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Embracing New Media in Language Learning

Embracing New Media in Language Learning | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Developing Language Skills is a key enabler in the global economy; even as the rise of the Internet, Smartphones and other technology the world is becoming smaller; but as it always has, language can present itself as a Barrier. As English is still the ‘de-facto’ global language thanks to its common business use are it time that TEFL providers adapt to the modern world and embrace new media to not only improve existing techniques but develop new ones and embrace existing online communities?

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Matt F. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Definition of the New Media

What is New Media? New Media is defined as “products and services that provide information or entertainment using computers or the internet, and not by traditional methods such as television and newspapers”. As discussed during the course, the key to ensuring Student progression is to maintain motivation and interest during lessons, one of the key tools to develop and maintain this is the use of Games and Communication Activities. These are areas that New Media thrive in, by its very nature it's Interactive and Current.

Also Read: Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Education in The ESL Classroom

Analysis & Evaluation

While many Language Schools have adapted to New Media through the development of Online Courses delivered through Skype, Online Course Books, and Language games, are they missing a trick? Over the last few years, there has been a rise in the use of Smartphone Apps for Language Learning – these take many forms, but they can roughly be divided into two groups – ‘Traditional’ & ‘Gamified’. Where Traditional apps utilize the mainstream teaching approach with vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation drills & activities with heavy use of Realia such as Rosetta Stone & Babbel. While Gamified apps take a ‘Gamification’ approach and try to reduce the drill approach and utilize games where appropriate, and where not appropriate the add elements of gaming into it via progress mechanics such as points, leaderboard badges, etc, narrative elements and ‘leveling up’.

These Gamified Apps have proved to be very popular with students, as “in 2008, nearly 170 million Americans played computer games to achieve multiple learning goals, spending almost $12 billion”. And as we can see from research, these are not wasted dollars, as those using gamification platforms performed better overall and in particular in practical assessments.

Also Read: 3 Strategies That Will Help Young Teachers to Increase Their Confidence

Tools

Other areas of New Media that have been thoroughly utilized by TEFL professionals are the Communication-based tools that the internet provides such as Skype and other video & voice conferencing software, allowing for decentralized learning and learning on demand. While these services have their supporters, many feel this reduces the benefits of having access to a native speaker. These criticisms are aimed not only at technical limitations such as poor connectivity but on more key elements such as the difficulties in fostering a community and rapport in general, which as discussed during the course can be the difference between a good and bad class. As well as more fundamental issues of not having visual or social cues on when students are struggling plus its harder to control a class from being distracted by external interferences. In addition to Skype, the internet has been a key resource for TEFL teachers, and the benefits and limitations have been discussed at length during the modules on this course.

While these areas of New Media have been embraced and utilized by TEFL providers, there are still areas that could be utilized effectively, while mainly focused on young to young adult learners they could prove to be very useful. One area that may prove to be useful, is to focus further on games, in particular, the use of Mainstream games with alternate language settings. In the same way that films provide access to natural and authentic language in a current and engaging manner, games can provide even greater benefit due to their Interactive nature. A student can see and understand the effects of their interactions, this harks back to natural language learning of young children. However, it must be noted that not all games are suitable for this; and should contain at least some narrative story or a mix of text and audio options. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of games in relation to language learning, while mainly focused on specialist Computer-Aided Language Learning (CALL) games, they do highlight the benefits of this approach, with its rule-based approach and natural discovery of language.iv In addition to this, some games improve further upon this, with the addition of native non-educational speakers to a narrative-based environment with Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs)v as this provides additional natural language in an unpredictable yet controlled manner – the context is controlled even if the language isn’t.

Also Read: 7 Teaching Skills in the Classroom You need To Incorporate into Your Lessons

Furthermore, having a game interface may provide a benefit to some learners as there is a barrier to embarrassment and allows students to ‘save face’ when trying a new language and attempting fluency. This may be particularly beneficial with shy students or where cultural issues might prevent attempts in traditional scenarios, due to fear of failure. While this approach may have benefits, it may be hard to convince the main stakeholders in TEFL to utilize these tools, as TEFL is a business and utilizing Games in this way may not be seen as Professional, and parents of young students may not be particularly pleased with their children using games in this manner.

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However, we can take elements of the mechanics of these new methods of learning into the classroom. Gamification is not limited to online platforms but can be utilized in classroom-based activities as well, in fact, a key component of TEFL could be considered Gamification on a base level with its high use of games and motivational systems. Perhaps we as TEFL teachers can utilize more elements of this methodology within our classrooms and utilize Narrative & Progression Mechanics to help drive motivation through some of the more difficult aspects of English Learning, as well as drive more creative Role Play Elements to maintain motivation and develop entertaining and rewarding language learning for all.

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