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How technology can help motivate language learners

By Sanako Blog on August, 4 2022

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Sanako is a Finnish Educational Tech company helping schools and language teachers to improve language teaching efficiency and results.

One of the most common arguments for using educational technology in the classroom is that it is uniquely able to motivate and inspire students to engage in learning. The prevailing wisdom goes that students are already using technology in their leisure time and that as “digital natives” they will therefore get more from a lesson which makes use of such tools.

Whilst there’s a degree of merit in such claims, Reinders et al (2022) powerfully argue that: “the value of technology only exists in the good pedagogical value that teachers make out of it.” Their position is clear - without teachers using educational technology effectively and with a deliberate classroom purpose, the impact will be limited.

So how can language educators make effective use of technology so that it motivates and inspires their students and improves their learning outcomes? This blog post builds on a previous article on student motivation and provides specific tips and inspiration around six ways that technology can boost student motivation. These draw on the work of Reinders et al (2022) who have identified a range of benefits for students and teachers that the use of technology can directly support.

For clarity, this blog post will only focus on the use of digital language teaching environments such as Sanako Connect. There’s clearly a wealth of other apps, tools and websites available for use but their use has already been widely covered elsewhere. For any readers who don’t know Sanako Connect, it includes a wealth of unique product features that help language educators keep students motivated and on track when learning new languages. That’s why the world’s leading educational institutions choose it as their go-to solution for delivering language lessons in the classroom and remotely.

 

1. Increased L2 exposure and more opportunities to practice the target language

We’ve all tried new hobbies or to learn new skills. When we do, we’re impatient to get started and keen to maximise the time we spend actually practising our new knowledge. If that doesn’t happen, we get bored and lose motivation. Language learners are exactly the same - the more opportunities they get to build competence and fluency the better. And language learning apps and software tools help them to maximise the chance to do so.

Importantly, digital technologies such as Sanako Connect specifically focus on supporting students across all of the core skills of language learning - i.e. listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Moreover they facilitate and encourage a more social form of communication and learning - students can not only communicate with each other through text chat but they can also conduct live pair / group conversations and other activities online regardless of date, time or location. Working collaboratively with peers in this way makes learning more enjoyable and further motivates students to succeed.

 

2. Access to authentic, real-life content

It is, of course, also important that students are able to access and learn from content that is authentic and which reflects the real-life situations they might one day find themselves in. Digital sources can uniquely provide easy, universal access to professionally-produced digital content (e.g from publishers or media owners) and to materials created by individual content creators (e.g YouTubers, language teaching bloggers). Check out also our another blog post on "Authentic language learning materials".

In either case, students will be easily able to find material in a format that they enjoy (e.g podcasts, Netflix etc.) or on a topic that stimulates them (e.g fashion, football or food). The sheer breadth (and quality) of language resources available online is unrivalled and will be more effective in motivating students to learn rather than an ancient DVD or some photocopied lesson resources.

 

3. Flexibility in teaching and learning

There is now a widespread recognition that not all language learning has to take place in the classroom. Students need / want a more flexible approach to learning, which gives them the chance to learn where, when and how best suits their circumstances or learning style. Of course, we recognise that in more formal education settings, students (and teachers) may have less flexibility to work with.

In any case, the use of digital technologies enables students to flexibly participate in lessons from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. Products like Sanako Connect also allows them to access a full range of content types (e.g games, video, audio files etc.) within a single digital classroom environment rather than jumping from resource to resource or from app to app. When learning is made convenient and can be tailored to their schedules, students respond accordingly and are focused and engaged on the work to be done.

 

4. Educational technology allows personalisation of teaching

As outlined above, the flexibility of digital solutions allows students to carefully tailor their learning. They also enable teachers to ensure that the content, lessons and resources can be personalised to each student’s individual skills and language ability. Language learning platforms like Sanako Connect make this possible at a click of a few buttons - there’s no need for one-size fits all lesson plans anymore!

Again it’s incredibly motivational for students when they can clearly see that their learning needs are being prioritised and that a bespoke learning journey has been developed for them all.

 

5. Feedback that is relevant and timely

It is, of course, also important that students get prompt feedback on the work that they have submitted for assessment. It is incredibly demotivating for learners to not get any feedback when they’ve completed a piece of work or for them to have to wait for ages before receiving any.

In some instances, digital feedback can be immediately provided to the learner after they have completed a simple multiple-choice assessment through platforms such as Sanako Connect. Otherwise tailored feedback can be easily supplied to individuals or groups of learners by educators through this language teaching platform.

In either case educators are able to give feedback to students providing clear and concise insight on what they did well and where additional work may be required. Students have a clear understanding of the progress they’re making and can see a path to the success they desire. As a result, students are more likely to feel motivated to continue their studies in order to achieve their ambitions / goals. You can read more about the importance of feedback for language learners here.

 

6. Autonomy and student-centred learning

Ultimately, all of the above elements combine to put each student at the very centre of their own learning journey. A review of the research in the field clearly shows that students who have a strong feeling of ownership and sense of control that they are better motivated and equipped to complete their courses.

Such students, research suggests, have so-called “agency” over their learning and are better able to become lifelong language learners. They are also better able to take responsibility for their own learning and are well equipped to learn multiple different additional languages.

 

How can Sanako Connect help boost your students’ motivation to learn new languages?

Sanako Connect is a powerful browser-based language teaching software that helps educators to improve students’ learning outcomes. It enables teachers to:

  • Offer a wide range of opportunities to practice core language skills. In fact, Sanako Connect has been specifically designed to increase the time each student spends speaking and actively practising conversations during classes whether you teach in the classroom or remotely.
  • Create lessons that grab students’ attention, are authentic and based on real-life scenarios. Connect makes it easy for teachers to upload a wide variety of learning material for students to use. Any number of authentic materials, interactive content, PDFs, presentations, YouTube videos and web pages can, for example, be easily attached to an online lesson plan and shared with students.
  • Make lessons easy to access and resources easy to find. With Connect, students can flexibly participate in lessons from anywhere with an internet connection and can conveniently access all of the language lesson resources and participate in the live lessons within a single application. 
  • Help demonstrate the progress students are making and simply provide feedback on areas for future development. This can be easily shared with students via Sanako Connect’s feedback functionality, which allows educators to add time-coded audio or text feedback for student’s speech and pronunciation recordings.
  • Tailor their teaching to every student’s needs. Connect helps language educators to identify student engagement with each lesson and each sub part. Teachers can clearly identify progress (or the lack of) and address areas for improvement with targeted lessons and resources.

 

If you’d like to find out more about how Sanako Connect could help to transform your language teaching, please contact us now to arrange your FREE demo!

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