Avenues of Mobile Phones in ELT-Practices of Remote Schools in Nepal

Jeevan Karki- head shot

Jeevan Karki

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.

Discussions

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.

Conclusion

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.

Jeevan Karki is an editor with ELT Choutari.

ICT/Digital Technology in Ghana

 

dr-kofi-ayebi-arthur

Dr Kofi Ayebi-Arthur

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 Bibliography

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 in Bangladesh: A potential tool to promote language education

s-m-akramul-kabir

S M Akramul Kabir

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.

References

Ali, Md. Maksud & Walker, Ann L. (2014). ‘Bogged down’ ELT in Bangladesh: Problems and policy. English Today, 30 (2), 33-38.

Chandan, Md. S. K. (2014, March 28). A New Bangladesh. The daily Star. Retrieved from http://www.thedailystar.net/a-new-bangladesh-17482.

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.

Power, T. & Shrestha, P. (2010). Mobile technologies for (English) language learning: An exploration in the context of Bangladesh, presented at IADIS International Conference: mobile learning 2010, 19-21 March, Porto, Portugal. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/20800/1/IADIS_Conference_Mobile_Language_Learning_Power_&_Shrestha_2010.pdf

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

My Experience Using Digital Technology in Primary School

ambadatta-joshi

Ambadatta Joshi

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

ICT in English Language Teaching and Learning: South-East Asia

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

Upendra Ghimire

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Using note features: Note application on smart mobiles can be helpful to write various notes of meetings, classroom lecture, textbook or personal interaction.
  5. 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
  • Privacy issue
  • Noisy classroom
  • Monitoring individual students
  • Requirement of highly-skilled teachers

Conclusion

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.

Reference

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

thinh-le

Thinh Le

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.

The authors:

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.

ICT in English Language Teaching and Learning in South to Middle-East Asia

The post includes the experience of Harpinder Kaur from 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

Harpinder Kaur (India)

Harpinder Kaur (India)

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

Muneir Gwasmeh (Jordan)

Muneir Gwasmeh (Jordan) 

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.

References

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

Shaista Rashid (Pakistan)

Shaista Rashid (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.

Building a Community: What We Value [reblogged-from-EdConteXts]

Praveen K Yadav, Umes Shrestha, and Uttam Gaulee

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?

ELT Choutari is probably the first English Language Teaching (ELT) blog-zine of its kind in South Asia. To read more, click here on the post originally published on the EdConteXts recently.
——-

praveenumesuttam

Twitter Summit #Write4Pro

Choutari Editors

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.

Here’s a blog entry that Shyam Sharma wrote about the event and okayed that we reblog it on Choutari, so our readers will know a little about the use of social media in teaching: http://shyamsharma.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/from-a-classroom-to-the-world/

Before the Sun Rises: A Reflection on a Recent Choutari Meeting

Shyam Sharma and Uttam Gaulee

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.

choutari-meeting-1

Technological Demo

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.

  1. Submission: All submissions must be made to the official email, neltachoutari@gmail.com 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.
  1. 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!
  1. 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.
  1. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. 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;
  2. 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
  3. Ask Bold Questions: ask the author if any section can be deleted, condensed, or elaborated as necessary.

choutari-meeting-2

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

shyam

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.

Using Corpora in English Language Teaching

Hima Rawal

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.

References

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.

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11Hima 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.

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