THE IMPACT OF COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY ON LANGUAGE LEARNING
Far from diminishing the human element in the learning process, the advent of computer technology as an integral part of language learning provides an opportunity to reflect upon and implement principles that enhance the learner’s status and expand the teacher’s role.
Most teachers would probably agree on how:
• Respecting learners` particular needs and learning habits increases their learning potential;
• Learner self-esteem and involvement foster learning efficiency; and
• The best use of a teacher’s time is not to teach vocabulary and grammar or provide listening practice, but to foster speech production and live interaction.
Now, paradoxically, the use of computer technology can enable precisely these features to be developed by providing the means to create a learning environment in which each learner or learning group can select speed, level and content to suit their specific learning needs and styles.
‘Guided freedom would be a feature of intelligent CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning), where the program would make suggestions, but the learner would make the choices.’ (Warschauer & Healey 1998)
At the same time, the teacher’s role expands beyond being a provider and assessor of knowledge and know-how (i.e. someone in front of the class) to being also a coordinator of media and a tutor (i.e. someone who is also in the midst of his/her learners).
Teachers become freer to use their time more efficiently by devoting their time to:
• Facilitating communicative oral activities;
• Assisting those learners who need their support most; and
• Discussing effective learning strategies.
Experience shows how the proper use of technological tools can be an extraordinary means of generating peer discussion, knowledge exchange, curiosity, motivation and relaxation: all prerequisites of effective learning.
These values are inherent in the content-based, blended-learning English for Aviation Safety courseware designed by AES. The flexibility, availability and depth of relevant informational content of its web-based training mean that learners come to the classroom for the Intensive Speaking Seminars ready to use their time to the full in communicative interaction, putting into practice the skills, knowledge and know-how they have acquired at their own pace.
Especially for pilots and controllers, learning English is not primarily about learning a language; it is learning how to perform certain essential functions in English in a timely and efficient manner.
Philip Shawcross is Director of Training Curriculum at AES.
* ICAO Document 9835: Manual on the Implementation of the ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements