Integrating technology into English language teaching

“I don't agree that technology has created a decline in our critical thinking skills.”

June 19, 2016 05:00 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 12:38 pm IST

Nicholas Peachey

Nicholas Peachey

Nicholas Peachey, also known as Nik Peachey, is a well known blogger, teacher trainer, learning technology consultant and author. Winner of the British Council ELTon Award for Innovation in Teacher Resources in 2016 and ELTon Award for Excellence in Course Innovation 2012, he has worked with companies such as British Council, International House and Bell Educational Service as well as ELT publishers including Macmillan, CUP, OUP and a range of tech companies including Google. In this interview, Nik answers questions related to learning technology, its impact on teaching-learning and types of training English language teachers need, among others.

Have language teaching and learning become easier because of technological innovations and availability of tools such as mobile apps?

I don’t think it has become easier. We’ve become resource rich, but in some ways our job has become harder. Technology has changed the way people communicate and interact with and through language. That has broadened the scope of what we need to do and the range of skills we need to enable that process.

In one of your blogs you have mentioned two types of training: technologically focused and pedagogically focused. While training English language teachers, what should be the focus to get them interested in integrating technology into teaching?

Ideally, I think we need to combine both. Many teachers need help to feel confident with the technological side of things, but this has to be delivered within the context of creating learning for students. A lot of technology training fails because it is devoid of context. It focuses on how to use elements of the interface and so on without really putting the application to a sound pedagogical use. Also, the training is theoretical and hypothetical when it needs to be practical and hands-on.

In what ways can technology promote learner autonomy?

Technology is a huge enabler of learner autonomy because it can give students access to a large range of material, sources of information and useful applications. And if, as teachers, we focus on helping our students to understand how to use technology to become more autonomous learners, then we could really start to realise the full potential that technology offers us.

According to a research by Professor Patricia Greenfield of UCLA, “as technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking have declined”. Do you agree with her? Is it possible for technology to foster critical thinking among learners?

No. I don’t agree that technology has created a decline in our critical thinking skills, rather, it has highlighted a greater necessity for them. In the past we had been too quick to assume that something written in a book had authority and was correct or true. We’ve built an educational culture around this kind of indoctrination. But now that students have much greater access to a wider range of opinion, it has become much harder for educational establishments to maintain a specific bias in terms of what is or isn’t a fact.

Do you envisage that technology will play an important role in education? What will it be?

For sure. Technology gives people access to a huge range of information and learning opportunities. It can also give people a voice to share what they know and learn from each other. It has a huge potential to transform education on a global scale, but we need to ensure that this is done in a way that will empower people and open their minds to new possibilities, rather than prescribe and control what and how they think.

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