I have spent the last three days at the ACTFL national conference in Denver and my overall impression is “Wow!”, but I need to explain that a bit.
First of all, the sheer size is impressive. I heard that there were 1,000 presentations. Scores of languages. Acres of exhibitors. Thousands of teachers. I often felt like Sally Fields in an old “Gidget Goes to…” movie–small town kid in the big city.
The focus on technology was an obvious draw/push. It was everywhere. God bless folks for trying to update their teaching, but without a solid guiding theory of acquisition as a foundation, these gizmos just become more distracting lights, bells and whistles. More killer apps preventing kids from acquiring real language. Great.
The disturbing thing to me was the removal of the teacher from the process. It seemed like this was the ad that was running through the mind of too many of the exhibitors and presenters:
“With new app X, you don’t need no stinkin’ teacher. Just sit your kiddos in front of a screen and watch them learn a new language! Take the human element out of the equation! You don’t even need to learn how to teach. You don’t need to learn no language to teach it! Just buy Gizmo App Deluxe from Gigantor Educational Systems and plug in your students today!”
If we take out the relational element, if we remove the personal use of the language to reach our students, and if we forget our foundation of Second Language Acquisition Theory, we deserve to be replaced by para-professionals and child care workers riding herd on a room full of kids in front of computer monitors.
I am no Luddite. I am not opposed to technology, but I do remain skeptical about it. When I said my reaction was “Wow!”, I meant it in the sense of Han Solo: “I gotta bad feeling about this.”