Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Human Drive and Humanistic Technologies in ELT Training

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Human Drive and Humanistic Technologies in ELT Training

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Traditionally, teacher trainees from the population here sampled are not too kind towards technology, which has always been the part of their curriculum they frown upon. IWs and other teaching aids are approached with a mixture of suspicion and fear. Clearly, the best way to train future teachers to use technology in the classroom confidently, is to have them leam through technology as boldly as possible. But how motivating, engaging and cognitively fruitful may this be?

The aim of this study was to question student engagement with traditional and multimedia course materials, by collecting and interpreting information on their free use of multimedia materials and activities associated with coursebooks. The students in question were teacher trainees from the Department of Education of the university of Bologna, Italy.

According to Deci and colleagues, the three basic needs to be developed in a balanced personality are competence, relatedness and autonomy (Deci and Ryan 1995; Deci and Ryan 2002a). Positive psychologists such as Seligman identify five elements fostering our well-being: positive emotions, engagement, positive relations, meaning and achievement (Seligman 2011:16-26). The need and the necessity to leam is favoured by environments where those basic psychological ingredients are acknowledged and maximized. The need/necessity to teach (language as well as other skills) stems from the cultural and social imperative to form balanced, autonomous, fulfilled human being, richly textured with the above traits.

We can easily inform the teaching environment with personality-enhancing experiences, favouring an engaging, emotionally attractive milieu, where positive social relations and student-centred activities are meaningful - beside being meaning-based. Each of these variable hinges on the others and in its turn feeds them, in a fully unpredictable dynamic system, where cognition is supported by a state of authentic emotional well-being.

2 Free learning

Intrinsic motivation is the true engine of the human search for meaning and knowledge. It has been convincingly proven that in the educational context, like in other working or leisure environments, we cannot enhance students' progress by promising money, iPads, iPods, laptops, games, holidays away from home, prizes, certificates, good grades, approval, success, or any such external gratification. Motivation has to spring from within.

From the perspective of the learner, there is little to be done to fire up an intellectual curiosity where the basic fabric of existence is a burning concern with survival. But, given a minimum allowance of well-being, curiosity is the natural state of the human mind.

From the perspective of the teacher, nothing is more rewarding than freely sharing one's knowledge. As we see in enterprises like Linux, Apache, Wikipedia, Wiki-leaks, Mozilla, Prezi, Google, etc., the freedom of sharing knowledge and the joy of giving away freely are irreplaceable human needs. Psychology has convincingly shown us the most popular members of a collaborative group are not the givers but the borrowers, namely the people who can ask for a favour rather than those doing the favour; being in the position to ask for help makes us more popular in the community because it bares our vulnerability and allows our peers to satisfy their innate urge to give. The "selfish gene"1 may thrive, but it looks as though it is having a tough job competing with the altruistic gene, which is totally capable of overpowering it culturally.

Both teachers and learners should develop mutual 'borrower' relations, acknowledging the bi-directionality of the learning process. The gift is free for both recipients - learners and teachers - and we depend on students for directions in our profession as much as they depend on us.

Even the world of business is starting to acknowledge this, while in the academic arena the idea of free-giving ideas has long been sustained. …

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