Language Learning and Technology

Content by Dr Gary Motteram

This semester 1 course unit explores a range of technologies (software/ apps, video material, generic tools such as the Internet, word processing etc) used in language teaching and learning with reference to both classroom practice and self-access application.


The course is divided into 9 units and explores the following:

  • Second language learning and the development of digital literacy
  • The nature of reading in a digital world and the development of reading skills through the use of computer-based tasks and the WWW
  • Technology and task and text authenticity
  • ‘Computer’ based and networked writing development
  • Language learning and Web 2.0
  • Synchronous and asynchronous ‘computer’ mediated communication for language learning
  • The role of video texts (analogue and digital) in language learning
  • The impact of technology use on learner talk
  • Digital games
  • Computers and data driven learning



Unit 1: Reflecting on technology in use

In this first unit we look quite generally at the wider digital world, linking this to the world of language learning and technology and do a task together which we relate to language learning and other theory.


Here is a short video of some on campus students working on an introductory activity:




Unit 2: Language learning and technology

The web, and mobile technologies, are having important impact on the way that we read and the way that we learn from ‘text’. In fact, our whole notion of what text is and how it works has been changed by the move towards technologies that allow reading to be interactive and where a range of other different elements are linked to the core text. As reading moves off the web and on to portable devices many of these changes are ported into the new environment, however, the basic idea that text is not so commonly linear is still present, but portable devices include other elements that are more book like.


In this unit we will:

  • begin to explore the nature of ‘online literacy’;
  • consider some of the challenges to L2 learners in their use of the WWW as a source for reading development and information searching;
  • begin to explore the cognitive and metacognitive strategies that learners require to effectively access information within these resources.


For an example of a resource explored in this unit see:



Unit 3: Texts

Our aims in this unit are:

  • to broaden our exploration of texts and how we engage with them to construct understanding
  • to explore hands-on some specific technologies that allow us to work with texts in different ways
  • to think about how tasks of various types are used to support language development
  • to consider ways in which tutorial CALL is developing


A short lecture video from this section can be seen below:




Unit 4: Concordancing and data driven learning

A concordancer is a piece of software that allows the rapid processing of vast amounts of textual data to ‘count frequencies of word usage and enable the user to explore how words sit within specific texts and in relation to each other.’ This unit explores this process and its relevance for language learning.


In the past what was taught on language courses was based mostly on the language of the course book, or the language of the teacher. These along with dictionaries relied on books as sources of examples, reflecting language use from the past. The use of collections of authentic language (corpora) that are searched for examples of real language using a concordance package has changed dictionaries and course books and is there to support teachers in the classroom for teachers and for learners. Teachers and learners can access a range of online corpora, or create their own.


Click here for an example of a reading for this unit.



Unit 5: Video in language learning

This unit focuses on how we can best exploit video in the language classroom. Video has become so all pervasive and very easy to access, it is inevitable that it should form a part of this course unit. In order to do this, we are going to go back quite a long way in the literature at times, because ideas discussed in some of these early writings on video are still just as relevant today


An example of a reading from this unit can be found here.



Unit 6: Writing

This unit starts with an overview of the topic of writing going back to the origins of writing as a process and word processing tools and looking at the relationship between them. Tools like word processors have had a significant influence on the way we write and on the ways that we can teach writing. In fact, the word processor, and later developments in other writing tools, have put a technology in the hands of learners that makes a real difference to how they are able to perform if they engage with the affordances that such tools offer.


See a short example video from the unit below:




Unit 7: Computer mediated communication

With the advent of Web 2.0, the boundaries between tools and the ways that they are used have begun to blur, and Computer Mediated Communication, which makes use of a variety of different tools, shows in its development best demonstrates this blurring. It also has a long tradition, stretching back to the 1990s and has a significant community of people who engage in CMC and write about it. This unit explores interactions in CMC tools.


One of the example resources from this unit is a site run by a former student of the unit:



Unit 8: Digital games

Digital games is huge field that is changing rapidly and one that the Horizon Report 2014 said would be playing a significant role in higher education at least within the two to three years. We are also seeing increasing moves to use digital games in the school system, too. This unit explores both digital and non digital games and play in language teaching and learning.


An example resource from this unit is below:




Unit 9: Mobile learning

Why is there so much interest in the idea of mobile learning?

  • There are a lot of mobile phones out there — according to the GSMA Intelligence unit over 7.4 million and counting, so now more mobile phones than people in the world;
  • Mobile phones are more generally available than other forms of digital technology, even if we are only talking about basic phones with few features;
  • In addition they work on batteries and can be re-charged using solar power


This unit explores the impact and use of handheld devices in languge learning


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