Laura Loves Languages

A place for many opinions

NECTFL 2008: I don’t have ADD, I’m just not listening

Marc Prensky,  was the keynote speaker for the opening session of the 55th conference for the 2008 Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and what can I say but that “he rocked it”. My kids are playing a lot of Rock Band lately so that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. To get the flavor of Prensky’s ideas, check out a few minutes of his comments when his latest book was recently published in Italy. (Focus on the ideas, because the format in the video is VERY different from the event we experienced in the conference venue. At NECTFL, Prensky was  much freer to move about interacting with his audience and the digital presentation he brings with him.) 

In this video, we can see him on one of his favorite learning tools, YouTube.:

Now back to New York and the Northeast Conference—-

 His remarks  centered  as  they usually do on student engagement and allowing the learner to play a BIG role in how they learn. He encouraged teachers to allow students to use YouTube, their cell phones, blogs, wikis and podcasts to construct new learning activities. For example, imagine a classrom where instead of announcing “Shut off your cellphones”, teachers asked students to pick them up to find information that would be used right there in the lesson. It might be that they’d “phone a friend” a la Millionnaire, or look something up on a Sidekick or Blackberry or even take pictures or a video that could later go up on YouTube- in the target language. No doubt the students could imagine all kinds of ways to use phones for learning that we digital immigrants cannot begin to imagine. And that’s cool- the first step to a level playing field in the classroom where student-centered becomes learning-centered and technology is just the tool that enables communication. (Although in the participation phase, one student reported that if she did not have her cell phone, she could not live.)

A highlight was when high school and middle school students came on the stage to interact with Prensky about what they liked about studying a language and what they really did not like. The dream situation for them was to be able to go to a place where the TL was being spoken and to be able to communicate and get what they want. Technology enables real-world communication and so does speaking the language. Students realize that both skills are part of the equation. The less interesting part from the learner perspective was the classroom drilling with one student using the analogy of a nail/lesson  being hammered into his head. The students reported that they enjoyed being asked how they’d like to have their school work designed. They liked the opportunity to be creative and they liked it when language learning led to real-world communication They said that they wanted to learn the language that would help them negotiate practical needs when traveling.

The onstage interview was followed by an exchange between the students and the teachers in the audience.Teachers came up to microphones in the crowded ballroom to bridge the gap between digital immigrants, those of us who predate computers and the digital natives on stage.  It was an  invigorating experience to hear the conversation about re-imagining  how we all work in a digital world.  In Prensky’s world, we are all learners with the power to transform the educational experience for all.  It is a place where everyone is learning, creating , sharing and collaborating.

His slides are posted on the Northeast Conference home page:

April 2, 2008 - Posted by | Languages, Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I was unable to go to the keynote, so am depending upon what others who did have told me, your comments, and my own many years of working with middle/junior/high school students. I love technology myself, but I notice that Mr. Prensky had minimal experience teaching a language and that only to elementary school French students back in the 70’s. My question would first be one of universal access –will schools supply cell phones, iPods, personal computers, etc., and pay for connection costs? How to deal with safety and legality issues in our litigious society?

    Comment by MBarrueta | April 2, 2008 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: