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How did technology change your teaching? A surprising answer…

September 8, 2010

At the ALT-C conference today, Teresa MacKinnon from Warwick University gave a great presentation on the use of Wimba voice tools for language teaching. (Wimba voice tools include Voice Board, which is like a discussion board but offers the option to record and post audio messages, and ‘Voice e-mail’, which is an e-mail system that allows users to send private audio messages to one another.)

One of the interesting comments Teresa made was that some of the tutors said that they had completely changed their teaching style as a result of experimenting with these new technologies. I asked her to elaborate on this in question time, expecting her to talk about the wonders of giving learners a ‘voice’ in language teaching or something along those lines. Her answer surprised me, however: apparently the tutors in the study had felt unsure about what they were doing with the new technologies, and so they had asked students for their feedback and had adjusted their ways of teaching accordingly.

Does this mean that by introducing experimental, technology-based approaches, tutors become more open to asking learners for feedback – and, critically – to listening to what learners have to say about how they learn best? And is there some correlation between the amount of uncertainty that a tutor feels, and the extent of their openness to receiving and acting on learner feedback? And is it, by extension, an argument for encouraging tutors to step outside of their comfort zones and take more risks in experimenting with technologies?

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