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Introduction

The development of technology has a
major impact on all areas of contemporary life. It offers people many
opportunities to learn, share and improve ourselves independently and actively.
It is a big change which gives learners as well as teachers chances to take up
and create new trend in education. To be more specific, there are some aspects
for us to focus on.

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Opportunities to facilitate
learning and teaching in contemporary times

            Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) has been becoming an integral part of education. The Internet
provides great sources of information for students wherever and whenever they
can connect to the online world. In the 21st century learning, students
are equipped with not only skills for learning and innovation, but also skills
for information, media and technology. Modern-day students are known as digital
natives who are “native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language
of computers, video games, and the Internet” (Prensky, 2005, p.8 as cited in
Martin, 2011, p.30).

According to Jonassen, Howland, Marra, & Crismond (2008),
there are many opportunities for teachers to facilitate effective learning to
digital natives in contemporary times by applying technology. First of all, technology
is a tool to support knowledge construction. Learners can represent their
ideas, understandings, and beliefs; moreover, they can produce organized,
multimedia knowledge bases by their own. Secondly, technology helps learners
explore knowledge to support learning by constructing. Students can look up and
access needed information easily and comparing their perspective, beliefs, and
worldviews. Thirdly, technology gives authentic context by representing and
stimulating meaningful real-world problems, situations, and contexts. Next,
technology provides social medium for learners to collaborate with others, to
discuss, argue, and build relationship among members of a community. They are
also described as the “collaboration generation” (Tapscott & Williams,
2008). Finally, technology helps learners to reflect on what they have learned
and how they came to know it and to support thinking. Besides, Bowman (2015)
stated that digital natives in future classroom have to achieve a variety of
complementary capabilities: connecting, speaking, listening, leading, and
writing. They will be not only active but also skillful to meet the social
requirements.

Using technology gives students freedom
to discover solutions for problems both independently and collaboratively. However,
teacher should be used as a supplement to normal teaching instead of replacing
for it (Higgins, Xiao, &
Katsipataki, 2012). The
opportunities of online learning and the combination of open educational
resources and other technologies can raise educational productivity. We can
strive for students to engage to achieve the learning outcomes for each
student’s level by different new kinds of teaching such as virtual or online
learning, full-time online schools, and digital resources. In other words,
Selwyn highlighted that “teachers still have a valuable authoritative role in
educating, informing, managing and directing the technological activities of
children and young people.”

ICT and teaching language in Tien
Giang province context

Nguyen (2015, p.106, p.119) conducted a
survey on school facilities for ICT in the schools in Tien Giang province. The
survey showed that there are not many ICT facilities in primary and secondary
schools, but high schools received more equipment. The reasons for this lack of
facilities for teaching are financial autonomy and teachers have not been
trained to use digital technologies in the classroom. In terms of competence
with ICT, most of the teachers used ICT facilities at their schools or homes
for preparing lessons and searching the Internet. Simultaneously, some teachers
used computers for online communications and e-mails. As for expectations for
future professional development, all teachers want to apply technology in
lesson plans and class activities. From the opposed point of view, the
implementation of ICT mission in this province will be based on computer-based
or digital technology.     

Applying technologies in my
teaching context

            I am now working as an English
teacher at a language center and as a tutor at home. My classes are located in
Tien Giang province which is belonged to Mekong Delta. Although we still lack
of technologies or supporting devices, I have conducted some successful lessons
based on technology-based teaching. Because I am teaching a various kind of
students, I can experience how technologies can affect positively to the
process of teaching in different students’ levels.

            Firstly, using Youtube is a great
idea to maximize the engagement of students to attain the intended learning
outcomes, especially with kindergarten and kids. For example, the students can
sing songs, read out alphabets, watch short cartoons and make role-play. It
seems that the lessons are more interesting, attractive and easy to understand.
Moreover, it also changes the ways students get information, acquire knowledge
and expose to authentic language sources. For example, to adult learners, they
can watch how the real language is used in life and find the cultural
differences between two countries as the attraction to explore. They can also
find the online lessons instructed by native teachers as their references,
follow the most popular trends over the world and update the global news. To
help my students improve their listening skill, I often require them to find
interesting videos by their own, dictate, summarize and present it in front of
class as homework. After being familiar with this method, students have shown
their improvement in listening skill, speaking skill and vocabulary competence.
 

            Secondly, social networks including
Facebook and Zalo are effective in teaching and group discussion. Due to the
limit of time in class, I have created some groups for my students where they
can continue to access to lessons and further related discussions. By
communicating in these groups, the gap between teacher and students is closer
than before. I can understand what they still not understand and which contents
they find attractive during class time. To me, it is a great chance to revise
my teaching methods and techniques. Besides, some of students had taken
pictures which were related to the previous lessons such as pieces of pizza and
posted in the topic “Food” to share with friends. Others posted some English
sentences or slogans that they misunderstood and asked for more explanation.
Because these groups are private, we can have a free space to bring all things
outside class into lessons or vice versa without any pressure. Before important
examinations, especially the national entrance exams, when my students were
extremely stressful, we had made a group video call to review the key points,
language focus and common mistakes. On the other hand, I could conduct
successfully several guided class journals by asking students to write as daily
diary. After a period of time, their writing skill had improved a lot in terms
of fluency. As for speaking skill, in addition to the practice in class, I frequently
asked them to record vocabulary for each unit to check their pronunciation and
give feedback. In this circumstance, they did not feel shy to speak out and
reduced the percentages of losing face in front of classes, even the passive
ones. The students seemed to pay more attention to the pronunciation, stresses
and tones of itself words and sentences. It seems that they feel at ease during
class time and practice more because they could be supported even after school.

            Thirdly, for testing and assessment,
Google Forms is one of the most useful and practical tools that I am very
interested in. Comparing to the tests/quizzes conducted in class by paper
forms, this technology gives both teachers and learners a much more convenient
way. To students, they can take the tests comfortably to reflect on what the
learned for each lesson regardless of space and location they are. After the
tests, they can receive immediately results and answers to see their mistakes
and learn from it. To teachers, Google Forms allows me to provide a full
formative assessment with the useful technical support such as adding images
and videos to check students’ listening and writing skills. Moreover, after
each tests, I can receive the results and calculated percentages for separate
parts to analyze and evaluate whether the process of teaching and learning is good
or not.  

            Recently I have completed an online
course called Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE). With the Office 365 system,
MIE program is built for teachers and students with full of powerful
technological tools. For example, by using OneNote, I can put all my class
materials and organize it as a digital notebook; simultaneously, I can bring
students together in collaborative space or giving them individual support in
private notebooks within Class Notebook. Although this program is being
popularized, I think it is a synchronous way to delivery productive lessons
effectively.

            The effects of connectivist theories on
teaching context

            According to Siemens (2014), connectivism
theory is the learning theory in digital age which applies technology
capability in teaching and learning in the field of e-learning. It has a great
impact on choosing the new changes in my teaching context. Based on the
principles of connectivism, there are some positive effects that inform the
chosen technologies.        

            The students obtain knowledge by
sharing, chatting and posting a diversity of opinions on “networked learning” (Darrow,
2009). By using Facebook and Zalo to communicate and interact with friends,
students can easily share individual opinions in group discussions and make
improvement in school. It is a great combination of connecting a wealth of
information sources and collaborative learning. Students are motivated to learn
from their peers online receive and give feedback to one another. In my
opinion, it is one of the models of blended learning in which students can
achieve learning objectives through a combination of face-to-face and online
communication to delivery lesson. This learning model lets my students have
more time to spend your time on their interests based on what they had learned
in class. It enables me to rethink about my teaching methodology to stimulate
interest in students and help them develop self-directed learning skills as
well as digital literacy. Similarly, the learning environment has changed from
inside to outside classroom and vice versa. This opens for us to create a
common place to expose the language. On the hand, critical thinking is a great
impact of connectivist theories on students’ learning. In terms of assessment,
students have changed from traditional paper test forms into online assessment
like Google Forms. It requires students think more logically and actively,
especially they can solve the problems based on what they learn than just
answer the pointed answers. Besides, with the massive resources such Wikipedia,
Google, and Youtube, students can be free to explore the target language than
observe passively all time in class. 

            Conclusion

            To sum up, digital literacy and
technology-enhanced learning and teaching are becoming new educational trend in
the 21st century. The key to future success of digital natives will
focus on developing a critical thinking and problem solving skills for
life-long learning in technological environment. As future educators, I should
prepare skills and knowledge for students to be global citizens for the demands
of social life in digital age.  

           

 

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