The digital divide

One of the things that fascinates me is the way in which EFL teachers appear to be so divided on the subject of using learning technologies (LT). I’m more than a generation away from being a digital native or whatever term you prefer, but it seems obvious to me that, as a professional teacher, it is my duty to conduct my work using effective approaches and methods, and to continue my professional development throughout my professional life. As there is now no serious objective evidence that using LT is anything other than helpful, how come we still see such polarised views, and still a relatively low level of implementation?

I have just started a series of three articles for CALL Review looking at this subject, and I have made it my goal for 2011 to try and investigate this further. I will also be starting a thread on the LinkedIn group, Learning Technologies for Language Teaching, and would really like to see some professional discussion of this topic. The main questions for me at the moment are:

  • Why is there a sometimes very hostile rejection of LT in our profession in some quarters?
  • Is the level of implementation as low as I think?
  • What are the factors in whether a teacher uses LT?
  • How can the situation be improved?
  • Should it be improved?
  • What is being done by professional bodies in this respect?

Clearly, there are factors such as economic situation, politics, culture, etc. that may be relevant in specific parts of the world, but these are scarcely applicable to most of Europe and North America, for example. So, feel free to comment here, or come on over to the LinkedIn group. I would be very interested in any responses.

Kevin

6 thoughts on “The digital divide

  1. Hi Kevin,
    I blogged on this the other week, but from the other side of the equation. I know many teachers who want to implement LT but they find, as I have, that our students are not all as keen as we are. One of the most discouraging factors in my experience is complexity. The more bells and whistles that something has, the less likely students will use it. However, as there are now many business-tailored being employed by more and more companies, I expect the perceived difficulty of LT will recede, at least for BE. I certainly hope so.
    Cheers,
    Tony

    1. Thanks for the comment, Tony. This is exactly the kind of feedback I want to collect. It is clearly one of the big issues, even among the so-called tech-savvy youngsters, like I teach every summer. Which is why I am keen on finding answers. Feel free to give us a link to your blog, by the way. Oh, and “business-tailored” what? I think you missed a word in your comment 🙂 Kevin

  2. Kevin. I work at a university and am also responsible for a multimedia room. It has all the “bells and whistles” – even software which controls 18 student PCs and can enable telephoning simulations. Any colleague teaching any language can reserve the room but demand is low. Most teachers are freelance and probably can’t be bothered learning how to use it without getting paid. I’m lucky, I can go down there during a free moment and do some paid professional development. Students are, on the other hand, very impressed with it.

    Fear of making a fool of themselves is a big factor – I am currently guiding a colleague through using a learning platform for the first time. Boy is she scared – probably more so as it is a technical university and some folk in her class probably write the software!

    1. Donald, thanks for the comment. Like you say, freelancers can find it hard to learn software in an institution, or can’t be bothered to donate their time. In my experience, universities also don’t necessarily make it easy or welcoming for people to learn either. As to fear of looking a fool, this is one of the factors that we work very hard to deal with in our courses at Pete Sharma Associates. I firmly believe, and this seems to be being backed up in our courses, that the vast majority of teachers have nothing to fear once they have learned whatever it is in a safe environment with guidance from a trainer, and it is so satisfying to see people realising they can actually do it.

  3. Hi Kevin – yes, sorry, I meant ‘business-tailored social networks’ like Yammer and Social Text, but there is no scroll option when writing a long comment so you have to guess what you’ve written as you can’t see the end of it (at least on Firefox 3.6) – maybe that’s deliberate!
    Anyway, my post is here http://tinyurl.com/6fma443.
    Cheers,
    Tony

    1. Thanks for the reply and the feedback regarding the scroll option Tony. I have checked it out while writing this by copying a load of text into the box and got a scroll bar, also using FF 3.6, so it seems a bit strange.
      Cheers,
      Kevin

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