Designing learning experiences in active, dynamic learning environments is the 21st century teachers' task. A way to cope with the major issues that such adventure involves is relying on cooperation, technology and a fresh, positive attitude towards everlasting learning. The CLIL approach beautifully offers such an opportunity. In my opinion The Pros and Cons of this approach all lie in the same space, that is that virtual space where the 4 Cs ideally interact with each other. The challenge is reaching the sweet spot, that is the perfect balance among the four elements, namely content, cognition, communication and culture. There’s no CLIL without the contribution of each of these elements, but it isn’t easy not to fall into that sort of taming of them which is the real enemy of a purposeful, and thus successful, use of the approach itself.
THE IDEAL TEACHER ASSISTANT.Using technology in teaching other subjects content through English is a great way to enhance lesson planning and engage students, in a nutshell, to transform the classroom. Yet, a CLIL teacher has to know how properly integrating technology in CLIL. Incorporating technology into your lessons technology may require to learn how to use it and manage the tool, thus it may be frustrating to plan a lesson with technology only to discover that it gets stuck in the middle. In my opinion, one of the thing you have to do previously is to choose technology that really enhances the learners’ experience: this means that you have to carefully consider your goals before you choose the technology to use to pursue them, look at your objectives, look at your assessment instrument, look for technology that serves your purpose. You have to be outcomes driven: technology must be considered as a sort of teacher assistant, something that assists you in making your job easier. After choosing the right tool you need to help your students to use it properly, so you need to have them work in groups or at least in pairs and provide guided activities in order to let them master a new tool. Other valuable conceptsteachers need to consider when integrating technology into the CLIL classroom are the combination of content knowledge, language knowledge and technological knowledge, all coming together to perfecly and effectively interacting, and, most important, the use of technology to create a learning task that would be impossible without the use of that tool. Well, teachers may feel overwhelmed by the everchanging huge amount of technologies available: one of the biggest challenges of using technology in the classroom is that the market continues to produce more and more products. This is the reason why they need to definitely discover the power of sharing and collaborating as the perfect way to help us choose and implement new tools in our CLIL lessons.
ER AND TECHNOLOGY. I would summarize the purpose for extensive reading in two words: exposure and pleasure (that is motivation). Extensive reading in CLIL, as P. Nation and others researchers state, in a nutshell suggests that learners should be provided with a range of possibilities and allowed to read for extensive periods in order to develop their reading proficiency along with content and language acquisition. Extensive reading may be an exciting part of a language learning environment. Teachers should create an extensive reading environment, in the classroom as well as outside od it (flipped classroom). Here some useful technique I would adopt in my classroom: real and virtual newspapers corners, where students would be provided with articles and links and allowed to choose whichever article they would like to read; reading zones where reading in English would be encouraged. Reading logs with classroom goals and competitions, evaluative exercises in the form of book and articles reports, outlines and presentations. Technology and all the incredible possibilities it offers plays a fundamental role in promoting extensive reading and taking the greatest advantage from it. The tools we have explored are an ecxellent way to balance students’ autonomy and the need for authentic readings with the redeability of the texts. All of them offer great opportunities to improve reading comprehension and to assist students, above all those with learning disabilities, in coping with reading tasks. I really like Newsela as it offers a number of articles on several topics in five versions for students’ different reading levels as well as quizzes to test their knowledge. Moreover teachers can collect data and track students’ progress. This is an article I would let students read while dealing with the contemporary issue of fake news in a CLIL lesson: https://newsela.com/articles/essay-fake-news-history/id/25291/ . The use of the technology itself, as well as the readability that the different reading levels allow, could let students reflect on the topic in an engaging and motivating way.
When it comes to express my own idea of ER, I would definitely suggest a definition of this reading technique within a TECHNO-CLIL approach: ER in contemporary learning contexts may be defined as a teaching-learning approach that can engage learners with information, involvement and the use of technology in order to ensure the 4Cs occur in a CLIL classroom. The empowering concept is, in short, that of the learner as an explorer trying to understand the world though reading. Firstly, ER is a fully student-centered approach as learners are put in charge of their own learning and can develop autonomy as well as achieve 21st century competencies (especially collaboration and learning to learn skills along with cultural awareness, critical thinking and creativity). Moreover, ER proves to be a means to improve language proficiency as students can acquire vocabulary, practice grammar and synthax by being exposed to interesting, task- based readings. At the same time the language supports the content learning. Being young and very young learners the so called digital natives, the task of involving them in reading may sound one of the most challenging teachers have to face. Yet, technology itself seems to offer those great aids that can help teachers tackle such a challenge. As I have tried to do in my lesson plan entitled “Child labour: yesterday and nowadays”, the teacher plays a crucial role in promoting an effective use of this approach in the classroom. Teachers guide and monitor the process by helping learners to find readings that are appropriate for their language and cognition level and respond to criteria of authenticity and immediacy (readings should come from the real world and the focus must be on the learners themselves). Then teachers offer a variety of tools and activities. I have taken advantage from the tools suggested in the course (tools to increase readability, vocabulary building, writing as well as reading comprehension tools) and activities, such as discussion and debates, reports, outlines, summaries and paraphrases, word clouds, e-posters, collaborative writing and multimedia presentation, to allow my students collaboratively explore the topic. All of them can support my learners in their effort to critically respond to the text and help fuel their passion for reading.