Join me at the forthcoming IATEFL conference in Glasgow, where (on Tuesday 4th April 2017) I will give a talk titled “What is the teacher necessary for?“.
Bearing in mind the massive technological progress of the past two decades, and the outcomes of Sugata Mitra’s “hole in the wall” experiment, one may start to wonder whether in near future teachers may become expendable in language learning. In my talk I will reflect on the tasks that the language teacher performs. Clearly, a good proportion of work carried out in class can indeed be realised independently by the students, especially when they have on-line access to virtually unlimited language material, both spoken and written, as well as to electronic dictionaries, internet forums, specially designed apps etc. On the other hand, certain activities cannot be done as effectively without the teacher’s support, and Sugata Mitra’s experiment also confirms that there are limitations to what language learners can achieve on their own. It is increasingly accepted that language training is more effective and enjoyable when it engages the learner’s motor skills, as well as when it makes good use of affordances (i.e. language learning opportunities existing in the learner’s linguistic environment), and when it provides some coaching on the learner’s study skills. I will suggest that in delivering this more appreciated sort of language training the newly available technology is our ally, rather than competitor, and I will look at how it can be harnessed to take the teacher’s job to a new level.