I’ve been a Language teacher from the time of the record and cassette players (1985 to be precise). I remember when teaching an adult class at night (my first EFL group ever) I wanted to share with them this gospel ballad – Reach out – you can listen to the original recording on Youtube http://youtu.be/BSqAbVtHf2Y – I only had the record and the school had no record player, so I carried a “portable record player” by bus to school and played the song with students busy filling in the blanks. My students really loved the song and it gave the lesson a more vibrant pace and rhythm. Generating entertainment, in a way.
Since then I’ve tried to embrace technology in the classroom – the cassette player was replaced by the CD player, the VCR by the DVD player, the CD player by the iPod and the iPod succeeded by the iPhone and iPad.
Today I can “entertain” my students with videos and songs, I can record them (which they abhor), they can say their teacher is using the latest technology to assist them in learning.
It’s true that students can now independently listen to podcasts and watch videos in their target language but at times I feel that we cannot ignore the centuries-old tradition of translation, grammar explanation, repetition, etc.
I can show my students the picture of a sweetener sachet but they still will call it “sweety or false sugar”. I can play them a children’s song but they will still be saying “many childrens” or “many childs”.
I can show them a picture or video of a supermarket checkout counter with a 20 or less items sign and they will still be saying “I have fewer work today”. “I drove less kilometers last week”.
My point is that technology is a tool to assist us in opening the students’ minds to whatever we’re trying to teach but people are NOT technology – they still have the same basic needs as 6000 years ago and some teaching methods used ages ago should be revisited and adapted to today’s world. Learning DOES take effort and time.
One point that must be emphasized is that no pill has been developed for an effortless English learning process. No escalators or elevators to help you reach the top of the hill. You may have state-of-the-art mountain climbing gear but it won’t replace your arms, legs, lungs and brain in the slow climbing process towards Language Fluency.
Enjoy the journey.