After many discussions about the pros and cons of using the computer in the classroom, I’d like to leave my thoughts here.
Many of the teachers I’ve talked to, especially the sceptical ones, are afraid of spending (wasting) a large amount of their valuable time on the computer. This, I think, is a fair point and one that is not addressed enough. Teachers, especially at the moment here in Switzerland are in a stage of upheaval and change. The entire education system is being rearranged and new subjects are being introduced. A fair enough reason for this fear of wasting their time.
At the same time teachers feel, rightly so, that many pupils these days spend (waste) more than enough time in front of a screen already, be it the computer, the cellphone, gameboys, x-boxes and other digital gadgets.
In addition, many educators question the pedagogic value of using computers. It seems to them that technology is being used simply for the sake of using something new. Why use it when there is so much other material around? Lessons were good before, and they question whether technology just simply puts what was previously around into a new packaging.
So, let’s look at ‘wasting time’. There is a fair amount of time needed for technology, especially in the beginning. However, the time taken to read what others are saying, especially through blogs, can be a source of growth and personal and professional development. Where else are you going to get such cheap training, and with some very respectable and knowledgable people out there in the blogosphere, second life, yahoo groups, youtube, myspace and many more! Here in Switzerland teachers are obliged to take courses. With the available internet resources this can be done with international groups, at home, when you have the time (like at 10:30pm ;-)). I don’t see this as a waste of time.
Kids DO waste a lot of time in front of the screen. So instead of saying, stop sitting in front of the screen (and them NoT doing it), why not give them something useful to do in front of the screen? They will be using internet for a good while to come and should learn to use the possibilities in a respectable manner. They also need to be taught to use these tools effectively and efficiently. This can only happen if the educators are acquianted with these same tools and can offer more producive and creative ways to use them. It is our responsibility to guide our children and pupils and teach them what to do with the computer (not technically, but morally) . Get on the internet and teach them netiquette. Get them involved with other pupils in other cultures. Let them use their own voice and be heard – but with clear guidelines.
What educators have been doing IS a valuable contribution to society, and can be done without a computer. But you wouldn’t through out the OHP, would you? -well, maybe you would because you now use the beamer! Why? because it can allow you to do things which support your teaching that the OHP can’t do. The same is for internet tools on the computer. And I think the main and most important addition these tools can add to teaching is INVOLVING the pupils. Giving a child a voice is a great start, but giving this voice an audience, one that replies, encourages, comments, etc., is invaluable in motivating and involving your learners.
I’m sure I could come up with more reasons. At the moment I’ve especially focused on the young learner. But the same goes for any type of learner, in my case language learners. This is what I hope to be able to achieve with my classes. I hope to get them active outside the classroom, using language to interact, not just for practice in the lesson. I want to give them an opportunity to go further, beyond the classroom walls and language learning mentality. I want them to become language USERS.