Coursebooks and technology
If you ask me, nothing good can come out of too much or too little of anything. If we go to extremes, we’re bound to miss out on one or two (at least) good things from the other side of the argument. I’ve been thinking about this because of a couple of things I’ve been reading and reflecting about. I guess we should always try to live life to the fullest, but we can never forget or simply let go of our obligations. If as people we understand this, this is also something we, as teachers, should try to pass on to our learners. I don’t think any of this is news to anyone, but I’d like to add my two cents on this specific topic.
One of the first things people usually say upon hearing that I like the principles of Dogme is, “How come? You love all of these new tech things, and you do use a coursebook with your students.” Well, to be fair, most people I have the chance to talk to in person either have never heard anything about Dogme or know too little about it and never cared to actually find out the truth by themselves. Dogme celebrated its 10th anniversary, and yet there wasn’t a single presentation about it in the last National Conference I attended. Had I known I’d be attending, I guess I’d certainly submit a proposal on the matter. But I digress…
We can’t simply put things on a good / bad table and either swear by them or shun their use. I honestly believe that, even behind the “evil purpose” of publishers of making money, they hire authors who are committed with learning. Coursebooks which are written based on Corpus research, which have got activities that have been thought of in terms of rational and principles that keep the learners’ best interests at heart do exist. The problem, though, lies in teachers using the coursebook as if it were the Holy Bible. Coursebooks are flawed as well, especially if they’ve been designed to be used all around the world. It is up to teachers (and teacher trainers/developers) to understand that not everything that’s written there has got to be done in class. Teachers should know when there’s a lack of something that needs to be supplemented by means of extra materials or activities, or when something is just useless for his or her learners. It’s not the coursebook that’s good or bad, it’s the use you’ll make of it that will turn it into good or bad.
The same thing is true for use of technology. We can’t expect teachers to be forced to use technology simply because it’s there. Technology is a tool, not and end in itself. If we understand that people learn differently and that teachers should try as hard as they can to cater for the different learning styles in the classroom, we must come to terms with the fact that this will hardly ever be achieved by the use of one tool only. Slips of paper, debates, pictures, social media, books, magazines, Internet… these are all examples of tools available for teachers to use. I’m in favour of using all of them – but using them wisely. What I don’t agree with is teachers using the same PPT over and over again with different groups, with different backgrounds and all the other differences that come with each group of ours. This, if you ask me, is laziness. Do you really think you can have one magic PPT that will suit all of your learners, no adaptation or change needed? Just like the use of coursebooks, technology should also be used conscientiously.
Finding balance is essential in any part of life, and it certainly shouldn’t be any different when it comes to teaching. Being able to hold a conversation and truly listen to your learners and identify needs is paramount when dealing with people.