I started this part of the talk by asking the audience
what they understood to be the main difference between
Educational Technology and Technological Education.
A number of clear and concise responses explained that
Ed Tech was technology that enabled and enhanced learning,
learning through the technology, whereas Tech Ed was
learning about the technology. This is the commonly
accepted distinction. However, as a teacher of English,
for me the difference is all in the word order. In
Ed Tech, the education comes before the technology,
whereas in Tech Ed, the technology comes first. In
Ed Tech, teaching and learning drive the development
of technology. This is a good thing. In Tech Ed, it
is the other way around. This is bad.
Returning to the question of whether technology could
replace language teachers, I shared with the audience
an assignment I set for my MA course participants at
the School for International Training (in Vermont),
as part of a new 30-hour elective course entitled A
Basic Introduction to Technology for Language Teachers.
The assignment, one of a number of choices, was as
follows: “Any teacher who can be replaced with
a computer --- should be. Discuss.” Several of
the braver MA course participants attempted this assignment
and wrote thoughtful and intelligent responses. The
most frequently recurring theme was that language teachers
who are open to new ways and means of teaching and
learning would be able to employ the technology as
tools and resources to enhance classroom interaction.
Such teachers would become in even greater demand,
and so more likely to be promoted, rather than loose
their jobs, replaced with a computer.
Another recurring theme in the essays was the fact
that language teachers who were willing to accept that
their students might know more about the technology
and be more comfortable with it would also do better
than those who still felt that they, as the teacher,
should have all the necessary knowledge. In many cultures,
this is still the expectation, that the teacher is
the source of all the knowledge, and the students the
recipients of this knowledge – called, appropriately,
the transmission model of education. However, the sheer
volume of information available to anyone with an Internet
connection is making the notion of the all-knowing
teacher almost impossible to maintain.
On slide 17, I looked at how we define “technology” as
a way of further exploring our relationship with it.
That technology is a powerful tool is now undeniable.
However, it is crucial that we, the users, define the
tool that is Information Technology (IT). We must define
IT. IT must not define US. One way of avoiding this
is to keep reminding ourselves of the fact that all
tools are only as useful as their users make them.
One of my concerns – and a concern of many people
worldwide – is that potential for the technology
to widen even further the gap between those that have
and those that do not. For the potential of the technology
to be realized, even partially, the technological reinforcement
of inequities must be avoided. Walk around the major
cities of Brazil, around the major cities of most countries,
and we see the terrible cost of greater opportunities
for a privileged minority, at the expense of the majority.
The benefits and advantages of technology must be made
available to everyone. Or to none.
An interesting geographical assumption that I often
come across is that computers are most logically located
in cities or other large urban centers. However, some
of the greatest value of the technology is its ability
to connect disparate parties to create communities
across the barriers and boundaries of time and space,
as we discussed earlier. So, the single Internet-linked
computer in the rural village school may, in fact,
be of more value and more importance than a whole room
full of the machines in a big city school.
Technology and training has been another recurring
theme on my travels, both through the literature and
through the countries. Although, it would perhaps be
more accurate to talk of the lack of training when
it comes to technology. No developed or developing
country in the world today would allow just anyone
to teach their children. Years and years of training
is required first, followed by regular, on-going training
to keep up to date. How very odd, then, that this logic
is so infrequently applied to technology. I have met
the managers of many educational institutions in many
countries who have budgeted impressive sums of money
for new hardware and software, but have left little
or nothing for initial – and ongoing – teacher
training. My own rule of thumb for this is a “ten
percent rule”. That is, whatever the total budget
is for hardware and software, allow at least ten per
cent of that total for initial and on-going training
and technical support.
I concluded the talk
as I started – with questions. I briefly re-visited
the two key questions I showed earlier: What does TiLT
enables us to do now that we could not do before? and
What does TiLT enables us to do better now than we
could do before? I added two more questions that I
believe are also essential when making decisions about
• Does the
technology improve and increase the quantity and quality
of language teaching and learning?
• Does the technology enhance or inhibit our “connectedness” as
language teachers and learners?
Sometimes we shy
away from such questions because attempts to specify
exactly what we mean by “quality” and “quantity” of
language learning are fraught with difficulty, and
even danger, as such notions can lead to strong emotions
for some teachers and learners. Nevertheless, we can
define these terms as best suit us, based on our own
unique contexts and constraints, and attempt to create
answers which may be flawed, but which are still better
than the “best guesses”.
The issue of connecting
through the technology was raised at different points
in the preceding talk, but for me, one of the greatest
developments that has been enabled by technology such
as the Internet is for teachers and students to be
more connected to each other, locally, nationally,
internationally and globally. Such connections help
to promote greater understanding, which in turn can
reduce conflict and even lead to more peaceful and
concluded with thanks, as I was extremely grateful
to the Organizing Committee of Brazil TESOL 2002
for giving me the opportunity to spend time with
you, and to Thomson Learning for enabling me to be
with you. I look foreword to seeing you again in
the near future.