It strikes me as very strange that the global language teaching community has not made use of the potential of computers and the Internet. I am continually amazed that so few examples of really good, well thought out language tools and applications actually exist. Sure, you have a number of very good teaching and learning aids out there to choose from, but they all seem to be using essentially the same old methodology.
Many of the software applications advertised for the PC market are based on the CDROM approach similar to a slideshow presentation with very limited user interaction. Others programs seem to concentrate on a very narrow subject area.
Which computer or online language tool would be comparable with the likes of, say, Microsoft Word· in terms of complexity and usability?
In trying to look for more tools and resources I could offer on this website, I conducted a few searches on Google and ended up at the HotScripts "Education" category. It consists of (at the time of writing) a number of portal-type E-learning environments and a collection of various other scripts such as testing tools, dictionary systems, word scramblers and other oddities.
For sure, the E-learning environments are quite impressive, however I feel they are still basing themselves around an old idea and concept. In order to get the best learning and teaching tools from computers, they need to be designed from the ground up for computers. They need to be based on fundamental questions such as "what do computers do best?"
Governments are starting to ensure that their schools are online and have Intranets, but look at what the schools do with their sites! The sites I've seen have been simply descriptions of the school and courses and not a single one has offered their students any form of learning aid, and from what I am told it seems that school/college intranets are suffering the same neglect. These are prime areas that could be utilised for educational purposes but instead lie dormant and devoid of any real use.
If Information Technology is going to become fully incorporated into education, there must be a shift away from the usual conveyor belt software and tools, and start imagining new ideas that integrate the principles of teaching and learning into the very foundations of the application. It is then that we might start seeing some truly useful developments in learning and teaching languages that are able to take advantage of the full potential of the computer and the Internet.
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