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I’ve been a language teacher for the last 5 years: I’ve been teaching Spanish and Italian to American college students, in Spain and Florida. In class I’ve always had a computer connected to the Internet, speakers, and a projector and my courses always had a Learning Management System page (Moodle or Blackboard). Thus, I’ve always had the chance to integrate technology into my face-to-face courses, using multimedia material for in-class activities and online tools for out-of-class assignments. Every time that I introduced technology in my class, I always had an educational goal that justified its use. A recent blog post, "Teaching Innovation Is About More Than iPads in the Classroom" by Aran Levasseur, asks an interesting question: What are the educational goals of technology integration?
As many other educators, I don’t see the point to introduce an electronic device or a web tool just to transmit content, in the same way as the traditional school system. I’ve seen K-12 teachers use a SMART board exactly as a blackboard, students use an iPad to read a book, assignments delivered on blogs, Facebook pages used exclusively as bulletin boards, etc. For sure there are also positive aspects in these uses, but here we are just talking about technology adoption, not teaching innovation. Levasseur, in his post, says that “technology is helping to drive a pedagogical change”; it’s true, as technology helps teachers to become facilitators of information and coaches of their students, not just transmitters of knowledge. But technology has to be used with a specific learning goal that improves the learning experience of students. It’s a fascinating concept that has long debated by the most brillant and innovative minds in the education field.
As a language teacher, I try to integrate technology to add something to my students’ learning experience. Since 2009 I used Twitter to make them practice daily the language(s) in an informal context. However, there would be no purpose to use this service if, besides writing a short sentence, they weren’t also interacting among each other. The language is, thus, used in a social context that overcomes the spatiotemporal limits of the class. I used a Facebook fan page to make my students share interesting material about the Spanish or Italian society and culture and get more engaged. I also designed activities to use mobile phones to practice the language in a real world and familiar context.
Not every student sees the point to use these technologies to integrate a face-to-face course, but all these activities had specific learning objectives: to practice the language in an informal and social context, to look for and share online material related to the world of the language studied, and to make them live everyday experiences in the target language. Did I do something revolutionary? Not at all, I’m just contributing to the transition to a pedagogical change making my students go out from their individual comfort zone and practice a language in a real and daily context, social, familiar, and informal.
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