In today’s modern world, technology has an ever-changing effect on many things – and this includes English language learning and teaching.
Technology has gained a more prominent place in classrooms in recent times and is of particular use to blended teachers. Blended teaching – or learning – is a formal education method whereby content is partly delivered through digital and online media. While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” lessons – i.e. in a building with a teacher present– these are combined with technology-aided activities. The importance of the use of technology in education has been highlighted by the launch of EdTech. This is a strategic body that has been set up to accelerate the growth of the UK’s education technology sector in Britain and globally.
For learners, more and more English language apps and learning games appear every month. And for learners keen to practise their conversational skills, there are dedicated websites to help them do that. Here we take a closer look at the latest technology trends in English language learning and teaching…
English learning software boost
A recent report predicts that the demand for learning English is likely to fuel the growth of the software market for English language learning and development. This software can combine verbal and visual learning, streamline processes and motivate more learners to collaborate. Pearson English offers a number of online courses and applications (apps) that help bring learning to a wider audience. Teachers can direct their students to Longman’s flagship Learner’s Dictionary, which is now available as an iPhone/iPad app: it’s the most up-to-date dictionary and now includes an integrated thesaurus.
Other ways to encourage students to learn on the go include Pearson English Readers, the Top Notch course and the Discovery Island game. Gamification – using games for a task, in this case to promote learning – benefits students and teachers because the use of such technology can promote better speech fluency and retention.
Online tools that can perform online assessment and monitor student progress are also popular. Students can gauge their performance by evaluating themselves on the four skill areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking – and then gather feedback so that they can improve on their weaker areas. Progress from Pearson English was the first online, fully automated progress test. It accurately measures student progress in English, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses to inform teaching.
The very latest technology
A news channel in Arizona has reported on a teacher who is using technology with her learners in a slightly different way. Looking for ways to motivate her pupils, she came up with the idea of teaching them through building robots. Thelma explains: “As the students build their robot, they not only learn maths, science and engineering, but they also learn English. Because it’s after school, I could translate some things that I maybe couldn’t get round to during the regular school day.” The words the children are learning include “gears”, “narrow” and “precise”. One pupil has found it has particularly helped her concentrate on one particular skill. “I’ve improved in my reading. I wasn’t very good as a beginner, but then I started getting better,” says Valeria Nieto.
Another new piece of technology catching people’s attention is a translation earpiece that can deliver highly accurate results instantly. Real-time translation is being addressed by all the major tech companies, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, but the first to launch a translation earpiece is Waverly Labs. Using a combination of speech recognition, machine translation and voice synthesis, the Pilot takes the spoken words of one language and translates them into another one. It consists of two earpieces and an app that integrates with a smartphone to begin translating as soon as the conversation begins. With a delay of only a couple of seconds, this real-time translation earpiece enables users to conduct a conversation in the language they have selected. Waverly Labs readily admits that machine translation is not perfect and sometimes makes mistakes, but with increased usage the translation engine improves its accuracy.
And if technology is limited…
Some teachers organise a BYOD (bring your own device) to lessons although there will be students who don’t have a device. Technology quickly becomes outdated but, while an old device may appear worthless, for a teacher with limited technology in the classroom, it would make a valuable gift…
Regardless of the type of device that you have, connect it to a television (which doesn’t have to be a modern flatscreen) or a discarded computer monitor. By doing this, you can still use technology to project presentations and websites and allow students to explore websites while the rest of the class watches.
There are also many free apps that can be used in the classroom and by students when they go home. Today’s app market is fast-moving and some may only need an internet browser to operate them, in which case an old smartphone or flip phone may be fine for your students.