Social networking shunned as aid to language teaching

12th March 2010 at 00:00
Major EU study reports Europe-wide failure among specialists to capitalise on student enthusiasm for new technologies

Language teachers are failing to take advantage of social networking and even see the phenomenon as a threat to their classroom authority, according to a major international study.

Specialist teachers often fail to keep up with online developments while their pupils leap ahead of them technologically.

Indeed, the report - which was commissioned by the European Union's Education, Audiovision and Culture Executive Agency - suggests that language teachers across Western Europe are hostile to using social networks, believing they do not follow best practice.

The study was carried out in eight EU countries and included quantitative and qualitative research. It was led by Anne Stevens, a senior lecturer at the Open University's faculty of education and languages studies.

"It is not being used beneficially by teachers," Ms Stevens told The TES. "The fact that pupils are using languages in their usage of these sites is not being taken advantage of. There is a difference in perception between the traditional teachers and the learners.

"Where the teachers see themselves as the giver of skills, they will perceive these technologies as a threat. Teachers should be put in a position through training where they do not see the technological advances as a threat."

The report accuses teachers across the EU of being resistant to using the opportunities opened up by the widespread use of social networks.

It also makes a series of recommendations on how the situation could be improved.

"Pedagogical applications do not keep pace with and are not integrated into technological innovation and change," the report says.

"Educators are often resistant to using technologies which do not reflect what they consider to be current pedagogical best practice.

"The application of new technologies in learning implies fundamental changes for the role of the teacher. These changes are often not addressed in professional training programmes or in continuing professional development."

The report's key recommendations include:

- developing opportunities for teachers to learn, practise and develop confidence in new systems;

- investigating the use of models of social networking;

- using popular communications to address the dominance of English among young users; and

- raising awareness of potential and best practice of ICT and new media for language learning.

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