Friday, October 3, 2014

Entry 6 IDT1415 Fast Changing Needs: Should (language) education aim to keep up with these?

“Needs” change fast and may be even artificially created – to what extend should (language) education aim to keep up with these change and how sustainable is it?

A very interesting question Cecilia! I believe that education should aim at keeping up with these changes because by doing this it proves that at least someone is aware of them and is trying to address them.  Now, how successfully this is being done is another question! I think that there is a fine line between 'real' and 'artificial' needs, especially when it comes to technology and educational contexts. Often, I am surprised by the fact that many state schools here have smart boards which nobody ever learnt how to use or are under used as projectors and little is being done to integrate technology in an informed way as it is more often than not left to the enthusiastic teacher without training being an important part of the process. As regards sustainability, I think that unfortunately, it is only wealthy and developed countries who are able to invest, not necessarily prepared for doing it in the best of ways. I have often been asked by principals about  'what' technology they should buy and yet none of them have asked 'how' they should go about it once they have it! In my role as an academic inspector for AISLi (Italian association of language schools) and assessor on Cambridge Teaching Awards I have the opportunity to visit many schools and more often than not the focus is on the 'what' and not on the 'how'. So, in going back to your question I think the focus should be 'how' these needs are being addressed and even more importantly a definition for 'needs' would be required to be able to then measure more accurately how they can be addressed. I think that keeping up with language education needs would be sustainable if these needs were approached not only from the 'what' but also from the 'how' point of view so that informed decisions are made by trained staff who know how to use the technology they have - in a 'less-is-more' way.

May technology, per se, become more disruptive than motivating?

In turn, this question is directly related to my reply above as technology may become disruptive when it is there as a status symbol rather than as a support mechanism to add value to the learner's experience.  I believe that understanding where ed tech adds value to a lesson determines whether it is disruptive or motivating. For instance, when using Geddit (a clicker web tool that works on web-enabled devices in the classroom) learners have a chance to show the teacher without necessarily exposing themselves to their peers on how they are doing on a given task. It may be argued that a non-threatening atmosphere would allow for learners to be able to do this without the need for such a tool, but reality is that not all students are the same and as Susan Cain implies we cannot impose extrovert behavior on all students applying a one-size-fits- all approach without acknowledging individual differences and being inclusive of all regardless of how good one's rapport is with the class.

Is collaboration (group work) everyone’s “cup of tea”? -

Now, although I agree that collaboration is not everybody's cup of tea, I believe that from a Vygotskian point of view, as social beings we are, it is our (the teacher's) role to ensure everybody has equal opportunities to interact in class so as to maximise their use of language and in my own experience I have found that a tool integrated well into the plan will often add that 'umpf' which motivates learners to give their best. For instance, using the audio and video recording features of smart phones and tablets to record short dialogues, interviews, etc., or while writing entries on class blogs learners tend to pay more attention to the quality of their contributions because they are aware of the fact that they will be seen/read by their peers and so this element of extrinsic motivation and the use of a simple tool adds value to their use of that specific language activity. Finally and risking being repetitive I believe  it is Mishra and Koehler's (2006) concept of aligning one's knowledge of the content, pedagogy and technology  and Puentedura's SAMR (2009) model which provide a sound approach to the integration of ed tech into any classroom.


Mishra, P. and Koehler, M.J. 2006 'Technological pedagogical content knowledge: a framework for teacher knowledge', Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-54.

Puentedura, R. R. 2006. 'Transformation, Technology, and Education'. Online at:

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