Tech impact on learning: Pros and cons
Team Careers, 31 Oct 2018
1540967730877TK Arunachalam, Regional Director - South Asia of Cambridge Assessment English, explains how technology is shaking up the way people learn English…


Technology is having a huge impact on education and the way we learn, and the English language learning sector is no exception. Technology and language learning a long history. If we go back to the 1980s, the boom in home computing started to change the way we learn. More recently, the advent of the Internet and the introduction of interactive whiteboards have also had dramatic effects on the classrooms. At Cambridge Assessment English, we’ve put a lot of expertise into developing digital resources and they are starting to have an impact on our learners worldwide.

Games and social media

At Cambridge Assessment English, we’ve produced lots of games, videos and social networking which are proving to be great ways of helping people to learn English. One of our most successful developments to date is Quiz Your English, which is a mobile app that allows language learners around the world to go head-to-head in an English language quiz. Players can challenge people via social media to see who comes out on top for vocabulary and grammar skills. The app covers a range of topics and has proved to be a fun way to practice and improve students’ English. Launched in March 2017, 1,785,000 games had been played by early September 2017 with around 10,000 new players installing it each week. Millions of more games have been played since then and it continues to be popular. This has been a huge success and a significant milestone in the digital learning space for Cambridge Assessment English.

Massive Open Online Courses

We’ve also successfully launched a number of MOOCs which are Massive Open Online Courses. Again, these have proved popular and some of our popular courses include ‘Exploring the World of English Language Teaching’, followed by ‘Inside IELTS’ and ‘Teaching Your Subject in English’. These have been hugely successful and hundreds of thousands of students have taken part in our courses to date.

Write and Improve

Another development has been ‘Write and Improve’, a product that allows students to choose a topic, write about it in English and get instant feedback. Well over a million pieces of writing have been submitted and checked since September 2016. In less than a year from its launch it had been used by 675,981 people in 225 countries.

The teacher is here to stay!

These are just a few areas that we’re working on but as you can see they are having big impacts. It’s fair to say that tech won’t replace the teacher, but it will offer many new exciting opportunities. For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning are starting to offer some interesting possibilities for language learning. If we look at artificial intelligence for example, this could take away some of the burden on teachers further down the line.   

One thing that will change is the skills that teachers will need. The teacher will have to become an expert in using the technology as well as teaching. So, it’s creating the need for a different sort of teacher. With this in mind I’d recommend teachers visit the Digital Teacher website that we’ve developed in consultation with practising language teachers and trainers. People visiting the site can use the Cambridge English Digital Framework for Language Teachers. This provides a guide to professional development and teachers can also use a free self-evaluation tool and explore the six categories of the framework to find their unique starting point and so they can set realistic goals.

For us, learning English is more than just exams and grades. It’s about having the confidence to communicate and digital can certainly help with this. With all of these new ideas and approaches to learning, it’s such an exciting time to be learning English!

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