There is a visual that I like to share with my students hoping it might make them reflect on the benefits of becoming autonomous learners. So, I shared it on my classroom blog One Click Closer. I’m not sure it sparked any interest at all, I know a simple visual will probably make no difference -if I ever come across a life-changing visual I will let you know.
However, whenever I see it myself I wonder that if my students became perfect language learners by following these or other tips and managed to step out of their cocoons, then what is left for me to do as a teacher? I mean the taditional, classroom teacher. Just open the door and smile?
This idea has been going on in my head for some time now. In fact, I am very interested in any research that can prove anything on how language learning can happen online, for instance. After all, with web tools and connection students can take learner autonomy to a whole new level. So, I recently followed an experiment on The Guardian Can I learn a language online? and was relieved to read how Alan Haburchak concluded that he needed real people to help him learn the language. Not that it surprised me that much. I think language learning can happen more effectively with people and when it is supported by teachers.
But knowing surely can’t be enough. My role as a teacher definitely has to transform somehow. I can’t rely on being a content and tool provider when content can be found anywhere -Google, if you are seeking immediacy- and tools and resources…well, there are hundreds.
I came up with this idea for me to understand what precise actions can be more helpful in the classroom for my students given this new situation. Whenever I come across a visual or a set of tips for language learners I stop to think what my role is in order to support my students to become perfect learners.
Here is an example taken from the visual Are you the perfect language learner? The secret of making the most progress is that learners are supposed to:
1. Learn every day.
2. Be motivated.
3. Record new vocabulary.
4. Read, read, read
5. Be brave
6. Use technology
What am I supposed to do as their teacher?
Motivation will strengthen if the learner enjoys what they are reading about or listening to. Also, in the case of adults the idea of usefulness is key. There has been much said about how to keep students motivated in class and outside. And I agree that choosing the right materials and focusing topics in certain ways can help. But still, if it is only the teacher who has the ultimate decision as to what to bring to class, and a curriculum and its tests determines the topics and their sequence, keeping students motivated is far from easy. So, it would be a good idea to help students “customize” their own learning experience, so that learning every day is not felt as a drag and could go on even after the course has finished.
Maybe if they had their own PLN they’d have the chance to create a learning network based on their own interests and even learning needs. Reading and trying to engage in communication in the target language with other learners with similar interests is easier when aided by technology. Being a curator myself, rather than a content provider, could make it easier for everyone in class to ease our way through the web 2.0 jungle; we could even end up helping and informing each-other.
There are plenty online tools to help students with vocabulary, and many others that are incredibly useful like quizlet to prepare activities for class or share on our LMS.
Be brave? I think the idea is rather to help them feel comfortable with the mistakes they make so as to learn from them.
I don’t know any EFL teacher who has helped learners create their own personal learning network, so I would really appreciate your comments and insights on this.