The importance of ICT in language learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is one for the issues that divides the world: the digital divide. In the richer countries, schools can afford, or are supplied with, infrastructure, hardware and software, that develop generations of e-literate students, highly advantaged in the new technology. In the poorer countries, school administrators may be without electricity, let alone sufficient bandwidth, or students with personally-owned laptops.
ICT has the potential to transform learning in and beyond the classroom. It can also in certain circumstances transcend previous limitations of space and time. Some of the perceived benefits to learners are:
• students can access enormous amounts of information quickly;
• students can work at their own pace;
• special needs, both remedial and extension, can be offered during the same lesson;
• course material can be offered simultaneously in different languages;
• students can access quality material irrespective of their geographical location;
• academic courses can be offered asynchronously;
• students can interact with peers and experts outside the classroom, town, and/or country;
• ICT can offer simulations where the student can experiment by changing the variables;
• ICT offers a host of different tools to demonstrate learning suitable for divergent and different intelligences; and,
• young students have readily accepted the technology.
In language appropriate. There is little doubt that language teachers, need to focus on the use of language, and ICT make it easy for us to do so, especially after the use of internet as a didactic tool. Bringing a sense of reality also contributes to facilitate learners be less dependent, fostering their autonomy. Of course this has created an intense demand on the teacher to be selective (to tell the trees from the forest) and to adapt the wide variety of resources at hand to the variety of students. It is clear that the concept of meaningfulness has two main sides: meaningfulness in terms of teachers’ curricular demands/aspirations and the obvious second would be students’ interests and expectations.
Based on Final Report of the study regarding the impact of information and communications technology (ICT) and new media on language learning which was commissioned by the Education and Culture Executive Agency (call for tenders EACEA 2007/09) and carried out by Ellinogermaniki Agogi through an international team of experts the devices mentioned in the survey, nine in ten respondents recognize the usefulness of computer and TV for improving language skills. About 70%, too, consider radio as a useful tool for language skills improvement. On the other hand, even in this sample of generally active and motivated users of ICT and new media for language learning, only less than one in four respondents state that the use of mobile phones or other handheld devices has helped them to improve their language skills. Among the applications specifically related to language or language learning, online dictionaries and grammars are by far considered as the most helpful for language learning. Two in tree respondents have found ICT language courses and materials useful. Other language-related applications, such as text corpora, concordances, automatic translators, speech recognition and reproduction are seen as helpful by less than half of the respondents. The use of entertainment media such as films on DVD and music on digital media (e.g. CDs, mp3) is recognized by most respondents as useful for language learning, even more than ICT language courses and materials. High expectations from the use of new media for language learning are not always reflected in respondents’ experiences. Only videos on the web, web TV, web radio are mentioned by more than two in three respondents. Blogs (vlogs, audioblogs, moblogs) have helped about 40% of respondents, while podcasts, social networking, interactive/digital TV, and digital games are mentioned by only one in three respondents or less. Only one in five mentions virtual worlds as an ICT application that has helped them improve their language skills. However, there are clear generational differences, as the younger the respondent, the more likely it is for them to mention new media (e.g. social networking and virtual worlds) as helpful for improving language skills. Among the more ‘conventional’ communication applications, interestingly email (76%) is recognized as much more helpful for the improvement of the respondents’ language skills as discussion forums (49%), chats (42%), voice over the internet (33%), SMS (27%), and videoconferencing (23%). So, the writer concludes that ICT is important to make students more enjoyable and clear to understand the material in language learning.
The importance of ICT in language learning