Personal PD (cont.): The Case for CALL in a Re-mix/Mash-up World

Kessler, G. (2013). Teaching ESL/EFL in a world of social media, mash-ups, and hyper-collaboration. TESOL Journal, 4(4), 615-632.

Summary

In this invited article, Kessler provides a sustained argument for teachers to set aside their misgivings about the technological revolution in English language teaching. He adroitly points out that our students live in technological spaces that mediate not only their understanding of their ecosocial spaces but also their views towards learning and their language practices. As this is the case, teachers must come to embrace technology mediated language teaching and seek to integrate it into their practice. To help with this, Kessler provides links to many applications that teachers might find useful. He extends this data dump by providing a rationale for each item he included in his listing, weighing both pros and cons. He also provides a four-point list of actions teachers need to take to better integrate technological interventions with their practices.

Response

For me, this was a very energetic piece by a CALL apologist that I’ve known professionally for some time. That being said, there were many useful aspects of this article. The first is the resources that he directs readers towards. To help the reader jump start their own cognition about CALL’s place in their teaching practice, Kessler provides not only a summary of the resource but suggestions for its use in language teaching. This makes Kessler’s piece infinitely more useful than other pieces that tend more towards being a wall of links. Also useful were his guidelines for approaching technology in the classroom. He encouraged educators to do four things: (1) to focus on pedagogy first, (2) to allow classroom practice to mirror real-world use, (3) to no obsess with becoming an expert of the technology, and (4) to ease into using new tech in teaching.

His second and third points are of particular importance. Allowing classroom practice to mirror authentic use allows students to more immediately see the application, the relevance, of what we’re teaching them. It can also be used to highlight how things like register and medium can influence how our interlocutors parse a message. The third part, not being expert, is instrumental. It’s a well-known maxim that our students will almost always know more about the latest tech than we do. Don’t let that hold you back. Rather, let it push you forward. By allowing students to showcase what they know and can do with new technologies in the classroom, you may be helping to actualize student agency over their own learning, a feat that can lead to increased motivation to carry out educational tasks and to buy into lifelong learning, which is what all effective language learners/users seem to understand—learning a language is a lifelong affair. There is no moment of arrival and completion.

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