Last week in Madrid I had the pleasure of doing the second session at the Pearson Morning for English teachers at Adult Learner Centres. It was also a distinct honor (and more than slightly intimidating) as Speakout author Antonia Clare kicked the event off with her superb and provocatively titled talk: Love and the Art of Language Learning. All of us at Pearson sincerely hope those of you who attended the event enjoyed it as much as we did.
For those of you who could not be there, or those of you who were but wanted to have a second look, I am including below a brief summary of my talk: 5 major Edtech trends for English teachers to watch out for… and embrace, as well as the presentation itself.
From Content Delivery to Prosumerism
We started out by attempting to define Edtech and a quick look at a recent post at the site eltjam made it clear quite quickly that, if nothing else, it is a topic which is often politically charged and stirring up considerable debate. And we also saw a rather funky example of some pretty serious content delivery from the 1960s that showed us that Edtech is not exactly a new idea. But today instead of being almost solely about the delivery (or bombardment) of content, Blended Learning approaches are (or at least perhaps should be) increasingly about 1) putting learners in the driver’s seat as Prosumers (doers instead of merely consumers) and 2) providing them with a process by which to access their own individualized learning paths.
My five Edtech trends? Well here they are:
Though this may not sound very new, video is like the glue which holds everything together nowadays. It is THE medium which almost single-handedly defines the Internet experience today. It is now an integral part of what makes courses and online learning spaces work and has to be taken into account from the moment these products and services are conceived. They are no longer just an add-on or extra component. And from Prosumer video tools like Movenote to things like eduCanon which allow you to curate your own video content, or sites like Kieran Donaghy’s Film English where a true expert in video shares his ideas for how to use them in class, we are witnessing a real democratization of this form of expression applied to language learning.
There are lots of exciting advances in apps and e-books which are certain to take us in very interesting directions soon, but at the moment much of this is fairly straight forward content delivered in a pretty traditional way. The real value that mobile can add to you classes today resides in its ability to bring the learner’s experience into the classroom, not simply receive content. Just as a video or voice recorder your students’ smart phones are probably still worth more than most of the apps out there. And if you are going to use apps why not use those that your learners are familiar with? For these reasons BYOD is still king in most contexts.
I’ve spoken about this and backchaneling before, but in a nutshell: This is one way that we are speaking to each other today. As language teachers we know that anywhere and anyway that communication is taking place, we need to be there.
Online Collaboration Tools
What I find interesting about experimenting with things like shared Google Docs is the way they help us to see that the most transformative kinds of changes (see my explanation of the SAMR model for evaluating technology use) that come about from using technology do not happen because of the technology itself, but because an emphasis is placed on the types of skills needed to use the tool to its full potential. And the teacher working as a guide is key to helping students hone these skills to use these tools in new and unexpected ways. This example of “Chrome Smashing” is a great example of how you need to get creative to redefine tasks and take them up a notch.
Adaptive Learning (AL) and Big Data
This is perhaps the most fiercely debated of today’s Edtech innovations. Proponents claim data mining the information trail that students leave when completing work online will allow us greater insights into their needs, helping us to personalize their learning experience. Others feel that language learning is too complex to be able to be measured, or that any measurement will only be at the “McNugget” level. I actually believe that there is some merit to the McNugget argument, but only because these are very early days for AL. We still have only a very preliminary idea of where this may go, but new tools are already being developed which measure student progress far more accurately and granularly than before thought possible, give automated and nearly instantaneous results, and can measure gains using much more meaningful “can do” descriptors instead of the simple completion of discrete McNugget-type content items.