An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT (T is for…)

#2: T is for…Technology


Disclaimer: Some of my best friends are computers. No, really. Ask one of my few non-computer friends, and they will tell you that I spend more time and have more patience with tech than people.

Most ELT teachers I know have retained the imagination, creativity and joy of discovery that so many others lose when they leave childhood. They adapt, they experiment, and they are imaginative; all those fantastic ingredients that Ken Robinson emphasises in his stimulating Out of Our Minds (2011). But we are attracted to newness, like moths to a light bulb, and if we allow ourselves to become dazzled and directionless, then, like the moth, we can burn and fall.

The biggest light bulb in ELT over the last 5 or more years has been technology. Interactive whiteboards, digital versions of books, tablets, apps,  and ‘learning ‘ of all kinds – adaptive, mobile,  blended, online, MOOC, self-organised, etc. etc.

And it’s all very easy to be captivated, rabbits in the headlights of an oncoming lorry. We are either afraid of being left behind, a smudge in the road, when the dust of the tech juggernaut passes by or so craving of the miracle of the modern that we jump on board without asking where we are going. There is danger here, as we could miss crucial opportunities in shaping the future of education, and lose our vision of the ends in the tech forest of the means.

We, as teachers and members of our society, need to engage in the wider debate, not simply position ourselves as anti- or pro- edutech.

The recent controversy over Sugata Mitra’s IATEFL plenary is a good place to start as it brings into stark relief the overarching debate of the role of technology in education. Below are a few links, but there are dozens more full of interesting ideas and well-made arguments.

Watch the plenary first…

…then follow the breadcrumb trail of comments…

…and then see the follow up Q&A that IATEFL ran with Sugata…

What do you think?


Robinson, Ken. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.  2nd edition.  Capstone,  2011

Dennis Warren

I'm a teacher/trainer but I have a background in computational linguistics, and am interested in virtually everything. I hold a bachelor's degree in Linguistics and a master's degree in Cognitive Science.

  • Alex Monaghan
    Posted at 14:19h, 30 abril Responder

    … or at least a reaction, which is almost as good!

    Really interesting. Mitra is a scientist and his experiment is not over, but it’s already having an enormous effect on teachers. I think anything which makes you look at what you do is a good thing – apart from German toilets of course!

    Teachers tend to be insecure, overworked, and poorly paid: wouldn’t it be great if teachers were at the top of the educational pyramid, real pecialists, facilitators and mentors, rather than crowd control and nose-wipers?

    Also, look at the evolution of schools and teachers: from local craft circles and bible study groups, to guilds and early universities, to the mass education models we have now. I’d rather return to something more like early universities, where students cluster round great thinkers, and Mitra’s work might help in that. Let’s use teachers where we need to, and be more creative in how we teach and how we test.

    There will always be jobs for teachers – but maybe only for the good ones, who will be properly valued. And maybe that’s how it should be. It would be nice to think that the world worked that way for doctors, politicians, musicians etc too 😉

  • Luke
    Posted at 06:43h, 02 maio Responder

    Very interesting, thanks. A lot of the Mitra-bashing went on via the eltjam blog. They went to meet him to get his response. I haven’t been able to watch all the mini-clips of his interview, but they should make for stimulating viewing:

Post A Comment