Enhancing Language Learning Through the Use of Technology

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by Charles Gil

Technology has become part of the learning process for all students around the world. The importance of such tool in the learning process is undeniable, and so is the right way to use it in order to produce great results.

In fact, technology has been used for different training purposes across many industries. Some governments, for instance, have used it to train the military with emulators, and simulators, big companies have used it to train new personnel with knowledge bases similar to Google but for internal use, and now schools are using it to enhance learning inside the classrooms. This has given rise to many discussions amongst learning specialists who argue that this new trend could impact the learning process negatively if it is not implemented correctly.

What is the right way to use it then?
Let’s take a brief look at what’s happening in chess, a sport that requires a great deal of training and has recently changed dramatically due to the right use of technology.

Chess masters nowadays could easily beat old masters who never had the chance to use modern technology in their trainings. Many writers and analysts from Chessbase.com have reached this conclusion after comparing the accuracy and blunders of new masters versus previous ones from other decades, and the results are irrefutable: the majority of new masters are simply better players than their counterparts from the past.

This is what chess players are doing right according to many specialists:

  1. They constantly update information with the latest databases.
  2. They use a lot of relevant information; they can study any rival in depth.
  3. They integrate all parts of the game in one single platform such as Chessbase (most popular one in the world).
  4. They can easily measure their progress with artificial intelligence from chess engines such as Fritz, Rybka, etc.

Are we using technology in the same way as in the language learning field?
We are doing so to a certain extent, but not to the point in which we have reached optimal results. I am speaking of course about the Nicaraguan context, in which I have plenty of experience.

One of the biggest mistakes we are making is using the traditional five letter grading system that allows us to determine if a student can pass a level or not. A number or a letter does not say much when it comes to language abilities, and it says even less for training purposes.

In order to be successful we need to find a way to take full advantage of the technology to train our students considering their learning styles and language skills. No student is the same and without the use of technology, it takes a lot of time to create different lesson plans for each individual, but technology allows us to do so when it is used correctly.

What I propose is a different grading system that allows different teachers to focus more on certain aspects of the language. For instance, we could use a system that divides the skills into four parts: reading, speaking, writing, and accent (pronunciation). Until this moment, technology is not required to improve these skills, but this division of competencies could prepare us to be more effective when we start using it.

Once we start grading students differently, we can start using countless free and paid resources from the web and our own creation to assign more relevant content to students when they are working in a lab or the classroom.

Technology allows us to classify students by skills and learning styles easily with the use of databases, and the impact can be quite dramatic in the short and long term as well. Technology does not need any rest, and students now can see a lesson as many times as possible, and practice as well; all this while gradually making it more challenging for themselves. Teachers can see the results of their practices instantly and quickly change the type and intensity of the exercises.

Technology also allows us to measure results and compare them with previous ones instantly. This can be useful to adapt quickly and avoid repeating mistakes. Similar to cancer treatment, technology permits us to create cocktails of drugs (activities) which can combine visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary learning styles. All of this is possible if we attack learning systematically and scientifically.

In regards to the call center industry, we have the advantage of creating very similar conditions to the real floors of production from the actual companies. The use of computers in the labs can also enhance multitasking abilities for students who have to be able to take calls while operating a computer effectively. It is up to us as trainers to simulate the real call center environments as similarly as possible. Oftentimes call centers trainees cannot manage to do all their activities at the same time. Speaking to a customer in a second language is hard enough for some, and adapting can be quite costly for their performance and self-esteem.

In conclusion, we should be excited about the prospects of the use of technology in our field. We are about to become super teachers, but it is only through an extensive comprehension of the matter, and the proper training that we could reach this potential in the short term. We should be constantly monitoring the use of technology in other areas to adapt their best practices into our own. We should be constantly sharing our success stories within our own schools in order to accelerate our own understanding and effectiveness as teachers and trainers.

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