Digital Technologies in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classroom

Term Paper, 2020

15 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of content

1. Discussion ofDigital Technologies in the EFL classroom
1.1 The Importance ofEnglish and Digital Technologies
1.2 Digital Technologies in Schools
1.3 Strengths and Weaknesses ofDigital Technologies
1.3.1 Learning Environments forLeamers with Special Educational Needs
1.3.2 Content ofLessons
1.3.3 Grammar and Vocabulary
1.3.4 Feedback
1.3.5 Spoken and Written Communication
1.3.6 Ethical Aspects
1.3.7 Weaknesses
1.3.8 Conclusion

2. Using Digital Tools in the EFL classroom

3. Works Cited

1. Discussion of Digital Technologies in the EFL classroom

1.1 The Importance ofEnglish and Digital Technologies

The KIM study 2018 shows that out of 1.231 participants in the age of 6 to 13, 98% have access to the internet and 97% of them own a smartphone (Feierabend 9). This means, that nearly everybody is in daily contact with Digital Media, even children in primary school. First of all, there needs to be a differentiation between Digital Media and Digital Technology. The term Digital Media includes created products and the digital tools which were used to produce them, while it also includes the transport of information. Digital Technologies is a more generic term which includes everything covered by Digital Media (IGI Global Dictionary). Therefore, Digital Technologies are composed by digital devices like tablets, computers or smartphones as well as digital resources, which provide information of any kind in a digital format (IGI Global Dictionary). That is why in the following it will only be referred to the term ofDigital Technologies and not Digital Media.

Just like Digital Technologies, in the following described as DT, the English language plays an important role in many people's lives as well. English is not only the language spoken by the most people all over the world but also the one which is geographically distributed most widely (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung bpb). In most of these countries, English is the official language, while in other countries it is used for educational or business purposes (bpb). Because of its importance, it is crucial for young students to learn English as a foreign language in school (Maras and Ametsbichler 286). Before reaching the age of 10, a time frame which is called “window of opportunity” emerges, in which children tend to be most receptive regarding language learning (Maras and Ametsbichler 286). Through English lessons in primary school, the school system uses this opportunity (Maras and Ametsbichler 286). According to Maras and Ametsbichler the English lessons should follow a competence orientation, which means that it should provide many opportunities to foster competencies like listening, speaking, reading, writing, speech acting, method related competencies as well as intercultural competencies (288). They highlight that, from a didactic perspective, the adaptation of authentic text material, as well as storytelling and feedback culture are the most important points to focus on (289). The goal of teaching English should be, that children get to know simple and appropriate language tools, simple situations of communication and action as well as practice in speech acting (Maras and Ametsbichler 289). Furthermore, they should get an insight into the discovering of a new language, foreign cultures and strategies of language learning (Maras and Ametsbichler 289).

But how can the two fields ofEnglish as a foreign language, further referred to as EFL, and the usage of DT in school be possibly combined and why should there be a correlation between learning English and using DT? In the following term paper, this question will be investigated carefully. After that, there will also be an example of a concrete lesson in the EFL classroom using DT and in the end there will be a reflection of this seminar.

1.2 Digital Technologies in Schools

As the world is becoming more and more digitized and DTs have become part of nearly everybody's lives, it is obvious that there is a huge discrepancy between the handling of DT in our daily lives and the handling in schools. At the moment, schools tend to use DTs only in a reproductive way and to complement the usage of analogue media, rather than exploiting its maximum potential (Bechtel 24). The school system should prepare the students for living in the real world so that they can participate in every area of life autonomously, which is impossible, if schools do not use DTs on a regular basis (Bär 21). Even though all students use DTs every day, this does not mean that they reflect their own behavior towards it (Bechtel 24). Therefore, this is another aspect of the school's tasks regarding the use of DT: It needs to teach students how to use the given digital opportunities responsibly as well as the competence of reflection and critical ability (Bechtel 24). The relevance of DTs in school is also pointed out by the KMK which refers to it as a forth “Kulturtechnik” besides reading, writing and calculating and thereby shows its enormous importance and potential (KMK 7). Bär explains that right now, these expectations seem to be very unrealistic, because there is a huge scarcity regarding digital equipment in schools (14). Even though fostering equipment is not necessarily going to improve its usage in schools, it is going to build the basis for further improvements (Bechtel 25).

While integrating DT into the school system, it firstly needs to be clear that digital learning should never end in itself (Bär 16). This means, that DTs must have a serving function and there always has to be a superordinate goal to aim towards (Bär 16). But one has to remember that the aim and the resources are mutually influential, as setting an aim also depends on the provided resources (Bär 17). However, digital resources should never be more important than the pedagogy they provide and should rather be seen as a supplement of didactic and pedagogic concepts (Bär 17). In addition to that, teachers should be aware of the fact, that not every technological opportunity makes sense in every context and that the usage of DT itself does not lead to an effect for the learning group (Grünewald 464).

In the following I will take a closer look at several areas in school which could be affected by the establishment ofDT, whereat the particular opportunities and weaknesses will be discussed.

1.3 Strengths and Weaknesses ofDigital Technologies

1.3.1 Learning Environments for Learners with Special Educational Needs

As Bär mentions, DT can innovate the school system by creating authentic learning environments and focusing on tasks (14). A learning environment is the setting in class where learners gain access to the target language which is only possible via teachers, materials and media (Bechtel 27). This access enables autonomous knowledge acquisition and specified practice, for example by using a learning software (Bechtel 27). A concrete establishment of a learning environment can be found in an inclusive setting. Blume and Würffel state that DT can be used in many different ways to provide various purposes for learners with special educational needs, who will be referred to as SEN in the following (11). In general, assistive technology is sometimes the only way to enable individuals with SEN to participate in class, but there are also many specific technologies which enable individualized learning adapted to the particular needs of the different students (Blume and Würffel 12). Certain programs are able to give the learners direct feedback on an impersonal level, which is very beneficial for learners with autism, who tend to have problems with personal contact (Blume and Würffel 13). The multiple sensory inputs of some forms of media can foster the students' motivation, while computer-mediated communication can limit the processing channels of the medium and therefore becomes less overwhelming (Blume and Würffel 14). DT is also able to transfer content from one modality to another wherefore it is able to adapt to the students' needs (Blume and Würffel 14). If one student is deaf and thus cannot participate in listening tasks, DT can portray the listening task in a way the deaf student can cooperate with, for example in a text or in pictures. In addition, the internet enables online anonymity, for example while publishing content or chatting with others, so that it dismantles the barriers between SEN and non-SEN learners (Blume and Würffel 15).

The difficulty of this project, however, is situated in the execution: There is a wide and at the same time specific knowledge required to be able to adapt DTs to the particular students and their needs. An analysis of every student's needs, abilities and competencies is needed, which is a very complex and time intensive procedure (Blume and Würffel 22). Often the teachers lack the needed skills to work effectively with DTs to support learners with SEN. Another problem is, that it is almost impossible to be as familiar as needed with every possible DT existing to really be able to choose the best technology for every student (Blume and Würffel 22). Moreover, the aspect of access portrays another problem, as the costs of special technologies can be very high and the organizational effort is enormous too (Blume and Würffel 23). The idea of every student bringing their own device to class does not work either, because mostly very specific technologies are needed and not every tool fits every device. In addition, there is a current lack of global standards and applications according this problematic, which could simplify the access to needed technologies or programs (Blume and Wurffel 23). Those obstacles can hinder an access to the technologies when they are needed and therefore minder their effectiveness (Blume and Wurffel 23).

1.3.2 Content ofLessons

The next area to be examined is the content of lessons in the EFL classroom and how it could be affected by DT. In this context, DT can be seen as a supplementation of analogue textbooks by providing authenticity of language and more current topics which are not available in the textbooks through internet access (Bechtel 25). It is also possible to include new forms of tasks besides the ones already shown in the textbooks, wherefore the use of DTs can be seen as an improving supplementation of the already given materials (Bechtel 26). Youtube videos from native speakers could be used to provide authentic content without simulation. This supports the learners' competence of global and selective listening comprehension and enables a transfer by drawing awareness to characteristics of spoken languages (Bechtel 29). Another benefit is that those technologies can be accessed independently from location and time (Bechtel 25).

As already mentioned above, the students' interest and the lessons' effectiveness will not increase just by providing access to DT, but by effectively engaging it in the lesson and its content (Grünewald 465). To do so, there needs to be preparation and postprocessing while working with DT (Bechtel 26). For the teachers this admittedly means, that they have to put more effort in their preparation of lessons than they had to before. Everything has to be questioned and decided from a new point of view, because DTs offer way more possibilities than the textbook on its own. However, this gives teachers the opportunity to adapt their lessons to the heterogeneous learning groups, which means that there will be more individual learning and therefore more effectiveness in the EFL classroom.

1.3.3 Grammar and Vocabulary

According to the field of grammar and vocabulary, Bechtel mentions, that DT can help students to understand grammatical phenomenons better by innovating grammatical practice through diversified methods (26). Explanatory videos, for example, work with visualization and animation and thereby combine different types of media to a multimedia experience (Grünewald 463). This means that many sensory channels, like the auditory and the visually channel, are addressed at once and therefore the students are more likely to internalize the video's content, which would not be possible on an analogue level (Weidenmann 201). However, video material always contains the risk of distraction through too much input. Therefore, it is again the teacher's duty to reflect the DTs used in class to ensure that they are suitable for the learning group and its students.

There is also textbook related software available, which ensures the lessons' coherence, even if DT is only used to supplement the already existing analogue media. It offers drag and drop activities, where students will get immediate feedback and a statistic of their mistakes after filling out gaps in sentences about certain grammatical phenomenons or testing their vocabulary knowledge (Bechtel 26).

1.3.4 Feedback

According to social-constructivism, the mentioned feedback is a very important part of language learning (Walker and White 5). Because DTs offer the opportunity of automatic feedback for learners while doing a certain task, they bring some huge advantages with them. Primarily the automatized feedback is an innovation, because it does work a teacher would not be able to do: it checks every student's answer individually and directly after logging it in. A teacher could not check the answers of every student of a learning group this effectively during class (Meurers 65). That is why this method also saves time, minimizes effort and enables independent and individual working at any location. But one has to consider, that the quality of the given feedback through DT is questionable. Oftentimes it turns out not as elaborated as a teacher's feedback could be, because it mostly only tells if an answer is right or wrong (Meurers 67). In conclusion, DT has a great potential of lowering the existing lack of individual scaffolding feedback but forms of direct, interactive and individual feedback are still in the process of development (Meurers 79).


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Digital Technologies in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classroom
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Digital Media in the EFL classroom
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
digital media, digital technologies, efl, English digital, digital, school, schule, lehramt
Quote paper
Hannah Wörner (Author), 2020, Digital Technologies in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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