Should I use a Kindle in class?

An interesting article from the Guardian showed up in my inbox this morning: Kindle’s English language teaching role ‘re-examined’. It’s about how the US State Department cancelled a project to use Kindles with their global English language programs. While neither the State Department nor Amazon stated the reason for the cancelled program, they simply said that they needed to do more research, The Guardian speculated that part of the problem may be some of the problems associated with mobile learning specifically and blended learning in general.

One quote that jumped out at me, “there appeared to have been little focus on exactly how the Kindles would be integrated into current education programmes.” The article goes on to say that focusing on the technology for technology’s sake and not on what and how the students are supposed to learn has caused several other technology-based programs to fail.

This is a problem that I see all the time, on both large-scale, school-wide projects and on a smaller class by class or even activity by activity basis. Many people get so focused on what they can a do with technology that they forget to ask themselves: is using this technology the best way to achieve the curriculum objectives? In my opinion, more often than not, the answer to that question is no.

As stated in the article, the problem with technology is “a lot of people get excited when they see the device” but that excitement does not equal learning. I think that people often mistake excitement for engagement and/or motivation, but excitement wears off quickly and if the technology is not appropriate, than in my experience, students will abandon it.

I do think that there is a place for technology in learning, but I think that it should only be used when appropriate. Just because you can do something with technology, doesn’t mean that you should.

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  1. #1 by Elizabeth on April 10, 2013 - 1:37 pm

    I agree absolutely! and to add to your closing comment – just because it is new technology, doesn’t automatically transpire that it is good methodology.
    Why do some administrators and non educational staff continue to believe a computerised language lab is a useful tool? I think it definitely has a place in some instances, EFL or independant learning activities but not in my ESL context where communicative pedagogy is expected. If our aim is functional language development, why would i sit a class of students on computers with headphones to ‘talk’ to each other? Turn around and talk to each other, focus on peer assistance, practise in a real context with consciousness raising around the paralinguistics… technology is not all bad, but it is not all good either! As teachers we need to continually review what we do, how we do it and ensure that the purpose of the learning is clear and constructive.

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