Second Plenary – Gary Motteram – Blending, Extending and Bridging Language Learning in the Digital Age

Gary Motteram is a Professor of ICT at the University of Manchester and runs the very successful online MA program.

He started off his talk by telling us a bit about himself – one thing that stood out was that he started his career in Mongolia, where he was asked to repair a computer lab.

He mentioned the term digital immigrants (people who later on in their lives started with technology) – which he later on mentioned that he dislikes, as it dismisses teachers in a way – and digital natives (those who were born with technology).

Showing us a visual representation of the relationships between the teachers, learners, their parents and the tools involved in their learning. The teachers need to be encouraged in their efforts in using the various electronic tools in the learning process. However, there is something else on the other side as well.

Gary mentioned that the students have expectations of what teachers are supposed to do, most of the times towards the goal of passing an exam or getting a job.

What does tech do?

–         It puts learning first

–         It can improve learning by augmenting and connecting proven learning activities.

This potential however, Gary mentioned will only be materialized through innovative teaching practice. However, teachers need encouragement and training. Gary asked, how many teachers are being given free time to get extra training? How many teachers are given time and support to apply what they are learning? There were a lot of negative responses in the room (naturally, my comment).

There is area of promise in areas where tech is undervalued and underused.

Teacher Decision-Making

–         It depends largely on the expectations of the learners and the institution.

–         What do we believe about language learning? We need to explore those beliefs in significant ways.

–         It depends on the institutional setting.

–         It depends on the interface between technology and learning. What can technology do to support us in that?

Blended Learning classrooms include:

–         Wikis (include link), Nings (include link)

These tech drivers give us and the learners access to the real world. There is a lot of material out there, which we can also change for our classes – this gives flexibility to our classes.

He then went on to show us the work of his students, who teach in different contexts. The variability of contexts, tools (online or not) and opportunities was tremendous and showed us how a combination of the use or not of technology can have positive results in the learning context.

Vicky Loras, Roving Reporter for Yildiz University, Istanbul

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