Develop Autonomy in a Post Pandemic World


The last two years have seen the beginning of a new era. Specifically in relation to education and technology, we are witnessing how the enormous potential of ICTs has started to materialize. Artificial intelligence, despite not being a new thing, is becoming a household topic due to a revolution called ChatGPT. How can new technologies help students of a foreign language become more independent and foster their own learning?

First of all, it is important to bear one key point in mind. If we approach new technologies in too cautious a manner, and we give credence to the idea that AI is here to put many people out of work, then it would be best to take some time and reflect. AI is not the first technology that has ‘threatened’ us, and it will not be the last. Leveraging it to become our ally is crucial if we are to show our students how valuable it can be for them.

Students become autonomous when they can manage the process of their own learning, reflecting on its intricacies and reacting to the various needs they notice when they are ‘in action’. This last point can easily be related to AI: there are now many readily available resources that can help learners notice their shortcomings, react to them, and spend time productively working on those skills or contents which they need to reinforce. Teachers can offer guidance but are not the ones setting up objectives or monitoring closely. Thus, students can use tools for their own benefit.

A clear example is provided by the platforms which help students check their written work, receive recommendations on language, and provide opportunities to experiment. Sites like Grammarly or Cambridge Write and Improve can be used to practice and focus on certain aspects of language, and their engines are very powerful –-they can be used by learners during their own time and at their own pace; if they are work painstakingly and reflectively, they are sure to make substantial improvements in their written work. Another set of examples is that of tools that can aid speaking practice. Examples of AI-powered tools that can help students become autonomous are SmallTalk2Me, ELSA Speak, Cambridge Speak & Improve, among others, which are easy to access and handle, apart from being available on mobile devices to make the learning experience something that is not confined to the classroom.

This brief list can certainly grow in the months to come. The modern teacher of English has to understand how these tools work in order to be able to integrate them into their lessons and show students how they can use them outside the classroom to learn new things and reinforce what they have been working on. Creating patterns of use, schedules, setting personal goals and choosing the best resources are skills that can be developed in class to help students open the doors to AI and its wonderful potential.

What do you do to foster learning autonomy in your classes? Share it with us!


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 31 seconds


  1. In order to foster autonomy in students, I give them real-life tips that they can apply immediately. For example, when they’re watching a movie or series in Netflix or other streaming platforms, I recommend my students to keep the audio in English but also make sure to keep the subtitles in English. If they set the subtitles in their native tongue (Spanish), they will only be reinforcing it by simply reading it and not paying attention to the ongoing audio in English.

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