Learning Technology

by Gordon Lewis
OUP 2017

At the beginning of this book, US-based lecturer Gordon Lewis immediately identifies one of the primary issues ELT teachers face when using new technology in the classroom: the everyday challenges we face to achieve our teaching aims have changed little over the years, but the teaching tools available to us have increased to a point that can often feel overwhelming. As a result, technology is often not exploited sufficiently, is misused or is ignored completely. Acknowledging this, Lewis aims in this book to explore how various new technologies can improve the classroom experience for both teachers and learners alike, while also providing teachers with the confidence to utilise further both familiar and unfamiliar tech tools.

The chapters are grouped into four sections (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), but the book does not need to be read in order, making it a very useful text for teachers to dip in and out of. In every part, the main text of each chapter deals with the pedagogy behind the topic, with ‘Try this’ activities providing specific ideas and techniques for teachers to try in the classroom. Even when these activities are familiar, they still act as valuable revision, helping teachers to assess their own existing approaches to the use of technology in the classroom.

In Part 1, the first chapter invites teachers to develop strategies for the application of new technologies that work for them on an individual level. Initially, Lewis encourages the reader to reflect on their personal technology profile and rank themselves as a ‘Casual user’, an ‘Old schooler’ or an ‘Innovator’. From there, the book offers ideas for the creation of an individual technology plan, which is a genuinely useful activity that ensures the reader actively considers their relationship with technology in the classroom.

The focus of Part 2 is on a number of popular technology tools, with practical ideas for how they can be used to enhance the learning experience. Lewis provides concise and accessible descriptions of web browsers, search engines and bookmarking tools, which are extremely useful for the less digitally-minded. There are also a number of excellent activities using tech tools that can be easily implemented in the classroom, including virtual museum tours, using Google Earth, creating polls and surveys and webquests.

Additionally, the book provides an easy-to-follow guide for creating podcasts and for how to exploit video in the classroom. Thankfully, the ideas are explained simply, with Lewis providing useful tips for getting things right, as well as analysing the theory that underpins them. It is only his analysis of social media sites that feels a little dated, mainly due to its focus on image sharing sites such as Flickr. However, the ideas contained within that chapter can easily be applied to other social media sites.

Elsewhere, the explanation of how to use test creation software provides a convenient guide to what can be an intimidating process. As Lewis admits, the assessment of speaking and writing is still quite limited with the tools available to us as teachers, but he is adamant that this will quickly change in the future. It will be interesting to see how this area will be explored in future editions of the book. Similarly, Lewis makes a clear argument that technology is developing in a way that will soon allow us to address individual learner needs with clearer, differentiated learning goals. However, he is quick to reiterate that, whatever technological developments the future holds, the teacher will remain the key figure in the learning process.  

While the layout may be a little bland, the content of the book is exceptional, with the chosen tech tools well-considered and unlikely to date too quickly. The tone of the book remains neutral, and never assumes the reader already knows what a particular term refers to, meaning that this is a useful resource for both technophobes and technophiles alike.

Paul Carr
Exeter, UK