Technology in Language Education Part I - The Future? (with Ray Davila)

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We invite back our friend, teacher trainer and materials developer, Ray Davila to talk about technology in the classroom, a fad or the future. In the first of two parts, we discuss all that is good about technology, before being as cynical as possible in part two.

Technology in Language Education Part I Future (with Ray Davila) - Transcript

Ross Thorburn:  Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. This week we have our friend on again.

Tracy:  Ray.

Ross:  Davila.

Tracy:  Davila.

dRay Davila:  Hi, guys.

Ross:  Ray, you've switched jobs since last time. Do you want to tell us what you're doing now?

Ray:  Oh yeah! I'm currently a development editor working in product development. I look at the academic quality of lesson plans, educational books, songs, movies, and seeing how they can be implemented as materials in lesson plans.

Ross:  If I'm not incorrect the name of the department you work for is called Ed Tech. Is it?

Ray:  Yes, yes.

Ross:  I thought that was so interesting. An education company. That's the name for the team that makes the teaching materials.

Ray:  We're trying to focus a little bit more on how we can use technology in the learning process.

Ross:  This week we're going to try something that I don't think...I remember we've only did it once before which is to do like a two‑parter. The first half, we're going to talk about some of the advantages of technology in English language education. Then in the second part of the podcast, next episode, we'll talk about some of the disadvantages.

Ray, you had a catchy name for this that you've thought of, right?

Ray:  Oh yeah. It's something like, technology in the classroom, fad or future in education?

Ross:  Well done. That's...

Tracy:  That's a great name.

Ross:  You make [inaudible: 1:46] .



Ross:  I guess all of us use technology quite a bit. Tracy and I have worked, at least, for the last year in online teaching, mainly and used technology. What are some of the benefits you guys think of technology in education?

Tracy:  The first thing I would say is fascinating actually you have a lot of class recordings, and you can definitely go back and watch those lessons. Either you are doing material development, you are focusing on like a teacher training or even just the teacher themselves. They can go back and see which area really what tallies in my class and which one didn't.

It's definitely big advantage for having the technology in the classroom because either really in the traditional offline classes, I think it's quite difficult for people to do that.

Ross:  I presume it's the same. Maybe it's also true for the students, that students might be able to use that technology. Not quite now, I'm not sure if we're on that stage yet. In future, presumably, soon have the ability to literally listen back to what you were saying in class three months ago or six months ago and compare that with what you are doing now.

It seem to be very objective way of helping students visualize or see what their progress has been.

Ray:  Using or having those recordings are also a great opportunity for us to take a step back and look at things that we would never have realized it could be a potential issue in our teaching or in just the students learning and just having that as a tool to reflect on. Or even I think that for teachers of young learners, it's also something they can use when they're sitting down with the parents.

Tracy:  I also wanted to mention something, at least in China, I think a lot of public schools from what I heard, like my university classmates and they're teaching in public school how they assign homework. They don't really use the way that when we were in school anymore. I think they also having like an app.

You can log in, then you can see the homework, you can do that, and you can submit it. The teacher can check your homework or provide you the answers or suggested answers to compare with. Everything will be tracked in the app or maybe some other programs.

I think that's a massive change because when I was a teacher in public school, you really have to check every single student's homework book. I needed to take them back home sometimes, and it's really heavy, but now...


Tracy:'s really light, you just need a phone or you need a pad, and you can just do all of this work.

Ross:  I think here we're getting into the idea as well of personalizing things very easily that if you have technology you can personalize things a little more easily for your students. That you could give, for example, quite easily every student individual homework, individual exercises. You can have algorithms to make sure that you figure out where people are struggling, and what they're advantages and disadvantages are.

I think really it has that opportunity to individualize learning and get everything just to the right level where you're helping everyone learn because I think ultimately that's one of the most important things in education, is figuring out where your students are, and then teaching them accordingly. I think technology can help with both sides of that equation.

Tracy:  Yeah.

Ray:  Personalization, is a huge thing. You were mentioning one of the main things with algorithms. How you can, example, giving a test or giving homework, and then that can for you, instead of the teacher doing it, it can assess what a student is having difficulty with.

Then from there, it could suggest other alternatives, more activities for them to do in a particular grammar points or them being able to do this.

I think that one of the things about how this benefits education is that, yes, we have personalization, but then at the same time we have a lack at the moment of educational professionals currently at the disposal of helping students to get to where they need to be.

Maybe either because there's just a lack of resources, there are not as many instructors as there were before. Also, there are not as many instructors with as much experience or as much passion as there were before. I think that now, we're turning toward technology where it's picking up the slack. I think that we, on the human end, we've fallen a little bit short.

Ross:  Not just that. Also, it can help you get resources to places where those resources are lacking. For example, if you're in a highly developed western country it is easy to get access to probably a good education. If you're not, then it's more difficult. It really depends on where you are in the world.

Technology, I think, at least, all online classes and things you can now have probably a class with just about a teacher anywhere in the world, that's one thing. The other thing that it does is there's so much access to...If we're talking about English, English now, like any students can go on to YouTube or to read newspapers or whatever.

I remember even as a new teacher back in 2006, how difficult it was just to get a newspaper clipping or something and photocopy that for your students, but just think now there's so much English out there.


Tracy:  Recent years we're talking about 21st century skills. I think technology is great platform to provide people these chances to explore the culture differences and that also the soft skills is not just about critical thinking, but also being more tolerant, to understand other people, beliefs, religion.

That's a great way actually to make sure our students or people, they have the opportunity to have a chance to open their mind.

Ross:  I definitely feel that about online classes. It's amazing that you can pull a lot of people in America, Britain, wherever, they actually know people in China, right? When they see China in the news, whatever, they're not just immediately thinking something negative about it. They have some understanding and some relationship with some students here.

It's the same for children here with teachers abroad and obviously, that cause across in a hundred different countries to probably hundreds of thousands of different people that there's all this extra understanding. In this current era that we're in of nationalism, it's developed maybe over the last decade or so but that's a really wonderful thing.

Ray:  I think that's just it. That language learning, big language learning classroom, is not just about communication. It's about also cultural awareness. We can have a platform where a student in one country, in South America being in the same classroom virtually with a student from Asia. It's part of that age of globalization.

Tracy:  We've been talking about this in this podcast for a film, and it's ready, but I still think not really many people, for example, like the parents, they are aware of this. It's not just a way for your kid to learn a language is just like...Yeah, changing their mindset, their beliefs and also how they view the world, view people.

These are a lot of soft skills where it's quite difficult to evaluate from the parents who are maybe these teachers or schools. It's very difficult for them to evaluate, to see the result because that's the long‑term goal or long‑term results.

I also think that technology for teaching lately, the massive topic is about AI or AR. Having an AI teacher, there are a lot of debate and discussion about it. Do you think that AI teachers is going to replace a real teacher? There's something really interesting about AI because they definitely can track or catch the student's behavior sometimes.

I remember I went to a conference, and they were actually showing on the screen there were maybe 40 students, and each student, AI technology can catch everyone's facial expression, and it also gives a report about the student's talk time in this class. It probably can help you see the student interaction.

Also, I don't know, based on the temperature or something, and see how much they are mentally evolving in this learning process. These things are so difficult to see from the surface level and just judging from how they look like. I think that AI, all this technology they can help us to analyze this.

Ray:  It's funny that you've mentioned AR. I recently came back from Macau where I participated in a little VR thing.


Ray:  I don't even know what to call it. Pretty much we have these harnesses on with headphones, helmet with goggles and stuff. We were put into a room. That was not very big. It was very, very bare. There was nothing in it. It was just like a concrete floor, concert wall. There was nothing inside except for a handful of us. There were like eight of us.

Then we were told to put on our goggles, put on our headphones, and then we have like this gun. Out of nowhere, we were in an entirely new world. We had to walk around in this world. We were walking around, we had to shoot robots, and things like that.

I just remember my heart pounding when we were doing certain things like having to cross this crosswalk which obviously your brain knows that we know that we're in a concrete room. For some reason, my mind was playing tricks with me. Out of nowhere, I was refusing to go over this crosswalk because I was looking down, it was stories up and my actual legs were shaking.

It's this amazing...It was the first time I ever realized that our minds can have such an impact on the way our body reacts, the way that we think in general. Most people know what VR is but AR, I don't know if many people are quite familiar with AR.

Ross:  Can we pause you there for a second?

Ray:  Oh sorry, yes.

Ross:  That's an amazing story. This is huge potential there, isn't there? In a class of like, "Yeah, you pretend to be the shopkeeper. You pretend to be this person." Stick on your goggles. No, let's pretend we're in a restaurant. It's like boom! You're in a restaurant or something much more interesting than being in a restaurant.

Tracy:  One of my favorite activity actually using the AR technology it's quite similar to the selfie app. The students, they can really try to be another character. Like if now I'm just having a conversation asking for directions in a foreign country, and then they probably can change how they look. Now, I try to be an old person, and that's how they look.

Also, on the flight, I try to be the passenger, and the flight attendant having a conversation. It's just so interesting. You can see their face it's actually replacing on the screen. The student's face is actually there. They can feel they're in that context.

Ross:  You think about how much of language learning is role plays and pretending to be people in certain situations? Obviously, the more I think we do in general in class to help students understand those situation through setting context, moving the seats around, and bringing in props, the better. Obviously, what we're talking about just takes that to another level entirely.


Ross:  Tune in again next time, and we will talk about the disadvantages of technology.

Tracy:  Thank you for listening.

Ross:  Thanks, Ray. We'll see you next week.


Tracy:  See you soon.

Ray:  See you, guys.

Tracy:  Bye.