Technology in the Second Language Classroom
By Julio Foppoli
Technology captivates students of all ages. However, not many teachers like to deal with them. Let’s see some reasons why using technology may empower your teaching and bring magic into your classroom.
It goes without saying that technology is all around us and it is almost inevitable to get in contact with it in every single action of our lives: Smartphones, tablets, online gaming, E-mails, The Internet, ATMs, the World Wide Web seem to be so integrated into our everyday vocabulary that most people would not even ask what we are talking about.
They would know for certain what we mean, even those who are not technology-minded.
We all know that technology is always evolving and when we think we have figured out how it works, we have an invasion of new developments, gadgets and tools that make us wonder if we are not still in square one. And we are not. We are just in the middle of a never-ending quest for knowledge. Isn’t this what education is all about? The words mentioned above are part of our daily life now, and we may even feel that they never were complex in the first place. But they were! Just as at present it may sound to us to hear about blogs, ipods, poscasting, streaming, RSS, and so on and so forth. In turn, this will be so that we will feel at ease both to hear about them as well as to talk about them. The learning quest is on…. For good!
However, the aim of this article is not to tell you that technology is always evolving_ something that you already know for certain_ but to share with you some of the reasons why I personally love to teach using technology in the classroom and why I think that every teacher should use it as much as possible whenever possible.
I have been teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish as a Second Language for over 22 years now and in my career I have always noticed how fascinated students feel when they deal with technology.
You can see it in their eyes, that glint of emotion they irradiate every time they get in contact with it.
However, the same does not apply to teachers. I have noticed that many teachers feel either scared of or overwhelmed by the new technological advances, as if, in a way, they have to place themselves in a long-forgotten position, that is, as students. And it is true that with the new technologies we are all learners. But also in life we are learners!!! Who could afford to say, “I know everything”? I definitely couldn’t! To narrow it down a little bit, who could afford to say “I know everything there is to know about my field of expertise?” I could not say that either. I have to accept there is a world of knowledge out there that asks or even begs for exploration and it is up to us to engage in this quest for discovering more and more every day. Will we ever be able to know everything? I think it would be like asking if we could ever be able to bottle all the water in the ocean. We may not be able to do so, but what a good time we could have while trying to do so!
It is pretty understandable that we as teachers are not always up-to-date with the new trends but if we just try to relax and lose the fear of them we will notice that they are not our enemies but our allies. It is true that if I wanted to stand in front of my students with an aura of omnipotent power and knowledge, this may not be the best approach, but I wonder, is it ever good to have that attitude in front of our students? Is it good for our personal development and growth to have that kind of attitude? “I know everything and if there is something I don’t, I will do like an ostrich and put my head under the ground.” Is this what we really want to do? With or without technology, this attitude more often than not will be our main cause of frustration and rejection both from peers and students alike, actually with everyone we come in contact with.
Sadly enough, this is what is happening in most classrooms nowadays. Many teachers simply do not approach technology, either for fear of the unknown, or even for having to yield some sort of authority to the students,. After all, isn’t it true that teachers teach and students learn? Well, yes…. but let’s not forget and always bear in mind that we are all learning. The more I teach and see how my students react, the more I learn about them, about myself, about how to reach them, about my teaching practices. It is all part of the teaching experience. There is not such a clear-cut distinction any more.
Undoubtedly, young people feel more attracted to the new technologies than adults do. They spend lots of time dealing with it that they become self-taught experts. Actually, they do know a lot! Maybe MUCH more than we do! So what? Where some teachers may seem trouble or fear, I see a possibility!
Think of the terrific opportunity of engaging those students in sharing part of the knowledge they have acquired after hours and hours in front of a computer, for instance. They could share so many things with the rest of the class so that everyone and YOU yourself can learn from their experience. Do not see them as threats but as allies in your quest for knowledge. You may know nothing, a little or maybe a lot about their favorite subjects! It doesn’t matter. You can start to use the new technologies straight away! How? Very easily. With a couple of tips and instructions, any teacher can start to use them straight away! Just think of this:
How much more effective would your lessons be if you could create your own website with exactly the materials you need to use with your students? Think of the advantages of just this in the classroom, if you have never done anything like this.
“Yeah, right.,” many will say. “I have just learned to check my e-mail and now you are expecting me to create a website! Sounds good but too optimistic and unrealistic!”
My answer would be: “Do you know how to use a word processor?”
If your reply is “YES,” then I will tell you that if you know how to use a word processor, learning how to make a website will take you 10 more minutes.
If your reply is “NO,” then it may take you between 15 and 20 minutes to create your first website.
Yes, you heard me right! Ten to twenty more minutes and you will have your very own website up and running! How about the software? Do you need some special software?
Well, if you have a word processor such as WORD, you do NOT need any other special software. That will do!
It is not our aim in this article to explain how to create a website but I promise I will in another installment of these mini-articles. What I want to highlight here is that technology does not need to be difficult for us to implement. Actually the opposite is true. We have to lose the fear of it and we can accomplish tasks unthinkable for us just one year ago! Losing the fear of technology is everything! Once you decide to implement the new technologies in your classroom you are well on your way towards that end. It is your decision what matters most. Set your mind to it and the rest will be plain sailing.
Why do students love “technology” so much? Simply put, technology has a magical component. It is the thrill of exploring something new, an untravelled path begging for exploration. I call it “the Matrix syndrome.” If you have seen the movie called “The Matrix,” you may know what I mean, that little something that drives you to find out more, that does not let go off you until you have answered all the questions, and you get a clue at a time. Once you unravel one, another one closely related appears, and sets your mind in motion to try to figure out what may happen next. You cannot keep you mind off it and actually crave for more and more, like an addiction begging to be fed. The good thing is, this is an addiction for knowledge.
If you are not very technology oriented, think about how much your students may be missing, not because your lessons are not good enough. They may be excellent lessons. But just imagine how much you could empower your lessons by embracing the new technologies and capitalizing from those students with some expertise in the field. Not only will you be taking your lessons to the next level, but you will also be taking a great porting of magic into your classroom. And when you see that glint in your students’ eyes, you will know for certain you have made the right decision.