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NigeriaDecides2023

Teaching the English language in the 21st Century world

In the 21st Century, the classroom is primarily made up of clicks, not bricks. Gone are the days when teachers were the sole custodians of knowledge because of their access to textbooks.

In recent times, students can access and even compare and contrast enough information on all topics, from the comfort of their homes and right on their smartphones. This implies that any teacher who hopes to be relevant among netizens must be known to be ICT savvy. It is, therefore, essential to incorporate all modern tools that can aid the teaching and learning of language into our teachings, in order to be considered as sophisticated teachers in this age.

This piece will discuss English language teaching in the 21st Century from two perspectives. The first is the need to adopt a communicative perspective in the teaching of language, and the second involves the deployment of technology. These are the ways to go if teaching must be productive in the 21st Century.

…it is essential to mention that notwithstanding the level of passion, a modern teacher must be open to 21st Century techniques, sources and resources to elevate his/her proficiency

A communicative approach to language teaching pays attention to how language is used in real life contexts. As has been established in one of my treatises, the approach demands that language teaching and learning should be carried out using real life situations.

Such an approach brings about communicative competence. It is important to note that English is first a language before being a subject, and the primary essence of teaching it as a subject is to help students gain mastery of the language.

On this premise, anything short of a communicative approach to language teaching cannot yield the desired result of attaining fluency in the language.

With this in mind, teachers should focus more on the interactional use of the language rather than giving attention to the rules of correctness and incorrectness.

The other side to language teaching and learning in the 21st Century involves the application of technology. The reality of teaching tech-savvy students is one that is different from what many teachers have become acquainted with. Information and resources are now at the fingertips of students.

Language teaching in the 21st Century has to move beyond the mere teaching of prescriptive rules to achieving the four C’s put forward by a non-profit organisation in the United States known as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (Plucker, Kaufman, & Beghetto, 2016).

These four C’s are Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking, and Creativity. I cannot dwell on all of these four in this treatise, but Halvorsen (2018) reported that these four C’s can be used to promote the acquisition of the four communication skills and can be easily activated when students are asked to research a topic, discuss or debate that topic with peers, and write about their discoveries. This also implies that language teaching in the 21st Century has to be student-centred.

Read also: English as a global language: A new case for Nigerian English

Studies have proposed how technologies can be entrenched in language teaching. Sharma & Barrett (2007) and Lewis (2009) propose how to blend technology into a language classroom, and they have a list of offline and online tools that teachers can leverage to make their work better.

One important offline tool is the electronic dictionary. Everyone who cares to use the language well must have at least one offline dictionary on his or her gadget, which enables him/her to look up the meanings of words even when there is no access to the Internet.

Word processing tools like PowerPoint and interactive whiteboards are other offline tools available to the teacher. Computer-Mediated-Communication (CMC) is another important aspect of 21st Century language teaching that must be practically taught by teachers.

What is more, emails, chats and text messages are all forms of modern correspondence that must be taught with their appropriate grammar and etiquette. There are several technological sources and resources that are also crucial to modern English language teaching.

Web technology that includes blogs, wikis, podcasts, digital portfolios and social networking are veritable pedagogical tools. WhatsApp, for instance, boasts features like strikethrough, italics and bold which can help facilitate online interactions.

In conclusion, it is essential to mention that notwithstanding the level of passion, a modern teacher must be open to 21st Century techniques, sources and resources to elevate his/her proficiency.

Also, we have gone past the time when parents and teachers could frown on students’ use of gadgets even in secondary schools. What is important now is to guide them to maximise their phones and other gadgets for their personal development.

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