Myths, misunderstandings, misconceptions and more about ICT – Part 1

There are so many myths, misunderstandings, false assumptions and other misconceptions concerning using technology in the foreign language classroom that a meaningful exchange of ideas is often impossible because people on the two sides simply have no common ground. Opponents of ICT surprisingly frequently make value judgements and condemn technology on a moral or psychological basis, which makes a healthy debate impossible. This stance takes the whole issue out of the realm of education and puts advocates of ICT in a position where they have to defend themselves right from the start – this is an unacceptable basis for a professional discussion.

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Also, ICT is often dismissed as a passing fad. Again, this is an unsuitable starting point. It is all very well when somebody believes they are clairvoyants and can reliably predict the future, but we should be talking about the present here. It’s very convenient to want to discuss the future since nobody can have any concrete evidence about it, but it is only an easy way out of a discussion based on observation and proof. We should concentrate on the present, and it is safe to say that technology is very much here with us now, so let’s accept this fact instead of saying that it will go away so why bother.

With this in mind, let me try and clarify a few things that I believe hinder understanding concerning using technology in the classroom.

Another new method? No, thanks

A lot of teachers seem to be suspicious of ICT because they feel this is a fancy new method being sold to them. Well, no. ICT is just a tool, not a method. A relatively new tool, and perhaps more complex than a cassette recorder or the OHP, but still a tool. Of course it is true that using a new tool will inevitably change your teaching – but are you sure that you want to keep on teaching in the same style for 30-40 years? ICT is not a method – just like the communicative approach is not a method either: it is an approach.

What often gets overlooked that it is very much in line with the old tradition of using whatever we have available for teaching – the cassette recorder and the OHP were not invented for language teaching purposes; we just grabbed them and used them nevertheless. Similarly, if you give a good teacher a bag of potatoes, he or she will be able to use it for teaching English – so why not do the same with technology too once it’s available?

I teach communicatively, I have no need for computers

If you really believe in the communicative approach, then ICT is for you. There are a lot of similarities between the two notions. The communicative approach is based on the observation that language is used for communication (should be a no-brainer, really). The idea of using computers in language teaching is based on the observation that our students live in a digital world (again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise either). This digital world is all about communication – and real communication, not simulations that we sometimes have to resort to in the classroom. Your students can exchange views and ideas with others around the globe about the topics that genuinely interest them – would this be possible without the net? And this is just one example – the possibilities are truly limitless.

But if the realisation that we all live in a digital world is not reflected in your teaching, you will not be teaching your students, but their “school personas” instead. Schools today are often so disconnected from the realities of the students’ world that kids (mainly unconsciously) develop a new personality that they “send to school” – this is reflected in the frequently quoted sentence “I have to power down when I go to school”. Schools used to be one of the main information sources – they no longer are. This old video (created more than two years ago, that’s very old on the net!) was a huge hit, with close to 3.5 million direct downloads and probably tens of millions of viewers – and we still have to convince teachers that they cannot go on living in a world that no longer exists?

Technology distances people

Again, this is a classic example of the problem of answering a question without actually asking it. A long time ago someone came up with this completely unfounded statement and it has been parroted ever since, without actually thinking it over. I can only compare this mindless automatism to the well-known “truths” about our brain working at 10% capacity only (or 5%; figures vary; geniuses are believed to be able to use up to 20%), or dissolving a child’s tooth in a glass of Coke overnight (easily proven untrue, but nobody ever cares to perform this simple experiment, just passes on the urban legend without any criticism).

Why would technology distance people? Do you have a mobile phone? There are almost 11 million mobile phone numbers in use in Hungary, a country of 10 million, and the ratio is similar in all developed countries. Why? Because mobile phones are so convenient and make keeping in touch with others so easy. Before mobile phones, when you arranged to meet someone in the evening but found out later in the day, away from home, that it would be better to change either the place or the time of the meeting, you had to find a phone and hope to be able to reach the other person – often it was so hopeless that you didn’t even try. Now it’s not a problem. Or have you ever phoned your husband or children instead of trying to find them when you went your different ways in a shopping mall? Or think of correspondence before you had e-mail. How many “snail mail” messages (formerly known as “letters”) did you write a week? Or even in a month? And how many e-mails do you now write per day? Ten times as many? Probably twenty times as many? Where is that distancing effect then? Just the opposite is true. Technology brings all of us closer instead of alienating us. Frankly, claiming that anything new is dangerous is so lame that I feel embarrassed to have to disprove it. Facebook, Skype, YouTube… the list is endless. So much for distancing…

Technology always breaks down, I just can’t rely on it in my lessonskid-laptop-260

Not this one, please… So basically you’re claiming that there are things in life that don’t always work the way they’re supposed to? Now that’s new. You shouldn’t drive a car or even use a toaster – if these break down, you’re bound to be in greater trouble than in your lesson when you find that there’s no net access. Also, I don’t know if youhave  noticed but anything non-technical can go wrong just as well. No matter how thoroughly you prepare, there will always be aspects that you can’t control. Or are you so lucky that you’ve never had a brilliantly designed lesson go to complete waste because the kids were just in a bad mood or felt too tired, because you suddenly had a splitting headache, because there was a fire drill… ? Even if you say that the chances of something technical going wrong are higher (would be hard to prove, you must admit), you can and should have a backup plan for lessons requiring computers so that when technology fails, you have something to fall back on. Honestly, I have always felt that this “technology never works” slogan is just a poor excuse. Being afraid of anything new is a personality trait some people have, I’m aware of this fact. But we as teachers cannot afford this luxury, sorry.

This video repeats some of the same messages as the one embedded earlier, but I believe it has a powerful message.

Please comment.

To be continued…

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41 thoughts on “Myths, misunderstandings, misconceptions and more about ICT – Part 1

  1. True story! A sad one, too: why is it we still have to discuss these things? Why can’t we finally accept that ICT is here to stay.

    It feels so futile and redundant to keep answering questions like the ones you quote, Elek. It’s time we started discussing issues such as. what is the role of edutainment, how can teachers access ‘good practice’ materials to make better use of ICT, etc.

  2. This is a great overview of the arguments for and against ICT that came up at the IATEFL Hungary conference last week. Congratulations!

    As a teacher trainer, I learn new applications from my students every week – I learnt about Twitter from them in 2006. We all enjoy classes where they can contribute and this does not mean at all that I have to worry about my reputation as a teacher. They still need concepts, guidance, feedback and support from me.

  3. TB, you’re of course more than right that these things are redundant – should be redundant, to be precise. But I wrote this so that I can link to it later instead of having to repeat them again and again – because believe me, not everybody agrees with us. I started writing my response to the ICT issues raised at the conference and that was when I realised that if I wanted to address each point my post would wander off in too many directions – now I can link here. You missed the open forum (you could say that no, you didn’t miss it at all) where we first heard about the distancing effect of technology, and then, to add insult to injury, we also had to endure the agony when a colleague wondered why we need blogs when we have pens and paper. I’m afraid some colleagues still haven’t managed to fully recover from my tirade in response. You know what, I don’t even regret it – although I’ve had feedback saying that some in the audience might only remember that I got mad at this comment, but if this is all they will remember, I don’t even feel sorry for their lack of grey matter.
    There, I said it.

  4. Valid arguments, well presented, with great video footage. If I may I’d like to add my little bit. I agree… with both sides. Let me clarify, I’m not speaking about dinosaurs, and I think what you wrote about in this terrific article is about those many dinos that live and work and what’s worse teach amongst us. They are out of step. Though already I must temper my comments by saying I know some such dinos personally and some are effective English language teachers. I understood (but grant you maybe misunderstood) that the argument put forth “against” tech. was more a fear, a feeling that the classic, personal, formative, face to face, call it what you like, pedagogy would lessen. (,Question is how present is it now.) To oversimplify it what does a student need more a smiley or a real smile, a hug emoticon or a real hug (you can still do this in Hungary). I think we are in the very early stages of the digital revolution and there is an understandable love affair with tech. However I can understand someone who says the scratch of a pencil on paper is music to his ears. Nothing wrong with that, students do need to be introduced to that (some I think now can only type) But one opinion does not have to exclude the other. Or to put it another way a love of Led Zeppelin and a love of Bach are not irreconcilable. I do think we have to keep in mind what we heard last year at the conference in Balatonfured, that is, that the digital generation thinks differently and processes material differently and communicates differently. These factors must have an impact on both our day to day teaching and in teacher training and in the wider field of education. However we do have to keep in mind that a great teacher is first and foremost THERE for the student, in the full sense of the word (though I don’t think it has yet been forgotten, and those who have forgotten it never knew it in the first place, and those who fear it being forgotten ARE THERE, but there students my have long left.)
    I hope I haven’t sat too much on the fence.

    My friendship with tech is a slowly developing one and I’m learning to appreciate it more and more each day, much in part due to my students. I could have been a digital native but at the time chose not to be. It is world that in part my students are introducing me too. I’m enjoying the discoveries I’m making as they do do bring the world closer, that said I will always want to see that smile in person.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. Especially liked this one:
    But if the realisation that we all live in a digital world is not reflected in your teaching, you will not be teaching your students, but their “school personas” instead.

    Being afraid of ICT must stem from an inability to understand its benefits and use, and the whole idea. It’s just human nature to dismiss anything you can’T come to terms with, it happens every so often.
    (I tried to use a layman’s approach in my latest blog entry. Again, all I can think of is this: Ladas and vintage Skoda 120’s may well be able to take you anywhere even today. But if you have to use one of these in today’s traffic, you are at a serious disadvantage. You are not considered an equal partner. Also, I wonder if today’s kids flashing past in their modern cars could actually handle a Skoda 120… This might seem far-fetched, but I believe it’s the same idea…)

  6. Elek, a great issue-raiser, thanks!

    I don’t want to and won’t theorise, you’re the experts.

    Yet, your essay, discussion, Nora’s and Tibor’s points have made me think about how I approach this whole topic. If I think about my work in the past 3-4 years, I simply can’t mention one single lesson, workshop that I lead in teacher education, or as a teacher in a language class, in which I or my colleagues, students didn’t make one or two references to ICT, to the net, to online sources, to communication opportunities and who knows in what other numerous contexts. With some exaggeration, we can claim that it is hardly conceivable to conduct lessons in any educational setting without such references made by any, and this is the key word, any participant in the process. And this is another proof how ICT becomes a global and local tool of our learning and development, since only those can pass on the values who are engaged, let them be learners or teachers (who are also life-long learners of course!).

  7. Great to see some discussion here! I’ve been thinking about the posts (and the IATEFL conference and the mELTing Pot issue and I feel we are getting our metaphors wrong.

    I like the Led Zeppelin metaphor more (although it’d be Bethoven and the Sex Pistols in my case), but it suggests these things are not exclusive – they go hand in hand (or should). The Lada vs. flashy new car metaphors kindles the fear and frustration in teachers. It says to me: what you are doing is kinda OK, I understand that you can teach children English – somehow. But hey, look at MY flashy fantastic new methodology, I can do it better, faster, in a more engaging way. In a nutshell: you are lame and I rock! If you follow it up with: OK, so you wanna learn how to drive my flashy BMW, it’s a recipe for disaster.
    If you have the Melting Pot issue, can I refer you to Tankó Gyula’s article, which neatly voices the fears of teachers ‘fallen off the wagon’ – consoling them that there’s life without ICT and if your methods work, you shouldn’t really bother about all this Web 2.0 stuff, because if you did, you’d ‘end up with a lot of technolog yand very little language work happening’. I feel this is sadly off the mark!! He (and all of us) should be writing articles about HOW, WHY and WHEN to use ICT to help Ss lern more and easier. This is, I feel, what ‘finding the balance’ is all about now.
    Finally, the same with the smile: I do use a lot of ICT in teaching (in real classrooms in secondary education) and I still get the smiles from Ss. When in a training course I told teachers before tests I allow Ss 1 hour of chat time to ask questions on the topic, one participant said how sad it is that they don’t ask me in person. Well, they DO ask me in person AND still fill the 1 hour of question time. It is not EITHER – OR. It is BOTH!!!

  8. Correction:
    I like the Led Zeppelin metaphor more (although it’d be Bethoven and the Sex Pistols in my case), but it suggests these things are not exclusive
    SHOULD READ:
    I like the Led Zeppelin metaphor more (although it’d be Beethoven and the Sex Pistols in my case :), BECUASE it suggests these things are not exclusive

    TB regrets the error

  9. OK, I’ll come clean – the article you mentioned was the one I couldn’t agree with, either (but I maintain that the magazine itself is great, though I’ve already admitted that I haven’t read the DA article yet). So, once again, I think you’re absolutely right, TB, in your remark.
    Another thing: although at first I liked the subtitle “Finding the balance”, I’m not so sure on second thought. It somehow suggests to me that we used to have the right balance that got upset by ICT and now we have to find it again. But then what was the “old” balance between? Or if we take the other possible interpretation, that we had the “old” style (whatever that means) and we now have ICT and we have to balance these two, then I disagree again. ICT is not something coming from the *outside* that needs to be introduced and incorporated – it simply has to be acknowledged and utilised. It’s a part of our everyday life, whether we accept it or not.

  10. Yes, I believe you are right, Elek. I especially like you mention that it is a new tool we have here. I also feel the balance should be found in the use of ICT – not ICT vs. Everything-that’s-old-fashioned and not-so-useful.

    As for the issue, I found reading about Ning great, it’s just: two articles out of 20 should be n this? Really? Isn’t there anything else to write about? And for Facebook: I have a lot of respect for Anna, and have worked together with her for years. Having said that, I was somewhat disturbed by her Facebook article (I have posted my reaction to it on tanárblog – in Hungarian unfortunately 🙁 http://www.tanarblog.hu/internet-a-tanoran/656-facebook-iwiw-es-az-oktatas-jejoelj-vagy-ne-jeloelj)

    Don’t you have this article in Hungarian? It really neatly summarizes the key issues, we should spread it among teachers in Hungary, I believe.

  11. Many can teach, but only a few special ones can reach … either with or without technology. I think I will join Andras in this debate and must confess that I see some truth in the arguments presented by both sides.

    Technology, like everything else, can have an alienating effect if used inappropriately. Just think of the early CALL programmes which did not do more than offered a computerised version of the Grammar Translation drills. One student, one terminal, one correct answer. Next, please. One more student, one more question, one more answer … WRONG, try again. I believe, many who oppose the use of technology are stuck with this image and have never considered the more up to date, creative uses of ICT, even though these may be part of their everyday lives – outside the classroom.

    Peter mentioned that he can’t remember a lesson when he and his “colleagues, students didn’t make one or two references to ICT, to the net, to online sources, to communication opportunities”. This is absolutely fine, but do pre-service education courses offer future teachers an opportunity to learn HOW to use technology in their classrooms? Are teachers trained to make use of ICT? I am afraid the answer is ’no’. Simply because there is no time for it. When the new MA courses were accredited in Hungary, there were very strict guidelines on how much literature, linguistics, methodology, etc. were to be be included in the programmes. Credits had to be allocated accordingly and there were raging wars within departments to justify why certain areas needed more attention over others (as everyone was afraid of losing grounds – and their jobs). Not surprisinlgy, ’modern’ approaches to English Language Teaching were (usually) swept aside and the number of methods oriented courses was limited. Or should I say this was the case at three institutions whose programmes and work I knew more closely. Maybe there were more.I do not know.

    Of course, there are in-service training courses where overworked and underpaid teachers – after long hours of teaching and marking – can go and learn new tricks. Don’t forget that the majority of teachers in almost all countries are women, who have families and who are tied by traditional social roles in many societies. They are most probably the ones who cannot find the time, energy to go on such training courses, even if they would love to do so.

    I use technology every day. I use online resources, language teaching software, have played with interactive whiteboards and smart boards powered by a wii remote control, etc. I LOVE my gadgets. Still, I feel I need the personal ’touch’ between me and the learners; I want to communicate with a raise of the eyebrow, with a smile or a frown; I want to be among people (though I spend quite some time in front of my computer communicating with people). I want to read people’s faces and not just their e-mails … and I need to think about whether this is what my learners want? Am I teacher or learner-centred? Can (some) teachers be ICT centred? Is that a new way to describe classrooms? So many questions, so few answers (maybe becasue it is 2.30am when I am writing these lines).

    As many people before me said, this is a complex issue: students learn by doing as they are sitting still in front of a computer; teachers do not see the value of ICT in the classroom while they use it all the time in their private lives; some talk about the distancing effect of ICT by writing an article which is placed in an online journal, etc. The list is much longer. It is a list of contrasts. It is a list which calls for compromises from both sides. I know how frustrating it is when others do not see the point you represent, but we should, perhaps, try to understand their views and come up with arguments which relate to their thinking. Without this, there won’t be a constructive dialogue and nothing will be solved.

  12. I’m really glad I decided to wait for 24 hours before commenting on Elek’s article. Since I first read it a thoughtful and nuanced discussion has developed after the rather uncritical comments posted at the beginning. In particular, I like Tamas Kiss’s contribution which explores the complexities involved in the use of new technologies in a very balanced way.

    The problem I have with the original article is that it does just what it accuses technophobes of doing: it constructs a series of false assumptions or straw men and then proceeds to knock them down one by one with great gusto. Of course, this is very easy to do if you ignore the real complexities which are involved with using new media in teaching.

    Take the way the article deals with the idea of the distancing effect of new technology: instead of discussing online learning which is at the centre of this issue, the author first declares that the concern is totally unfounded (without offering any evidence apart from a couple of rather silly and unconnected comparisons with urban legends) and then goes on to talk about mobile phones and email, which are of course ways of bringing people closer together, but which are also red herrings, as they have nothing really to do with the issue of whether online courses have a distancing effect on learners.

    As a firm believer in the use of new media to enhance the classroom experience, I find this failure to acknowledge any real problems or drawbacks in using such technology very disappointing. We can hardly expect those who are not sure about using technology to be persuaded to try it if we treat them as being inadequate or completely misguided. Equally if we stick our fingers in our ears whenever any criticisms of new technology are raised we are not doing any favours either to ourselves, to our colleagues, or to our students.

  13. Just to explain the rationale behind “getting the balance right”. In the context of our magazine it means, first of all,getting the balance right between what you do face2face and what you do online.

    My first thought when deciding to do the whole magazine on these issues back in June was 1) how do each of us decide, both in our personal and professional lives, how much time we spend online, with who and for what? 2) to raise the issues of what can be done online with our learners and what impact that has on what the classroom we teach in looks like 3) to do a magazine in a way in which those teachers who, for whatever reasons, might be a bit shy to use new technologies would be encouraged to find out more about them. “Getting the balance right” wasn’t meant to suggest that “the right balance got upset by ICT and now we have to find it again, nor that “we had the “old” style and we now have ICT and we have to balance these two”.

    The subtitle wholeheartedly embraces the use of new technologies in our profession, the question it addresses is what is the role of face2face now and how is that complemented by all the exciting things that we can do online. I know that my seven classrooms in which I teach now are all enhanced by our NING community. I’m not sure what it is yet though. I’m not happy with calling it a virtual classroom, an online classroom or a classroom blog. It is partly these but it’s something we haven’t really got a name for yet. It’s an emerging community which is finding its way, in Douglas Adams’s words, through a pidgin stage to a creole stage to something else. Different students engage with this in different ways some more confidently, some very shyly. How they find the balance between their online selves and lives and coming together physically to learn is a challenge for them and also our challenge as our educational context is changed by new technological developments.

    The concept of the whole magazine is getting the balance right, between theory and practice, Hungarian and non-Hungarian authors, men and women,younger and older, seriousness and fun, friendliness and formality, private school and state sector, primary, secondary and university, materials writers and methodologists, tech comfy and tech sceptic, cutting edge but rooted in sound established pedagogical practices.

    Thanks Elek for encouraging us all to engage in this here as I, for one, am very keen to understand the world in which we live now so that I can be as good an educator as I can for the students who I teach.

  14. In response to Tamas’s comment “do pre-service education courses offer future teachers an opportunity to learn HOW to use technology in their classrooms? Are teachers trained to make use of ICT? I am afraid the answer is ’no’. ”

    Nemeth Nora, Frank Prescott and I all teach methodology in our pre-service courses here at ELTE and we all deal, in our different ways, on a weekly basis, with how to use technology in the classrooms. It permeates everything. It is no longer a separate subject to be dealt with in a discrete 90 minute session. Earlier in the year we accessed IATEFL Cardiff online and all the students watched and responded, in writing. to Gavin Dudeney’s interview with Marc Prensky. http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2009/sessions/62/q-marc-prensky

    Our students all use Web 2.0 appliances to different degrees now and as Nora says about herself in her post “it is our job to help them with concepts, guidance, feedback and support from me.”

    Do you really think Tamas that methodology teachers all over Hungary are not preparing their students for using technology? I can only speak for my own department where I know that all three of us are doing this.

    Was great to see you again last weekend by the way!

  15. Frank, this is not going to work this way. First of all, it is not acceptable to criticise other posters without offering any arguments. Just because you don’t agree with them, their comments might be just as valuable. Once again, I have the feeling that you’re taking this personally, just like in the case of your Twitter message where you thought my tweet was aimed at you.
    When you say that the article “constructs a series of false assumptions or straw men and then proceeds to knock them down one by one with great gusto”, you offer no evidence whatsoever – why are these false assumptions? These are statements very often heard from teachers – those involved in ICT training sessions can testify to this. One of them actually came from you so it is really strange to call your own statement a “straw man”. Also, look at the tone of your writing: by calling these false statements “straw men”, you’re trying to ridicule the original poster (me, incidentally). Also, adding “with great gusto” at the end serves no other purpose than mocking.
    You go on in the same style: “instead of discussing online learning which is at the centre of this issue” – no, discussing online learning is not at the centre; myths and misconceptions are at the centre of this post. Discussing online learning in 1300 or so words would be impossible.
    Again, I wasn’t talking about online courses here: “as they have nothing really to do with the issue of whether online courses have a distancing effect on learners” – btw, calling someone’s argument a red herring is again unkind. I wonder why you have resort to these mean tools – this makes me really uncomfortable about engaging in any debate with you since I can never be sure when you next come up with something unkind again.
    Calling my reference to urban legends silly is another example; if I wanted to respond in kind, I’d say well, it seems they hit home.
    In this sentence you once again ignore the original intention of the post: “I find this failure to acknowledge any real problems or drawbacks in using such technology very disappointing” – the aim of this piece was not to discuss the problems or drawbacks of using technology; the topic is stated in the title and in the first sentences. How do you know that I don’t acknowledge any problems?
    “if we stick our fingers in our ears whenever any criticisms of new technology are raised” – (look at the tone again…); why would I be deaf to *any* criticism when I take *four* statements and discuss them, and also put “Part 1” in the title, which I thought clearly indicated that there will at least one more part? Once again, you’re making a false assumption and build your argument on that.
    The same logic continues when you say “treat them as being inadequate or completely misguided” – I was only criticising these four statements and yes, I believe those who subscribe to these are wrong – I never called them inadequate or misguided, so please stop putting words in my mouth; it’s just not polite.
    As I said at the beginning, if you distort the purpose of this post and change my statements, plus use a tone that can hardly be called nice or at least neutral, we’re not going to get anywhere.

  16. Hi Mark,

    Yes, it was great to meet again.

    I am sure you all do your best, but please don’t forget that ELTE has always been the ‘Mercedes’ category in higher education whereas other institutions – the ‘Skodas’ or rather the ‘Trabants’ – may not have the facilities to teach learners how to use technology in the language classroom. I remember teaching a one-off course titled ‘Internet in Language Teaching’ which was scheduled in a room without any computers or internet access. Luckily, I managed to strike a deal with the principal of one of the nearby secondary schools and rescheduled the course to take place over a few weekends in that school’s computer lab … and after one or two terms my HOD thought it was not necessary to run it again.

    Don’t get me wrong: I do not question trainers’ efforts at all. I know dedicated trainers do their best to prepare their learners for their future profession. What I wanted to point out was that methodology in Hungary – in my experience – is still considered to be less important compared to other, more prestigious fields (literature, linguistics). Thus, it is allocated the least amount of time even in the new teaching focussed MA programmes. The programmes I was working on allocated 7 credits for language teaching methodology, while they gave 6 for language practice, 5 for literature, 5 for cultural studies and 10 for linguistics/applied linguistics. I guess this weighting tells you a lot … and although you bring in technology in your lessons, you still need to prepare learners for schools where they are happy when they have the bare basics; chalk, to write on the blackboard, or some limited photocopying facilities.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to do a survey on this among Hungarian EFL student teachers and see how many of them think they are ready to use technology in the classroom as a result of being trained during their programmes. Would that be a possible research topic for one of your students? I would be really interested in the findings.

  17. Mark, from your description it seems to me you’re doing exactly what I earlier described elsewhere as the ideal implementation. ICT shouldn’t be taught as a separate subject (because it is not, really). It should be part of teaching methodology, that is, teaching methodology through ICT, where you can also teach how to use it in teaching. Also, I’m sure teaching literature can greatly be enhanced using ICT (though I admit I have no direct experience with that), etc. So let’s deal with ICT as a tool rather than as a separate entity – to me, this is what “right balance” means. Use it where you think it can add to the lesson. For some teachers, it will mean using it more often than for others – which is great, we’re all different; some methodology teachers place a heavier emphasis on, say, teaching culture than others – the same is true for ICT.

  18. I think we’re coming from different backgrounds and use ICT in different manners – this is – partly – what makes this discussion ever more intriguing.

    As I have not been directly associated with ELTE for the past 6 years, I shall not comment on it being the ICT Mercedes of Hungary, maybe those working there will … 🙂

    As for straw men: This is a blog post, not a research article. My experience is that all the four myths quoted by Elek do come up in most in-service training courses (I even conducted an informal survey that involved 100+ teachers and found the same), so I feel discussing these issues is relevant.

    I still believe that Elek is mostly right: ICT is a new tool, we have to stop discussing whether it is needed at all, what compromises might be needed etc. Most important of all, we should stop polarising our profession and those intending to become teachers by overwhelming them with this highly impractical debate. The focus, as I said before, should be on WHAT, HOW and WHEN these applications should/could be implemented to enhance teaching and learning.

    This step, I understand, would not be easy for all to take. In order to help trainees find ways to put ICT to best use, what trainers would need now is best practice examples of incorporating ICT into their teaching practices, practical, hands-on knowledge on their use, together with issues, problems that are likely to arise. In order for trainers to do this effectively, they would need first-hand experiences in the context their trainees will have to work in. In other words: I believe most trainers would be hard put to share practical information that their trainees would need, simply because they themselves lack such classroom experience(s).

    One of the ways of dealing with this problem is to resort to discussing theoretical issues at an academic level, because it is safe and can be done through research articles.

    Lastly, I have yet to hear an ICT sceptic say: ‘I have been working with ICT for a year and found it unrewarding’. Most of the people who say this (my experience, again) have never actually tried any of these in a classroom (or tried it once and it didn’t work, so it’s all stupid).

    What I think most people using ICT would say is this: ‘There are things that workied (for me) and things that did not.’. This, I feel, should be our starting point in future discussions: let’s tell our trainees what, when and how worked, what, when and why did not work. For this, we should dig deep down in our educational system to find the people, the practices, the examples, the know-how.

  19. I agree with you 100% on your last post (17), Elek. That’s what I was talking about when I mentioned using new media to enhance classroom learning.

    As to your earlier post (15) chiding me for taking things personally and being unpleasant, let me answer it point by point. First of all, in case you had not realised by now, I enjoy the cut and thrust of debate and tend to be quite direct in saying what I think. I do not mean to be offensive and I try at all times to avoid getting personal. However, I do not believe that this means I cannot criticise ideas which I believe to be mistaken or misleading; after all that’s what debate is for isn’t it? But if I have upset anyone, I apologise.

    Now to your points: when I mentioned that the first few posts were ‘uncritical’ what I meant was that, because they merely agreed with everything you said, they did not do much to further the discussion, and it was not until later posts that counter points began to emerge and make the discussion more interesting. Again, if this came across as unfair criticism, then I apologise to the posters concerned (Tibi, Nóra, and yourself, Elek:).

    Secondly, by using the term “straw men” I was trying to make a point about your method of argumentation. This is a standard logical term and not an abusive one. What I meant was that by using criticisms of technology which are simplistic and very out of date, you make it very easy to dismiss them. Yes, you can still sometimes hear these silly points being made in training sessions but, as I’m sure you know, the real debate about the use of technology is far more nuanced (see Kiss Tamas’ post, for instance) and therefore far more difficult to dismiss in a few paragraphs. If the phrase “with great gusto” upset you, again I apologise, but to be frank I think it’s a pretty accurate description of the tone of your article.

    You go on to say that one of these statements “actually came from [me] so it is really strange to call [my] own statement a “straw man””. I must correct you here. In the open forum that statement, that technology can have a distancing effect, was made by David Hill not by me, but it was a statement meant to summarise a point that we had been discussing in our group concerning online learning. However, you seem to have taken this statement in a totally different way to what it was meant to refer to. Thus,in a way you have constructed your own myth here, which is somewhat ironic.

    You seem to have taken the statement to refer to new technology in general, but as I said in my first post it’s obvious that mobile phones and emails are technologies that bring people together, and so they really have nothing to do with this issue. They are in fact red herrings. Again this is a standard logical term and not meant to be unkind – it was just an observation.

    You also mistake my point about online learning. If you reread what I wrote, you will see that I said that online learning is at the centre of the issue about the distancing effect of learning, not that it should be the only issue in the whole article.

    I think this is getting too long now so let’s not go into the urban legends other than to say that I felt that they were not a very credible way of dealing with a serious point.

    Once more, I apologise for having so upset you, Elek, but I think if we want to debate this subject seriously we need to acknowledge its complexity, and move on from shooting down simple uninformed objections to actually addressing the real problematic areas of how we use new technology in education. If you are going to explore the subject in more depth in the future I look forward to further robust debate.

  20. Hi Tibor!

    I agree with you that polarising our profession and overwhelming newcomers with a fruitless debate is not something we should do.
    However, I think we need to acknowledge that there are multiple realities and multiple ways to teach effectively and not all of those necessarily involve the use of new technology.

    In fact, there are far more classrooms in the world that don’t even have much access to old technologies, let alone such things as the Internet and IWBs, and the situation in Hungary is in some ways no different. The idea that ELTE is the ‘ICT Mercedes’ of the country, I find laughable. In the classrooms I teach in there is no Internet access and we have two projectors to share between the whole department. There is a training centre in another building which has IWBs but the classrooms have no curtains so it’s very difficult to see the screens! If we want to utilise new media we have to be quite creative and do most of the work outside the classroom.

    But I think it is a worthwhile goal to encourage new teachers to experiment as long as we don’t fall into the trap of saying that everybody must use new technology. We need to inspire others through example but not try and dictate to anybody in my opinion. Also, because, as you point out, this technology is very new, we need to be cautious and alert to possible drawbacks and problems with its use.

  21. WOW! What a debate and it rages on…
    What is the common ground?
    There is a paradox with all the new communication tech. which as I understand it and see it, is that though people (in the developed or semi developed world) have more and more ways to communicate the problem of individual alienation within societies is problem that seems to be growing in size. Organic communities seem to have died or are dying. Has this as a problem really entered our classrooms? I don’t think so.
    In my little world: In the high school I teach in, my room has one computer with net access, (the computer lab is always full and language teachers can never get into it) and this September I got a TV and a DVD player. There is no IWB in sight anywhere. At the university we do have a language computer lab just for us at the languge centre But I am the only one who uses it. My boss there fears a projector would be an almost diabolical instrument (she is though wonderful gal God love her)the tv and VHS! and DVD player are safely kept bolted to the wall in the staff room. Except for groups at the university all the digital activities are things they’ve had to to at home. IN my little world IT is far from a “threat” and face to face is very much a reality. The reality for the students outside of school though is very much a digital one, which I cannot take up arms against, I try humbly to turn it to my advantage.
    Maybe I’m missing the point of such a heated debate… and see things to simple a way.

  22. Dear, oh dear … I am following this discussion instead of getting ready for my class tomorrow … well, the night is still ahead 🙂

    Once again, let me join Andris and look at the points that have been raised in a simplified way:
    1. Everyone agrees that ICT is a tool that teachers can use – given its availability – to boost the productivity of their lesson.
    2. There is no doubt that most young people today, the net generation, the @ generation, the digital natives, etc. use technology as naturally as we breath. The videos Elek attached to his post very clearly and powerfully demonstrate this. As a result, we must utilise technology in education to create a ‘natural’ learning environment.
    3. There seems to be a general consensus that ICT tools are available in the outside world, but not necessarily to be found in educational institutions (a pity). If that is the case, does bringing ICT into the training room mean preparing student teachers for the real world or for an ideal one?
    4. Everyone tries to be polite and understand one another, though it sometimes takes some effort to overcome some of the ’facts’ we take for granted. For me, one such ’fact’ was/is that ELTE has always been associated with better resources and funding than let’s say the College of Nyíregyháza (maybe this is not true any more, but I believe it was the case when the British Council ELTSUP project was in full swing), or other smaller places.

    I think it would be really useful to share some best practice. Frank, you say “If we want to utilise new media we have to be quite creative and do most of the work outside the classroom.” How do you do it? This is also the question for Mark, Tibor, Elek, and anyone and everyone who is well versed in ICT. I must admit, I am not; I am only a teacher trainer who specializes in other areas, but who would like to understand what’s going on in our profession and for whom professional debates like this are good opportunities to see how other people think about hot topics.

  23. And it’s great that we are engaged in this Andras and it would be good to make this debate accessible to other people in a form that would be reader friendly, if it is true what Elek says that there are over 50,000 English teachers, and 22,000 of them working in public education.

    On the role of trainers Tibor, when you say that “most trainers would be hard put to share practical information that their trainees would need, simply because they themselves lack such classroom experience(s).” you imply that most trainers are not in a position to share useful practical information that their trainers would need when they teach. Which trainers do you mean?

    All the trainers I know here at ELTE, both at DEAL and DELP regularly go into schools to observe classes, some of them also teach regular classes in schools, they also model uses of ICT in their own classrooms at the university and reflect on their usefulness.

    I, at the moment, have NING classrooms with all 7 of my groups and when it comes to my 3 methodology groups we constantly reflect on using similar technologies in secondary schools, which is what we are preparing our students for. Three thesis students are looking at the use of online classrooms and they will be reporting back to our groups on the benefits of these.

    In our peer teaching sessions trainees use projectors, laptops, youtube extracts,powerpoint presentations and content they have downloaded from the internet in the teaching sessions that we evaluate and they get to read and watch stuff about using technology in the classroom.

    Part of our work as teacher trainers is to go into classrooms regularly and on Thursday we had a moment in a secondary school when the youtube video that the teacher was showing stopped and there were 3 minutes before it was restored. In the feedback session afterwards we had a very interesting discussion about the alternative courses of action that the teacher could have taken at that moment. These things are all feed back into the methodology classes and everyone benefits.

    Trainers of course also need full support in keeping abreast of new technologies and when they are paid what works out at less than 1.000HUF per hour(4 euros an hour for those reading this who aren’t familiar with our currency) for doing a 40 hour week it is not easy to make time to keep track of all these things.

    In my experience, here in Budapest at the institution I am working in, there isn’t a polarisation between trainers working in higher education who unfortunately are “deficient” in their ICT knowledge and the people who are doing the real hands on stuff in the classrooms who know much more about it.

    And on a wider scale if we believed that, then in order to become a teacher the only thing we would need to do is to watch “good practice” and emulate it,which used to called “sitting next to Nelly” when I trained as a teacher 25 years ago. I’ve always believed that we need both theory and observation of good practice and that good trainers can provide lots of constructive support and help and advice, even though they might not be working regularly hands-on in secondary schools.

    I just think that while we now recognise that Prensky’s labels digital native and digital immigrant are great oversimplifications , he himself recognises that, it is equally simplistic to set up unhelpful dichotomies between great stuff that is going on in classrooms and out of touch teacher trainers. This may be true in some parts of the world, I don’t know, but we are interested in our community here in Budapest and Hungary as a whole and as far as I can make out we are not doing badly with this, although I was in the Culture and Literature SIG event last weekend and couldn’t attend the ICT SIG I imagine that Uwe and Zsuzsa’s presentation on the IWB was a great example of the co-operation of a teacher trainer and a practising teacher.

    What is clear is that all of us who are contributing to this debate are taking us all forward and I always think it is important to keep in mind that what we have in common is much more than what might divide us!

    Cheers
    Mark

    PS The co-operation between the Culture and Literature SIG,the ICT SIG and the Young Learners SIG has been better this year than any year since the SIGs were created in Szeged in 2004, both our events were organised by both trainers and practising classroom teachers!

  24. Hi Tamas!

    I have the same problem as you – I’m supposed to be marking and preparing for next week’s classes but instead I’ve been reading and commenting on this very interesting thread. Well it beats work, eh? 😉

    In answer to your last question, here briefly are three things that I’ve been doing more and more over the past year and a half:

    1. Using a film blog, and now separate closed class blogs (on Ning) to encourage students to publish their writing and also engage in written discussion about interesting topics – somewhat like the present debate. In class we discuss what they’ve been saying or agree on future work.

    2. Using downloaded You Tube videos to add interest and content to classroom sessions and to do some listening practice which is often neglected at university in my experience. I play the videos on my own laptop with a set of speakers (again, my own) and project the video on to a wall.

    All kinds of videos can be used for different kinds of exercise and different topics. This technique also makes it possible to be very up-to-date when looking at contemporary issues and events.

    3. Increasingly I am using PowerPoint slides to present new material and to present tasks to students. This provides a change from handouts or the blackboard and also allows for a much more visual and attractive approach. It can also be combined with 2 above.

    I also encourage my students to experiment with PowerPoint when they give presentations (they can bring their presentation on a pen drive or bring their own laptops), and following Mark’s use of pecha kucha, I will be getting my Methodology students to do short 20 slide presentations of a project that they have to prepare for the end of the course. I hope this will be a good learning experience for them but also a fun way for us to finish.

  25. Mark, Frank, thanks a lot for sharing these! When I first came accross CALL, I was told that using technology – especially the internet – in the classroom was like making a big sandwich: a thin slice of ham in between two fat slices of bread. The bread represented classroom preparation and follow-up work in ‘traditional’ teaching modes, and the ham stood for the limited time learners spent on the net working on their assignments.

    Is it possible that we now have a different sandwich? Thin slices of bread and a chunky piece of meat (plus cheese, vegies, etc.) in between them? That is, 1) teachers initiate a task in the clasroom (which is not very well equipped), 2) learners carry out the work at home, in internet cafes, in the park using hot spots, etc., and 3) finally teachers conduct feedback, summarise learning points, evaluate, draw conclusions when they get back in the classroom again?

    In other words, has classroom management (or learning environment management) changed in response to a changing world? Just asking …

  26. yes Tamas, it’s changing a lot. And I think a lot more attention needs to be paid to the way in which we see and use classrooms when much of the work with technology goes on outside the classroom. When students can bring stuff in on pendrives what becomes more important is to have a projector to hook up to, a computer and a room which can be darkened so that we can see stuff on the wall that students have produced. If we can have an internet connection in each classroom that would be great too where we can present stuff. This is still a relatively rare thing in Hungarian classrooms.

    Increasingly students will have more and more on their phones and this will mean that we will need to see how to use all of this in the most productive way instead of banning phones from the classroom.

    But coming back to the social function of the classroom, much of school anyway, in the way that students is define it, is about social interation and not so much about the acquisition of knowledge. School is somewhere where students come to meet each other and the lessons get in the way a bit of that, even though fun games with and against the teacher go on in lessons too!

    For me the classroom as a place where people learn how to be good learning partners, to listen to each other, to support each other, to help each other in the joint construction of knowledge is where it is at! And the teacher will always have a role in managing those social processess. I am a big fan of classrooms and believe they are far from the artificial constructs that some people in our profession would have us believe!

    The challenge we face is, in the words of Herbert Puchta, to create classrooms that our students want to belong to, look forward to stepping into and benefit from being there.

    To quote Gordon Lewis in our magazine: “You may find you are teaching fewer face2face hours in the future, but these hours will be far more focused and enriching than in the past. And don’t forget, you are still teaching your students via the virtual classroom in a potentially 24/7 environment…..

  27. Dear all,
    This is probably the most interesting thread on the issue I have come across so far.
    Frank, thank you for putting the record straight on the Mercedes idea – it would have sounded weird if I’d said that.

    I feel now the common ground has been set, questions put forward and it seems to me ideas are emerging – ones that I can take to school with me tomorrow.

    I personally feel that school swithout internet access and computer labs is not necessarily the case anymore. There’s wifi in most high schools, at least one IT lab and a nunmer of laptops available – with projectors in many cases. I have personally trained some 200 teachers coming from different schools all reasonably equipped to incorporate ICT in their classrooms. So more and more of ICT takes place inside the classrooms.

    Mark, what I implied by the trainee/trainer comment was that – again, in my experience – the unwillingness to deal with ICT in depth in training often stems from the simple fact that trainers have no experience themselves.

    I’m also aware that the demands of keeping abreast of all new technology and its use in the classrooms might be too much to ask of a trainer (especially if it’s not their only field of interest). What CAN be asked of them, however, is keeping an open mind and being ready to take new things to class.

    I have just been reminded that I have two sons, so I have to go now … be basck later 🙂

  28. Wow! I’m amazed! And all this on a Sunday afternoon! ;).
    I don’t even know where to begin my response, I have so many things to reflect on.
    Mark, the figure I quoted (50,000 English teachers in Hungary, 22,000 in public education) comes from my Ministry days and it’s around five years old – I don’t think it has changed considerably.
    Let me go back to the original post for a minute. As I explained earlier (comment No. 3), I felt I needed to clarify a few things and state where I stand before I can write my post on the ICT issues raised at the conference (yes, I know, I still owe you that post). Yes, these myths do come up, as the closing open forum was living proof of it. You cannot sit on the fence and say well yes, there is some truth in them – or if you do, you have to explain very specifically where and how. Mark, I’m sure *your* classroom is not an “artificial construct that some people in our profession would have us believe” but believe me, most teaching nowadays still is what it mainly was 50, 100, 200 years ago, with minimal improvements. Same setting, same teacher-centred ways, maybe newer books, utilised in very old ways. I can’t think of a single profession where so little change has occured in the past 100 years – again, I’m not talking about the classroom of the top 10 or max. 15% of people we meet but about the general average. Look at the latest stats – foreign language proficiency in Hungary is still the lowest in the EU. Less than 20% of the over-15 population speaks a foreign language – by their own admission. After at least 9 years of learning a foreign language. I can’t think of another profession with a failure rate of over 80%. Do you see 80% of bridges falling down? Education is at least as serious (or should be!) as building bridges or anything else. OK, I seem to be digressing, I’ll try to get back on track in my next response…

  29. Just back from cycling trip with my son – got to get some exercise on a Sunday 🙂

    Anyway I came across the comment below on another thread and it seemed to echo what I was trying to say in my original post (12), even down to the thing about straw men, that I just had to share it:

    “I should clarify my stance: I am not anti-technology by any means. But, I think like The Scottfather, I am dubious about the insistence that we have to embrace it. We are told that it has to be used because it IS. Those who are more sceptical about acceptance of new technology in the classroom are often dismissed as hippies, utopians etc. Very frequently there is an implication that we are failing our students and doing a bad job. And yet more often than not, the arguments that are put in our mouths are straw men.

    As I have written elsewhere, (no small) part of my doubts regarding the Technolofied Classroom comes from my ignorance about the capacities of technology. The more I learn, the more I am amazed.

    I see that the virtual world makes elements of the Real World available 24/7, as the yoof say. If language is acquired through (guided) use, then this is a good thing about technology. But there is a price to pay. Surely it behoves any critically-minded person to consider whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? This means that we need to consider whether “it” [shorthand for “the uses to which it is put”] is good or bad. Who benefits? Who loses? The blanket denial of either camp to consider either the pros or the cons is what I find most frustrating.”

    Diarmuid

  30. Frank, I don’t get your latest comment, sorry. The quote seems rather confused to me, I’m afraid.
    “I am not anti-technology” seems to be contradicted by “I am dubious about the insistence that we have to embrace it”.
    Also – what is “the price we have to pay”? This is not explained at all. This sounds rather threatening without an explanation. I believe that when we do a listening exercise, there’s also a price to pay: we’re not doing a speaking task then. When I give my students a reading task, we’re also paying a price: we’re not doing writing then. See what I mean?
    And where did you hear a “blanket denial” of the cons from anyone who’s suggesting that technology has a place in education? Anyway, what is a blanket denial in this context? Would this statement constitute a blanket denial? “If you refuse to use technology, the quality of your teaching and consequently, your students will suffer.” Because this is what I believe.
    Anyway, how do you interpret “con” in this context? Arguments against using technology? Give me one. Arguments agains using technology inappropriately? Nobody has ever suggested that it should be done. Who is fighting straw men here?
    Of course we all believe that technology should be used when and where it is appropriate, and as TB mentioned it a couple of times, this is what we should be discussing. But no, we’re back to square one, we have to discuss again whether it has any “cons”. What are we talking about here?

  31. Hi Everyone,

    Have been enjoying reading your points immensely! Although I am unfortunately not involved in teaching or training at the moment, allow me to share a few observations.

    ELTE and Mercedes: I agree with Tamás to some extent on having this image, but not necessarily and only because of the institiution’s infrastucture or financial situation in comparison with other teacher training schools. I believe that a great advantage ELTE has is the ability of attracting quality students who, I assume, have a broad interest in many things including new tools for learning and are probably early adopters inside and outside school. With this student material, it might be much easier to experiment with new things, or even you are pushed to experiment with new things or you will be labelled as a weak instructor at the end of your course.

    Educators’ aversion towards technology and how it is changing: We must admit that due to the overproduction of teachers over the last decades and the poor remuneration of trainees who did take up the teaching profession resulted in a counter-selection of teaching professionals. Stop and take a quick inventory of your fellow-trainees and see where they ended up, how many of them in fact teach and who they are. Don’t get me wrong: there are many many good if not excellent and committed teachers among those couple of hundred thousands including 50,000 language teachers, we all know many. If you are a regular at teacher training events, you had to notice that my guess would be that about 10%of those 50,000 show up at all: they are interested and they have the opportunity to learn. The point I am trying to make is the big fuzz about using technology (or not) is I think not about technology itself but about all the extra effort it takes. The effort to learn about something that the coursebook package you are using for years does not offer, the effort it takes to think about meaningful ways of introducing it to your learners connecting to your syllabus (be it a website, a gadget or an application), the effort in checking your learners’ progress achieved by using that something and in deciding whether it is worth using it in your context at all… Let alone having to convince your administrators that you are not just ‘playing’ with your learners but you are broadening your educational toolkit and their horizons in accordance with the school’s pedagogical concept and plan, especially when it comes to acquiring devices or requesting access. How can we expect any teacher to comply with all this? BUT: teachers do have lives outside the school. And it can mean that they use technology in their other activities (e.g. checking the on-line train timetable, filing their taxes online, paying their taxes on-line, keeping in touch with friends via social networking sites, sharing photos), so fortunately, we can count on leveraging their resources and transfering skills they acquire through their personal dimension. At this point I feel that what many teachers need is the realisation and admission that they themselves do use and need technology for themselves, so why not give up the personal territory (to some extent) and let the students into THEIR digital world?

    Here I need to feed back to TB’s post in comment 10: how close should you, can you let students to you in your digital world? I think the answer is in common sense, just as you would proceed in your ‘real’ sphere. But also, how accessible should you be to your students? What should be your response time? And so many other things to consider. I agree with Elek, that you will probably have to set up multiple accounts on services you want to use with your students as well as your private contacts, otherwise it might be difficult to manage and to give as much to everyone as you would like. Challenges, efforts… Your call.

  32. It took me a while to read through all the comments and views.

    To tell the truth, this discussion does not make me happy at all. I think there are too many issues discussed at the same time, e.g. availability of computers, attitudes of teachers and students of different ages, methodology courses, personal likes and dislikes, just to name a few, and as a result, there is a lot of generalization and misunderstanding voiced.

    In my experience, even university students differ in their ways of using ICT. Many of them get to see an IWB at the Methodology course just before their teaching practice. They use the computer for very many different reasons in many different ways. And they do not worry about this. For them, it is quite natural. They use it if and when they need it.

    Are we doing this in the classroom as well? Don’t we need this discussion just to make ourselves more comfortable with all our fears and worries? Is it bad to be different?

    I just have the feeling that we could learn much more from each other if we started discussing the WHENs and HOWs, as TB proposed.

  33. While I was editing the SIGS magazine the night before the deadline for the printers, I read this post by Stephanie Wimmer based in Basel Switzerland. It was on the SEETA website on a list hosted by Scott Thornbury on “teaching without technology” It was an excellent discussion. I wrote to Stephanie and asked her if I could use her post in our magazine and if yeah could she send a 1mb pic of herself by 10am the next morning. Sure enough she sent it and I rearranged things in the mag and it went in!

    Why can’t we just talk to our students about the ways they think technologies can be used in learning English inside and outside the classroom based on the existing resources in the group and the school and with the teacher and take it from there. I think this is a lovely story from which we can learn a lot! And thanks to everybody who has co-operated today in this discussion, I have really enjoyed it although it means I shall get to bed a lot later than planned now….it’s worth it, innit? Anyway this is what Stephanie wrote:

    “Yesterday I had my in company FCE class in the company computer room. A high tech type of place with a huge TV hanging on the wall and a computer at each desk. The class members wanted to use the computer/an extract from a DVD and the wall TV – to access some information. I said – OK, but we need to set this up together. (I am not very technical and freely ask the class members who are – to help with these things – and they happily do) Anyway – there were problems. We tried and failed and tried again. Every so often I kept saying, “Well let’s leave it and we can do X, Y or Z instead” But they didn’t want to – fixing it became a challenge. It took 60 mins to fix (yes a whole hour – during which I suggested several times that we do something else) during this time we had the Spanish “tech expert” in who also couldn’t do it!

    All the time – lots of lively discussion – lots of modals in context – lots of personalization. “I’d love to have that TV hanging on my bedroom wall – I have one like that in my living room – but just think how wonderful it would be to watch that from your bed..” We had a variety of accents – German, Chinese and the Spanish tech guy making a guest appearance.

    In the end it was fixed and the learners finally got what they wanted. My first thought was what a complete disaster!! But on reflection was it?
    There was real communication – language in a meaningful context, using language to get things done and lots of very authentic models of various expressions of frustration from me………so I don’t know……..I am not a huge fan of technology simply because it seems to go wrong every time I go near it in a class situation. (but clearly this is more to do with my own fear than any kind of doubts to the usefulness of technology when it comes to real communication) Still – maybe if the class members are willing and happy to use the setting up and working with technology as part of their classroom process/language process and if I am willing to let go of control so that can happen – maybe there is potential….?”

  34. and Kati, you are absolutely right in saying that “a great advantage ELTE has is the ability of attracting quality students who, I assume, have a broad interest in many things including new tools for learning and are probably early adopters inside and outside school. With this student material, it might be much easier to experiment with new things”.

    These students do wonderful things with technology that feed into our classes. they bring in laptops with internet connections which we use in the class, more and more students have internet connections on their phones which they access in our classes and as this increases and we model the kinds of things that will become more and more common in classrooms all over Hungary.

    I think my methodology students get loads of ideas of how to use new technologies in teaching. And we are not restricted by what may or may not be possible at a given time and place. I try to teach them to think on their feet, use what is available and where possible get involved in discussions at school about what new equipment is bought and why. This isn’t about what trainers may or may not have experienced themselves,this is about engaging with the world as it is today and exploiting all the possibilites available to us.

    Sure it would be great if we had projectors, IWB’s or even ordinary white boards in all the classrooms at ELTE, I hate getting f—— chalk all over my clothes and in my laptop but in the absence of these things we can still engage 100% in the educational debates of the day on ICT.

    Was just thinking after Gutenberg came on the scene whether people were saying we had better not use books because not everybody has access to them…on that note it’s gd nite from me:)

  35. Mark’s story (or rather, Stephanie’s) reminded me of a story that happened to me a few years ago. I had a beautifully planned lesson in the language lab. As the students were coming in, I noticed that they were all very excited and talking about the new tattoo one of the girls just had. From my face it must have been obviuos to her what I thought but the lesson had already started so she could only ask me in English. Instead of replying (there was no need, really), I asked what the others thought. And they responded. Then others reflected on the responses. With a little bit of nudging from me, there were a lot of sentences with let and allow, then conditionals too for a good 25-30 minutes. I was happy to let go of my excellent lesson plan. Then one of the girls wanted to show me various tattoo designs on the net so we went online and discussed them there, spending the rest of the lesson comparing the merits of various tattoo studios and their services.
    They were happy, I was happy, and I’m convinced that a lot of learning took place.
    I’m sure you all see my point.

  36. Got up early to prepare for lessons, but so the feed …

    Going back to where I left off:
    Mark, as I said, trainers should be ready to embrace technology as one of the many tools they showcase to trainees. I’m always disheartened when colleagues at institutes such as ELTE warn people of the potential dangers of ICT. Of course there are such dangers, I say: go out, explore them, look at what other people are doing and feed the best practices back to your trainees. In order to able to do that, we need all the help we can give each other – simply because right now there’s not much going on as the use of ICT is still in its infancy.
    Also, I was not implying that trainers are doing a bad job (and I wrote trainers to include those not teaching at a university but are involved in in-service training), but I would encourage them (all of them) to gain some experience in using ICT – not just to upload worksheets to Moodle, but examine the use of ICT in its different forms and contexts. All this came to mind while reading the mELTing POt issue – I was disheartened by Gyula’s article – so that’s the source of all this.
    The solution (as I see it) would be to create a forum – be it online or face2face (possibly both) where examples of good practice could be accessed, we could exchange ideas and try and help each other’s work. This is how I envisage such co-operation:

    1 there seems to general consensus that we cannot disregard ICT in education
    Once we agree it has a place in teacher training as well
    2 we should seek out ways in which it can be utilised.
    3 Naturally, issues will arise and discussion should follow on what works and what doesn’t.
    4 this should be fed back to 1

    I believe this very simple structure would allow all of us to avoid fruitless theoretical debates at the very early stage of this cycle and help us design a construct that is both theoretically sound and would serve as suitable basis for practical instruction in teacher training.

    This way trainers (at least at the highest level – by which I mean the level where you are actually writing articles about the issue) will be required to engage in a variety of ICT applications with some help from the chalkface – projects filmed in schools, articles written up (such as Anna’s and Livi’s in the M.Pot). As a result, we’d be moving forward towards the successful integration of ICT into teacher training rather than constrain ourselves to warning teachers ‘don’t touch a computer until have completed a course’ or ‘don’t use the computer lab as very little language work is going to happen’.

    Kati, 2 brief points, there are classes for me to teach today, as I have just been reminded 🙂
    1 Virtual space is NOT the same as offline space – your common sense doesn’T work there. I, every now and then, go to a pub w/ friends to let of steam and talk about things. Never have I met a student there – we’re simply moving in different circles and I know where to go and where not to meet or avoid them. This is not the case online! You cannot decide what you share w/ friends and your students. Once the pic is uploaded w/ you wasted at a party, it’s there for all to see – not just your friends, your students as well. There is a post I’ve written on this in Hungarian on http://www.tanarblog.hu .
    2 I find that teachers are interested and willing to learn about ICT – I expected young, enthusiatóstic teachers to show up at my training sessions, and I was surprised to see that most of the participants are experienced teachers wanting to learn something new.
    Sorra, I really must rush now ..

  37. All quiet on the mythical front it would seem!

    Just wanted to say thanks, Elek, for stimulating such a rich exchange of ideas over the past few days. Nora, can’t agree with you at all that it’s in any way a bad thing to hear so many points of view on a lot of different but related issues. It’s been great and I’m sure it’s helped us to crystallize our thinking and come up with new ideas. Of course, at times there has been some overgeneralising but that’s in the nature of these kinds of discussions.

    Elek, I think the reason we so consistently fail to see eye to eye (post 30) is that, even though we have a lot in common – we both think that using new technology in education can be very beneficial for teachers and learners – the strength of our ’faith’ is somewhat different. To borrow some terminology from the communicative approach, I have a weak version view of technology: I believe it can considerably enhance the learning and teaching experience but is not essential to good teaching (although I encourage my trainees to experiment with it creatively). I have seen many very good teachers in Hungarian schools who did not use any new media in their teaching (unless you count CDs/DVDs). You, on the other hand, clearly believe that new technology is not only beneficial but essential to good teaching and effective learning: “If you refuse to use technology, the quality of your teaching and consequently, your students will suffer.” This is why, when someone says “I am not anti-technology. But … I am dubious about the insistence that we have to embrace it” I have no problem understanding what they mean but you see it as a contradiction.

    As far as the ’cons’ of technology go, I don’t interpret this to mean arguments against using technology, and therefore I don’t see it as a return to square one. To me it means the problems and potentially problematic issues involved in using technology. These issues need to be considered seriously but by doing so we are not returning to square one but moving the conversation on and further developing our ideas and knowledge about how to use the new media and what for. What am I talking about here? What is the ’price’ of technology? I think it’s things like dealing with the issues of privacy and private time for teachers, dealing with the highly variable quality of knowledge on the internet and working out effective ways to evaluate it, facing the dangers of anonymity and vulnerability in the cyber world, e.g. cyberbullying, the possibility that the web encourages superficial reading habits and uncritical information gathering, and many other issues which are coming up as we learn more about how we interact with the new media. I don’t believe this is a zero sum equation: we can be in favour of using technology but still acknowledge that there are many problems with it and seek to address those problems. I believe that we have to be critical practitioners in everything we do, not just as regards using new technology but in all aspects of teaching.

    Anyway, thanks again for sparking this whole thing off, and let’s go for a beer and a chat some time 🙂

  38. TB’s suggestion for collaboration is excellent – I’ll try to think of a way of making it happen.
    Frank, you’re right in most of the things you’re saying in your recent comment. Yes, using technology does bring up the question of privacy – TB wrote a very good piece on one aspect of it on his blog (in Hungarian). But there are always issues with anything you do, with any approach. Using the communicative approach, the issue of accuracy is often raised: of course it can be addressed but you have to be aware of it before you start implementing it. The same goes for using technology: there are privacy issues, there are technical issues, etc. – however, none of these should be raised as deterrents from going online, but they can and should be discussed and teachers should be informed about them so that they can handle them when they arise. Cyberbullying: there was this awesome cartoon somewhere but I can seem to find it now. There’s a teacher saying that children should be protected online and saved from bullying – and there’s a bully next to her saying, yes, let’s put back bullying where it belongs, in the playground. This, I think, conveys an important point very succinctly: the problems and dangers we face online are not exclusive to the net; they have been around for a long time, perhaps in slightly different forms.

  39. Funny how trends can change in a matter of years! As I read this article at present, the debate it seems, is still as plausible as when it was first published. But in the age of Twitter and Facebook, there is no doubt that ICT teaching in the foreign language classroom has prevailed. I agree that when a tool for learning becomes available, one should use it as a resource and not the final product. I wonder what the critics of ICT learning are saying now.

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