Our two guests are language teachers and share their views on e-learning applied to language learning.
Hannu Arvio works as a Finnish teacher in Barcelona. He is also working with WordDive, an interactive language learning tool made in Finland.
Ademar Aguiar is the founder of escolinhas.pt, a new learning environment, personal and social, targeted for schools and digital natives, available in Portugal and schoooools.com, the international version of escolinhas.pt, available as beta in selected countries, worldwide.
What are the advantages of e-learning for language learning?
Hannu: As a teacher, I’m very selective when it comes to using e-learning. There are definitely some useful tools, such as social networks. I am trying to figure out how to use these tools for language learning. Facebook and Twitter are real life, and everything that’s used in real life should somehow be used as it facilitates communication with students from the rest of the world.
Ademar: E-learning enables you to reach more people who are already learning the same language. With e-learning, you can widen your practice community. You can also have more teachers available. Furthermore, the reading and writing practices are also emphasized by e-learning because you will be informally communicating with others in the language you’re learning.
Can the physical absence of teachers be a disadvantage for learners?
Hannu: Yes, it could be a disadvantage. Personally, I don’t believe in learning a language without a teacher or without a human contact. You need a natural feedback, which is usually the other one’s face. However, the e-learning gives you many tools, but it doesn’t take into consideration the importance of the teacher.
Ademar: I agree with that, not only for language learning but for remote communication in general. The first contact should be face-to-face and it’s not replaceable yet. However, you can prepare that face-to-face contact and technology can help us do that. We can also reduce the duration of face-to-face contact and increase the remote communication. This way you can also teach to more people.
How do you maintain the motivation of students?
Hannu: It’s quite a challenge. The risk of motivation loss does really exist and we have to take that into account. The teacher has to be there somehow to guide the student.
Ademar: The additional challenge of e-learning is to keep the motivation at a high level. I see the role of the teacher as someone who really motivates the students to learn, show them what they need to know and help them learn. This is difficult for the teacher because he doesn’t directly see the progress of the students.
How effective is the use of social media for language learning?
Hannu: It depends on the learners; some are much more used to use social media. But anyway I think it’s positive because they will use social media out of the classroom and at that moment they will practice the language the same way that they would do in real life, because social media is real life. Furthermore, many people already use these social networks on a daily basis so this doesn’t represent an additional effort to them.
Ademar: Social Media helps you to be a writer, with an immediate audience; it motivates you to write about yourself, about what you like. And so it may motivate students to learn more and know more about the language because they are not doing the homework and studying with their textbook but they can talk about their things.
Will e-learning replace traditional learning?
Hannu: It could be if we resolve this motivation issue for example, you know the world changes very fast. E-learning will be more and more important. But we will always need humans.
Ademar: I don’t think so. As the technology improves, and it does in a very fast way, the classroom is not as needed as it was before. The classroom style of teaching with “one-teacher- many-students” is changing. We are able to reduce some of the contact hours. For some subjects, the percentage of remote teaching can be very high. On the other hand, many other subjects require face-to-face contact, such as language learning. After all, human beings are social beings.