Review: NILE Technology-assisted Language Learning course

I took the MA module in Technology-assisted Language Learning through NILE back in 2017. Here are some thoughts on the course (views my own).

Overview

The course “covers the uses of technology in language education and includes theoretical perspectives, practical applications and opportunities for hands-on practical experience.”

Module content included the following…

  • The role of edtech in ELT
  • Evaluating edtech in your own institution
  • Working with the web: search literacy, tagging literacy, etc
  • Working with media – images, audio, video, remixing
  • Mobile learning- what is it and how can we use it? QR codes, virtual reality, augmented reality, e-readers, SMS, etc
  • Syllabus design; implementing tech
  • Teacher development online: PLNs etc

Assessment

Assignments included…

Assignment 1: A research article in the style of a professional journal on the use of technology in a learning / teaching environment.

Assignment 2a: Design a website for an aspect of ICT in ELT

Assignment 2b: Design and pilot either a webquest, an online international exchange project, or a series of classes involving mobile devices

As with the materials development course, the timeframes are manageable. The research project was really good, it gave me the chance to evaluate a tech tool and how it benefited learners (if at all). I did this over the course of a term, which gave ample time to integrate the tool in different ways and gain regular feedback from learners. Here is an overview of my project:

The portfolio aspects of the course were okay. I found it difficult to create a website for learners in my context due to some institutional constraints. My website work was a bit rubbish but it didn’t effect my overall mark (Distinction, yay). Again, given some restrictions in my context I had to opt for a fairly safe ‘webquest’ task for the other assessment. I use webquests quite a bit anyway, so it was a case of refining/optimizing my skills and approach rather than trying something new. Still, it was worthwhile, and for all assignments I gained some valuable feedback from learners on tech application in class and on my own practice.

Actually, these assignments reminded me how important learner feedback is and how I’d come to neglect it, so that was an indirect way I benefited from the course.

Course content

A lot of the course content focused on ‘hands-on, practical experience’. For example, the module of tagging literacy involved trying out a range of bookmarking tools and evaluating them. The unit on working with media included exploring a range of websites that provided free/paid for images and evaluating how useful the sites were. These activities were good for building up a resource bank.

The course involved participants exploring key concepts /sharing opinions related to edtech and populating a course wiki week-by-week. This was nice as it was modelling a possible tech resource that could be used with learners (shame Wikispaces has shut down though). As with the Materials Development course I took, other types of interaction on the course included webinars, talkpoints, sticky walls for ideas sharing, and plenty of collaborative research tasks.

The hands-on, exploratory focus of the course was good in many ways, and the course overview does state this was an aim of the course. However, I thought that there could be more of an academic focus at times. A lot of the suggested/required reading during the course came from online opinion pieces, blogs, educational websites, etc. Generally, it lacked academic grounding. The key reading was mainly from overview resources – unfortunately when it comes to tech these can get dated quickly. The bibliography for this module was sparse, although I plugged the holes in areas that interested me; there were some useful recommended journals which I found were well worth exploring. I did value the practical side of things, but I felt that the balance was too far one way – some more examples of recent (action) research or published journal articles related to tech application might have helped.

There is another reason why more reference to academic research would benefit the course. The main assignment asks participants to produce “a research article in the style of a professional journal on the use of technology in a learning / teaching environment”. A few good models of such as part of the key reading, especially some good action research, might help.

Reading around some of the topics, I came across some really useful tools/matrices/models to help with integrating technology in class. I have written about these recently in a blog post for ELT Consultants. I think this content would be worth referencing more on the course too – it is a nice bridge between principles and practice.

The course is only 8 weeks long, so there is only so much that can be covered. There were some units which offered optional tasks, which I think was the right approach. Most weeks required around 7-8 hours of course time so I can see why certain tasks weren’t compulsory. Optional tasks included exploring concordance software, online dictionaries, exploring LMS platforms, and so on.

Tutors

There was only one tutor on my course – Gavin Dudeney. He was very supportive and gave solid feedback during the assessment process. He was also very active on the forums and interacted a lot with participants, which kept the discussion going throughout the week. A strength of the course for sure.

How have I benefited from taking the course?

  • I have a much broader resource bank related to technology.
  • I certainly take a more principled approach to integrating technology in class. The course prompted me to seek out resources to help with this.
  • I tried tech-related resources that I wouldn’t normally have bothered with. For example, I learnt about augmented reality and some of its uses in education.
  • I learnt a lot about my students and their tech capabilities.
  • I found out quite a bit about tech application in other contexts from my fellow participants.

Overall

A good course with lots of practical take-homes.

4/5

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