The debate over the use of technology in unplugged teaching, Luke noted, has transformed from simply being a case of ‘yes or no’ to now being ‘how and when’.
While Luke at no point indicated that embracing technology is an alternative to the unplugged philosophy, this talk was a clear step removed from the original Dogme vows of chastity, representing an enlightened view that tech can be beneficial when it facilitates the unplugged appraoch. Indeed, Luke argued that technology, when used effectively, will facilitate the extension of classroom interaction, rather than acting as a mechanism to control or direct it.
Luke started off by highlighting the fact that a lot of people are engaging with tech that imitates the way we used to do things before the current age of technology. He effectively compared top-down and bottom-up uses of technology in the classroom, and examined contemporary digital tools in the context of the technological innovations that language teaching and learning has witnessed since the 1960s.
In some ways Luke was expressing a ‘reality check’ for those who would ‘Dogme’ their teaching 100% of the time. We are not in a position to do exactly what we want in class all of the time, but, Luke suggested, it is still important that we make the best of that time and those moments when we can veer off from the ‘prescribed’ course of teaching.
Luke looked at the progression of ideas, starting with the influence of the Pitman method. He discussed how L.G. Alexander based his groundbreaking 1960s course book not on how course books had been done up to then but on the ‘Pitman approach to teaching typewriting’.
The Pitman method
- Linear, A-Z
- Developed for new tech
- In another world
He then looked at how Alexander’s ‘New Concept English’ had embraced these ideals. This approach was based on the notion of the teacher being the ‘conductor of the orchestra’. This was a fresh idea at the time with an innovative layout. Indeed, he sold 4.7 million copies in 1977, although his work is largely unknown these days. While this approach looks dated now, it was extremely innovative at the time. Indeed, he noted that this was a reflection of the emerging technology of the era, suggesting that the way that language learning is responding to modern innovations is not something that has never happened before, but is in fact something that has been evident in ELT for many decades.
He drew an analogy with music, in that once the technology is there, people use it and the old ways are often lost.
Adam Simpson for the roving reporter team