To Use Edtech or Not: That is the Question

When Shelly Terrell kindly invited me to write an article on Edtech in Argentina for her blog, I immediately got enthusiastic about it. Having Shelly in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) is an asset for me as she adds a lot to my professional growth and technological literacy.

Educational System in Argentina

First of all, I would like to describe the educational system in Argentina. It is unified throughout the whole country and obligatory from the age of five to the end of secondary school (about 18 years old). It is structured in four levels:
  1. Initial education: from 45 days to 5 years old, being this last year compulsory
  2. Primary education: from 6 years old to 12 years old (obligatory)
  3. Secondary education: up to 18 years old. It is obligatory and includes two cycles:
    • Basic cycle
    • Knowledge-oriented cycle: different areas of knowledge
  4. Superior education
The educational system comprises 8 modalities: technical-professional, artistic, special (for disabled students), permanent for young people and adults, rural, intercultural-bilingual (indigenous groups), aimed at imprisoned people, delivered at home or in hospitals.

Current Situation

Secondly, I want to briefly outline the current educational situation in my country. In the past, we boasted one of the best educational systems in Latin America but it has been diminishing its splendour decade after decade as a result of inappropriate educational policies. Nowadays, education is affected by the marked difference between the rich and the poor, which results in an enhancement of private schools and the struggle of public education to survive and offer good opportunities. This fact opposes UNESCO’s world motto: “Education for Everybody.”

The problem is complex and it is necessary to develop strategies that:

  • Re-state teachers’ pride and joy of teaching and responsibility for the results of the teaching process
  • Encourage students’ interest in learning
  • Foster the family’s commitment to contribute to their children’s school success
  • Make political leaders come to an agreement as to the ways of offering guarantees for the fulfilment of legal policies in education.

Edtech

In general, at schools in my country, educational technology is seldom used in the classroom despite the existence of a Website like the following: http://www.educ.ar/educar/index.html. Teachers, students and parents use the Internet to do research for projects and to find out information.
In the case of Language Schools, the situation is different. Language teaching, especially English, has always been at the avant-garde. I  am a teacher of English as a Second Language and I work in a Language School. In this school where English is taught to students at different ages, from babies to adults, and from different levels, computers are used as part of the English class for presentation and practice of the English language. Nevertheless, the ESL teachers I work with feel they are not updated enough as to helpful tools to be used in the classroom. For that reason, I am organising some meetings with them so as to share with them everything I’ve been learning thanks to my PLN, which is made up of members who generously share everything they know as to educational tools, hints and tips.

Making a Difference

Thanks to Twitter and to the valuable members of my PLN, I have become acquainted with several tools that have proved useful for learning and teaching English. This year I have created wiki spaces for my classes where I upload tasks to develop the strategies my students need: listening, speaking, reading and writing in a way that is encouraging and highly motivating. In these wiki spaces, my students have folders where they can upload the tasks they do for me to check and they can write messages to me when they have doubts. They were vital during the month we had to interrupt classes in Winter as a consequence of the spread of H1N1 virus (swine flu). During that month, I was able to send tasks for my students and not have to stop the learning process.

Parents have expressed their gratitude to me for having created these sites and are very enthusiastic about their children’s possibilities to go on doing extra practice at home through a means that is more motivating for them. The language school administration has supported me at all times on this development and has congratulated me at all times for this contribution.
I also work as a one-to-one tutor at home and I have also built a wiki space I share with my private students for them to continue practicing at home. This is my website. If you want to visit it, please ask me and I’ll gladly include you among the users.

Technology plays an essential role in the learning process as it offers the possibility of adding variety to classes and of making new facts more memorable for students.

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Marisa Pavan holds degrees in translation, interpretation and teaching from Instituto Superior Nº 28 “Olga Cossettini”, Rosario and has two decades of experience in teaching English as a Second Language. She has over 6 years experience working as a freelance English-Spanish/ Spanish-English translator. She is  skilled in languages, translation, interpretation, training students to develop listening, speaking, writing and reading strategies, CAT tools and communication. You can also find Marisa on Twitter, @mtranslator.


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21 thoughts on “To Use Edtech or Not: That is the Question

  1. Being able to make a difference in a child’s life is the reason many of us choose the profession. And being able to make a difference in a country that has limited technology in the classrooms is huge. Technology in a classroom can make learning go from good to great, and being to able to do that in the ESL students is awesome. I guess Americans take advantage of the technology that is offered to us at the tip of our fingers. I feel like motivation in completing assignments make each child succeed so much more. Great job at what you are doing! I only wish each child everywhere had the same opportunity, though we know this is not that case: but starting somewhere is great!

  2. This is such an impressive system that you have worked out with your classes. Once you get in college a lot more of your school work is done online and it is easier to, for example; miss out on school and check a teacher’s website for the syllabus in order to get caught up on you homework. In grade school you are much more dependent on getting to class everyday so you don’t miss out on anything. That’s great how well this worked out when school was canceled for the H1N1 virus! I also liked how you said the students could message you privately about any questions or concerns. Normally a child in grade school would have to either raise their hand in a crowded classroom when they didn’t understand something or gather up the courage to approach a teacher all by themselves.

  3. I think that what you are doing is great for the students. Giving students the opportunity to advance their learning through technology is amazing. Technology is a great way to provide varitey in the classroom and make learning more fun for students. I think what you have done for your studetns is awesome, and I’m sure they are enjoying it as well!

  4. I believe what you are doing for the students is amazing. Allowing students to use technology as learning tool for a second language is a great idea. I take german and by using a computer to listen to german audio allows me to expand my knowledge for the language. It allows me to also broaden my german vocabulary. I think what you are doing is great.

    1. @32basketball,

      Thanks for your encouraging comment and for sharing your learning experience. Listening adds a lot to language acquisition as it helps you improve your ability to understand oral language, your pronunciation and, as you’ve said, your vocabulary.
      Good luck on your German classes.

  5. Hi Marisa,

    I’ve always used technology with my students and find it really interesting to hear how other people incorporate tech into their lessons.

    Like you, I provide online exercises for my learners to do between lessons and I genuinely believe it does make a difference in terms of motivation and overall achievement.

    I really enjoyed reading this and would love to visit your wiki sometime! Well done, and thanks for sharing!

    Sue

    1. @Sue Lyon-Jones,

      Thanks, Sue, for your kind words. You’re right. We, teachers, always expect more dedication from our students and they will do extra practice if they feel interested in what their doing.

      Feel free to visit my wiki whenever you’d like to.

      Marisa

  6. Dear Marisa,
    Your students are so lucky to have a 21st century teacher like you! I believe, wikispaces are the best Web 2.0 tools that you can use and collaborate with your students and they can be in any grade. Technology is a challenge for them and they really enjoy it!!
    I would love to visit your wiki, can you give us the link some time?
    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas.

  7. It is great to know that there are teachers that want to make differences in student’s life. It is sad when the resources that are needed to provide the best education is not there. The more students get involve using computers it will became easier later on. When I was learning English one of my teachers send me for one and half hour to the computer lab in where there was interacting games that helped me learn parts of the body, food, and to type words it was great and also encouraged me to keep practicing to get more points.

  8. Hi Karina,

    Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. I totally agree with you. It is when students feel motivated that what they are learning becomes memorable.
    Marisa

  9. I think this is a really great concept! It seems like in this situation students are really benefiting from the use of technology. It is great to know that technology can be used as a resource especially when used in a foreign language setting, because I plan on going in to teaching Spanish. I think there are a lot of great exercises that students can use via the internet to help expand their language knowledge. I think what you are doing is great and very beneficial!

    1. @robertj4205,

      Thanks a lot, Robert, for your comment. You’re right, the Internet includes lots of resources for developing strategies that enable students to acquire a foreign language.
      Marisa

  10. I think it’s great what you have been able to do in your classroom. In America, computers are so easy to find, and they are often taken for granted. You, however, used technology to enhance learning,
    not to let it take over your classroom. It’s amazing how you turned a bad situation (not being able to meet with your students for a month) and turned it into a better situation, just by using a computer. You used posting for assignments, and you included links. I was impressed to read that you find a way to incorporate technology into your classroom, while allowing the ESL to still be the main focus. I applaud you for finding a way to improve learning for both teachers and students alike!

  11. Marisa,

    Thank you for doing this post! I think you have provided several interesting tidbits about Argentina! I love posts where you learn about another culture and their struggles with education. I like that you touched on the H1N1 virus and how these types of viruses impact education and make it necessary for schools to offer some type of e-learning.

    1. @Shelly Terrell,

      Shelly,

      Thank YOU for the opportunity you’ve given me to share information about my country. It’s been a pleasure and I’ve felt absolutely rewarded to have received so much interest. It’s also exciting to interact with colleagues and to exchange ideas.
      Regards,
      Marisa

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