I’ve been kindly asked to contribute a few words for this month’s blog edition. I have had the privilege of meeting many of you, though not all, so let me briefly introduce myself. Online I am known as the EdTech Didi and I blog at www.edtechdidi.com. I have my Masters of Educational Technology and am a Technology Integration Specialist. I have a passion for using technology in creative and innovative ways, especially to support education and learning. I work hard to help parents, students, and teachers use the best resources for their learning adventures.
We recently lived in Kathmandu for two years and I was able to assist in what I call “technology outreach” with several of the English Access Microscholarship centers throughout Nepal. I tried to expose teachers and students to technology basics that could support them in their English studies, and I tried to instill a broad overview of what 21st Century learning is all about. In my limited time with the students, and also within limited classroom connectivity, only so much was possible. Still, I tried to lay a foundation to help them realize that technology is much more than texting, Facebook, and YouTube, and that there are many tools to help them reach their educational goals.
Language Learning from Native Speakers
We currently reside in Washington, D.C., while my husband studies Kurdish, a language spoken in northern Iraq. In his profession he routinely receives language training before moving to a new country. Before we moved to Kathmandu, he studied Nepali for one year. The facility where he receives his training has 100,000 enrollees annually and offers courses in roughly 70 foreign languages
. As you can imagine, this is no small undertaking. If you roamed the halls, you might overhear phrases in Urdu, Thai, Swahili, Croatian, Hungarian, Chinese, Arabic, French, or Armenian. While there are many language learning models and strategies, one requirement for this particular program is that only native speakers are allowed to be instructors.
With larger world languages, there are many qualified candidates to choose from. With small and regional languages, however, sometimes it is difficult to find qualified instructors. With specialized languages or dialects, sometimes there are limited resources to use as course materials and instructors must rely on current newspapers, for example, instead of established textbooks. Sometimes the teacher hasn’t lived in his/her native country for many years and the vocabulary and issues have changed. Nonetheless, this model places significant importance on learning a language from a native speaker.
In Nepal, it is not feasible to utilize a similar methodology, so what can be done to help ensure that students learn English with the proper dialect and vocabulary?
Fortunately, there are many online resources and software that can help students be exposed to native English speakers. It is of critical importance that students are encouraged to use them and take advantage of such opportunity.
I created this Prezi with you in mind. It includes the problem, integration strategy, relative advantage, and the expected outcome for using each type of tool with the students. Various tools and resources are provided as links, such as:
Using the Internet for instruction, e.g. tutorials, eBooks, and videos
Tool software, e.g. word processing and presentations
Instructional software, e.g. vocabulary games and drill-and-practice activities
Productivity software, e.g. concept and word mapping to strengthen writing skills
Some other excellent resources are:
Voice of America: Includes lessons, videos, idioms, audio, and practice activities using current events.
Yale Center for Language Study: Links to various websites students can use to practice grammar, punctuation, spelling, slang, listening, speaking, writing, and reading.
There are a variety of other resources that can expose students to cultural awareness, values, and traditions as they explore the world “virtually” in a way they may not ever get to do otherwise. I am a Google Certified Teacher, which basically means I received some great training at Google’s offices and am an ambassador-of-sorts for the power of Google’s products in education. A few of my favorite resources are:
Google World Wonders Project: Virtually explore many of the great wonders of the world.
Google Art Project: Explore and experience many of the world’s great art museums
Here are two other virtual tours that help students “travel” to Washington, D.C., for example:
Interactive White House tour: Go inside the White House through photos and videos
National Museum of Natural History: Students may not be able to visit this Smithsonian, but you can download this interactive tour and learn as though they were there.
It is not possible to try everything, especially with limited computers, Internet access, and connectivity. However, with a little effort and determination, English language teachers can choose a few resources and technology tools that will greatly enhance student experiences and expose them to native English speakers. When used purposefully, technology can be very engaging and exciting for students. Teaching, especially teaching well, is not an easy task, but it is a crucial one if we are going to make a difference and ultimately change the world – one student at a time.
I wish you the best in all of your efforts with the wonderful students entrusted to your care. They truly are the future.
For more resources created with Access students and teachers in mind, please visit: http://www.edtechdidi.com/outreach.html