The following is an article by Thomas Robb, posted in ARCALL blog. I was surprised by the fact that, even in highly developed countries, it is not easy to integrate technology into education. His mention of the importance of the "human element" resonates with me, since I am concerned about the difficulty to coax teachers into implementing ICTs to enhance our practice. His words made me feel that I am not alone in the struggle towards that aim.
Thomas Robb's contribution to our blog
It was my great pleasure to participate in the ARCALL online chat session in Elluminate on February 23rd with Jennifer Verschoor -ARCALL funding member- sitting next to me in my hotel room in Buenos Aires and others participating from distant locations. I'd just like to summarize what I said there and to add a few comments.
One person asked how CALL was organized in Japan and this was a very important question, because it brings to the fore a very important issue. Most teaching with technology, be it CALL or anything else, is not very organized at all. Despite the relative wealth of equipment available in Japanese universities, and recently even in secondary schools, only some teachers use technology and, for the most part, they stick to one or two tools that they are most familiar with and can use comfortably with their students.
Very few schools have any sort of coordinated program where multiple teachers collaborate and use the same tech tools in some sort of uniform fashion. Perhaps this will come in the future, but right now what I see is rather chaotic. Yet, on the other side of the coin, we need to be aware of attempts of institutions to force technology on us because generally it is not done effectively. Stories about rooms of computers gathering dust and other major expenses that have done to waste are legion. Administrations tend to spend money (when they have it) on hardware, but ignore the software and human elements (training and support) that are needed for any new technology to succeed. Teachers need to "buy in to" the system if it is going to have this chance.
The establishment of ARCALL is an important step in the right direction because technology is not going to succeed unless there are enthusiastic users to support the other teachers in their initial attempts to use technology and to experiment with what is currently available in order to discover what works best. I hope that ARCALL can grow into a major force towards the implemtation of technology in the schools so that students can take advantage of all of the wonderful advantages that it offers for langauge practice, communication and cultural exchange.