Archive for the ‘technology’ Category


December 9, 2007

I know that it is impressive to tell our bosses that we use the internet, distance learning, audio and visual enhancements, discussion boards, graphic organizers and voice-over Internet protocol, even videoconferencing in our classrooms, but I think we are just fooling ourselves. 

If technology really helped kids acquire languages, then it would be used all the time in schools and kids would acquire languages much faster than kids in the past, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. 

Those 15 inch wide laser disks lasted about a year in American classrooms, and other so-called great innovations have all met the same fate, including the miserable thing called the language lab, which made a tremendous amount of people hate language learning for many decades in the latter part of the last century.

I can’t see a machine making something more interesting to a kid than real human speech does.  New words are acquired because the learner chooses to remember them and put them into their word bank, not because some machine tricks them into it.

Instead of parents investing in technological gimmicks that claim to boost language skills, why not simply speak and read to the child a lot?  When we read Stuart Little to a nine year old, and use the term “jib” in a sentence describing a boat, the child reacts by either asking what the word means or by letting it go, selectively.  No machine is involved.

The child may acquire the word “jib” after ten or ten thousand exposures – that process is determined by the brain, a much more powerful computer than any machine.  We are again reminded of what Lev Vygotsky’s research has shown, that learning a language is a highly complex reciprocal and participatory process of establishing and sharing meaning.  Can it really be rushed or toyed with, or organized by a machine? 

Do we really want to further isolate our kids away from basic human contact and their need to learn social skills, which is accomplished through speech?  In how many other of their school classes do students work on the skills that they will need in the workplace, those of using words to communicate ideas along with making eye contact with other human beings?