Friday, 22 November 2013

Go digital - life is peaceful there... or is it?

Digital was a big thing at this year's IATEFL in Liverpool - some publishers didn't even bring books to their stands! I fondly recall a confused teacher walking up to said publisher's stand, asking: "You don't have any coursebooks any more?" - to which the marketing person replied: "Of course, we do. Have a look in our catalogue." The teacher, relieved, "So, may I have a catalogue then?" Marketing person, slightly embarrassed, "Actually, we haven't got any printed copies with us, but use one of the iPads at our stand to browse our online catalogue." The teacher ambled up to the row of iPads, then stood around helplessly until the same marketing person walked up to her to find out what, if anything, was the matter this time. "Can you show me how to use this thing, please?", the lady said... No comment. 

BEBC didn't refrain from commenting on the subject, though:

So is digital a bandwagon we should all be in a hurry to jump on? I read this thought-provoking article on where Laurie Harrison made a compelling case for iterative publishing - that is, continually updated online teaching materials replacing coursebooks:

To me, the cons still outweigh the pros. This is where my reservations stem from: digital is simply a different medium, but the pedagogical values and teaching/learning objectives should neither be restricted by the medium's limitations or by its vast technological potential. We shouldn't be doing only what the format allows us to do, but we should mould the format to allow us to do what we want to do. We pay a lot of lip service to "blended learning", but what I'm missing here is old-fashioned (yes, coursebook) values blended with a mixture of media to provide a more stimulating as well as more familiar environment for learners. 

For more food for thought, have a look at Hugh Dellar's insightful blog post into the wider ramifications:

I'm not against digital in principle, obviously. Digital media open up opportunities for real communication as well as communication practice, they provide access to vast amounts of information as well as stimulating materials, and they come equipped with the facilities for differentiated, personalised learning experiences. None of which was around when I was a student, then a teacher of English. I had to make do with what limited amount of support I could find around me in a non-English-speaking environment. Before the advent of digital, that wasn't a lot.

Anyway, I just thought I'd throw in this topic for all of us to think more about. I believe there is a way in which digital can work in our favour - but we, teachers, should be mapping the route and leading the way, not technology. What do you think? 

1 comment:

  1. An article titled: "Computers 'do not improve' pupil results, says OECD" appeared on the BBC News website (15 September 2015), with some interesting points about the subject. Here is the link: if you want to read the details.