5 Pitfalls of Using Technology in Language Instruction

As follow-up to my discussion on the need for technology in the classroom, I’d like to consider some common dangers or misuses of technology by teachers. I don’t mean to point any fingers. In fact, I’ve failed to avoid at least one of these pitfalls myself in the past. Perhaps you can add other dangers to the list along with your own advice.

1. You forget to test the technology before the start of your lesson.

Oops! The DVD player isn’t hooked up to the TV! Rule number one: You must be certain the technology works. Go ahead and fancy yourself a rock star for just a moment. Would you go on stage without an equipment check and dress rehearsal? The lesson is your performance. Make sure everything is operational before the spotlight turns on you.


2. You fail to have a back-up plan when the technology fails you.

Oh no! I had my PowerPoint file open at the start of the lesson, but now my screen froze! Rule number two: Learn some basic troubleshooting for the technology you are using. Often a problem can be solved in a matter of seconds if you know exactly what’s wrong. Unfortunately, certain errors require more time than you’re able to give at the moment. You need plan B. If you planned to use a PowerPoint presentation and cannot access it, are you able to present a modified version at the board? Don’t let a frozen screen freeze you.


3. You rely on the technology to do the teaching.

Didn’t they learn this already from the online tutorial? Let’s clarify the role of technology in classroom teaching. Teachers can use technology to facilitate their teaching, but the technology isn’t meant to replace teacher instruction. The students need you to help them understand examples, form conclusions, and practice the language. Rule number three: Technology should be an aid in language instruction, not a substitute for it.


4. You limit the technology to a role outside the classroom.

I incorporate technology in my lessons. Many homework assignments involve lab work. Great, but that’s not enough. Students should be aware of resources outside the classroom, but why have you limited the use of technology to self-study at home or in the lab? Uses of audio CDs or websites shouldn’t always be optional. Multimedia can be the ingredients of a main dish, not the sprig of parsley you throw on top of the food to add color to the plate. Rule number four: Use technology with a purpose. Bring technology into your lessons and be able to justify its use to yourself and to the students.


5. You limit yourself to the technology that is most familiar.

All the CD players are being used by other teachers, but I really wanted to use one, too. Rule number five: Expand your knowledge about technology. It took me a while to figure out that a DVD player can play an audio CD. If only I had known sooner! I only learned about this option after talking to another staff member. There’s always someone who knows more than you about a certain topic. Our colleagues are a good resource. Talk to others and see what they can teach you about technology.


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