Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Educating the young learners of the 21st Century- By David Nunan

When having flashbacks to the very moment we read that David Nunan, the prolific writer and renowned linguist, had a scheduled presentation on Educating the young learners of the 21st Century, personally, I had goosebumps. Such an exciting moment doubled these feelings after attending his session. What amazed me was his modesty and great sense of humor.

In the beginning of this session, D. Nunan emphasized the importance of the young learners because they  are the emblem of the future. He also noted that teachers, everywhere, have little training how to deal with these young learners ,who are identified as the (3- 15) age group. More than this, he stressed the fact that we should match the activities with the age. It is true that this is a very large chronological age. The theories that D.Nunan stated as appropriate to the education of the child for the 21st Century, is the communicative language teaching and the task-based language teaching. Language is a skill to be used to communicate.

What we ,as teachers, should take into consideration when devising and designing activities to young learners are the emotional, social, intellectual, interpersonal and cultural development of these learners.

Afterwards, he posed an overarching question: What does it take to learn another language?

What really amazed us is the answer D.Nunan gave: ART , the ART of teaching and learning. It is true that it seems simplistic. But it conveyed more than what it seemed to be.  ART is an acronym for : A for Awareness. R for Repetition. T for Transformation. And that's what makes the ART of teaching and learning.

To further deepen these meanings, D.Nunan explained that learning/ teaching is related to awareness. In fact, in order to learn anything, we have to be aware. Asking questions, giving explanations are some of the strategies we ,as teachers, use on a daily basis. Learners should be aware of the content they are exposed to, hence language should be in context. More importantly, learners should develop relationships with the characters.

As for Repetition, it is so important for learners to be actively exposed to words in context.

The Transformation stage is the last one and this comes because learners are aware of the activity, the importance of the language ; and they have also been actively exposed to the content. This is when learners make the language their own. By Transformation, D.Nunan explained that learners personalize the language. They do solve problems, work on puzzles, etc...

He also stressed the fact that the integration of the skills is essential to get the learners involved. As a practical example, D.Nunan introduced a new textbook devised for 21st young learners, which is very compatible to the tech-savvy aspect of most of the 21st century learners. We were offered a free copy of the book. The learners are asked to create an avatar; they become, then, a person and move through games and solve the mystery. What is interesting about it is that learners are part of the adventure and it becomes a very real interaction at the end. In D.Nunan's words: the language is freed up in this online world." Learners are given real purposes to use the language.

Eventually, he recapped the main points. He insisted on the importance teachers should give to the different aspects of learning.Teachers should be interested in teaching learners how to cooperate with others, how to socialize. Teachers should care about all the aspects of language learning and not only the linguistic ability. Most importantly, teaching is an ART. A stands for awareness, R stands for Repetition and T stands for Transformation.

After the session, I felt extremely responsible to all that is taking place in my classroom and very responsible for all that my learners need . Teaching is an ART and we need to be Artists in the heart to feel and respond positively to our learners' needs.