Why bother with technology?

All that technology… But is it really worth it?

"Why bother?" It was one of the "muddiest points" from one of the sessions on August 10th (full list of MPs from the session). I assume that what was meant was "Why bother with using technology in the classroom?"

In the first place, it should be said that technology certainly can at times be a hassle — setting things up, and getting them to work properly and booking equipment out and so on. You certainly do want to have your "Plan B" up your sleeve!

Secondly, I definitely wouldn't bother unless I was sure that my return on investment was going to be high. If, for the time the learners and the teacher spend on the technology, they don't learn more language than they would have otherwise, or develop their language skills more, then I wouldn't use technology.

So why and when would I bother?
First of all, I'd say that it's a question of thinking not "What am I going to do with the technology?" but "What are my learners going to do with the language?". If you've thought about it in those terms, you are off to a good start…

Among the other reasons why I would go to a certain amount of hassle:

  • Technology is exciting, especially to anyone below the age of about 25
  • Conversely, (course) books — and teachers! — are boring to many of the same age group
  • Technology allows you to create things, often from nothing — a podcast or a creative writing project or a PowerPoint presentation
  • Things like blogs and podcasts and chat and email allow you to communicate with other people, possibly natives

All of the above lead to greater motivation. "We created this!" "We did that!" "We succeeded!" "We talked to real English speakers and they understood us!" Those are powerful motivators — none of which you normally get with a grammar exercise in a coursebook.

Does technology = more language learning? It's not such a straightforward equation. But if your learners are more motivated, they will learn more.

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