March 2020 was a time when all of humanity underwent a drastic change in what was considered ‘normal’. It was a time which brought with it great uncertainty for the future. What was supposed to be a two-week lockdown here in Greece, ended up being nearly three months. Social distancing was a new concept and a priority for people to be safe in the fight against the ‘invisible enemy’. Our only way to tackle this and to try to work or communicate with friends and family was with the use of technology. We were all accustomed to some form of technology being used in our daily life through the use of social media or emails, but now technology was thrust into every aspect of the average person’s life, whether young or old: in work, study and even in entertainment. Those who were already using technology in their daily life for work, only changed their settings and continued to be productive from their homes. Yet, in the case of schools, the situation was quite different. The majority of the learners were at home without having any form of education for at least one month. The concept of online lessons was unfamiliar to the majority of teachers and was met with hostility. Only when we realised that this unprecedented quarantine was to last for some time, did educators start to become aware that they too had to take advantage of technology and use it to their learners’ benefit. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and Webex were not that widely used became extensively well-known not only during that period, but even continue until today. Thus, Bill Gates was surprisingly correct in saying that “we are changing the world with technology” but we should add that technology helped change many of us.
What was used in the classroom to complement the teacher’s lesson, was now a vital tool for many students to be educated. Some educators welcomed the new norm and viewed it as a change of the times, while others considered it as a necessary evil. However, technology in the classroom should be seen in a positive light and should be exploited to its fullest potential to enhance learning. Our learners were already familiar with many gaming platforms being digital natives themselves, a term coined by Prensky in 2001, and were already using these platforms to communicate and socialize with each other prior to the pandemic, so it was only natural that teachers, most of whom are digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001 b), would need to rely on technology to deliver their lesson and to find ways which would exploit platforms or tools available so as to motivate the learners, and motivating learners under such circumstances was not easy.
Initially, choices regarding the use of technology in the classroom were made without proper vetting, often resulting in undesirable results. When implementing technology in the classroom, educators need to carefully decide on the lesson structure and delivery so that learners’ interest is stimulated, and knowledge is passed on. Having instant access to a plethora of information at the touch of a button, today’s learners want their time to be spent usefully and to feel that they are reaching their goal. For this reason, learner motivation and engagement are vital in obtaining learning. Lessons which fail to engage students into the learning experience result in withdrawn and uninterested learners. Careful lesson planning embraces and takes advantage of classroom technology fostering knowledge growth which leaves a lasting impression on learners.
Technology also enhances active student participation into lessons empowering them to make choices and develop accountability (CAST, n.d.). Technology can be used as a tool in completing assigned tasks in a non-traditional manner. The role of the teacher becomes that of the facilitator as opposed to being the central figure of the class, handing over the reins to the learners who will purposefully apply and create. This shift in dynamics and classroom roles may be difficult for the teacher, the digital immigrant, who lacks the necessary skills and struggles to understand how the learners’, the digital natives’, brains are wired differently due to exposure to the digital world from an early age. Research from UCLA supports that the brain of a digital native is more engaged when scrolling a webpage as opposed to reading a book (Crist, 2017). Thus, it is imperative for teachers to employ technology in their lessons, not only to keep up with the times nor to be considered popular amongst their learners, but because it is a necessity for their students’ learning.
Quality Language Learning Dynamics, QLL, is a framework which has technology in its centre according to Mercado in his book Technology for the language classroom published in 2017. As we can see from the diagram below, through this pedagogical framework, technology is the driving force which promotes motivation through interesting topics, movement due to seating options and how tasks are performed, and L2 output which ultimately leads to learner engagement and lesson efficiency. Learners stop being passive bystanders, but take control of their learning and become autonomous and competent. Apart from language skills, students are given the opportunity to learn and practise life skills which are essential for persevering outside classrooms and building a bright future. This framework can be applied not only in a face-to-face environment, but also in a blended or virtual setting catering for the needs of both children and adults.
Picture 1: QLL Dynamics Framework Triangle
There are multiple methodologies employing technology in the classroom such as project-based learning, game-based learning, flipped classroom, cooperative or peer-learning and problem-solving learning (Mattar & Ramos, 2019). They all have a common feature which is making lessons student-centered and tailored. As proposed by Tomlinson (2017), learners can form their own goals, structure steps towards achievement, and monitor their progress, eventually being led to practising L2 in a non-sterilised, scripted way. Content also plays a vital role in maintaining learner interest and preserving maximum attendance. It should be selected carefully and adapted to the needs of learners ensuring initiation and completion of the distinctive units within a course. Technology can help aid the learner achieve a particular task which they may have difficulty with by using targeted programmes available.
When designing lessons implementing technology objectives shall again be based on Bloom’s Taxonomy where thinking skills are grouped into six categories, from lower to higher. However, now we should also consider Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy that reflects and takes into account the technological aspect as to what learners can do or create in a digitally enhanced environment. Bloom’s Taxonomy bridges the gap between what students already know with what they need to learn to achieve a higher level of knowledge and understanding (Persaud, 2021).
Picture 2: Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
CAST. (2021). CAST: About Universal Design for Learning. Www.cast.org. https://www.cast.org/impact/universal-design-for-learning-udl
Crist, C. (2017). On the Mind: What Science Says About Digital Natives. Https://Www.semel.ucla.edu/Longevity/News/Mind-What-Science-Says-About-Digital-Natives. https://www.semel.ucla.edu/longevity/news/mind-what-science-says-about-digital-natives
Mattar, J., & Ramos, D. K. (2019). Active Methodologies and Digital Technologies. International Journal of Innovation Education and Research, 7(3), 01-12. https://doi.org/10.31686/ijier.vol7.iss3.1156
Mercado, L. A. (2017). Technology for the Language Classroom. London Macmillan Education Uk.
Persaud, C. (2018, August 14). Bloom’s Taxonomy | The Ultimate Guide To Bloom’s. Top Hat. https://tophat.com/blog/blooms-taxonomy/
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 2: Do They Really Think Differently? On the Horizon, 9(6), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424843
Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms (3rd ed.). Alexandria, Va Ascd.
I am Lisa Kollias. I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia by Greek parents. I moved to Greece and studied English Literature at Deree College in Athens where I obtained my BA. Ever since, I have been teaching English to students of all ages and all walks of life. Coming across Unicert College, offering the MA in TESOL from Stratffordshire, came at the right time as it is a programme which offers knowledge given by exceptional instructors.