Unit One: Use New Technologies Support Language Learning




Language classrooms have always used technologies of various kinds, in recent decades, there has been an exlopsion in the resources available to teachers, to the point where many feel overwhelmed.( Kervin, L. & Derewianka, B. 2011) This mini-course does not attempt to provide a comprehensive view of the technologies, because the rapid change of its development will easily make the resources out of date and meaningless. Rather, this mini-course, teachers need to know that we are seeking for the practical and useful input borrowed from these electronic learning materials to support and improve students’ learning process.

Blake (2008) describes the successful technology-enhanced FL curriculum as students-centered, carefully planned, technically well supported, and most importantly, pedagogically well constructed. ( Kervin, L. & Derewianka, B.2011)

In learning Foreign language there are always for main aspects, Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing, it is a common sense that if a learner can use what he/she learned (daily communication) it will largely increase the learner’s motivation. So according these four aspects, this mini course will introduce some technologies which can be integrated in teaching.

Unit Objectives and Assessments

  • Teachers will be able to demonstrate the history of technology support language learning.
  • Teachers can realize the importance and necessity of integrating technology into language learning.
  • Teachers will show the ability to use computer, and search information on line to support their class curriculum.
  • Learners will be able to understand the benefits of technology supported teaching method.

History of Technology and Language Learning

Virtually every type of language teaching has had its own technologies to support it. Language teachers who followed the grammar-translation method (in which the teacher explained grammatical rules and students performed translations) relied on one of the most ubiquitous technologies in U.S. education, the blackboard?a perfect vehicle for the one-way transmission of information that method implied. The blackboard was later supplemented by the overhead projector, another excellent medium for the teacher-dominated classroom, as well as by early computer software programs which provided what were known as "drill-and-practice" (or, more pejoratively, "drill-and-kill") grammatical exercises.

In contrast, the audio-tape was the perfect medium for the audiolingual method (which emphasized learning through oral repetition). University language classes in the 1970s and '80s usually included obligatory sessions at the audio lab where students would perform the dreaded repetition drills.

By the late 1970s, the audiolingual method fell into disrepute, at least in part due to poor results achieved from expensive language laboratories. Whether in the lab or in the classroom, repetitive drills which focused only on language form and ignored communicative meaning achieved poor results.

The 1980s and 1990s have seen a shift toward communicative language teaching, which emphasizes student engagement in authentic, meaningful interaction. Within this general communicative trend, we can note two distinct perspectives, both of which have their implications in terms of how to best integrate technology into the classroom. These can roughly be divided into cognitive approaches and sociocognitive approaches.

Four ways Technology Enhances Language Learning

1. Increased Time on Task

Question: If the average university student spends 240 hours in the language classroom over a four-year period, and the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State estimates that English speakers need 575-600 hours of study to achieve a low-advanced rating in a Category 1 language (i.e. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch), what is missing? Answer: Approximately 360 hours of language instruction and exposure. For students of a Category 4 language such as Mandarin Chinese, 500 hours merely guides you to a mid-intermediate level. Needless to say, learners at every level of any language must spend more time practicing the L2.

Technology provides a way to minimize common classroom limitations such as short class periods. For example, when the student/teacher ratio acts a limiting factor, technology can step in and lend students access to authentic language produced by native speakers of various origins. Videos, podcasts and other media give students the option to rewind and review material over and over again. Mobile apps such as FlashCardz for iPhone allow students to become more autonomous learners outside the classroom and to capitalize on individual learning styles. Indeed, technology creates opportunities to spend increased amounts of time on language learning tasks.

2. Contextualization

Today’s technologies – by imitating and constructing associations, sounds, sights and social settings – also provide L2 learners with language in context. When we are able to link a language to a context (to an experience), we have a better chance of recalling the linguistic information to which we were exposed. To this extent, multimedia serves the important purpose of combining everything from audio and video to static pictures and texts to create contextualized learning environments. E-mails, spreadsheets, and word processing are other examples of “contexts” that can and should be applied to language teaching because they help students form associations.

3. Authentic Chunks

According to many experts, the best way to retain vocabulary in one’s L2 is to learn the small phrases, or chunks, in which native speakers often use the lexical item(s) of interest. Many classrooms focus too heavily on individual parts that ultimately become isolated from real speech. Technology, however, is able to compensate by making learners aware of the ways in which certain lexical and grammatical elements are grouped together. At Voxy, we try to draw learners’ attention to such chunks and collocations by highlighting them in our online texts.

4. Additional Input and Intake

Researchers have started to indicate that input – the exposure to both spoken and written samples of a language, whether comprehended or not – is no longer enough for students. This input, they say, must be converted into intake: the comprehended input that helps to further develop students’ linguistic systems. Technology provides a way not only to increase language input but also to enhance the process of converting input into intake.

Imagine the process of gathering online information for an upcoming presentation. This process requires that one access, read and sift through large amounts of information (input) in order to choose what is most important. For language learners, it is precisely this process of consciously and purposefully filtering through large amounts of input that ensures the input-to-intake conversion. A simple worksheet assignment hardly has the same effect.


Kervin, L., & Derewianka, B. (2011). 13 New technologies to support language learning. Materials development in language teaching, 328.

Warschauer, M., & Meskill, C. (2000). Technology and second language learning. In J. Rosenthal (Ed.), Handbook of undergraduate second language education (pp. 303-318). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

4 Ways Technology Enhances Language Learning (2010) http://voxy.com/blog/index.php/2010/12/four-ways-in-which-technology-enhances-language-learning/

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