The Future of English Language Teaching and Learning?

Technology is everywhere. It simultaneously infests and beautifies our lives. It serves as a daily necessity and a diversion, and it has both liberated and enslaved. Education is still struggling to adapt and equip students for life to this technological society, but what is the future of English-language teaching in this new world?
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We are now used to a web experience in which we can integrate images, user-generated and personalised content, as well as the freedom to browse and search for precisely what we want. It is easy to see that this pattern of activity has not yet become part of our approach to language learning, especially if we think about the traditional school setting. Although many schools are now moving towards incorporating contemporary learning styles into their architecture, it is often not so evident in the syllabus which can remain prescriptive. There is a challenge now to create an environment in which learners can determine what, how, and when they learn. 

From our involvement with the world-wide web we have developed critical thinking skills and we are now more used to the ideas of lifelong and independent learning. The near future should allow learners to create their own learning paths, as well as interacting easily across existing boundaries of space and time. Learning will therefore become more personlised, efficient, and absolutely student-led. We will rely less on generic course books, and learning itself will continue to shift in its meaning to describe the act of mindfully doing something with the intent to improve, rather than receiving given information and memorising it.  

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As English teachers become more connected to English learners around the world and the technology which facilitates learning at a distance become more adapted to the specific task of improving language and communication skills, students will have the freedom to have lessons when they want, as at any one time there will be an English teacher available somewhere in the world. Teachers will need to adapt to regularly working with students from all over the world and be more conscious of varying learning needs.

In regards to the teacher, there is the likelihood that the function of a teacher of offering knowledge and guidance will become redundant as the internet will, if it hasn’t already, surpassed the knowledge and ability to correct that any one teacher has. The teacher will continue to move to where they offer value, in the subtleties of the language which are as yet untouched by technology and for conversation practice. This will mean a shift towards the position of an English language consultant rather than a teacher as we know it now, to be more often used as a reference for interview preparation, advising on romantic chatting in English, or helping a small company prepare for a business presentation.

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Arguably, technology is the least important consideration for a profession which is in essence about people, behaviours, brains, encouragement, human interaction, and empathy; but it is also difficult to envisage a future of learning that is not progressively more dominated by technology. 

Many of us may be dismayed by these prospects but I suggest the important thing is how we react to the inevitable move towards the learner-driven personalised content which is the now of language use and therefore the future of language teaching and learning. 

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