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
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.