The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected every aspect of human life, including education. The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education system in human history. Social distancing and restrictive movement policies has significantly disturbed traditional educational practices. It has changed education for learners of all ages. Nepal has also suffered a lot due to the lack of adequate and appropriate sustainable infrastructure for the online system. In addition to this, the limited internet facilities in remote and rural areas were the other challenges for virtual academic activities. Many schools remained closed for a long time during the lockdown and some managed alternative ways of teaching. However, the teaching learning activities could not be made effective as expected. The impacts of the pandemic has directly affected the students, teachers and parents.
In the context of Nepal, many children from low income families and disadvantaged groups could not afford even the necessities of learning such as textbooks, notebooks and other required stationaries. Modern digital devices including smartphones, iPads, laptops, and computers were far from their expectations. On the other hand, the people in the remote and rural areas were deprived of online access due to limited internet facilities. In this context, providing equal opportunity for virtual learning to all groups of people in all the parts of the country was challenging. The online programmes shifted the education from schools to families and individuals. In some ways, educating children at home made the life of parents challenging. The school closures impacted not only students, teachers and families but had far-reaching economic and societal consequences. This closures in response to the pandemic shed light on various social and economic issues including students’ responsibility, digital learning, food security, homelessness, childcare, health care, housing, internet and disability services. The impact was more severe for disadvantaged children and their families, causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems and consequent economic cost to families who could not work.
As per my experience, the institution where I work consists of students from different parts of the country. They come from different family backgrounds. When the government made an announcement of the school closure to prevent the spread of the pandemic, we did not have any idea of what to do. Later on, when the government issued a notice to resume the teaching learning activities virtually, it was very difficult for us to begin as we were not prepared for it. It was a challenging task for the teachers as well as the students. We did not have any exposure and special training to start the virtual mode of learning. The school provided a short training on how to use zoom app. Then, the teachers invited the students of their respective classes and guided them to use different digital applications. It took us about two weeks to get started. We conducted two periods a day which were of forty minutes each, as the trial version of zoom got disconnected after every forty minutes. In the beginning, the students were excited about the online classes. Many of them asked their parents to buy multimedia mobiles to attend online classes. As the parents were worried about the disconnected study of their children, they somehow managed to continue their study. It was not so easy for all the parents to buy new mobile and to pay for the mobile data. All the students did not join the classes as their parents could not manage mobiles and internet data. A few students were out of network access. They had to climb up a hill to take their classes. Later on, we increased the number of periods to four each day. But we found that the number of students gradually decreased after the second period and in the last period we could find only a few students attending the class. It was hard to manage the classes as there would be frequent problem of power-cut and the low bandwidth of the internet.
The students and the parents complained that they had to spend a lot of money on data and had to charge their mobiles every few hours. We fortnightly contacted the parents of the students to get feedback about online classes, especially the problems that their children were facing during the online classes. Many parents provided positive feedback, thanked teachers for continuing the teaching learning activities. Some complained that their children played mobile games throughout the day. They also requested us to counsel their children for not misusing mobile phones. We also conducted the interaction between the teachers and the parents virtually. We got mixed responses from the parents. Some of them explained that the online teaching was effective as their kids were being engaged at least for a few hours, while others said that it had not been effective as their kids did not have access to the online classes conducted by the school. We tried our best to explain to the parents that the teaching learning activity through virtual means was the continuation of learning. Instead of searching for perfection we had to support the virtual mode of teaching learning as it was totally new to everyone. We used to be obsessed with the behaviours and activities of some students as they did not respond when they were asked questions and they did not turn on their videos. It was very hard for us to find out whether the students were paying attention or not. It was really difficult to ensure the progress of those students.
Teachers in my school tried to find out the different techniques on how the participation of the students could be increased and how to make the students active in the class. Several extracurricular activities were also conducted virtually. The home assignments and project works were also assigned to the students. Later on, our school launched a systematic virtual learning application and we started teaching through this application. However, during conducting examination, we faced problems as many students got disconnected time and again due to the poor internet connectivity. It was a very tough time for the teacher like me because we had to prepare the materials for each and every class. E-learning tools played a crucial role during the pandemic by helping teachers facilitate teaching and learning. While adopting to the new changes, the readiness of teachers and students needed to be gauged and supported accordingly. The learners with fixed mindset found it difficult to adapt and adjust, whereas the learners with a growth mindset quickly adapted to the new learning environment. There was no one-size-fits-all pedagogy for online learning. Different subjects and age groups required different approaches to online learning. Therefore, it was not easy in the context of our country.
Despite the adverse effects posed by the pandemic, there were some positive impacts on academia. It has allowed reshaping the pedagogical strategies and adopt to innovative e-learning techniques. The schools and universities decided to introduce a digital education system which seemed to be one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of education in Nepal. The educational institutions as well as the learners used media such as TV, radio, YouTube and other social media. During the pandemic, teachers and students increased the digital literacy and expertise in virtual platforms. Many trainings were conducted for the teachers and students for the online system to join the virtual classes effectively. Many institutions expanded ICT infrastructures to support ICT associated with teaching learning. Many institutions prepared their guidelines for facilitating online classes and assessment under the direction of the government of Nepal. Schools also collaborated with local to national media such as Radios, TVs and local Radio networks. Many teachers who did not have any knowledge of ICT, also took the trainings and started using laptops and mobiles. They also learnt many techniques on preparing educational materials which helped them grow personally and professionally.
In conclusion, COVID-19 has taught many possible ways which can be adopted to tackle the crisis and build a resilient education system in the long run. This pandemic has taught us how the blended modes of education system could be implemented to improve the quality of education at an affordable cost with limited trained human resources. Furthermore, how different learning activities such as homework, assignments, open-book exams, take-home exams, quizzes or small projects can be taken into consideration as the alternatives of conventional paper-pencil based examinations.
Researcher’s Bio: Rajendra Joshi is an M. Ed. (English) from Tribhuvan University. He has more than a decade experience of teaching English from primary level to secondary level. Mr. Joshi has also published an article in the Journal of NELTA. He is currently working as an English teacher at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya Teghari, Kailali and Shree Krishna Secondary School Gulariya, Kanchhanpur.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in every sphere of our lives and education is not out of it. With schools shut across the world, millions of children have had to adapt to new types of learning. This resulted in the largest “online movement” in the history of education with approximately billions of children around the world became homebound, together with their parents and extended families. Recently, a report of CNN has confirmed that even though the COVID-19 situation becomes stable, several universities in the USA have decided to consider the possibility that in-person classes may not resume until 2021. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020). The pandemic is a monster situation to deal with, but we can tackle it following a prophylactic approach. So, I inspire individual solutions based on contextual needs.
The whole world has witnessed a paradigm shift in its teaching-learning-assessment process recently. So, the developing countries are no exception. For instance, in Bangladesh, irrespective of all levels, teachers have started teaching online despite several challenges. The government has also encouraged to go online to continue the teaching-learning process of the country during the pandemic. Teachers use different platforms to teach online. As there is a government directive, the primary and secondary teachers of government schools use Bangladesh Television (BTV) as a platform to teach virtually. The BTV announces the schedule of classes on different topics before the live session so that students can learn whether or not the class lesson is relevant to their level of study. In this regard, non-government schools are free from governmental directives. So, non-government schools have multiple platforms to conduct virtual classes apart from BTV. Most of the schools use Zoom or Google Classroom as their online teaching platforms although there are several challenges, such as lack of uninterrupted power supply with continuous access to the internet, unavailability of digital devices for each student, and the unavailability of well-trained teachers to conduct the online classes smoothly. In this regard, there is a huge possibility that the current paradigm shift of teaching virtually may exacerbate inequalities in education between developed and developing countries across the globe. In practically, in the post-pandemic context of education, online classes may become a regular thing in parallel to in-person classes depending on how the situation emerges. So, it’s important to get it right and make sure that no group of students is being left behind in the process. I have tailored some of the practical issues to conduct online classes in developing countries.
Access to ICT
One of those major challenges to the teachers of developing countries is access to the online mode of education to conduct classes virtually. Most of the students in the developing countries lack technical support such as unavailability of the internet or mobile device with a data pack or Wi-Fi connection to be connected to the virtual classes. OECD (2020) reported that a gap is seen across countries and between income brackets within countries in terms of students’ struggle to participate in digital learning via reliable internet access and/or technology. The report showed that 95% of students in developed countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, whereas only 34% of students in Indonesia have a computer with internet access to do their schoolwork. So, it can be assumed that access to a computer with internet access may be similar in other developing countries such as Bangladesh or Nepal. Again, the number of computers owned by families, especially in the rural areas of the developing countries are presumably lower than the urban areas, which can have a negative influence on the whole online education. Moreover, in the developing countries, to conduct the classes online, the cost of the internet or mobile data-pack is beyond the reach for many students as well as the institutions. So, online teaching to all the students is a far cry from what is intended in the developing countries, such as in Bangladesh.
Willingness to communicate online
Another huge challenge to online teaching is the learners’ willingness to communicate (WTC) in the extramural digital environment. As most of the students in developing countries are not familiar with digital platforms, many of them are not enthusiastic about the transition to online learning. Students’ lack of online experience may promote fear and lead to their participation uncertainty. The fear can also cause withdrawal or resistance to their online participation. Therefore, it is a huge challenge for the teachers to remove this barrier to engaging his/her students virtually for the online teaching-learning process. A teacher should know how to apply different theories on virtual interaction such as activity theory of learning. Only then teachers may be able to engage the students in an interactive mode. If teachers can do so, it can be a great opportunity for them to teach interactively online in a real-time situation.
As we know that the classroom situation in developing countries is more or less is lecture-based. In most Bangladeshi schools, teachers are usually the speakers or controllers of the classroom and the students are passive recipients of the course contents. So, making a collaborative and participatory classroom in a face-to-face situation has always been a challenge for the teachers. However, at present, the teachers from the developing countries have the opportunity to create a collaborative class online as several researchers (Rana, 2018; Shaista, 2018) found that students become more participatory in digital classes than physical classes. In Bangladesh, despite various obstacles, about 80% of the students in a university have expressed interest in joining the online activities (“ [Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020).
Motivation for online learning
Teachers and students harbour their motivation for learning. So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students may lack the psychological readiness for online instruction. Even the teachers themselves may lack motivation for online teaching. Recently, in Bangladesh, the Education Minister pointed out that most of the teachers in the government institutions lack a positive mindset and the motivation to shift in-person classes on virtual mode during the COVID-19 pandemic (“[Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020). Students may also have misconceptions concerning online learning and its outcomes. They may consider this ‘paradigm shift’ as temporary resulting in their lack of motivation towards online learning. So, it is the responsibility of teachers to motivate the students that online instruction is necessary for collaborative learning and not a substitute to merely keep students busy until the pandemic subsides. Teachers also have to motivate students to shift focus away from the emotional consequences of COVID-19 to more personal investment in learning and achievement.
In this regard, I can share my experience. I have been running ELT classes on ZOOM since March 2020 for my students. I run three classes per week for this group. After overcoming the initial teething troubles related to technology and the new mode of teaching, participants have settled down and attended online classes regularly. I have motivated them to embrace this new teaching-learning situation. However, it is surfaced that the prevailing online mode of education (both public and private) is undergoing some teething troubles to adapt online exams and evaluation procedure for obvious reasons I have referred to. So, it is too early to comment on how successful the online teaching-learning activities have been until it continues at least for a considerable time.
Nonetheless, it has already been reported in different newspapers that there are more challenges to conduct online classes in rural schools due to the issue of urban-rural contextual dichotomy. However, my argument is that digital tools can be used as a catalyst to remove the urban-rural disparity and to put all the students on equal footing, then distance or institution won’t be a matter! The government just needs to take the initiative to create a level playing field. If we can ensure the internet for everyone with a digital device and train up the primary and secondary teachers to pick up digital literacy, more than half of the work will be done to transform our education online. Other petty technical barriers can be dealt with accordingly. Moreover, third world countries like Bangladesh, where face-to-face education is considered as a reliable but hefty medium, can take the current situation as a good opportunity to change its typical lecture-based classroom into a collaborative online classroom.
The upcoming world is going to based on digital platforms so do the educational skills. Without digital literacy, it may be difficult for students to survive in the academic arena. Therefore, after the post-pandemic reality, all schools should be equipped with digital support so that face-to-face teaching can be underpinned by the online learning scope. Without access to the world of websites, it is not possible to enter into the ocean of unlimited knowledge. By ensuring access to the body of world knowledge, there is a possibility to make a knowledgeable and techno-savvy generation to transform the country.
So, it is necessary to train the teachers with different online learning models (such as TPACK framework) as they are the main players to implement the process. The training should prepare the teachers so that they can interweave the three essential sources of knowledge ̶ technology, pedagogy and content to facilitate synchronous online learning to the students through a collaborative approach. All the students should be ensured a digital device with better internet connectivity so that they can have the access to the internet to browse any particular academic site related to their course contents or course lessons anytime and in anyplace. Therefore, the learning will be ubiquitous, no matter a student stays in rural areas or urban areas, and learners will be able to learn at their own pace. However, the major challenge is left with the policymakers as they need to figure out how to reach each of the student irrespective of rural and urban contexts. On the one hand, the COVID-19 has stagnated the whole world, and on the other hand, it allows us to think about the transformation of our education system for the future.
S M Akramul Kabir is an Assistant Professor of English under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Bangladesh. He has just completed his Doctoral journey and is waiting to be a graduate of the University of Canterbury with a PhD degree. He has taught English to both local and international students for more than 12 years. His areas of research interest include listening skill for language education, discourse analysis, learning theories, and ICT in language education.
Moorhouse, B. L. (2020). Adaptations to a face-to-face initial teacher education course
COVID-2019 has affected personal, economic, and professional lives of teachers in a number of ways. It has created a ‘superdifficult circumstance’ which can be defined as a situation where teachers, students, parents and communities face a multitude of problems which they may not able to address. In the context of COVID-2019, teachers are facing physical, mental, economic, and other socio-cultural challenges which directly affect their personal and professional life. While some teachers have lost their jobs, others have to teach using online tools which they had never used before. The purpose of this blogpost is to analyse teachers’ experiences during the COVID-2019 pandemic and discuss their implications in the post-COVID context. The narratives are drawn from the members of Teachers for Teacher (TfT) group, a small group of teachers for professional development and research in English language education. As a network of teachers, the members of TfT meet occasionally for informal discussions on issues related to teaching, research, innovations and professional development. The narratives in this blogpost were collected in writing and have been organised under different themes.
Learning opportunities for professional development
The pandemic has completely shut down the economy, transportation and social activities. The schools were closed and the planned exams were postponed. Schools and teachers had no clue about what they should be doing next. The situation was getting worse as the lockdown period was extended. We had asked the teachers what they have been doing during the lockdown and discussed how they coped with the pandemic situation. As seen in Raj’s (pseudonym) story, teachers have used the lockdown period as a learning opportunity for professional development.
In the beginning of lockdown, I was not worried about anything because I thought it was like the end-of-year vacation. I heard about online classes and distance learning as I was taking some Zoom sessions for my professional development. As the lockdown was extended, I tried to keep myself busy in taking some online courses. In the first month of lockdown, I was enjoying my personal life by learning different online learning courses. In the third week of April, the school leadership called me to talk about the possibility of running virtual classes and requested me to lead the initiative. It was a challenging job for me to coordinate and train other teachers for online classes. I started studying different means of virtual learning/teaching system management and talked to different experts, principals and coordinators of other schools and found a few learning management systems (LMS).
Raj does not realise that there was a complete lockdown. He kept himself busy in exploring ICT tools and development learning management system. He worked hard to identify the most appropriate tool for his school. As mentioned below, Raj explores multiple ICT tools by considering the financial situation of his institution. Finally, he is able to create an LMS for his school and becoming a ‘certified Google trainer’.
I kept myself busy in learning and applying ICT tools and applications. I was completely engaged. For two weeks, I could not realise that there was a complete lockdown. I worked 18 hours a day to enable myself to handle learning management systems. I studied Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft and the other tools for virtual teaching. I found Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for synchronous learning and Google classroom, E-mail, Facebook, Viber and other asynchronous tools for communication. Eventually, I set up a learning management system (LMS) in my school. Zoom was used as asynchronous and Google Classroom as an asynchronous learning management system. But I faced some major challenges such as data storage problem (online/cloud data and offline device storage) in different tools and internet connectivity. Later, I knew that I could use Google for education which allows using Google Meet and additional tools for learning. I applied for G-Suite. As our school did not have much funding resource, I could not use other effective LMSs. For the first time in my life, I learnt about the word domain in technology. After a series of communication with Google representatives, I was able to get a G-Suite for Education for free. Now I have completed educator level ‘I’ and level ‘II’ and in the certification process for educator level ‘I’ and ‘II’ from Google. After that, I can go for a Google certified trainer.
Becoming a teacher educator and implementing innovations
The narratives show that teachers have first learned about ICT tools and trained other teachers. Although they faced challenges, they had time to explore new ideas and use them in their teaching and for training their colleagues. Rajan faced challenges to training teachers to deliver classes by using G-Suite. He organised a four-day workshop on Google form and other tools such as Google Meet and PowerPoints. He tells his experiences as follows:
Teaching textbook was a common and easy thing for all the teachers but in this flipped pedagogy teacher should prepare the materials based on the curriculum. Narrowing down the broad curricular concepts into teachable fragments was a great challenge for the teachers. On the other hand, implementing those materials in virtual learning is another challenge for the teachers. In this situation, the training was not effective as it was expected to be but I was able to make teachers familiar with Google Classroom. Though the planning of the lesson was not my part, I was compelled to go through it as the traditional lesson planning is not completely okay with distance learning. Though I was aware of the challenges of engaging students in virtual learning platforms I couldn’t design all the activities based on curriculum. Instead I requested teachers to make their classes more interactive by asking questions.
Teachers as a change agent and a community mobilizer
Teachers can play an agentive role during the pandemic situation. In the narratives we have collected, Reg (pseudonym), who has been teaching in a public school of Kathmandu and went to his village in Gandaki province during the lockdown, has played a critical role to establish learning centres to teach students by maintaining a physical distance. He tells how classes were run at those centres as follows:
I went to the learning centre near my house. Most of the learners were happy with new textbooks. The teacher was supporting every student in reading and writing. All learners were busy in reading and writing. I wanted to demonstrate different learning strategies so I requested the teacher to try out something new. I asked students to do creative tasks like drawing, small field visits, project works. […] I told them to maintain the physical distance and walk to the Shiva Mandir close to the learning centre. Most of the learners were passionate to know about the temple. I asked them to observe the temple closely and encouraged them to ask some questions about the temple and other activities around it. While some students were observing the temple, others were reading the notice board and the list of the donors pasted to the door. Others were counting the bells in front of the temple in a loud voice. They asked questions regarding the foundation, management committee, worshiping practices, and religious significance of the temple to the old grandfather, who was in the temple. After an hour I gathered them in the meadow and asked them what they observed. […] I was surprised by their confidence and happy mood while sharing their observation. Even small kids were sharing interesting information about Shiva Mandir, which I had not known before as the permanent inhabitant of the village. One of the learners shared the story of Shiva and Parwati as told by the old grandfather. After that, I told them to go to the learning centre. Most of them wanted to go to the next temple located in the community. I made a promise to teach them the next day and return to the home listening interesting talking on the way.
By engaging learners in project-based activities, Reg was helping them to develop research skills. The learners were motivated to learn about the temple in their own community. For them, it was an opportunity to interact with their friends, by maintaining social distance, observe the details of the temple and organise information to share with their friends and the teacher. By doing, Reg was helping the students to learn reading, writing and research skills beyond the textbook. Reg’s efforts help students connect their learning with real life experiences. The anecdote given below implies that students learn better when the learning process is linked with their personal life and community.
On the second day, despite a heavy rain, I went to the learning center. Due to the heavy rain, it was difficult to go out so I asked some questions related to how rainfall occurs. Some answers were funny and interesting. One of the learners answered that cloud brings a huge pot to carry water from a stream/pond and pours it from the sky. Some students from the upper level explained the process of rainfall correctly. They asked a number of questions such as why the cloud blocks the rays of the sun, how the hailstone falls, and what the reason behind hot and cold weather is. I was surprised with their questioning techniques. I was unable to answer some of their questions. I answered using taking the help from the internet but they continued to raise more questions. I promised to answer their questions the next day. I was impressed by their logic, curiosity, and passion for asking the questions.
Reg’s efforts imply that, in a superdifficult situation like COVID-2019, multiliteracy projects can help students learn effectively. Such projects do not necessarily follow the textbook contents. As discussed above, by engaging students in a fieldwork, they developed observation, reporting, communicative, speaking, and collaborative skills. Such activities promote students’ participation, motivation, and self-learning. By participating in such activities, learners gather historical information about different sites in their communities and develop questioning and research skills. As Reg describes “such activities have taught me a memorable lesson in my teaching profession that teaching and learning are not limited to textbooks and classroom; students can learn from their communities.”
Addressing the digital divide
Many schools do not have ICT infrastructures to run online classes. The teachers working in low-resource schools are not able to contact their students. The story of Rita (pseudonym) implies some key insights to address the digital divide and help students learn when the schools are closed. Rita begins her experience as follows:
My school has also tried to create virtual learning environment during Covid-19. For that, we contacted students through phone calls to confirm that whether they can learn through internet, T.V., or Radio. There were around 500 students in my school before the lockdown began. Among 500 students, 200 students came into our contact but the rest of them are still out of contact. The students were divided into 3 different groups based on their access to digital tools such as internet, T.V and Radio. Among 200 students only 82 of them were able to participate in online classes. We tried to begin the classes but we found that very few students could join the class. More than a half of the students were left behind. I thought this situation could create negativity in their mind […]. So, we could not run classes. Now, students read the textbooks at home and ask questions to their subject teachers via phone.
Rita further tells that due to lack of ICT devices with parents, it is not possible to implement online mode of teaching. However, as mentioned above, mobile phones could be a helpful tool to help students learn. Rita suggests that:
I would like to suggest that we could ask students to do different things beyond textbooks. We can ask them to do activities they are interested in. They can use their local knowledge and build up life skills by doing the things around them. Rather than asking them to do textbook-based activities for the purpose of assessment, it is important to give activities that foster their creative and critical thinking skills. They may enjoy documenting what they learned at home and in the community. They can describe what they have seen during COVID-19.
Rita argues that digital divide is a serious issue in education. While the schools are exploring alternative approaches to learning, it is important to assess whether such approaches (mainly online teaching) could exacerbate unequal participation in learning activities and access to knowledge.
The stories of three teachers imply that teachers could play a critical role in addressing students’ learning challenges created by the superdifficult circumstance of COVID-19. As discussed in this blogpost, teachers have engaged themselves in a number of professional development activities to strengthen their ICT and creative pedagogical skills. This situation indicates that teachers have utilised this difficult time to upgrade their professional skills which they could use in post-COVID classes.
Dr Prem Phyak, an MEd in English from Tribhuvan University, MA in TESOL from University College London, and PhD in English from University of Hawaii, USA, is an Associate Professor of English at Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
Mr Bhim Sapkota, an MPhil student at Nepal Open University, is a Lecturer of English at Kathmandu Shiksha Campus and English teacher at Shree Bishnudevi Secondary School, Chandragiri, Kathmandu.
Mr Ramji Acharya, an MEd graduate, is a Programme Coordinator as well as English teacher at Regent Residential School, Lalitpur.
Ms Dil Kumari Shrestha, an MEd in English and MA in Political Science graduate, is a Lower Secondary English teacher.
Now we are facing the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. Most of the countries in the world are asking people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Following the recommendation of WHO, the Government of Nepal also ordered lockdown on March 23, 2019. The lockdown is going on and it is not certain that when it will be lifted. On the 15th June 2020, the Government of Nepal changed the modality of the lockdown and is loosely monitoring it. The lockdown has been eased to increase economic activities. As a result, the government offices, industries, shopping centres are carefully operated with some preventive measures. However, there is much uncertainty over schools and universities reopening. This article reflects on the effect of the global pandemic on education and the possibilities it opens up for the transformation of teaching-learning in Nepal, especially in the rural area where access to information and communication technology is limited. The rhythm of educational activities has been seriously altered because of the lockdown. Robert (2020, June 11) reported a deep learning crisis worldwide as about 1.5 billion students have been taking measures for COVID-19 prevention as the schools have shut down. All countries are making an effort to combat the COVID-19 and normalise people’s lives including education sectors.
Tribhuvan University, the oldest and largest university of Nepal, decided to adopt online teaching as an alternative teaching mode. Other universities followed similar practices. Nepal Open University based on online learning mode has been normally operating all academic activities. It has been observed that the majority of university students except Nepal Open University are scattered across the country and locked where they had been before the commencement of the lockdown in the country. They are unable to communicate with their university colleges and are probably waiting the day when their colleges will reopen for academic activities. The majority of undergraduate and school students are outside the coverage of online learning, especially in rural areas. Although some campuses have started online classes for Bachelors and Masters students, a large number of students are unable to join such classes because of lack of internet access and digital devices.
Although I have created a Google class for my students to extend learning space beyond four walls of the classroom before the pandemic, only few students used to visit it. Now they come to join Google classroom or ZOOM meeting more frequently although some students are unable to join my online classes. It is too early to forecast the effectiveness of online class for my students. We are experimenting with new learning technology. I am fortunate in the sense that I can apply my experience of studying in online and blended learning mode. I had done an online teacher training course from the University of Oregon and I am doing M. Phil at Nepal Open University. Now I am using my experience of remote learning to shape my online teaching practices.
To continue teaching-learning during the lockdown, many countries in the world have used radio, television, mobile technology or home delivery of printed materials to help students in their self-learning activities at home during COVID-19 (Robert, 2020, June 11). The government of Nepal has implemented alternative learning system for students grouping them into five categories: students outside the access of any technology, students with access to radio, students with access to TV, students with access to computer and students with access to computer and internet. The government has instructed to provide learning opportunities to all students at their home with the appropriate mode of delivery using print, audiovisual and online resources (Ministry of Education Science and Technology, 2020). The guidelines recognised online teaching as one of the teaching-learning modes.
I have observed high enthusiasm among the teachers in virtual space when the schools and campuses are shut down. Teachers are making attempts to reach to their students through various media on one hand and they are learning digital and pedagogical skills through online conference and training. Teachers have participated in professional development activities organised by various organisations. I frequently get an invitation to attend such opportunities. For example, I had three invitations on Facebook to participate in join online teacher training sessions on zoom. I have observed that many teachers are ready to teach online. However, limited access to ICT in rural areas prevents teachers to go online teaching immediately.
It seems that the teaching-learning continues with this alternative teaching mode for a few months. The face-to-face mode of learning will resume when the global health crisis will be resolved and school classes become safe. By the time the pandemic is over, I guess that more teachers will acquire digital and pedagogical skills and more teachers and students will have access to digital technology. Teachers are unlikely to unlearn the skills they learn during the pandemic as Robert Franek notes (Dickler, 2020, May 20). Kim (2020, April 1) predicts that in post-pandemic situation blended learning will rapidly increase and the top priority of educational instructions and that professional development of teachers will be geared up to integrate ICT in teaching-learning rather than outsource agencies to provide online learning.
I am not much hopeful that Kim’s prediction comes true in our context. However, I believe that, when school will resume, thousands of teachers will use some of the digital skills for teaching they acquired during the pandemic period. However, the actual use of these skills depends on available technology and school administrative policy. I believe that teachers teaching in rural schools will also continue with the use of ICT. I see the following possibilities in ICT integration in education in Nepal in post-COVID-19 era.
The Federal and local government will invest more in ICT infrastructures in remote areas. More schools will get access to the internet which will open a new venue for teaching-learning.
Teachers will continue to attend virtual conference, training and seminar regardless of their location. The frequency of online professional training will increase.
The government can provide virtual training so that teachers can balance time for teaching and participating in the training. This will save time and expenses for attending the training.
The training centre can hire experts drawing from the wider pool of experts easily and teachers can study at home.
Teachers can teach or take part in school meeting when they are away from school for personal or professional responsibilities.
Teachers can invite more experienced teacher as a guest teacher in their class through video conferencing.
Teacher and students can share class notes and other digital resources on the virtual classes which will save more time for class discussions.
Teacher and students can have a virtual discussion during long holidays or examination times.
Teachers can support the students who cannot attend face-to-face class because of illness or other reasons.
Teachers will share, collaborate and create digital teaching-learning.
Teachers are likely to observe other teachers’ virtual class which will enhance their pedagogical skills.
The global health crisis has forced teachers and students to stay at home. The use of ICT tools for teaching and learning in online mode has become an alternative mode instead of traditional face-to-face mode to prevent the spread of corona virus. ICT has drawn the attention of teachers, students, parents and educators. Despite the fact that many students in Nepal are unable to get access to virtual classes due to lack of ICT infrastructure, many teachers are trying to utilise internet and other available resources to meet the current needs of students. It is evident that the use of ICT will continue to grow in the post-COVID-19 era in Nepal by opening several possibilities.
Krishna Prasad Parajuli is a lecturer of English Education at Drabya Shah Multiple Campus, Gorkha. He is the Vice-Chair of NELTA Gorkha and a member of IATEFL.He is an M.Phil scholar of English Education at Nepal Open University.
Dickler, J. (2020, May 20). Post-pandemic, remote learning could be here to stay. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/20/post-pandemic-remote-learning-could-be-here-to-stay.html
Kim, J. (2020, April 1). Three post-pandemic predictions.
Ministry of Education Science and Technology. (2020). Alternative learning system implementation guidelines 2020. https://moe.gov.np/article/1323/html
Robert, J. (2020, June 11). Opinion: Reimagining education — this is the moment to think big. Devex. https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-reimagining-education-this-is-the-moment-to-think-big-97405
COVID-19 has been one of the critical human crises ever recorded after Plague of Justinian (541-542), the Black Death (1346-53), Spanish flu (1818-1819), Asian flu (1957-1958), HIV/ AIDS (2005) and Swine Flu (2009). Following the advice of WHO about maintaining physical distance to control the possible spread of the virus, the government of Nepal had announced the nation-wide lock down, and the four-month long lockdown has been recently waived though the educational institutions seem to shut down for some more weeks. During the ongoing crisis, the venture taken by some of the proactive teachers to continue teaching-learning activity to the extent possible for them and to engage themselves in continuous professional development is appreciable.
It was, undoubtedly painful for me to be detached from my students and the classroom for a long time. However, what made me satisfied was the constant contact with the students and colleagues via different digital means. Although the online classes were not as effective as the physical classes in the beginning, they remained a useful alternative to practise teaching-learning activity during the lockdown period. So, in this article, I have attempted to explore the ground reality of teaching learning from a survey and critically reflect on my teaching-learning and professional development practices including my feelings during the lockdown.
Digital divide deteriorating teaching-learning activity
Problem with the technology more or less exists in every nook and cranny of the world but the digital divide in our context seems bigger. For example, Sharma (2020) reports that only 8% of households and 12% of total schools have broadband internet facility in Nepal. Although 90% of the population use mobile phones, the majority of them do not have the internet facility. Similarly, Rana, Greenwood and Fox‐Turnbull (2019) show that only 72% of the total population of Nepal have the internet access and the majority of them (95%) are mobile data users, and mobile data is too expensive to use for educational purpose. Moreover, the urban dwellers have better access to the internet facility (not in the reach of all though). Indeed, this kind of disparity is present in the online classes that I have been taking at present, where there is the presence of less than 50% students. The condition is even worse in the case of the rural part of Nepal, which is waiting for the development of the internet infrastructures and access to web technology.
Professional development in the crisis
Although teachers are not physically present in the classrooms, some of the active teachers are busy taking the online classes or continuing teaching-learning via other alternative means. On the other hand, during the lockdown period, various national and international organisations were active in organising e-conferences and webinars for teachers’ professional development. I also participated in some of the webinars organised by Cambridge University Press, Webinar Series: British Council and NELTA, Continuous Proficiency Development Institute (CPDI), Thailand and TESOL Virtual Convention and English Language Expo 2020.
Having got opportunities to participate in these webinars and conferences, I was acquainted with new trends and ideas of English language teaching. So, they proved to be highly insightful for me to gain and share new knowledge and skills. I have used the learnt knowledge and skills in making the lessons interactive while teaching in the online environment. Moreover, I also utilised the crisis for creative writing and reflections, and also used them in my online classes to encourage my students to compose creative writing. History shows that there has always been the emergence of new literary figures and a new field to work with by the established figures due to the situation created during and post crises. So, as a teacher, we can encourage and support our students to express their emotions, feelings and experiences through creative writing or other forms of arts, which can help them to release their tensions and have a sense of achievement in the form of creation.
Teaching-learning practice during the crisis
Exploring the ground reality
Like other teachers, I always enjoy having students around me, but the ongoing health crisis caused havoc in teaching-learning activity with the temporary closure of the educational institutions globally, where Nepal couldn’t be exception. Some of the schools in Nepal, especially in the urban setting, have run the online classes by using different digital apps where there is internet facility and parents are capable enough to manage basic technologies for online classes. However, student participation in such online classes are observed low.
It is commonly reported that there is less student participation in the online classes and the delivery of lesson also has not been as effective as the face-to-face mode. Therefore, I wanted to understand if other teachers have similar problems. I conducted a survey by using the Google form about teaching-learning activity during the pandemic, where 48 teachers participated. The data showed that the majority of teachers faced the problem of low students’ participation. Additionally, some other problems mentioned by them were related to technology and learning environment like unstable or lack of the internet access, frequent power cut and learners’ unfavourable learning environment at home. Likewise, lack of apt digital contents were reported as another challenge. Similarly, challenges were reported on students’ involvement and learning facilitation like lack of students’ attention, disturbances at the students’ end, low participation in English course and lack of student-centred activities. In addition, the teachers also reported to have challenges in assessment including the lack of immediate feedback to students.
The responses of this brief survey indicate that online teaching cannot replace the physical classroom in Nepal immediately as there exist major challenges like technological preparedness, online pedagogical innovation, lack of digital contents and assessment. In such situation, the government in collaboration with public and private sector should come up with immediate strategies to reach students and also should envision to bridge the digital gaps in future.
Facing the crisis as a teacher following alternative ways
While some of us are taking initiative to run online classes to the limited number of students having with access to the stable internet and digital devices, Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argue there exists a huge challenge to give equitable access to e-learning to all the students in Nepal and a swift move to e-learning will further widen the disparity gaps, depriving a large number of students from inclusion. This study, therefore, indicates that we need to adopt different modalities to reach to different students based on the means of connection they have. For instance, we can provide offline materials to students having mobile phones and computers without the internet connection. On the other hand, for the students having neither the internet nor the digital devices, we should reach via radios and televisions as some of the teachers have already taken this initiative. For example, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and local bodies are telecasting and broadcasting educational programmes via radios and TVs though people are skeptical about the effectiveness of such teaching-learning. On the other hand, to reach the students of difficult topography, we should deliver the print materials in coordination with local government. Moreover, teachers can also reach them and engage in teaching-learning by maintaining physical distance in their own locality.
Crisis and some food for thought on our practices
The present health catastrophe, I believe, is questioning our education system and has compelled us to rethink the way we are delivering public services like education and health. Our existing education system emphasises more on competition, i.e. producing a successful person is getting priority over helping a person become a good human being. With the same token, society gives value to the rich and this has led them to achieve more power. The existing gap between the rich and the poor is constantly increasing, which is visible during the crisis, where the poor suffered the most and the marginalised and minority people were much more affected. Education and health services are highly dominated by the private sector, which were already out of the access of the working-class people, seemed more unwelcoming during the crisis for many private hospitals denied treating the patients suffering from the corona virus. This was the failure of the present neoliberal society which emphasise privatisation, marketisation, and deregulation in various services including education and health sectors diminishing the nation’s role in these sectors of fundamental necessities.
Similar to English proverb “there is a silver lining in every black cloud”, I also tried to make the best ultilisation of the time I had in the crisis. I first focused on my professional development, especially ways to teach students online effectively. Then, I have been using the new knowledge, ideas and skills I gained from it in my own online classes. Now, my students in the online classes are no more passive listeners but the active co-participants of the teaching-learning activity. I use Easy Class and Google Classroom to manage my online classes. Likewise, to make the online lessons interactive, I use various digital apps and tools, such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, interactive videos using playposit and padlet to ensure learners’ participation in the online class and Google forms for feedback and for online test. After lockdown, I am confident that I am going to make visible changes in the lesson delivery in the physical class and the blended mode of teaching and evaluation. Moreover, I feel that the crisis in general has taught us an important lesson that Nepal also should envision alternative ways of teaching-learning by using various digital technologies.
Pushpa Raj Paudel, an M. Phil scholar at Nepal Open University, is a faculty in Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bhaktapur. Mr. Paudel has interests in creative writing, teachers’ professional development, critical pedagogy and translation. Mr. Paudel, a life member of NELTA, has presented papers in various national and international conferences and webinars, and has published articles in various magazines and newspapers.
Dawadi, S., Giri, R. A., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal: Challenges and coping strategies. Sage Submissions. Preprint. doi:https://doi.org/10.31124/advance.12344336.v1
Rana, K., Greenwood, J., & Fox‐Turnbull, W. (2019). Implementation of Nepal’s education policy in ICT: Examining current practice through an ecological model. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries,86(2), 1-16. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/isd2.12118
In this write-up, I reflect on my experience of shifting my academic activities from office to home, and from a face-to-face mode of delivery to a virtual one. When the Government of Nepal announced a complete lockdown on 23 March 2020 to prevent the people from the spread of Corona virus infection (Pradhan, 2020), all my academic activities came to a standstill. I am teaching three courses this semester; working as a member of the editorial board for Journal of Education and Research; supervising dissertations of Master of Philosophy students; and performing other administrative duties mostly related to the University Grants Commission, Nepal and my institution. A sudden change from free and independent being on the 23rd of March to a captive like one on the 24th of March with the inception of lockdown completely changed my physical as well as mental activities. Like all my fellow human beings across the globe, I also started living with unknown fear and anxiety.
We are locked down. The streets are deserted. Departmental stores are closed. A few corner shops are still open. People rush to these shops. Everyone has a long list to buy. People buy rice, pulses, flour, etc. Everyone standing there is not sure to get what he/she wants. Stocks are running out. It has been about a week since we had our vegetables. Everyone is masked. You do not recognize even your neighbour. People do not talk to each other. They have forgotten to smile. Everybody is in a hurry. Uncertainty is there. I remembered the medicines. I had to procure essential medicines. I rushed to the hospital pharmacy. I sanitized my hands. I showed the prescription to the pharmacist; he had a snap of it with the camera of his mobile phone. He showed me the amount in his calculator. I asked for the usual 10% discount on life-saving medicines. He looked at me as if I just arrived from the Mars.
Lockdown completely affected my daily activities. I began to wake up late. I changed the way of life. I gradually got adjusted to the lockdown style. I revived regular television watching after fifteen years. Watching television became my everyday routine. The harrowing news of Italy, Spain often terrified me. The focus gradually shifted to the USA, not because the situation in Italy and Spain were improving but because the conditions in the USA were getting worse with the 45000 + death tolls. I do not know much about this virus; I am not a medical professional. I am now familiar with COVID-19 Pandemic vocabulary like ‘social distancing’, ‘washing hands’, ‘flattening the curve’, ‘quarantine’ , ‘isolation’, etc. and many dos and don’ts. While writing this, many more people are being infected and more are dying. I do not know how many more will get infected and lose their life by the time I conclude this write up.
In a situation like this, along with my university colleagues, I decided to go for online classes. I am concerned with how we teachers are adjusting to new environment posed by this virus shifting our mode of delivery from face-to-face mode to ‘hopping online’ to use Tse’s term (Tse, 2020). This is the time we are passing through. Although lockdown was implemented from 24th of March 2020, regular university activities got affected from the third week of March. We stopped thumb signature and started signing attendance in a register. The canteen was almost empty. We already started getting terrifying news of deadly virus. The Government asked to close everything but essential services. Our university closed regular face-to-face classes. And the news from across the globe became scary the week before the lockdown. We sensed the situation would get worse. Some of my colleagues tested online classes and we shared our experience with each other in a virtual meeting through https://meet.google.com/_meet on Saturday afternoon. After sharing the experience of test classes, we decided to continue the classes online.
Moving from face-to-face to ‘hopping online’ delivery mode
Teaching online has not been completely new for me. My training as a linguist and, particularly using computer software for analyzing linguistic data, taught me handle the situations of teaching online with minimum of adjustment. I have been teaching students through both face-to-face and online and distance learning (ODL) modes for five years now. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, my university used the MOODLE portal for the delivery of ODL mode; the learning materials were uploaded and the students used the materials wherever they were. The MOODLE has limitations; mostly its activities are asynchronous i.e., the students do not meet the teacher in the same time. Teachers rarely have direct discussion with the students. In our context, the students who were delivered through MOODLE hardly completed the courses. All my courses were uploaded on the MOODLE portal but students rarely visited them. However, I was planning something different from the MOODLE. I had my first online class with Masters of English Language Teaching students. This semester I am teaching the course Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis. My usual face-to-face class begins with the presentation from one of the students. Each student is assigned a particular topic to present to the class on the very first day of session. We were still learning all the features of https://meet.google.com/_meet and my student presented her paper without sharing to everyone. However, she did well.
My experience of teaching students through ODL mode informed me that students are more expressive in online mode than in face-to-face mode. However, the challenge is to provide opportunity to speak to each student. Therefore, I tried to ensure everyone participate in the discussion as much as possible. For 22nd March 2020, I planned to teach Speech Event, a topic closely related to Speech Act Theory (Austin, 1962), the topic I took up previous week. The first thing that I had to do was to prepare my students to recapitulate what we discussed the week before. I shared the PowerPoint slides and asked them to concentrate on two sentences there: I christen this ship the Joseph Stalin; I now pronounce you man and wife.
I asked them to do two things with these sentences; first change the tense of the verb into past and change the subject from first person singular to second or third person. After that I asked each of them to observe the effect on semantics. Unmuting the microphone button in meet.google, my students shared that changing the verbs into past tense and replacing the subject with second or third person would have completely different effect. Recollecting the class previous week, they also shared that ‘christen’ acts as ‘naming’ and ‘pronounce’ acts as ‘giving the bride and groom the status of husband and wife’. I told them that verbs like ‘christen’ and ‘declare’ not only say something but also refer to certain kinds of acts and such verbs are called ‘performatives’ (Austin, 1962).
After sharing their first ever-online learning experience, I asked them to identify appropriate context for each of the sentences. After a while, they came up the ideas that the appropriate context for the sentence could be; the ship is manufactured and yet to make her maiden voyage, a respectable person like mayor of the city or owner of the company is giving the name to the ship in a special function.
The appropriate context for the second sentence is: a wedding ceremony is taking place in a church and, most probably, the priest declares the bride and the groom as man and wife. These contexts refer to speech events in which individual speech acts perform various functions. In this way, in our almost two-hour class, my students analyzed several conversations between a doctor and a patient in a hospital, between a waiter and a customer in a restaurant and between a host and a guest at dinner in former’s house. Finally, each of them reflected their experience on the first ever-online class. One of them said that she lost her internet connection for a while and lost some of strands of the discussion. Others expressed they were excited as they found it very much similar to face-to-face mode of delivery. On 31 March, I had second online class with these students and we all were more equipped than before.
On 24th of March 2020, I met with third semester students of MPhil in English Language Education at five in the afternoon. I have been teaching a course on Contemporary Thoughts on English Language Education this semester. From my experience with master students, I understood that my presentation needs to be redesigned to fit in online mode of delivery. Unlike in face-to-face mode, each student is not seen on the screen, getting engaged throughout the class time is a big challenge in an online class. I redesigned my teaching items. As we competed the Module one that discussed the theoretical aspects of Post-Colonialism through face-to-face to mode, Module two was to apply the theoretical insights of Post-Colonialism to English studies. I started the class with three questions:
How many varieties of English can you think of? Can you name a few?
What particular variety of English do you speak?
What variety or varieties do you think should be considered “proper” and “correct”?
I asked them to ponder over five minutes; after five minutes I asked them to speak one minute each on any one of the questions. This made me assured that everyone is connected and participates in the discussion. I intended two major areas to cover that day: the spread of English over the ages and the concentric circles of Kacharu (Kacharu, 1985). When each of them spoke, I asked them to mute the microphone as the background noise caused disturbances. Then we discussed the spread of English in four phases: within the geographical region of present United Kingdom; America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where majority of people speak English as first language; in the third phase, after the 17th century onwards English speakers took English to their colonies where a large number of people speak English as an additional language; and , the fourth phase, English spread because of technology, globalization and education to the countries that English speaking people never colonized. Most of the interactions concentrated the discussion on the phase III and phase IV because these two phases had direct link to our discussion on Post-Colonialism. Students enthusiastically participated in the discussion on the impact of English in our education and socio-cultural life.
Majority of the students were aware of concentric circles of Kacharu. They initiated the discussion and I intervened only when there were digressions. When the fundamental concept of Kacharu’s notion was established, I gave them ten minutes to find out three advantages and disadvantages of Kacharu’s circles in the study of varieties of English like English in Nepal. In these ten minutes they googled, discussed with each other and came up with ideas to discuss with the class. Each of them got two minutes to talk share their ideas. In this way class ended.
I spent an entire week teaching the second module of the course Trends in Applied Linguistics to the students of MPhil in English Language Education doing through block mode. The lessons were redesigned to fit in two hour teaching/ discussion sessions and one hour student’s presentation.
Students’ response on ‘hopping online’ delivery mode
Students have mixed reactions on the online classes that I have been delivering so far. In an unanimous voice, my students take these online classes very useful considering the difficult situation that the Pandemic has created. Many of them are happy that shifting to ‘hopping online’ mode of delivery saves them maintain the academic calendar without losing the academic year. Some of them took the online classes as ‘exciting’ as they are getting familiarized with the technology and enhancing ‘the virtual communication skills’. These online classes keep them ‘in track’; provide opportunities for ‘uninterrupted learning’; they are ‘as effective as face-to-face classes’; and they are ‘wonderful’ and ‘energizing’.
On the other hand, these online classes also have other side of the coin. One frequent issue that students encounter is the intermittent internet connections. Many of them get lost because very often they get disconnected to the internet and lose the flow of discussion. One of the students felt that discussing something serious without feeling the presence of the interlocutor puts him in an awkward situation. Getting used to new mode of learning from face-to-face to complete online mode needs to make them accept psychologically. They are tuned to learning in front of teachers and peers in the physical classroom and sudden shift to ‘hopping online’ mode of delivery causes them to ‘get distracted’, and these distractions lead to ‘mess up assignment’ and online mode offers ‘limited opportunities for interaction’ i.e., online classes means ‘reduced interactions’. One of the greatest disadvantages of online classes is to miss the original charm of meeting teachers and peers, the process of socialization and feeling the physical presence of someone when we are engaged in academic discussion.
In spite of these issues, reflecting on their experience on online classes, they consider these online classes are best possible options for the current situation. They also believe that they will overcome the trauma, anxiety and unknown fear and psychological state will accept the condition leading to more active learning. One of my students says that he finds difficult to concentrate on the topic while attending online classes but he thinks as time passes his nerves will align with the tune of the situation.
These online classes taught me several things. The way I used to get prepared for a face-to-face class is not sufficient and many things of my face-to-face class are completely irrelevant in an online class. I prepared my online classes, tested several times and reached my students. I also realized that using videos or other forms of materials require to ensure whether the tool supports these materials. Shifting from one tool to another always creates a havoc and we end up in a mess. The usual way of going to the class with a reading material and make the students read and discuss simply does not work in an online class; teachers have no way to monitor the active participation of students in the activity. In this particular area, I would love to listen from the experience of colleagues.
In these two weeks of intensive online teaching, my interactions with my students made me realize that, as a teacher, I learnt from the collective conversation with my students. To be honest, I have learned more from my students than I have taught. The questions, comments, critiques and insights of my students reshaped and challenged my academic position and such activities contributed to knowledge building. This shift to online mode has almost killed these opportunities; it may have new offers but it is too early to realize.
I deeply distressed with the ideas of some paranoids that post-corona era is the era of the death of physical classrooms and an era of revolution in online classrooms. I do not expect such radical changes in our educational system because physical contact is equally important, not only for education, but also for living. At this difficult juncture of life, I went for online because I, as a teacher, have to facilitate my students to the maximum and I did not have any other better option than going online. In the present state, I agree with young lawyer of Anton Chekhov’s story ‘The Bet’ ‘It’s better to live somehow than not to live at all’(Chekhov, 2015).
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The Author: Educated in India, Nepal and Germany, Dr Tikaram Poudel currently teaches at the Department of Language Education, School of Education Kathmandu University, Nepal. Dr Poudel is well-known for his studies on morpho-syntax and semantics of case, tense, aspect and field linguistics of South Asian languages. His studies on the interface between ergativity and individual level predication, cumulative and separative morphology and affix suspension have been well received. Recently, Dr Poudel has been concentrating on the socio-cultural impact of English on contemporary Nepalese society.
Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Chekhov, A. (2015). The bet and other stories. (S. Koteliansky, & J. M. Murry, Trans.) Boston: John W. Luce & Co.
Kacharu, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification, and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk, & H. Widdowson, English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and the literature (pp. 11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pradhan, T. R. (2020, March 23). Nepal goes under lockdown for a week starting 6 am Tuesday. Kathmandu. Retrieved April 7, 2020, from https://kathmandupost.com
Tse, J. (2020, March 19). Letter to students past and present. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/42264494: https://www.academia.edu
“In addition to taking some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on blended learning and teaching online, I’m virtually engaged to empower teachers around on how productively they can involve their students online.” –
Baman Ghimire, a high school teacher. (Ghimire. B., personal communication, 15 April, 2020)
“After the lockdown, I formed an online group of teachers and started sharing my ideas of running online classes in my district and beyond. Recently, I presented a session on Google Classroom to teachers in coordination with an English teachers’ association.” –
Bibas Jung Thapa, a lecturer (Thapa, B. J., personal communication, 14 April, 2020)
We are in isolation to fight COVID- 19, so our normal day-to-day activities are diverted in different ways and the classroom-based teaching-learning activities are halted. Amidst this circumstance, Baman and Bibas are not only engaged in their self-professional development but also in the professional development initiative of the fellow teachers using different routes i.e. virtual route. Whatever means has been adopted, the initiative to support fellow teachers is truly appreciable as the message is more important than the means, and the willingness to do is the most important thing. Moreover, this initiative will bring teachers closer during the isolation, which increases professional harmony and strengthens professionalism.
This initiative is an example of teacher-led professional development (TLPD). TLPD initiatives are led by teacher/s for the teachers. Professional development activities in our context are basically led by ‘outside experts’ and hence they are grounded on top-down approach. However TLPD initiative is bottom-up and customised (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004; Hills, 2017; Vangrieken, Meredith, Packer & Kyndt, 2017), aiming to empower teachers and enhance their knowledge and skills (Vangrieken, et al., 2017). The scope of TLPD is within the same schools and outside. For instance, a teacher (one or more teachers also can lead) from the same school can lead professional development activities for their colleagues or for the teachers beyond his/her schools (e.g. within their region, district, country or even out of the country). The example of Baman and Bibas fits for the second.
TLPD events emphasize on day-to-day teaching-learning issues of fellow teachers, which the facilitator deals based on his/her rich classroom experience. TLPD has been popular among teachers and school administrators for several reasons. For instance, Hills (2017) in her TLPD study explored that the fellow teachers enjoyed such initiatives for the diversified facilitators, neutral and non-threatening atmosphere and practical topics.
Wearers know where the shoe pinches. The teachers can better understand fellow teachers’ issues in teaching-learning and can respond accordingly. In the case of Baman and Bibas, as they have lived experiences of conducting day to day teaching learning with their students, they know what works and what does not work in a real classroom unlike the outside experts. I’m not undermining the role of the outside expert in professional development, they have their own value, which I will discuss later but there are certain things which these teacher leaders know better, deal better and do better. For instance, they can contextualise ideas to fit in the real classrooms based on the practices, which they have already tested. They can share their good practices of planning, preparation, teaching particular topics, assessment, remedial measures and so on. The participant teachers basically want the facilitators to offer hands-on solutions to deal with their pedagogical issues and the fellow teacher/s can do handle that better.
In addition, the TLPD reduces the gap and distance between facilitators and participants as they share the common ground, which results in increased openness, lively discussion and participation, and a joint effort for problem solving. In addition, TLPD are owned by teachers because they are customised, contextual, jointly developed by both facilitators and participants, and they emphasise on inquiry-based learning (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004). As a result, it can make teachers accountable.
Moreover, TLPD initiative can bridge the post training gap (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004). Generally, when an outside expert facilitates some training/workshop, there is scarce or no chance of follow up visit to provide on-site assistance to the teacher/s who is struggling to implement the newly learnt idea. Instead, when a teacher from the same school or neighbouring school/s leads the training/workshop or so on, they can be easily consulted as they share the same chiya pasal (tea shop) or same dhara (tap). They can even be asked to observe the classroom and assist the fellow teacher/s to implement the skills learnt in the training. Gradually, it leads to a better collaboration and a higher chance of training transfer in the classroom.
Teaching is not a competition with other fellow teachers but a competition with oneself, to create environment for children to learn themselves, not to teach! Every teacher is here to facilitate and support students to learn better and reach their full potential. So why competition? Instead teachers need a mutual collaboration with each other, a collaboration to share good practices and support each other to overcome the challenges associated with teaching and learning because the empowered teachers can empower students too. And the teacher-led professional development initiatives would do that because the future lies on the bottom-up approach but not on the top-down.
Roles of outside experts
At this point, question may arise, are all teachers capacitated enough to lead the professional development initiatives? Perhaps not, to give a quick answer. And now, here comes the role of the experts, trainers and teacher educator to strengthen their professional expertise to lead the cycle of TLPD. While leading the professional development events for adults, it is really important to be familiar with adult learning principles, key facilitation skills, converting contents into activities, interpersonal skills, latest research in the field and their implications, and so forth. Moreover, the teacher-leaders (the facilitators) also need support in school-based model of TLPD and its overall cycle, starting from planning and developing sessions to reflection and feedback collection. Therefore, the experts now need to groom school-based leaders to lead their professional development themselves and observe and study how it works.
How to start TLPD initiatives?
The easy answer to this question is just start the way Baman and Bibas did. TLPD model seems to work better during this halt, where the outside experts are not easily reachable. Therefore, let’s start this with our colleagues, who are the nearest experts at the moment, just go through the Facebook friend list and make a team. Actually, I came to learn about the initiative of Baman and Bibas via Facebook. So, we can look for the teachers/colleagues teaching English (or related subject) in our friend list, create a group and start the conversation. Thereafter, we can only discuss on the issues we are facing while teaching our students and make notes of all the issues. The issues can be anything related to planning, methods, materials, assessment, teaching particular topics, and classroom management skills and other soft skills like communication, motivation or using technology in classroom. Then, the list can be shortened by removing repetition or the least important topics for the moment (through a common consensus). moving forward, we can ask each other to choose one or two topics, which we feel comfortable to lead the discussion/presentation. If all the topics are not covered, let’s not worry. We can always start with whatever we feel comfortable. Then, we can schedule the presentation and discussion using accessible and free Software like Messenger, Viber, Skype, Zoom or so on. Next, the session leader should take a good time to plan on his/her topic. Once the preparation is done, we can advertise a little via social media to invite other interested teachers to join the discussion. I’m sure we will find more than enough participants. Then, on the day of presentation, we can make some house rules to run it systematically, otherwise, it can go messy. After the presentation, we should entertain questions and open the discussion, which will help both the facilitator and fellow teachers to reflect upon the ideas shared and set direction future direction. And after we do it successfully, we can write our reflection and share, the way I’m doing here.
Before I leave
As the situation is getting worse day by day globally, we as educators can’t just keep quiet and stay at home. Baman says that the ongoing journey of professional development goes beyond the chains of any ‘lockdown’. So, we should start thinking proactively about the alternatives of educating or reaching our students. Such teacher-led professional initiatives can help us to explore multiple ideas of reaching them during this crisis.
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The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation (http://merocreation.com/).
I discuss the use of technology in the educational practices in general and technology, pedagogy and content knowledge (TPACK) approach in particular in this paper. It is grounded on the author’s two-decade-long experience of using technological tools for learners’ engagement, problems in micromanagement and five major fault-lines in micro-management procedures. Moreover, it integrates various assets such as management of basic functions of electronic gadgets, blending content, context and technology, differentiating hardware and software tools, updating recent innovation and threats in technology and regulating micromanagement in using technology.
Are we really prepared to use ICT tools? This question often triggers my mind while discussing ICT tools. Recently, I shared my knowledge and key issues in Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) approach to educators around different parts of the country using zoom software. It was a wonderful sharing with them using the common tool in the lockdown period. If we relate the classroom scenario, we are shifting heavily to the use of alternatives in technology tools (Williamson & Redish, 2009) to present and to instruct different lessons in almost all the levels. Even some schools, particularly in the urban area, both developing and under developing countries, take multimedia power-point presentation as a basic tool to deliver the content practices. Few of them make the mandatory code of conduct that 50% of the classes need to conduct using power-point and other applications. In this juncture, it is essential to take the perception of students regarding the use of such a tool. Having an experience of using Microsoft tools and other tech tools nearly about one and a half-decade, I have found the mixed versions in using it. The basic applications behind shifting to the use of online applications is the way we use it. If we use the applications as a form of supposing or imitating practices or we are forced to use, the output may not be satisfactory. The awareness we need to have is on how to make it interactive, informative and engaging. The interactive helps to make it lively, blend content, context and experience to the discussion (Schrum & Levin, 2009). The contents need to be well prepared, discussed rather than simply reading the lines or flipping the slides. It is crucial to share that powerpoint presentation is not a slideshow rather it needs to be interactive and based on the time we are allocated to discuss. This article primarily focuses on five major issues or faultlines: managing basic electronic gadgets, blending content, context and technology, differentiating software and hardware tools, updating recent innovations and threats in technology, regulating in micromanagement in using technology.
Problems of micro-management and flipped classroom
Using the wide range of technological tools in the classroom makes less sense when the content is not well delivered and the students are not happy in using them. As one of the psychologists, David Hurlock believes that the learners’ psychology matters more in learning, the environment of the classroom depends on what we teach and how we deliver. In few cases, the content to share might be interesting but the way we deliver, the lessons bring change in the classroom (Maddux & Johnson, 2006). Here, by the term ‘the way’, I mean the strategies we adopt along the technological knowledge in the classroom. This management can be specific and creative in nature which can be called micro-management. The use of technology is not great deal than to know we can manage further continuously for the proper applications. I have seen my colleagues using the applications time often within certain period but they fail to continue and make the classroom lively in using it. This situation means we are lagged behind the micro-management and could not address the multiple layers or changes within the single classroom to make learning effective over period of time which we call flipped classroom.
Major dimensions in managing technology
This article centers with the five major faultliness based on my experiential learning in using technology. I also discuss the misconceptions I had to overcome. My focus remains mostly on three assets i.e. tech tools in professional life, classroom discussions and off classroom environment. It is not as difficult as it shared in educational forums about the use of technology if we simply manage the basic aspects of it. In doing so, I begin my sharing with managing basic functions in the upcoming section:
Managing basic functions in electronic gadgets: It is essential to know the basic software and hardware knowledge about the device we use. No matter it could be a desktop/laptop or a mobile phone or a tab. Having proper knowledge, functions and configurations about the device develops more confidence in working it. In few stances, we work the day, shut down the computer and when we try to open it the next day or in the evening, it does not work. This situation creates unnecessary pressure because of having less or no knowledge about the hardware of our own device. Having a computer but having no knowledge about hardware often increases unnecessary stress than having real problems. Operating a computer is not only to open and shut down the computer or to use few programmes like word, pdf or excel file. In addition, it is to know about the hardware, programming, hard drive, C file (system file) and other files. It is essential to know about basic operating functions, such as; Better not to work or save any files in the desktop as it consists of system files. It has higher chances to lose documents if any system problems occur in the computer. In few incidents, the files might be transformed into temporary files and be destroyed. When the problem occurs, we take it to the technician. They solve it within few minutes and regard it as a common problem. The basic understanding about the hard disk, RAM, software installed in computer, desktop management, file sharing and saving makes us in the comfort zone than taking unnecessary stress.
Blending content, context and technology: Technological knowledge is easier when we have basic idea in using it than copying the ideas or files from others. Many people often get distracted because they could not blend content, context and technology. It does not mean that we need to use every tool in the classroom. It is worthy to identify the level of knowledge of our students, technological infrastructure, managing time to use and operate it (Dudney, 2000). For example, if I try to use moodle or Microsoft team in my institution, where there is no fixing of computer in the classroom and teacher had to manage everything; from IT support to content delivery. In this context, moodle may not be an appropriate tool to use it. We can think of the alternative resource, such as the learners have mobile phones or smart phones with limited internet access. So, the applications like closed Facebook group discussion or blogging might be useful tools. Therefore, context and the skills we select shapes way forward. Despite having low resources, we can think of the alternative resources or application to manage use of the technology to the learners and teach them to use it. It is better to be practical rather than overgeneralising the condition of the students.
Differentiating software and hardware tools: It is beneficial to differentiate between the software and hardware tools in order to manage electronic devices well-functioning. People believe that having a computer has all the same functions within it, however, it consists of both software and hardware. Being more specific, the hardware and software varies based on the purpose, field of study and use. If you are working indesign programme, you might need more features like graphics, more RAM functions, specific display, large capacity of harddisk and other software skills like graphic card, advanced adobe programming, C++ programming and other essential programming. If you are an English teacher working with research, you might need the referencing software like Zotero or if you are a Mathematics teacher, you might need a software called Geozebra. Therefore, the technological device, like laptop, can be modulated differently based on the purpose and the profession we need to function further.
Updating recent innovations and threats in technology: Having updated knowledge regarding the use of technology and its updated version helps us in the comfort zone. No doubt we are accustomed to the version we install in the computer. When we install the new version, we might have some problems in the beginning. However, after using for a couple of months, we are used to it. We find many friends using the latest version of Microsoft office 2019 but some are still in windows XP or Windows 7. This shows the variation of the use of programming. It is essential to update the software in our device as per to the global changes and disciplinary changes. For this, we can explore the new resources, ask friends, for search in the open resources in the Internet search. Time and again, I hear saying that I have found in the Internet or in the Google. We might have less awareness that the Internet is not a source but a tool to explore and Google is not a book but simply a window to look in or a browse to search things.
Regulating micromanagement in using technology: Micromanagement is far forward to sharpen and develop organising skills in using technology. Having a knowledge to manage files in a computer or in a folder or in a Google drive properly can be called here as micromanagement of ICT resources. It is easier to use a tool for the first time as a trial. However, to use effectively to engage learners in the classroom within the limited resources can be a huddle for teacher educators. Therefore, I would suggest to have more in-depth knowledge in having the micro functions of any of the tools we explore to such as managing the files in the laptop, knowledge of iPods, managing files in Google drive or maintain external drive. It is not essential to use all the tools in the classroom just because others friends have used them. But, it is us that need to know the proper function as a user and the ones to whom can be used.
From the above discussion, we know that having knowledge about the technology and tools is always advantageous. However, we fail to sharpen our skills in managing those tools and it creates more stress in our professional life. Having the basic knowledge to operate both software and hardware tools might bring maturity in using them. So, it is better to know yourself, best use available resources, engaging students and ourselves in micromanagement of tech tools.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
The Author:Ashok Sapkota is a faculty in the Department of English Education, Kirtipur, TU, and Global College of Management. He has worked in several applications in using diverse forms of technology. Having experienced of using a moodle and Microsoft team for a decade, he is one of Microsoft certified teacher trainers. He is treasurer of NELTA Centre and worked as a teacher trainer of different organisations like: Ministry of education, British council, NELTA, Global Action Nepal and other organisations. For more please explore http://assapkota.blogspot.com/
Dudeney, G. (2000). The Internet and the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Maddux, C.D. & Johnson, D.L. (eds.) (2006). Type II Users of technology in education: Projexts, case studies, and software applications. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc.
Schrum, L. & Levin, B.B. (2009). Leading 21st century skills Schools. California: Corwin
Williamson, J. & Redish, T. (2009). Technology facilitation and leadership standards. Oregon: International Society for Technology in Education.
This study explored the English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies, and how and why these skills need to be integrated into English language instruction. Case study was the research method and the data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, from six non-native English language teachers who were in teaching different educational levels: basic education level and secondary education level. The results indicated that teachers were aware that they needed to become digitally literate by developing the collection of skills and mindsets about digital tools and technologies.
Keywords: English language teachers, Digital literacies, English language instruction, 21st-century skills, case study
In the 21st century, fast-evolving technologies have transformed everyday communication and literacy practices for many young children and teachers as they find themselves immersed in multiple digital media. The digital media have also offered tremendous benefits to all of us. They have provided the platforms that allow us to connect and collaborate by opening up opportunities to learn about new and important issues, and have empowered innovation in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Moreover, it has transfigured the definition of literacy and is always changing, and now more than ever, the definition is shifting to include the ability to have contemporary skills that help to find, access and use information digitally (Nacy, 2017), which is extremely relevant in the lives of all adults, including English language learners (ELLs). Law et al. (2018) further conveyed that literacy is about the uses people make of it as a means of communication and expression, through a variety of media. Similarly, International Literacy Association (2018) states that literacy is the ability to understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines or variety of the context. Therefore, there is a shift in the meaning of literacy which is not limited to just being able to read and write. Today, digital tools have gone hand-in-hand with the growth of English and are changing the way in which we communicate. It’s the time that being digital literate by using digital tools and technologies is essential for teachers and students in the 21st century.
Regarding digital literacy, scholars have used various terms and definitions. Dudeney et al. (2013) stated digital literacy is the creation of any digital materials and sharing it online with having creative, cultural knowledge and social appropriacy skills. The European Commission (2006) stated digital competence is the competency which involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. In this regard, it is inevitable that today people should acquire digital media literacy as one of the major competencies, and the 21st-century teachers are challenged to integrate digital literacy in the teaching-learning process. The drastic technological and digitally enhanced teaching-learning change have consequences for the development of early literacy and the ways in which parents and educators are able to equip today’s young learners for getting knowledge digitally. It has attracted a lot of researchers, educators and practitioners to conduct various studies including the evaluation of students‟ digital literacy (Zhang & Zhu, 2016) as well as the use of digital tools in remotely or online (Hobbs, 2013; Park & Burford, 2013; Nowell, 2014; Young, 2008). Thus, digital literacy has become the part of learning in the present era for teachers, parents and students to conform to ourselves building a community of teaching digitally and using them in the time of emergency or during the time of the global pandemic. More specifically, Hatlevik and Christophersen (2013) define digital competence as the skill to use digital tools or technologies to gain, manage and evaluate information, create and share information by using digital tools. The success of digital literacy in classroom settings is often related to teachers‟ key role as a facilitator in the teaching-learning process. Young (2008) states that teachers, students, and overall technology use rely on how a teacher utilizes the technology in the classroom, so the lack of teacher competence becomes a major obstacle in technological device application in the teaching-learning process. In addition, Williams (2012) who studied perceptions of digital immigrant teachers toward their digital native students‟ use of social media showed that even though they had positive perceptions on social media use in terms of collaboration, teacher-student relations, and communication, at the same time they gave negative perception in terms of improperness of formal writing, interpersonal communication skill, and too much drama. In this regard, such drawbacks of social media can result in alterations of students‟ affective and cognitive behaviour. Besides, as for teachers, this negative perception might reduce their awareness of the primacy of technology in the classroom. Meanwhile, Eshet-Alkalai (2004) concludes that digital literacy is a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills that may be used as a measure of the quality of the students` work in a digital environment. Bachlin and Wild (2015) proposed three frameworks which are addressing the past, developing in the present, and broadening perspectives in the future that aimed at helping teacher trainees in developing the appropriate skills to apply technology in the classroom in an ever-changing digital environment. From this context, the teacher’s digital literacy is the ability to operate and use digital tools efficiently in the teaching and learning process. Siddike (2010) proposed that the digital competences which are foundation digital literacy competencies, basic digital competences, intermediate digital literacy competence, advanced digital literacy competence, technical digital competences, and digital literacy proficiency.
The essential elements of digital literacies
There are quite a lot of skills or things involved in digital literacies. It is not just to create the word document, technical skill is one thing but there are more difficult skills involved in it like cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, collaboration and redesigning etc. Therefore, several educationists or groups have given different frameworks or models of digital literacies: Dudeney et al. (2013), Belshaw (2014), European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) (2015), Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016). DigComp (2015) frames digital literacies into five areas: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety, and problem-solving. Whereas Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016) opined that there are six major elements – information data and media literacies, digital creation, problem solving and innovation, ICT proficiency, digital learning and development, digital communication, collaboration and participation and digital identity and wellbeing. Belshaw’s (2014) digital literacy model has eight elements which are cognitive, constructive, communicative, civic, critical, creative, and confident and culture. These components are meaningful signify that it’s not only one skill that makes us digitally literate but needs to have those all skill sets. There are many digital literacy models or frameworks which all focus on having digital skills, helping people to develop attributes, skills and attitudes.
Although there is no single model or framework to measure the digital literacies, a framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. ( 2013) was taken as the reference for the current study. This framework was designed to guide teachers of English and other languages in preparing their students to engage effectively with the communicative, collaborative and creative demands and opportunities of the 21st-century era, the framework was being used to inform a number of European language learning initiatives. It suggests a set of four overlapping skill sets corresponding to four main areas i.e. focus on language, information, connections or collaboration and (re-)design.
The first area focus on language which includes the following literacies:
texting literacy: the ability to read and gather information from the text and be able to communicate either synchronously or asynchronously taking part in real-time online text chat conversations
hypertext literacy: the ability to use the hyperlinks and navigate the information
multimodal literacy: the ability to understand images, text or different media for getting the information
technological literacy: knowledge about digital tools
code literacy: a basic understanding of coding for logical thinking and programming
The second area focus on information: fundamental skills that help us navigate the flood of digital information provided by the internet. These include:
search literacy’ (the ability to get information online),
tagging literacy (labelling or tagging online information),
information literacy (being able to evaluate sources information),
filtering literacy (knowing how to manage useful or useless information),
attention literacy (Being mindful when to switch off as well as on).
The third area focus on connection or collaboration includes the skills of:
personal literacy ( knowing how to manage our online identities, being aware of personal data)
network literacy ( being able to leverage information online and becoming a global citizen)
Participatory literacy (being able to involve in the professional group and being able to create and produce digital content)
Cultural/intercultural literacy (being able to communicate well with the group of people of other cultures)
The final area focus on (re) design consist primarily of:
critical literacy (being able to observe new trends with digital technologies, thinking on e-waste and digital tools)
remix literacy (being able to mix the information and making something new digitally)
As can be seen, the framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. (2013) definitely makes us clear that digital literacies are essential skills that both English language teachers and students to need to acquire for full participation in the world beyond or inside the classroom. It does not only entail the safe and critical use of computers to obtain, evaluate, store, produce present and exchange information and to communicate and participate in collaborative online networks but well trained, digitally literate teachers can give schools a competitive edge by making learning relevant, motivating students and helping them develop valuable life skills alongside language skills.
The purpose of the study
The study explores models for thinking about digital literacies and examines beneﬁts and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. Finally, it reviews adaptable activities designed to help English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that will serve them in the classroom and beyond. Hence, the study investigated the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and their practices of incorporating them in English language instructions. The first, technology usage is growing fast so that the English teachers should be aware of the technology changes and literate in the digital tools. The next, digital literacy is needed so that the technologies put in place can be maintained or adapted to be used effectively in EFL teaching. The last, it is an essential thing for the English teachers to provide the new digital tools in teaching and learning processes.
Significance of the study
By evaluating the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and practices it can give some significance. The first, theoretically, the teachers need to know or clarify about the digital literacies and their digital literacy competences in order to support the teaching English in digital era. In addition, they would be aware of how and why these skills can be integrated into English language instruction. The second, practically, digital literacy is needed for English teacher in order to examine the benefits and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. The last, pedagogically, digital literacy competencies can help the English teacher to be more digitally literate in the digital teaching era. Besides that, English language teachers will be able to help their and English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that serve them in the classroom and beyond.
To find out a group of English language teachers’ perceptions upon digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instructions, this qualitative study made use of multiple descriptive case study design, and collected data through semi-structured, one to one interviews. The interview questions were created collaboratively by the researcher to examine the issues under investigation.
The current study used purposeful sampling which is one of the sampling techniques commonly used in qualitative research (Palinkas et al., 2013). Having a very close tie to the research objectives, this type of sampling signifies a series of choices about whom, where, and how the research is done (Palys, 2008). Keeping this in mind, the group of teachers participating in the study was purposefully chosen since they were aware of digital literacies and incorporating them in the English language instructions in various ways. They were also motivated and open to communicate their experiences and opinions in a reflective manner. Therefore, it was thought that taking a snapshot of their perceptions regarding digital literacies and implementation practices might bring rich data. To preserve anonymity, the participants were assigned numbers from T1 to T6.
Table 1 Teacher characteristics
Level of teaching
As can been seen; only one of the six teachers was male, who had the advance digital skills or competency. Four of the teachers had basic digital skills competency whereas one of the teachers had just the general knowledge of digital skills. The teachers were teaching at different levels from Basic Education Level (BEL) to Secondary level and had been practicing digital literacies having varied years of experiences.
Data collection and analysis
As previously mentioned, the data were gathered through one-on-one, semi-structured interviews which were audio-recorded and supported by field notes. After the initial transcriptions, the researchers continuously and recursively worked on the transcriptions and looked for words and phrases reflecting emerging ideas about the teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Keywords and phrases that seemed to refer to digital literacies and skills were also picked. The emergent themes which were thought to refer to the same broad idea were put into the same category and labelled.
Findings and discussion
This study aimed to find out six English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Therefore, the findings gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections; perceptions of digital literacies and perceptions of implementation practices of digital literacies in the English language instruction. The details pertaining to each section are presented and discussed below in Table no 2.
Perceptions of digital literacies
In the interviews, teachers were firstly asked to define what digital literacies are. The analysis of the data yielded different responses which were put under two main categories and presented in the table.
Table 2 Themes
Digital literacies perceptions
1. Having Digital Skills/ competences
2. Having additional digital Skills/competences
The Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Ability to use the internet access
Accessing videos on YouTube
Creating any digital contents and Sharing learning materials in the Internet
Communicating digital content
Creativity, Cultural knowledge, Social Appropriacy, Participate in internet or (sub) culture
As it demonstrated in the table, definitions for digital literacies were categorized having basic digital skills or competencies and having additional digital skills or competences. Digital literacies were perceived as the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), ability to use the internet access, accessing videos on YouTube, creating any digital contents and sharing learning materials in the internet, communicating digital content. The teachers were aware of using ICT to deliver the lesson in the English language classroom. They were also enabled to use the internet either to provide the teaching materials from the internet and share their own lesson through emails or online mode.
The second category of perceptions of digital literacies, having additional digital Skills/competences, included creativity, cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, participate in the internet or (sub) culture skills. They opined that they need to understand different online contents and how to interact appropriately in them. They had the skill that helped them to navigate the information from the internet or search effectively and tag them and evaluate them critically. They knew how to use technology to increase civic engagement and social action.
Perceptions of how and why to implement Digital Literacies in the English language instructions
Table 3 Reasons for implementing digital literacies
Digital literacies practices perceptions
1. Attending webinars and online classes
2. Learning basic and advanced computer courses
3. Connecting classroom teaching digitally
4. Collaborating with colleagues
Taking online courses –webinars, MOOCs from Cousera, Canva, British council, American Embassy
Learning MS – words , Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections
Using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lessons
Engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information
Utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories
Setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page or Edmodo or periodical post
Engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century
Sharing knowledge and experience
Receiving peer feedback
As table no. 3 shows, the findings of the this questions yielded several responses which were categories as attending webinars and online classes, learning basic and advance computer courses, connecting classroom teaching digitally and collaborating with colleagues.
For the first category, the basic practices were taking online courses –webinars, Massive open online course (MOOCS) from different online learning platforms like Coursera, Canva, British council, American Embassy etc. Whereas, for the second category, learning basic and advanced computer courses, learning MS – words, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections were the main perceptions. On the other, hands, for the third category, using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lesson, engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information, utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories, setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page or Edmodo or periodical post and engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century were the basic practices. The last category was labelled as collaborating with colleagues which included sharing knowledge and experience and receiving peer feedback.
In sum, the finding shows that the teachers are aware of digital literacies in the 21st century so that they could make their learners digitally literate and they have been practicing in different ways to express their ideas in digital media not to just teach the core elements of the language but also the create the position globally.
This paper investigated a group of English Language Teachers to explore the perceptions of English language teachers on digital literacies and how and why they are incorporating them in the English language classroom. Being digitally literate helps teachers to present text in a very highly structured way and pace the introduction of new concepts and skills depending on the progress of the students. It also helps to provide aural feedback to the pupil in a timely fashion and work patiently for as long as the pupil is prepared to keep trying.
Digital technologies are impacting the lives and learning of teachers and the young children; and experiences of using digital resources can serve as the foundation for present and future development. It also explored the diversity of teachers’ and students’ literacy skills, practices and expertise across digital tools, technologies and media, in English language instructions. The results revealed that digital technologies have influenced English language teachers and digital teaching learning resources have transfigured not only teachers and but also students’ digital and multimodal literacy practices. The English language teachers who are digitally literate are able to help the students acquire not only the language skills needed for the academic achievements but also some digital skills that they inevitably also need in the 21st-century education. Therefore, the English Language teachers are being digitally literate by educating themselves and gaining digital skills and knowledge through massive of online classes, webinars, reproducing teaching materials digitally and sharing them with the learners and colleagues.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
[To cite it: Chaudhary, P. (2020, April 20). Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/perceptions-on-digital-literacies-and-implementation-practices-a-perspective-of-english-language-teachers/]
The Author: Puskar Chaudhary is currently teaching and researching at Triyog High School where he also coordinates as Triyog Friend of Zoo (FOZ) Head with the collaboration of The National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC). He is pursuing MPhil in English Language Education from Kathmandu University. His professional memberships include NELTA, TESOL, Toastmasters International and IATEFL. He has taken professional and pedagogical training from online classes and MOOCS. His interest and research include teaching English to Young Learners, critical thinking skills and digital literacies.
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Some told, untold, and retold incidents bring exclusive experiences in life. So has COVID 2019 brought experiences in our life. We are bound to lock ourselves inside our house to avoid spreading the virus. Like globally, Nepal has also declared lockdown leading to an isolated life, resulting in psychological suffering and monotonous lifestyle. While writing this piece, I’m in Kathmandu struggling to manage foodstuffs and my study. My university shifted the regular classes into online mode. However, I didn’t have a stable and reliable internet in my place. Therefore, I requested my house owner to manage internet access for the same and he provided too. Then, I was hopeful to accelerate my study through the virtual class. This new mode of study has given me some exciting experiences and challenges, which I will share in this piece of writing.
On the very first day of lockdown, I woke up only around 7. Oh my god! I was late to complete a review of an assignment and I hopped on that immediately. After that I went through the emails from my professor, which asked me to read some resources. Then, I downloaded books and articles, and read some research to explore the focus of the articles, the researcher’s objectives, and findings with future directions. Reading the research of others was deepening my own insights into research, which was helping me to write about research and prepare for the same.
In another mail from my university, my professor wrote about virtual class, plan of the university to shift towards it, and its process. I was extremely delighted to learn that the university was going to run the classes virtually even during the pandemic. The first day went on setting up the things and learning to handle the technology. The second day of the virtual class went much better. We talked about the previous class and the plan of the day. Basically, two of our classmates presented their research proposal. Their sharing gave me many ideas for mine. After that, we talked about our assignment and comments which were given on it. We were also oriented to work on Google docs, which was a new concept for me. It was interesting that one could see another’s writing, read, and give feedback easily without exchanging emails and attachments. In the next class, our teacher assigned one of our classmates to present English continuity and counter-discourse and then in the second session, he delivered his presentation about World Englishes, the variety of Englishes.
Benefits of virtual classes
The virtual class was a new taste for me. From my experience, I came to know that online classes/learning is also one of the crucial modes of teaching and learning in difficult circumstances and it can be taught and learnt in the corner of the world at any time. It is also a good alternative for those who cannot attend face-to-face classes. The online class has developed a habit of listening carefully to others and takes notes. I have been collecting adequate ideas through virtual class, virtual conferences, and seminar. These conferences and seminars have taught to get connected, share, and learn in any situation. The online class has also offered me opportunities to collaborate in assignments with my peers across Nepal, which has saved my time too.
Challenges and limitation of virtual classes
It is true that virtual class doesn’t give the flavour of a real classroom while engaging in discussions with teachers and classmates. I also faced some problems while participating on it. On the very first day of the online class, while my professor was presenting about research, my internet went out of coverage. After ten minutes, I managed it but again there was a problem in my audio and video. The issue ruled the whole day went and I couldn’t fully participate and share my opinions in the classes. I just watched the screen of my professor but I couldn’t participate actively, like face to face classroom. At that moment, I felt truly isolated. In addition, later I was not able to fully concentrate during the presentations and talks because the movement of my family members and sounds in the room and I would also move around the kitchen to eat something unknowingly, missing some bits of class sometimes. Likewise, my neighbour and street dogs would equally distract me during our class. Similarly, staying long in front of the screen was also painful for me. In addition, I soon realized that my teachers wouldn’t able to truly assess my learning as I could surf the questions asked by teachers online and read out that.
The online classes during this isolation have kept me connected with my university and study allowing me to be familiar with new technological tools. It brings my teachers and mates at my home, while I’m sitting comfortably in my chair or on the bed, watching and listening to them with the flexibility to attend and study the resources. The online class sometimes makes us comfortable and confident enough to express ourselves without any worry as nobody would be gazing at us. Saving my time and money to travel to the university is another benefit for me. Therefore, even after the lockdown, my study is going on as I’m locking myself inside and devoting more time in reading and writing. The piece you are reading is an example of that.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
The author: Dipak Prasad Mishra is currently pursuing MPhil from Kathmandu University. His areas of interest include English as a Medium of Instruction, Teacher Professional Development and Critical Pedagogy.
Access to mobile phones are quite common in Nepal at the moment. It is even more common for teachers- both in the towns and remote areas. According to the Management Information system (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (mid-April, 2015), 90.4 percent of total population in the country have access to mobile service. Mobile phones are basically used for communication. Besides communication, it is used for taking photos and videos, listening to radio and music, watching videos even TVs, doing calculation, recording audios, flash light, playing games, surfing internet and even used as a mirror! This device has replaced some of other devices because of its multi-functional uses.
The use of mobile phone is widely discussed in classroom teaching learning in literature. Along with the advancement of technology, the features available in the mobile phones have assisted in teaching learning in classroom. The device seems to be an integral part of our lives. People can avoid their food but cannot avoid the mobile phone in the present context! The device is assisting both teachers and students in many ways in teaching learning. On the other hand, some people believe that mobile phones should not be allowed in the classroom both for teachers and students. They argue that it distracts them from teaching learning. As we cannot avoid it in our day to day lives now, we also need to look for creative ways of using it in schools. We can use it appropriately in schools and show students the proper use of the device and encourage them to use it appropriately and properly.
In the subsequent topic I discuss the use of mobile phones in ELT classroom with reference to the teachers’ practice of mobile phones in the remote schools of Solukhumbu.
Solukhumbu is located in Northern part of Nepal, which is in the geographically challenging landscape. Roadways are difficult here. So is the case of communication. There is no proper access of telephone in some places of the district. However, teachers use mobile phones not only for communication but also in teaching learning in the classrooms. In a training for English teachers in Solukhumbu, I talked with teachers on how they have been using mobile phones in English classes. One of the teachers, D. L. Shah (pseudonym) said:
We use mobile phones for dictionary, songs, teaching chants through audio visuals and teaching listening.
It shows that the teachers can use the mobile phones both for themselves and students. They use the device for teaching language through songs and chants. The authentic audio and the language used in them is good exposure for children to learn language. Likewise, the video facility makes presentation of chants and songs even more special for children. On the other hand, teachers use it for teaching listening, which is one of the effective use of the device. Mobile phone is very easy device for teaching listening. Listening can be done in two different ways. First, we can store the authentic listening materials in the device, design some tasks and use the audio. Likewise, if such audios are not possible, we can also record the audio ourselves or by the help of our colleagues or even students and use in the class. This can bring variety in the classes. While interacting with primary level teachers, it is found that they generally skip or do the least, the listening activities in the textbook or while the curriculum gives more emphasis on listening in this level. Curriculum has allocated 40% of total activities of class one in listening, 35% in class two, 30% in class three, 25% in class four and five. Use of mobile phones can bridge this gap. Not only for students, the device is also serving as a resource bank for teachers’ professional development. Like, Shah uses the device for dictionary. Teachers can install dictionary in their smart phones (even in simple phones) and use it for searching the meaning of word, pronunciation, spelling, parts of speech, synonyms/antonyms and the use of the words. Talking about the use of it as a resource bank another teacher, Arjun Thapa said:
We use it to see teaching resources like curriculum and teachers guide in PDF form and also play games with children on the phones for entertainment.
It further explores another avenue of the use of mobile phones. The device can also help them to collect the resources, store and use whenever required. The resources like curriculum, teachers guide and books are available free of cost through curriculum development centre Nepal (there is even apps for smartphones). This saves both their money and time. It shows the device is proved to be equally useful for reading too. On the other hand, if there is access to internet, we can have the abundant knowledge in our fingertip and the mobile phone has made it even easier to access. Some of the useful site for teachers can be Wikipedia, teaching channel, British Council etc. Likewise, as Thapa mentioned, the device can also be used for entertainment with students. Not merely entertainment, there are apps that give both teachers and children education and entertainment. Badal Basnet, a young teacher added this very benefit as follows:
We can teach grammar using mobile phones e.g. grammar apps to practice on different topics, show the pictures for vocabulary.
Basnet focuses on use of the device in teaching grammar and vocabulary. There are several English grammar apps, which are useful for both teachers and students. For even junior students, we can use the grammar apps to design the language presentation and practice activities. If the number of student is less, we can even use the apps to practice the language items in groups. Another very important use of this device as stated by Basnet is the use of pictures to present vocabulary. Pictures are very useful to present vocabulary, which is especially useful for the beginners. We can use the camera of the device to click the pictures of animals, birds, persons, things, fruit, vegetables, plants and so on and use them to teach vocabulary. In the same way, there are pictorial apps to teach vocabulary. Adding another technique of teaching vocabulary using the device another teacher, Jitendra KC said:
We can record the sounds of animals and play for teaching vocabulary. Likewise, it can also be used to take photos of objects, animals and person, and generate talks.
Opening another avenue KC shared how we can record the sounds of animals available in his surrounding and use in teaching vocabulary. One of the most used features of the mobile phones these days is the camera and hence it is very common to have real life photos in our device. KC thought of using them to generate talks. Photos are very useful for teaching speaking. We can show a photo to students and generate simple to high level discourse. Photos can be used to practice wh and yes/no questions. Teachers can show a photo and encourage students to ask questions like, where did you take the photo? Who/what are/is in the photo? Did you take it in Tihar? Etc. In the same way, the same photo can be used to generate conversation of students. Students can talk about the photo with each other. On the other hand, the same photo can be used for teaching writing- a wide range of writing skills from words to paragraphs. After having the talks and conversation about the photo, we can now ask student to write few words or sentence or small paragraph about the same. In fact, the device can assist us to provide input for students to generate outputs. It also can help to minimize the use of other resources.
Mobile phone is a new digital resource and material. It contains variety of resources and yet handy to use. We can use this device to teach all four skills and the aspects like grammar and vocabulary in ELT. Not only in ELT, this device can be used in teaching other subjects too. It is useful both for teachers and students- especially senior students. Although there can be some threats of using mobiles, there are multiple advantages of using this device in classroom teaching learning. In fact, using mobile phone in classroom teaching learning is an opportunity for new generations to teach the proper and appropriate use of the device.
Globalisation and rapid technological advancement have created a new economy, which is driven by knowledge. In this regard, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become undoubtedly the critical enabler of a knowledge-based economy for many nations. It is acknowledged that for Ghana to make any appreciable progress in its socio-economic development efforts, substantial resources will need to be directed at improving educational delivery. The key role that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can play in widening access to and improving the quality of education at all levels in Ghana continues to be recognised as a key priority area. Essential elements include literacy education, facilitating education delivery and training at all levels, opening opportunities for content creation and open sharing to expand knowledge resources.
For many years, the Government of Ghana has been a signatory to a number of reports, policies and initiatives (international, regional, national and sector). The policies have a bearing on ICT use within the education sector and have also broadly emphasised the role of education and training in achieving the wider development goals and agenda of the country. The country, therefore, is implementing an ICT in Education Policy as a guide to which ICTs can be exploited under the guidance of the Ministry of Education and its sector stakeholders, in an efficient and coordinated effort to support the education sector’s own goals and operations. As well as, within the framework of the national development agenda, the Ministry of Education has implemented a number of policy and programme interventions that aimed at increasing access and equity and improving the quality of education. That includes, such as the integration of ICT in education to facilitate effective teaching, learning and management through the provision of computer labs, the internet and network connectivity to schools, the supply of laptops to teachers and students, and capacity development of teachers.
The Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) Policy has one of the aims to transform the educational system to provide the necessary educational and training services, an environment capable of producing the right types of skills and human resources required for developing and driving Ghana’s information, and knowledge-based economy and society. Thus, the Government of Ghana is committed to a comprehensive programme of rapid development, utilisation and exploitation of ICTs within the educational system from primary school upwards. A strategy implemented as the introduction of computers into all primary, secondary, vocational and technical schools as a result of the educational reforms in 2007. The ICT4AD also seeks to promote electronic distance education, training and virtual learning systems to complement and supplement face-to-face campus-based educational and training systems.
The latest Education Reform 2007 highlights ICTs as an important cross-cutting issue in the sector and seeks to address this through several strategies. The policy initially aims to equip all educational institutions with computer equipment and ICT tools in a prioritised manner and then to implement ICT programmes at the pre-tertiary level in a phased approach. The strategy makes the schools already possessing 15 adequate laboratories and teachers as a base to gradually expand to other schools when ICT equipment and teachers become available. For this, the policy priorities adequately resourcing computer science and IT departments in public tertiary institutions to enable them to produce skilled human capital to meet the requirements of the industry. Within these reforms, it is also expected that the introduction of ICT into schools should cover the teaching of ICT skills to all students, preparing students for the ICT professions and enhancing teaching and learning through ICTs.
ICT & COMPUTER SCIENCE IN SCHOOLS
To facilitate the sustenance of ICT and to create a critical mass of interest in the subject as an important subject in Ghana’s education curriculum, the treatment of ICT at all levels of the school system is of prime significance. To this end, the following policy prescription was proposed under this framework:
a) A subject labelled, as Information & Communication Technology (ICT) shall become a primary subject to be taught from basic to senior high schools in the country. The content of this course shall range from basic appreciation, and hands-on experience from the primary schools to computer literacy and applications use at the senior high school level.
b) For those learners desirous of pursuing further studies at the tertiary level or in specialised professional schools, an elective “Information & Communication Technology” course shall be offered at the Senior High Schools.
c) The content of the ICT general courses at all levels and the Information & Communication Technology course at the Senior High School shall be determined by the Curriculum Research and Development Division, in collaboration with the requisite accreditation bodies including the Universities and Polytechnics to ensure acceptability and admission at the requisite
d) The reclassification of the ICT as core and elective subjects would also need to be discussed with the West African Examinations Council for a suitable timetable to be planned for the conduct of the first examination within an agreed timeframe.
e) There must be a strong teacher development programme instituted to create the mass of professionals to handle the programme. Granted that the ICT field is a high yield area. Teacher retention is expected to be a major challenge because of the generic value of such skills and the high level of expected turnover and migration. It might be especially in the private sector and industry unless specific retention incentives are planned and programmed for those teachers who would be recruited or trained to teach the subjects mainly elective.
ICT has become an important medium for communication and work in a variety of areas. Knowledge of ICT has, therefore, become a prerequisite for learning in schools in the current world. The syllabus for ICT in the primary education (PRIMARY 1 – 6) is designed to predispose primary school students to basic skills in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) so as for building the foundation for further learning in the subject as they move into second cycle education and beyond. The syllabus covers basic topics in ICT and offers hands-on activities and keyboarding skills to build the required ICT foundation. The teaching syllabus for introductory ICT (Junior High School) is designed to provide basic skills in Information and Communication Technology syllabus covers basic topics in ICT and offers hands-on activities that will help students acquire basic skills in ICT. The syllabus is designed to help the pupil learn basic ICT literacy, develop interest and use ICT in learning other subjects, use the Internet effectively for information, follow basic ethics in the use of ICT and acquire keyboarding skills. The syllabus for Information and Communication Technology (CORE) is designed to provide basic skills in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Senior High School (SHS) students. It is expected that the knowledge and skills gained in this course will help students use ICT in almost all their courses at school. The syllabus covers selected basic topics in ICT which offer hands-on activities to help students acquire the required ICT skills for the job market and social interaction in the global village. The students will also apply the skills in solving everyday problems in their academic and social life. The teaching syllabus for Information and Communication Technology (ELECTIVE) is designed to provide advanced skills in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Senior High School (SHS) students. This syllabus has been planned at a higher content level than the ICT content at the Core ICT level. This has been done to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills for the job market and for pursuing further ICT course.
To give meaning and effect to the stated desire of the Ministry and the Ghana Education Service, Ghana becomes a solid member of the community of nations that have embraced ICT as an integral resource in its educational system. The Ministry shall invest in the effort to ensure that attitudinal deficiencies and non-progressive handling of the ICT phenomenon by persons in authority who (in reality) have no understanding of the subject are highly discouraged. School leaders, teachers, learners and parents alike must be groomed to appreciate the contemporary surge in ICT usage and applications and appropriately groomed to harness the power of ICT for the better and positive advancement of education in Ghana rather than put impediments via uninformed or ill-thought-out regulations. Ghana cannot be a country that claims or intends to compete on an equal footing with others (even if it is a small measure of handicap) if its response strategies to ICT issues end up ultimately creating chasms in knowledge to the detriment of the country. The teaching of ICT in Ghanaian schools has come to stay, and examinations in the subject are examined at the Basic Education Certificate Examination and at the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.
Ghana for ICT Accelerated Development (ICTAD) policy June 2003
Ministry of Education ICT IN EDUCATION POLICY, August 2015
The author: Kofi Ayebi-Arthur is a PhD in e-learning and Digital Technologies. He is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Education and Head of Department of Mathematics and ICT Education at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses and supervises undergraduate and postgraduate students’ project work and thesis.
ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is basically an overarching term for all communication technologies that encompasses the internet, web 2.0 tools, wireless networks such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, mobile phones, broadcast devices, and satellite communications. The National information and communication technology (ICT) policy-2009 of Bangladesh affirms ICT as a mandatory means to develop the country economically and socially (Ministry of science and information and communication technology of Bangladesh [MOSICTBD], 2009). The National Education Policy 2010 of Bangladesh also recommended ICT based education for its secondary, higher secondary, and tertiary education to make a uniform platform and to minimise the gap between rural, suburban, and urban students.
The inception of ICT-based education system in Bangladesh will not only hone classroom teaching and learning activities but also will make teaching and learning process happen beyond the classroom, especially, English language learning. Power and Shrestha (2010) stated that “there is an inter-relationship between English language literacies and ICT literacies” (p.4). To facilitate this process, laptops and multimedia projectors have been subsidised by the present government to 20,500 public and private educational institutions ranging from high school to tertiary level under the project named EFA (Education for all) (Chandan,2014) and all other institutions are in the queue to be subsidised. Eventually, by the end of the year 2021, under the project named “Vision 2021”, the government of Bangladesh has taken the agenda to integrate ICT into all its educational institutes. Among all other foci, the prime objective of the implementation of ICT through this project is to facilitate the teaching and learning process to increase the efficiency of both teachers and learners in the country (Khan, Hasan, & Clement, 2012).
As far as the language teaching and learning are concerned in Bangladesh, integration of ICT can transform dynamism in language education as it has the capacity to improve teachers’ work-design and to increase the engagement of learners and teachers in the learning process by generating a collaborative learning environment. It can facilitate language learning not only in the classroom but also beyond the classroom. It can provide learners with the freedom of place, situation, and time for their learning. Moreover, an ICT-based education system will ensure Bangladesh to face the challenges of this century by equipping its citizen with technical skills for relevant qualifications as well as English language skills for communication competence.
In this connection, to ameliorate its language education through integrating ICTs, the government of Bangladesh has been carrying out a nine-year (2008-1017) project named as English in Action (EIA) funded jointly by UKAID and the government. The primary aims of this project are to make the existing Communicative method efficient for language learning and to improve teaching qualities in the classroom by developing teachers’ pedagogical capacity through the usage of mobile technologies. The government also formulated school-based professional development training for both primary and secondary language teachers using ICTs. According to Shohel and Banks (2010), this sort of training contributed to both communicative English learning and teachers’ professional improvement. English language teachers were provided with media players, preloaded with video and audio language learning resources, along with battery- powered speakers for the use in a classroom. The authors claim that “materials on the iPod touch, especially audios and videos, are impacting on teachers’ personal and professional development” (Shohel & Banks, 2010, p. 5489).
Although the advancement of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has challenged the traditional notion of teaching and learning process, the use of ICTs does not automatically guarantee to ensure quality language teaching and to improve students’ language learning. Bangladesh has both technical and pedagogical challenges to implementing ICT in the language classroom. Although the government is supplying all the technical equipment such as computer, Overhead projectors, and the related accessories, there are still some technical problems that are yet to be addressed to expedite the teaching and learning process through ICT integration. The technical issues include insufficient trouble-shooters for the academic institutions across the country, lack of high-speed internet connection, and frequent power cut problem in rural and suburban areas. The pedagogical challenges in teaching and learning process of language are also significant in number. Firstly, there is a scarcity of teacher-educators with proper pedagogical as well as technological knowledge in the country to train and create tech-savvy teachers for primary, secondary, higher secondary, and tertiary language education. This problem leads to the insufficient influx of technically-sound language teachers to teach the English language with technology in the classroom. Consequently, most of the English teachers in Bangladesh have neither sufficient training on the pedagogy of language (Ali & Walker, 2014) nor training on technology for the teaching of English. However, there are some teachers interested in integrating ICT into their language teaching. It is apparent that they are not attuned to different theoretical frameworks of teaching with technologies, such as SAMR Model or TPACK model to interweave the three essential sources of knowledge – technology, pedagogy and content to an active environment.
Therefore, to get the maximum output of the ICT in the language classroom, Bangladesh has to address both these above mentioned technical and pedagogical issues simultaneously. If the country can sort out these problems, the synergistic effect of ICT and English education will promote its learners to deal with social, economic, and linguistic challenges both at home and abroad where English is a barrier to achieving something.
Ali, Md. Maksud & Walker, Ann L. (2014). ‘Bogged down’ ELT in Bangladesh: Problems and policy. English Today, 30 (2), 33-38.
Khan, Md. S. H., Hasan, M., & Clement, C. K. (2012). Barriers to the introduction of ICT into Education in developing countries: the example of Bangladesh. International Journal of Instruction, 5 (2), 61- 80.
Ministry of science and information and communication technology, Bangladesh. (2009). The National information and communication technology (ICT) policy-2009. Retrieved from http://www.btrc.gov.bd on 03 January, 2016.
Shohel, M. M. C. & Banks, F. (2010). Teachers’ professional development through the English in Action secondary teaching and learning programme in Bangladesh: Experience from the UCEP schools. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2, 5483–5494.
The author:Mr. S M Akramul Kabir is an Assistant Professor of English, Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Ministry of Education in Bangladesh. He is also a PhD Candidate in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Along with the new rising sun, there are new developments in science and technology. More than that in the sector of education, digital technology is being the focus for all the schools. All the students and guardians are attracted toward the school where there is the use of digital technology.
While telling my experience of learning basic letters of English and Nepali, I learned to read and write on ‘Dhulauto’ (a small wooden board with spread dust on it used to write with a little stick, erase and rewrite). My teacher used to catch my hand and get me to write the basic letters on the board. Gradually, I used ‘Kamero’ (made of white mud and water) and then ‘Khari’ (soft white stone) to write on pati (a wooden board). Gradually, I came to use ink that was developed by fermenting locally available particular tree leaves in boiling water and filtering with a piece of cotton cloth. The pen was made of Nigalo (a particular type of bamboo found in the hills and mountains). For writing, I used to use Nepali paper locally made because my father used to develop it at home out of a kind of bush plant to write horoscope of people. Nowadays, these pens and paper are not utilised in the schools.
Those days, students were quite afraid of English teacher with no reason. They used to be rather happy when the English teacher was absent. In English lessons, we used to write the pronunciation of all the words under the line in Nepali so that we could ready easily and correctly. This was the situation and feeling toward English language and English teacher when I was a student in a primary school.
Nowadays, where there is the use of digital technology in English period, it is entirely different than those days. In my own school, OLE Nepal has provided 42 XO-laptops (E-pati) for the students that we use to teach English as well as other subjects. The lessons and activities those are available in E-pati are designed to obtain class-wise and subject-wise goals of education. There are audio-visual materials that help teachers and students in teaching and learning activities.
We have e-library (local server) that contains over six thousand digital books in Nepali and English. Those reference books help the children as well as teachers gain extra knowledge about various local and global activities. Even the high school and campus near the school take advantage of this school e-library. This has developed good habits of reading in the children.
Nowadays, the teachers feel abnormal without digital technology in their teaching and learning in our school. I can say that the schools which have got this technology are lucky. In my case, this has brought a huge difference in teaching English. The technology has cultivated energy in my profession. This has provided more opportunities for the children to practise their lessons and given relief for me in the classroom. When the children have some problems, I facilitate them in their activities. Since we got this technology, this has decreased the burden of gathering several teaching materials and saved teachers’ time as it contains several audio-visual materials for teaching and learning. The animated pictures in e-paath (an application that includes course books) have decreased my unnecessary lecture in the classroom. Various videos about wild animals, the universe, internal body parts, baby growth, development of plan out of the seed, etc. have made classroom teaching and learning very effective. Use of the technology has developed a mind of both the children and the teachers. This has become very supportive in engaging the students in the absence of a teacher in the school.
The technology in the school has gradually made the guardians feel ownership of the school’s property. Their positive response toward the change in teaching and learning with the new technology has made the teachers more responsible. They feel pride that their children are learning with new technology which they had never seen before three years. The digital technology has encouraged them to further develop the school.
The use of new technology has increased the number of students and decreased the drop-outs from the school. The children learn singing, dancing, playing games and other activities by watching videos on the devices. They freely select various digital books like poetry, stories, etc. for reading or drawing pictures. The most important aspect the technology has developed in the children is learning interest.
I wish all other schools will get this technology to bring change in their teaching and learning activities. Otherwise, this will increase digital divide between the schools and children. In the end, the teachers should be well-trained to use such digital technology in their instructional activities to improve teaching and learning and to achieve educational goals.
The author: Ambadatta Joshi teaches at Shree Kalika Primary School, Sunkuda, Bajhang
In this blog piece, Upendra Ghimire from Nepal discusses on the some practical ideas of using mobile in English language learning whereas Thinh Le from Vietnam shares his teaching experiences in using technology from blended learning to fully online.
Mobile in English language learning
The new millennium has come up with various scientific inventions and technological developments. As soon as the 21st century began, the world experienced the rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the maximum use of those technologies in business, education and other fields. The various information technologies such as computer, tablet, mobile, television and other smart devices have been fundamental things in academic, business and personal life of growing generation people. More than just the digital devices, web 2.0 technologies have shifted the way of communicating information with each other from one part of the world to another. Nepal is also one of the fast-developing countries in ICTs. Among different smart devices, the mobile phone is the most portable digital device readily available for reasonable prices in Nepal. The early August 2016 record shows that 95 percent of the total population of the country have telecommunication access. The number of internet subscribers crossed 50.11 percent of the total population. Mobiles have gradual influence in English language development in Nepal. The use of English language to access and record the information on the devices has continuous influence in English language development in Nepal. Thus, the mobile can be a potential digital device to teach and learn English. In this article, I am trying to suggest some advantages of mobile in English language learning.
Mobile assisted language learning (MALL): There are several pedagogical reasons of considering the mobile in second language classroom. Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler (2005) elucidate why smart mobiles are comparatively more useful devices to learn the English language. They explain that these smart devices are relatively cheap in price and increasingly powerful to support teaching and learning the English language.
Nowadays the children are familiar with various types of smart mobiles. They use the devices, play with them and enjoy playing with different apps on the devices. The technology has provided them with an opportunity of learning several things beyond the classroom teaching and learning.
Some practical ideas to use mobile phones:
Pronunciation practice: Pronunciation is the beauty of speaking and one of the aspects of language. Therefore, we focus on this aspect of language in language teaching classroom to develop communicative competency. The smart features of mobile can be supportive to develop pronunciation skills of English language. The learners can record their voice, listen to their record and native speaker’s voice, and practise consistently to improve their pronunciation. The English language learners can use English dictionary app to practice vocabulary, open YouTube to watch English language videos and practice English speaking. Besides, the students can watch television channels such as BBC, CNN and more on their mobile sets to improve English pronunciation.
Capturing class notes by using the mobile camera: The learners can use mobiles to capture the pictures and record the audio-visual materials. These features can support English language learners to develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
Downloading Materials: Smart mobiles can work like computers to download digital files, save web information and read them in flexible time. For instance, mobile with internet access provides an opportunity for downloading e-books, journals, software, games and useful apps for learning English.
Using note features: Note application on smart mobiles can be helpful to write various notes of meetings, classroom lecture, textbook or personal interaction.
Using mobile games to develop critical thinking skills: Various mobile games such as crossword puzzle, Scrabble, hanging man, vocabulary and so on can support the English language learners to improve their English with entertainment.
Problems encountered by ELT practitioners while using mobile:
Lack of internet access
Monitoring individual students
Requirement of highly-skilled teachers
Mobile as a portable smart device can support English language learners to improve their English and the teachers to involve students in language practice. It is a relatively cheap and powerful digital tool useful to practice the English language in the classroom as well as personal life. However, it requires the teachers to have high-level skills to purposefully use in classroom teaching.
Kukulskal- Hulme, A, & J. Traxler eds.2005. Mobile Learning : A hand book for educators and trainers. London: Routledge.
Introduction to Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning Online
In this entry, some digital tools are introduced first. Then I will share my teaching experiences in using technology from blended learning to fully online.
There are a variety of digital tools that you can use to teach English. Here are some digital tools that I have experienced and found them quite convenient and effective to use. First, it is important to set up a learning management system where you can stimulate your students’ interactions with you and their peers. This can be closed Facebook group or Edmodo. Then questions relating to your post can motivate students’ interaction online. If you want to make videos explaining the lesson, PowerPoint can be a useful tool because it is very easy to use and you can have good quality videos. After that, these videos should be uploaded to the learning management systems with guided questions for students to watch and do their work before the online interaction. To have online interactions with students, Zoom and Skype can be very useful tools for you. Both of them allow group call in which you can have interactions with many students at the same time. Besides, you can share your screen while you are calling your students, so you can explain the lessons easily. It enables you to do all kinds of teaching. For collaborative writing, I think Google Docs is magnificent. Just create a link to a Gmail account and let your students join in the game page so that they can write together under your supervisions and their peers.
I would like to share my experiences about using technology from blended learning to fully online class. I used to teach a group of students in Vietnam. They are hard-working, active and highly motived to learn English for communication. They were in grade 10 and lived in the remote area where there was no linguistic environment outside the classroom. Besides, it was really hard for them to find a good language centre to study English. In addition, high school teachers in Vietnam mainly focused on grammar. Therefore, these students were unable to communicate after 8 years learning English at school. They wished to learn English for communication, so I opened tutorial classes for them. However, we did not have enough time in the class, so I decided to set up a closed Facebook group to give them some extensive practices especially listening and speaking. I used all authentic materials from YouTube or British Council Broadcast to upload on the closed Facebook group and designed some tasks for them to do online. When one student uploaded his/her work in the group, other students started commenting, which created many discussions and stimulated their critical thinking. In the class, I gave them feedback about the homework they did. That saved us a lot of time in the class, so we could have more discussions in the class. Unfortunately, I had to go to New Zealand to do my PhD, and I could not help them anymore. However, they still wished me to help them improve English. That motivates me to carry out fully online teaching.
Here are my experiences in teaching online classes. My students and I have great online discussions. I set up a group of students on Edmodo by inviting them through emails. Then I post the tasks which can be written, audio, video posts. I can create these materials, or I sometimes use authentic materials online. More importantly, I create activities with the tasks so that my students can do when they watch the videos or read the post. The tasks can be multiple choice questions, open-ended questions, or free writing. Through Edmodo, I just set up a deadline so that my students know when they have to finish their tasks. For multiple questions, Edmodo even marks my students’ work, and I can see the results easily. To engage more students to have more discussions online, I ask my students to comment on at least two other people’s posts. Therefore, after the post, it is really interesting with all asynchronous discussions online. During the online meeting with my students, I can give them some feedback and have more conversations with them via Skype. If I have my students’ works, I usually put them on Google Docs and give them feedback so that all my students can see them carefully. Please try all these digital tools for your teaching and share your experiences.
Upendra Ghimire teaches English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple campus, Nepaltar, Kathamndu.
Thinh Le is a lecturer of English at Vietnam Banking Academy, Phu Yen Branch, Vietnam and he is also a PhD Candidate in College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
The post includes the experience of Harpinder Kaurfrom India on how a teacher learns from technology and Muneir Gwasmeh‘s ideas on improving pronunciation using technology from Jordan. It also incorporates a way of using of Google group to teach English by Shaista Rashid from Pakistan.
When a teacher learnt from technology
During my doctoral research data collection in India in early 2016, I met an English teacher (Mr A) who shared his exciting experience in an interview. Back in the 1990s, when technology was not a part of education, teachers were entirely dependent on reference books or other print media. The teacher told his story of learning English in his school. When he was a student, his teacher taught him names of months. He learned to read them how his teacher taught him to pronounce ‘January’ with Punjabi accent like Jann+Worry and February as Fer+Worry and so on. A more interesting thing he said that no one those days had that knowledge of what was wrong. Perhaps there was nobody to correct the wrong pronunciation the teacher was following. This continued ages in teaching English in the schools in Punjab, and there might be some doing the same even today. He remembered his teaching life again. The worse thing, he said, happened when he followed the same pronunciation in his teaching profession. He became a teacher in the year 2000 and transmitted the same knowledge to his students.
After a decade teaching career when his school adopted smart boards in 2012, he realised what he had learned and taught in the school when he learned how to pronounce the names of the months correctly with the help of audio technology. It was a shocking surprise for him. The teacher smiled while telling his experience and said, “It was a pretty tough moment because I learnt wrong diction and communicated similar thing to my students for a decade.”
After that incident, he said he met his school teacher who taught him English in the school and shared his experience of learning from technology. Apparently, his teacher refused to realise what he had done while teaching English. He rather explained that he could not get the difference between January and Jann+Worry and denied to accept that he was wrong that time. He said that his teacher was really disappointed with the integration of technology in education, and according to him, traditional teaching methods are always better. Technology will take the place of teacher and finish the bond of teacher and his students.
He, further, shared a personal experience of his colleagues as well. Age gap or generation gap is an obstacle to the successful integration of technology in education. The teachers who are aged or seniors are not ready to accept technology whereas young teachers appreciate technology in their lessons. Senior teachers were even not attending training sessions because they considered it as a waste of time and offensive to their traditional methodology. He pointed it one of the causes of following the traditional instructional strategies in this modern era.
The teacher got some doubts concerning technology in education from his school teacher. Then, he evaluated his learning from the blackboard and then compared it with a smartboard. Then he decided to learn technology and motivated himself to use technology as a teaching tool in teaching and learning process. He added that being a teacher, he got self-confidence and professional development through technology.
Harpinder Kaur is a PhD Candidate in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Technology tools improve pronunciation
English has been widely and overtly spoken not only for the purpose of learning and teaching but as a means of communication. The high demand of English as an international language put a heavy burden on the second language (L2) teachers’ shoulders to help them be familiar with different aspects of L2, and help L2 learners raise criteria to provide learners with strategies to increase their language input and assist them improve their output. Although it has been widely said that native speakers are more qualified to teach their language, several studies have confirmed that non-native language teachers are also qualified.
I have taught English in Jordan schools and tertiary level from 2000 till 2007, and in Abu Dhabi University from 2012 till 2016. When I was appointed as an English teacher in my country of origin, Jordan, technology was only exclusive on tape listening to recorded texts for the purpose of improving students’ listening comprehension, and pronunciation skill was overlooked.
The advantage smart technology, such as mobile phones, tablets or other software tools, necessitates language teachers and users to address specific skill problems and solve it immediately. The use of ICT has put pressure on L2 teachers to be up-to-date to track new techniques and create activities and tasks that would help L2 learners improve their language skills and achieve their targets.
I started using technology to teach pronunciation when I was an English instructor at Abu Dhabi University in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I utilized technology to address the pronunciation issue that L2 teachers and learners have difficulty pronouncing, for instance, isolated words or sentences. The Online Speech Dictionary has helped students listen to a variety of English sounds to improve their pronunciation. Other software programs were installed on computers in the labs, so students could listen and repeat following the speaker to have a better or in another way an intelligible pronunciation. Technology increased self-confident among students to practice speaking and particularly L2 learners who were unconfident to speak in public. L2 learners, because of technology, reported that technology provided them with an opportunity to cover what teachers missed to teach, improved their input and output, increased self-confidence. More importantly, they had learned L2 either by using competitive team games or communicating with native and/or non-native speakers.
Technology has been effectively a pivotal player in English learning and teaching. I have dug deeply by using various technology tools to help myself and my students in getting a better education. These tools have helped my students increase their productivity, become active in class activities, and created a stress-free environment. I have used some technological tools such as Sounds: a pronunciation application that helps L2 learners to listen to how words are pronounced, but also gives them the opportunity to record, playback and listen to their voices. This application comes in two versions: American English and British English. It helps me as a teacher bring an authentic native speaker into the classroom and help L2 learners improve their English pronunciation. It is also available for smartphones. Another application I used is Pronunciation King, which can be used offline too. Another one I found fascinating and useful at the same time is Clear Speech Pronunciation. It provides L2 teachers and learners with pronunciation practices; it includes games that the learners can choose to improve their English pronunciation. BBC Learning English is another tool that I found very attractive, well-built which contains various pronunciation features, tasks and activities.
Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., & Goodwin, J. M. (2010). Teaching pronunciation: A course book and reference guide (Vol. 2nd). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Munier Gwasmeh is a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
Google group in ELT in Pakistan
My interest in English Language Teaching (ELT) and Linguistics developed along with my studies and later my professional teaching experience added strength and depth to it. Along with the English Literature side of my Master studies, I was also introduced to the subjects of ELT and Linguistics. I was simply drawn by the way language was perceived by the linguists combined with the evolutionary work being done in the field of ELT. Placing every concept learnt in Pakistani context raised my interest and thirst for more advanced studies in both Linguistics and ELT. After doing my Masters, I got an opportunity to practically implement the acquired knowledge at junior level in an international school in Pakistan. Working with young learners from a diverse cultural and social background was the first platform to test my understanding of 2nd language teaching principles, error analysis, 2nd language teaching methodologies and pedagogical teaching of grammar and vocabulary.
During my postgraduate studies at University of Oregon, United States of America, my research work mainly focused on pre-service and in-service English language teachers in Pakistan. In order to start from grass-root level, I designed a beginning level Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) workshop for school teachers. The aim of the research was to equip them with methodologies for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as well as instruction and computing skills. After graduation, I started my first full-time teaching position back in Pakistan in 2011. Due to limited financial and technological resources, ICT was not much popular among teachers and students. The first initiative in this regard was taken by Higher Education Commission Pakistan in 2003 by constituting “National Committee on English”. This committee launched a project “English Language Teaching Reforms (ELTR)” and made several subcommittees which offered many programs. However, these programs aimed to provide professional development and research training only to the faculty of higher education sector. Unfortunately, school teachers were left alone.
Looking at this scenario, I took the initiative to introduce Google products such as Google Groups as an alternative for Course Management System for maintaining discussion groups, assignments and different listening, speaking, reading and writing activities. A Google group was the most interesting tool/integration for the students. Having an online presence of their own class was something which motivated them to contribute more actively in the classroom activities. I tried to post all of the class assignments through Google Groups. Students not only acknowledged these posts, but they also posted their opinions about the activities. As an administrator I could keep a record of the people who had already viewed the post, thus making sure that everyone in the class was on board. It mainly worked very well during school holidays; I kept posting interesting storybooks and other entertainment activities which could be completed in English so that the English language was still in use while they were at home. The results were really amazing! Students’ motivation, energy level and interest were significantly high.
I can conclude here by saying that there is an alternative to everything in the world. It only needs to be explored at the right time. If the teachers are trained and possess up-to-date knowledge about content and how to teach that content, they can easily find a way to cope up with the lack of facilities.
Shaista Rashid is a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
The world is getting far more connected, but not all connections are the same. Nor do connections automatically achieve the social, professional, and other purposes that the Internet is often credited for by those who have full and unhindered access to it. So, building a professional community, developing resources for it, and engaging its members from the ground up takes a lot of time, courage, and collaboration by one or more members who can stick to it through ups and downs, excitement and frustration.
In this blog post, we’d like to share the story of how we, a group of English language teachers in Nepal gradually built an online professional development community by the name of ELT Choutari. In a sense, this post is a detailed answer to the question that was asked by a colleague who commented on a story that one of us (Praveen) wrote for EdConteXts in June: what do we value as measures of success of/in our network?
Many of us use Twitter, and we know about the general benefits of it as a tool for enhancing our professional learning network. Recently, one of our Choutari founders, Dr. Shyam Sharma, used Twitter for an entirely different purpose than PLN: organizing an international “summit” of like-minded scholars and students!
Dedicated for his students in an undergraduate course titled “Writing For Your Profession” at Stony Brook University, this classroom event not only enriched classroom experience for his students, but also attracted and engaged participants from Australia, New Zealand, Guyana, Egypt, Nepal, UK, and across the US. Conferences and other professional events add the Twitter Summit for engaging virtual participants, but making that happen right from the classroom is quite an inspiring feat.
Outside, the pile of snow was thicker than vehicles parked on the street. From frozen New York joined Shyam Sharma.
Uttam Gaulee was in warm Florida (as far away from Shyam’s place as Colombo is from Kathmandu), at 10.30pm, still in my University of Florida office.
In Kathmandu’s King’s College in Babarmahal had gathered some of Nepal’s brightest ELT scholars– which we are not exaggerating. It was early morning there, seemingly cold, and some colleagues were slightly late from trying to juggle personal and professional responsibilities (as well as beat Kathmandu’s traffic).
Present in the virtual shade of the Choutari tree were Praveen Yadav, Umes Shrestha, UshakiranWagle, Santona Neupane, Suman Laudari, and Jeevan Karki from Nepal; Uttam and Shyam joined from the US.
This was a meeting among Choutari editors, originally supposed to be a “training” where Shyam was going to walk us through the kinks of technology before discussing how to translate technological affordances into professional purposes. The plan was to ensure that editors are proficient in the use of WordPress blog platform and functionalities: how to add new posts, save drafts, schedule for certain dates, order by time stamps, create table of content, hyperlink using part of preview link, integrate images and other media, learn how to tag and categorize posts, and so on. Shyam did start by emphasizing that the technology is largely a tool that we need to learn how to use with command (meaning everyone must learn how to post/schedule, edit, link, organize, and manage posts and pages on the blog) but the focus must be on how to achieve the professional objectives that the tools are used for achieving. We used the metaphor of hasiya, kodalo, and bancharo and how we keep them sharp and ready but don’t look at them as the focus of our harvest seasons.
However, within a few minutes of trying to walk the rest of the group through the dashboard of the WordPress blog, using Google Hangout’s Screen Share functionality, he realized that the participants already knew the basic applications and functions–or at least they could teach each other basic features and more quickly and easily. In fact, more people than we knew prior to the meeting turned out to have their own blogs and have mastered fairly advanced functions. Going into details of advanced functions like managing widgets, plugins, theme and customization, exporting content, and managing pages could make the meeting more boring than productive; and more advanced functions should also come from gradual development of expertise. Some roles such as approving comments can be assigned to certain editors because they need some attention and understanding (such as spotting and excluding spams; Uttam and Praveen seem to be doing this now, and that looks like a good plan).
So, the conversation naturally and quickly moved on to the agenda of maintaining quality, promoting collaboration and efficiency, and modeling for as well as engaging the community.
Maintaining Quality: Making Review Process Effective and Efficient
We started this segment by summarizing the notes that were shared with the group prior to the meeting. It is worth highlighting that editors fully familiarize themselves with the rules provided to writers; these rules are outlined and even demonstrated under the section “Join the Conversation.” We also later discussed the overarching objectives of the forum spelled out at the top of the Team Charter. The specific best practices and general mission statements are worth viewing as giving us a sense of direction with regard to quality of the publication and engagement of the community. Below is a rundown of what we discussed in terms of making the objective of maintaining quality/standard efficient from a collaborative perspective. Please don’t read these as instructions; they were discussed as suggestions for effectiveness and efficiency. Everyone agreed that a more efficient process for collaboration is needed.
Submission: All submissions must be made to the official email, firstname.lastname@example.org in order to avoid various types of possible confusions and inefficiencies. First, promote the “Join the Conversation” section; when any authors submit their drafts to individual editors, they should request the writer to resubmit it to the official email address (create a template email if necessary); or just forward the email to the official email, copying the author. Even this much will make a huge difference in terms of streamlining the review process.
Reception & Assignment: The lead editor of the next month should respond to all submissions made between, say, 16th of the previous month to the 15th of the current month. Lead editors can choose to respond from the official email if they prefer; otherwise, lead editors can respond to writers of each submission during the time window and copy one reviewer (and if necessary one mentor), asking everyone to complete the review process and submit the article by, say, the 24th of the month before publication. If a lead editor can distribute the burden of review among different editors/reviewers, starting with his/her subeditor(s), this will allow the lead editor to be more creative, to try to cover more base, to run the conversation, and to better maintain the overall quality. To avoid confusion, editor/reviewers not assigned to work on any draft should leave it to the assigned editors/reviewers. We also discussed the driving principle that “collaboration” and “taking turns” are two very different things, and what we need is the first!
Collaborative Review: Using Google Doc as a general rule can make a positive difference, though it may be necessary to give individual writers the choice of opting out and using email with his/her reviewer (and mentor if any). Lead editor can create a new Google Doc each within the official account, giving edit access to the writer (as well as editor/reviewer and any mentor). Again, while some writers may not be able to use Google Doc (due to technological limitations of skill, tools, internet, anxiety, etc), even those who are able to do so will significantly eliminate the need for email- or phone- based updates among the writer, reviewer, and coordinating editor. Just the lead editor being able to see where the review process for some of the submissions can save a lot of time and hassle. Finally, some writers may not want the review process to be open to all editors, but the solution to this is to make the review process more professional (and respectful of authors) rather than relapsing into privacy–because the idea of privacy among editors doesn’t make sense anyway. A standardized folder and file naming convention should be developed through a Facebook Group conversation.
Assessment of Quality: Lead editors should sort submissions into three or four groups, such as: 1) ready for publication with minor edits, 2) worth reviewing and publishing next month, 3) worth assigning a mentor as well as reviewer, and 4) impossible to improve. While the general principle of a community like this should be “reform not reject,” there may be some cases of #4, such as plagiarized or already published content, not at all related to ELT, etc. Drafts in category #1 can be managed by lead editors themselves (no need to assign a reviewer); drafts in category #2 would be the majority; drafts in category #3 should be directed to the coordinator of of the Choutari Mentoring Project, Uttam Gaulee, or at least copied/coordinated. The idea here is that even though a blog should not be about rejecting or accepting articles like conventional journals, shifting the focus from personal to collaborative/communitarian is in everyone’s benefit. We also briefly touched upon the following issues as a yardstick for assessing how to approach different types of drafts/submissions:
Relevance and Significance: The draft is not relevant to ELT, doesn’t situate or even relate the main idea to ELT or to education at large in a significant way. Or, the draft doesn’t have a significant, interesting, or engaging point from the perspective of our readers–because the subject is outdated, the topic too broad/vague, the argument diluted, etc.
Organization and Connection: The draft doesn’t start with an engaging and clear introduction that provides a sense of direction, a sense of scope, and a sense of organization to the readers–and there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix, such as moving the key idea to the beginning and adding transition sentences for better flow between sections that are in themselves focused on the main idea.
Focus and Strength of Main Idea: The draft has long a long background and/or includes barely relevant paragraphs/sections that can’t just be deleted (because the rest of the draft would be insufficient or affected by the removal of parts), or the overall writing doesn’t develop a main idea with a focus and a perspective.
Originality and Use of Sources: The author uses external sources without proper/effective citations, seems to use external sources without citation but it is hard to determine by simply Googling chunks of text, or cites correctly but the citations are not integrated and used effectively alongside his/her own ideas–for instance, there are large chunks of citations that are not yet framed within the writer’s own ideas.
Language and Style: The writing is highly formal, academic, or abstract and therefore in need of “translation” to make it more accessible to the blog’s readers–or it is extreme on any other end, such as too informal, too gimmicky, etc.
Fast Tracking Review: Taking drastic but intellectually sensitive approach as editors: especially when there is little time and not enough material, blog coordinator and/or editors/reviewers may have to take a drastic approach. But the authors must always be given the opportunity to review and approve any and all changes/edits made to their work. Here are some time-tested strategies that may be handy.
Do/Show: cut/paste the main idea if it comes late in the draft to the beginning, add a sentence or two in the beginning (esp. within the first two paragraphs) in order to provide context and/or overview of the post, foreground or add topic sentences within the body paragraphs;
Tell Directly: highlight and directly tell the author to delete any sections that are irrelevant or go too far in one direction, ask the author to condense an elaborate section into a certain proportion such as two-third or one-fourth, etc, and
Ask Bold Questions: ask the author if any section can be deleted, condensed, or elaborated as necessary.
Team Spirit: Team spirit is very important. Both facilitators highly emphasized that Choutari is a forum with tremendous value and impact in the world of ELT and that it also has huge potentials for the editors’ professional growth; but both the impact on the profession and the person heavily depends on maintaining a team spirit, keeping one another inspired and energized, cultivating a positive attitude, going for the positive, inspiring the community, giving the best back. And, for a community that depends on virtual communication, all the above heavily depend on regular communication among the team as well as strong, positive messaging from the team to the community.
Reflective Editorship: We also touched upon the idea of “reflective editorship,” which means that if lead editors start, carry out, and end their coordination by engaging the rest of the team in an ongoing conversation, assessment, and reflection, there will be continued learning and inspiration for all involved. No one comes to Choutari already knowing what exactly to do; if we do, we would still be quickly outdated! The community continues to develop new ideas, columns, strategies, etc; and this starts by building one set of guidelines and trying to achieve the shared objectives, then gradually updating and improving the strategies through ongoing conversation and reflection. The Team Charter is a starting point, not a stone tablet with rules.
As we were engrossed in the conversation, paratha arrived. Amid the rustle of unwrapping packages and as our colleagues back home served themselves the mouth-watering breakfast, and with our mouths watering from two ends of a country on the other side of the world, we wrapped up the conversation. Very deep intellectual discussions branching out from technological topics, laughter and giggles, multi-tasking, using alternative channels when the lights went out, bantering about the men in Kathmandu forgetting to turn the camera to the chelis . . . made the meeting both inspiring and memorable.
The Choutari brings people together, people who are on their way to their own professional destinations (or rather journeys), people who care enough to stop by, to share their ideas– in spite of the crazy busy lives they live, in spite of the seven seas separating them. The virtual Choutari has a lot in common with the physical. This too is on the way to somewhere, as the physical choutaris usually are. This too gets its meaning when people stop and talk, rest and energize themselves. The burdens we carry may have become abstract–for as teachers, scholars, we transport ideas on our backs–the journey we make may be to places around the world, and the travelers we meet may be citizens of the whole world. But we still share the same concern to keep our community informed, our bonds strengthened.
It was 2.30am by the time we finally left the Google Hangout. The snow was still piling up in New York, Uttam had to go home by the last university escort at 3 am, and colleagues in Kathmandu had half the day left and work to be done.
Photos (above): Jeevan Karki
Dr. Shyam Sharma is an assistant professor of Writing and Rhetoric at State University of New York, Stony Brook University. His professional interests include composition (writing and rhetoric) pedagogy and theory, writing in the academic disciplines and professions, multilingual and multimodal writing and scholarship, rhetorical traditions, and research and program development for professional development of university students.
Uttam Gaulee is a doctoral student in Higher Education Administration and Policy program at the Department of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education at the University of Florida. After working as an English language teacher at Tribhuvan University colleges in Nepal, he joined the University of Pittsburgh as a Fulbright scholar, before joining UF. He is Associate Director of Community College Futures Assembly at the Institute of Higher Education and also serves as Graduate Affairs Chair of Graduate Students Council at UF. Uttam is leading the new Choutari Mentorship Program.
English language teachers throughout the world are always in search of a theory or method of language teaching that helps them resolve all the language teaching problems they face. However, there has never been such a method which can do so because of the varied nature of language teaching situations, unavailability of resources, issues about the relevance and applicability of a method in all contexts. Experts in the ELT field try to come up with some tools that can enhance language teaching to some extent. Corpus based language teaching is one of those convenient ways language teachers have been using because this presents an opportunity to teach authentic and contextualized language usage as a readymade tool. In this post, I present a brief introduction to some of the most prevalent corpora in the field of ELT.
Corpus is a collection of natural data from several different fields from which we can draw the materials for teaching, conducting research and so on. It is “a large, principled collection of naturally occurring texts (written or spoken) stored electronically” Reppen (2010, p. 2). Naturally occurring text means language from “actual language situations, such as friends chatting, meeting, letters, classroom assignments, and books, rather than from surveys, questionnaires, or just made-up language’ (p. 2). It includes both qualitative and quantitative data to draw from.
The most widely used corpus is COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English). It is an online and searchable corpus consisting of 450+ million American English words and is arranged by different fields and registers. We can search the words from different disciplines, compare words, and find out collocations. The words can be searched in terms of time frame, frequency, relevance, alphabetic order and so on. It can be accessed through this link click and also click here.
Let’s look at some of the examples of how we could use COCA. Once we enter the site, we can see four options of display>>list>>chart>> KWIC (Key Work in Context), and>> compare.
If we choose the list option, type the word we are looking for (e.g. proficiency) and it will show us all the contexts in which the word has been found. The contexts will be exhibited from five different sections: spoken, magazine, fiction, newspaper, and academic language. Since the corpus will show thousands of examples of the word in all the contexts in which it appears, we can limit our search by selecting a specific time frame or a specific area, for example, how the word has been used in the academic field between 2005 and 2009. We can also find out the word with which it collocates the most by finding the words that mostly precede and/or follow it.
If we choose the option ‘compare’ and type two words that we want to compare (e.g. proficiency and achievement), the corpus will exhibit both the words appearing in different contexts from which we can draw a conclusion. Likewise, if we search a word (e. g. validity) through KWIC, we can see the contexts in which it appears (e.g. construct validity, discriminant validity, face validity, predictive validity, convergent validity, concurrent validity, diagnostic validity, consequential validity and so on). These combinations will appear in and/or across sentences.
Including corpus data in textbooks is relatively a new concept; however, we are familiar with the concept in the form of corpus-based ESL and EFL dictionaries like Cambridge Dictionary of American English, Longman’s Dictionary of Contemporary English, Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, etc. Examples of corpus based textbooks are Basic Vocabulary in Use by McCarthy and O’Dell (2010) and Touchstone by McCarthy, McCarten and Sandiford (2004). Basically, corpora provide ready resources for teachers. They are natural and authentic. They can be used for language learning, teaching and testing purposes. They can also be used for research purposes. Language textbook writers can use the data from corpora to include the teaching materials in the textbooks.
The word lists from the corpora can serve different functions: finding words in terms of frequency; finding content vs function words; finding related word forms (abandoned, abandonment); examining the role of prefixes and suffixes, finding the collocation of words (Reppen, 2010, p. 8) and so on. Some words can have different grammatical roles. The corpora provide us with information about those grammatical roles, the parts of speech and grammatical categories of the words as well. We can also find KWIC (key word in context) through which we get the information about the context in which a particular word is used.
One of the widely used applications of a corpus is to teach academic vocabulary to learners of English as a second or a foreign language. The learners in a particular field need to be familiar with the highly frequent academic words in their field. Teachers can use corpus such as Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List (AWL). It is a compilation of academic words consisting of 3.3 million words representing 570 word families from different genres. Within this corpus, we can search through different subcorpora since the collection is from different academic disciplines. By doing so, one can find out the most frequent academic words used in a particular genre and teach them to the learners to equip them to raise their level of comprehension and production in the respective genre. For example, one of the most frequent academic words found in the list is ‘analyse’ and this word appears along with all the related words such as “analysed, analyser, analysers, analyses, analyzing, analysis, analyst, analysts, analytic, analytical, analytically, analyzed.”
However, the problem with AWL is that it just provides the list of frequent words in an academic field and not the context in which they appear. Similarly, it is self-evident that learning a language also includes formulaic expressions to a great extent. On the basis of corpus research, Martinez and Schmitt (2012) have produced a PHRASal Expressions List (PHRASE List), which consists of 505 most frequently used phrasal expressions functioning as formulaic language. If teachers could select from and teach the expressions in the list, it can help English language learners comprehend naturally occurring conversations and texts.
Another very useful corpus site is Michigan Corpus Linguistics which links the users to different corpora and can be accessed through www.elicorpora.info. Two of the valuable corpus sites it links the users to are MICASE (Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English) and MICUSP (Michigan Corpus of Upper Level Student Papers). MICASE is a free and searchable corpus site which is very helpful for teaching and carrying out research on academic spoken language. MICUSP is a site where we can find papers from different disciplines. We can search the papers focusing on different genres, different types of writing (e.g. argumentative, creative writing, critique/evaluation, proposal, reports, research paper, response paper) or even different parts of writing (e.g. abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, conclusion, citation, etc). Along with these two sites, Michigan Corpus Linguistics also includes a corpus of conference presentations.
Similarly, Time Corpus (corpus.byu.edu/time/) is another useful site which is the online corpus of Time Magazine and helps us see how language changes over time. There are three other very useful and user-friendly corpus based concordancing programs: AntConc, MonoConc, and Wordsmith. These programs help us find word frequency lists, concordances, key words and so on. AntConc(www.antlab.sci.waseda.ac.jp/software.html) and Wordsmith (www.lexically.net/wordsmith/) are free programs while MonoConc (www.athelstan.com/mono.html) is an affordable one.
The use from the websites in most of the corpora is free. The teachers can use them for: selecting and teaching academic words frequently found in authentic use in both written and spoken modes; using the contexts to help learners induce the real application of the English language. Corpora like MICUSP also enhance teacher professional development by providing teachers with the collection of conference presentation samples and valuable guidelines to develop different forms of writing. The data in the corpus can be utilized in devising research tools as well. Therefore, I suggest that English language teachers, textbook writers and researchers use some of these corpus sites, play with them and invest some time to see what small changes can be brought.
Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 213-238. Martinez, R. and Schmitt, N. (2012). A phrasal expressions list. Applied Linguistics, 33(3), 299-320. Reppen, R. (2010). Using corpora in the language classroom. Cambridge: CUP.
Hima Rawal is currently a Fulbright Scholar doing her masters in TESOL at Michigan State University, Michigan, USA. She is a lecturer at the Department of English Education, Central Campus, T.U. She is a life member of NELTA and editor of the Journal of NELTA.