Sanako is a Finnish Educational Tech company helping schools and language teachers to improve language teaching efficiency and results.
Language labs and software (apps and e-learning platforms) have reshaped the way languages are taught. From the way students practice at home and in the classroom, to the way teachers monitor progresses and manage individual learning paths, there is no aspect of language teaching that technology cannot improve.
This blog post explains how every stakeholder (students, teachers, and the education institution as a whole) involved in the language learning process has something to gain from the application of educational technology.
How technology benefits the students?
Some did it for study reasons, others driven by the desire to explore unknown realities. All of them, in any case, mentioned how technology helped them in the process of language learning.
By examining the individual experiences collected by Sanako, it is possible to affirm that
educational technology solutions have played an important role in either fully introducing young people to language study or optimizing and diversifying the study experience.
This observation is supported by a considerable body of research in the field of language learning. These studies have observed that the use of multimedia technologies has a positive impact in increasing student engagement and interaction, both among themselves and with the language teacher.
It is therefore necessary to disprove the stereotype according to which young people sitting in front of a computer simply assimilate passively a type of entertainment as an end in itself.
On the contrary, students' approaches to technology are often creative and active and can, as a result, stimulate processes that are fundamental to language learning. Among these we underline:
In a previous post we have argued that a widespread weakness of school curricula is that they do not give due attention to communication-based activities in language courses. Technology-integrated classroom systems, on the other hand, offer the possibility of integrating speaking-related tasks in a coherent way. What’s more, they do so by exploiting instruments and procedures (such as instant messaging, presentation tools, etc.) with which students are already familiar with.
In this way, technology can help develop an interactive learning environment in which interaction in the second language is constantly stimulated on a regular basis and not just relegated to oral exams.
The ability to analyze information, compare data, understanding abstract concepts are fundamental components of critical thinking. Incidentally, they also provide a strong boost to improve fluency in a foreign language.
Edtech solutions can be utilized to train students' critical thinking and improve their language learning outcomes, especially when these solutions are increasingly exploiting the educational potentialities of digital simulations.
Technology is useful for creating an immersive learning environment, where interaction with the virtual setting complements teacher explanations. In virtual learning environments it is possible to prompt the active use of the second language to carry out activities such as problem solving and information research. These activities require the activation of cognitive processes at the basis of critical thinking.
Language software such as Connect also encourages students to develop a critical approach to language study.
Connect allows the teacher to divide students to pair or groups to exercise conversation practice. Dialogue among students provides a particularly effective context for developing socialization skills, logical reasoning, and peer learning. It is therefore a functional activity for critical reasoning, as well as for internalizing the second language. Through Connect students are prompted to internalize grammar rules through their concrete application and not simple memorization.
Collaboration and group work are very important in stimulating students to actively use the second language. This is why the best language software includes online collaboration platforms through which students can do exercises together.
These features are increasingly appreciated by the teaching community. As Gary Motteram noted in an article for the British Council, edtech solutions are particularly suitable for combining language learning and project works. In fact, as Motteram argues:
“Getting learners to do work about topics that are of interest to them, or topics that are taught in other parts of the curriculum (sometimes called Content and Language Integrated Learning) is a great way to improve their skills. Technology makes this possible wherever you are in the world. Teachers and learners can go online to read or listen to material about different areas of interest, and can then write or speak about what they have discovered”.
How do teachers benefit from language teaching technology?
One aspect that is not always emphasized enough is how education technology supports teachers in their classroom management and workflow processes.
A teacher's job must often mediate between different needs and expectations. This work, moreover, should be organized in such a way as to achieve the learning objectives set by the national curriculum.
This overlapping of responsibilities and assignments certainly has an impact on the way teachers work. Therefore, several edtech products have been designed to optimize the teacher's time in performing certain tasks related to the daily life of the classroom. Here, we want to highlight three ways in which technological applications can improve classroom management and enhance teaching’s efficacy.
In the preparation phase, the advantage of using these products is that the teacher can either choose to use pre-built language learning content or create them from scratch. In this way, time optimization and personalization of the educational experience are two needs that are reconciled.
When it comes to assessment, the best language software includes functionalities for rapid file sharing between students and teachers. Connect has a highly specialized feedback feature, so the teacher can choose whether to review an individual student's assignment or observe the performance of the entire class on a specific assignment.
Being aware of the progress of students and the class as a whole is, of course, a central aspect in determining the success of the educational path. Through Connect's assessment mechanism, teachers can always have an up-to-date picture of the situation, identify learning gaps to be filled, and prepare ad hoc activities to address learning shortcomings in advance.
Keeping students engaged is certainly important, but for this to be possible, the teacher should also be properly motivated.
Teachers often have to complete routine tasks that are necessary to ensure the smooth running of school activities. However, these are often repetitive assignments that are demanding and time consuming.
Correcting tests is one of the most time consuming tasks that teachers have to carry out. Automated assessment checking makes these repetitive activities easier and faster, thus empowering teachers to allocate more time to engaging teaching activities and classroom projects.
Facilitating the language learning process and thereby increasing the quality of the education provided is our main objective. But this goal would not be attainable without the presence of motivated teachers who can count on concrete support in the daily performance of their work.
For this reason, Sanako's language software has been developed both as a means for an engaging language learning experience and an efficient, high-performing teaching activity.
How school institutions as a whole can benefit from technology
The integration of technology solutions within school pathways can provide benefits not only to individual stakeholders, but also to the educational institution as a whole.
As noted in an articulate Brookings report, it is important to consider that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to studying the integration of education and technology. This means that, depending on the characteristics and resources of each school, the introduction of technology-based solutions will produce different results.
However, there are common comparative advantages of using edtech software that can be identified even in different contexts.
One of the most relevant comparative advantages identified by Brookings researchers is the possibility of scaling up quality instructions. This would be possible by exploiting the ability of edtech software to create and diffuse multimedia educational content.
Schools could then easily distribute additional learning materials to students, enhancing the study tools available to them, and also facilitating distance learning when needed.
In the case foreign language study, increasing the quantity and quality of didactic materials, as well as the opportunities for distance education, would represent a benefit for all students who, not being able to afford private courses, find in school courses the only opportunity for learning a second language.
In some regions of the world, differences in the economic resources that individual families can devote to education, particularly to the study of foreign languages, create significant disparities in learning opportunities and educational outcomes. Therefore, schools should evaluate the benefits brought by edtech tools not only in terms of efficiency but also in terms of social equity.
Progress in students' learning outcomes, in addition to being significant in its own right, also has reputational and financial benefits.
An institution capable of leading its students to achieve better results will acquire a greater capital of reputation and a greater ability to attract pupils in the future.
Under the impetus of globalization, educational institutions are increasingly characterized by interconnectedness and transnational partnerships. Many educational institutions, especially in the higher education sector, have in recent years strive to adopt sound internationalization strategies.
From this point of view, investing in tools to enhance language learning is not only a way to increase education quality but also a means to ripe the material benefits of internationalization, such as increased funding and revenue generation, enhanced international capacity-building, better quality of research and development.