JLWhen does technology become technology? When to start definition. Social normalisation blurs the boundaries.Telephone / pencil / printing pressNew technology… (2000 – to now?)///There are countless ways we could define teaching technology and e-learning. We could define it by a time period when technology has been used and say that the printing press was one of the first major technological tools enabling mass education, but if we are to include the term e-learning in the definition, which would assume the use of some form of electronic device, our time-scope shrinks down to just under a century. But more realistically, we can really talk about e-learning in relation to what is happening in education in the last few decades. By this I mean e-learning being defined by creating, sharing and using digital content via electronic devices for the purpose of learning and teaching. See: http://edtechtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/historyelearning.jpg for an outline of e-learning history
DiscussionLet people have a quick discussion on what their experiences are to gauge how far we need to take the theory.
LKProbably all of us have had some experience of using digital technology in education and I would hazard a guess that if asked, most students and teachers would say that there are positive sides to using technology or at least they would agree that it is becoming an integral part of (at least some) learning and teaching. There are large discrepancies between what people think about technologies and e-learning, how they are presented, and how they are actually used. So while being generally very positive about the use of technology, and while using it in most of my teaching, I would like to start with looking at some of the more critical debates about e-learning and the use of technologies to gain a better-informed picture before anyone rushes off to design new online materials straight away. I will then talk a little about matching teaching and learning objectives with the design of online materials and some points to consider when doing so, and finally, I will present some examples of how I have more and, in some cases, less successfully implemented elements of e-learning in my teaching.
LKIt is fair to say that there is an overwhelming amount of literature promoting the use of technology. There are a number of scientific journals specifically dedicated to e-learning and technology in teaching, including titles such as E-learning, Journal of computer assisted learning, British journal of educational technology or Journal of teaching and learning with technology. However, some researchers have expressed scepticism towards the seemingly uncritical acceptance and adoption of technology. Concerns have been voiced not only about how e-learning and technology affects students but also about how they could change the way knowledge is created and disseminated and how that could affect the role of academics and even their identity (e.g. Hanson, 2009).
LKSome warn against ‘compulsive enthusiasm’ which marks the technopositivist ideology (Njenga & Fourie, 2010) and point out that there is a gap between the rhetoric in the literature and how technologies are being implemented. Guri-Rosenblit (2005), for example, discusses eight paradoxes in the implementation that range from institutional issues, such as the diversity in preparedness and readiness of HE institutions to realise the potential of technologies, or cost consideration, to personal issues, such as the impact of the new technologies on students and the human capacity to adapt to new learning styles.
LKSome of these points are also the subject of an ongoing discussion in the literature regarding the so called “digital natives”. This is meant to be the generation of young people who were born after 1980, and some researches argue that this generation not only finds it easier to interact with digital technology because it has been always present in their lives, but that due to this interaction young people learn, create or socialise differently (e.g. Prensky, 2001).
LKAs it turns out, these assumptions have not been supported by empirical evidence (Hargittai, 2010) and the issue is more complex. There are many factors that influence how people relate to and use digital technology. Some social factors, for example, include access to and familiarity with computer technology, including the perceived usefulness and relevance to everyday life, socio-economic background or family culture, as has been shown by Facer & Furlong’s (2001) survey of 855 children and young people aged 9 to 14, of whom many used technology much less than presumed. Bennett at al. (2008) reviewed several studies on the topic and concluded that while technology is more an integral part of the lives of the young people today, there is no evidence suggesting that they learn profoundly differently than the previous generations. They also warn against a panic that would lead educators and governments to implement far-reaching educational reforms before a deeper understanding is reached of what the actual impact of technology entails.Narrowing the scope to Higher Education, the situation can be illustrated by a study by Margaryan et al. (2011) which looked at the use of digital technology by staff and students at two UK universities. They used a mixed – qualitative and quantitative – design for the study, and looked at two disciplines, engineering and social work. One of the aims was to see whether there are differences between the “digital natives” and the “digital immigrants” (the older generation). As it could be expected, the Engineering students used more tools compared to both the Social Work students and the “digital immigrants” (both students and staff). However, the differences were in the quantity of use rather than the quality. Because more digital tools were part of the Engineering programmes, the students had to learn to use them. On the other hand, the Social Work students were required to use fewer digital tools, or in some cases none at all, for their courses.
JLHow people use technology. Not which generation they are from.
JLResident – leave a footprint when not there – i.e. FaceBook – social mediaVisitor – i.e. paying bills. Skype calls.
JLHow students experience education system up to higher education – immersed in education and technology.Technology use often around social and informal learning rather than formalComing to HE a lack of technology but focus on this as a need (language labs a priority but how many actually use it when here)Know how to use tech socially but not always for learningExceptions – when tools and techniques get suggested by students (memrise)
JLNew technology… a specific new periodDiscussion(Ellis & Goodyear, 2010)Let the participants come up with some ideas before moving on and giving examples from research.
LKAdditionally, all students preferred to use online media for communication and for looking up content rather than for creating it (i.e. using wikis or blogs to learn). The results also showed no adoption of different learning styles by the younger generation, if fact, the students were happy if traditional methods of teaching were used and, regardless of the subject discipline or age, their attitude to learning was influenced by the teaching style of their lecturer. This is in keeping with findings presented by Oblinger & Oblinger (2005) who state that students appreciate the convenience of access to syllabi, lecture notes or assessment submission online and do not mind a moderate amount of IT in class, but they also want face-to-face interaction. Although published in 2011, Margaryan et al.’s data were collected in 2007 and therefore their conclusions should be considered in that context. The study points out, for instance, low use of social media or handheld computers by students, which has changed considerably since then with huge increase in popularity of Facebook or Twitter, or the spread of more affordable tablet computers and smart phones. However, the trends such as students preferring the use of traditional methods of teaching or using technology in the limited context of a certain course, have been reported in the literature that uses data collected later (e.g. Hargittai, 2010) and seem to hold.
LKAs mentioned before, technology has been seen by some as a threat. It can be a threat to traditional ways of teaching, to learning through engaging with printed books and to undertaking well-designed classroom activities that we have been used to. However, as with any other resource, digital technology has a potential to improve teaching and learning without having to compromise their quality. Especially if we are teaching in a blended fashion and see our students face-to-face, we can get feedback on how materials we have designed and provided students with work. We can reflect and learn from this, and redesign our materials accordingly, just like we would redesign our traditional teaching.There are threats which may seem beyond our immediate control, such as copying a pasting by students from dubious online sources, excessive use of not always reliable sources such as Wikipedia etc. In languages, one of the threats we have seen is Google translate. But does this need to be a threat?We can make it an opportunity to implement in our pedagogical approach. Let us look at an example. Some of our students will become translators and will be required to work with technology. Translation has more parts to it – if used well, it can be an important learning tool, and we can use it to get students to understand the structure of the language and its idioms etc. This is particularly useful in teaching Slavonic languages to English speakers where the structure of a sentence works differently and will have an impact on meaning. However, if our focus is on helping students to be conscious of issues facing translators, we have to be aware that translation cannot remain only an intellectual activity. Our approach needs to allow for an introduction of how translation is done outside the classroom. So how can we combine the pedagogical needs and tackle potential issues that might arise with an “improper” use of technology? We could worry about plagiarism and check our students’ translations with different kinds of software. Or we could make sure their translation assessment is invigilated without access to the internet or other translation tools. Or we could turn things around and find a creative way of how to use the existing technology as it has been done by a colleague of mine in his Russian to English translation module. He “pre-translates” the Russian texts by using Google translate, presents the students with the original text and the (usually partly confusing and erroneous) translation, and asks them to produce their own translation using those two. The translations and issues that come up during the translation are then discussed in class. This way the students not only learn the skill of translation but they become keenly aware that even though technology can help them to some extent, it can also bring about unexpected problems. One of the lessons to learn from this is that while it is difficult to avoid the use and sometimes misuse of technology, we should find ways to incorporate it in designing our teaching to serve a pedagogical purpose.
If it has not transpired yet from what has been said, it is perhaps time to make it clear that, in the opinion of many people I have discussed this with, and based on my own experience, I think the technology per se is not the problem. What matters is how we use it, or as Oblinger & Oblinger (2005) put it, “if you ask [young learners] what technology they use, you will get a blank stare. They don’t think in terms of technology; they think in terms of the activity that technology enables.” (p. 10). In that sense we have to understand that technology is a tool that we can use to achieve our aims in teaching. The application of teaching theory has in recent decades led to a strong focus on learning outcomes. Designers have used educational taxonomies (e.g. Biggs & Tang, 2011) to specify learning outcomes that are usually expressed in the form “students will be able to [verb] (e.g. describe, understand) [qualification] (e.g. the reasons for…, the influences on…) ”. Outcome-based designs have been criticised because they can lead to learners inventing strategies and concentrating only on tasks that will lead to assessment outcomes (Hussey & Smith, 2003) and neglecting learners’ development of skills and values. However, careful formulation of learning outcomes does not have to be limiting and can allow for different learners to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways (Beetham, 2007).
This relates to the application of teaching technology in that some of it only enables a linear progression through materials or tasks and does not support individual approaches to learning, and thus can only be used effectively where clear learning outcomes are in place. Newer versions of online/electronic tools that enable learners to create, for example, e-portfolios, collaborate on writing wikis or choose the pace and path through learning materials are more flexible, allow for more loosely defined learning outcomes and monitoring of the learners’ own progress. The disadvantage of using such tools is that they are more demanding from the designer’s/tutor’s point of view and, as mentioned before, these forms of e-learning are also more difficult to implement as they are not as popular with the students. For those reasons there is a greater need for providing support and feedback.
JLSAMR Model shows that when considering technology use we can think of it as enhancing existing practices or transforming it instead.Activity to take place at any level… whatever is appropriate for the learning/education:Don’t just do new things for the sake of it.Don’t be afraid of changing your practice
JLWhat would you do? Define your current use?
JLPracticalreiteration of the purpose of education as being the focus. New technology is just another option to consider amongst the existing methods too.
JLThe dangers of starting with technology and not the learner in the centre.
LKDespite much of the contemporary educational theory promoting learner-centred teaching, the fast development of technologies and their attractiveness have in some cases caused a shift in the paradigm, and teaching technology design has focused on the capabilities of the technology rather than the learner (Mayer, 2009). This has led to many designers focusing on incorporating cutting-edge technology, such as social media or mobile learning, without considering how people actually learn, and thus becoming technology-centred in their approach (Clark & Mayer, 2011). We should be aware that human cognition is limited in how it can process and learn information and while it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the issue in detail, I would suggest that our pedagogical aims and the learners’ abilities should be in the centre of any design, and the use of technology needs to be adapted accordingly. So in order to apply technology in a genuinely effective way, we first need to understand the nature of learning (Mayes, 1995).
LKIt is useful but not always easy to imagine oneself as a student using the materials we are designing. Here I would like to mention one of the frameworks that can help us to get into that mindset. There is a large amount of useful information on digital technology for education and research provided by JISC (www.jisc.ac.uk). Morville's user experience honeycomb is one of the resources that in a structured way helps us think about the students and their needs as a user when designing teaching materials.The diagram looks beyond just usability, which focuses on how product design enables the ease of use to achieve one’s goals quickly and without errors, by incorporating an emotional dimension, such as the joy from or the meaning of the product for the user.If a teaching material (or any other product) is successful it comprises the elements of desirability, usefulness, usability, findability, credibility and accessibility, all of which contribute to it making it valuable for the user (JISC, 2013).
In an ideal world we would have a team consisting of a graphic designer, an educational specialist, and a usability or marketing expert who would collaborate on our project. This is rarely the case, and mostly we have to manage with limited resources and our own expertise with perhaps some support from an IT specialist or a learning technologist. While I cannot explain the whole process and the technical issues in this limited space, I will examples of my online materials to illustrate some of the thinking and decision processes that have been behind their design, and I will also talk a little about the application of those materials in teaching and how they have (or haven’t) worked.
Multiple tools might have the same functions. Pick the ones that work best for you.Things change over time; keep updated.Students might come up with their own ideas – listen to them
LKRemember that effective materials are often simple.
LKIs it going to be something that you as a teacher use to communicate information to the students? Will the students participate? Will is be a communication tool or will students create content (presentations etc.?)One lesson I have learned is that we cannot leave students to discover how to use the materials by themselves assuming that they are computer savvy and therefore perfectly capable to do so. More than once I have made an assumption about students’ knowledge or engagement with digital media that were wrong. It is important to take into account what technologies students use and also how they use them to be able to tap into their motivations. Not all students are confident or have competence to use new software straight away, so material design and the use of digital technologies should enable them to bridge the gap between the familiar and the new, or their existing skills and the ICT literacy required for our particular teaching/learning situation (Attwell, 2005). Or as Wylie and Shih (2009) put it:“Without adequate user training, these technologies are at best inefficient and potentially ineffective. Since this can be users’ first exposure to the software, it is also important to include both procedural training to familiarize users with the interface and motivational elements to encourage [them] to continue using the system.” Students really appreciate understanding of the context of a new tool when they are asked to use one
LKHere I go back to what has already been said. Ideally, we would have a perfect pedagogical plan and the technology would enable us to carry it out. However, sometimes we need to compromise because the technology (time, resources, expertise) will not allow us to do everything we want. As I mentioned throughout, there are disadvantages and issues with all these materials but there are no perfect language books either. I have been asking students for feedback to be able to improve all of these materials. This has been very important because we sometimes think we know how students will respond to our materials (online or not) but the actual response may be different. Additionally, each group will respond slightly differently but we can gage how materials work quite easily after one or two uses. In actual fact, this is not dissimilar to what I would expect people do anyway with their teaching material. So it’s just changing or adding new tools that is new.
LKFinally, I would like to encourage everyone to try and design online materials for teaching. I found it to be a steep learning curve but if nothing else, I have learned a lot not only about teaching and learning but also about the technology itself, its limitations on the one hand and huge capabilities on the other. I have also learned that using technology for teaching does not save time for teaching preparation, which some people may think, and that it can go wrong time to time, but the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. Additionally, it is not always necessary to know all the theory about how we learn and how this should be applied to teaching design. Often the design of materials (whether electronic or not) is based on shared expertise, or ‘theory-in-use’. Good, experienced teachers will be able to apply good principles to any form of teaching and it is useful to talk to them and learn from the experience of others as well as one’s own.
Digital technologies in language learning and teaching
UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD
UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS
S H E F F I E L D, 1 7 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 3
Digital technologies in language learning
What do you think could be the positives of using
technologies in teaching?
What could be some of the drawbacks?
What are your experiences (if any) of using teaching
Technologies and learning and teaching
Discrepancies between discourse about
technology and its use
The “digital natives vs. immigrants” and “digital
residents vs. visitors” debates
Expectations vs. reality
Technologies as part of pedagogy
Examples of using technologies in teaching
Teaching technology debates
Literature promoting the use of technology
E.g. E-learning, Journal of computer assisted learning, British journal
of educational technology, or Journal of teaching and learning with
How do e-learning and technology affect students?
How do they affect academics/teachers?
A gap between the rhetoric in the literature and how
technologies are being implemented (Njenga &
Paradoxes in the implementation of technologies (Guri-
Rosenblit, 2005), e.g.
preparedness and readiness of HE institutions to realise the
potential of technologies
personal issues, such as the impact of the new technologies on
the human capacity to adapt to new learning styles
“The Digital Natives”
The generation born after 1980 find it easier to interact
with digital technologies; they learn, create and even
socialise differently (Prensky, 2001)
The older generation – “digital immigrants” – will never
be so “fluent” in the use of technologies
Is there evidence for “digital nativness”?
A complex issue affected by factors such as
Access to technologies
(e.g. Facer & Furlong, 2001)
Differences in the quantity rather than the quality of use
in different groups, e.g. engineering vs. social work
(Margaryan et al., 2011)
A newer concept: Digital Residents vs. Digital
Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’
‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’
A newer concept: Digital Residents vs. Digital
The resident is an individual who lives a
percentage of their life online.
The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as
a tool in an organised manner whenever the
Current Students’ Experiences
Expectations gap between previous educational
experiences (primary and secondary school)
Expectations of use but not sure how to *actually* use
technology for learning
Where does learning take place… classroom or outside…
What has changed?
Learning takes place the same way
Changes in learning contexts, expectations and practices
Increasing availability of ICT (internet, mobile devices etc.)
Increasing range of places where students can learn
Expectations of greater flexibility in educational provision
What does that mean for us, teachers?
Online media used for looking up content and
communication rather than for creating (i.e. wikies or
blogs for learning)
No adoption of different learning styles by the younger
Satisfaction with traditional methods of teaching
Attitude towards learning influenced by the teaching style
of the lecturer
Face-to-face interaction with teachers
(Margaryan et al., 2011; Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005;
Threat or opportunity?
Engagement with traditional printed resources
Flexibility of electronic materials
Use of dubious online sources, plagiarism, Google
Example: Using Google translate creatively as a
pedagogical tool in a translation module
Considerations for ‘normal’ session/programme design
aspects and technology should be the same…
Purpose of what should be achieved (aims and outcomes)
is the focus
Tech as a way of enhancing/new opportunities (SAMR
Enabling alternatives and/or new options which can be
considered for use.
Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that
presumes that a society's technology drives the
development of its social structure and cultural values.
Technological Determinism (Danger!)
Application to learning:
Assumption that technology determines use within society
Temptation to pick technology first over other considerations
We would argue:
Society determines use of technology (e.g. SMS / e-mail)
Educational aims should determine technology use
Technological Determinism (Danger!)
Learner in the centre?
Incorporating cutting-edge technology
Paradigm shift - design focused on what technology can
Technology-centred teaching and learning
Designing materials with the learner in mind
Morville's user experience honeycomb (www.jisc.ac.uk)
Examples of using technologies in teaching practice
Reading in Czech
(Sheffield VLE-based course)
Varieties of Czech (Moodle-based course)
Beginners’ Czech Exercises
Examples of tools available online
What function will the tool serve in your class/teaching?
Reflect on how students’ experience and your teaching will be
enhanced or changed
1. Enhancing interaction (student-teacher, student-student)
2. Creating online content
3. Creating online activity to integrate student-generated content or
Any tool should always be used in support of pedagogy!
Getting started II
Who will use the tool?
Provide how-to instructions
Explain the purpose
Why you are using the tool
How it will help students learn
The technology and pedagogy cycle
Find an appropriate tool
(or a compromise )
to use the
Reflect on your teaching
and ask students for
Give it a go!
Engaging with learning technologies will help you:
Engage with students at a different level and understand better the
way they learn
Learn about the potential as well as limitations of technologies
Open new possibilities for (even) better teaching
Tools in context
These are a selection of tools; different generations of tools (HP –
older; Quizlet – online service)
You can pick other tools once you know what’s possible
Time-consuming to set up but it can be changed, developed easier
than printed materials
Embedding into VLE –
E.g. Blackboard – might have good functions for testing? Is it very
useful for learning?
Fitting into teaching – i.e. look at your teaching as a whole and see
how this can fit in rather than thinking you have to use it for
everything and all the time
Beetham, H and Sharpe, R. (eds.) (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age. London:
Ellis, R.A. & Goodyear, P. (2010) Students’ Experiences of E-Learning in Higher Education:
The Ecology of Sustainable Innovation. London:Routlage.
Clark, R.C. and Mayer, R.E. (2011) E-Learning and the Science of Instruction (3rd ed.). San
Horton, W. (2006) E-Learning by Design. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
Mason, R. and Rennie, F. (2008) E-Learning and Social Networking Handbook: Resources for
Higher Education. Oxon: Routlage
Mayer, R.E. (2009) Media Learning (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pacansky-Brock, M. (2013) Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies. London:
Figure Slide 2: http://edtechtimes.com/wp-
Figure Slide 13: JISC, 2013. Usability and user experience.
Facer, K. & Furlong, R. (2001) Beyond the myth of the ‘Cyberkid’: young
people at the margins ofthe I nformation revolution, Journal of Youth
Studies, 4(4), 451–469.
Guri-Rosenblit, S. (2005). Eight paradoxes in the implementation process of
eLearning in higher education. Higher Education Policy, 18, 1, 5–29.
Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in internet skills and uses
among members of the “Net Generation”. Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), 92–113.
Njenga, J.K. and Fourie, L.C.H. (2010) The myths about e-learning in higher education.
British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(2), 199-212.
Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A. & Vojt, G. (2011) Are digital natives a myth or reality?
University studets’ use of digital technologies. Computers & Education, 56, 429-440.
Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. (2005). Is it age or IT: first steps towards understanding the net
generation. In D. Oblinger, & J. Oblinger (Eds.), Educating the Net Generation (pp. 2.1–2.20).
Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, Online: http://www.educause.edu/research-and-
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5), 1–6. Available
online at: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-