From the 1980s until today, the development and use of technology in language teaching has gone through several changes, from initially limited to gap filling and word processing, through the development of web 2.0 tools and platforms, to the arrival of the social web and mobile technologies. Step by step, hardware advances influenced changes in how learners and teachers took advantage of technological devices for their own learning processes and teaching preparation, as well as they led to changes in course books’, activities and materials design to include in the classrooms. Without going any deeper in this, it is our goal to introduce and clarify some of the most common terms used in ELT related to ICT development, and these are the ones below:
- - Electronic learning is what we call any kind of learning assisted by information and communication technologies. There’s a tendency to limit this concept to the use of web resources, however, it includes any kind of learning involving electronic technology, such as interactive CD-roms, videos, video conferencing or hand-held computers.
- - Distance Learning involves the deliver of information, classes and materials to someone distant by using different channels, not necessarily via websites or e-mail, and it’s typically held at college level. The students work at home or at the office, and they’re usually distant geographically. Nowadays, there are massive courses of this type which offer interactive participation and open access thanks to the web and other network technologies, but distant learning involves materials that can be both printed and electronic media.
- - Online Learning refers to a type of schooling in which everything is held and stored on the web, and supports a two way communication via a computer network so the students can communicate with each other, the teacher and other staff. Materials used combine networking technologies with audios and videos.
- - Blended Learning is an education program in which face-to-face classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities. The students learn in parts through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of control over time, place, path or pace.
- - Mobile Learning, involves learning with mobile devices, with technologies which include hand-held computers, MP3 players, notebooks, mobile phones and tablets. Learners can learn anywhere and at any time since it focuses on the mobility of the learners, who are considered part of an increasingly mobile population.
These are some of the basic concepts related to the use of ICT in ELT that we must be aware of. However, sometimes we may wonder how to incorporate technology in our classroom and all the factors we should consider in order to use them successfully.
In my case, our classrooms are equipped with PCs with broadband internet connection and ActivInspire, a software which allows us to create our own interactive presentations for their use in the classroom. Most classrooms are equipped with ActivInspire Interactive White Boards as well, connected to the PC, and those classrooms that don’t, are equipped with projectors. Also, digital versions of the students’ course books are installed in these PCs, which gives us fast access to pictures, tapescripts and other multimedia material that accompanies course book activities.
This gives me more opportunities, not only to create visually-attractive materials, but also to provide my students with more realistic input through multimedia resources and online material. For instance, students may practice their listening skills by watching a short documentary or listening to a song, practice their writing by telling a story based on an add or a music-clip, and so on. I’ve also had the chance to use set of activities and games from web-sites devoted to developing online interactive materials for learners, such as Learnenglish.britishcouncil.org or Efllecturer.blogspot.com. I even take advantage of these web resources to encourage students to practice their skills outside the classroom, sometimes sending tasks involving watching videos and doing activities online as homework.
There are many other resources, such as mobile apps, virtual worlds or wikis that I haven’t experimented with yet, but there’s certainly lot of potential in technology to make our classes more dynamic, realistic and meaningful to our students.
|Picture taken from Educatortechnology.com|
If you’d like to read more about these topics I recommend you the following material:
‘e-Learning, online learning, and distance learning environments: Are they the same?’ is an article written by Joi L. Moore and other colleagues in which they go through the different uses and meanings that have been given to the concepts of e-learning, online learning and distance learning. https://scholar.vt.edu/access/content/group/5deb92b5-10f3-49db-adeb-7294847f1ebc/e-Learning%20Scott%20Midkiff.pdf
In this entry, Jennifer Weingarten introduces other terms, including those related to traditional learning settings, and some useful tips about what to take into account when using technology in the classroom. http://www.distancelearningportal.com/articles/269/blended-learning-e-learning-and-online-learning-whats-important.html
This is a paper which is part of a Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning (WPS ML), licensed and granted by UNESCO. It introduces thoughts on the present state of Mobile Learning and its future, as well as it reflects on the barriers and enablers that are part of the challenge to promote Mobile learning around the world. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002196/219637e.pdf