Just yesterday I had a conversation with an ESL instructor about online software and she made the following objection.
Teacher: All the cool things that ESL software can do for my students are really amazing, but it seems like you’re trying to ESL teachers obsolete.
While I certainly appreciate her concern in an already tight job market, I would like to try to put this worry to bed once and for all. There are plenty of schools in the U.S. and other countries whose success in implementing ESL software I have seen firsthand. These schools appreciate the differences between face-to-face interactions and online language learning and maximize the former by taking advantage of the latter.
Face-to-face ESL classrooms will always be the very best environments for learning a language because it allows for the closest approximation of the situations learners will most likely find themselves in. Furthermore, a trained ESL instructor is best at changing lessons in mid-stream and diagnosing unexpected problems and addressing them immediately.
ESOL software can help improve what goes on in the face-to-face classroom by giving language learners more personalized support outside of the classroom. A teacher is limited in the number of times s/he can go over a grammatical concept. There are only so many times you can listen to one student repeat one word. But with software, the students can review the grammar and practice speaking as many times as they need to. They can gain confidence in their abilities and come to class much better prepared.
Rather than trying to eliminate teachers, ESL software (especially online software) is designed to makes teachers’ lives easier. Better prepared students are able to take advantage of classroom interactions more actively and they are more in tune with their own strengths and weaknesses. In short, taking advantage of technology in ESL outside the classroom helps improve everything that happens inside the classroom.