How technology is shaping the modern classroom
Language equals communication, and the way humans communicate has been developing at lightning speed with the development of technology and the Internet. Thirty years ago, exchanging letters with a fellow English learner pen pal at another school was considered an exciting and challenging real-life interchange for students to practise their English, and computer programmes to assist language learning were almost non-existent.
Fast-forward to 2020, where we can connect to people with audio and video almost anywhere in the world in real-time provided they have a computer or smartphone and an Internet connection, and there is a wealth of websites, programmes, and apps specifically designed to help students learn English more quickly. It’s nearly impossible to disconnect technology from the modern learning setting, and we’ll show you how and why this is advantageous for both ESL teachers and students.
Array of technology available
The range of educational technology available to ESL teachers and learners is vast and incredibly varied. An Internet connection is important for many of them, but there are also excellent offline applications and programmes. Here’s an overview:
- ESL resource websites: there are hundreds of excellent websites with ESL resources such as worksheets, videos, and audio resources which have helped many an ESL teacher make their class much more engaging, and probably also saving them some time with lesson planning.
- Hardware: more and more schools and English language training centres now have laptops, projectors and even smart boards available to enable the teacher to access multimedia material instantly and use it alongside traditional textbooks. There’s definitely a move towards educational institutions replacing traditional textbooks altogether by moving all of their course material onto online educational platforms stored in a virtual cloud that can be accessed by all students. This way no student can ever use the excuse of having forgotten their book!
- Virtual Reality: ESL teachers know that language is best retained when it’s being used in a real or almost-real conversation which is why role plays have been an important part of English teaching for some time now. Virtual reality offers the alternative for a technologically enhanced version of a conversation which can be very motivating and helpful for learners.
- Games and gamification: it’s human nature to enjoy games, and their value in the learning process has enjoyed increasing recognition in the last few decades. Digital games can be played individually or in teams, in the classroom or at home, and have been proven to improve learner motivation and language retention, especially among young learners.1 Gamification is a system of a broader scope, where game elements such as a point scoring system, competing against others, and following rules of play are applied to a large part or the entire learning process. It taps into our innate desire to compete and challenge ourselves and others, and when implemented correctly, can be a very fruitful strategy.
- Mobile apps: the advent of smartphones has opened up an entire universe of possibilities for apps that support people learn and practise their English whenever they’re on the go. They’re often customisable, and use artificial intelligence to track the user’s progress in a personalized manner in order to offer the right learning material for their level.
This list gives us a good idea of how modern classrooms are changing by integrating them into their teaching process. More and more English class providers are moving towards a blended learning approach where some of the classes are taught in a traditional classroom and others are taken online, or courses are taught online entirely.
Benefits and opportunities for teachers and learners
Some English teachers might have more of a natural interest in all of these websites, programmes, games and apps than others, but the presence of technology in the modern ESL classroom is absolutely undeniable. ESL teachers should always be looking for ways to make their classroom resemble real life, and since technology is now so intertwined with our everyday lives, it has become a fixed element in the ESL classroom. Besides, the teacher has everything to gain by including technology as it has been found to improve motivation, makes classes more dynamic, gives students access to snippets of the English-speaking culture, and increases learner independence.2 Most importantly: it makes it more fun for teachers and students alike so it really is a win-win situation for all involved.