Teacher Training, by Tony Fitzpatrick

From the outset it was clear that the field of teacher training was eminently important, if the results of the series of ICC in VOLL IMPACT workshops were to be transmitted to and "appropriated" (see êAndreas Lund's explanation of this term) by practising teachers. A number of recent studies[1] on the use of ICT in foreign language learning and teaching have emphasised the importance of teacher training in this domain in terms not only of computer / media literacy, but also of the whole range of "new literacies"[2] (scientific, digital, critical, linguistic, cultural) and skills.  (See the FAQ section of this publication.)

Thus, the Teacher Training group was formed to draw up a framework and templates to provide a basis for comparison of different offers in the field, while offering guidelines for those wishing to set up their own training sessions.

In a preliminary research exercise, it was established that the êICT4LT website  provides a very comprehensive introduction to all aspects  of ICT in foreign language teaching, so it was resolved that any work undertaken by the Teacher Training group should endeavour, wherever possible, not to replicate materials which had been dealt with more effectively elsewhere. Two aspects seemed of paramount importance: to concentrate on VOLL topics and to attempt to present coherent and comprehensive concepts for short term workshops which combine social interaction and hands-on, interactive encounters with the new media.

Being generic in nature, there is very little on the ICT4LT-site that is specifically VOLL oriented. In this respect the GrazVOLL-site is different in that we claim that it is ‘vocationally oriented’. But what does this term mean? For us, VOLL is language learning which is oriented towards a wide range of vocations and professions: e.g. nursing, the transport industry, a large number of engineering and crafts areas, as well as various areas of the business world. All of these vocations differ from one another, demanding different (language) skills, and we believe that foreign language learning should be based on these differences in order to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the learners.

The following inventory, provided by teamer[3] Olav Talberg, illustrates which aspects he believes are important in VOLL teaching:

Learners should be given the opportunity to:

Although by no means an exhaustive list, we believe that the above sketches out the areas of immediate importance and which are relevant and applicable across a wide range of vocations and professions.

It may argued that VOLL lends itself most readily to the use of ICT as VOLL learners are very often completely familiar with the kinds of media applications to be used. A dearth of materials in specialist areas cries out for Internet research, where materials for even the most exotic sounding vocations are readily available.

In the event, the êoriginal template to be completed for teacher training activities, which was conceived by the teacher-training group as a checklist and guide to good practice, turned out to be rather wooden and scarcely usable in practice. Despite several appeals to participants at the first Graz workshop, it proved impossible for them to apply it to their current situations. The êsecond template, developed during the final workshop to provide a structure for the description of already existing modules, proved to be more flexible and a practical instrument which helps colleagues who require a short, systematic overview of the training module described to find their way around. In many ways, the development from one template to another reflects the essence of the final comments made by Bernard Moro in his contribution on Web literacy. There is a clear shift from an emphasis on technical aspects to forefronting pedagogical aspects. This, we believe, is a natural and inevitable process which we experienced throughout the series.

Over the period of two years of the workshop series, it became clear that the approach adopted by the Graz animators and teamers was one which could act as a blueprint for modules designed by participants for their colleagues "back home". Bernard Moro describes one such event and relates it to the overall model developed by the GRAZVOLL team.  êA typical Teacher Training IT workshop. Basically, it may be described as a learning by doing, sharing and reflecting approach, where participants are involved in activities which they relate to their own working environment, using the tools introduced by the animating team. The workshops are thus both process and product-oriented. The products presented on the website illustrate the kinds of outcomes which emanate from this approach. They are not presented as perfect models to be copied, but rather as illustrations of the uses to which ICT can be put in a VOLL context. In publishing such materials on the GRAZVOLL site, the team hoped to encourage colleagues beyond those participating in the series to use the tools available and adapt them to their own teaching contexts.

Unfortunately, in the first workshop the teacher-training group were chiefly preoccupied with the establishment of a matrix for the êevaluation of ICT materials for VOLL (later further developed as a text and a Power Point Presentation by Enrica Flamin***i êsoftware evaluation_Enrica [PPT] and êSoftware Evaluation_Enrica). As a result, the original template for teacher training was not applied systematically to the observation of the activities in Graz as a teacher training event. However, as mentioned above, the materials which were produced during the workshop, as well as the original and modified texts by the Animators, provide a wide range of raw-material for teacher training modules and can and have been used in subsequent training sessions by workshop participants.


Apart from the ongoing presentation of modules, materials and applications on the website, which documented the progress of the workshop series from Graz 2000 onwards, the teacher-training sphere of the Graz 2002 workshop brings together case-studies which have been elaborated by workshop participants in the course of their home-based activities. The chief task during the final workshop consisted of formalising the formats of their different modules, using the second template referred to above. This exercise proved useful from several points of view. First and foremost, it provided an excellent opportunity for exchange of ideas and materials, but it also encouraged colleagues to think in terms of the standardisation of presentation of course content. By providing the summaries and links to actual training materials, they have offered samples of good practice which we hope will stimulate others to add to the collection by submitting samples to the GrazVoll webmaster. We offer an overview of these case-studies here with this in mind.

êJump on the trainING!

This teacher training workshop is an example of a module devoted to familiarising teachers with one typical and powerful application. It illustrates how to use the "Hot Potatoes" authoring program to create interactive exercises in foreign language teaching.  The rationale for introducing the software is related to the need for VOLL teachers to create their own VOLL specific materials as such materials are not often commercially available. The workshop guides teachers through the processes of creating sample exercise themselves. Each of the six exercise types available from Hot Potatoes are presented and illustrated with samples of business English exercises. The module provides hands-on experience for trainees who are encouraged to apply the exercises introduced to topics of relevance to their own VOLL environment. It demonstrates how ICT can help to awaken the motivation of vocational students to learn a foreign language.

êTerminology translation online provides a good example of how useful ICT can be in training for highly specific VOLL needs. It targets teachers who are engaged in the training of translators and interpreters who plan to work in various European organisations. The training module shows how to optimise translation strategies in specific VOLL fields and takes the area of environmental studies as an example. Translators have to acquire expertise in a multitude of professional areas without having had any specific training in these areas. (In this respect, their situation is similar to that of the VOLL teacher.) ICT, in the form of search engines, robots, online and off-line databases as well as dictionaries and access to original EU legislation provide trainee translators and interpreters with powerful tools and useful sources to optimise their work procedures. In this module teachers are taught how to introduce and incorporate the use of these tools into their training programmes. Online references are provided to sites with which the authors of this modular are familiar.

êTeaching CALL for VOLL is based upon materials developed by a task force appointed to encourage the use of computers in secondary school English teaching in Slovenia. It is a three-day teacher training workshop for teachers in vocational education to introduce them to the use, adaptation and creation of electronic materials in VOLL. It sets out to show teachers how to adapt and revise existing materials for specific purposes (for different vocational sectors, for heterogeneous classes, etc) and how to plan lessons efficiently by exploiting ICT. It also aims to extend teachers' knowledge of methodology related to ICT supported English lessons. Specific software applications are introduced and a blended learning approach is recommended.

This workshop outline provides a clearly defined programme with links to sample lesson plans which have already been elaborated in conjunction with the proposed programme. After the course, participants are encouraged to act as multipliers, providing training for their colleagues at a regional and local level. The scheme represents a "play within a play" (inner track learning), where teachers in training are learners who later become experts and instructors themselves.

êVOLL needs in IT

This case study (in German and English) gives a rationale for the use of ICT in VOLL and provides a practical example of integration of distance training elements into VOLL training schemes. Taken from a complete training course introducing language teachers to VOLL, the unit described illustrates how the subject area of "needs analysis" may be dealt with in a distance language course. Step-by-step, VOLL needs IT presents a balance between theory, practice and the application to real situations as well as a balance between individual work and exchange with others (with fellow trainees or other parties). The authors provide a clear outline of how trainees will work online, off-line and in contact groups, showing the advantages of a blended approach to learning.

êTraining tutors

This contribution is also delivered online and presents an approach to training language teachers who themselves intend to teach business English or similar VOLL courses online. "Training tutors" has been developed by a German Adult Education Association in co-operation with a publisher and gives a rationale for Web-based language learning, highlighting the advantages of place- and time-independent self organised learning combined with learning within a group. It provides information and practical exercises related to the organisation and particular skills needed for teaching online.  The authors maintain that only an Internet-based learning environment can train these skills effectively, and that trainee tutors must themselves experience processes typically encountered in Internet based learning to be able to teach competently online.

Lessons learnt

Teachers open to technical change

A very positive aspect in our work has been the clear indication that our colleagues in VOLL seem to be very open to technological change with an increasing number of Internet users amongst teachers who have attended workshops. Our experience in running the workshops, together with  the case studies of samples of good practice, illustrate that the use of ICT increases motivation amongst teachers and learners alike and leads to improved performance and motivation on the part of the learners.

Prerequisites for the adoption and use of ICT in VOLL

The main reason for not using  ICT seems to be insufficient access to hardware and lack of technical support. Contrary to the belief of many administrators, we found that very few language teachers dislike or fear ICT once they have seen their possibilities. But, for ICT to be introduced successfully in VOLL teaching and learning contexts where multimedia laboratories are in use, some prerequisites are:

  •  ready access for all learners

  •  the presence of a full-time technician devoted to servicing and maintaining the functioning of the multimedia laboratory

  •  the employment of a full-time webmaster

  •  adequate training for all new teachers and in-service training for others

  •  meaningful use of the multimedia laboratory classes for intensive practice

  •  learner-centred approaches to learning

  •  commitment by senior management to the implementation of ICT in language learning classes with vision, support and proactive leadership

European co-operation and trend towards blended learning


The participants in the workshops all believed that ICT will play an increasingly important role as the new media become increasingly integrated into everyday life. They foresee greater co-operation and collaboration at a European and at a global level, particularly in VOLL as advances in technology and increased user-friendliness of equipment are breaking down resistance to ICT use in and outside the classroom. But they also believe that the present fascination with technology will fade, giving way to an emphasis on improved pedagogy which will facilitate “blended” learning, which will become increasingly time- and place-independent. There will be a shift from passive consumption of ready-made programmes to independent building of content, tailor made for specifics groups or individuals. However, not enough attention is being devoted to questions of how the new media can systematically aid language acquisition and learning.

Change in learning and teaching patterns


With regard to pedagogy and methodology, we have seen that a “shift of paradigm” is necessary in teacher / learner roles. In the course of our workshops, and based upon research conducted in parallel with our activities, we became aware that the introduction of the new media into VOLL calls for a change in learning and teaching patterns. Co-operative, collaborative procedures are called for to harness the wide range of possibilities the new media offer. Teachers are called upon to abandon traditional roles and act more as guides and mentors, exploring the new media themselves as learners and thus acting as role models for their learners. The case studies show that there is closer interaction between teacher and students when the new media are employed.

New culture of learning


We believe that the new media will lead to a major change in the culture of learning, because of the learning efforts and learning possibilities linked to the new media. The new media:

  •    call for and facilitate more independence on the part of the learner, more self-directed activities and the organisation of learning processes;

  •   encourage interactive work;

  •  facilitate direct feedback;

  •  call for a change in the role distribution of teacher / learner, where learners take on teaching functions;

  •  enable contents to be continually updated with minimum efforts;

  •  provide faster access to teaching materials.

  •  provide greater opportunities for individual forms of learning;

  •   but also demand more social learning in group and team work.

Teachers' attitudes


However, we have noticed in our training activities that new teaching and learning media do not automatically lead to a new culture of learning; they simply offer the opportunity for change. Teachers’ attitudes to the new media and appropriate concepts for their use and for the orchestration of learning will decide whether the desired outcomes can be achieved and whether a major shift in the culture of learning is possible.

The pluralisation of learning spaces beyond the teaching institution is changing the character and contents of institution-based learning and allows us, as teachers, to accommodate the complexity and individuality of learning. We have observed that there is a considerable growth in the importance of learning processes outside institutional contexts,  but we still believe that the chief place for learning will remain the school / teaching institution.

New media not a panacea


We do not see the new media as a panacea for teaching / learning problems, and they cannot, in our view, replace present models of language learning. ICT alone cannot provide a comprehensive basis for language learning but must be integrated into present, proven and successful practice. ICT should complement and add to current models and contribute to changes towards this concept of a new culture of learning.

Demands made by new media


The new media not only facilitate this changed culture of learning in institutional contexts, they also demand such changes. They provide new opportunities and challenges by:

  • offering a wider range of teaching contents (especially teaching methods);

  • enabling more self-directed learning, offering a range of choices, individual learning pathways and freer forms of learning;

  • offering teachers and learners the chance to plan and organise courses together (empowering learners to influence the choice of teaching contents);

  • freeing learning and teaching from the limitations and constraints of the traditional classroom by opening up and using spaces outside the school/ teaching institution;

  • facilitating communication between learners and between learners and the teacher via the Internet.

ICT competencies required of language teachers


Language teachers working in a media-rich environment will, like their counterparts in other disciplines, need to:

  • recognise the individual learning problems of learners;

  • check the truth of information content offered or develop such crirical forms of analysis amongst their learners;

  • make a careful and considered choice concerning the use of the media;

  • develop efficient search techniques and be capable of conducting effective research with the help of the computer;

  • be able to use standard software confidently and competently;

  • make wise and critical choices of information found.


Consequences for teachers


In ICT-rich environments, teachers must above all:

  • improve their didactic competencies linked to media;

  • provide less information and instruction, but offer more consultation in learning processes;

  • monitor learning processes rather than direct them;

  • offer and organise group work to a greater extent.

This means that teachers need to focus on the design of situations, sequences and activities conducive to learning languages by encouraging learners to participate in collaborative efforts. Indeed, the management of learning scenarios, where learners and teachers complement one another’s skills, expertise and knowledge in collaborative efforts, must form the basis of the education of the language teachers of tomorrow.


Roles of teachers

Facilitator and guide


As facilitators, teachers must in many ways know more than they would as directive givers of information. Facilitators must be aware of a variety of materials available for improving students’ language skill, not just one or two texts. The language textbook is no longer the sole source of information. Multimedia programmes offer sound and vision, showing how native speakers interact; electronic dictionaries and encyclopaedias are available for instant reference; online newspapers provide up-to-date information on current affairs in the countries of the target language; (official) websites offer background information on policy, tourism, political views. Teachers need to know how to teach learners to use all this material effectively.
As facilitators, teachers have to be flexible, responding to the needs that students have, not just what has been set up ahead of time based on a curriculum developer’s idea of who will be in the classroom. Teacher training is a key element to success in this more flexible language classroom, so that teachers can use multimedia and other resources effectively.

Integrator (of media)


Teachers must not only know and understand the functions of different media available in a media-rich environment, they should also know when best to deploy them. In the joint construction of projects with their learners, they need to guide learners in the use of word-processing, graphics and presentation programs. Integration of audio-visual elements will bring home to learners the fact that the foreign language environment of the target language is as vibrant and multi-faceted as the society in which they live.


To keep abreast of developments in the countries of the target language in an increasingly complex world, teachers need to know how and where they can access information for their own and for their learners’ use. Knowledge and competent use of search engines and reliable information sources are essential. For those concerned with mainstream education, the propriety and reliability of information sources must figure as one of the main criteria for the selection of background material. Familiarity with the use of electronic tools for language analysis (e.g. concordancers) will enable teachers to further develop their own linguistic and professional competence and increase their confidence in the use of the language.

Designer of (complex) learning scenarios


In order to orchestrate successful learning scenarios, teachers need to learn how to put together tasks and materials to guide their learners to successful execution and conclusion of their projects. Unlike work with conventional teaching materials (textbook, workbook, audio and video materials), which have been graded, pre-assembled and collated in a chronological order, the design of learning scenarios is much more complex, requiring higher order skills involving researching and evaluating source materials, setting overall aims and objectives and breaking down tasks into meaningful and manageable sequences.
For the teacher tackling this for the first time, the task is very daunting indeed. Encouragement, help and advice is needed in terms of examples of good practice which may be emulated or serve as sources of inspiration for similar undertakings. If this new role of language teachers is accepted and encouraged by educational authorities, the implications in terms of duties and responsibilities need to be considered. Lesson preparation time increases as these tasks are taken on and this fact must be honoured in teaching contracts, if teachers are to adopt and accept the approach.

Collaborator (with other teachers)


The investment in time and effort implied above requires a sharing of responsibilities and tasks among teaching staff, if there is not to be a general rejection of new technology because it confronts them with an impossible workload. Collaboration with colleagues will lighten the burden and make the efforts more fruitful and rewarding. Obviously, co-operation within a specific teaching institution will prove more efficient, producing tailor-made responses to the local situation, but the new media provide possibilities for exchange between institutions and beyond (national) borders. Teachers of the less widely taught and used languages could well profit from such internet exchanges, helping them to overcome the sense of isolation many experience in their teaching situation.
New management patterns must emerge to ensure fair distribution of workloads, and revised job descriptions will be necessary to share and co-ordinate the tasks in hand.

Orchestrator (technology, learners, curriculum)


Teachers will need to develop fairly sophisticated management skills in order to be able to provide a healthy balance between the different elements which make up the new learning environments. Mastery and confidence in the use of technology needs to be applied to the learning inclinations and abilities of individual learners whilst covering the prescribed syllabus or curriculum which is often set by outside authorities. Because of the immediacy of ICT, many decisions have to be made on an ad hoc basis and time budgets need to be constantly reviewed if optimal results are to be attained. Present indications are that traditional time frameworks of 45–60-minute lessons drastically need revising, if the potential of the new media is to be exploited to the full.



For many teachers, opening up the classroom to the outside world presents as much a threat as an opportunity. Their authority is challenged in a world of constantly changing patterns, when it is often difficult to establish, for example, the difference between “correct” and “incorrect” language use. In the protected environment of the textbook they have recourse to the authority of the author(s) and publisher. In the wild mangroves of the real world they must constantly be searching for new patterns confirmed by reliable data from trusted sources. A further challenge is often presented to them by learners who possess more advanced computer skills than they do. However, if they are prepared to enter into the adventure of ongoing learning together with their pupils, they will find it a rewarding and fruitful experience. A prerequisite is that they are prepared to act as the experienced guide for their learners and not as the all-knowing guru who controlled and dominated the classroom of yesteryear.



If task-based, project oriented work in the foreign language classroom using the new media is to become the norm, or at least form an important part of activities, then models of evaluation need to be revised radically. Standard multiple-choice examinations are, for example, hardly likely to test the learners’ newly acquired skills in (foreign language) Web literacy. A portfolio-based approach to assessing language competence and skills acquired would seem to be a more appropriate way of recording progress in the target language. As the skills to be acquired by learners are largely identical to those to be mastered by teachers-in-training, this form of evaluation should be practised in initial and INSET training courses, providing teachers with first hand experience of the system and with direct relevance to their own situation.



Teacher training is a key element to success in the more flexible ICT language classroom, so that teachers can learn to use multimedia and other resources effectively.
The teacher tackling the design of complex tasks need
s encouragement, help and advice in terms of examples of good practice which may be emulated or serve as sources of inspiration for similar undertakings.
If the new role of language teachers is accepted and encouraged by educational authorities, the implications in terms of duties and responsibilities need to be considered. Lesson preparation time increases as these tasks are taken on and this fact must be honoured in teaching contracts, if teachers are to adopt and accept the approach.
New management patterns must emerge to ensure fair distribution of workloads, and revised job descriptions will be necessary to share and co-ordinate the tasks in hand.

In short, we believe that the positive potential of ICT in FLT & FLL has been recognised, the technology and materials are available, but ongoing training is essential if we are to reap the benefits of the rich learning environment which ICT offers for foreign language learning


[1] For an overview of these, see "The Impact of Information and Communications Technologies on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and on the Role of Teachers of Foreign Languages", a report commissioned by the
Directorate General of Education and Culture
, 2002, available on the following website: www.icc-europe.com .

[2] For a description of these, see "The new role of the teacher" in Section 1: Overview of the use of ICT in FL teaching and learning in the above-mentioned report.

[3] The expression "teamer" was coined for those colleagues who attended the first workshop as participants, but later took on the role of co-tutors with the original Animators.