The value of adding technology to language learning

Expanding Pedagogical Capacity by Rethinking Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition

This article is found in the TESL Canada Journal /revue volume 36. 2019.

As the number of language instructors seeking to implement digital technologies
in their teaching continues to grow, so does the need for direction with regard to
making pedagogically sound decisions concerning digital tool use. One popular
and useful guide for considering the educational potential of digital technologies
has been Puentedura’s (2006) Substitution-Augmentation-Modifi cation-Redefi –
nition (SAMR) model, with its four levels of progressive technological integration.

These are guidelines for introducing technology in your classroom. However, there are also other aspects to consider, those being amongst others educational philosophy, thereof learning, teaching style, and situational constraints. The article aims to systematically eliminate irrelevant, unacceptable, and unfeasible instruction uses of technology and, thereby revealing the potential for expanding pedagogical capacity in language teaching. Paul A. Lyddon

We can all agree that it is no longer the question of whether to implement technology in our teaching, but how. And that alternative 2 here is what we are looking for.

Here is a quote from Richard Culatta CEO of ISTE in 2018. “In one scenario, we’ll have technology that essentially duplicates what we’ve traditionally done: Deliver content in front of the room,” Culatta said. “Now we’ll deliver it on an app. We log in online to some LMS tool and there’s a teacher who controls all the options.

“The other world is we use technology in a way that transforms learning, where technology isn’t used to present content — that’s the least interesting way to use technology. Technology [should be] used as a tool to design and build and problem-solve. Both are very real possibilities. But it comes down to choices we make literally this year,” he added. “Over the next year or two is when we’re going to see the tipping point when that happens — because this is the first year we’ve really had ubiquitous connectivity in schools across the country.”


Puentedura’s (2006) Substitution-Augmentation-Modification-Redefinition (SAMR) Model, a seemingly straightforward taxonomy of progressively higher levels of technological tool affordances.

The 2 first levels are replacing existing tools with new ones like using digital paper-based materials and adding images. It is when we move into the transformation levels we see the real change in language learning. Some examples from the article here are; students recording, transcribing, and analyzing their oral performance. and the redefinitions can be to participate in online discussions with peers from other schools in other countries.

It is important however to be sure that the technology use is not driving the curriculum. How can we make sure that the introduction of technology is positively impacting student learning? This article adds a reflective approach to digital technology implementation in language teaching that addresses SAMR using these five stages:

Implementation motives, pedagogical purview (i.e., curricular charge), educational philosophy, theory of learning, teaching style, and situational constraints.

Reflection Area #1 (Implementation Motives): Why do I want to use technology?

Should availability be the only reason? How about more enjoyable learning? And then we have institutional pressure.

Reflection Area #2 (Pedagogical Purview): Who are my stakeholders? What is my accountability to them? In what context?

As society constantly evolves, so do the needs of its members, which could include anything from the traditional four communication skills to content and language integrated learning in various academic subject areas. Whatever the case, we must be clear on what our target learning outcomes are and whether technology use is essential or even useful to them.

Reflection Area #3 (Educational Philosophy): What do I see as the ultimate aim of language education?

Whatever our present educational philosophy, however, the point is that we must ask ourselves how well different uses of technology reflect our worldview. In other words, how well does the language it exposes students to reflect the actual purposes for which they will need it? However, note that not all relevant uses of digital technologies necessarily resonate with us as teachers. Thus, the purpose of the penultimate reflection stage, encompassing the next two reflection areas, will be to eliminate the unacceptable.

Reflection Area #4 (Theory of Learning): How do I envision learning?

Social Constructivist theories define learning as the assignment of meaning to new information vis-à-vis previous attitudes, beliefs, and experiences through a process of engagement in social interaction. Thus, unlike the previous views, both of which can minimally be realized by learners acting on impersonal elements of a self-contained environment, Social Constructivism necessitates the inclusion of actual autonomous human mediators. To be able to succeed the learners need sufficiently comprehensible input.

Reflection Area #5 (Teaching Style): What kinds of interpersonal dynamics might best promote my target learning outcomes?

Closely related to the idea of the learning process is the exact role of the learner in realizing it. we cannot simply adopt the same dynamic in all our instruction, for the optimal choice depends on the motivation level of our learners and the need for instructional focus. In language teaching, for instance, we know that some linguistic features can be acquired implicitly, whereas others seem to require awareness-raising and direct instruction. Thus, the question we must ask ourselves here is what role different technologies play in learner interactions.

Reflection Area #6 (Situational Constraints): What other factors might limit my choices of technology use?

Having carefully considered our motives, context, and beliefs, we can now suggest professionally responsible uses of educational technology. It only remains to ask what prevents us from using it the way we could or should.

Personal constraints include technical skill deficiencies with regard to the hardware or software in question and ethical concerns about the sharing of private data. Programmatic constraints—the opposite of implementation pressures—would include the required use of a textbook. Logistical constraints involve inadequate facilities or equipment, such as lack of computer terminals or Wi-Fi access. Finally, financial constraints include lack of funding for technical support, upgrades, and new

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