Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Need of Integrating Technology into Second Language Classroom

I had some trouble helping my son with his 4th grade math homework one night: neither of us understood the term Front End Estimation.  I received education from a different country and there was no such a term in any math course I have taken.  My son wasn’t sure if the teacher had explained it to the class, or he was not paying attention when she did that.  So, as what we usually do, we googled Front End Estimation and found this:  Thanks to the modern technology, both of us were enlightened within less than 1 minute.
Technology has been increasingly essential to both learning and teaching, as technology opened a new horizon where teachers and students can access to knowledge in various pathways and modes, find answers in seconds, finish their assignments and projects in productive ways, and share their learning process and results with a broad audience. 
Ten years ago, when I started teaching as a second language teacher, the integration of technology was limited to TV, cassette recorders, CD and VCD players, and the language laboratory which basically served as a listening classroom and test center.   Students were carrying heavy and bulky dictionaries into the classrooms.  Teachers were using textbooks and chalks/markers to teach. All the assessments and tests were based on pencil and paper.
What is happening to the second language classroom in the new era of information and technology?  When cassette recorders, TVs, and bulky dictionaries have all become passé and gone with the wind, almost every modern classroom has access to internet and computer software developed for language learners, a wide collection of on-line teaching resources pertaining to textbooks is available, teachers are bringing their laptops to the classrooms, and students are looking up words on electronic or on-line dictionaries. The methodology of teaching second language is also experiencing innovations.  Researchers at New York Institute of Technology, Hsu, Wang, and Comac designed and implemented audioblogs into the curriculum of a college ESL conversation course (2008). ( Through the use of affordable and easy to use websites and recording software, the students were able to receive feedback fast and frequently from the instructor, while the instructor was allowed to chronically record and monitor the learning progress of each learner.
The other benefits of integrating technology into second language classrooms include:
·       motivating learners of all levels and age groups
·        helping students visualize underlying concepts in unfamiliar or abstract topics (Roblyer & Doering, 2007, p15)
·       giving language learners access to the language environment which could be outside the classroom or faraway abroad.
·       providing practice and drills related to specific language skills, such as listening and speaking
Along with the trend in which teachers and educational researchers acknowledge the great impact of technology on education and have been progressively studying the theories and practices of successful implementation of technology into education, researchers and language teachers have agreed that technology cannot replace good teachers and face-to-face interactions between the teacher and students. “A pencil is high tech as long as our students are concerned” (Wrigley & Guth, 1992, p95).  Simply having students use technology does not raise achievement.  The impact depends on the ways the technology is used and the conditions under which applications are implemented (Roblyer & Doering, 2007, p13).