I’m here at CCN Arctic Think Tank – Talking the Future: Languages in Education, a two day conference in Levi, Lapland. The weather is well below freezing and the landscape from the conference window looks pretty awesome. It was great to think about ideas with a horizon like this.
Here are some notes I just produced with Emily Rosser from Macmillan Education, UK and Oliver Meyer from Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany regarding the future of online tools in language education.
Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications
Everything that can become digital, will rapidly become digital. Everything that could be automated by computers, will be automated. The amount of information in explicit form is increasing exponentially. We are moving towards an age of transparency: people produce user-generated content in the form of status updates in social networks, videos, interactive content, podcasts, blog posts, links and commentary.
The dynamic web fueled by social media is affecting content in real-time. New approaches to information visualization and categorization (e.g. with bottom-up categorization methods like tagging) are needed. Approaches like commons-based peer production enabled by technical architectures of participation in combination with open content licensing schemes (e.g. Creative Commons) changes the role of consumers into active participants – or prosumers.
The hardware capabilities, internet access, content production, content distribution and underlying educational methodologies are constantly improving and changing. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift regarding online learning. Traditional books are becoming non-linear, embedded in the very fabric of the network architecture. Paid content alone is no longer relevant enough. Publishers need to come up with added value services, extending their offering and role beyond traditional realms.
Technology takes content out of the classroom to the very context where learning happens. Smart internet enabled technologies will be embedded in our environment on e.g. walls and tabletops. Portable devices like e-book readers, tablets and next generation mobile computers make content available and integrated to the environment everywhere and anytime.
Opportunities for Language Education
Digital content and delivery will help enrich the pillars of language learning:
1. Enrich input
Content that should be made available to teachers and learners needs to make full use of the multi-sensory potential that digital formats and digital delivery offer to facilitate language intake. It also allows to deal with different learning styles.
2. Enhance interaction
New forms of communication allow instant cooperation between teams within a class and beyond.
3. Provide opportunities for dynamic output
Microblogging, tweeting, social networking and other Web 2.0 applications provide an authentic setting for output and communicative tasks in real-time.
4. Tailor scaffolding to individual needs
Non-linear learning environments allow for various kinds of scaffolding with respect to different learning styles and individual preferences.
5. Provide continuous and end-of-task assessment to give individualized feedback and offer individual learning pathways
Teacher qualification and new literaricies:
The increasing amount of available information will make it paramount for teachers to know how to select quality materials in the appropriate format. Teachers and/or material writers will need to design scaffolding and communicatively and cognitively challenging tasks around any available content. Teachers have to become literate in digital technologies.
Ideas for facilitating the above:
- Development of a hub for teachers to link them to quality resources, planning and assessment tools online (e.g. to join an interconnected web of learners online).
- Development of a hub for students which gives them access to resources and tips on how to make best use of new communication tools (e.g. to build a personal learning environment).
- Personalized, flexible and delocalized online training services.