This weekend I helped a friend come up with a few ideas about how to start an ESL program at a community center in Seattle. The focus of the center is not ESL, or education necessarily, but it is something that they would like to offer. I’m excited to see how this develops, overall, but I am troubled by the lack of resources available. Specifically, there are no computers to use for class.
I’m not going to suggest that computers are necessary for successful education. We’ve done pretty well for ourselves the past 2,000 or so years without computers and I see no reason why we cannot teach without them. I do, however, wonder if a course of education without Internet/computer integration is somehow incomplete and ultimately a disservice to students. In some ways, I think “technological fluency” is an emerging language competency that should be taught like speaking/listening, reading, writing, and grammar.
At first this seemed a little over the top, even to me. However, the more I consider it, the more I realize that technology – the Internet specifically – is absolutely critical for complete communicative competence. That’s a silly amount of alliteration, but stop for a minute and consider how much communicating is done with via the Internet: email, Facebook, all other manner of social networking, job listings, news etc are increasingly necessary tools to understanding and integrating into American culture. “Well,” you may say, “don’t you read and write emails, and talk about the news and listen to podcasts? Don’t you need grammar to make sense of it all?” Of course! That’s why technological fluency works together with the traditional speaking/listening, reading, writing, and grammar to form a holistic picture.
What does technological fluency entail?
- Understanding Internet jargon
- Knowing the different roles the Internet plays in American culture
- How to use all manner of relevant web-apps
- Working knowledge of MS Office
- How to search Google and vet search results
These are just a few suggestions. Really, technological fluency would make students contributing members of an increasing digital culture. Ideally, English language learners could begin to use their skills in English to make cultural connections between their English and native cultures – but that’s a topic for another post.