Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Event 2015 in retrospect; Presentation by Dr Luke Prodromou - Report

Dr Luke Prodromou is an experienced ELT trainer, author and actor and his presentation titled: ‘From Socrates to Bill Gates: a Dialogue with Digital Natives’ at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace and TESOL Greece joint summer event in Portaria, Pelion (21 June 2015) was about digital technology in a radically changing world, including our classrooms, and about whether multimedia deepens comprehension and enhances learning. This talk, drawing on recent research, took a critical look at the impact of the Internet on our classrooms, our brains and our lives. It asked questions and raised issues that all teachers, parents and friends should be asking, so that we understand what is gained and what is lost as we become more and more connected. Among the objectives in Luke’s presentation were to mention the changes it is bringing to teachers and language classrooms, to raise awareness about what we gain from IT and what we risk losing and suggest a new way forward (old + new).

Luke started off with an ice breaking activity which aimed at energizing present teacher audience and encouraged thinking and discussion about issues related to teaching and ICT use (digital natives and digital immigrants). All teachers felt welcome as all ideas and opinions were accommodated. Some of the questions which were discussed were whether teaching is like bowling, whether we think of ourselves as digital natives or digital immigrants, whether digital revolution has given teachers more ways to respond to students’ individual needs, whether teachers should recognize the need for integrating technology in their teaching and whether, according to experience, the Net is, by design, an interruption system meant to distract students’ attention.

Luke highlighted some of the benefits of digital technology and multimedia in the EFL classroom and explained how they deepen comprehension, strengthen learning and respond to students’ needs as long as teachers recognize the need for integrating technology in their teaching and the need for becoming empowering educators.

However, Luke mentioned that teachers should be very careful when taking advice about using technology in classrooms from IT experts/non-educators because advisors might not always be completely impartial and governments might have subsided teachers with technology due to deep cuts to education, lack of premises or teachers. For example because of the aforementioned reasons, in India children pool their resources and knowledge in the absence of teacher supervision.

Luke asked the audience to read carefully and discuss Carr’s (2010) definition of deep reading:

The ability to know in depth a subject for ourselves, to construct within our own minds the rich and idiosyncratic set of connections that give rise to a singular intelligence.

He added that teachers who engage in deep reading may want to start assimilating with digital native students’ culture and blend traditional learning with new (Bish 2013).

Luke also mentioned the similarity in the dilemma between digital natives – digital immigrants (Bill Gates era) with the oral and written culture dilemma in Socrates era. Socrates seemed to have an argument against written culture related to memory damage writing could bring to people very similar to arguments digital natives might have nowadays against the use of technology in the EFL classroom. Socrates was in favor of critical thinking and the teaching model of question asking which included shared goals, questions and problems, information, interpretations and concepts.

Moving on, Luke explained that, according to research, the effective teacher is the one who improvises, interacts with learners when the unexpected happens (has interactive decision making skills), has a clear language focus, is technically skillful and emotionally intelligent. So, effective teachers should involve technology in language learning only when students learn from each other, learn from their mistakes and not only when students merely write for exams or for the teacher. Classroom management skills are also very important in the EFL classroom, despite the tools or materials used and the effective teacher should be able to stand in the classroom, care for group dynamics, benefit from space and use everything in its best way while marrying the ‘old’ way with the ‘new’ way. Some other features/skills effective teachers should be aware of are voice, audibility, getting attention, group feelings, enthusiasm and rapport.

Luke summarized saying that teachers should have in mind that equipment is not content and that technology might betray them. They need to draw on, extend and build on learners’ experience as motivation will not come from novelty. Technology is one part of the big picture in the map/field of ELT and since we cannot cancel digital technology we can at least regulate it and fit it in the big picture of education. Blended learning is very welcome in 21st century EFL teaching due to its benefits, existing techniques and opportunities it creates as long as teachers combine what’s important from the past with what’s new in the future.

Report by

Βασιλική Παπαϊωάννου
ΠΕ06, Αγγλικής Φιλολογίας (Ed.D, MA, BA)
Σχολική Σύμβουλος Β/θμιας Εκπαίδευσης Μαγνησίας (έδρα Βόλος)
Συγκρότημα Μουρτζούκου, Χείρωνος & Επτά Πλατανίων Τ.Κ. 38333, Βόλος
24210 47396 εσωτερικό 304 (3ος όροφος)
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