The relationship between tech and the English language teacher

Cambridge English

8th January 2019

by TK Arunachalam, 16/11/2018 Teaching , Technology

Technology is having a huge impact on education and the way we learn, and the English language learning sector is no exception. Technology and language learning have a long history. If we go back to the 1980s, the boom in home computing started to change the way we learn. More recently the advent of the internet and the introduction of interactive whiteboards have also had dramatic effects on the classroom. At Cambridge Assessment English we’ve put a lot expertise into developing digital resources and they are starting to have an impact on our learners worldwide. I often get asked: will tech eventually replace teachers? The simple answer is no, quite the opposite. In fact in the last ten years digital developments have opened up lots of new opportunities for existing teachers, which can really benefit students learning English around the world. So what digital products are Cambridge Assessment English developing? We’re developing lots but here are a few that I’d like to showcase.

Games and social media

At Cambridge Assessment English we’ve produced lots of games, videos and social networking which are proving to be great ways of helping people to learn English. One of our most successful developments to date is Quiz Your English, which is a mobile app that allows language learners around the world to go head-to-head in an English language quiz. Players can challenge people via social media to see who comes out on top for vocabulary and grammar skills. The app covers a range of topics and has proved to be a fun way to practise and improve students’ English. Launched in March 2017, over 5 million games have been played so far making it a huge success and a significant milestone in the digital learning space for Cambridge Assessment English.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

We’ve also successfully launched a number of MOOCs which are Massive Open Online Courses. Again these have proved popular and some of our popular courses include ‘Exploring the World of English Language Teaching’, followed by ‘Inside IELTS’ and ‘Teaching Your Subject in English’. These have been hugely successful and hundreds of thousands of students have taken part in our courses to date.

Write & Improve

Another development has been ‘Write and Improve’, a product that allows students to choose a topic, write about it in English and get instant feedback. Well over a million pieces of writing have been submitted and checked since September 2016. In less than a year from its launch it had been used by 675,981 people in 225 countries.

The teacher is here to stay!

These are just a few areas that we’re working on but as you can see they are having big impacts. It’s fair to say that tech won’t replace the teacher, but it will offer many new exciting opportunities. For example artificial intelligence and machine learning are starting to offer some interesting possibilities for language learning. If we look at artificial intelligence for example, this could take away some of the burden on teachers further down the line.

One thing that will change is the skills that teachers will need. The teacher will have to become an expert in using the technology as well as teaching. So it’s creating the need for a different sort of teacher. With this in mind I’d recommend teachers visit the Digital Teacher website that we’ve developed in consultation with practising language teachers and trainers. People visiting the site can use the Cambridge English Digital Framework for Language Teachers. This provides a guide to professional development and teachers can also use a free self-evaluation tool and explore the six categories of the framework to find their unique starting point and so they can set realistic goals.

For us, learning English is more than just exams and grades. It’s about having the confidence to communicate and digital can certainly help with this. With all of these new ideas and approaches to learning, it’s such an exciting time to be learning English!

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