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Maria's WK 10 discussion prompt

Sanchez-Serano (2008) talks about the difficulties in distance learning, and some of us may have experienced some of these difficulties in our last class. Many of these problems dealt with the technology itself. However, Sanchez-Serano mentions a more ethical concern dealing with the digital divide, and asks how this divide affects distance learning, in particular foreign language teaching. So, my question is have you seen first hand the effects of the digital divide in distance learning - foreign language? If not what do you think are the effects? What are some ways teachers and/or ELLs can overcome the digital divide?


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
Digital devide exists and it can be done in different ways
Hi, Loula

This is an important issue about discussion of digital divide, and the access of digital technology also have some imporat on language learning. In most L2 or foreign language learning, teacher is the only resource for interation and knoweldge provider. However, based on interaction hypothesis, learning takes place when you have opportunity to interact with some targe language speakers to learn language, culture through the negotiation of meaning. Students from low SES might have these access, and they might lact of skills to operate these tools. The limit of these technolgy literacy would affect thier learning in the distant learning. Although not all students can affort the cost of technology, the notion has challenged the traditional ways of learning language. Therefore, teachers have to modify thier ways of teaching to increase the interactivity in the language learning process. Students might not have access to exchange e-mail, blogging, IMing to target language speakers, but they still can use pen-pal writing even thoguh it takes longer to communicate. My point is that technolgoy won't replace the teacher, and it's notion of interactivity has challenged the ways of learning. Another ways to modify if students do not have experience on blogging, I believe that each of student in the classroom can use a big poster. Students can create a paper-based blogging template. In different segment on the poster, they can pos thier journal reguallry, they can paste thier photos regularly, they can leave a section who allow others to post their comments by using sticky note, and they just leave it in the classroom. Students can brown each other's paper-blog to exchange ideas. This can be a variation to help students who do not have access, but teachers still use the notion digitally to narrow the gap.

Apr. 2nd, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Digital devide exists and it can be done in different ways
I really like the activities you mentioned. These are great ways to promote student interaction, and not much technology is necessary. It is also a good way to overcome the digital divide.
Mar. 27th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
After having class via Second Life I think distance learning can have its own attractions as well as difficulties. Although students may feel uncomfortable when they start distance learning because of the unfamiliar environment, once they get used to it and learn the technology they can take advantage of the material offered by distance learning. Second Life is a great tool for students to enjoy distance learning. I believe that creating an interesting environment for foreign language learners can encourage them to become more interested in distance learning.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
I agree. An interesting environment is key, but do you think that students who sign up for distance learning should have some basic traing in technology before they start the class to avoid major problems and help the class flow easier?
Mar. 27th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)
I have not seen the effects, but after tonight's class (Second Life), I think it depends on the program it is being used for teaching. According to this week's reading, technology can have an effect on people, and one could be that the student may experience anxiety, may not feel comfortable working in groups, and apparently the quantity of material for learning is greater.

I am not experience in distance learning but I think that the class would have to be very well planned and designed in order to motivate the whole class. Instructions would have to be given prior to the class, this way time won't be wasted. The student should have some basic knowledge in computers. And as Sanchez-Serano says, Time management, task delivery, would have to be well planned.

Regarding the third question, I would say that teachers need to get more knowledgeable about computers and realize that technology is popular. A good training would help when schools find mentors and train not only on the technical part, but also how to teach online. The teacher has to make sure that the interaction is positive. Online foreign language teaching is growing according to Sanchez-Serano. This methodology is different, students like it (especially the new generation), it can be flexible and people like that.

I don't think one can compare this type of learning with face-to-face learning. The goal is for the student to learn the target language and for the teacher to make sure they get the right tools and material. And if both parties like online classes, the interaction should be comfortable and positive.

Apr. 2nd, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
You mention some very good points about distance learning. It does take a lot of work from both the teachers and the students to have a successful learning and teaching experience. I also agree that distance learning is very popular with the younger generation, but do you think this is the case only in developed countries? What do you think?
Mar. 28th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC)
Technology is wonderful; however, for those of us who are trying to learn a new toy, is an exploration. This exploration is what distance learning seems to be (for me) at this moment. It has its plusses: it takes things that are, at times, explained in abstract and can be converted into something that is almost tangible. It creates enviroments that are very close to the real things, which eventually they intend to become. It makes knowledge accesible in visual terms: it can offer more words that pictures can offer; that quick access to information can make researchers consider a wide range of possibilties.
I see, however, a few disadvantages. The use of distance learning is still, for the most part, in its early state of general use by schools. It could take some time for the school to become familiar with a computerized system. In fact, teaching may have to be redefined in terms of training for distance learning. There is still a great deal of computer illiteracy amongst education professionals. If this sounds like an improvement to the system, lesson plans may have to be conceived very early; no class can work without them, let alone a class that is distant. In an analogy with telemarketing, if the scripts are not made readily available to the telemarketers, that sale might not happen. I'm not saying that scripts are the ultimate
crutch; a responsible teacher has to be knowledgeable of his subject to present quality class. The distance factor can be a liability.
Learning is a social thing; restricted to the limits of a seat and a computer may be physically uncomfortable: seating for hours
is hardly any fun. That face-to-face relationship with students would be annulled as less body language (from a REAL human,as opposed to SECOND LIFE, for instance) can make real communication less than authentic.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
Interesting point. Distance learning is not exactly like real communication, but I do think that it is good practice. But you are right, it is important to realize the value and benefit of face to face communication especially in second language learning.
Mar. 29th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
Week 10
I think the effects of digital divide is evident right now because while many students or institutions might have the money to provide their students with training and access to new technology, there are always others who don’t have this opportunity. Sanchez-Serrano (2008) mentions, distance learning requires students and teachers to be familiarized with Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) (p.173). In reference to foreign learners, I imagine that some districts are reluctant to spend extra time and money to provide English Language Learners with the opportunity to have access to internet. I think distance learning is at the beginning stage and we are unable to see results, but very soon everybody will have access to the new technology and education will reach every distant learner and Web Quests, Skype, and Second Life will be more familiar to teachers and will be used to enhance our education!
Apr. 2nd, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Week 10
So, do you think that the digital divide will get more narrow in the future? and that this will make distance learning more possible for many ELLs? I agree especially with more teacher getting trained in CALL. Thanks for your comment Carmen.
Mar. 29th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
week 10
For the records: The time in the computer is different than mine!
Today is Saturday 03/28/2009 - time is 7:38 P.M.
Mar. 29th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
Digital divide is a concept which takes place at three different but interwoven levels: one can speak of an economic divide (referring to the fact that certain parts of the population have substantially better opportunities to benefit from the new economy than other parts of the population; the fact that some people can't afford to buy a computer), the usability divide (the fact that technology remains so complicated that many people couldn't use a computer even if they got one for free, many others can use computers, but don't achieve the modern world's full benefits because most of the available services are too difficult for them to understand) and the empowerment divide (even if computers and the Internet were extraordinarily easy to use, not everybody would make full use of the opportunities that such technology affords).
There may be ways to bridge the digital divide that exists between technology haves and have-nots but the main focus should be on ways to provide effective language learning experiences in CALL classrooms regardless of the technologies available. As teachers, we should find ways to work around the divide created by the overemphasis on new technologies. Rather than lamenting the fact that our tools are not the latest and greatest, we must pay attention to using the tools at hand to students’ best advantage while we look for ways to obtain additional resources.
As technology "conquers" more and more "territory" in the educational field, there is an imperative need for us to keep up with technology and attempt to acquire a technological proficiency in order to give us a burst of freshness and "energy" in our language teaching classes for the purpose of conducting our lessons that extra mile in order to obtain a better linguistic achievement in our students. We should make us of all the divices we have available and if much technology is not at hand, we should try to substitute it. Distance learning is not an easy task to do especially because recently a more interactive approach has been made possible through instant communication (chat, discussion boards) than it was promoted in the past few years in distant learning(the way distant learning was conducted was mainly organized as a two-ways process- informational input by means of which students had access to the informaation that must be "read and digested" and then the "homework" and "written-testing" output by means of assignments, quizes, tests and exams). Distance learning should take into account many premises and potential outcomes: age and technological literacy level (because a poor technological proficiency in learners can minimize the focus on language and content instruction and redirect it much more towards the technological aspect of it). Planning the lesson ahead including all the technological instructuions regarding the computational features of the teaching-lesson delivery process is a must.
But the teacher can make the most of the lesson-delivery stage in the class by means of technology especially because that is the part when the students have the chance to get involved with the hands-on activities(with regard to the classic language lessons, not the distance learning).
Thank you for conidering my prompt.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
Thankyou for your comment. The three levels that you mention really puts things into perspective. I agree that there are many ways to overcome the digital divide in the classic language classroom, and that the best thing to do is make best of what you have to work with. However, I think that the digital divide can be problematic when trying to implement a distance learning activiy in a developing country where not everyone has access to technology. Are there ways to overcome this problem? I like the idea of pen pal mentioned above by loltauruslol. thanks for your comment.
Mar. 29th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
Carmen is right, there is a different date and time that is printed on my prompt and they are not the accurate ones. I posted my prompt (the above one) on Saturday March, 28th, at 8:28 pm. So I should not appear as being late with my prompt-assignment.
Thank you.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you for pointing this out. I suspect the callspot default time setting is misaligned with our time zone.
Mar. 29th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
I have seen some effects of digital divide, although they weren't particularly ESL-related. I think that one of the main reasons is the generation gap in distance learning. As more and more adult learners are going back to school, they are faced with newer technologies that needed some kind of background knowledge which they have never encountered before. This makes some of them really apprehensive about learning because of the lack of technical skills needed, and also the fact that they are unwilling to experiment with new technology. To help overcome some of their apprehension, their instructor should make technology a part of everyday learning. Writing emails and blogging are easy to learn and should help bridge some of the learning associated with technology with some things that are familiar to them.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Re: response
These are great ways to overcome the digital divide. Maybe if there was an orietation the first day of class where students could learn these easy tools such as email and blog it would help students be successful in distance learning classes. What do you think?
Mar. 29th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
I have not seen the effects of the digital divide in distance learning first hand except what we have experienced in our class which is miniscule. However, I am aware that not all schools or households have the same access or the opportunity with the technology to learn and benefit from such experiences. Consider some of these statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce (Carvin, 2000):
• Households earning incomes over $75,000 are over 20 times more likely to have home Internet access than those at the lowest income levels.
• Only 6.6 percent of people with an elementary school education or less use the Internet.
• In rural areas, those with college degrees are 11 times more likely to have a home computer and 26 times more likely to have home Internet access than those with an elementary school education.
• People with college degrees or higher are 10 times more likely to have Internet access at work as persons with only some high school education.
The digital divide directly affects not only the level of education one might achieve but the economic status as well in finding employment in today’s technologically charged society.
The gap of digital divide is even wider globally. It is impossible to reach students in some sections of the world while some students are just a click away. Distance language learning via CMC is only a possibility to those with the access. Until there are significant changes made politically to equip every household with the technology, the only thing ELL teachers can do is to accommodate each students at their level of access.
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your comment, especially for the statistics, that was very interesting. I agree that it distance learning is only possible in countries or places with access to technology. It is something teachers need to be aware of especially teachers who plan to travel and teach in foreign countries. You are right accomadation is probably the best and only way to overcome the digital divide. However, I wonder if there are other things that can be done such as fundraising, asking for donations or grants, and/or teaching those in power the importance of technology in schools, so they may consider giving more money to schools for technology.
Mar. 29th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Digital Divide
The Internet has ushered in the greatest period of wealth creation in history. It has transformed the way we deliver and receive information and the way we do business. It has changed education in ways we never thought of. It has been a force that was unexpected. The force that is with us , is the force of change. The place where this change makes the most difference is debated, but a child growing up without access, knowledge, or understanding of the use of technology and its importance in today's world is handicapped. School is a bridge for many. Learning places may include telecenters or community centers and libraries. Learning often takes place with a mentor or a peer who is involved in the use of technology.
The digital divide is stretching over a lot of other places of divide in our society. But the technology that it represents is such a powerful force, it can make a huge difference if we understand the use of technology and use it well. The weightless goods that travel over the Internet represent knowledge and information. Many who have it are unaware of the power of what they have.
Technology, used creatively, can also make a big difference in the way teachers teach and students learn. In some classrooms, teachers are using the Internet to keep up with the latest developments in their field, exchange lesson plans with their colleagues, and communicate more frequently with parents.
Despite the rapid growth of wired schools in recent years, surveys suggest that use of technology to affect classroom practice tends to be limited to small groups of teachers who are excited by the potential they believe technology has to motivate their students or to access new resources.
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Digital Divide
Thankyou for your comment. You make a very interesting point about technology in the classroom being limited to a small group of teachers who are excited about its potential. I can see how this is true in many cases, but I think this also has to do with the lack of access as Song mentioned before. Not all schools and/or students have access to technology.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
A provocative question. In my experience, distance language learning has primarily been carried out in contexts with rich digital access and training. However, I have encountered echoes of the digital divide in my own ESL teaching here in the United States. In a class of mixed nationalities, one student from Sudan could not even engage in online quizzes or use word processing. She was unfamiliar with a mouse and was vastly overwhelmed by the many icons and menus in MS Word.
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
Thankyou for your comment and that great example of your student. It really exemplifies the digital divide in the classroom. You are right distance learning can only take place in contexts where there is access to the technology needed.
Mar. 31st, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
One example that sits clearly in my mind is when we were all in Second Life sitting around the fire place, or trying to sit down. Many of us did not know how to sit down on our mat, and this caused some problems initially. The initial issues that are resolved through some practice and association with the program cause some headaches and loss of time, but these can all be taken care of after familiarizing oneself with the different options being used.

I think some of the effects would be discouragement for the learner who has not crossed the digital divide. Frustration could also arise which would seem to cloud and delay the learning process. The learner cannot be too delayed or preoccupied with the understanding of the technology while not focusing on the assignment. The teacher or professor would need to be aware of some of these shortfalls and help bring those having trouble up to pace, much like Dr. Sauro does with the step-by-step instructions.

Instructions are always good, but being available for questions and conversations is also key. An open door policy, active email communication and office hours are important so problems associated with the digital divide can be addressed firsthand.

When distance learning takes place there is a lot of preparation that takes place. The participants need to be aware of each other online and need to have compatible technologies, which can only be addressed through communication. Distance learning is more active and can be very entertaining for students, but teachers need to be careful not to alienate any students needing some help working with the technology.

Apr. 7th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
I agree with your comment. You mention some good examples of the effects of the digital divide and great ways teachers can overcome them. You are right. It takes a lot of preparation, but it also takes patience with those students who need help with the technology. Thanks, for your comment.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
Overcoming the digital divide
Computer mediated distance learning is not a possibility for those without access to computers and the internet, so the question of what we can do as teachers seems more related to helping those students who are unfamiliar with using the technology (rather than addressing the larger issue of unavailability to some student populations). Its always good to know your students, so first a teacher would need to find out about the students' technology knowledge. Perhaps a software consultant could help devise basic tutorials that could be provided as helps. Certainly detailed instructions are very helpful (like the ones Dr. Sauro gives us in her Powerpoints and in our assignment guides). Also, perhaps teachers can start with tasks that are the easiest (in terms of computer use) and build on these. I think that students benefit both from learning the language and from building their computer skills.
Apr. 7th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Overcoming the digital divide
You're definitely right. Distance learning is only possible for those with access. I guess some ways we can get access to those who do not have it would be fundraising, asking for donations or grants, and pushing for funding by teaching those in power the importance of technology. But you're right; these are larger issues. You mention some great ideas for helping students who are unfamiliar with the technology; I really like the consultant idea. Another great way to help those who need help with the technology, which Dr. Sauro has also implemented, is pair work. I know this has been a good way for me to become more familiar with some of the software and programs we have been using in class.
Apr. 9th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
After reading all the repsonses and the question posed I think there are problems encounter in the digital divide as described in the reading. I especially like the way the author describes the three different levels of the digital divide. Distance learning is only available for those students that have access to the technology. Then if you are in teaching in the United States you need to know your students and their abilities to use technology so that you can mediate for them and provide alternate methods or teaching them technology to learn the objective. Apologize for my tardiness to response. Been study for comps :)
Apr. 15th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Response
Thank you for your comment and I agree. It is so important for teachers to get to know their students.
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