How to Choose Digital Tools for Learning and Assessment? (Academic English Conference 2023)
You can the recording of the webinar here. I also included the most important points in the post: how to sort our digital tools, what can we do with AI tools in EAP?
I had the chance to do a webinar for more than 1000 teachers across the world at Cambridge University Press and Assessment's Academic English Conference on how to choose digital tools for learning and assessment.
My main message is that even though new apps and websites are always exciting (I'm definitely the type who can't wait to try out a new tool as soon as it comes out), we do need to sort them and keep their number under control.
Less is definitely more when it comes to using apps in teaching. Use fewer tools for more functions, rather than the other way around.
The reason why I'm saying this is because what we want at the end of the day is good and efficient teaching. Instead of always going for the latest and flashiest thing, let's try to boil everything down to its core:
What do I want to teach? Does it really need a digital tool? If yes, what's the most efficient one that I can use?
So, first we need to think about the main goal of our teaching. Then, we should ask ourselves how a digital tool would make a difference: Would it make things more engaging, more exciting, easier, faster, or more organised? If the tool definitely adds some extra value, then it's okay to go ahead with it.
But how should we decide which tools to keep and which ones to leave behind? Here are my main sorting questions that I recommend you use:
•Is it paid/free? What does the paid version offer that might interest me?
•How often do I use it?
•Is it multi-purpose?
•Or does it do one thing perfectly well that no others can do?
•How easy is it to use? How much learner-training is required?
•Does it look good? Do good looks even matter to me?
AI in learning and assessment
Another area I talked about in my webinar is what to do with artificial intelligence (AI) in EAP classes? Since most of what we do is reading academic texts and writing essays, AI assistants can be extremely helpful and harmful at the same time.
But what are they? "Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision" (https://www.techtarget.com/searchenterpriseai/definition/AI-Artificial-Intelligence).
This means that they are capable of understanding, processing, and producing large bodies of text, which then look exactly like original products that were created by humans. Such websites and tools include the infamous ChatGPT, QuillBot, endless number of copywriting tools, and another thousand presentation creating websites, like Beautiful.ai.
They can make both teachers' and students' lives easier by lifting a huge burden off their backs - namely, processing lots of information. For the teacher, they can help in grading, generating test questions, writing lesson plans and model texts, invigilating exams, checking for plagiarism, etc. For the student, they can assist in summarising long texts, writing essays, creating presentations, collecting ideas, etc.
What these things clearly cannot do at this point is create something completely new. They work with what's already accessible on the internet, so they can create endless combinations of ideas, but only from sources that are already there. This means that assignments which ask students to hunt for facts or to write about generic things are going to be easily created with AI assistance.
We will need to focus on assessment that requires creative and critical thinking more than ever.
Here's a really good post by Kate Lindsay about what approach we should take with AI at university: https://katelindsayblogs.com/2023/01/16/chatgpt-and-the-future-of-university-assessment/
And here's something else to keep in mind when thinking about new tools and technology - the Dunning Kruger effect (source: Maks Giordano, HFS Research):