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Computer Technology in TEFL Classes
Martha Aléxia Ghizzo

Technology is nowadays a crucial means for processing information, and information is a key aspect in the present society. More and more computer programs have been built for education, and much has been developed on distance learning. The Internet is also of central importance for education nowadays.

Teachers can benefit from it through instant access to research, curriculum sources, lesson plans, online experts, discussion centers, and communication tools. Students may have the opportunity to experience the frequently mentioned globalization, having access to physically distant information and through contact with people from other countries. Multicultural issues may be more easily approached and understood.

In the field of Teaching English as Foreign Language, there seems to be even more room for excitement! I would like to discuss in this paper four aspects of language teaching that can be directly impacted and improved by the adoption of computers in TEFL classes: (a) the existence of real audiences for students writing; (b) the authenticity and diversity of materials for students reading; (c) the possibility of individualization of lessons; and (d) the nurture of student self-direction and personal efficacy .I also would like to discuss an approach to the integration of computer technology in classes, where educational values and the teacher become crucial elements.

The use of technology in general - and the Internet in particular - can bring to the language classroom authenticity and audience, two aspects hardly ever created in the artificial environment of a school classroom. A language is a tool for communication. Generally, most students studying English as a foreign language intend to use the language when travelling, studying, to meet and communicate with foreigners, to understand songs, watch television, etc… Although it may sound obvious, this main purpose of using the English language as tool or as a means for communication easily gets lost in the process of learning a language in a country where it is not spoken. Both teachers and students overlook it, and activities such as grammar and drills become a routine.

Missing the communicative purpose of learning a language is as common as it is counter-productive. The need for communication is a critical engine for foreign language learning. That's why the Communicative Approach is the number one methodology adopted in language schools worldwide, and that is where the Internet becomes so important for a monolingual class of language learners: it has the power to offer real audiences for students writing. According to Lafer (1997)

“Finding a genuine purpose for classroom writing remains one of the most important aspects of the writing process. Helping students to discover authentic purposes of their own and act upon them may be the teacher's most difficult task. The purpose of writing is generally tied to the existence of a real audience or readership.”

It has been realized by researchers that most students’ writing is addressed to inauthentic audience: teachers. Teachers usually have the role of an examiner - or at least are perceived by students as such; teachers read in order to evaluate students’ writing skills, or to discover whether they possess an understanding of specific subject areas. The result is "dummy run", defined by Lafer as:

“Writing that fails to cause the writer to become engaged in the dynamics of authentic writing process in which one constantly evaluates and re-evaluates how closely one's words come to building desired understandings between writer and reader... The rhetorical tension that causes one to think like a writer is absent from the situation that provokes the writing.”

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