An A-Z of technology in language teaching

A is for audio

Remember that the Internet offers many opportunities for learners to gain exposure to authentic listening extracts. They can pause at will and rewind (the recordings are digital) and controlling the information flow of fast speech is highly beneficial as a way of improving listening. Accessing a transcript – in other words, listening and reading simultaneously, is a popular and useful activity.

B is for Blended learning
This is a current buzz term. It is usually defined as a combination of F2F teaching (see below!) and e-learning. However, many definitions exist for this term. For some, it combines different pedagogical approaches; for others, it blends online teaching and classroom work. For some, blended learning combines the best of both worlds, the teacher and the technology; others see it as a “cop-out”, a messy situation which uses teaching and technology in a random, hotch-potch fashion.

C is for Campus
The MEC, or Macmillan English Campus. This is a searchable database of on-line material which allows students to study using web based exercises, both inside and outside the classroom. The games are outstanding – so popular that some are now been made available on CD-ROM.

D is for DVD
Some of today’s course books include a student DVD in the back. Remember that films have sub-titles, providing extra support for students wishing to enjoy a film in the “original version”.

E is for e-learning
E-learning relates to training that is delivered with the assistance of a computer, including Internet-based Learning, and online learning. A very popular term in business English teaching!

F is for F2F
Good news for the ELT profession! Face to face, or classroom teaching, will always play a vital role in the learning process!

G is for Google
Has your life as a teacher changed completely now that search engines exist? If you teach ESP the answer is obvious – you can tap in to a near-infinite resource bank of authentic materials, including texts in the specialist area of your students.

H is for Hot Potatoes
There is no reason for language teachers to also become creators of materials, but if you feel so inspired, this is a popular free programme for creating electronic quizzes, crosswords and the like.

I is for interactive whiteboard
This technology requires a computer, a projector and the whiteboard itself. The computer is connected to the projector and whiteboard, and the projector displays the computer screen image on the board. You can draw directly on the whiteboard screen. IWBs can help make presentation and practice interesting, and publishers are bringing out new language teaching software. Do you have access to one? If you do, there are exciting things that can be done in the area of presentations.

J is for “just-in-time” teaching
When a classroom is wired to the Internet, with an IWB or electronic projector, the teacher can access the web as and when. This influences pedagogy, allowing on-line exercises to be built in to a F2F lesson. This option can prove better than taking your students down to a self-access room once a week for a special “computer lesson”.

K is for keyboard
Teaching writing has changed completely with the growth of technology – students type in essays via the keyboard, cut and paste, use a spell-check etc. The role of the teacher is, of course, still vital to assessing compositions!

L is for learner-centred teaching
The learner is at the centre of a principled pedagogical model. Many of the tools discussed in this article are for the benefit of the student!

M is for Moodle
This is a free VLE (see below). The fact that anyone can build a course using Moodle is great news for language teachers – you do not have to work at a university to support your students with this type of learning platform.

N is for “normalisation”
According to Stephen Bax, this is where it is all going! Towards a time when a technology becomes invisible, and using computers is as normal as using a course book or a pen.

O is for “online school”
In my view, a virtual school can only be a part answer to some of the challenges of learning a language.

P is for podcasting
This word is formed by combining Apple’s “iPod” and “broadcasting”; a podcast is a complete radio programme, which you can download onto your computer, iPod or other MP3 player and then listen to it whenever you like. Great opportunities for listening on the move.

Q is for Questionmark
This is a company producing software useful for testing students, and devising questionnaires and quizzes for interactive training

R is for real-time
Synchronous methods of communicating with learners (i.e. teaching in real time) include “chat” or video-conferencing; asynchronous methods include e-mail.

S is for speech-recognition
Enthusiasts point to the popularity of this feature on CD-ROMs; detractors say that such software does not seem to work with native speakers!

T is for Technology-enhanced language learning
The acronym TELL is sexier than – and updates – the old-fashioned term CALL (Computer-assisted language learning)

U is for URL
Just a fancy name for a web address. It stands for “Uniform Resource Locator” for those who really want to know

V is for Virtual Learning Environment
A VLE is a software system for teachers managing online courses. As a student, you can access e-learning content, such as a handout, and use communication tools, such as e-mail. A well-known VLE is Blackboard. A VLE is commonly used in university teaching. Remember, you have to create the content for the VLE – otherwise it’s just an “empty shell”

W is for wiki
A wiki is an editable web page. It is different to a blog. (A blog is an online journal or diary). In a wiki, anyone can edit the page; you can add or remove content. One of the most famous wikis is Wikipedia – a web encyclopaedia. A teacher could set up a wiki as part of a writing course, so students could work together on a piece of writing, making changes to the document at a distance

X is for X-box
X-Box is a game console developed by Microsoft to provide players with greater realism and more interactivity than current games consoles. Maybe of interest to language teachers as there are many young gamers out there and language teaching simulations are likely to be part of the digital future.

Y is for Yahoo!
Another popular Internet search engine.

Z is for Zip drive
This is a small, portable disk drive used primarily for backing up and archiving personal computer files.

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