Technology is not only changing how future TESOL teachers are learning their craft but also how their students will learn the English language. With the growing demand for TESOL teachers in public schools, adult education programs and cities with large immigrant and refugee communities, TESOL teachers must now consider the “digital literacy” of their students as well as their English literacy. The first step for anyone interested in TESOL is to gain certification, which might be through an online university TESOL program.
Online Tools for TESOL
While most TESOL programs have a traditional in-the-classroom structure, many more are now available as online programs allowing students from around the world to connect via the Internet, audio tools, voice tools, Second Life (a virtual world), Skype and e-readers.
A recent development in the online learning world is a voice recording program, which allows students and professors to post audio clips on message boards making the interaction feel more “real.” This technology provides students with the option to listen rather than read posted messages, and for audio learners this could be a significant benefit.
Some professors have also creatively used Second Life as part of their instruction. Rather than hoping the students interact with one another in their avatar personas, the professors encourage them to visit Second Life, find areas where language learning is happening in the virtual world, and observe.
TESOL teachers are taking the technology they used in their academic programs to teach their students because they now understand technology can both assist and enhance language learning. They are using technology like Skype to connect their classroom in the United States with classrooms in other countries where students want to learn English. Other tools are used to adapt classroom activities and homework assignments so that they are targeted to the language learning level of an individual student.
Digital Literacy Issues
However, these technological advancements bring new issues. TESOL teachers must consider if their students have the digital literacy to use these tools.
If part of the instruction is to write journal entries on a personal blog, do they know how to set up a blog and then post their writings? If Skyping with another classroom is part of a weekly assignment, do they know what Skype is and how to use it? Some students will have no difficultly using technology but might need instruction on how to best write for their blog or what they should and should not post on Facebook.
As new technologies continue to evolve, teachers should also consider the impact and benefits for students before immediately adapting them into the curriculum. Do they advance what you are trying to teach or are they just a distraction? It’s also important to remember that no technology is neutral. If you are integrating technology and social media platforms into your students’ writing assignments, the way a platform is structured and whether anonymity is possible will impact their interaction with it. So, make sure the technology works for your students before implementing it into their learning experience.
Technology and the Impact on Future TESOL Teachers
While language learning technology is a valuable tool, it’s important to note that it doesn’t fully replace a certified language teacher. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages supports the use of technology as a tool in combination with a qualified teacher. However, this will likely be a point of contention as school administrators try to cut costs by purchasing language learning software or online programs rather than hiring certified language teachers.
To assist in the debate, the TESOL International Association has developed “Technology Standards,” which focus on how English language teachers, teacher educators, and administrators can and should use technology in and out of the classroom. The standards build on work done by the National Educational Technology Standards Project in the International Society for Technology in Education, and consist of standards for language learners and language teachers.
Whether a student is learning through technology or in a traditional classroom setting, the instruction should be standards-based and help develop a student’s proficiency in the target language through interactive, meaningful, and cognitively engaging learning experiences, facilitated by a qualified language teacher.