is written from a language teacher’s point of view on how to make use of
educational technology in English teaching. The following aspects
were reviewed: the effective use of computers, steps in carrying out computer
tasks, precautions in carrying out an online distance course, and
available text materials, i.e, CALL, CD-ROMs and web sites. Examples
of where computers do work are reported. These include CALL
activities as well as the application of intranet and internet pedagogy
in ESL/EFL classrooms. The appropriate use of educational technology
in TEFL is also advocated.
| As a language
teacher, I am familiar with "language learning and language acquisition,
communicative drills, pedagogical grammar, authentic materials, role-playing,
etc." Since I have subscribed to Teachers of English as a Second Language
Electronic List, I have been bombarded with these new terms--"netter, intranet
and internet pedagogy, digital learning, cyber lab, web page tutorial,
teleseminar, virtual classrooms, electronic marking, robotic voices, etc."
I began to ask myself, " Can I get away from this latest educational technology?
If not, to what extent can I apply it to my class?"
I have recently come across a very interesting and informative article
entitled “ Where Computers
Do Work.” It is a report of six schools in the United States with
lessons to teach the reader about computer technology. The article
emphasizes the fact that “The most important is that technology is not
magic. Money matters far less than the dedication and innovative
spirit of the teachers in these classrooms” (Wagner et al: 1996, 82).
The following lessons from the six schools that use computers are also
||Lesson 1: It’s not the PCs that matter. It’s
how they’re used.
Lesson 2: Let students learn at their own pace.
Lesson 3: E-mail can be more than chatter.
Lesson 4: Technology can help special kids, too.
Lesson 5: Unleash teachers to be creative.Lesson 6:
Use the internet the right way.
Lesson 6: Use the internet the right way.
Most of these lessons correspond with the philosophy of self-directed
learning-- the philosophy that has been adopted and implemented at Chulalongkorn
University Language Institute (CULI). We believe that technology
cannot substitute a good language teacher but it can supplement and facilitate
our teaching. Bearing this in mind, I tested CALL activities
with twenty-two first-year Science students attending the Foundation English
Course I at Chulalongkorn University in 1991. The students felt that
these activities helped them to improve vocabulary
and reading skills as well as grammar.
Apart from these linguistic skills, the CALL activities enabled them to
co-operate, use a word processor and learn more about the world.
Among the various activities, songs were the students’ favorite (Prapphal,
I also tried to incorporate the use of e-mail to the Foundation English
Course II at CULI in December 1996. The participants were twenty-five
first-year Economics students. To encourage a group work project,
I divided my students into small groups. Each group had to e-mail
to me in English to describe what they were going to do during their holidays.
The language focus was on “ Future Tense”. They had to use
the structures they had studied in class in their e-mail. They were
allowed to work at their own pace and choose the contents of their own
interests. Although a formal evaluation was not carried out, an observation
from the submitted task indicated that the students appeared to welcome
At this stage, I have decided to explore more on how to use computers to
assist me in making my students become more involved with English so that
they can get more exposure to the target language. This, in turn,
will help them to acquire English as Krashen (1985) suggested. In
addition, I hope that the activities will help them to cope with the great
amount of information in an era of information technology as well as the
period of globalization and internationalization.
A. Learning and Cognition
Therefore, I have conducted a document research via e-mail to learn about
intranet and internet pedagogy and I have gained a lot of insights from
educators, language teachers and media specialists. Some of them
are reported below.
B. Steps in Carrying out Computer
To facilitate learning and develop cognitive growth, Cunningham (1996
: 540) provided instructional principles that can be applied to CALL activities
“Anchor all learning activities to a larger task or problem. The
learner should clearly perceive and accept the relevance of the specific
learning activities in relation to the task complex. Support the
learner in developing ownership for the overall problem. Solicit
problems from the learner and use those as the stimulus for learning activities,
or establish a problem such that the learners will readily adopt the problem
as their own. Design an authentic task . An authentic learning
environment is one in which the cognitive demands are consistent with the
demands in the environment for which the learner is being prepared.
Design the task and the learning environment to reflect the complexity
of the environment in which they must function after the learning has occurred.
Design the learning environment to support and challenge the learners’
thinking. Encourage testing ideas against alternative views
and alternative contexts. Provide opportunity for and support reflection
on both the learning content and process.”
C. An Online Distance
Following Cunningham’s theory and the Hubbard model, Sergeant (1996) proposed
these “Golden rules for task setting.”
1. Find out who is good with computers in your class and give them
a rating out of five.
Negotiate with your students close to the beginning of the course if possible
how many times a week they would like to use the computer room.
3. If you are sharing a class with other teachers, liaise with them
frequently about what students are doing.
4. At the beginning of the course, establish that the students will
be engaging in an ongoing dialogue with you about CALL. At the end
of the couse, they will be filling in a questionnaire.
Use a variety of programs.
When planning your lesson, before deciding to use CALL, evaluate the benefits
of spending that half an hour in the classroom doing something else.
Spend some time before going to the computer room to explain your rationale
for each activity.
1. In the
computer room, be an active participant and offer help where needed.
Encourage students to take notes in the computer room.
3. It is essential while using
the Word Processor to discuss the benefits of collaborative writing/portfolio
Spend some time after the computer room activity to answer the questions.”
His suggestions should be very helpful to language teachers, especially
to the “net newbies”, who want to introduce computers to their teaching
and learning process.
D. Text Materials
As regards an online distance course, Tillyer (1996:1) warns teachers that
there are many precautions in doing this. Some of them are cited
“1. The pay is the
same (or less) as for regular courses, but you have to spend a lot more
time preparing, even if you don’t have to learn the system.
2. Typically, the school makes you pay for your own telephone and
3. Some of the new distance education formats are really unfriendly
and “cold” and it is hard to promote a sense of educational community in
4. You have to deal with students who might be unfamiliar with
the technology as well as with the subject matter. This takes more
time and care for which you are not compensated.
5. Many distance education programs require prospective teachers
to take a “training course” which is unpaid and for which the teacher has
to pay all the expenses in terms of access and telephone....
6. Administrators and others can “observe” your class without your
knowing and without your permission.
You generally have to put all your materials up on the Web and put them
in HTML yourself...”
E. Activities that Work
As far as text materials are concerned, teachers can obtain teaching and
learning materials from various sources like CALL, CD-ROMs, archive files,
web pages and web sites. Concerning software programs, Seaver (1997:1)
suggests these guidelines in evaluating software.
“1. If software will be used for practice on specific language points/skills
and teachers are unlikely to put time and effort into authoring their own
exercises, then software with good pre-existing
content is needed.
2. If software will be used by creative teachers
as a basis for group work, then general use programs such as encyclopedias,
spreadsheets, games, or internet access are probably most suitable.
3. If software will be used by teachers to
give students practice on specific language points/skills covered
in class, then authorable software will be needed.
4. The level of language necessary to use the software should not
exceed the language abilities of the students who will use it.”
Some of the frequently mentioned software programs and websites are as
Authorware, Multimedia ToolBook,
Authoring Suite, INCALIS,
CALL: Question Mark, ChoiceMaster,
Encarta, Capitalism, Discovery Dinosaurs, Cinemania’96, WordSmart (Smartek),
Our Times (Vicarious), SpeechWorks, TriplePlay
Wordattack, Cloze-Maker, Markin, Storyboard, Fast Food, Idea-Fisher, Inspiration,
Proteus, English Tutor, English Discoveries, Calico, Dustin, Ellis
Plus, English Plus, Grammar
CD’s, the Mentor,English Discoveries MOSAIC, UNYSIS, CELIA,TOEFL EXPLORER,
TOEIC, TOEFL Mentor CD, ResumeMaker
Software for Teaching over the
WebCT (Web Course Tools), the Virtual English Language Center, Language
ESL Discussion Center:
Dave’s ESL Cafe on the
Language Testing on WWW:
IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, Computerized placement tests (LOPT, TOPE)
Even though there are a
lot of available materials, the “input” cannot become the “intake” unless
language teachers know how to design activities suitable and relevant to
their students’ needs and interests and make them involved with the tasks.
Some intranet and internet tasks do work because the teachers are creative
and have the innovative mind. Some of the activities experimented
with ESL/EFL students are given below.
and the Chinese Horoscope
Sergeant (1996) imported a text about the Chinese horoscope into GapMaster.
He asked the students to find a list of the words which describe the animals
of the Chinese horoscope. Each student worked with a partner or two
partners and tried to find as many words as possible to describe each animal
and typed them into the gaps. They were informed to make notes so
that they could compare their answers in class.
2. Storyboard and Culture
(1996) used Storyboard to encourage students maximize anthentic communication
and practice skills by using cultural differences. The students were
allowed to provide the textual input. For example, one student
described a festival, “Throwing Beans Ceremony”, which is held
on the third of February every year in Japan. On this day the father
of the family puts on a mask which his children have made in their kindergarten.
When the wife and children throw beans at the father, they shout, “Good
luck in, devils out.” After the ritual the family eats beans together.
The number of the eaten beans correspond with their age.
3. Pen-Pals Projects
Foster (1996) started the project, “Where in the World Did My Ancestors
Originate” which involves students in finding where in the world their
ancestors lived. The project was set up to be used as a get
acquainted activity integrating geography, language arts, math, social
studies, and computer technology. There are two main parts in the
project. Part One allows students to create a home page on the internet
after researching the country in which their ancestors lived. The
students have an opportunity to collaborate with a student from that country
to compare lifestyles, cultures, etc. Part Two of the project allows
students to create a home page of their own community. Participants
were four to six graders from around the world.
Tillyer (1996) suggested incorporating online activities into a business
oriented language program. One useful activity is to pair the class
with another class or classes and have them do simulations by e-mail. For
example, one class can be the seller and the other class the buyer.
All negotiations are done by e-mail. The roles change at the end
of a specified time. At a more advanced level, the students can write
progress reports on their project for their teacher.
5. CNN News and Cooperative
Davidson (1996) employed CNN website in his advanced class. He gave
half of his students the story, “Kevorkian
Death Toll Reaches 40 with Californian Woman” and the other half he gave
the story, “Marijuana Movement Gets Boost from California Campaign.”
Each group looked up new vocabulary words, discussed the story among themselves
and thought up comprehension questions. Then he took the stories
away. The students partnered up and exchanged their stories with
a member of the other group. After that group one asked group two
comprehension questions and vice versa. He finally had a group discussion
of the topics.
6. Student Newspapers
Houston (1996) started a student newspaper with her writing class.
She told the students that the best writing would be published for the
newspaper. She assigned class writing topics suitable for the newspaper.
Then, she asked students in a specific class to take charge and select
senior editor, copy editor, art editor, sports editor, travel editor, recipes
editor, news editor, people editor, etc. among themselves. She gave
some extra credit for specific newspaper tasks. Using after-class
time, she taught her students Pagemaker to scan and lay out the article.
Sackett (1997) simulated the integration of the media. He supplemented
PBS and cable television programming with materials from the networks’
websites. For homework he assigned
websites to research for upcoming broadcasts. Through
classroom activities, he helped students to prepare for viewing the program.
Then for homework, he assigned the program to watch. He followed-up
on it in class again. He claimed that the students were able to access
information in text-based and audio-video-based media and discussed and
wrote about it.
Hudson (1996) tried to use the internet in language teaching. His
target participants to join his virtual classroom project were intermediate-level
English language classes in different countries. This allowed students
studying in different countries to communicate with each other. The
same course materials were used.
The afore-mentioned activities seem to work because the teachers appear
to focus on the learners , not on the computers. They encourage cooperation,
interaction and self-directed learning. The tasks
are authentic and require real language experiences with meaningful purposes.
Even though the pedagogical applications of the intranet and internet are
at their premature stages, especially in Thailand, they appear to
be profitable if computers are properly used as Wagner et al (1996 : 93)
“Computers don’t always result in higher test scores, and they certainly
can’t turn a failing school system around
by themselves. Before investing, ask yourself what you expect
computers to do for your school. If the answer is simply to teach
keyboard skills, a room full of refurbished machines may be adequate.
If you hope to weave software into the general curriculum, computers in
each classroom work best. And if you want computers to overcome poor
teaching, overcrowded classrooms or unmotivated students, forget the whole
This article reviews the possible application of information technology
to the teaching and learning of English. Various aspects of the effective
use of computers are pointed out. Although computers have been employed
as a tool in language teaching, language teachers cannot accomplish their
goal if the use of computers is not appropriate. In other words, the teachers
must be trained and know how to apply it to suit their language classes.
Their students must know how to use the software programs which must be
relevant to their needs and interests. In addition, the language
must not be too complicated or too simple. It should be at the level
of “I+1” in Krashen’s term. Therefore, technology should be viewed as another
tool for language teachers. Whether it can provide the greatest benefit
for enchancing instruction or not depends on the teacher’s attitude, understanding,
dedication and innovative mind.
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