Sanako is a Finnish Educational Tech company helping schools and language teachers to improve language teaching efficiency and results.
Not taking advantage of the benefits of applying technology to language learning may affect the quality of the language education offered to students. On the other hand, deciding to purchase language learning software for your school or university without assessing its compatibility with the learning objectives and the needs of the students is likely to result in nothing more than a waste of resources. So, how can we make sure that the introduction of Education Technology (EdTech) into our language classroom will be a success? This quick guide is here to help you!
What are the benefits of technology in language education in the first place?
- Educational technology makes language teaching and learning more flexible and accessible. It helps language teachers to deliver lessons in the classroom and remotely.
- It is flexible also for students and not only for the teachers. Students can access learning materials and content from home and they can connect with peers who aren’t even in the same country.
- Technology helps to integrate multimedia learning materials into the learning process and could allow the students to consume a limitless amount of resources.
- Traditional teacher-centered teaching methods are boring for the students, but with interactive and fun language learning technology students will stay motivated and engaged better.
The necessity of evaluation when investing in Education Technology
Technological developments have enabled Education Technology (EdTech) companies to develop increasingly efficient products that complement all the modern pedagogical approaches to English and foreign language teaching.
This does not mean, however, that any EdTech product is suitable for every educational setting. Using language software in the hope of innovating your language lessons, without first examining the compatibility between the product's functionality, learning goals, and pedagogical framework is a recipe for disaster -- or, at least, for a bad investment.
As complex as the process of evaluating a technology product may seem, remember that the teacher's point of view is critical to a thoughtful choice that will allow the school/institution to successfully exploit technology’s benefits to language learning.
As Education Alliance Finland, an association that specializes in evaluating learning solutions puts it:
“The reason why we need a ‘human ingredient’ is simply because when it comes to pedagogy, the solution’s unique educational purpose matters a lot. We can’t evaluate a solution’s quality, unless we have first defined 1) what is the ultimate goal for using the product or service 2) what learning context it's meant for. This can be done only by a person with pedagogical knowledge”.
Ask these 5 questions when choosing the right EdTech solution
The purpose of the next paragraph is to provide 5 key questions to guide teachers and school institutions through the evaluation process of an EdTech product.
Of course, the evaluation process can take into account so many other elements - such as economic ones that will not be addressed in this post - but we trust that these five key questions can provide inspiration for setting up an exhaustive learning solutions evaluation process.
1. Does the language software support the overall learning goal?
Choosing an EdTech product that aligns with the goals set out in your language course curriculum is what will allow you to make the most of the technology's full potential. During the evaluation process, keep in mind the objectives set in the curriculum and ask yourself if and how the product in front of you can help you meet them.
2. How can the students interact with the language software?
Choosing a learning solution without considering the students' perspective is probably the biggest mistake you could make. Empathy and a thorough understanding of your pupils’ needs should be your guides when answering this question.
As the English teacher Shveta Miller points out in an article for Edutopia, there are many elements to assess in order to understand a student's experience with technology:
“When you look at the product from the perspective of a student persona, you might notice that there is no audio feature or captioning to support striving readers or language learners to independently access complex texts. Or, when you play the audio, you might detect that the voice is robotic and unengaging … When assessing from the students’ perspectives, determine if this tool you are investigating will meet their varying needs, and if so, what protocols, modifications, or settings you will need to put in place.
3. How can the teacher interact with the students through the language software?
One of the undeniable benefits of technology is that it creates new opportunities for communication/interaction. Within the language classroom, digital solutions should serve as much for students to interact with each other as they do for teachers to communicate with their students.
It is important that the chosen software gives the teacher an up-to-date and detailed overview of student activities. The teacher must be able to monitor the exercises completed by the students and keep track of their progress.
4. What kind of content does the language software support?
For some students, there's nothing like a good infographic to help them memorize information. For others, however, watching a video is necessary to immerse themselves in the new language.
Whatever type of content your students prefer, it's a good idea to evaluate what type of material is supported by the EdTech solution being evaluated.
The greater the type of content supported, the greater the variety of learning activities that will be possible, at the same time making lessons more enjoyable through the use of multimedia material.
5. Does the language software stimulate students’ participation?
Closely related to the previous question, this fifth and final question considers the type of activities students can carry out through their chosen digital solution. For example, does the EdTech product allow students to produce content, create group activities, conduct communication-based exercises, and stay engaged during the learning process?
As mentioned before, these questions are intended to provide a starting point for teachers and schools to define their process for evaluating EdTech. However, the main question that should never be missing from such an evaluation is the one concerning the relationship between the instructional objectives and the EdTech solution. Will this product support the educational experience that I have prepared for my students? If the answer is yes, there is a good chance that technology can really enrich your students' language learning journey!
If you’d like to find out more about how Sanako’s dedicated language teaching technology solutions could transform your language teaching approach, click this link to download our product catalog for 2022.