After TESOL: Models of Language Education for an IDLE Generation

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Submission Summary

IDLE-the Informal Digital Learning of English-has proven to be a very powerful practice for learning English outside of classroom instruction. What does this mean for traditional TESOL approaches, given the rise of EMI programs internationally? This presentation suggests new models of English education in EMI universities based on five principles taken from the study of IDLE.

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If any learner with an Internet connection, a smartphone, a plane ticket, or access to tourists or expats in her home city can, as has been well-documented, “pick up” English on her own and speak with a level of fluency and grasp of pragmatic conventions that exceeds what is possible in a classroom, what are the implications for traditional, TESOL-based approaches to English education? In this research-based presentation I will consider the meaning of recent research on informal language learning for classroom teaching. By “after TESOL,” I do not mean “the end of classroom teaching,” but the obsolescence of traditional approaches that ignore learning outside the classroom in an age of Informal Digital Learning of English (IDLE). I will present a three-stage model for incorporating insights from research and students themselves into the classroom English curriculum. The model describes a process for integrating IDLE activities and learning strategies with classroom instruction, from supplementary uses of technology in classroom instruction to a project-based approach in which students engage English speakers online and in person to an ethnographic approach in which teachers begin to research their students’ informal language learning with them. In addition, I will describe how the English program of one major Middle Eastern university with English as its Medium of Instruction (EMI) is redesigning its program to take advantage of its students’ IDLE practices at the same time as it works to strengthen its students’ academic reading and writing abilities—an aspect of English where IDLE may be less effective.

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Khalifa University

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