ELT and technology

I have recently been asked whether I believed technology could replace the teachers in the future. This text is an attempt to summarise my reply and my thoughts on the matter.

Teaching (in general) is an activity that dates back a long while ago. Books haven’t replaced us, neither will technology. At least not unless we stop growing and keeping ourselves essential. Technology has changed the world, the way people connect, the way people learn… We must focus on constant growth (and sometimes the painful change), adaptability and flexibility to deal with the changing world. We cannot expect to teach different learners in the same ways we were taught or people who came before us. Our practice needs to change, our beliefs evolve and our minds open up to diverse ways to achieve learning goals. With or without technology.

As English language teachers we do so much more than stating grammar rules and clarifying the meaning of words. That can easily be learnt from books or the internet if learners are willing to. Our roles in the classroom may include facilitating access to knowledge, promoting critical thinking and discussions, communicating in a plethora of contexts, widening perspectives… We can give learners meaning to what is brought by other resources, we can help them learn better and make the best of technology. We do not compete with technology, we embrace the novelty and learn how to benefit from that to enrich our students’ journey in English language learning, we find ways to empower learners to use all learning opportunities in such a globalized and technological world.


However, research shows that learning autonomously with the aid of technology can be successful. Sugata Mitra has proved us that with his beautiful project summarised below.

Teaching is unique and cannot be replaced by technology (at least not yet). The ‘human messiness’ that helps us communicate, that fosters learning when interacting with others, that helps teachers show empathy and trigger motivation towards learning is not easily replicated by technology. However, learning is a human need and if there is a will to learn, students will find a way. With a teacher, without a teacher or despite a teacher. That is a constant reminder we should consider of how important it is for us to consider how to better use the resources, knowledge and skills available to promote learning. As long as there are learners in the world, there will be opportunities for good, engaged, hard-working and learner-focused teachers.

What do you think? Will technology replace teachers?

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Marcela Cintra

Marcela Cintra is the Head of Products in the Academic Department at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. She has been working with English language teaching for over 20 years, been involved in teacher training and development programmes and presented in ABCI, LABCI, BRAZ-TESOL, TESOL and IATEFL conferences. A CELTA, ICELT and Delta tutor, she has an MA in TESOL. She is the current first-vice president for BRAZ-TESOL.

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