May 15th 2012

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The Tuesday Talk

With the many advances in technology in recent years, the way things are being taught in schools are changing drastically; and more likely for the better. While the traditional style of chalkboard teaching continues to persist in classrooms, this method is being increasingly complemented with the use of computers and learning software. What are the main differences between these 2 learning methods, and how should we exploit technology to maximize our learning potential; especially for the learning of languages?

Personalization

The key difference between chalkboard learning and computer learning is personalization. In a classroom with 20-30 students, some even reaching close to 40, there is no way that the single teacher can pay devoted attention to every single student. However, with computer learning, softwares are able to customize content based on the different levels of ability of individual students. This also allows for more interaction of the students, compared to mostly just listening in the classroom.

Exploiting Technology

While learning technologies have their limitations, Smart tells us that we can still exploit them on 2 fronts – laying groundwork and learning in context.

Laying Groundwork

Educators in the United States strongly recommend the use of individual programs and other technologies in English learning because they accelerate the acquisition of phonics, vocabulary, fluency, reading-comprehension skills and other language-building blocks.

Ginger Software provides these features for our users to hone their skills in basic English:

1. Text-to-Speech reader. This allows users to quickly learn the proper pronunciation of words.

2. Grammar Book and Spelling Book. These aid users in building up their vocabulary.

3. Tips and Articles on English language learning. This feature enables our users to consolidate what they have learnt by providing miscellaneous information that is relevant to their learning.

Learning in Context

Margaret Hawkins, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison School of Education, cautions that students do not really acquire language by performing computer tasks divorced from an authentic learning environment. Instead, they need social interactions that make them actively use language to negotiate meaning. In her view, much of today’s language-learning software is rooted in old Second Language Acquisition and English as a Second Language research that treats listening, speaking, reading, and writing as separate areas and posits that students can learn a general language out of context, then apply it specifically later.

While this may be true of some learning software, Ginger Software’s Grammar & Spell Checker utilizes a patent-pending algorithm that allows it to correct a sentence according to its context. This unique feature ensures that our users do not use English words ‘blindly’ and out of context.

Although learning technologies could never completely replace traditional chalkboard learning in a classroom, it would greatly enhance the value of learning if we adopted the relevant learning technologies available to us today.

Share with us your views or personal anecdotes regarding using technology to learn the English language! :)

The Ginger Team

 

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