Whether we have fully integrated technology or not, few of us can deny that learning technologies can revolutionise language learning and teaching; we can find information at the click of a button, create content and share it with the world, communicate and collaborate beyond the boundaries of our classrooms, have a Personal Learning Network and be inspired to become lifelong learners.
There are plenty of options available; various blogging platforms, voice recording tools, LMS software (Learning Management System), social media, you name it; and there is also a lot of information about them. Colleagues who have tried a tool might write a blog post; educational technologists might give reviews on new tools. All this is valuable and I have personally learned a lot out of it. However, what happens when this information comes out in the form of lists such as “100 must-have digital tools for teachers” or “50 tools every teacher should master this summer”? What about blogs whose only purpose is to present “cool tools” day after day? Isn’t all this a bit overwhelming?
Through discussions with colleagues and trainees, I can only say that such information can hardly help teachers decide what to choose and what to reject. Some of their comments include the following:
“There are too many tools but too little time”.
“I’m not trained, I can’t decide”.
“They all look the same to me”.
“New technologies seem to appear everyday. I just can’t keep up”.
Does this ring any bells?
I don’t think that what those teachers need is a reminder that they should soon master 50 or more tools. Education has never been a matter of quantity. I guess what they really need is training and clear criteria against which to evaluate and choose technologies; they need to be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to integrate them into their classrooms. They also need to be reassured that if their goal for students is language learning then technology is just a means to an end, not an end in itself.
I feel that just presenting tool after tool is a rather narrow perspective about the potential of Educational Technology.
The hype to use the latest and greatest digital tools – rather than the meaningful use of technology – is like driving a cool car without any vision for where we want to go.
Let’s take the focus off the tool; Instead, let’s focus on:
the pedagogy behind the tool and use it because it addresses our students’ cognitive needs, not because it is available or exciting.
developing critical thinkers with the ability to find, reflect on, curate and synthesise information.
developing lifelong learners who will be able to create and use their Personal Learning Networks to self-educate and grow.
educating digital citizens, that is, responsible members of an increasingly global and interconnected world who know their rights and responsibilities; people who can make informed decisions about the content they create or share and its impact on themselves and on the other members of a digital community.
Cool tools might still be welcome to our classrooms but this won’t make them more appropriate for learning.
If you are interested in the topic and you are around Thessaloniki, Greece, on the 15th of December, come along and join us at the TESOL Macedonia – Thrace Christmas event where I will be talking about “Evaluating and Choosing Educational Digital Tools and Apps ”.