Update Your Foreign Language Classroom

This month we published Multilingual Computer Assisted Language Learning edited by Judith Buendgens-Kosten and Daniela Elsner. In this post Daniela reflects on the relationship between technology and language learning.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe.

It’s a long-standing wedding tradition that brides wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue on their wedding day for good luck. As technology and language learning have become an inseparable couple – at least in language education theory – I would like to donate some old, some new, some borrowed and some “blue” thoughts to support this relationship.

Something Old

In her book The Importance of Media in the Classroom (2003), Donna Walker Tilestone offers a collection of good reasons for “why” media should be an essential element of classrooms. Some of them are:

  • Media in the classroom engage students in learning and provide a richer experience.
  • The great majority of learners prefer visual and tactile ways of learning.
  • The integration of media has a positive impact on behavior management.
  • Interactive learning that includes the use of various media requires little intrinsic motivation.

15 years later these arguments still hold true, yet we have certainly overcome the question “if” technology / media should play a role in classrooms. As Alice Armstrong explains in an article (Armstrong, Alice Technology in the Classroom: It’s Not a Matter of ‘If,’ but ‘When’ and ‘How’. Education Digest, Vol. 79, No. 5, Jan. 2014, pp. 39-46) it’s now more the question of “when” and “how” to integrate technology in the classroom.

Something Borrowed

The latest KIM Study (2016) of the German Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS, or Pedagogical Media Research Center, Southwest) on the meaning of media and technology in the everyday life of children aged 6 to 13 shows that technology plays a significant role in the children’s private lives, however not yet in school contexts:

  • Every child has a television at home, 98% have access to a smartphone or mobile phone, 97% have a computer (desktop or laptop) at home and have access to the internet.
  • The majority of the children in this age group uses the available media at home at least once or twice a week, 42% of children say that they use a smartphone or mobile phone on a daily basis.
  • Their main activities online are: searching the internet for information; texting via WhatsApp; watching YouTube videos; visiting websites for kids or simply surfing the internet.
  • Yet, only 31% of children go online when they are in school.

Something New

In order to find out, if, how and why/why not primary school foreign language teachers make use of technology in their classrooms, the author of this blog article interviewed 12 German primary school teachers, all of them teaching English as a Foreign Language in classes 3 and 4.

Here are their answers:

Which kind of technology do you use most often in your language classrooms?

CDs; DVDs; Reading Pens (e.g., Ting or tiptoi)

Which media would you like to integrate more often into your classroom?

Smartboard, CD-Rom, iPad

Why?

Assumption that students will be more motivated to participate, autonomous learning, differentiation/individualized learning; method change

What hinders you from using these media more often?

Lack of knowledge with regard to how to integrate iPads, Smartboard, internet properly into the class; preparation time; technology doesn’t always work; lack of knowledge with regard to suitable apps or computer games/activities for language training.

Something Blue

According to Jennifer Bourn, owner and author of the creative blog Bourn Creative, blue is, among other things, associated with open spaces, freedom and inspiration. It also represents meanings of depth, wisdom, confidence, and intelligence. (Jennifer Bourn, 15 January 2011) https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-blue/

Reading the endorsements of my newest book Multilingual Computer Assisted Language Learning, I believe that my colleague Judith Buendgens-Kosten and I have produced something blue – even though its cover is green and yellow – that will inspire and inform those who are searching for new ways of using technology in diverse language classrooms:

“This inspiring volume sets the stage for a radical shift in language learning pedagogy…” Janet Enever, University of Reading, UK; Umeå University, Sweden

“This inspirational and timely volume demonstrates that we have finally reached a tipping point with respect to the impact of digital technologies on education….” Jim Cummins, University of Toronto, Canada

(The) Sky(pe) is (not) the limit.

Daniela Elsner

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education edited by Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier.