In today’s educational arena, learning is blended between school, social and family life. Unlike previous times, students draw understanding and continue their learning outside the physical area of the school. Technology has played an important role in the development of this ‘continuum’ in our learning experiences and is a great facilitator in language learning.
Language learning has become a core ingredient in a global society and schools nowadays are preparing students to be global citizens. This ‘preparation’, though, can flow naturally from school to the home environment, creating authentic ways of using the language studied and providing more opportunities for the target language to be used.
Flipped classrooms is a typical example of the use of technology at home for a variety of subjects. Through a flipped classroom model, students with the use of information and communications technology (ICT) are able to access information at home, most of the time with the help of a chosen learning environment set up by the teacher, and can be guided through videos, text and audio material before a class session. This way, an initial introduction of the material is done at home, at the student’s own pace and the class time is devoted to drilling, analysing, projects and discussions.
The use of apps can also assist in connecting the classroom and home learning environments. Learning does not stop when a student goes home. It continues in every aspect of our life. The use of apps can provide more opportunities to use the target language and listen to authentic pronunciation and pace. Additionally, the use of apps, especially in young language learners, can be perceived to be very entertaining.
The internet also provides a plethora of resources that can be beneficial to language learning. This can be achieved through YouTube videos, listening to radio stations directly from the country’s language you study and reading the news.
Many parents can be concerned about the amount of time students spend on different devices. ICT in language learning, both at home and in the school environment, needs to be ‘active’ to have direct benefits for the learner. Active means that ICT will be assisting in the language learning as a tool, while the teacher will be guiding and the student dynamically learning. Electronic translations and copying information from the internet does not constitute active learning. When the fine balance between face-to-face teaching and online consolidating takes place, then the optimum opportunities for language learning have been fostered.
Language learning plays a powerful role in today’s world. The use of ICT at home can be a useful supplement when it is ‘active’ and well designed and controlled. It is a piece of the language learning puzzle that, when done in the right way, can benefit the language learner immensely.
* Kiriaki Kousourakis is the head of LOTE at Oakleigh Grammar.