Do we still need teachers?

Yes we do!

“Do you think that Rosetta Stone and Duolingo are going to make language teachers obsolete?”   When I interact with the general public and they discover my interest in technology and language learning, I am often asked some version of that question.   In the mind of many, perhaps with their experiences from their secondary foreign language classes, language learning is after all a matter of memorizing vocabulary from flash cards, and drilling grammar structures.

These functions, what Pegrum (2014) calls the “tutorial” function of mobile assisted language learning, are indeed an area where the use of technology can move some activities outside of the language classroom, or out from under a language teacher’s control.   However, we know that language learning involves far more than these easy-to-automate tutorial functions.   Luckily, the range of capabilities and functions of mobile technology also goes way beyond these tutorial functions.   It is the very fact that mobile phones can now do so many things, that there is a greater need than ever before for language teachers who are trained to curate the various platforms, applications, and claims that are now associated with mobile-assisted language learning.

Teachers may not be the possessors of language, purveying and conveying it to learners who do not possess, nor have access to the language.  Increasingly, language teachers will begin to function more like case workers and coaches – supporting and resourcing learners as they pursue their own personal language acquisition projects.  Teachers must provide learners not with the language itself, but with both the tools for accessing the language, and the means for learners to assess their own use of those tools, used alone or in combination with other tools.