Our position on technology

The short version: we love it.  Hence this blog!

Not what I expected to find in a “Rural Lifestyles Museum” in Brittany…

The slightly longer version: We believe that there is plenty to gain from principled, competent and creative use of technological opportunities for language learning purposes.  Whether these be IWBs, mobile phones, Web 2.0 stuff like Twitter, SL, etc, we can imagine useful things to do with it in a “materials-light” classroom.  Technologies like these present opportunities and are too rich a resource to be scorned.  Dogme ELT’s eschewing of anything that did not naturally occur “on location” in the classroom did not foresee the extent to which such technologies would become ubiquitous and, for many people, irremovable parts of our social lives and environments.  Our students bring many technologies with them into our shared spaces (i.e. classrooms) all the time in the form of mobile phones, laptops, and the associated software affordances: it would be foolish to reject such opportunities out of hand.

We also believe that, useful as it is,  it is important that technology not become the tail wagging the Dog(me).  Technology is a tool, and a tool should be subordinate to its user, not vice versa.  Technologies should not (and, under healthy circumstances, cannot) dictate content or work processes, they should enable them.  The degree to which this occurs is a function of the competence of the learners and the teachers using them, but not of the technology in itself.  In this respect we agree with many commentators, like Gavin Dudeney and Vance Stevens, who have made this point before us.

However, we also believe that as the prerequisite for intelligent use of technology for language learning purposes is a sound grasp of pedagogic principles and practice in general, it seems fair to say that a good teacher will be able to make good use of technology in their lessons given the opportunity, but a bad teacher won’t.  Furthermore, as many still current teaching contexts exist where ready access to such technological affordances such as workstations, laptops, mobile phones and network coverage, reliable broadband connections, IWBs (all, specifically, within the classroom space) does not exist, we feel it is important to enable our trainees to learn, first and foremost, to be comfortable operating in a minimal environment.  This represents the “worst-case scenario” from a resources perspective.  If trainees on our courses are comfortable in this environment by the end of a course with us, we feel we have done our job and them a service.  This is because with the skills and perspective that materials-light teaching offers them, we believe it is more likely that they will comfortably add ways of using available technologies to their skill-set, whereas learning to live without is hard.

As helping people become good teachers in a short space of time is our business, we prefer to focus, therefore, on approaches to technology-light classrooms and lessons in our training courses.

This is not to say that we discourage our beginning teachers from using technology in their lessons, simply that we do not force them.  Becoming comfortable with becoming a teacher is ample challenge for many beginning teachers.

There are other, less philosophical, reasons why we do not place heavy emphasis on use if technology in our courses.  Firstly, we are not heavily resourced in this respect. Second, some initially attractive technological aids are unfeasible due to set up/break down time (in shared classrooms with small get in/get out time windows.  Thirdly, we are enthusiasts but not experts in this area.  None of these reasons validate avoidance of emphasising technology use by beginning teachers, but it does explain it.

We feel sad about the unnecessarily polarised conflict which occasionally flares up between those purporting to support Dogme principles and those purporting to support uses of technology in ELT.  For us, there is no conflict.

Next, we will outline our take on recent discussions of Dogme and “native-speakerism”/eliteism.

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