Copyright © Language Bridge Technology, 2015
How can we bridge the gap between technology and pedagogy?
It seems to me that technology and pedagogy have different criteria for making fast strides forward. When new technology is introduced the inventors try to anticipate the future. They don’t care about the past.
When new pedagogy is introduced it traditionally incorporates detailed reviews of dozens of leading specialists in the field, and only then do the authors introduce their own new vision of some pedagogical topic. Read any scientific publication in applied linguistics, for example, and you will find this is the case. In this scenario, the inventor of the new pedagogy is looking backward rather than anticipating the future. How can we change this attitude that has been dominant for a hundred years?
New technology without new pedagogy results in poor teaching being delivered faster and more efficiently.
Should we ask technology inventors to be engaged in pedagogical inventions, too? Probably. It really hurts to see dozens of new applications for learning foreign languages and find that most of them still use flashcards, which were invented a hundred years ago for memorizing information and are counter-productive for acquiring language skills.
There is another class of applications (new technology) using video lessons (old pedagogy).
I would like to elaborate on this misconception:
The next best method is to watch videos in the new language
We are accustomed to multitasking: we divide our attention to perform various tasks concurrently. Watching a video lesson is a passive operation and it would be hard for us to pay full attention to the words used in the video since, in the competition for attention, visuals and feelings always win. If we watch videos regularly, we probably do something else at the same time—we remember our last meeting, send text messages, or talk with others in the room not about the video but about recent events. So while the video can deliver the shape and feeling of a story powerfully, there is little chance that you would acquire new words or expressions from the video—not in a way that would allow you to use them later.
Since a video does not allow inclusion of support in the native language, it is hard to make it understandable to adult learners. Another disadvantage is that novice language learners usually don’t hear the particular sounds that the new language has but their native language doesn’t have. Students need special tools that will help them first recognize, then imitate, and finally produce sentences in the new language with pronunciation close to that of native speakers. Video lessons cannot help students achieve this objective.
According to the Learning Pyramid we remember about 50% of what we hear and see, which includes watching a video. In contrast to a video, text requires our full attention in order to assimilate the information presented. Working with the text we can hear its recording, see the text, and say it at the along with the recording. According to the Pyramid this mode ensures the highest (75%) retention rate of the information presented.
Olly Richards in his remarkable post Are You Wasting Your Time Watching Foreign Language Movies? describes:
Why Movies Don’t Help
The language level is way too high for you to understand most of what is going on. Improving in a language requires you to be able to notice interesting features of the language from the things people are saying. For that to happen you need to listen to language that’s slightly above your current level (this is known as comprehensible input).
Watching a movie is a passive experience, with no interaction.
You’re not really listening. Don’t be under the impression that you’re really listening to the language. If you’ve got subtitles on, what you’re actually doing is reading. And you’re reading in English. OK, you can still hear the French being spoken, but it’s not the focused listening you thought it was.
Movies are long! What other learning activity would you spend 2 hours on, without varying it, or trying other things? You can’t focus. And during those 2 hours, how much are you really focusing on the language? You’re probably trying to enjoy the movie at the same time, which means inevitably you’re going to spend a lot of the time more focused on the subtitles and the story line than the French that’s being spoken.
It’s impractical to look up words in the dictionary. OK, you can look up the odd word, but no more than that if you actually want to reach the end of the movie!
There’s no accompanying text/transcript to help you. Even if there was, it’d be too long. Compare that to a short dialogue in a textbook which you can rip apart and learn from, go back over and analyze when you want to understand something.
Language Bridge Technology started as an innovation in pedagogy; after testing it in the field and getting excellent results, I started to develop the Android application that is capable of implementing all the new pedagogical features.
It reminds me of an age-old question: "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?"
Allow me to express my opinion: first the egg – pedagogy, then the chicken – technology.