We know that there are lots of opportunities from technology in ELT – but we also see examples of technology doing what we know isn’t good from a teaching point of view. How can we make sure technology is working for teachers, and that teachers are really benefitting from new developments?
The pandemic has shown beyond question the importance of technology in education. It helped us overcome the problems of closing down classrooms. Teachers around the world have mastered online teaching, taking advantage of some of the benefits of technology. One benefit has been improved opportunities to hear what teachers and schools are doing around the world – through more online conferences, webinars, posting of blogs and videos, etc.
But we have also seen some of the limitations of technology. The challenges of engaging students online, monitoring wellbeing, collaboration, gauging their understanding through a screen, etc
At Oxford University Press, we have been thinking hard about this and working on ways to help teachers with technology. We have also been working with the technology to make it more useful for teachers and learners. Our mantra is that pedagogy must drive the technology, and not let technology compromise our improvements in teaching English. Here are some of the ways we’ve been addressing these big questions.
Making sure we are shaping the role of technology in teaching
We want to make sure everyone is aware of the issues around technology in education. At the IATEFL International Conference in Belfast this year, we sponsored the ELT Journal Debate: This House believes that online teaching is both necessary and effective. With Nicky Hockly and Graham Hall presenting the arguments for and against, there was a no-punches-pulled debate on how online teaching is inevitably growing and we have to be doing more to make it really work for our students. For more information on this debate, visit the IATEFL page.
For anyone who wants to dig deeper into the opportunities and pitfalls of technology in education, we have published a number of books in this area. My favourite is Daisy Christodolou’s Teachers vs Tech: the case for an edtech revolution. She analyses why technology has not yet had a more transformative impact on education, and then signposts where the real opportunities are for the future. This book will definitely change the way you think about technology in education.
We also share the latest thinking and research around the use and design of technology in ELT in the English Language Teaching Journal, which Oxford publishes quarterly. The first issue for 2022 included a number of insightful articles – Insights into emergency remote teaching in EFL by Can and Silman-Karanfil, and Social robots for English Language teaching by Lee and Lee.
Recognising the role of teachers in making technology work
Professor Rose Luckin, at University College London, is a leading thinker on using AI (Artificial Intelligence) in education. She argues against technology replacing or minimalizing the role of the teacher. It is, in fact, the role of the teacher to harness AI to tailor education to each of her students.
Understanding the importance of teachers in making technology work has been another objective for Oxford. Recently, we have produced a Position Paper on Using Technology to Motivate Learners. One of the key findings from the research we reviewed on this topic was that technology is unlikely to motivate learners alone without the right planning and support from the teacher. This links to other research by Oxford University Press into the Digital Divide, which found that improving the digital competencies of teachers was the top priority after improving digital accessibility.
Helping teachers with making the most of technology
What can Oxford do to help teachers make the best use of technology? There is a wealth of resources and support available to teachers – a lot of it completely free of charge.
- Most of the talks from our recent ELT Online Conference can be watched again on Youtube – such as the excellent presentation by Nik Peachey on Creativity in digital learning & teaching. Check out many more presentations and workshops on the Oxford University Press ELT Youtube channel.
- If you want to engage more interactively with ideas around using technology in your teaching, you should check out our Professional Development online modules, which you can make use of by joining the free Oxford Teachers Club. For a quick introduction to these PD modules, watch this short video.
- Many of us find ourselves struggling to make complete sense of trends in how technology is working in ELT. To help you with this, we have developed a number of Focus Papers. These summarise the latest trends and show what the practical implications are for you as a teacher. Two Focus Papers that I’d recommend for people interested in technology are Managing Online Learning, and Assessing Learning Online.
Designing our tools and content to help teachers
Oxford also plays a role in making sure new technology is designed to help teachers. We do this partly through constant engagement with teachers around the world. We test prototypes, run user trials and focus groups, and collect ongoing data on how teachers want to access and use digital tools.
But we also approach this by making sure we set out pedagogical principles clearly as we design digital content and tools. We already know, from educational psychology, how new knowledge and skills have to be actively constructed by learners. So, we design online activities that support an active learning approach. We know that learners are inhibited when the cognitive load exceeds their working memory capacity, so we scaffold our activities carefully and provide plenty of access to additional support if needed. Also, we know that learners’ motivation is strongly affected by their sense of ‘agency’ in their learning, and so we give learners choices in what they will study and how they will do it.
At the moment we are building up the Oxford English Hub, to be the place where you can get access to all the learning content, tools, tests, support and professional development you need.
On your side
We are bringing all these strands of work together to make sure that technology is on your side when it comes to successful teaching and learning. We are bringing the worlds of technology and pedagogy together – in public debate and in new cutting-edge developments. And we are working to provide teachers with all the support they need to make the most of the great opportunities that technology has the potential to offer us.
Sign up for a free trial of our best-selling English language courses, available on Oxford English Hub.
Your 90-day access includes Classroom Presentation Tools, Online Practice, assessment samples and more!
Ben Knight is Head of Language Content Research & Pedagogy at Oxford University Press. He is responsible for making sure there is a clear research-informed pedagogical approach underpinning Oxford ELT courses and learning materials. Ben is particularly focused on using data-driven digital learning materials to help teachers and learners be more successful in their language learning. He works with innovative thinkers in language pedagogy and research and uses that to support professional development and educational reform projects around the world.
Ben studied Linguistics at the University of York and Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. He then became a teacher, trainer and lecturer, in schools, universities and the British Council, in various countries around the world – Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Italy and the UK. For a number of years he specialised in assessment, developing new exams at Cambridge Assessment and managing vocational qualifications at City & Guilds, and now combines his expertise in assessment and learning to provide a holistic and evidence-based approach to education.