Book Review on Tony Bates Teaching in a Digital Age

We all have our own epistemology, which could have been affected by our own personal and professional experiences both as teachers and students. The approach a professor took with my class as a student could have formed my own ideals about teaching. Or perhaps my opinions during a course or methods when teaching students could have affected my instructors or my students who might want to become educators in the future. For my own epistemology and approach, I base my methods off of beneficial factors for ESL (English as a Second Language) learners and language education. These have similarities but also distinct differences than those of other subjects, because students don’t just learn content, they also learn how to connect and develop the knowledge in a different language than their first language. With this in mind, I believe in the following: keeping students engaged and motivated to actively learn English, scaffolding and preparing to adjust to ELLs’ (English Language Learners) various proficiency levels, and creating a comfortable learning environment that encourages them to learn from their mistakes and improve.

As Bates ( ) stated, “preference for a particular epistemology or… theoretical approach to teaching will have major implications for the way that technology is used to support teaching.” At first glance when reading this portion, I had not yet connected the epistemologies Bates ( ) was referring to with the teaching methods and theories I already had knowledge in. However once I saw the categories themselves I realized that I was familiar with them. In fact, I have previously developed a lot of various lesson plans that utilize these approaches; yet I never implemented them via IEs. These categories Bates ( ) mentioned through the lens of IEs and technological approaches inspired me to come up with some ideas for activities. I also took into account my own teaching philosophy as well. 

For objectivism, some of its approach relates to language education (e.g; understanding and properly executing grammatical rules). However, language itself is a constantly evolving and relatively flexible aspect of human knowledge that cannot be strictly confined. There is correct use of grammar, yet, slang, metaphors/analogies, and even vocabulary are ever changing. Even the grammar of our languages change over time. If I utilized objectivism, virtual reality games where students have to correctly use grammar structures or complete tasks in an interactive game which require such usage would be good choices, as grammar is often harder to grasp for ELLs. Vocabulary can be memorized, but grammatical structures within language, conjugations and other variables could vary greatly.

Cognitivism and constructivism are the most relevant approaches for language education. Language learners engage in a process called bi-directional transfer when learning a new language, in which the information from the new language is applied to their previous languages/knowledge, and vice versa. This phenomena is an example of the results from constructivism and applies also to cognitivism. One of the cognitivist goals, teaching learners how to learn, is crucial to language acquisition. We have to motivate students and provide them with the strategies they need to continue learning on their own time in the methods that best suit their learning styles. The constructivist goal of deepening understanding of concepts and encouraging developing thought are relevant as well, and relate back to bi-directional transfer and other facets of language acquisition as well. 

Some of the activities proposed by Bates ( ) that I found useful are pre-determined learning outcomes and instructional design. For our curriculum and lesson planning, we use learning outcomes for each plan we create. This of course goes hand-in-hand with instructional design. Problem-based learning could be easily utilized into an IE such as VR environments and games. They are common in strategy and puzzle games for example. If I were able to do so, I would create or use an already existing gaming platform to create activities for ELLs to practice and learn more English. It could be interactive and multi-player, so that they could engage in authentic conversation with artificial intelligence and/or their peers. Situational roleplays, answering/asking questions, using grammar points, vocabulary, etc. could all be incorporated into a game or VR environment for language learners. 

Overall I found the Bates chapter to be pretty useful, and I think I would utilize some of the approaches outlined within it and respective activities based on those theories within my own course. I am particularly interested in looking into gaming/VR environments for my proposal.


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