New media are revolutionising the learning and teaching of languages in a number of ways:
- The Internet provides access to authentic material and examples of foreign and other languages
- Smartphones, Skype and E-mail enable learners to have direct contact with others all around the world
- Social media promote immediate connectivity and comment on what is happening in the world
The task for language teachers is to find innovative ways to use the new opportunities to make language learning and teaching more effective and more interesting – and to maintain the qualities and values of more conventional teaching. Doing this raises issues and challenges:
- Keeping up with technological development – the rate of change is so fast that choosing the right hard- and software is a constant preoccupation, leaving aside budgetary implications
- Learning to use the new media as classroom tools – new skills which are often more quickly acquired by the students
- Understanding the ways in which children and adults learn with new media- is the process differently structured and less linear than previous approaches?
- Developing pedagogic methodologies which incorporate the new media, not just as gimmicks, but as integral and efficient features of curricula and syllabi
- Articulating the use of new media with books and other more traditional forms of input
In order to address these issues, it is important that traditional education systems change to accommodate the learning needs of this new generation of digital natives, as well as learners who are not part of the digital generation, but who want to use technology to make learning more flexible and increase their learning autonomy. In addition to the increased use of technology for language learning in educational establishments, it is more and more used to promote and facilitate language learning in the workplace.
The contribution of the ECML to developing the use of new media in language education
There are a number of past and on-going ECML projects related to the use of new media in different learning / teaching environments:
The DOTS project and its follow-up MORE DOTS has created a community of practice for those who teach online, in both formal and informal educational settings. The publication includes a training kit for language teachers which promotes up-to-date online teaching technology including bite-size activities for online language teacher training, suggestions for reflective activities and collaborative tools for sharing “self-training” experiences. It recognizes that use of new media is not just technical but that it demands pedagogic development, too.
Two projects, BLOGS and Language Quests adapt activities designed to use new media to an educational setting. BLOGS uses the idea of web journals to develop interactive writing skills and to make these authentic communication activities through inter-school exchanges. Language Quests has developed a website which provides instant access to a collection of Language Quests – structured explorations of the internet for educational purposes - for various target languages with opportunities to join a network of colleagues.
The EVOLLUTION project looked at the uses of new media in vocational education. The website provides examples of how ICT can be integrated into training courses for VOLL and assists teachers in creating ICT VOLL materials whilst the publication furnishes theoretical frameworks combined with practical examples to guide readers in the further use of ICT in VOLL.
The resources help develop:
- strategies for effective online research
- the ability to evaluate and use online sources of information
- the ability to create multimodal content
- the ability to use traditional tools such as e-mail as well as Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, wikis, videoconferences and social networks for effective cooperation and collaboration in VOLL contexts
The ECML also has a cooperation agreement with the European Union entitled “Innovative Methodologies and Assessment in Language Learning“. Under this partnership the ECML offers training and consultancy workshops in EU and ECML member states in two specific areas - ICT and Testing and Assessment. The former, entitled ICT-REV, promotes the use of ICT tools in the language classroom and has developed an inventory of identified and reviewed freely available ICT tools and open educational resources: http://ict-rev.ecml.at/en-us/Resources/Web-tool-directory.
All ECML projects have websites and links to social media; these illustrate in practical terms different uses of new media in language education.