3 | 1 | 2014


Digital pencil sharpening
Technology Integration and Language Learning Autonomy

Shona Whyte


Language learning and the development of learner autonomy via effective integration of learning technologies in language classrooms depend heavily on the learning opportunities provided by language teachers. While contemporary language programmes for state school contexts in many European countries emphasise communicative and task-based approaches, many recent studies question the extent of the uptake of such methodologies by teachers as they integrate new tools such as the interactive whiteboard (IWB) into their teaching (Gray, 2010; Cutrim Schmid & Whyte, 2012; Favaro, 2012; Whyte, 2011). This essay presents a constructivist theory of teaching and learning based on Whitehead's three-stage model of romantic, precision and generalisation experiences and supported by the writings of mathematics and music educators (Whitehead, 1917/1932; Halmos, 1975; Duke, 2008). This model is linked to current second language teaching methodology (Cook, 1998; Lightbown, 2000; Myles, 2002; Ellis, 2005) with particular reference to technology integration. Examples of classroom language teaching practice, including IWB-mediated learning activities, show how this approach can enhance learning opportunities and learner autonomy. Teacher resistance to communicatively oriented technology integration and the persistence of traditional methodology - dubbed “pencil sharpening” – is attributed to misapprehension of acquisitional facts and lack of models to support pedagogical transformation. The paper concludes with a number of recent teacher education initiatives (Hoven, 2007; Hubbard, 2008; Whyte et al., 2013) which point the way to a programme of pedagogical change which can allow the integration of learning technologies to fulfil their potential for promoting language learning and supporting the autonomy of learners.