The missing link
Not long ago, teachers got used to searching for a range of techniques that could be possibly used in the classroom in order to create a variety of opportunities that would affect learner’s different needs and learning styles. Not only did teachers strive to succeed inside the classrooms, but also outside them. As a result of this effort, computer assisted learning has evolved and awarded us with blended learning, a learning that will actively enhance classroom studies. Have we finally found the key to successful studies in EFL then?
Listening, reading, writing, speaking, learning strategies and cultural aspects of languages can be easily found outside school walls nowadays. Surprisingly, learning management systems online (many of them free of charge) seem to have broken those walls and what before used to be school domain is now a learner’s prerogative anywhere s/he may go. Teachers asked for more autonomous learners and learners claimed for more interactive and less repetitive activities. Digital generations have this need for immediate feedback and faster results. They want to be able to use computers and any other electronic internet based device to learn and access knowledge. Teachers and learners envisioned a less time-consuming assessment of students’ progress; something that would be more dynamic and visual. Isn’t it true?
Blended Learning comes as an answer. A variety of activities and tasks have been put together in a ubiquitous space and made available for learners and teachers outside the classroom in many different formats. Games, songs, podcasting, writing and publishing, forums, dynamic grammar activities with immediate feedback, memory games, pictionaries, dictionaries with fast response to pronunciation issues, not to mention, synchronous and asynchronous communication with members of a learning cycle are currently part of what used to be called homework. Interaction has not been lost as well; in fact, it has increased.
On the other hand, together with such a fancy fast change in our teaching-learning relationship comes along a whole need for adaptation and development of new competences. Teachers are not the same, learning has changed and students are different as well. Teaching these days means educating and motivating collective intelligence to a more conscientious citizenship. We are in a sharing-oriented learning cycle. Teachers are expected to spend more time connecting and orienting students towards this shared knowledge than to preformatted content and exercises. Teachers are active learners and educators who have to be ready to face the challenges of this still obscure cyber culture, where blended learning came from.
In the vast seas of internet, where everything can be found and lost, there is place for self-studies and effective language learning. Is blended learning the missing link? The so wanted key to success in language teaching? There is a lot of learner’s autonomy and teacher’s hard work inside it. It certainly is an evolution in language education. Therefore, if it is not the missing link, it certainly is an unavoidable and attractive pathway towards it.
Suelen Viana is a professor of English as a foreign language at ICBEU Manaus and has also worked as a professor of new educational technologies at ESBAM.