Long posting Debate on on use of technology in the classroom Scott Thornbury, Gavin Dudeney et al. TTEDSIG Yahoogroups list
- There is an ongoing discussion on the use of technology in the classroom
initiated by Scott Thornbury and contributed to by Gavin Dudeney and Nik
Peachey amongst others.
I thought members of these two lists might like have it drawn to their
To read the whole discussion go to the Teacher Trainer and Educator special
interest group (TTEDSIG) of the International Association of English as a
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marking your message TECH
Many thanks for the longer answer - and sorry to have taken up your time
(again!). I think we both know what each other feels' but since this is
another public forum for the technology debate I think it's important that
the dialogue is complete.
I agree largely with everything you say - and again I reckon it all comes
down to a few things:
- decent equipment, properly installed and configured
I can't claim all the credit for the Sri Lanka and Thailand experiences, but
it does help to have a teacher/trainer who is handy with a network cable and
router. As a lot of nations become more wired, people should be encouraged
to get these skills (along with all the others we ask them to acquire) and
schools should be hiring people who have the double skillset of trained,
experienced teacher and 'tech comfy' alongside the more useful 'tech savvy'
that can benefit their learners in all manner of ways. I can't begin to
understand why your summer was so hectic in terms of technology, but I've
got six computers running at home and they never really cause me to faff -
it's down to proper configuration, proper support and not simply dumping
them in a corner, plugging them in and hoping they'll be alright. People
don't do that with cars, and they shouldn't with computers....
- teachers trained to use it, and supported
As you say, it's easy to be put off - but that's the case with everything, I
think. I can someone having a poor experience with DOGME, or CLL or whatever
and not going back to it. But I would venture that a lot of that could be
mitigated by good training, exemplary access to good examples and some
support from institutions. But it's not the case for many, many people
around the world. The teachers I know who use technology successfully are
self-contained (through no choice of their own) - they learn, they acquire
the skills, they teach themselves and they interact with global support
groups to get to the comfort stage. It's hard work, but they believe it pays
off - and I think you (not 'you', but 'one') need to be careful when you
constantly challenge their legitimacy, and the legitimacy of their work in
public fora. The 'plural of anecdote isn't data' quip can as easily be
applied to other approaches (of which DOGME is one) that do not really (as
yet) have enough decent research behind them to be provable one way or
another. But you can't knock people for trying, or knock the very real
results some people claim they are getting with their learners.
That's a point I find singularly interesting - both DOGME and CALL / TELL or
whatever you like to call it are in the same boat at the moment. Research is
becoming more prominent. But perhaps we shouldn't be looking for a winner in
the 'tech or no tech' discussion - perhaps there's room for them to
In your own experience, it takes time to 'pluck up the courage' - and I very
much understand that, but we need to be careful not to disparage those who
have already plucked it up (!) and are doing it - not without spending
considerable time in their classrooms observing and measuring what they're
doing (if that is your thing). That's why I suggested the Webheads group,
because your data sample would be a lot, lot larger. But you have made the
jump to technology - you use PowerPoint and teach on an online MA and all
that. This, I would suggest, is better than someone who claims technology is
rubbish and that's why they stick with the good old OHP. When, in fact, what
they're doing is using a technology, but a crap one. Times change.
I'm all for your investigating the efficacy of technology in the classroom,
but you'll have to look further afield than practice lessons on the MA, or
the Teacher Trainers and Educators list, I think, in order to move beyond
anecdote to data.
- trainers who use technology effectively and pass those skills on
And lastly, of course, the trainers. If teacher see bad modeling of
technology (or, as I suspect, minimal, marginalised modeling in most cases)
then they will be unable to take what they have learnt and apply it in their
own practice. Until trainers get up-to-speed with technologies and use them
(where appropriate) in their own training then we will continue to produce
hundreds of 'graduates' on a yearly basis who believe technology has nothing
to do with their professional lives.
In terms of demonstrating 'usefulness' and 'necessity', well.. we could go
back through all sorts of approaches in ELT, couldn't we? Or we could even
subject DOGME to the 'necessity' rationale... but I don't think that's a
relevant question at all. Usefulness, sure - but necessity? It's not
actually necessary to eat good food, or drink fine wine - but many of us do
it because it's grand, and it makes us feel good. And that's actually a
rather good thing. So it may not be necessary, but it can be enjoyable - and
enjoyment often leads to motivation, and motivation *can* lead to
improvements in retention and learning, right?
So my motivation for finishing work each day is partly down to the cold
glass of white waiting for me, and the accompanying dinner. That motivates
me to get through my list of things to do each day (of course there are
other motivations such as wanting to do some of it, wanting to do it
well...). Motivation is, as we know, a powerful thing. So necessity might
not cut it, but there's nothing wrong with enjoying oneself occasionally.
Again, I don't wish to enter into a sustained 'DOGME or laptop?' argument,
but this following sentence of yours could equally be applied (in your mind)
to technology as it could (in my mind) to DOGME:
"I agree with you that the pay-off is difficult, perhaps impossible, to
measure. If teachers are convinced by the need to incorporate technology
into their classes, it's not because they have measured its effectiveness.
In the end, it's all about word-of-mouth ... about anecdote: one teacher
tells another teacher about a great lesson they did, and that teacher tells
a third, and so on."
Dennis Newson, retired,
Formerly: University of Osnabrück.
Webhead, member of SLexperiments.
Moderator OWL and YLTSIG lists,
Member of IATEFL YLTSIG committee.
Resident of Second Life.
Founder of a number of TEFL lists.
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