As could not be otherwise, I enjoyed reading Nellie Deutsch's article Should Teachers Give Technology a Chance? in last September's ETNI Rag. I would certainly like to hear my pupils comment positively on the value of using technology in their language learning. Perhaps at the end of this school year I will get to hear that.
I have been trying to use blogs and didactic units integrating New Technologies (Web 2.0 tools) over the last two years. I have not been able to do it consistently yet, partly because I find it difficult to get pupils to write on the blogs. There may be a number of reasons for this, such as their reluctance to expose themselves (and their possible language mistakes), the few possibilities I have of bringing a 40 - pupil class to the Computer Lab, and others. This reluctance, however, does not prevent me from trying harder, if I may use the phrase, and you see what I mean.
I have been using technology because I feel that I can't go on teaching the way I used to, that is, to quote Nellie, "using the old traditional face-to-face method … that it is safe because it has worked for students in the past." In fact, I have also been using technology because I want to be a part of the Digital World, or, rather because I do not want to be left behind.
As for the need to change the way I used to teach, the reason is clear: the world is changing, and so must my work as a teacher. The way our pupils learn is changing, too. Nowadays, our students gain information in a non-linear way, as in the Internet, zapping frequently as they "move" from one link to another, and / or from one text to a video clip, podcast, photograph, another text, etc. Equally important, they select the information which they consider most relevant. In short, they learn differently.
Most pupils use technology outside school: chat rooms, forums, Facebook, and the like. Since English is the prevalent language used when people from different parts world communicate, can I neglect to use technology that fosters communication in my job? Why should I miss the opportunity to link my work as a teacher to the world most pupils live in - the Digital World?
Equally important, I find using Web 2.0 tools both challenging and fun. I also feel that I can contribute something more than teaching English to my pupils. Some may eventually like the challenge of using these tools. Most may also learn that using such tools may help them be prepared for the world of the future, where the use of such technology will be widespread. "The world of the future" have I just written? Well, the future is now, isn't it?
Finally, If I enjoy myself, there is a possibility that some of my pupils will do so, too, isn't there? I really like this part of my work.
The following are examples of what I have been using as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language:
It's time to sum up. I have been teaching English in Israeli high schools for the last twenty years. I know how overworked, underpaid and underappreciated we are. I have been on strike (more than once), and have not taken a back seat waiting for others to fight for what I think we, teachers, deserve. During last year's strike, I took a somewhat leading role in the area where I live and came out as disappointed as those who feel most disappointed. Accordingly, I don't want to add to our workload, and yet, I think we should make working with technology part of our work. When the time comes, we should also, of course, demand that our effort be remunerated accordingly.
I guess that many of us are most fearful of the fact that what starts as a voluntary effort on the part of an individual English teacher (for example, using blogs and / or a social community), may become a must right away, or in the near future. This is something that we will have to work out, but I wouldn't like to waste your time discussing this subject now.
I have begun to work with blogs, Gmail, Google Docs, social communities and the like first and foremost for myself, and only later for my pupils. I have tried to learn as much as I can (it never ends, of course) because I want to be part of the Digital World. I don't want to be an outsider, and I don't want to be left behind. Accordingly, I say to fellow English teachers the following: Give technology a chance for you yourselves first, and you will surely help your pupils later.
P.S: I have tried to open a new venue of communication for us, English teachers in Israel - The ELT-Israel Ning. I have not been very successful here, though. It doesn't seem to have caught on. In times of plenty, that is when I have plenty of free time, unlike these December 2008 days, I usually have time for a social community such as this Ning. I am a bit discouraged here, so I have not updated it lately. Using a Ning along ETNI may not have been a good idea after all.
Thanks for your time!