CELTA and Technology – With or Without it?


Leveraging Technology
Giulia Forsythe via Compfight

In a recent end-of-course evaluation report,  one of our CELTA candidates suggested (complained is perhaps a better word) that her expectations of a higher grade on the CELTA course were not fulfilled because she did not know how to use technology. Had she not been encouraged to use it (by her tutor), she said,  she would have achieved a higher grade. It was the effort she put into including tech in her lessons that which cost her this higher grade.

For this trainee (now teacher), learning to use simple tools such as powerpoint, projecting images and slides on the data projector, or showing a You Tube video in her lessons, was perceived to be a  task which took up  so much effort, that her performance suffered and so the highly desired Pass A or B was not achieved.

Learning to…

  • plan lessons
  • design handouts
  • create role cards
  • design information gaps or games
  • specify lesson aims
  • achieve lesson aims
  • find and adapt suitable activities
  • etc etc.

….these were nIMG_3537ot perceived as difficult or as demanding as plugging in the data projector and hooking it to your laptop to project a simple word handout or powerpoint.

All these things were perceived as normal but knowing how to use a few  simple tools like those mentioned above, or a word cloud  was not.

In fact, using technology was perceived as not only unnecessary, but as a block to achieving the learning of all these complex tasks, an added pain even which put a stop to that trainee’s progress.

Blocks to technology

Typically, those who resist technology and express similar views are older candidates who have some or a lot of experience of chalk and talk (or board marker and talk, if yoIMG_1982u like).  Some younger candidates though can also be staunch resisters. Our philosophy of teaching and educational values often comes from being a learner and many of these teachers come from a highly teacher-centred educational framework of chalk and talk, of grammar translation, of teachers untrained and uneducated in terms of pedagogy studies.

Educational values are unconsciously acquired, even if our conscious mind never found any pleasure in learning in such situations.

One of these trainees even went as far as to tell us that we should be warning people on our website that obtaining the CELTA involves knowledge of technology (it doesn’t). Knowing how to use Word and Powerpoint is not real tech or part of a teacher’s 21st century skills toolkit.

No one asked us to issue warnings about the fact that that learning teaching involves knowledge of pedagogy or that lesson plans take time to learn to do properly.

quote3So why is it that some people think they actually can put us to task for not having warned them about the use of educational technology?

Surely, pedagogy is much more complex as a field than knowing how to use some simple apps or tools,
but there you have it in a nutshell: using technology raises the hackles of some people.

We tend to call such people technophobes and may be we have all gone through a stage like this at some point in our lives.

But we managed to overcome our fear; some of us even jumped right in without any fear even but with excitement about the new learning opportunities and the chance to do an even better job.

This is not to say that we do not acknowledge the learning effort though we do wonder when it raises such obstacles and such strong emotions.

Without Technology?

Of course we have seen ( and still see and teach) some absolutely wonderful lessons which did not use any of the latest technology or apps, not even a powerpoint or typed and colour printed handouquote2ts!  I have some such lesson plans in storage and keep them in awe of the artwork that has gone into them

But the professional effect achieved took the trainee teacher numerous hours of hand-drawn artwork – such as all of us have done at one time or another.

I have drawn numerous flashcards myself and still remember the time that went into creating them. And I do also remember the pleasure I got out of doing them. So may be some people do get their kicks out of creating their own hand -crafted materials and that is fantastic. There is no reason to stop doing that if you have the time and the will to do it.

Does technology stop us from doing that? Of course not! But when we don’t have the time to indulge in such pleasurable handiwork for our classes, it’s there to help us produce professional and neat looking materials that will also be visually pleasant and memorable for our learners.

Incidentally, would this trainee complain had she had to do handwritten and hand-drawn materials and handouts? Would she have then blamed the lack of technology for her grade? I am curious.

With or without?

Saying swimming is a useless or harmful activity because you cannot float is not just narrow minded, it’s also not very clever. But phobias of this or that – technology in our case – are not always backed up by intelligent reasoning; they exist because of the strong emotions they generate in individuals, their lack of self-esteem and the blocks they themselves have created which say things like “I am not good/clever/old enough to learn how to use this technology because it would take me forever” or “I can’t be bothered to learn this technology because it might make me look incompetent or I would rather not spend time learning it”.


Technology, after all, is just a range of additional tools but it is not the answer to every teaching or learning problem.

Ignoring it or resisting it, however, will not be an option for long; teachers who cannot use it will eventually be phased out by teachers who do use it as it provides us with numerous learning tools that go far beyond a nice looking image, so resisting learning about or using what is available limits learning opportunities for our learners.

It’s not just there to replace images; this is just one function!

More importantly, the decision to use or not to use technology is one that you can only make if/when you can use it, not when you can’t!

As I write these lines in the year 2015, I am thinking of all the impassioned discussions between technophiles and self-proclaimed luddites back in 2009  and 2010. You might be thinking that 5 years is not a long time but, actually, in tech and web culture terms, it is!

I didn’t think such attitudes would still be going strong today but, there you have it; the same issues need to be addressed and re-articulated in new ways, to catch the latest batch of digital resisters 🙂

With Technology but for a good reason

The Cambridge syllabus stipulates that courses should include

IMG_3740The selection, adaptation and evaluation of materials and resources in planning (including computer and other technology based resources) (4.4)

Technology has been a part of the syllabus for a long time, although it is true that many centres still opt not to train their candidates in its uses for the same reasons that trainees resist it: ignorance, lack of confidence, lack of conviction in its educational value and just plain shirking one’s duty as a trainer – in the same way that some teachers shirk their duty as teachers.

I feel this an opportunity lost for ever – given the funds, effort and energy one puts into this qualification, surely, they would want to be taught all the required components of their syllabus!

This could go round in circles for ever. I think I will just close with a great aphorism – widely quoted but of uncertain origin – which epitomises the spirit of this post as well as why we believe in making educational uses of technology an integral part of all our teacher courses – including the CELTA.

Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who don’t. 

.Power User

Alec Couros via Compfight

It’s inevitable and we cannot go back. We can choose to have lessons or activities without tech but this, also, must be a considered option not a random decision or a non-decision.


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The CELTA Handbook  

N.B. All photos w/o attributions by Marisa Constantinides  ]]>

15 replies

  1. Thornbury and Meddings are rolling over in their graves, yet they’re still alive and kicking. The use of technology has gotten completely out of hand. My supposed B1/B2 students can’t even tell me what they did last weekend when I ask, because the art of conversation has been absolutely buried under technological toys that do nothing to help our students acquire a language. There needs to me a massive push-back, and as far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better.

    • Adam, this is not a discussion about the use or not of technology in our lives and what B1/B2 students do on their weekends. It’s about learning the tools of our trade. Whether you decide to use them or not, it’s up to you.

      There may be occasions and contexts where tech is not even available or other contexts where it’s obligatory to use. Teachers need to be able to operate in both situations.

      • Marisa,

        Since this is your blog, I won’t try to argue with you, but I will say that I couldn’t disagree more, and by not allowing a free and open post about not just “if” someone can use it, but so much more importantly “how much” and “when” does the entire topic a huge disservice. It can take someone, even an absolute neophyte, a few days max to learn how to use an IWB, open a YouTube video or operate a DVD player. The “if” and “how much” with technology in ELT, in my view, should automatically become a de facto part of the topic and any subsequent discussions, whether intended or not. I can tell you right now as one in the trenches, technology (and its blatant overuse) is making my life so much more difficult.

        I could go on, but I (as I’ve already been scolded) digress. I can only wonder how I learned Spanish (my L2) in the complete absence of technology. I must be simply amazing. 🙂 And if I may inquire, what technologies did you employ to learn your L2? It’s quite good if I may say so.

        Thanks for your comment.

  2. Being in my early 30s and in the business for about 10 years, I’m still quite proud of the fact that I can teach a pen, paper, board and dictionary class (seriously, it helps when there is a two hours’ blackout during your lesson). I can do wonders if I have my cupboard with books and a photocopier, a photocopier alone makes me happy… During my CELTA, I had to make a poster out of a picture of a size of a matchbox, as one of the tasks. Up until now, I can deal with small photocopier irregularities on my own. It really helps in crisis situations.

    On the other hand, didn’t we dream about the future with children arriving at school with their touchscreen mini-computers? Linked to a dynamically reacting board, on which we scribble with a finger? Instant messaging, community editing etc. All that to be afraid of it…

    Learning to use a smarboard takes about three hours. Taking control over students’ mobiles and employing them in the class – probably a day of searching and experimenting. There is much more available than a powerpoint and playing a yt clip. Yet I understand those complaints, as when I particularly wanted things to work out (a feedback lesson observation), even the simple CD player didn’t want to do what it was supposed to… But fixing this is just as complex as connecting a laptop to the beamer. It is simply one of those things for which one always needs to have an alternative plan. Or two. Then this fear probably will decrease.

    • And you should be proud that you can do both equally well, because that’s what skilled performers are known to be able to do: perform well even when circumstances are difficult or there is a sudden issue. 🙂

  3. A very short addition from sb. who is very much into verbal output when it comes to students’ contribution.
    Yes, technology steers us away from oral work.In fact I often wonder if the human species is evolving into a new type of species. Toddlers are brought up on a good dose of tablets.
    But I think the article was about teachers equipping themselves in order to walk in the class. Indeed I believe that without technology knowhow teachers will not even be in the race. Beware however. I mean technology knowhow on top of all teaching skills, pedagogical background and in class experience

  4. Hi Marisa,

    This was an interesting article to read and I think learning about technology on a teacher training course is a good thing because it gives the trainee teachers a chance to see how technology can be used with pedagogical aims rather than just for the sake of using technology.

    I can understand the trainee’s perspective as well because there is always a degree of performance anxiety when using unfamiliar technology in an observed situation. This is only heightened if things go wrong.

    PowerPoint has been around for 25 years though. Presentation software is far from a new technology, so perhaps it should be incorporated into training programs. Teaching presentations skills can be very beneficial.

    It is useful to be able to teach with and without technology, but exposure to both skills can help you identify what you are comfortable with, where you can develop and help you establish your own personal teaching style.

    Thanks for the great read.


    • Of course there is performance anxiety about this as well as about everything else trainees are learning on the course.

      I think though that unless we normalise the use of tech (as Huw suggests in his comment above) and make it a staple part of teaching tools and aids, we are going to get anywhere


  5. Thanks for a great blog post Marisa. I absolutely loved reading ‘More importantly, the decision to use or not to use technology, is one that you can only make if you can use it, not when you can’t!’. I also like what you said in the comments, that we need to learn the tools of our trade. CELTA teacher training courses are an introduction to the tools and, in order for normalisation to happen, tech tools have to be included in the introduction. Yes, it’s a lot to take in but that’s exactly why managing to demonstrate a level of ability, achievement and development higher, or significantly higher, than required in order to gain a CELTA Pass, is so special.

    • Hi Fiona, you make a good point, we develop Virtual Classrooms specifically for teaching English online, it’s taken as a while to get a good balance between features and ease of use.

      If your thinking about teaching online I’d love to get your feedback, our goal it to make it as easy as possible to start teaching English online.

      You can try it for free at https://www.learncube.com/


  6. The onus isn’t on school budgets, clever technology, or even magic data machines but rather the space between our heads and our collective ability to forge truly thinking classrooms.

    This happens with,among other things,a new emphasis on the process and joy of learning itself- the role of play in learning, how curiosity functions, balancing collaboration with the need for independent and quiet reflection, and fully honoring the complex concept of what it means to understand.

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