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Saturday, 11 March 2017 17:04

Paschalia Patsala & Thanos Hatziapostolou

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"Learning Technologies: A Cornerstone of Cognitive and Emotional Engagement in Foreign Language Learning" 
Could you tell us a few things about your presentation and how it relates to this year’s Convention theme?
This presentation demonstrates a number of innovative learning and teaching technologies that can be used for English language teaching and learning, and exemplifies how they can practically be employed  in order to enhance learners’ receptive and productive language skills. In addition to learning and teaching English, the implementation of technology can also assist in developing learners’ digital literacy. Attendees will be provided with actual examples of how technology can be introduced in teachers’ everyday teaching practice, in order to transform plain lessons into rich and practical activities perfectly suited to our contemporary times but, most importantly, to a highly engaging learning experience.
Briefly tell us a few things about yourself as a professional.
Thanos Hatziapostolou:
I hold a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Sheffield and an MSc in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina. I specialise in innovative and effective learning and teaching technologies, student engagement and in the formulation and assessment of educational strategy, instructional goals and learning outcomes. My other areas of interest include Software Engineering and Telecommunications, Business Management Technology and Innovation.
Paschalia Patsala:
I hold a BA in English Language and Literature from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, an MA in Theory of Lexicography and Applications and a PhD in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. My main areas of interest include Linguistics (both Theoretical and Applied), Lexicography, Educational Technologies and Learning/Teaching in Higher Education.
Is “keeping it practical” an important part of present day EFL classrooms? Why, do you think, this is?
Learning a new language is by default a difficult and challenging task. Especially if we take under consideration who the learners are; mainly children and teenagers. By “keeping it practical” in the classroom, teachers can stimulate learners’ natural interest and curiosity about language, create engaging and fun learning experiences, and build up learners’ confidence. At the same time, it is crucial to provide a balance between theory and practice. Thus, by employing technology not only is a teacher adding an additional practical dimension but at the same time one is utilising authentic techniques that further enrich students’ knowledge and skills across domains/disciplines.
Are there problems when new practices are applied in the classrooms?
There are always risks involved when new practices are applied in the classroom. Students may accept or reject a new practice by demonstrating strong engagement or no engagement due to anxiety or even boredom. When a new practice is introduced in the classroom, there exists a conceptual continuum as to how it can be interpreted by students. This continuum ranges from the new practice being too challenging or difficult on one side, to too boring or easy on the other side. And this is the challenge for the teacher; to find an effective pedagogy so that the new practice is accepted positively by the students. Given how important technology currently is, it poses as a feature and technique that is considered attractive to students, but it must be customisable depending on learners’ level and capabilities.
Has it become easier or more complicated to teach English these past decades?
On the one hand, one would expect that teaching English has become easier due to the Internet and the wider exposure to English speaking cultures students may have. Nevertheless, one must not overlook the fact that content-wise not many things have changed; we still teach the same grammar for instance. Therefore, what makes teaching English a bit more challenging today is finding new, innovative practices and methodologies to implement in the way one teaches English. One must seriously consider stepping out of one’s comfort zone and find effective ways to adapt one’s lessons and teaching methods so as to cater to today’s students and the demands and expectations set out by today’s culture; essentially, in order to tackle any complexities or challenges one needs to be flexible, adaptable and open to trying new things.
What is one piece of advice that has been a beacon for your teaching over the years?
Creativity + Pedagogy; constantly trying innovative learning and teaching methods that are supported by sound pedagogical principles.
How important is CPD (Continuous Professional Development) in the teaching of languages?
Continuous Professional Development is a key factor in the teaching of languages. Everything evolves and changes with time. So do learners! A teaching method or a learning tool that engages learners now is very likely to become unexciting in a few years. The new era of continuous technological innovations and constant change entails new challenges to the modern foreign language teacher. Continuous professional development is important in order to successfully adapt to these changes and be able to find innovative ways to engage learners in the learning process.
What do you find demotivating as far as teaching is concerned?
This is a challenging question. We would basically identify two points:
1) When students do not appear engaged in learning which may mean that the teaching and learning methods employed might not be the appropriate ones.
     2) Repeating the same things over and over again in the same manner. Routine does not help a teacher develop teaching skills.
What is one of the things you will not forget from past TG Conventions?
We feel that all TESOL Greece Conventions are unique and have numerous things to offer to ELT as a field and to respective teachers. Therefore, we find it unfair to signal out a particular past TG Convention, instance or event. Nevertheless, what we have observed which grants both consistency and value in light of the variety of themes and presentations is the unfailing drive and motivation of TG Conventions to keep ELT teachers informed and up-to-date by sharing ideas and practices from multiple perspectives. If we had to highlight one TG Convention feature that would be the practice of bringing experts, teachers and even students, all with their own varied, unique experience together so as to share, discuss and aid in the continuous evolvement of ELT.
IF you could one piece of advice to new Educators in the field of ELT what would it be?
Foreign language teaching can be drastically enhanced through technology because it provides so many opportunities to make teaching interesting and productive, and provide engaging learning experiences. In a world where young people have developed a natural aptitude and high skill levels for using new technologies, new educators in the field of ELT should explore the use of educational technologies in order to accommodate varied learning styles, increase the understanding of concepts and strengthen learner motivation and interest.
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