Toward a Sustainable use of Technology in the Language Classroom 

Ooh, 21st Century Skills. Apparently critical thinking is one of these but it constantly exasperates me when I see uncritical praise of EdTech in (English) language teaching. Instead of jumping on the new thing, how about some consideration of the following points.

Web applications should involve minimal and preferably no sign-up or tracking.

It should be a personal choice how far one wishes to be tracked and data-mined by third parties. When teachers use services that require sign-up or login using social media we are effectively coercing students to surrender their privacy. If we require use of Facebook logins (and not everyone has one) we are requiring students to be tracked on their computers. If we require Facebook logins on a phone, we require tracking and have given the rights to Facebook to record students by audio or camera without notice (see Facebook terms and conditions, privacy policy if concerned/you don’t believe me).

Sign-ups that require login for monitoring student progress are fine, and students should not feel compelled to unconditionally share this information with others, including teachers. The same liberty as the choice to remain silent in lessons should be extended to use of internet-based services.

This also means that having students upload to YouTube, Instagram, etc. be limited. If uploads are required, an institutional login should be used, although this is imperfect and a private server would be better. This requires greater internet/computing abilities than many have, though it is possible to learn such skills in a weekend. Is it possible for students to gain such time to be critical of internet privacy issues.

Technology should be controlled by the user, not the vendor.

Students should know whether content created using software belongs to them or the vendor. They should know whether the vendor has access to their data, including read/write/sharing permissions. They should be free to refuse this.

Students should not be required to use their own data transfer budget unless agreed prior to the course.

This is a hidden cost. Institutions/organisations should provide secure Wi-Fi.

Technology should be a last resort, not a first.

It is tempting to load a lesson with flashing lights, bells and such, but unless real communication and actual learning occurs, the technology would appear to waste time.

6 thoughts on “Toward a Sustainable use of Technology in the Language Classroom 

    1. Mark, thanks a lot. That is another thing, yes. The walkthrough for Web services is always far longer than one anticipates. It’s also far longer than pen and paper too.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. One of the things I hate in education is the whole “edtech” culture whereby if you aren’t using (tools of the week) then you’re a Luddite and bad teacher. I say this as someone who has always loved gadgets and is a bit of a tech fanatic. Perhaps that’s why I find it so easy to see through the common marketing spin and glean of the new packaging (well…most of the time. Sometimes I still get swept up). As I commented on twitter, I usually find the best tech, when implemented well, isn’t noticed, it’s the activities that people focus on. Sometimes tech can allow for new possibilities that we couldn’t have without it, for example using google docs for students to create a collaborative writing at home with a partner in a different city. Other times we swap one tool with its strengths for another with its strengths. Many flash card apps on phones basically do the same thing as paper flash cards, expect they can add in a few benefits such as a model for the pronunciation, built in space religion programs etc. these are great benefits, but at the same time, your still practicing single language items. You can’t practice your speaking with a flash card app.

    The privacy aspect is something that some institutions have to really think about and as such may tell a teacher that they can’t use a tool like Edmondo or creating a Facebook group to take in assignments, handout the IWB chart from a lesson or so on. Instead they might have to create their own LMS(learning management system) so that they can use these features without a privacy issue. So some institutions do have privacy policies which consider the student first. Still, it is something that we do need to consider when we think about technology. I think that second point (the privacy issue) is different from the love of all things new (which isn’t just limited to technological tools but also methodologies too) and both are good points, but they aren’t always linked.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Marc,

    Your post reminded me of how for a couple of semesters I used this app to give feedback. It was available as an add-on to googledocs, and I was very enthusiastic about the features it offered, primarily the audio feedback. Unfortunately, there was no way students could access the feedback unless they had a gmail account. Most of them did, but I was careful to make it clear that this was by no means a requirement and that anyone concerned about privacy issues should feel free to opt out and we’d think of another way to deliver the feedback to them. In the end, no one did opt out, which makes me think that maybe I shouldn’t have made them choose – maybe I should have simply used the app only with those students who had a gmail account in the first place. Maybe some students ended up creating gmail accounts simply because they felt it would’ve been too much hassle to tell the teacher that they wanted another way of receiving feedback.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your comment, Vedrana.

      That’s an interesting case. I think I would, personally, have avoided it but I don’t know your students. I feel your pain; marking writing is so bloody time consuming.

      Liked by 1 person

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