaching, we are still far from seeing a robot that innovates, inspires, motivates and guides the way that human teachers do. However, our role may have adapted to embrace and work much more alongside technology than before.

To wrap up

So, all in all, there is a very fair chance that we are not going back in time any time soon. Let’s keep it that way by continuing to inform through teacher evidence-based research and by allowing an equal trialogue of needs between educators, digital content developers, and learners. Our aim should be to find the ‘sweet spot’ where needs are met for all three.

Would you like to join us at InnovateELT in 2020? Find out more here. 

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