IATEFL 2017 Forum on Digital Materials

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A review By Will Leung

This is a small forum consisting of three short presentations by Paul Slater, Laurie Harrison & Nick Robinson, and Paul Sweeney

Peter Slater from the University of Brighton discussed how technology has changed / changes / will change language teacher education courses, particularly with regard to materials development. Based on class observations and interviews with over 50 teachers, Peter shared some very interesting views from teachers on using coursebooks as well as digital materials in the classroom. Although coursebooks are fundamental to most teachers, many see them as “banal”, “predictable”, and “something dated very quickly”; at the same time, most of them are open to using more technology in teaching. Since digital literacies are so important nowadays, Peter argued that they should be part of the syllabus instead of just considering ICT as augmentation of coursebook contents. The implication, he suggested, is to include media literacies, digital literacies, multimodal literacies and community of practice in the materials training courses.

Another presentation was given by Paul Sweeney, who discussed the current limitations of digital learning materials in terms of their ‘interactivity’. He argued that it is not enough to merely digitalise the content. Instead, we should also consider the integration of content with different devices (computer / mobile), the digital presentation of content, as well as the modes for the digital learning materials (learning / practice / testing).

I was particularly interested in  “Using Learner Experience Design (LXD) to improve language learning products” by Laurie Harrison and Nick Robinson from ELTjam. Drawing on their previous experience of reviewing educational technology products, Laurie and Nick showed us how the “Ed-tech Disconnect” is affecting the learners. The Ed-tech Disconnect exists where  good quality content is often let down by technology and user experience on one hand, and where well-designed digital materials lack good content . Placing learner experience at the heart of their endeavours, they came up with a framework which combines content, pedagogy, user experience and interaction, to help evaluate the effectiveness of digital learning materials. Nick then concluded their presentation with three important takeaways, which are

1. Write holistically;

2. Help tell your product’s story;

3. Learn to copywrite.

As an aspiring digital materials writer myself, I found these tips immensely useful.

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