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Using Digital Technology Applications to Improve Your Language Learning and Teaching

written by: Larry M. Lynch • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

There is a variety of language learning software, foreign languages learning websites, language CDs, language tapes, and methods to learn languages, including all manner of interactive language software now available. Digital technology has enabled the language learner as never before. Here's how.

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    Do you “Tweet”?

    February 2005 USC 009 

    Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, you’ve probably noticed that the world has gone not-so-quietly digital. Newspapers are either shrinking rapidly or have already disappeared entirely. Sure our teen learners still gab on the phone about anything and everything, but now they also text each other, use Twitter, MySpace and Facebook to keep tabs on each other and with what’s happening on an ongoing basis. Do you tweet? How developed is your Facebook or MySpace profile? Do you even know what I’m talking about? If not, then please feel free to start worrying now, because it’s going to get worse - much, much worse.

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    1. Self assessment

    First of all, when considering upgrading to the use of more digital technology in your English or other foreign language learning class room environment, be honest about what you now know or can do. During training classes among a group of EFL teachers, it was discovered that not only did they exhibit a wide range of pre-existing digital technology skill levels, but also different tolerance and desirability levels toward learning new technologies. Feelings of hopelessness, frustration, resentment and even mild rage surfaced during a semester-long series of required classes. Where do YOU now stand in your depth of knowledge and skills in applying a broad range of digital technology skills? Do your language learners come to class with a numerous variety of digital devices you haven’t a clue how to use? If so, you might already be seriously in trouble. It’s now time to act.

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    2. Research Available Technology and Resources

    What do you actually have current access to or knowledge of? Check with your school or institutional authorities on what is available to you and your language learners. Is there a computer lab you can schedule use of? What programs and software are installed or available? Remember too, that many software providers, freeware and shareware have online tutorials to get you (and your language learners) up to speed on proper use of many popular teaching and learning applications. Popular websites like also provide a plethora of digital video and audio tutorials which are quite often free to access.

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    3. Learn New Skills

    Since both you and your learners are likely to need to learn new skills, your first step might well be to evaluate what you’ll need to learn first to truly get your digital technology class room environment underway. How technologically savvy are YOU, while you’re at it. Recognize that you’ll need to “catch up” with many new, still-untried methodologies in teaching English or another foreign language using more advanced digital information technology. Then take the needed steps to learn whatever new skills you’ll need. After that, you’ll be in a much better position to upgrade the skills of your learners as required. If not, they’ll be the ones teaching YOU. Occasionally, that might be okay. On a regular basis however, it can be embarrassing to say the least.

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    4. Sequence Your Digital Technology Growth

    You certainly can’t expect to go from a “chalk and talk” type of language learning class room delivery to a fully functional digitally hi-tech information delivery system in one great leap. (Well you can, but dream on) Much more likely that you’ll progress through a series of much smaller, more definitive steps in order to reach new heights in your language teaching environment. So, plan on a number of smaller stages or steps to upgrade the knowledge and skills of your learners (and yourself) when planning to your digital technology growth.

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    5. Consider Learner Skills and Accessibility to New Technology

    By the way, just how “tech-savvy” are your learners? Can they manage RTF (Rich Text Format), TXT (Plain Text), PDF (Adobe Acrobat) or basic HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) files without undue problems? Can they use PCs, Laptops, the Internet and Web 2.0 to access, send or receive critical data without assistance? How proficient are they with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Squiddo, among other Social Bookmarking sites, for example?

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    6. Have Alternative Methodologies in Place

    Don’t allow yourself to fall into the technology trap. Technology is an aid to teaching, not a replacement for it. Whatever amount of technology and resources you may have available, you still need to have alternative teaching strategies in place in the event the power or equipment fail in some way. Internet access may be slow, fuses blow out, servers become finicky and hardware malfunctions at exactly the worse possible time when you need it most.

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    7. Document Your Process and Progress

    If you’re going to upgrade your EFL or foreign language teaching strategies and methodologies to make increased use of digital or other technology and software, be sure to track and document the process and your results. Inquiring minds will want to know what you did that worked and what you did that didn’t – and why. With careful records, journaling and documentation, this will ease your burden of justifying the increases in the use of some technologies over others. You’ll be able to write solid reports, insights, articles and even academic papers detailing critical points of your technology-based EFL class room experiences for the benefit of your peers and administration alike.

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    Digital Technology and Language Learning Application

    Is this the year you become “lost” forever or finally do something to “catch up” on the latest digital technology, language learning software and their application in the foreign language learning class room? The choice, and paycheck, are yours to decide.