14 Aug 2013
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Selective use of technology best for language students

By Rebecca Wood

New Zealand language teachers need to be confident in their ability to selectively use technology, says a University of Canterbury language education expert.

Technology in the education sector is set to change with the delivery of ultra-fast broadband and N4L’s managed network, giving New Zealand classrooms full access to the benefits of streamed video and sound, podcasting, blogging, social media and access to cloud computing and open educational resources.

Una Cunningham, associate professor at the University of Canterbury, says teachers can use technology to enhance and facilitate students’ access to the language they are learning and communicative activities that are in line with current understanding of how languages are best learned.

"Language learning continues to work in the same way regardless of the technology available. The idea that you need to experience input in the target language and have ample opportunity to use the language for real communication still holds,” she says.

"There are many engaging ways to use technology to work towards this goal, yet a great many of the applications available for language learning in schools involve rote learning of vocabulary lists or drill-and-kill grammar exercises, which could have been lifted verbatim from the book I learned Spanish from in 1972.

"Computers are great at this and give tireless feedback, but this is not in tune with current thinking on how we learn languages. Let us not lose sight of our goals in our enthusiasm for technology-enhanced learning."

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