Technology is very much a part of language learning throughout the world at all different levels. We are as likely to find it in the primary sector as much as in adult education.
There’s no doubt that computers are in abundance in the modern age. We may see traditional computers in labs, teachers and students walking around with laptops or tablet PCs, and many people will have a mobile phone in their pocket that is capable of doing much more than mainframe computers. There are many kinds of digital divide, and this is not true everywhere.
Digital technologies are ideally placed to help teachers working with students, and students working independently, to teach language development. We are talking here about doing things with language rather than just learning about language. Students can’t simply develop based on the teacher’s input. We must engage them with other people using that language, and try to make meaning together. Whenever something is spoken and written, if the language is not presented keeping student’s understanding levels in mind, there’s no way of knowing whether they can understand what the teacher says or writes. Unless written and spoken skills are not further development, overall language development can’t happen.
If we take writing as a starting point, technology in the form of word processors allows us to work at the language. We go through a process of creating and re-creating text until it is fully comprehensible to others and is accurate. We can create a draft, show it to others and, based on feedback, can make changes to improve the text. The tools can also help students by showing their spelling or grammatical mistakes. Technology makes it much easier, and more likely for students to engage with the editing process to produce the highest-quality literature they can. This writing can then be displayed for others to look at and comment on.
Linking your class to other classes around the world, using tools such as video conferencing, can build inquisitiveness in students to ask questions and then try to understand the responses they would get. It might also provide support for the teacher while teaching. The technology mediates the process, getting language out there and giving feedback that shows whether someone has or hasn’t understood what you have said.
Another area that technology supports very effectively is project work. We have always tried to encourage students to learn about things through language. Getting learners to do work about topics that are of interest to them, or topics that are taught in other parts of the curriculum is a great way to improve their skills. Technology makes this possible wherever you are in the world. Teachers and students can go online to read or listen to material about different areas of interest, and can then write or speak about what they have discovered, telling others in the class or other classes elsewhere in the world.