We continue our series on the challenges that virtual teaching is posing for the language teacher.
A lot has already been said about the use of technology, so I will just go straight to say that there is no need to stress ourselves thinking that electronic equipment and the different resources available, whether they are free or paid, will replace us teachers. One of the most important features that will determine the effect of this new way of learning is the students´ autonomy.(1) Unfortunately, in many places here and in many other cultures, this ability is not the focus on many educational systems. Thus, we will have to consider that context when teaching.
Free courses, low-cost lessons, apps, whether free or paid for, and so on, are not to be demonized. Instead, we should take advantage of them. In fact, we need to consider them our allies.
- Let´s take the following situation as a metaphor. Imagine you want to cook your favourite dish, but you do not have enough time to get all the ingredients you need arranged. What if you have a kitchen helper and he does that before you start cooking? Wouldn´t that be superb! Taking into account that you are the chef, what would you ask that assistant to do? Probably, you would tell him that you need, let´s say, thinly sliced carrots rather than diced ones. Or that you require two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice rather than two lemons, and so on. Who knows what exactly is needed? The expert!
- What I am trying to say is that since we teachers are the ones who know what students need to improve their learning process, we can guide our students to boost this process by telling them how to use all the existing resources.
We always express that we need more time to have them practise, for example, the pronunciation of new words. We do teach our students how to articulate them, but we also know that pronunciation improvement is related not only to conceptual knowledge, but also procedural one. Thus, our pupils need to drill a lot, especially those sounds that do not exist in their native language.(2) In such case, why don´t we invite our students to use, for example: “Sound Pronunciation App,” “Learn English Sounds Right,” “Say it: English Pronunciation,” or any of many other apps or obtainable videos. For instance, suppose we want them to learn to talk about their last weekend: in that case, in the first lesson, we can explain to them how to organize their ideas, what vocabulary can help them narrate their experiences and the most common words used to communicate past activities. After that, you can have them use one of those apps or watch YouTube videos to practise the pronunciation of specific verbs, the regular ones. The following class will serve to consolidate what you taught in the first class and what they did on their own. Even if you have to work on some specific exercises to polish their articulation, you will have saved a lot of precious class time. Thus, we need to integrate everything that is offered “outside our virtual classrooms” in our teaching, deciding what is best for students based on our knowledge and experience. There are many more educational apps that you can check in a previous post.(3) But remember: it is crucial to recognize that teachers are the ones with the methodological knowledge and the experience required to guide students in their process of learning, making their use of time the most effective and efficient one. Nobody wants to waste time, the most precious value, even if doing so does not cost money.
- Vila A., Flor de María (2019). Autonomous Learning: A dream or a Reality? Retrieved from http://blogidiomas.up.edu.pe/2019/07/autonomous-learning-a-dream-or-a-reality/ Retrieved 5 October, 2020.
- Vila A., Flor de María (2020). Artificial Intelligence, a tool in Language Teaching. Retrieved from
http://blogidiomas.up.edu.pe/2020/03/artificial-intelligence-a-tool-in-language-teaching/ Retrieved 5 October, 2020.
- Vila A., Flor de María (2019). Integrate Technology in the Classroom Without dying in the Attempt. Retrieved from
http://blogidiomas.up.edu.pe/2019/12/integrate-technology-in-the-classroom-without-dying-in-the-attempt/ Retrieved 5 October, 2020.