Technology in the EFL Classroom: A Reflection on Nick Cherkas’ Workshop
By Ikram Abdelhamid Benzouine
Morocco World News
Casablanca, December 16, 2012
On May 02, 2011,I attended a workshop conducted by Nick Cherkas at the ENS in Rabat, whose goal was to recommend the use of technology in EFL classrooms. My objective was to excel my savoir faire about the uses and usages of technology with my EFL learners. The workshop was intended for answering two key inquiries: Why and how to use technologies in an EFL classroom? – Seeing that computers and language teaching have walked hand to hand for a long time and contributed as teaching tools in the language classroom, I was eager to be more knowledgeable about this unpredicted twofold correlation between language learning/teaching and technology.
“Why use technology?” was the initial question we, the teacher-trainee addressees, had to dwell on. Based upon the fruitful discussion that was triggered, I have come to apprehend a number of substantial grounds that are likely to motivate the implementation of ICT in Moroccan language classroom. To start with, and most importantly, technology helps teachers keep pace with learners’ expectations and likings.
From my short experience, I learnt that students enjoyed my use of certain youth-germane pictures, by means of my own laptop. As an illustration, when I projected the picture of Angelina Jolie doing a voluntary work, students were excited to tell me about her latest movies and her active world-wide-based accomplishments. That mere picture not only triggered their liking but also managed to introduce them to the actual lesson which dealt with ‘International Organizations’. In other words, technology is an efficient tool to improve productivity, getting rid of repetitive and mindless tasks. This paves the way to Mr. Cherkas’ argument which maintained that the use of ICT makes the classroom a more relevant environment to teenage students.
Thus, teachers would guarantee a better rapport with students given that the deployment of technology breaks the circle of traditional teaching which is copious teacher-oriented. Additionally, language educators should be equipped with the necessary tools to teach life skills over and above teaching and practicing language. Hence, classrooms are hopefully to be the “myspace” that students frequent and enjoy, for they will be given chance to guess, raise questions and share/exchange viewpoints about the picture/video under-focus.
With regard to the second question, I also deduced how to best implement ICT in the classroom. We first were introduced to the use of offline tools, namely Word processors. Teachers with limited expertise in teaching with technology can begin progressively to incorporate computer activities with texts and pictures in a productive and elaborate way. Offline tools will also offer great visual aids as well as listening and reading inputs through PowerPoint presentations. The offline computer tool can also help teachers consult lesson plans while being in class instead of printing it, which will enable teachers to look more professional in front of students. More to the point, personal computers are -and always will be- a great resource, seeing that they offer the possibility of playing a video or audio files, showing images, recording voice for pronunciation practice and internet site contents to add relevance to the class.
Besides offline tools, Mr. Cherkas enriched our awareness about the possibility of employing certain online tools. What I liked most was the use of websites, blogs, wikis and podcasts. They are interesting seeing that they inform about how to find information for classroom activities, which makes a difference between authentic and teacher- created materials. Online tools will also provide ideas for classroom plans and, very importantly, tips for high or low achieving students, needless to mention those ideas that are meant for classes with different proficiency levels. For example, I can use online reference tools to look at online resources as dictionaries, thesauruses, translators, corpuses and encyclopaedias which I may want to consult along with the adopted textbooks.
Last of all, I conclude these reflections with the quote Mr. Cherkas referred to: “The real knowledge gap lies in the application of new technology” –Gordon Lewis. Hence, because we live with and by technology, it can be assumed that it is time to look at ICT as an integral part of (language) education rather relying on text-based approach to teaching.