Educational progress and technological development are increasingly two interconnected topics. In this post, we want to take an in-depth look at the potential impact of digital evolution on language teaching and learning. What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats of an increasingly digitized language teaching model for schools and universities?
The digital progress of education
During 2020 and 2021 much of our lives, private and professional, took place online following developments in the health crisis. During the year 2022 we are slowly getting back to normal (hopefully!) and students return to face-to-face teaching. But online learning and digital educational tools will still be an increasing part of our education system.
As of 2020, the education sector has touched on the need to adopt digital approaches in its operations. At first, during the most acute phase of the crisis triggered by national lockdowns and schools closure, technological platforms were considered a necessary lifesaver to guarantee continuity of teaching activities. But over time, several schools learned to adapt creatively to the new situation and started exploiting technology to enrich their educational offerings.
At first educational institutions found themselves somewhat subject to the digitization of teaching activities, forced to adapt to distance teaching approaches, but now the relationship between educational professionals and digital transformation is undoubtedly more conscious – though not necessarily less complex.
The consensus, at least in Europe, is that the future progress of education is intrinsically linked to the ability to harness the potential of educational technology. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the European Commission has placed a Digital Education Action Plan at the center of its post-COVID19 recovery agenda, based on two key points:
- Fostering the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem
- Enhancing digital skills and competences for the digital transformation
What kind of impact does digitalization have on language education?
The digital transformation has opened up a world of opportunities for language teaching: from the customization of teaching activities to the possibility of experimenting with new teaching solutions and methods (see for example the flipped classroom method). Like all revolutions, however, the digital one brings with it not only advantages but also contrasts and possible inefficiencies.
We wondered what could be a good way to grasp the picture of the relationship between digitization and language teaching in its entirety, and we thought that a SWOT analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) would provide a good framework for understanding the impact of digitalization on language learning.
Strengths: Cost-effective and more accessible language education for all.
E-learning platforms, as well as dedicated language teaching and learning apps, have made foreign language study less elitist and within the reach of more learners. Language education available for every student in every country is a goal yet to be reached. Still, undoubtedly the possibility of using online platforms and online learning resources has made the study of foreign languages within reach of basically any budget.
Weaknesses: Fragility of student-teacher and peer relationships.
Language teachers can use all of the tools necessary to create a functioning virtual classroom, yet the risk of alienation and loss of motivation induced by distance learning always looms large in a digital education setting.
Technology cannot change the fact that humans are social animals, and yet teachers can try to reduce the sense of loneliness and disconnection felt by students in an online classroom through a few tricks and proven methods. For example, offering group exercises or communication-based tasks that will get students to interact with each other. This will benefit not only the students’ speaking skills but also their psychological well-being.
Opportunities: Multiple options for language learning
English, French, Spanish; for years these were the most popular languages on the market. But now things are changing, and as new countries emerge as political powers or interesting business partners, there are new languages attracting students and professionals.
Studying any language today is undoubtedly easier thanks to the numerous language apps and educational software tools available.
Threats: Digital fatigue, or the impossibility of staying connected all the time.
Technology makes language study flexible, affordable, and interactive. But all of this comes at a price: it requires students and teachers to be continuously exposed in front of a monitor for an extended period of time that, if not interspersed with real in-person activities and appropriate breaks, can exert a huge toll on the mental health of the entire class.
Digital fatigue is undoubtedly one of the elements that cause most apprehension when thinking about exclusively online-based language teaching models.
The substantial risk that students and teachers may become exhausted by the necessity of being constantly exposed but, at the same time, deprived of social interactions, therefore, invites caution in imagining a future in which education is solely online.
If you’d like to find out more about how Sanako’s educational technology tools could help your institution to deliver both remote and face-to-face language teaching, please contact us now to arrange your FREE demo!