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NZ language teachers need to be confident selecting tech

NZ language teachers need to be confident selecting technology
August 11, 2013
New Zealand language teachers need to be confident in their ability to selectively use technology, a University of Canterbury (UC) language education expert says.
Changes are under way in the education system. Plans are in place for an education communication highway network with $211 million already committed to deliver a funded package of fast, quality connections with uncapped data to schools. 
Associate Professor Una Cunningham says that teachers can use technology to enhance and facilitate students’ access to the language they are learning and communicative activities that are in line with current understanding of how languages are best learned.
Associate Professor Cunningham, from Sweden, will give a prestige public lecture about digital language teaching on campus next Monday (August 12).
``Many schools in New Zealand have ample technology available in the classrooms and the increased connectivity and uncapped data will be welcome.
``Language learners in New Zealand can finally join their counterparts in other countries in having full access to the benefits of streamed video and sound, podcasting, blogging, social media and access to cloud computing and open educational resources.
``Online materials are accessible anywhere, even on mobile devices and some educators are using this to flip their classrooms and free up class time for interaction.
``Some of the young people who people our classes learn to use technology quickly and many are enthusiastic about using digital tools for learning. But their native talent is unschooled and often overestimated.
``Even the most tech-savvy students need teachers who can help them learn the subject at hand. Those who do not have access to technology outside school and those who have special educational needs or who are English language learners will often need even more support.
``Language learning continues to work in the same way regardless of the technology available. The idea that you need to experience input in the target language and have ample opportunity to use the language for real communication still holds.
``There are many engaging ways to use technology to work towards this goal, yet a great many of the applications available for language learning in schools involve rote learning of vocabulary lists or drill-and-kill grammar exercises, which could have been lifted verbatim from the book I learned Spanish from in 1972.
``Computers are great at this and give tireless feedback, but this is not in tune with current thinking on how we learn languages. Let us not lose sight of our goals in our enthusiasm for technology-enhanced learning.’’


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