During the last seminar I attended on ICT in Language Teaching and Processing at the UNED in Madrid, there were two presentations by editors of Cambridge University Press and Macmillan. They gave a brief timeline of the evolution of the publishing world of textbooks and didactic materials for language teaching since the appearance of the web and the digital revolution. Fascinating topic!
We’re experiencing what Thomas Kuhn would have called a paradigm shift (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) or a change in our basic assumptions: A teacher teaches. Pupils learn from their teacher. Books carry the meaning and knowledge. Teachers who have been in the profession for quite a while are now questioned about their methodologies and the way they teach. Along with them, editors and authors of didactic materials need to constantly reinvent themselves, all to keep up with the digital era we now live in. Since 2001, the appearance of the CD-ROM in language books determined which books were to sell and which not. From books with ‘additional online resources’, minisites, and web links to the boom of online courses, enriched PDFs, e-books, tablets and digital & interactive books, platforms and materials, there have been exciting changes but a lot of pressure and frustration behind the scenes as well, the threat for the editors and the changing roles of teachers and students.
The speakers, José Luis Belderrain (Cambrigde University Press) and Richard Shepherd (Macmillan) couldn’t be better. With rather sarcastic figures (see below) and comments such as “I’m not complaining, I’m just explaining”, they led the audience to a moment of reflection and made us question our own role as educators once more.
So what is the way to go nowadays? Can we keep up with all these changes? Do all these wonderful additions guarantee an impact in learning? The (funny) thing is that although many educators feel that all these technology additions are getting out of hand, many of them actually do want to become that networked teacher, who can work it all. That may be the burden for some and the drive for others to keep learning. A couple of professors mentioned how they are MOOC fanatics. Too many great MOOCs out there to miss! And that is an example of that intrinsic motivation to learn and keep learning.
A twitter from Sophia.org on 15/12 said:
87 retweets, 161 favorites and the retweets from @sophia keep coming from the teachers who have started the Flipped Class course during the holidays and announce it via twitter. Or check this recent article “There are No Long-Term Relationships in EdTech” which points out that once you like a program or tool, there’s no room for loyalty just like we do with food brand names, for example, because there will be a new one just like it next week or month and therefore the constant need to keep updating yourself and the more difficult it gets to stick with just one or a few techniques. Take gamification as an example. Teachers have been doing it forever: Contests, posters, sticker charts, stamps, certificates, rewards, etc. But now it has a fancier name and it’s another skill to add to the networked teacher.
It’s hard to keep up with all the changes. But it’s not going to stop. Editors and authors want to implement the latest techniques in their didactic materials. Teachers want to be up to date and become technology pros. But why? Because above all, educators want to have an impact on students’ learning. And many educators are convinced that technology can offer them promising tools that can lead them into that direction, that can help them customize student learning. However, technology in itself remains a tool as well. It’s important not to forget all the elements and the harmony of it all. There are excellent digital materials out there for educators to use. But that’s where the teacher’s role comes into place: Getting to know the students and their goals for the course, building a learning community, carefully designing the plan of instruction and selecting meaningful technology tools that will indeed personalize the students learning experience.