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The digital age of teaching: It’s time to evolve!

Woman looking at computerHaving taught us that you don’t need to be a digital expert to teach with digital, Shaun Wilden, a freelance teacher trainer and materials writer for OUP, discusses how embracing the digital age can help you and your students.

As teachers, our role needs to evolve from being the ‘fount’ and the ‘model’ to that of helper and guide. We need to link our classroom practice with the wider world, accept that the four walls are gone, and show students how to extend coursebook topics into the real world.  At the same time, we should acknowledge that for students to attain their full language learning potential it is important to let them loose on their own. Let them find out what works best for them.

I am sure we all agree that no matter how good a teacher we are, learning doesn’t take place solely within one lesson; we’d be fooling ourselves if we finished a 60-minute vocabulary lesson thinking our students would remember every word. Research indicates that 80 percent of learning is lost within 24 hours of the initial learning and yet, no matter how often we try to convey to students that opening their notebooks a little each day will help, we often seem to be fighting a losing battle.

But that’s understandable. With busy lives, students can be forgiven for not always opening their notebooks to study, or for not having their notebooks with them when they do have a moment. That’s life.

However, this is another area where digital material can help. Publishers now provide support to students in different ways. With workbook materials on CD-ROMs or online, students can load the material on to their computers and do the exercises in a five-minute break instead of having to remember where they put their paper notebook. Even the student who says they are too busy to study is running out of excuses. Listening materials, for example, can now be put on to mp3 players and Smartphones so students can learn on the move. And, of course, there’s a myriad of mobile learning apps now available.

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The digital age of teaching: You don’t need to be a digital expert

College student using computerShaun Wilden, a freelance teacher trainer and materials writer for OUP, gives us an insight into the role of the teacher in the digital age, as well as a reminder that you don’t need to know everything!

Twenty-first century teaching is no longer about the four walls of the classroom. There was a time when a learner of English had to rely almost solely on what went on within those walls. A really motivated learner might have been able to listen to the BBC World Service, see a film in English and, if they could afford it, buy an English newspaper or book, but the teacher’s role in the students’ language learning was key – they were the fount of all knowledge, the model for the language, the ‘one true source’. The classroom provided the space for the once, perhaps twice weekly, forays into an English-speaking world.

But that was before the coming of the digital age. Now, thanks to the Internet and the advent of digital media, a shift is happening in language learning and it’s a time for teachers to be excited, to embrace their new roles, and to watch and help as learning English moves into a new era.

Any technophobes out there might be tempted to stop reading, but before you do, consider this. Teaching has always adapted to its circumstances methodologically and physically, moving from lecture to pair work and from translation to communication, for example. Likewise, we have always tried to make the best use of any materials that we could get our hands on – from slate to whiteboards, from hand-written postcards to authentic magazine articles, from radio recordings through to DVDs.

Why do we do this?  Because we realize our students have needs and interests that run beyond the classroom. If we can spark that interest, we spark motivation. A motivated student is a better learner. And the digital age has given us the greatest opportunity yet to motivate our learners so they will engage with English in a way that most interests them and best suits the way they learn.

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Three Question Interview – Shaun Wilden

We have asked top ELT authors the following 3 questions:

1. What’s your favourite ELT book?
2. What or who has had the biggest impact on ELT in the last 25 years?
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started out in ELT?

Here, Shaun Wilden answers these questions in a short interview:

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Shaun Wilden – “Making Digital Sense in the Classroom”

Reposted and edited from Shaun Wilden’s blog for Oxford University Press

This is a version of the talk I did at IATEFL on Saturday. The powerpoint is the same, I just sat and screen recorded myself this morning. It is about 30 minutes long as I edited bits and could not include the video clips I had in the talk. There is also a bit of a clumsy edit in part three for timing reasons. The websites I used for the talk follow the videos. Enjoy and if you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment.

Making Digital Sense in the Classroom – IATEFL 2010 talk

Part One

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Technology in the classroom – The teacher’s equivalent to Marmite?

Have you ever tried Marmite?  If so, did you like it? I have been asking teachers this question recently.  You’d be surprised at how many teachers around Europe have sampled this quintessentially British product (it’s a black yeast spread, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s lovely on toast).  For a simple product it divides the nation so much so that the advertising slogan for it is: “love it or hate it”.

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