The Role of Technology in Language Learning

The use of technology for technology’s sake is sort of like the blind leading the blind. You may eventually reach your goal, but what did you learn along the way and how many times did you run into things? The incorporation of various technologies into language education can be as simple or as complex as the user wants to make it. But without a plan in place and a roadmap for getting where one wants to go or to reach a determined goal requires the judicious contemplation of available technologies and how each can be used to best achieve a goal.

What good is the use of a particular technology or the creation of a slick, glossy, complicated, computerized interface for the language learner if the learner cannot understand what they are supposed to do? When a project is created, the needs of the language learner must be set above the wants of the software developer. If the learner gains nothing from the incorporation of technology in a language curriculum, that technology must be reevaluated and redesigned so that the main goal is accomplished… the learner LEARNS something.

Over the years, I have seen faculty and staff achieve wonderful things with new technologies. I have also seen faculty and staff crash and burn by using a form of complicated technology when something simple would have been much more effective. The following points describe my views of the role of technologies in language teaching and learning.

Technologies used in language learning ….

  • … should not be a stand-alone substitute for teaching and learning, but rather support the teaching and learning experience
  • … can be as simple or as complicated as the user is comfortable. Remember that a blackboard and chalk was once a form of new technology.
  • … should be flexible and adaptable to changes over time.
  • … should be used not to reinvent the wheel, but to make it better.
  • … must fit the needs of the learner, not the developer
  • … that are open-sourced tend to last longer than proprietary technologies because they can be improved upon and updated as needs change and problems are found.
  • … could adapt to the physical needs of the (blind/deaf/mute/etc.) learner.