Information technology and teacher development

This year the topic of the BBC/IATEFL competition was ‘English Language teacher development in your own country in five years’ time.’ I thought of considering how information technology would affect such development. What follows are my reflections on it.

We all know that being an English teacher means being used to facing challenges every day, every single lesson, but it seems that the future has new challenges in stock for us. Let’s just consider information technology. Computers are all around us and more and more teachers will feel the need to get acquainted to this sort of technology as internet resources, online activities, concordancers and blogs will become part of the teacher’s repertoire when preparing and conducting lessons. Students are already learning how to uses these tools and even the not computer-minded will be gently forced to jump on the wagon.

However, if technology may represent a challenge; it can also bring some rewards. Technology will almost certain facilitate access to materials: e-books on ELT, articles on methodology and skills development; ready-to-use downloadable activities that will make life easier to the always busy teacher. Obviously, these materials are already available today but the hope is that in five years’ time a greater number of teachers will have access to such resources. Another aspect to take into consideration is the considerable gap in terms of access to technology between teachers working in the Brazilian public and private sectors, and also between teachers working in the more ’developed’ regions of the country and those working in the more remote areas in Brazil. What we need in the next five years is the determination and the involvement of the education authorities to narrow this gap.

Five years is indeed a very short period in terms of history and it is unlikely that human beings will change that much to alter considerably our habits, especially regarding printed material. We will still be carrying our copies of the last issue of Voices in our bags; we will still be reading the books and printed articles on the bus and magazines in the waiting room. However, if we follow the current trends, we will possibly be relying on websites to download our classroom activities and lesson plans. The same newsletters, journals and magazines that are now in printed form will also have an online digital version. Nothing new here as most publications are already available in digital format, but in the years to come probably more and more teachers will be relying on Teaching English – the British Council/BBC website- and on publishers’ websites for teaching tips and advice and articles on pedagogy and methodology. What’s more, teachers might be relying on the pages and materials created by their own colleagues and published on wiki documents, blogs and their own personal websites.

However, perhaps the most important change technology will bring about is the fact that it can facilitate communication between people working far away from each other. Even teachers working in the most isolated parts of the country would then be able to use the internet and its tools to get in touch with their colleagues, share ideas and develop projects together. I do hope all these will help people to develop a sense of belonging to a wider community.