Should the CELTA have more about technology in it?

So Gavin Dudeney seems to be arguing in this recent piece of his in the Guardian:

No place in class for digital illiterates

I just can’t see how more technology in the CELTA could be practical or useful. It’s difficult enough to learn the stuff on the course as it is, and it seems impossible to choose which technology should be introduced when all schools they later teach in will have different stuff and most schools will have none. Probably the main candidate would be the interactive whiteboard, and I shudder to think of a generation of TEFL teachers who have been taught to rely on an IWB from day one, even in the unlikely case they move straight on to schools equipped with them.

As things stand, if a trainee wants to use a digital voice recorder or video camera in their practice classes and can think of a good way of doing so, I would imagine a trainer would let them, just like they let me do one of my CELTA classes 15 years ago with a stack of magazines. I’m also fairly sure that trainers wouldn’t ban ideas using technology when talking about how to teach particular language points. That shows exactly the right attitude to technology in class – you work out what you want to do and then you use technology if it is the best way to do so. Other times I have found that the best thing to use was a beachball or some paper cups, and they didn’t show me how to use them on the CELTA either.

It might also be argued that some people who pass the CELTA could still do with some help with their more traditional forms of literacy…

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8 Responses to Should the CELTA have more about technology in it?

  1. Simon Thomas says:

    Yes, I’m not quite sure what Gavin Dudeney is on about in that article: surely you adapt available technology to suit your class and the language points you are introducing or revising; and he seems to ignore the large majority of people (teachers, students, …) around the world who have little interest in computer-based technology and little to no competence in using it – of course, this shouldn’t preclude them from learning a language.

    That said, looking back on it, the content of the CELTA course doesn’t seem to reflect many common teaching situations anyway: it surprises me that there is no focus on teaching children, teenagers, or businesspeople, when this is likely to be a significant part of your job if you work outside the UK. I’m also surprised there isn’t much focus on career development, how to develop as a teacher after initial qualification, how to market yourself as a qualified English teacher, and so on – yet these would seem to be extremely useful to learn.

    What do you reckon?

    All best wishes

    Simon

  2. Hi Alex,

    I am sorry you feel like that about introducing technology on CELTA courses.

    I am also quite sorry that a lot of current CELTA tutors feel the same way and protest its use – most of them are not comfortable with using technology at all (as was evidenced in a recent study of mine which was published in *Integrating Technology on Initial Training Courses: A Survey Amongst CELTA Tutors International Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning and Teaching (IJCALLT), April-June 2011, Vol. 1, No.2
    http://www.igi-global.com/Files/Ancillary/3b91f667-1863-46da-86c5-b262b319bafc_2155-7098_1_2_Preface.pdf (apologies but this is not a free journal – still you can read a summary in Graham Stanley’s preface to the edition)

    Most likely you were taught by a tutor who felt exactly like this – and please don’t get me wrong here because I was also trained in pre-digital times.

    But I was willing to learn and I did learn and I was interested in how best to integrate it and I did find a way.

    I wonder whether you yourself have any experience of training CELTA candidates or whether all your writings about the CELTA are based on your own experiences of 15 years ago. Hence, the shuddering.

    Do have a look at this blog post :

    http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/2011/11/21/a-little-often-integrating-technology-on-teacher-development-courses/

    I’m sorry if my comment seems like I am blowing my own trumpet. This is not the case at all.

    I’m just very worried that a voice as big as yours will make all the technophobic CELTA tutors who haven’t changed a single handout in the last 15 years feel quite happy in their refusal to learn anything new.

    I have encountered several of them in the guise of tutor or assessor who know zilch about technology make similar pronouncements.

    I’ll side with Gavin. I think if we don’t learn and teach edtech as a normal teaching tool, and if we don’t show these teachers how to make good decisions when to use or not use it, we are really shortchanging our candidates and whether they will need it in class or not is truly a moot point.

    They might never need to design a test, so then let’s not teach them the principles of testing …. and so on and so forth.

    Marisa Constantinides
    CELT Athens

  3. I think what’s needed in the whole debate about the technology in ELT in general (not just Celta) is a little balance.

    It seems to me that ELT methodology seems to be repeating the same old cycle at the moment of discovering something new, then going at it full-pelt until it becomes all anyone speaks about at conference and the ‘baby gets thrown out with the bathwater’ so to speak, before realising that it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. The fact remains that language learning is so much more complicated than that. Look back over the history of methodological development in ELT and that’s what you find time and time again – audiolingualism, humanistic approaches, CLT, TBL, Lexis, etc.

    It’s interesting that these ‘fads’ in ELT all have one thing in common – they’re almost always pushed by teachers and educators with their own agendas, and almost never arise from asking the learners what they want/need. Look at translation for a very good example of this.

    While I agree that some form of technology is essential in today’s classrooms, as we are now fully – fledging participants of a digital age, it’s important now to forget real, methodological change, too. What about Language Play theories? These are fully compatible with the use of technology, yet seem to have been pushed to the wayside somewhat by an obsession with technology.

    It saddens me somewhat when I go to a conference nowadays and almost all the large talks are about technology. More recently I was at one the speaker began by saying ‘Are teachers afraid of technology, or afraid of change?’ which I have to say I found quite patronising being a teacher and not afraid of either.

    Another classic case is the situation in Brazil over the last few years where one very large institution invested heavily in installing IWBs in the class, and in an effort to make sure teachers used them, removed all the traditional whiteboards (immediately gone were all those student-centred board races, etc.). Now, a few years on, they have obviously found their teachers have become predictably teacher/screen centred, playing whole-class flash games on the board, while the quieter, more intrapersonal learners sit in the corner staring out of the window. Interestingly, they have now started a new campaign (part of which involved bringing me and another local trainer in) to encourage teachers to moving away from relying too much on the board and technology.

    So (deep breath!) while technology is important, it is not the be-all-and-end-all, and when it gets to the point where it starts stifling real, innovative creativity in applied linguistics then we have to reassess how far we’re taking it.

    It’s all about the balance, I say. And asking the learners what they want.

  4. Alex Case says:

    Hi Marisa

    I haven’t had time to read your post yet, but little and often is kind of what I say in this post. When you do a session on things (resources) you can use in the classroom, of course you should mention everything, including technology. And when you brainstorm ways of practising Present Continuous, of course you should accept (and maybe prompt) some ideas using technology. If you are the perfect TEFL elicitation machine that I was when I was a (Via-Lingua) 4 week cert trainer, it really doesn’t matter what your attitude to technology is it depends on the candidates you get, the same as the way one of my trainees came up with the idea of TEFL Twister without me in any way approving of that silly 80s dinner party game.

    I still think no actual sessions specifically on technology are needed, however, just as no sessions on using video were needed back when that was our most high tech thing. As Simon says, far more important things that are more difficult to pick up on your own are already left out. And I am absolutely sure that trainees should under no circumstances touch an IWB during at least their first three weeks of the course, and probably at all.

  5. Alex Case says:

    PS

    So you know where I’m coming from, I’m certainly not afraid of technology – I’m a physics graduate who started computing with the Sinclair ZX81 and within two weeks of starting with an IWB I was showing some other people how to use it. I’ve also written a fair few articles on the topic.

  6. I’m with Alex on this one – little often, and also as necessary. On the current course I’m working on, we use technology in every input session, without drawing unnecessary attention to it (even my 70-year-old colleague) e.g. we had a session last week on teaching one-to-one where I showed how you can tether a phone to have portable internet on your laptop, or by using the IWB and it’s features, different web tools, etc. as loop input. By not having a whole session on it, you avoid making it into too much of a big thing, and just using tech for tech’s sake. This in turn avoids forcing Ss/Ts to use it when it isn’t necessary. Much in the same way (though conversely) as many pencil and paper exams lose face validity when pushed on teens who would rather do them online.

    The obvious exception is the online Delta I work on, but even then trainees pick things up more as and when they need them rather than during the orientation session.

  7. @Damian, “a little and often” as well as “without much fuss and ado” is what my blog post is all about.

    Trainees pick up technology when it’s not the main focus but it serves the content.

    @Alex, thanks for responding. I hope you understand the spirit of my comment. As a CELTA and DELTA course provider, I have seen how difficult it is to find tutors who can use technology confidently, well and when and where it is needed, not just for its sake.

  8. Marisa, I didn’t see your blog post. I’ll take a look now. Guess I’m feeling a bit jaded on the course I’m on now what with having exactly the opposite problem – trying to ‘wean’ teachers away from the screen and hand over to the Ss a bit more.

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