Saturday, September 17, 2011

SLA, Language Teaching, and Technology--my response to chapter 1

I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of Brave New Digital Classroom. In this chapter Blake first talked about why L2 students needs technology for their language study. Then He discussed the four myths or misunderstanding of technology in SLA. And finally the author gave us a brief review of SLA theories, especially Krashen's i+1 theory about SLA. By using Krashen's input hypothesis, Black pointed out his view that technology can facilitate SLA are grounded on the theoretical bases.

The FSI (the Foreign Service Institute) numbers of hours a L2 student need to learn a new language given by Black at the beginning of the chapter makes it clear that most of the L2 students don't have sufficient hours to study the language. However, according to my own experience, even the 1320 hours estimated by FSI are not even enough for a student to master a new language. I used to teach university students in China. All of them at least started learning English from their seventh grade and to the end of their high school. Six years of studying English would need them allot at lease more than 1200 hours to study English. However, their English is still far from satisfactory. One reason is, as Black stated, there is no sufficient contact for students with the target language. In the past ten years, internet and computer is not as popular as they are now in China, and also English educators has no idea of using Internet as their source of language teaching. Therefore, what students learned is the isolated language which has relationship with exam. Another reason is that since what they learned were isolated and only connected with their tests, most of the students lack the motivation of learning English. Lack of motivation is another problem for students.

For me, technology is a good way to solve both of the problems. Because of the internet, students now can feel that what they learned is not isolated. They study English in school and then find that when they go back home and get online, they can read the English website by using what they learned today or they can chat with their cyber friends who are from Australia. In this way, students not only have a good chance to get in touch with the language, but also will be greatly motivated by the things they can do through internet by using the language they learned. Furthermore, the language they contact with through internet is vivid and fresh English people use today. This also solves one of the dilemma of teaching language that what we teach are outdated language, which native speakers no longer use. Also, as the author mentioned technology for students who are brought up in the way of using these technologies would be "the preferred tool" (p.5) for them. This generation would feel much comfortable than us using technology in their life, for they are brought in this way.

I agree with the author of the four misunderstandings of using technologies in L2 education. However, I think there are some problems and misunderstandings which are not mentioned by the author. First, although it is good that students can get much more information through internet and technology, they need to learn to survive from the vast amount of information. Surely, it is good that we can get access to the information. Nonetheless, what people, especially our young students, need to think and learnt to survive from too much information. The skill that to get the information they need and not be drawn in sea of information is crucial for people in nowadays information explosion. Second, teachers might abuse using technologies in their language teaching. Though it is good that technology can facilitate language teachers for their classes, some teachers have the tendency to use too much in their classes. Some irresponsible teachers even play movies for the whole class without any lecture. I admit that watching target language movie is indeed a good way for students to practice their listening ability. However, I believe that it will be more beneficial for students if teachers can use movie as listening materials plus some guidance and instructions.


Maryanne said...

I enjoyed your thoughtful reflections on L2 teaching and technology. I particularly liked that you added your own thoughts on the situation of all of us today in being overwhelmed by such an abundance of information. As teachers one of our jobs is to help students judge whether a website is reliable and worth visiting and to help our students develop personal learning networks so that they can continue learning and sharing ideas even when they are not in a classroom.
Your last comment about having students simply watch a movie with no preparation or follow up does seem like a poor use of class time.

Elaine Ying Yue said...

Yes, actually that's also my own problem with internet. I kind of feel that all my life are composed by fragments instead of being complete one. So if even teachers and adults have problems with too much information, I believe kids are surely will feel overwhelmed. They need instructions on that.