When Technology Overlaps Language and Pedagogy

English language learners in the 21st century are in the center of a technological revolution. Prensky (2001a) referred to today’s children as “digital natives” and acknowledged the fact that today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. Moreover, research has indicated that today’s average young adult has spent fewer than 5,000 hours reading as opposed to over 10,000 hours playing video games, over 10,000 hours talking on digital cell phones, and over 20,000 hours watching TV. In addition, they have sent in average over 200,000 emails and instant messages. As a conclusion,  their brains are likely to be physically different as an impact of the prolonged exposure to stimuli different from what the previous generation of people has been accustomed to and that the way they think and learn has been fundamentally shaped by these interactions (Prensky, 2001b). Students definitely use more technology than adults, but one of teachers’ goals should be to teach them how to use it effectively in order to reach their linguistic goals. It is a common fallacy to suppose that because students are growing up in a technological age they are somehow instinctively capable of using technology to learn what is expected of them in school (Davies, 2011)

In the midst of apps and Internet tools, teachers situate themselves on a technological mastery continuum range starting with those who employ only low tech tools like pencils, crayons, markers, grid paper, post-it notes, white boards, magnetic letters, to those who support their instruction on a regular basis with high tech tools like word processing software, spell checkers, communication devices, Internet access, computer calculators, smart boards, and portable or mobile devices with powerful WIFI connections.

This technological wave does not seem to be just a “trend”. It IS the new reality. Teacher education is not only about content and pedagogical knowledge anymore (Shulman, 1986). Knowledge of technology has been recently added to the broad teacher education framework (Koehler and Mishra, 2006). In other words, EFL teacher are challenged to know more than language and methodology. We are challenged to use educational technology to support language instruction and development.

Because technological tools can be very entertaining, the pedagogical  component of language class can be easily lost. Early attempts at technology integration treated technology as an entity that needed to be learned separately from pedagogy and content (Baran, Chuang, and Thompson, 2011). Recently, researchers started delving deeper into this concept and realized that technology is not a separate type of knowledge; it has to be integrated with education in order to support instruction and assessment (Cox and Graham, 2009).

Therefore, the challenge of teaching EFL goes beyond learning about language and pedagogy. It includes learning about educational technology and reaching out to a new generation of learners who value screens over paper sheets.

References

Baran, E., Chuang, H., & Thompson, A. (2011). TPACK: An emerging research and development tool for teacher educators. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET, 10(4), 370-377

Cox, S., & Graham, C. R. (2009). Diagramming TPACK in practice: Using an elaborated model of the TPACK framework to analyze and depict teacher knowledge. TechTrends, 53(5), 60-69. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/223116532?accountid=11207

Davies, R. S. (2011). Understanding technology literacy: A framework for evaluating educational technology integration. TechTrends, 55(5), 45-52. doi: 10.1007/s11528-011-0527-3

Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Prenksy, M. (2001b). Digital natives, digital immigrants, part II. Do they really think differently?. On the Horizon, 9(6).1–6. Retrieved from https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part2.pdf

Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants Part 1, On the Horizon, 9(5), 1- 6. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.

Anderson Maia

Anderson Maia is currently the dean of a campus at Universidade Federal do Pará and a PhD in TESOL candidate at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. He was the academic manager at Centro Cultural Brasil Estados Unidos for 6 years, an adjunct TESOL professor at private colleges for several years, and has been an English language educator for 15 years in both Brazil and North Carolina, USA. He holds a degree in English and an MA in TESOL from Greensboro College, USA.

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