What has changed? Are my learners the same?

Teens in the lab - 2008

Teens in the lab – 2008

It is impossible not to look back to 2008 when I started working at UDI SATC or even go back to 2007, 2006 or even further to 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999,…and not see that learners have changed or better saying that their access to English has improved and expanded tremendously. When this picture was taken in the second semester of 2008, I was just learning to use technology in class, and most of the teens back them had no cellphone and some had not even access to internet at home yet. So different from nowadays as we rarely find one that doesn’t own a cell phone or have access to internet. Does a matter of fact, internet met cellphone half way and quite a few of them have smartphones now. They are connect 24/7. And it is hard for them to disconnect, just as it is hard for us not to wonder what is going on way from our eyes. Internet created this bridge from where I am and what I can actually see around me to another dimmension of my reality – what is happening in other places and with the people I cannot see right there in front of me. Virtual realm is a reality. It is real. It makes me closer to people I have never met f-2-f.

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In the multimedia room back in 2009

Back then, the only access to English was through music and most of them rarely bothered to use it for learning, just for pleasure. And although Hollywood movies were and still are their favorites, they watched them in Portuguese. Nothing more natural than to attend English classes if one wanted to learn English. But things have changed quite a lot in the last few years regarding access to English, and because of that I have no doubt that students bring so much more to class now than they used to, more than we can imagine. It is quite normal for example for students to be more aware and compare teachers’ pronunciation to what they hear outside the class. Some students are so aware of it that can easily notice when the teacher slips.

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New generation of teens – 2012

But still there are those who need to become Language Learners and engage in the world. Within the groups I have, I have on one side English learners, on the other side English students ( Is there a need to explain the distinction I make? 😀 ). But even English students are not devoided of English knowledge. Even those who are not passionate learners know stuff and stuff that can be used in class to engage them in learning English.

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4 thoughts on “What has changed? Are my learners the same?

  1. Hi Rose,

    What you’re saying really connects up with what I’ve seen here in Japan. Students have all become full digital citizens. And the students who have already found a love of English are ready to use all that content. Just a little pointing in the right direction and they are off! And for sure, even the ones who still feel learning English is just a responsibility or duty have more exposure to English than ever before. And we have so many more chances to find something to help them see English as personal, an avenue of self discovery and joy.

    It’s amazing to find so many connections between our situations.
    Thanks for keeping connected.

    Kevin

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    • I’m glad to hear that Kevin. There are similarities and it amazes me too.

      It is impossible to deny that Internet has made it possible to expand and empower all of us, even if we are not producing content ourselves and are in contact with knowledge. Then, some people could argue that the knowledge they bring is not as good or useful which I totally disagree. It may be different from each other, from different points of view or source, but they are still knowledge and that is what we should work with and let them review, reshape or change what they know all together if that leads them to a better self and life.

      Now the question is: How do we teach them? Or like Tony would ask ( I believe),

      “How would those kids with this new identity (digital citizens) really learn? How can we collaborate, guide and work with this new generation of youth? How can we provide engaging content and language practice opportunity? Is it only about the language in class? What else should we consider nowadays?”

      Too many questions? :O

      Hard not to consider the 4 learning aims for education:
      Learn to be
      Learn to learn
      Learn to do
      Learn to live together

      Just expanding my thoughts on this Kevin. Thanks for adding yours to my journey.

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  2. Hi Rose,

    The old distance between “learning now” and “it will be useful in the future” no longer exists. In fact, many students might have used what we are teaching them in their own spontaneous ways and we are refining it in class. The motivation to learn is very real, as language becomes instrumental for them to enjoy what they like, to socialize, to consume, and most of all to be. Students can only be, if they hear others and make themselves heard to significant others all over the world . Our work as language teachers has shifted from bringing content and making students master it to being facilitators and guides that allow learners to be, learn, do, and live together in a quick changing globalized world.

    As teachers we are also living this connectivity right now as we exchange thoughts being geographically so far away, but at the same time so close professionally. I feel like talking to you while having my hot tea here. Amazing, eh?

    I think this would be a great topic to discuss with students. Curious to know about their views!

    Hugs,

    Juan

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    • Thanks Juan for adding your experience in this topic. Very enlightening!

      Especially this statement,
      “Our work as language teachers has shifted from bringing content and making students master it to being facilitators and guides that allow learners to be, learn, do, and live together in a quick changing globalized world.”

      Learning to mediate this process has being one of my main goals in the last couple of years.

      Like

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