How useful is technology for language learning?

digital technologies elt technology Oct 22, 2021

By Dr Jeremy Koay

Technology is becoming more common in facilitating and promoting language learning. Online interactive language courses now allow both individual and group learning. Language learning apps, such as LinguaLift, Memrise and Duolingo allow individuals to learn and develop their language skills at their own pace.

Some parents and teachers actively promote the use of technology in the hope of enhancing language learning. However, others think that this is not necessary. This difference in opinion can pose a challenge to decision makers in schools. Should the school invest in technology or in other tools for learning?

Perhaps it is useful to consider why we need technology in a language classroom. How does technology enhance learning? Can we learn without technology? Is our decision to invest in technology driven by clear learning goals?

It might be helpful to start with a learning goal and think about how you would like to achieve it. Can you achieve it without technology? Can technology help you achieve the goal more effectively?

I would like to think that the argument is not all about technology or no technology; it’s about how much technology we need. I would hope we use it not because it is trendy, but because it serves a purpose.

Let me give you an example. Technology is particularly useful in project work that requires learners to collect information about a given topic. Teachers can use Google Classroom or Tencent, for example, as a platform for group members to share information that they have collected.

If the goal is to encourage learners to read widely, learners can visit Extensive Reading Central. This online resource allows readers to choose materials from a wide range of topics and of various levels.

These are only some examples of technology which can enhance the learning experience. Feel free to share tools and resources that you have used. Share your stories here with other teachers.

Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL.

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