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Online class amidst COVID-19 lockdown

Hiralal Kapar

Abstract

This article presents an examination of teachers’ experiences and understanding of online learning amidst COVID-19 crisis in Nepal, pandemic impacts on education and future challenges of schooling. Open interviews with four teachers teaching their students investigated how they managed to teach few students on virtual classes and what complications they experienced when using digital tools to teach their students. Although the findings suggest possibilities of utilising various freely available ICT tools in teaching and learning particularly in urban areas, the majority of the students are unlikely to have such access in the rural area.

Context

There is a pandemic crisis that has created a kind of terror almost all over the world. The terrifying situation (COVID-19 Pandemic) made all the human activities as water in a pond in general and educational activities in particular. The entire world is being ceased where all the human chores are also being postponed indefinitely. More than 210 countries including Nepal are severely affected by COVID-19 (Worldometer, 2020, April 13). The majority of them have a lockdown to control the pandemic and keep their citizens safe (Argenti, 2020, March 13). However, I have a question “is teaching and learning possible in such pandemic?” on my mind. This is perhaps a common question to teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders of schools and colleges across the world because the entire world has been affected by the COVID-19. Perhaps similar to the Poudel’s (2020) experiences of stress during the lockdown initiated on 23 March 2020 by the government of Nepal to prevent the spread of Corona-virus infections, many others might have gone through frustrations losing their jobs, regular earnings and social relations. In Nepal, almost all educational institutions are closed but some of the universities have been trying to develop online learning mechanism (Poudel, 2020). Several webinars during this pandemic have emphasised online mode of teaching and learning as an alternative to physical classroom teaching and learning. However, the majority of schools and universities have a lack of ICT infrastructure and have the majority of teachers with limited ICT skills.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis made me speculate some alternatives to teaching and learning where I experienced that there is a good future of online education. Similar to American schools following online learning (Bakia, Shear, & Toyama, 2012), I wish we had have minimum ICT infrastructure to switch our schools to the online mode of teaching and learning in Nepal. With this idea on my mind, I talked to my four participant teachers from various schools to get their views to a major question such as “what are the major prospects of online education in the context of Nepal to meet the needs in such a pandemic condition?” The following sections offer their experiences and understandings of online teaching and learning during this lockdown.

Online Education and its Effectiveness

Bakia, Shear, and Toyama (2012) have defined online learning as internet-based teaching and learning. In the teaching field, online education is the electronically supported learning that relies on the internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials. One of the first institutions to use online learning for completely off-campus students was the British Open University (Bates, 2005). Bates (2005) further stated some of the terms that are being used in place of online class synonymously such as virtual, hybrid, blended, mixed-mode, and distributed teaching and learning. With the historical flows and meaning of virtual class in mind, we easily can predict some of its roles in teaching and learning.

In COVID- 19 pandemic crisis, people in the crisis of food are trying to grab opportunities of learning in virtual classes. In academia, it has multiple advantages. In the interview, teachers shared different views on the issue with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. For example, Mr A expressed that online learning is only one alternative during the lockdown, and it may be cost-effective and feasible. Likewise, Mr B emphasised a virtual class that it provides students with face-to-face learning opportunities without any risk of being affected by the Corona Virus, is cheaper than regular conventional school, allows students to work autonomously and meets students’ needs. His idea aligned with Crystal (2020) that virtual class does not require any physical classroom to conduct teaching and learning activities similar to the conventional schools. Similarly, Ms C shared that online teaching saves teachers’ time and also makes them less formal as they do not need to go to school and college. Similar to Underhill’s idea (2020, April 19), she presumed that teachers can teach by sitting in the kitchen or lounge if they have virtual class facilities. Mr D shared that teaching virtually makes students psychologically free from their learning burden by creating a kind positive as well as a motivating learning environment.

ICT infrastructure for eLearning

Interviews with participants investigated the need to develop ICT infrastructure and to prepare the workforce for the implementation of online teaching and learning in Nepal. For example, Mr A emphasised electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone, etc.) and internet to initiate online learning mechanism. However, Ms B argued that both teachers and students’ physical, psychological and social aspects need to be considered before thinking about virtual classes. Mr C and Mr D focused on the peaceful and calm environment along with computer technology and internet facility to effectively conduct online teaching and learning activities. However, all the participants involved in interviews argued that teachers need to have minimum knowledge and skills of computer technology and be literate to teach on virtual classes.

I believe that Phillips’ (2020) suggestion to consider students’ learning needs, the content and purpose of the lesson, technology and pedagogy and access to technology need to considered to implement internet-based teaching and learning. Moreover, teacher preparation and infrastructure development are the basics of adopting eLearning mechanism in schools.

Challenges with online education

Various posts on social media indicate that schools in Nepal are capable of adopting eLearning mechanism. I have observed many webinars where many educators have highly emphasised the use of internet facilities where possible and some raised issues. I believe that Nepal at its current situation having limited ICT infrastructure in schools may be unable to holistically switch conventional physical classroom to online. Nepal, an underdeveloped country, where the majority of schools have a lack of ICT infrastructure (Poudel, 2020), the majority of people particularly in rural areas have limited or no internet access (Rana, 2020) and teachers have limited or no ICT skills and knowledge, cannot adopt eLearning overnight and may need another decade or so to equip schools with ICT infrastructure and teachers with ICT skills.

With the challenges of virtual classes in mind, my participants shared their challenges that they encountered when teaching in online classes. For example, Mr A shared the challenge of online class management because of untrained students. Similarly, Mr B shared students’ expectation of physical classroom more than virtual class. His experience reminded me of Johnson’s (2017) idea that the virtual classroom cannot replace traditional classroom where students can have natural life to engage them with their friends. Likewise, Ms C shared similar challenges, as she said, “Spoon may not replace someone’s hand. Although he can feed himself with spoon, he may not get satisfaction as of hand feeding (हातले खाने बानी भाको मान्छेलाई चम्चाले खानु पर्यो भने खान त खान्छन् र पेट पनि भर्छन तर सन्तुष्टि हुदैन ।)”. She indicated that an online class is not a replacement of the physical classroom. Although online class can be an alternative to physical school during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, it may not be effective to teach life skills. Moreover, Rana’s (2020) argument such as the majority of teachers and students are outside the range of broadband internet is one of the major challenges to implement eLearning in Nepal. However, teachers can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.

Conclusion

With long interaction with the participants, I came to know that online/virtual classes can be a complement to the physical classroom and an alternative during COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some challenges such as limited or no internet particularly in rural areas, lack of trained teachers and lack of digital devices in the majority of schools and families which prevent to switch to online teaching and learning. Although online learning has potential, it may take decades to realise it in the context of Nepal. It suggests that future researches may report how both teachers and students have experienced the use of available ICT tools in their teaching and learning activities and how many teachers and students having no such access have gone through this pandemic.

 

Hiralal Kapar, an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University, is a teacher of English. Mr. Kapar believes on THIRST of education to be successful in the educational world.

References

Argenti, P. A. (2020, March 13). Communicating through the coronavirus Crisis. Harvard Business Review, Nicholas. https://hbr.org/2020/03/communicating-through-the-coronavirus-crisis.

Bakia, M., Shear, L., Toyama, Y., & Lasseter, A. (2012). Understanding the implications of online learning for educational productivity. U.S. Department of Education. Center for Technology in Learning SRI International, U.S.

Bates, T. (2005). Online learning tools and technologies Strategies for College and University Leaders San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Canada.

Crystal (2020). What’s new in the English language? IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An Online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-1

Johnson, A. (2017). Why virtual teaching will never ever replace classroom teaching. Study.com. https://study.com/blog/why-virtual-teaching-will-never-ever-replace-classroom-teaching.html

Phillips, M. (2020). 5 things teachers should consider when moving lessons online. Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/education/teachspace/articles/5-things-teachers-should-consider-when-moving-lessons-online

Poudel, T. (2020, April 20). Teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor in Nepal. ELT Chautari, Nepal. Vol. 12 (95). http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teaching-virtually-during-the-co vid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-of-a-university-professor-in-nepal/

Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/

Underhill, A. (2020, April 19). Kitchen table teaching; Affective teaching online. IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-2

Worldometer (2020, April 6). Countries where COVID-19 has spread. Worldmeter Web. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/countries-where-coronavirus-has-spread/

 

Cite as: Kapar, H. (2020, July). Online class amidst COVID-19 Lockdown. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/online-class-amidst-covid-19-lockdown/

Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?

Manish Thapa

Introduction

With time and evolution of structures, the teaching practices and classroom set-up have also evolved. Internet facilities have been widely adopted in educational practices across the world. With the evolution of internet and communication technologies, distance learning is now the widely discussed subject among academic institutions and policymakers (Traxler, 2018). Many academic institutions across the world have been conducting full-fledged certified degree programmes from distance learning modality (Owusu-Boampong & Holmberg, 2015). There are millions of people, who study through YouTube videos and short term (credited/non-credited and certified/non-certified) courses at different online course platforms such as Coursera, edX and so on. Owusu-Boampong and Holmberg (2015) reported that over three million interested people every month visit Studyportals, a platform to do distance courses available there. Many new students hit several websites in search of online courses to pursue higher education.

Technologies have been widely used to deliver course contents, for instance, broadcasting through television and radios, video conferencing through apps such as Skype, Zoom, Viber, Google Meet, and so on, sharing of educational materials through e-mail and having discussions through online based forums have been widely adopted. In developed countries where they have minimum ICT infrastructure, distance learning has been officially recognised and widely adopted. However, in the case of least developed countries like Nepal, there lies the question: “Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?”

History of distance learning in Nepal

Nepali education setting has been dominated by the face-to-face teaching-learning system. Historically, it was limited to Gurukul (teacher’s home or temple), Gumba (managed by the Buddhist community) and Madarasa (managed by Muslim community) (Pangeni, 2016). Formal education was started after the establishment of Durbar School in 1853 (Sapkota, 2012). In 1978, His Majesty’s Ministry of Education launched Radio Education Teacher Training Programme (RETTP), a quarter of the whole ten month primary teacher training, to develop teachers’ professional skills.

The tenth Five-Year National Development Plan (2002-2007) introduced distance learning in the education sector and highlighted the need for the open university to broaden access to higher education. The Government of Nepal formulated Open Education and Distance Learning (OEDL) policy 2007. OEDL policy helped formalise distance learning programmes and establish educational institutions for distance learning. Establishment of Open University was further stressed out by Three-year Interim Plan (2007-2010). Since then, Open and Distance Education Center (ODEC), International Centre for Academics, College of Professional Studies, British Council Nepal, and College of Distance Education and Online Studies (CDEOS) have been providing distance learning courses. Nepal Open University (NOU), a recently established university, offers a wide range of online courses and follows both synchronous and asynchronous modes of course delivery. Likewise, Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University (KU) have been offering certain online courses since 2011. The progress rate and expansion of full-fledged distance learning have been somewhat limited due to lack of smooth electricity supply and internet with high bandwidth, the poor economic condition of a large population, lack of distance learning-friendly curriculum at universities and lack of trained human resources (Pangeni, 2016). However, distance learning has benefitted particularly employed people.

Adoption of distance learning during COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the potentiality of distance learning in Nepali academic institutions has been one of the widely discussed issues. Education sector similar to other fields is affected by COVID-19 as academic institutions are forced to shut down. However, several efforts have been made by various institutions to minimise the impact of the crisis on education. National TVs and radios continued their SEE-related tuition classes as usual. Academic institutions such as Ace College and Kathmandu University started to teach courses on Zoom classes. Being one of the students at Kathmandu University, I have experienced how distance learning can be productive and intimidating.

Distance learning was a completely new experience for me before my enrolment to M. Phil at Kathmandu University. Before COVID-19 lockdown, I had completed 30+ non-credit short courses through online platforms. Those non-credit short courses were completely different from any academic course. Short courses on an online platform are more about self-paced learning with flexibility in learning hours, tests, and assignment submission (if any) by learning through reading texts, listening to audios and watching visuals. Meanwhile, the academic course through distance learning is somewhat similar to classroom modality in terms of timing, assignment deadlines, course contents and teaching-learning modality. Moreover, it is launched as an alternative to regular classes for which there may or may not be any supporting classes once lock-down ends and the university will be able to resume face-to-face mode of learning. I am, therefore, curious to know how physical classroom teaching will be resumed. By the end of the lockdown, most of the courses may be completed. For me, distance learning has been more useful and efficient than traditional classroom modality as I can stay home and study my courses. However, the experience of distance learning differs depending on the nature of courses, students’ interest in studying online and also the state of internet connection.

Increases adaptability to technologies and increase digital literacy

Distance Learning itself is carried out through the optimum use of available technologies. In the current scenario, some schools and academic institutions have adopted information and communication and technological (ICT) tools to conduct teaching and learning activities. However, it has been limited and mostly relied on the availability of resources such as internet facilities and digital technologies.  I believe such practices of ICT tools increases digital literacy and skills. During COVID-19 pandemic, some of the schools from urban areas have initiated distance learning.

The major difference, I found in distance learning is about the use of teaching-learning materials. In regular classroom teaching, instructors mostly use limited resource materials such as markers, whiteboards and textbooks/notes with occasional use of PowerPoint and visuals. Distance learning modality widens the use of resource materials and teaching-learning materials. For instance, an instructor can easily instruct through visuals and animations available in visual streaming sites (YouTube) and guide through a wider range of published texts with examples to clarify the concepts. I noticed an instructor can easily shift from one PowerPoint to another and link contents from one chapter or theme to another with examples to help students understand the concept. Distance learning also provides students with an opportunity to perform multiple tasks at the same time. While listening to the instructor, students can search for wider arrays of learning materials to understand the taught concepts. Upon any confusion even after going through learning materials, students can inquire with their instructor to get issues clarified.

Distance learning in post-COVID-19 scenario

Looking at the prospect of applicability of distance learning among Nepali academic setting in the current situation, it seems challenging. Although the use of internet facilities may allow learners to learn from their place, limited or no access to such facilities particularly in remote villages is the major concern to develop distance or online learning in Nepal. However, the underlying opportunities and lessons gained through COVID-19 pandemic should not be neglected in a rapidly growing education culture. Experience of distance learning has helped academic institutions and policymakers find the difference between a face-to-face physical class and technology-based distance classes. Discussing on wider opportunities of distance learning, academic institutions should introduce academic courses through online mode. Many employed enthusiasts who would like to achieve a higher qualification can study from their place.

With the experience of distance classes and having brief insights about its positive and negative consequences, I passionately believe that the current courses focused on theories and lectures can be operated through distance mode too. Meanwhile, academic institutions can either revise the existing course or develop a new course for distance learning. I believe that distance learning can complement conventional physical classroom teaching.

 

Manish Thapa is an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University. He has over seven years of experiences on research and knowledge management at I/NGOs. His professional interests include research and advocacy through professional and loose networks focused on community development issues.

References

Owusu-Boampong, A. & Holmberg, C. (2015). Distance Education in European Higher Education – the Potential. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, International Council for Open and Distance Education

Pangeni, K. S. (2016). Open and Distance Learning: Cultural Practices in Nepal. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning. Vol. 19. No. 2. https://doi.org/101515/eurodl-2016-0006

Sapkota, S. (2012, September). Teacher Education through Distance Mode: The Nepalese Experience. Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology. The Open University, UK

Traxler, J. (2017, December 30). Distance Learning- Predictions and Possibilities. Education Sciences. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8010035

 

Cite as: Thapa, M. (2020, July). Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions? http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/can-distance-learning-be-widely-adopted-at-academic-institutions/

Significance of parents’ involvement in children’s learning in crisis and ever

Babita Sharma Chapagain
Introduction

“Children learn what they live”. It is one of my favourite poems written by Dorothy Law Nolte. Throughout my 15 years of work in education field in Nepal, this poem always reminds me of my ongoing quest, which is to understand what children should experience at home. Facilitating children’s learning at home and empowering parents to support in their children’s learning is proved to be more important at the moment where the schools are closed. Therefore, this article offers some practical ways to bridge the gap between what theoretical knowledge children acquire inside four walls of the classrooms and what experiential learning opportunities parents can offer at home. It discusses the importance of educating parents regarding how they can contribute to their children’s learning at home and school.

Importance of parent education: My reflection

Academic achievement of a child in Nepal is mostly based on theoretical knowledge. However, some exceptional schools provide students with good environment and ample opportunities for experiential learning. In any case, schools alone cannot help individuals achieve success in life. As a teacher educator, I have visited more than twenty districts across Nepal where I got opportunities to work with various primary and secondary schools. During my visit, I was interested to explore the relationship between parents and schools, and parents involvement in their children’s learning. Most school communities understood that parents involvement means forming a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that holds meetings sometimes only to have general discussions regarding students’ assignments, stationary, school infrastructure and so on. It was disheartening to notice that most of the schools did not pay any attention to the fact that parents can play an important role contributing to their children’s learning and overall growth at home and at school and learning can go beyond school boundary. All parents including those who are illiterate can be trained to be the ideal contributor.

While working for Rato Bangala Foundation some years ago, I was involved in a five-year long child-centred teacher training programme implemented in around six hundred schools in far- western Nepal. At the end of the project, we visited many cluster schools for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Many teachers in those schools expressed their concerns that it was challenging to improve children’s learning outcomes without the parents’ support. They reported that the children who were irregular at school were either busy in household chores, for example looking after their siblings, or working in the field. There were times when students stayed absent for a week or more even on occasions such as a distant relative’s wedding or a minor ritual in their neighbourhood. The teachers further complaint that many parents did not care about their children’s dress up, regular diet, health and hygiene. To our surprise, some children, especially girls, even used to bring their younger siblings to their classrooms to look, which would distract the whole class. What a teacher shared with me about a parent’s view, still hovers around my mind, “What’s the significance of sending my child to school? He can rather be a helping hand at home!” It was evident that many parents were illiterate and immature for good parenting and taking responsibilities of their children. That trend of parents to be irresponsible was not just because of poverty, child marriage, family break ups and lack of education but mainly because it sadly became part of the community culture. An important lesson learnt from that experience was that parents education and involvement in children’s learning plays a vital role in the learning achievement of children. In response to the findings of the monitoring and evaluation process, our organization then began to work intensively to run series of workshops for educating parents. To the best of my knowledge, there is a limited attention paid to educating parents to support Nepal government’s initiation of parent involvement and I feel proud to be a part of that movement.

In yet another experience, while working for an organization, we managed to incorporate parent education as a component in our training programme run in a mountainous district in the eastern region. I found it challenging to motivate headteachers and teachers to spare time to run workshops for parents on good parenting and involving parents in their children’s learning. However, once we did start working with parents, we were amazed to see the result. Parents easily accepted the change and happily began to participate in various school activities. For example, some parents visited their child’s classroom and shared the skills they knew. They set up a trend to read with their children at home and even those parents who could not read began to listen to their children reading to them or have meaningful interactions with them. It was a successful practice that helped to improve the parents’ relationship with the schools. Consequently, children began to take library books back home regularly, fill in the reading logs, try bringing healthy snacks to school, and most importantly they began to look quite clean, happy, and cheerful. Moreover, they looked very proud when their parents made an effort to visit their classrooms and shared any of their life skills ranging from the skill of brewing tea to kitchen gardening.

Parents’ contribution at home while schools remain closed

Finally, building upon my learning about the significance of parents’ involvement in children’s education and addressing to the current scenario of school closure due to the pandemic, our team have developed a set of guidelines for parents for our partner schools. Here, I have briefly shared some of the steps that I think parents can take away to guide their children:

Raising awareness about ecology: Parents can explain with an example, how human actions affect the environment and living organisms around them giving an example how throwing rubbish in a clean river can pollute water and poison fish which in turn can lead to various diseases such as cancer, when consumed. They should teach children how they can contribute to save mother earth from home by engaging them in the process of:

  • practicing to reduce wastage
  • making compost from food waste, and planting trees and flowers
  • recycling, reusing or reducing plastics
  • loving and caring animals in their surrounding

Boosting a child’s social skills: These tips can help parents to develop the social skills in their children. Therefore, parents can be requested to;

  • Spend about 15 minutes of quality time with their kids, telling them stories and biographies, reading aloud and trying  to use good words at home learning to teach new words.
  • Try to interact with their children in their mother tongue.
  • Always listen to their child and acknowledge what he/she has to say.
  • Showcase good social behaviour such as showing respect and speaking politely to others as the children are good at imitating us.

Raising physical awareness: Parents can follow these simple instructions to help their children achieve overall physical wellness:

  • Prepare healthy food as much as possible for children avoiding regular junk food. A balanced diet is important for wellness.
  • Teach them good personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly using soap, brushing teeth, wearing clean clothes, and keeping nails trimmed.
  • Teach them basic movement skills such as catching, hitting, jumping, throwing, and running. They can actively play games with their children and make them practice focusing more on participation and enjoyment rather than winning.

Help children grow spiritually and emotionally: Parents can focus on these tips to attain proper spiritual and emotional growth:

  • Spend some quiet time with their children in nature and meditate with them.
  • Teach them to express love and gratitude to nature and the community.
  • Demonstrate how to solve issues without becoming violent and teach that we should control our emotions.
  • Teach them various acts from a young age such as making their bed after waking up, thanking someone for their kindness or service. This is to help them develop good habits for their future.

Parents should always try and identify their child’s strengths, abilities and interests in particular areas of learning, i.e. sports, music, arts, language, nature, mathematics, society, culture, and so on. Also, they can work with the people in the community to improvise their daily activities to incorporate in their child’s learning when needed. One can always consult elderly people from their community how various skills, culture, and traditions were passed being transferred from their ancestors and see how they can adapt the ideas to their teaching.

Conclusion

The present havoc created by pandemic and the closure of educational institutions around the world has compelled us to redesign the school-centred teaching learning and institutionalize the role of parents particularly in facilitating children’s learning at home. The joint effort of schools and parents will definitely produce better learning outcomes of the children. Therefore, it is a prime time to work on parents education so that children can get better academic support at home too. Moreover, the aware parents can also equip their children with important life skills, which can help them to fit well in this century. Although these aspects are addressed across the school curriculum, in the present context, children’s learning inside the classrooms is not connected with what they experience at home. The educators, on the other hand, should create and make a meaningful connection between teaching learning in the classroom and activities at home. Likewise, apart from contributing at home, parents’ regular participation in the school programmes is very crucial and they should be encouraged to spare some participating in the schools events, interaction and activities. Parents are the best educators who can provide their children with an opportunity to learn by experiencing above mentioned fundamental skills.

 

Babita Sharma Chapagain is associated with Integrative Education Research and Recreation Centre and also works part time in Himalayan Trust Nepal. She earned her MA in ELT from Kathmandu University and completed another degree from the University of Warwick as a Hornby Scholar. She is interested to work in the areas of classroom based research and integrated education.

Cite as: Chapagain, B. S. (2020, July). Significance of parents’ involvement in children’s learning in crisis and ever. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/significance-of-parents-involvement-in-childrens-learning-in-crisis-and-ever/

Teaching virtually in COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor

Tikaram Poudel, PhD

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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).

[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: Poudel, T. (2020, April 20). Teaching virtually in COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teaching-virtually-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-of-a-university-professor-in-nepal/]

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. 

References
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

E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom – Dr. Rana

Karna Rana, PhD

Dr. Karna Rana is an Academic Coordinator [MPhil in English] at Open University Nepal and Lecturer of English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple Campus. Dr Rana facilitates teacher training for teachers and students in and about online classes and resources. He earned his PhD degree in ICT in Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He did an MA in Education (E-based learning; Inclusive education; Managing teaching and learning; Research Methodology), from the University of Bedfordshire, UK. He is one of the members of the editorial board of ELT Chourati. He has authored and co-authored several academic papers and research articles nationally and internationally. He has launched different online-based training and workshop to contribute to Nepal’s ICT enhancement procedure. His interest areas include ICT in education, digital literacy, research and education.

Our Choutari editor, Ganesh Kumar Bastola, has talked to Dr Rana about COVID-19, pandemic pedagogy and its impact in and around Nepal specifically in education and explored some useful strategies to enhance online classes and resources during pandemic. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.

1. What can be the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in our education system?

Well, if we review the history of educational development and the impact of such crisis like World War I and II on social transformation, the rise of industrial education value dominated neo-classical education value and it gradually resulted in capitalism. Before these wars, work efficiency used to be valued more than what education qualification someone had. The current industrial education system that came out of British and American neoliberal ideologies seems to be outdated as it is eventually failing to fix issues of this crisis. If the pandemic continues throughout this year, the world will be in an economic and humanitarian crisis. Many schools and universities will be shut down. Nepal will also experience it if the situation lasts long.

2. Since the educational institutions are shut down and the ‘face-to-face’ mode is put to halt. What can be the alternatives to reach students, especially school students in this crisis?

Since the world is in lockdown, several universities and schools mostly in developed countries have switched their traditional physical classrooms to online classes or distance learning mode. Unfortunately, the majority of schools and universities might not be prepared for it. Let’s observe the context of Nepal. Except for Nepal Open University, an online university, all other universities are not fully prepared to go online. It is unlikely to move schools to online in this situation as the majority of people live outside the range of broadband internet. However, we can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.

3. How can we ensure and track the learning of school students if we adopt alternatives to educate them?

Let me share how schools before 2028 BS used to educate children in villages. Even the government did not know the number of schools across Nepal but these schools had their own curriculum to meet individual as well as social needs. The majority of schools particularly primary ones were never connected with the national examination system but they were efficient to educate millions of children. It does not mean to revive the system but we can explore such efficient local schooling ideas to make schools resilient and self-efficient. That was the time when there were few literate members of the community, but now we have educated or at least literate family members who can be teachers of their children. We have municipalities to follow micro strategies to engage teachers and students from their home. Probably flexible curriculum may provide schools with opportunities for developing own learning programmes, learning materials and outcomes. Of course, national education policy can provide them guidelines to maintain the education standard. Municipalities can be a focal point to manage local resources like teacher trainers, experts, teachers, learning materials and other essential materials. The wise use of ICT in education may develop our schools and education for the growing generation. FM radios and local televisions can be utilised to reach out children and their parents can be engaged with them. In cities and towns, internet facilities can be more productive. There may be challenges for ICT illiterate teachers to gather digital content and materials for teaching and learning but they can be shortly trained through radio or television to use smart mobile or personal computer to explore online materials.

4. What are the differences between online teaching-learning materials and face-to-face teaching-learning materials? As the academic session is going to kick off soon, how can we use the existing materials and resources for teaching via online, radio, TV or so on?

Teachers can bring some laboratory works and concrete materials in the traditional physical classroom but digital learning materials can be animated or real videos, audios and audio-visual. For many learners, online materials can be more productive than what they can read in library books. Unfortunately, such online materials cannot be shared without the internet. As I said earlier, the Education Unit at municipalities can look for ICT experts across the country to train local teachers on how to use digital devices and digital materials in teaching and learning. At least local authorities can train few teachers to plan and deliver lessons on TV lively and even students can be allowed to talk to the teacher over phone. It can go live on the radio too. By listening to the radio, students can work with pen and paper. In cities and towns, teachers and students can be shortly trained to use free apps like Skype, Messenger and Viber, and to communicate through emails. Teachers can utilise these free apps and emails to share learning materials and go to live interaction. Teachers need to have minimum ICT skills to operate these technologies. Unfortunately for many teachers, these advanced technologies may be intimidating. In that case, local teachers can be allowed to choose local learning materials for students. It can develop local autonomy and students’ independent skills. Both students and teachers can use print materials as a source of content. School and local libraries can be developed as a learning hub.

5. You have been facilitating the graduates at Open University, Nepal. What particular strategies do you employ for an online-based classroom to make the students engaged and make teaching-learning activities effective?

We have basic ICT infrastructure to plan and deliver lessons. We basically use MOODLE to share digital content with students, give feedback on students’ regular works and assess their works. Microsoft Teams connects students and teachers and they have a regular video conference on it. It is a dynamic tool to share screen and present works. I can create teams of any number and schedule meeting for the team. This application is highly advanced for online teaching and learning which allows us to share heavy contents like movies or large size videos and digital books. The whole class can be recorded and students can download it whenever they want to. Students from their home or comfortable place can join the class and share ideas. Actually, everyone works on their devices while they are in an online class with their teacher and friends. I teach a research course and it requires students to work on their area of research. I provide live feedback on their works and they actually work with my feedback. It is really effective, interactive and productive as we work while we discuss. I don’t go for a lecture.

6. As the pandemic hit us, we do not seem ‘prepared’ to deliver teaching-learning using alternative means. Firstly, the majority of teachers themselves do not seem to be well-equipped to employ alternative means. So, what skills should the teachers acquire to run alternative teaching-learning and how can we develop their capacity?

Yes, we may be immature to think about moving all schools online in this situation. As I explained earlier, the majority of schools don’t have ICT infrastructure and teachers may not have minimum ICT skills. We cannot expect students to have expensive internet and computers, particularly in rural remote villages. I have reported several challenges including a lack of ICT infrastructure, teachers’ ICT literacy and government preparedness in my research publications (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/KarnaRana). I wish the government would have enacted its educational policy in ICT and plan itself without relying on I/NGOs for the past two decades. If the government has a proper plan to equip teachers with ICT, the local governments can be involved in the project. In a cluster of many teachers at the local level, they can be trained to operate a computer and use internet facilities. Teachers basically need minimum computer skills, ICT literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, media literacy and communication literacy. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to train all the teachers across the country now. The educational crisis is apparently caused by unpredicted pandemic COVID-19 and such crisis may turn up time and again. Can we think a new way of schooling much more resilient than just internet-based school?

7. People also have started speculating that the online means can replace the face-to-face mode of teaching-learning in future. To what extent is there gravity in this speculation in terms of Nepal? And to what extent do we need online means?

I don’t think so. Internet can be used as a means but not as a replacement. There are predictable challenges like network crash, piracy and cyber-attack. Internet is based on the ideology of a few developed countries and they can hold the power of it. Let’s not imagine the worst but who knows if they destroy all the mechanisms of the majority of the countries. From my knowledge in this area, I would never suggest totally going to online. Of course, we can utilise internet facilities and develop the mechanism of e-learning to complement social learning strategies. Thinking about absolutely online school in Nepal may be an immature idea. The landscape of the country, weak national economic condition and expensive technology will be great barriers ahead. Poor people cannot afford such an expensive education. There are practical issues like how we can conduct actual laboratory works, how children learn to socialise and what kind of world we expect to be. I would rather think about how to develop the best practice that suits our local context.

Note: Now the floor is open for you. We encourage you to drop your comments in the box below after reading the interview. Your constructive feedback and questions inspire the interviewee. Thank you!

[To cite it: Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/]

Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever

Jeevan Karki

“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.

Why TLPD?

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.

[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: Karki, J. (2020, April 20). Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teacher-led-professional-development-in-crisis-and-ever/]

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/).

References:

Diaz-Maggioli, G. (2004). Professional development today. Teacher-centered professional development. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104021/chapters/Professional-Development-Today.aspx

Hills, D., (2017). Teacher-Led Professional Development: A Proposal for a Bottom-Up Structure Approach. International Journal of Teacher Leadership. 8(1), 77- 91.

Vangrieken, K., Meredith, C., Packer, T., & Kyndt, E. (2017). Teacher communities as a context for professional development: A systematic review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 47-59.

Awareness of ICT preparatory tools: Micro management and way forward

Ashok Sapkota

Prologue

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.

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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!]

[To cite it: Sapkota, A. (2020, April 20). Awareness of ICT tools: Micro-management and way forward. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/awareness-of-ict-preparatory-tools-micro-management-and-way-forward/]

 

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/

 

References

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.

 

Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers

Puskar Chaudhary

Abstract

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

Introduction

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.

Research methodology

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.

Sampling

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

Participant Gender Level of teaching Digital competences Teaching experiences
T 1

T 2

T 3

T 4

T 5

T 6

Male

Female

Female

Female

Female

Female

Secondary

Secondary

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Advance

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Novice

7 years

11 years

8 years

4 years

3 years

2 years

 

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 Themes
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 Themes
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.

Conclusion

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.

References

Bachlin, K., & Wild, C. (2015). Expanding the vision: A study of teacher trainees beliefs about using technology in the English language classroom in Malaysia. The Asian EFL Journal, 17(4), 37-67.

Belshaw, D. (2014).The Essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from http://digitalliteraci.es/

Berardi. I (2017, November, 03). Digital Skills vs. Digital Literacy: What’s the difference? [blogpost]. Retrieved from https://www.teachaway.com/blog/digital-skills-vs-digital-literacy-whats-difference

Dudeney, G., Hockly, N., & Pegrum, M. (2013). Digital Literacies: Research and Resources in Language Teaching. United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Eshet-Alkalai. (2004). Digital literacy: A conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13(1), 93–106.

European Commision. (2006). Recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning. Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning, 2006/962/EC, L. 394/15. Retrieved December 7, 2017, from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32006H0962&qid=1496720114366.

Hatlevik, O. E., & Christophersen, K.-A. (2013). Digital competence at the beginning of upper secondaryschool: Identifying factors explaining digital inclusion.Computers &Education, 63, 240–247. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.11.015.

Hobbs, R. (2013). Improvization and strategic risk-taking in informal learning with digital media literacy.Learning, Media and Technology, 38(2), 182-197. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2013.756517

https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/resources/tutorials/digital-competence-the-vital-.htm

JISC. (2016). Building digital capability. Retrieved from https://www.sconul.ac.uk/publication/building-digital-capability

Law, N., Woo, D., Torre, J.L., & Wong, G. (2018). A global framework of reference on digital literacy skills for indictor 4.4.2. [PDF] Retrieved from https://www.cogentoa.com/article/10.1080/2331186X.2018.1519143

Nacy, A.T. (2017). Digital literacy adoption with academic technology: namely digital information literacy to enhance student learning outcomes (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) dissertation, Educ Foundations & Leadership, Old Dominion University, Norfolk,, the USA) Retrieved from  https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/efl_etds/39 )

Nowell, S. D. (2014). Using disruptive technologies to make digital connections: Stories of media use and digital literacy in secondary classrooms. Educational Media International, 51(2), 109-123. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2014.924661

Palinkas, L. A., Horwitz, S. M., Green, C. A., Wisdom, J. P., Duan, N., and Hoagwood, K. (2013). Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services, 42(5).

Palys, T. (2008). Purposive sampling. In L. M. Given (Eds.), The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. (Vol. 2). Sage: LosAngeles, pp. 697-698.

Park, S.,& Burford, S. (2013). A longitudinal study on the uses of mobile tablet devices and changes in digital media literacy of young adults. Educational Media International, 50(4), 266-280. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2013.862365

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Lockdown, physical distancing and isolation in Ramayana: An overview

Bhansingh Dhami

Introduction

Most of the nations in the world have gone lockdown due to the worldwide spread of Corona Virus pandemic. Human beings are in the danger of deaths from an invisible fatal virus which is threatening for the entire mankind. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Corona Virus Disease (COVID) first outbroke in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. So, WHO named it COVID-19 virus. According to the report published by WHO, about one hundred thousand people have been killed till the mid of April 2020 due to this deadly disease throughout the world. Not only the underdeveloped and the developing countries but also the developed countries have been kneeling down in front of this unseen killer. Travelling is blocked, visiting is restricted, sports are halted and the world has become silent as if it is time for worldwide curfew. People are confined at home. Police have been presented in each and every street as if it indicates as government-imposed curfew in the cities and towns, but it isn’t so. Lockdown is essential to save people from the deadliest virus. World leaders are participating in video conferences and are exchanging their ideas and intentions to control this global pandemic. China has controlled in many extents, but the virus is rapidly spreading in other nations of Asia, Europe, America and Africa respectively. According to WHO, the medicine hasn’t been discovered to cure the COVID-19 infected patients yet. In Nepal, the government has used lockdown to keep Nepalese people safe from the pandemic. Before declaring lockdown, the government has closed the universities, colleges and schools. Due to lockdown, the educational sector of Nepal has been badly affected. In fact, lockdown is the act of confining the people to their own places during the time of great crisis. Due to lockdown, the movement of people from one place to another is restricted so that community spread would not take place. The doctors suggest people to maintain physical distancing and isolation which prevent the community spread of the virus.

Physical distancing and isolation are essential during the time of lockdown. Physical distancing can be taken as the opposite state of social gathering. It can also be referred to maintain distance with all people of the society including family members. It maintains the physical distance among the people. Likewise, isolation can be taken as the act of keeping a person alone. In other words, it is a state of being isolated from other people. It is obligatory to protect people from COVID-19 at present. COVID-19 virus transmits from one person to another through droplets. When the infected person sneezes or spits carelessly, the others are affected if they come into the close contact of the droplets. The systems of this virus are seen in the person after two weeks of being infected. Doctors suggest that physical exercise and vitamin C contained meal are essential to increase immunity power.

Chinese doctors had already informed the people of the world about the precautions of this global pandemic virus. The countries of the world have been locked, are being locked and are going to be locked. Socialisation has conversed and isolation has been maintained as if Stone Age is going to be restarted. In the Stone Age, human beings used to live in dens and caves because the sense of socialisation was not developed till that time. They had the feeling of fear from others such as strange wild animals and other humans who would be strangers. At present, in the same way, no one is allowed to come in the streets; shake hands and go to temples, stupas, churches, mosques and other social gatherings. If there is the presence of an infected person from COVID-19 in such gathering, the people who are with him or her can be easily infected by it. It is sure that the infected people return back to their home and the whole family members will be infected soon. To stop the transmission and infection of the virus, it is essential to maintain physical distancing. That is why, during the period of lockdown, physical distancing and isolation should be strictly maintained. Due to lockdown, people stay safe at their home so that they couldn’t be infected from the pandemic virus. Instead of walking on the streets, they have been passing time by watching the news and some evergreen movies such as Ramayana and Mahabharata which have been broadcasting from Doordarshan National and Doordarshan Bharati (TV channels of India) respectively. In this crisis of pandemic, individuals are frequently listening to the words and word phrases like lockdown, isolation, physical distancing, self-quarantine, stay safe, stay at home and so on.

Isolation is the process of keeping self away from others so that the isolated person couldn’t be infected from the virus. It is the condition in which people are advised to be isolated whether the symptoms of the virus are seen or not. Now I want to discuss the movie Ramayana in which some important scenes are relevant to reveal the context of physical distancing and isolation. I watched the movie Ramayana in Hindi presented and directed by Ramanand Sagar. The protagonist Ram Chandra is a central character whose role is crucial from beginning to the end of the film. Though the story of Ramayana belongs to Hindu mythology, its essence is above the religion. According to the story presented in the movie, there was the widespread expansion of murders, criminal activities and tyranny of violent kings in the world. So, the world was at risk. The supreme Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva compelled to think about how to save the world from the sinners? The God, Vishnu, decided to take evolution in the form of human being and other minor gods decided to take evolution in the form of monkeys. The aim behind their evolution was to get victory over demons and to save mankind from the cruel tyrannical demons who were misusing their power, prestige, spiritual and material properties. The powerless were victims and praying the God to bless from the dangerous and injurious demons. Some major events that reveal contexts of lockdown, self-quarantine, physical distancing and isolation found in Ramayana movie are discussed by connecting to the present context of lockdown in the following different headings.

Ram Chandra and his brothers in isolation for learning archery

Dashratha, the King of Ayodhya, had three queens namely Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, however, no queen got a baby. So, Dasharath was worried about his future dynasty. One day he organised Yagnya (a ritual organized for getting what is expected). The Rhisi (saint) gave the prasad (an edible substance to be blessed) to the queens and Kausalya and Kaikeyi gave one halves of prasad to Sumitra which they, three, ate happily, interestingly and eagerly. Happiness resided and extended in the palace when Kausalya gave birth to Ram Chandra, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat and Sumitra gave birth to Laxman and Shatrughan. The king became very happy. Later, when the children were grown up, the King sent them with the Rishi to learn life skills in his Kuti (hermitage). The Kuti is the symbol of isolation where the saint or hermit lives alone. Ram and his brothers were also isolated from the palace and stayed with the saint to learn archery, war strategies and so on. When they were in isolation, they learned how to handle the bow, how to throw the arrow and how to meet the target. In this isolation period, Ram and his brothers became perfect in archery and learned war strategies. They fully utilised the time and learned various life lessons. They didn’t feel isolated even though they were sent in the Kuti. If people properly handle the isolation, it seems to be meaningful in this present lockdown context of Nepal as well. Though it is a chance for conducting virtual classes for the conduction of the regular formal classes for campus and university level students, it is challenging for the continuation of classes for the school level students. Because of the lockdown in Nepal, the movement of people is restricted throughout the country. In this condition, for the school level students, the teachers can utilise social media to teach their students. As Ram Chandra and his brothers maintained isolation staying away from home, they obeyed their father’s suggestion. In the same way, following the suggestions of the government, Nepalese people can also play the role to win the Corona Virus pandemic by keeping themselves in isolation.

Fourteen-year-long banishment as physical distancing

Due to the old age, Dasharath wanted to hand over the rule in the hand of Ram Chandra. But, Kaikeyi, the second Queen demanded two boons from Dasharath. The two boons were the banishment of Ram Chandra for fourteen years and enthronement of Bharat. So, Ram Chandra heartily accepted the banishment and went to forest along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. If they didn’t go to the forest, the people of Ayodhya would raise the question against the dignity of the trustworthy King Dasharath. To save the dignity and the prestige of his father, Ramchandra decided to leave Ayodhya. They spent fourteen years in the forest. This fourteen-years long banishment can be taken as the period of physical distancing. Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman maintained the distance from Ayodhya and other people. They kept themselves in isolation for fourteen years. After fourteen years, they returned back to Ayodhya. So, in the context of lockdown in Nepal due to COVID-19, it is compulsory to maintain physical distancing to win the global pandemic virus. So, Nepalese people should follow the guidelines of lockdown to save self and others from the fatal disease. In the case of learners, they should also stay at home and focus on self-study. By doing so, the learners can utilise the time of lockdown maintaining physical distancing.

Crossing the Laxman rekha as violation of lockdown

Unfortunately, one day, Surpanakha, the devil sister of Ravan, came into the cottage where Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman used to live. She proposed Ram for marriage. Then, Ram Chandra laughed and informed her that he was a married person. Then, she talked to Laxman and proposed him for marriage. He ignored her and she threatened them that she would kill Sita. With the help of a knife, Laxman cut her nose at once. By weeping and crying, she went back to Lanka where his brothers used to live. She informed Ravan that Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman had lived in Chitrakut Mountain. Then, Ravan planned to kidnap Sita. So, he went in Marich’s hermitage and forced Marich to be a golden deer so that Sita could be attracted to the deer. When Sita saw that deer, she requested Ramchandra to catch or kill the deer. Ram Chandra ran after the deer and reached far. When Ram Chandra left the arrow, the golden deer appeared in the form of a human being. He was Marich and shouted in the voice of Ram Chandra loudly. Sita heard the voice and asked Laxman to go for searching Ram Chandra forcefully. Then, Laxman drew the line around the cottage. Before leaving for searching Ram Chandra, Laxman requested Sita not to cross the line until he returned back. Later on, Laxman left the cottage and immediately Ravan came to the cottage in the form of a hermit. As Sita crossed the Laxman Rekha (the divine line drawn by Laxman to protect Sita from the danger of outside), Ravan caught Sita and took her Lanka in his Pushpabiman (a type of plane belonging to Ravan).

Due to the violation of lockdown, Sita was kidnapped by Ravan. So, this event of the Ramayana movie can also be connected with the present lockdown context of Nepal. As Sita violated the lockdown drawn by Laxman, the problem appeared in front of Ram Chandra. That is why people of Nepal should also be aware of the possible harms that can be created due to the violation of lockdown. The learners including school children should welcome the lockdown in this critical period of COVID-19 so that they cannot be infected from the deadly virus. The learners can protect themselves and others by staying at home. They can read books at their own home to utilise the time.

The devil King of Lanka as a symbol of Corona virus

Ravan was a very powerful demon king of Lanka and was blessed by Lord Shiva. He could lift the Kailash Mountain in his hands. After being blessed by Lord Shiva, he became proud and tyrannical with gods and goddesses along with human creatures. All gods and people were afraid of Ravan. So, Ram Chandra was born as a human and killed Raval. The blessing given to Ravan by lord Shiva was for doing good deeds on the earth, but he misused Shiva’s blessing. Ravan created situations of terror and horror in the world. Ram Chandra killed him because he kidnapped Sita. Symbolically, he was the chief coronavirus of Treta Yug (the second era according to Hindu mythology). As COVID-19 has been spread all over the world, people should be aware of this global pandemic virus. To control the spread of the pandemic, the government of Nepal has declared total lockdown. In this critical situation, all people should maintain physical distancing and isolation to keep them safe from the deadly virus. Lockdown is not imposed, but it is used to keep the people safe from the infection of the invisible deadly disease. It will be defeated as Ravan was defeated in Treta Yug. The country will surely win the virus if people follow the rules of lockdown.

Personal reflection on physical distancing and isolation

After watching the Ramayana movie, I felt that the exercises of lockdown, physical distancing, isolation and self-quarantine were in existence in the Ramayana era. So, the study and application of eastern philosophy, as well as its publicity, seems to be quite essential in the present-day overpopulated world. As Ram Chandra maintained physical distancing and isolation to overcome from the possible harms and dangers, the people of the present era should also maintain it properly. We should also learn lessons from Sita’s violation of Laxman Rekha which ultimately brought problems in her life. Not only Sita but also Ram Chandra and Laxman took a great risk due to the violation of lockdown. To be safe and secured, people need to follow the procedures of lockdown such as washing hands frequently, staying at home, avoiding social gatherings and so on. Should we live following the moral, social and humanitarian behaviours of the protagonist? Should we leave the brutal behaviours of the antagonist? Isn’t the antagonist as a symbol of Corona for mankind? These questions remain unanswered if we don’t follow the lockdown by maintaining proper physical distancing and isolation. Humans should have only one religion i.e. humanity which leads them towards humbleness. Indeed, humbleness reveals the height of spiritual culture in each deed done by an individual. It also directs each person into the direction of progressive human civilisation. Humiliation never creates humanisation so that progress can be felt. The feeling of overpower leads towards destruction which is ultimately very painful and sorrowful. We can perceive isolation as a miniature of socialisation so it should be maintained properly. Socialisation seems to be a miniature of globalisation. So socialisation should also be maintained to restrict unnecessary social gatherings. In this global era, everything is being globalised whether the thing is good or not.

Some pedagogical implications of physical distancing and isolation

Using the means of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) available at home, the teaching and learning of any subject in general and English language, in particular, can also be conducted. The reading materials related to the English language are widely available on the Internet. Virtual classes can also be conducted to continue teaching during the time of the lockdown period. Being an autonomous learner, the lockdown period can be utilised by the learners within their home. In the case of English language teaching and learning, the teachers and learners may use social media for teaching and learning. Learners can surf the Internet at the time of lockdown to expand the horizon of their knowledge. Teachers can conduct exams through the Internet which helps to maintain physical distancing and isolation. Teachers can send reading materials through email. Learners can take an exam through the Internet when teachers send questions related to free writing.

Conclusion
Corona Virus pandemic has taught us a great lesson regarding lockdown, physical distancing and isolation. By maintaining physical distancing and isolation, we can be safe from possible harms and hazards. As physical distancing and isolation maintained by Ram Chandra in Ramayana movie, it can be a source to know about the lockdown, and physical distancing. Isolation can also be useful for brainstorming which helps to foster our intuitive knowledge by which the learners investigate the various possible solutions of the personal problem. It is essential to be safe in the time of a great crisis. Teachers and learners can utilise ICT for teaching and learning English during the period of lockdown. The COVID-19 can be defeated by only maintaining physical distancing and isolation. People should become alert to tackle the possible challenges of other sorts of pandemics as well.

[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: Dhami, B.S. (2020, April 20). Lockdown, social distancing and isolation in Ramayan: An overview. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/lockdown-physical-distancing-and-isolation-in-ramayana-an-overview/]

The Author: Mr Dhami is doing a Masters in English at Kailali Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is a secondary English teacher and has been teaching at Holyland Secondary School Attariya, Kailali since 2006 AD.

Unstoppable learning despite the COVID-19 lockdown

Dipak Prasad Mishra

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.

Conclusion
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!]

[To cite it: Mishra, D.P. (2020, April 20). Unstoppable learning despite the COVID-19 lockdown. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/unstoppable-learning-despite-the-covid-19-lockdown/]

 

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.  

Reflections: Hearing from founders, editors, ELT experts and readers

On our eleventh anniversary, the Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has collected the reflections from our founders, editors, ELT experts and readers. Their reflections remind the readers our journey, our contribution (contribution in education in general and ELT in particular), contents and readers perspectives on them, its sustainability, some valuable suggestions. It’s indeed very interesting to hear from them and we believe you will certainly enjoy these excerpts and know more about Choutari.   

The way forward: Interactivity

Bal Krishna Sharma, PhD

Before I wrote this piece, I quickly skimmed through the blog posts published in 2019 and stopped at the one written by Sreejana Chamling on the topic of how listening to the radio made her a good language user and a teacher eventually. She writes “I enjoyed the English-speaking style of the RJs. I especially liked their pronunciation, speaking styles, confidence etc. Then I started dreaming of being able to speak like them and started tuning English programs even if I did not fully understand what they were talking about.” Fascinating! Then as I finished reading it, I wanted to see how the post has been responded to by the readers. None! This is just a representative case. When the founding team envisioned the goal and mode of this online forum, a few keywords came to our mind: interaction, dialogicality, discussion, and so on. The idea of publishing a reflective material in an interactive blog is to generate a response in its readers. Interactivity is exactly the feature that makes Choutari different from traditional journal articles or other web-materials.

What is the way forward? For the last few years, I have been following another interactive blog Language on the Move. Like ours, it publishes articles on a regular basis, from contributors around the world. As an example, the blog published an entry on ‘language shaming’ written by an Australian professor Ingrid Piller, and the post drew several details of content from my article on language ideology published in the journal Language, Discourse and Context. The blog post generated 19 comments, both long and short. Meanwhile the writer contacted me to see if I could write a response to the post, and I did. I was impressed by the degree of interest that readers had on the topic and the content of the article.

The way forward for ELT Choutari is to take stock of what we have achieved so far and learn from other similar forums like Language on the Move. Happy New Year 2020!

Collaborations with institutions for forward

Laxman Gnawali, PhD

As the first webzine launched by the Nepali ELT professionals, Choutari actually established the idea that this type of publication is viable to run a sustainable way. It was launched at a time when Nepali ELT professionals were looking for reading materials which were Nepal specific and freely available. Choutari was an apt response to the expectation. Though the pioneers had no concrete experience of running a professional webzine, with their relevant academic background giving Choutari a professional shape, in a short span of time, it became a familiar platform for the ELT professionals particularly for the young scholars. Looking from the professional development point of view, those who were not getting space in the print journals, saw their work published and read by colleagues from around the world.

The selection of write-ups of Choutari is impressive. The issues include an array of contributions: anecdotes, opinion articles, classroom tips, research papers and book reviews which allow professionals and scholars of varying stages to contribute their experiences and insights as well as research outcomes. In addition, occasional interviews and bytes create space for the seasoned and senior professionals to share their views and positions on pertinent issues. Though the editors seem to be cautious about the quality, in some issues some minor errors act as red herrings which, if avoided, will make this webzine a truly professional one. Everything has a room to improve.

Choutari issues are commendable and have a good readership from home and abroad. Even then, this webzine has a potential to have a wider impact. For this, I propose a few strategies. Firstly, if the contributions undergo a peer review, though not necessarily blind, the oversights can be detected, and unintended red herrings can be avoided. This will also allow some thinking time for the editors as the review can be done by professionals who are not in the team. Secondly, if each issue includes one editor from a different university/college, that particular issue will see contributions from that institution. Once the professionals from that institution see their write-ups published, they become regular readers for the upcoming issues. The selection of the guest editors needs to be done institutionally i.e. Choutari team need to approach to the institutions to nominate someone from their respective departments. This becomes a true collaboration between Choutari and the institution. An understanding can be made that the collaborating institution members contribute at least 50% of the selections in the issue. Thirdly, if each issue has two sections a) regular features and b) specific theme-based contributions, regular readers will find something to read as they always have. Other readers who may be interested in specific theme will access a given issue. This will create a niche of the readers maintaining a variety for the ELT community.

Recognition opportunities for sustainability

Uttam Gaulee, PhD

ELT Choutari is an adventurous journey by a few pioneers who inspired a generation of ELT experts in Nepal and beyond. The contents on it included a wide variety of resources, reflections, and research, the contribution of which is tremendous in the Nepali society.

Choutari is a wonderful platform and should therefore continue to reach out to young writers and help them express their ideas by providing trainings on writing. Some competitions, incentives and professional development opportunities tied to the contribution would go a long way toward sustainability. Recognition opportunities such as the “contributor of the month” or author spotlight would help young writer build up confidence.

Some reflections from behind the scene

Babita Sharma Chapagain

ELT Choutari is a digital ELT magazine in Nepal, initiated by ELT scholars in Nepal. This forum has been grooming the new members to take over the responsibilities to run it and thus offering them an opportunity to gain new experiences and grow professionally. ELT Choutari earned good popularity in the field of English language teaching and networking. I understand it as a great platform where authors from home and abroad exchange their ideas, share about their innovative practices and where ELT professionals can network and grow. One year ago, when I was offered to join the ELT Choutari team, I was quite excited as it was my first experience working as an editor of an online journal. It has really been a great pleasure becoming a part of this vibrant and enthusiastic team of six editorial board members. Since I joined this team, my role is to support my co-editors to find articles focused on and complementing the particular theme for that quarterly edition. Additionally, I would also review articles. This year, I got an opportunity to work as a lead editor of the fourth quarterly edition (October-December, 2019) of ELT Choutari, under the theme of ‘EFL/ESL Teachers’ New Teaching Ideas/ Methods and Best Practices on Integrated Approach to Teaching English’.

During this process of releasing that edition, I realized how challenging it is to find authors to write and share their ideas. Actually, we were trying to bring into the new contributors to share their experiences. We encountered some enthusiastic people, who were willing to share their experiences but lacked confidence to produce a readable reflection or blog post. So, it gave us an insight that we need to support such people in scale to build their confidence in writing their reflections.

The best part of my time here was our team work. My team members gave their valuable time to provide me with technical support and help me with editing the articles until all the articles were finally released. I would like to thank all the editors of Choutari for their for their immense support and encouragement. Finally, I am very thankful to the valuable contributors who shared their experiences of various practices in the field of English language teaching.

Editor’s perspectives

Ganesh Kumar Bastola

Choutari was a very familiar forum for me before I joint it as an editor as I had already published a couple of my own articles. Later, when I was offered a place as an editor, I felt elated. I was overwhelmed in the very beginning. Later, I had to lead one issue myself (of course with the support from team members). As we received the articles and we started reviewing them, I encountered some challenges.

During the review of the articles, firstly, I confined my focus on cohesion and coherence of the write-up. I made cursory reading of some of peer reviewed journal and their articles. Apart from reading across those different articles, I concentrated on the structural aspects as well. The most challenging part of reviewer is to envisage the positive as well as the negative aspects of paper. During the process of refining the write ups, I learnt many things myself, which are discussed below:

  1. Organization of the contents: We know every write-up has its own style, lay out and structure. The papers I reviewed had varied structures. Of course, no two articles have similar heading and sub-heading. However, it is essential that any article should maintain the diction appropriate to its style, for instance, the reflective article is written in narrative form, which doesn’t match with other research articles.
  2. Recapitulating the contribution of the paper: As an editor and writer, one should question themselves, “What’s the contribution of the write-up to its field?” I also realized that an article having practical pedagogy for day-to-day classroom is more preferred by teachers than the articles on theoretical perspectives. However, having both theoretical perspectives and practical application in the classroom can make the article even better.
  3. Aligning with the theme of the issue: Sometimes Choutari announces the thematic issue aiming to generate the focused discoursed on a particular theme. As an editor and writer, one should bear this in mind while editing and writing any article.

Reviewing and editing not only helps to make articles publishable and readable, but also offers many benefits for editors. While reviewing and editing articles, I get to read and re-read diverse write ups from wider scholars in home and abroad, which not only expands my academic horizon but also develops the professional skills like editing and reviewing. After publishing the articles with the series of revision and editing, I feel that editing gives an academic shape for an article keeping a contributor’s voice intact, tacit and embodiment.

Readers’ perspectives

Nabina Roka

I’m glad to know that ELT Choutari is welcoming valuable feedback from its reader.

I had subscribed this magazine quite a while before, I published my article on it. It was my thesis supervisor (Dr. Prem Phyak), who encouraged me to write reflection on the Masters’ Research (2018), for ELT Choutari. Then, I made up my mind not to miss that opportunity. I was glad as well as worried whether I could produce a publishable writing or not. Then, I went through some of the articles, which motivated me for reading the recent trends and practices in English language teaching and also gave me some ideas on shaping my own article. Some articles like ‘Teacher as Reader’, ‘Good Writing is All about Practicing and Knowing its Reader’, ‘Enhancing Project Work in EFL Class’, ‘Critical Thinking Strategies for Resolving Challenges in ELT’, issues of EMI in Multilingual Context, etc. are some of the remarkable writing which inspired me to keep reading this magazine. Not only that I often read the reflection by various ELT practitioners and equally got insights from their experiences, day to day practices, stress, frustration, opportunity, etc. The success stories and motivational reflection published on the digital magazine are highly commendable.

It supports and inspires the people like us to revive our hopes to try something new in our field. Moreover, in this age, digital magazine provides the opportunity for the readers to interact with the contents and authors.

However, ELT Choutari has yet to work on the reaching the larger audience. Despite the amazing contents on it, the number of readers seem less. Therefore, it should work on bringing the large number of students and teachers on this forum to read and also share their experiences and reflections. I hope ELT Choutari will be recognized as one of widely used magazines throughout the country and the world to bring the unheard voices of the ELT practitioners.

Finally, I would like to suggest Choutari team to bring in the contents in the areas of eco-pedagogy and English, narratives on inclusion in ELT, narratives of disabled teachers/learners’ of English, creative and critical writing, and photography as a means to teach language.

Insights on diverse themes: Bam Shah

I’m one of the regular readers of Choutari since I’ve heard about it. I began to study regularly when I got information from my respected teachers in the university. I regularly read the articles published on it, which are very interesting. Choutari has energized me to read and explore more. It has provided insights on the diverse themes in ELT. Today I’m very happy to know about the eleventh anniversary of ELT Choutari. I hope that it will provide readers with more valuable research articles in the days to come.

Now, we open the floor for you. Please share your reflections or comments for ELT choutari in the comment box below.

[To cite this: ELT Choutari. (2020, January 25). Reflections: Hearing from founders, editors, ELT experts and readers [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/reflections-hearing-from-founders-editors-elt-experts-and-readers/]

Quality scrutiny in materials isn’t merely a formalization process: Ganga Ram Gautam, PhD

Ganga Ram Gautam, PhD

Dr. Ganga Ram Gautam, Associate Professor of English Education and Director of Open and Distance Education Center (ODEC) at Tribhuvan University, trains English teachers of all levels of education and contributes to the development and dissemination of teacher education curricula in English Education throughout Nepal. He is one of the founding members of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and Teacher Educators’ Society Nepal (TESON). He has co-organized a number of national and international conferences and capacity building workshops for the NELTA leaders, school principals, university faculty members and trainers. Dr. Gautam has worked on a number of community development projects that focus on children’s education, school development, school governance, vocational education, women’s empowerment and girls’ education. Dr. Gautam has authored a number of articles, book chapters and presented in workshops, seminars and conferences in Nepal and abroad.

Our Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has spoken to Dr. Gautam in the periphery of production and use of ELT materials in Nepali. Moreover, this interview also unpacks some issues like the quality of materials, teaching in low-resourced context and exploiting the online resources. Now enjoy reading this exclusive interview.

1. How is the situation of the use of resources and materials in ELT classes in Nepal at present?

There are different modes and practices regarding the use of ELT resources and materials in Nepal. In some public schools, teachers solely rely on the textbooks prepared by the government while in some other public schools, they use additional textbooks from the list provided by the Curriculum Development Center. In private schools, they use the materials of their choices. Some schools use the materials (mostly books) written and published in Nepal while some others use the textbooks from international publishing houses. So, there is no uniformity in the use of resources in the ELT classes.

Apart from the textbook, there is not much organized effort, so far, in producing, developing or preparing complementary/supplementary English language learning and teaching materials in Nepal. However, there are some organizations at the non- state level, which have been trying to produce reference materials, like reading materials. Some NGOs have produced reading materials in English and other local languages.

In terms of software or digital resources, some technology companies are digitizing the materials, both curricular and additional materials in the digital form and they’re also available in the market today, like OLE Nepal, which has digitized curriculum and textbook materials. Also, there are some commercially available digitized materials which are connected to the English language textbooks and other content area textbooks. So, there are some initiatives, but I feel that they haven’t been established as the mainstream contributors in the ELT space. Thus, there are certain very important things to be done like consolidation, streamlining, refining and polishing the materials.

2. You’ve mentioned that teachers are mostly dependent on the textbooks inside the classroom. What is the scenario of schools in the urban areas, to be specific?

I have visited some schools in urban areas too and mostly it’s upon the teachers’ proactive initiative to use the additional teaching learning materials, rather than the institutionalized efforts. So, some organizations are trying to produce the materials and resources around, but they have not been institutionally driven and guided by the system. There are also schools in urban areas, which produce their own additional materials and do not use solely the textbooks. They go for resource-based teaching. To be short, things are evolving but we need to institutionalize them and use that effort in the mainstream education.

3. How can teachers in the low resourced context give best to the students?

This is a very good question. I’ve seen that some teachers even in the rural areas are trying to find resources available online and they adapt them in their classes. At the same time, I’ve also met many teachers who only produce excuses by saying that resources are not easily available in the rural parts of Nepal.

In my observations, there are many ways teachers can give best to the students in the ELT classes, provided that teachers are aware of the availability of the resources and materials at their fingertips. Now, the mobile phone is very common across the country and internet access is very common. There are plenty of online resources teachers can access even with the low internet bandwidth. We don’t need to rely on the printed materials only. Teachers can find the materials available online and they can then connect them to the contents they teach from the textbooks. What we need to do is to orient the teachers in the low-resourced context to find those materials guide them on how they could best use those resources to integrate to the curricular contents.

4. Are we the contributors or merely the consumers of the ELT resources and materials?

Recently, there has been a growing tendency to produce the resources, particularly the textbooks, locally. But this is not adequate. We need to produce resources to teach English. We should also encourage teachers to develop their own resources in their local contexts. There are plenty of resources around and teachers can make use of those resources in their English classes but they need to be shown how they could do it. We need to develop confidence among teachers by engaging them in developing the resources, not just by asking them to do on their own. We need to mentor them and work with them so that they can gradually learn how to do it.

5. Where are the Nepali ELT scholars in terms of producing ELT resources and materials in Asia?

If we are talking about the textbooks, there are many people in Nepal who are engaged in this business. The question, however, is not a number. It’s about quality. Producing good quality materials requires a focused and systematic engagement. One has to develop expertise in it. Random picking of the texts and developing a couple of exercises from them is not materials development. There is no scrutiny in the quality aspects of the materials produced in Nepal. Without reviewing them from the rigorous quality parameters, it would be unfair to exactly say how those materials are. So, there are materials around and people have shown their interest in writing materials in Nepal but the issue of quality is still a question to be answered.

6. So, how to maintain quality in these materials?

There are quality accreditation parameters of the government. For instance, Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) has that mechanism, which consists of a subject committee and textbook writers. And the materials produced by them should go through the quality scrutiny process. However, you can obviously question about the quality of the processes itself. On the other hand, in the private publication system, there is no any established mechanism to ensure the quality of the materials produced by the local authors. If you look at the practices of the international publishing houses, they have a group of experts, who minutely go through the manuscript produced by the authors and the authors are given constructive feedback. After a series of scrutiny only, the materials are accepted and published by the publisher. Our local publishing houses have to learn many things from these practices. I’m not saying that all the materials produced by local authors so far are of low quality, what am I saying is we need to check whether the materials maintain the quality so that students learn good English.

7. Private publishers are there with a business motive. When they have a pool of experts to check the quality, that will cost money, which will affect in their profit. So, why would they go for it? In this context, what is the role of the state?

It is a managerial issue. What I’m talking about is the academic issue. So, if you ask me “Can we compromise the quality at the cost of the managerial issues?”, I would definitely go for ‘no’. So, how the private publishers maintain the quality is something they need to think of. And what the state needs to do is another crucial question. State should also develop a mechanism to check the quality of the materials produced at the non-state sector. What we have so far is only the formalizing process and preparing the list of materials from various publication. I don’t see the ‘rigour’ in this to ensure the quality of the materials.

8. How can teachers make the best use of online resources and materials in teaching learning?

Online resources could be overwhelming if teachers do not know how to use them. You can find anything online and there are so many sites where you can find the ELT resources. First of all, you need to know how you can use them to help the learners who are learning English with you. It will be unrealistic if you think that you can use the online resources as they are. Customization will be required and as teachers we need to know how we can customize them for our learners.

9. How can teachers customize these materials?

There are mainly two issues with it. Firstly, there is too much information and it’s overwhelming for teachers. It might be difficult to decide where to begin. It’s like when you have so many books on the shelf, it takes so much of your time to decide which one to start with. Secondly, in order to use the online resources, the teachers have to take a big shift from their conventional teaching approach. If you just ask them to use online materials, they don’t know how to make the shift. In order to make that big shift, moving from printed materials to online materials, they need to develop their confidence. This confidence can be developed if we can build on their existing strengths and give them some support step-wise, like Krashen’s ‘i+1’ concept. For instance, we can show them how to access the materials and resources online and download from their smart phone. So, they need a structured guidance to make the shift from print materials to online materials. Then we have to guide them to integrate and adapt the online materials with the curriculum contents.

Many teachers see and use the online resources for fun activities. They don’t see the connection between the online materials and the curriculum. Therefore, they need training/facilitation and most importantly mentoring support and guide to boost their confidence to use the online materials effectively.

10. If there are individual teachers who are trying to integrate the online resources into their curriculum, what do you suggest them?

Like there is a lesson in the textbook, which is intended to develop reading comprehension in children. So many teachers have a feeling that it’s the story they’ve to teach not the particular language skills. But if you look at the underlying principles in the curriculum, there is a particular reading agenda behind the text. There may be a reading soft skill, which is the focus of that particular story, like skimming or scanning. So if teachers understand that underlying principle behind the story, they can connect the lesson with online resources which focus on skimming or scanning reading activities. Now the teachers can take students online (if there is computer lab), find some simpler stories online, set questions based on the text and ask them to read the story and do comprehension activity. After the students do a couple of practices, now the teachers can ask them to do the same activity with their story in the textbook.

11. How can teachers utilize the online resources best for their professional development?

Online resources could contribute immensely in our professional development. We can not only enhance our English language skills but also sharpen our pedagogical skills from the online resources. There are courses for English teachers and there are online journals. We can attend the course, learn the skills that we need, publish our experiences and network with the like-minded people from around the world.

For teachers and ELT practitioners, there is a focused webinar series in Nepal, run and coordinated by Regional English Language Office of the American embassy. Teachers in Nepal can attend these webinars online and interact with the people around the world and benefit from global perspectives and ideas. Likewise, there are plenty of recorded webinars free, which focus on professional development, like the English language pedagogy of teachers and all. For example, https://americanenglish.state.gov/ and https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/ can be helpful to them.

Apart from them, conferencing opportunities are also equally helpful for teachers’ professional development. There are online announcements of such conferences, which provide us opportunities to present our work and participate. So, teachers can explore English language education conference calendar on the web to be up-to-date with these opportunities. Moreover, there are also funding opportunities to travel to such conferences and attend. Many teachers think they may not be qualified for these opportunities. Actually, these are meant for teachers and ELT practitioners like us. We should give a try.

12. Recently TU also has announced the call for distance education. Can you explain what is it and how can teachers benefit from it?

There is Open and Distance Education Center (ODEC) in Tribhuvan University (TU), which I head currently. It also runs online Masters’ program in English language education. So, working teachers who cannot come on-campus for the Master’s program, can benefit from this course from their home. They can apply for it and sit for the entrance examination to be qualified. Then they can join our online course and learn from our virtual classrooms. In the beginning of the semester, we have a two days orientation, which introduces students to the virtual classroom and its process and procedures. After that their virtual study begins, where they study, discuss, submit their assignments and so on.

The lessons are set in weekly units and in the beginning of the week, we upload the weekly lessons. Then the students will access them, download and study offline in their own time. The materials contain some readings, some audio or visual materials etc. They are given some assignments, which they have to complete. Then based on their study, they also have to contribute to the online discussion, interaction and reflection every week. Every week it goes like this. In the middle of semester, we check-in by inviting them for a couple of days but it’s not mandatory. If they don’t have any issue and if they’re doing ok, they don’t need to come for this but if they have certain issues that they want to discuss in person they can come in the middle of the semester. They also can come and see us in person, if they struggle or have any issue. At the end of the semester, they must come for the examinations. 40% evaluation is done through online assignments and the rest from the 4 hours end semester examinations.

It’s a two years course but students have flexibility to complete it within 5 years.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the interview, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this interview in the comment box below, which will encourage the interviewee. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Gautam, G.R. (2020, January 25). Quality scrutiny in materials isn’t merely a formalization process: Ganga Ram Gautam, PhD [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/quality-scrutiny-in-materials-isnt-merely-a-formalization-process-ganga-ram-gautam-phd/]

Teaching English using locally made/available materials

Rishi Ram Paudel*

It was an immense pleasure and honour for me to attend IATEFL conference 2019 at Liverpool, UK, and present my paper on ‘Teaching English Using Locally Made/ Available Materials’. My presentation was well-received by participants. As I look back at my feedback sheet, the comments such as ‘lovely-very creative, communicative and compelling’ by Sarah Moont and ‘very engaging’ by Sue Gorton demonstrate the enthusiasm the IATEFL participants had.

The use of locally made/available materials facilitates the English language teaching and learning more interesting, engaging and interactive. In this post, I present how we can use locally made/available materials to teach English. I’m glad to share this with those who did not attend my presentation in Liverpool.

The words in bold letters show what language items are focused to teach the learners. And you can always customize to fit your requirement and make your own versions. You will be amazed just with the following miniature items mentioned below, how much language we can teach.

Materials (miniature, realia) that were used:

Carpet, round cushion, square cushion, girl, boy, bed, mattress, pen, fish, broom, ten-rupee-note, sheet, pillow, card-stand showing 10 p.m., woman, quilt/duvet, ladder, mobile phone, log, rock, house, garden

A sample presentation technique:

Hold the carpet toward the students and say ‘carpet’. Now say, ‘This is a carpet.’ (show it and say twice). As you lay the carpet on the floor, you can choose to say one of Hold the carpet toward the students and say ‘carpet’. Now say, ‘This is a carpet.’ (show it and say twice). As you lay the carpet on the floor, you can choose to say one of these:

lay the carpet or spread the carpet or fit the carpet.

After you lay the carpet, you can roll back uttering either of these sentences:

Roll back the carpet or Roll up the carpet.

Now you can lift the carpet and beat it saying: beat the carpet.  

Depending on what you want the learners to learn, you can modify the sentence and say, ‘I’m beating the carpet to dust off.’ (this expression could be in Nepali context where sometimes carpet needs beating to shed off the dust). If it is not the appropriate context in your situation, you can modify the language.

Before you ask your students to make their own version of language expressions, make sure that they have enough exposure what you do and what you say.

Example – 2

Take the round cushion and say, ‘a round cushion’ before you say, ‘It’s a round cushion.’

Put the round cushion on the carpet and say: ‘The round cushion is on the carpet.’

Now take the square cushion

and say, ‘a square cushion’. Say again ‘It’s a square cushion’.

Put the square cushion on the carpet and say: The square cushion is on the carpet.

Now say this: Both 

the round cushion and the square cushion are on the carpet-.

Hold the girl doll, show and say, ‘a girl’. Then say: She’s a student. Similarly, take the boy doll, show and say ‘a boy’ before saying the sentence: He’s a student too.

Place the girl on the round cushion and say:

The girl is sitting on the round cushion.

Then place the boy on the square cushion and say:

‘The boy is sitting on the square cushion.’ Now say this: Both the boy and the girl are sitting on the cushions.

The girl is sitting on the round cushion, whereas the boy is sitting on the rectangular cushion. Hold and show a bed and say –a bed-. Now say: It’s a bed. And now say: It’s made of metal. Place the bed behind the girl and the boy and say: Behind the girl and the boy. ‘there’s a bed’.

Show pen and say, ‘a pen’. Now say: It’s a pen.

Put the pen in front of the girl and say:

‘In front of the girl, there’s a pen.’

Also say this sentence:

‘There’s a pen in front of the girl.’

Show the fish and say- a fish. Now say – ‘It’s a fish.’

Next, put the fish in front of the boy and say:

‘There’s a fish in front of the boy’,

Next say this sentence:

‘There’s a fish in front of the boy.’

Then, utter this sentence: ‘There’s a pen in front of the girl, whereas there’s a fish in front of the boy.’

You can give other examples so that students can get ample opportunities to listen to and practice.

Show a broom and say ’a broom’. Now say:

‘It’s a broom. It is used for sweeping the floor.

Now place the broom between the boy and the girl and say:

‘The broom is between the boy and the girl.’

Next, point toward the bed and say:

‘I’m gonna make the bed.’

Let’s do the same with mattress.

Show mattress and say: a mattress. Now say: ‘It’s a mattress.’

Next, hold the mattress and press it with your fingers, and say: ‘The mattress is soft.’

Next, feel the metal bed and say: ‘But the bed is hard.’

Then, say this: ‘The mattress is soft whereas the bed is hard.’

Now show money and say ’money’. Say this: ‘This is money.’

If the money you are holding is a ten-rupee note, say ‘a ten-rupee-note’. Now say: ‘This is a ten-rupee note.’

(Note: Make sure that the students understand this clearly, and won’t say a ten-rupees note, which would be considered grammatically wrong.)

Now put the money under the mattress and say: ‘The money is under/beneath the mattress.’ You can also say: ‘I’m hiding the money under the mattress.’

You can also make the statement: ‘Some people hide their money under the mattress.’

Show bed sheet and say, ‘a bed sheet’. Now, say: ‘It’s a bed sheet.’ Lay the bed sheet and say: ‘I’ve laid the bed sheet’

Next, show the size and say: ‘It’s too big.’ Tuck in the bed sheet and say: ‘I’m tucking in the bed sheet.’

Show pillow and say, ‘a pillow’. Next, say: ‘This is a pillow.’

Next, put the pillow on the bed sheet and say: ‘I put the pillow on the bed sheet.quilt/duvet (a quilt/a duvet)

Now say: ‘It’s a quilt/It’s a duvet.

Spread the quilt/duvet over the bed and say: ‘I spread the quilt/duvet over the bed.’ ‘It’s now ready. I’ve made the bed.

Show ladder and say –a ladder.

Now say: ‘It’s a ladder.’

Now show the rungs of the ladder and say ’rungs’. Now say –rungs of the ladder.

Finally say: ‘These are rungs of the ladder.’

Now place the ladder upright beside the bed and say: ‘The ladder is beside the bed.’

Show the time card stand and say: ‘It’s ten o’clock at night. It’s time to go to bed.’

And make a dramatic expression: ‘But I’m not going to bed.’ Show the doll of the

woman and say: This woman is going to bed. Now dramatically make the woman walk toward the ladder and say: The woman is walking towards the ladder.

Now ask her to climb the ladder. Now you can say: She’s climbing up the ladder.” Make a dramatic stop as she reached the top rung of the ladder and say: She’s stopped on the top rung of the ladder. Why? Because she was too tired, and she forgot something. You know what she forgot? Show a mobile phone and say –her dear mobile phone.

Place the mobile phone on the floor so that she has to climb down the ladder. As she is climbing down the ladder, you can say:

‘She is climbing down the ladder. There’s some price to pay when you forget, isn’t there?

Put the mobile phone under her arm and say:

‘She has put her mobile phone in her armpit to hold the mobile phone.’

Now ask her to climb up the ladder again and say:

‘She’s climbing up the ladder again. Poor absent-minded woman!’

Put the woman in the bed and pull the quilt over her and say these sentences: ‘She pulled the quilt/duvet.’

Now say, ‘She was too tired and now she’s fast asleep. She’s sleeping like a log/rock.’

And now show a log and a rock and put on the floor, which are motionless. And again say: ‘The woman is sleeping like a log/a rock.’ Now say this: ‘And now she’s dreaming about a magnificent house with a beautiful garden.’ And place the house and the garden in front of it on the table.

Now you can also ask your students to make their own version of language using the items you used.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The author is a freelance writer and a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA).

[To cite this: Poudel. R.R., (2020, January 25). Teaching English using locally made/available materials [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/teaching-english-using-locally-made-available-materials/]

Open online courses for teachers’ professional development

Bibas Thapa*

Introduction

As stated in the Oxford online dictionary, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are freely available, short courses, delivered online, on a suitable platform. MOOCs are currently one of the latest educational revolutions in education, making the rich resources around the world available at our fingertip. MOOCs therefore, represent an untapped potential for teacher professional development that may replace traditional educational courses Pope (2013), Evans & Myrick (2015). MOOCs allow free and unlimited access to the courses of our choice with lectures, videos, and reading materials followed by lively virtual interaction. Therefore, we may find comfort doing these courses. Moreover, these courses and the contents on are highly authentic as these courses are also offered by some of the prestigious universities in the world such as MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, Arizona, and many others.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss how MOOCs can help teachers’ in their professional development and share my experience of attending and benefitting from these courses.

How MOOCs can help with teachers’ professional development?

Teacher professional development is the process of constantly enhancing professional skills, broadening academic knowledge and improving teaching ability. The 21st-century dynamics of the education systems emphasizes professional teacher quality due to the increased number of students with diversified needs and the changing teaching technology (Hennessy, Haßler & Hofmann, 2015; Ji & Cao, 2016). This, therefore, demands teachers and teacher educators to continually strengthen the professional competency. One of the key elements of teacher quality is the provision of adequate opportunities for personal growth and professional development through regular training (Avalos, 2011; Junaid & Maka, 2015). The traditional professional development courses where teachers go out of school to attend formal lectures, capacity building workshops, and in-service courses are only not sufficient to address this need. This is due to the costs associated with such professional development training such as time, training and coaching materials, equipment, and facilities, travel and university tuition and conference fees. There is need to have a more cost-effective way of training teachers and teacher educators for continued professional development. At present MOOCs are offered for free or at a nominal fee. EdX and Coursera are two prime examples of free courses available and to be modified and customized in different ways to meet the specific needs audience. A teacher, who wants to enhance his/her professional competency and be an ideal teacher, can opt for free MOOCs. Due its to flexibility, both in time and location, teachers can attend MOOCs courses during vacation and holidays rather than depending on training centers. So starting MOOCs is a better way of learning in a self-directed way.

My experience

Since 2013 I have been using MOOCs for my professional development as teaching is my profession. I have done more than 30 courses so far and been continuing learning at my own pace and convenience without disturbing my daily schedule.

Online courses have enormous flexibility. We can do the course at any time of the day, in our time as per our choice and requirement. For instance, we can study on our way to work, in leisure at our work, after working hours at home, while traveling in some other city, or with our learner watching the video together. We just need a working internet connection. I did the course on my break time and spending a some time daily in my leisure period. MOOCs use the digital tools through which I jump forward and back in the video sequence or watch individual sequences several times. My first course was five hours online course named English Grammar for the teachers from Cambridge University and I continued other courses too. When I decided to do a MOOC course, I presented myself with a chance to hold interactions and discussions with students worldwide. Forums, peer review, and real-time discussions are some core features of the majority of MOOC courses available today. In the discussion forum, we can ask questions, debate on issues, and find classmates who share similar goals. Due to the discussion forum, I got success in starting a mystery Skype session from my MOOCs classmate, where two classes from anywhere in the world Skype each other, taking it in turns to ask some interesting yes/no questions. It develops speaking skills with a confidence level of my learner. The course instructors also encourage to give constructive feedback on the works of the other students enrolled in the course. It helps to develop a sense of accomplishment and contributes to the concept of collective learning. The positive outcomes of a peer review component in my online course enhance my learning and develop writing and thinking skills. The process of undertaking a peer review helps me to become a stronger assessor of my work. In MOOCs, there is also a provision of grading. Students always know where they stand in their course because the grade in MOOCs is always available. We can retake the submission too if we want to improve our scores. In this era, where mere cramming of the subject isn’t enough, I learned listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in different ways with better learning results in about half the time as those in a traditional course. Due to MOOCs, I’m familiar with the student-centered methodology and started teaching using communicative methods and inductive methods with ICT. By focusing on innovation and latest trends being emerged in my field, MOOCs prepare me for the 21st-century workplace. Recently, I completed TESOL 150 hours course from Arizona State University and in the final Capstone Project, I learned by doing practice teaching and refining lesson plans and video-tape myself presenting the lesson. These activities bring me closer to an optimal learning experience. These are all the great reasons that teachers should go for MOOCs for professional development needs.

How to find useful MOOCs for teachers?
The first step in finding useful content is to look at sites like Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy to see what they offer. Don’t forget to look beyond courses specifically designed for teacher education or professional development, but also focus on subject area classes.

Udacity, on the other hand, offers many courses on specific topics that could be of use to a K-12 professionals either for continuing development or to adapt for their classroom use. For example:

  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Introduction to Physics
  • Introduction to Psychology…

Udemy offers courses in a variety of areas useful to educators such as:

  • Technology
  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Humanities
  • Social Science
  • Music

Additionally, Udemy offers an entire category of courses specifically for those interested in education. Likewise, the courses are designed to address the diverse needs of teacher and teacher educators. Many of them may, however, charge a nominal fee.

Conclusion

Despite being a fairly recent phenomenon, MOOCs have attracted wide interest from people around the world. MOOCs at present seem to be better serving the continuous professional development of teachers and all. Teachers can receive high-quality professional development from MOOCs. The motivating factors to learn in the MOOC were the peer review, interactions among the participants and the self-regulated schedule with flexible start and stop dates. MOOCs have the potential to develop digital skills to use open educational resource which may enhance the professional development of teachers. The participants are also awarded certificates of participation in the successful completion of the course. Although MOOCs provide the educational opportunities offered by prestigious universities, the lack of recognition and appropriate accreditation is still an issue. It would be wonderful, if there could be a way of recognition, validation, and accreditation of MOOC learning.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The author: Mr. Bibas Thapa is an Ast. English language lecturer at Hetauda Campus, Hetauda and a life-member of NELTA. He is Microsoft innovative educator, expert  2019 -2020. He has done more than 30 MOOCs from reputed universities including TESOL 150 hrs. online course. He has presented papers in national and international conferences regarding MOOCs. His main interest is on using ICT in English education and teacher training.

[To cite this: Thapa, B. (2020, January 25). Open online courses for teachers’ professional development [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/moocs-for-teachers-professional-development/]

References: 

Avalos, B. (2011) Teacher Professional Development in Teaching and Teacher Education over Ten Years. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 10-20.

Cao, Y. A, Ji, Z. (2016). “A Prospective Study on the Application of MOOC in Teacher Professional Development in China.” Universal Journal of Educational Research 4.9.

Evans, S., & Myrick, J. G. (2015). How MOOC instructors’ view the pedagogy and purposes of massive open online coursesDistance Education, 36, 295-311.

Hennessy, S., Haßler, B., & Hofmann, R. (2015). Challenges and opportunities for teacher professional development in interactive use of technology in African schools. Technology, Pedagogy and Education 24 (5).

Junaid, M., & Maka, F. (2015). In- Service Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Synthesis Report.

Pope, J. (2013) Coursera to Offer MOOC Options Targeting Teacher Education. Community College Week. 25(21):1-10

How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure?

Ghanashyam Raj Kafle*

Scene setting

Teaching is not telling. However, sharing a teacher’s experience on classroom success and failure while ‘teaching reading’ could be of benefit to many fellow teachers. This article offers some examples of how we can use reading materials to encourage students’ active engagement with reading texts.

My experiences of using reading materials

As usual I used to ask my students to read passage from the lesson and answer the questions given there. While doing so, I would notice clear expressions of dislike of the task on their face, and their hands moved halfheartedly to work although verbally they did not express that. Sure, that the technique did not work, and I slightly changed it into briefly explaining them how reading would contribute to secure better marks/grades. The second technique too seemed no better than the first one. Therefore, I asked them to read the questions first to make sense of what the passage is about. This time I noticed involvement of more students.

Next, I asked them to look at the pictures and then tell who the people were, what they did, which of them they liked and disliked and so on. The students sounded interested and more engaging this time than ever before. Next day, I used yet another idea to read aloud only half of the story in a way the rest half was missing. The students sounded then curious to know the outcome of the story. That’s the reason why I think teaching reading is not just exposing students to reading materials. It calls for a simple trick and twist of teacher to make the old stuff feel like new.

In my successive lessons, I told the students to watch a favourite movie and narrate the story to the class next day. They were given free choice to tell the story in Nepali first and then in English. Everybody there and then wanted to tell/write the entire story of the movie and I had to remind them of the next class to stop. It was hard to resist them otherwise. It seemed to me that they each wanted to have their turn first in the class the next day because they had so many things to tell/write about the movie they watched. Here, the point I’m making is how we teachers set aside ten or so minutes in advance to slightly devise new twists and turns in the given reading passages/materials.

Discussion

We teachers have been working hard; there is no doubt. Is it not like we are filling a jar which takes in much water still never fills up? Certainly, there is a leakage in the rear. The earlier we discover and plug in the leakage, the better it is. Similarly, when a dress of latest fashion arrives in the market, people rush to buy it no matter what the price is despite already having many sets in their wardrobe. Similarly, people love eating out in restaurant or picnic although the food cooked at home is far more hygienic and cost effective. Yes, everywhere new taste is preferred and the same applies in teaching reading too!

Now it’s high time that we teachers tried out something new to give a twist in teaching reading. Traditional stereotypical methods of teaching reading wore down the students’ interest and passion in reading. When students sense that teachers are using the same old methods and techniques always, it no longer sustains their interest. Therefore, it is rewarding to set reading materials in a way to go beyond their prediction. Sometimes, splitting the story into several bits and then asking them to arrange in order of events works wonder to engage them in reading activities. Indeed, materials themselves are just the means, not the end.

Every time the teacher deals with the same reading stuff, it is advisable for one to change activities every ten minutes to avoid monotony of the students. Listen to Roy (2013) who proposes two approaches of reading: reading for message and reading for language. Using only one approach leads to incomplete reading. On the other hand, it runs the risk of overlooking the language aspect of the reading text. For instance, look at the sentences – ‘She asked him a question’. ‘She fired a question at him’. ‘She hurled a question toward him’. ‘She projected a missile of question at him’. Not all writers use the same way to say something. They complicate the meaning under the cover of vocabulary and structure challenge.

Similarly, an essay named ‘How should one read a book’ written by Woolf (1918) must be a sure shot answer to all those who still bump about reading. Earlier I wondered if this is even a question to ask. We’ve read several books and have had higher grades and degrees. The thing to realize at this point is that we teachers should present reading materials with a clear objective for the day; say for example, meaning into words such as, how much reading do you do with answers? Students may come up with answers like, I do quite a lot of reading, I don’t do much reading, I haven’t been able to do any reading these days. In doing so, we can arise the students’ interest in how meaning is expressed with words. Most likely, every single reading text emphasizes certain vocabulary and ordering of words to deliver meaning. That is to say reading many books, preparing for test, performing in the exam best is not the same as learning/discovering how to read a book. Therefore, a teacher should offer different reading items in their reading menu. I notice it refreshes students’ reading experience. Just as we develop distaste and dislike eating the same food, students too would feel the same while exposed to the same reading text.

In addition to message and meaning approach to reading, there is yet another milestone in readers’ journey to reading: reading for pleasure and reading under pressure. Students read newspaper and generally understand the message. They hear many things during the day and remember it without missing one bit. They watch a movie and can still narrate the story even after a year. But intriguingly, how is it possible that we read a text and can’t make sense of it immediately! So, it certainly speaks of a massive leakage in the rear of our reading jar. The leakage is nothing else but ‘pleasure’ and ‘pressure’ aspect of reading. When we read a newspaper, we have no pressure followed by. So, we read it with pleasure and the memory retains for long. Similarly, when we listen to people every day, there is no burden of sitting at the exam to answer the questions. The same applies to reading too.

Doff (1988) offers three tips to handle a text as fun material: i) give a brief introduction to the text ii) present some of the new words that will appear in the text iii) give one or two guiding questions. Similarly, Harmer (1991) gives three tips of how best to teach English to the non-native learners of English. The tips include i) training students to use textbook ii) training students to use communicative activities properly iii) training students to read for gist iv) training students to deal with unfamiliar vocabulary v) training students to use dictionaries.

 Conclusion

Teaching reading by using various materials such as stories, magazines, pictures, movies or reading passages should break away from the repetitive methods with the change of activities every ten minutes. The pressure (a ghost) of reading for test spoils the pleasure of reading the text and comprehend! Making connection of the reading text with everyday life, and prior to teaching asking a few leading questions serves as a stimulates their interest.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The author: Ghanashyam Raj Kafle is an English teacher and freelance translator. He also works in authoring and translating textbooks for Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) Sanothimi, Bhaktapur.

[To cite this: Kafle, G, R., (2020, January 25). How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure? [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/how-to-make-teaching-reading-pleasure-from-pressure/]

References

Doff, A. (1988). Teach English: A training course for teachers: teacher’s workbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching. Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers. London/New York.

Roy, S. (2013). The impact programme. India. Retrieved on January 20, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_ZeBr6bhyw

Woolf, V (1913). The critical reader. Kathmandu: Ekta Publication.

Collecting students’ feedback for enhancing my teaching skills

Somy Paudyal*

I’m a student of ELT but also teach Nepali language to the foreigners in Nepal for the last four years. English is considered as a foreign language in Nepal, while Nepali (my native language) is a foreign language to my students. In my university, I study how to teach English as a foreign language to Nepali students, while I also teach Nepali to the foreign students! My students (those learning Nepali) share the similar background with Nepali students learning English- both learn a foreign language. In this backdrop, I thought of sharing my experience of collecting students’ feedback for improving my teaching skills, which could be a useful resource for EFL teachers and practitioners.

I consider myself as a very hardworking teacher, but I don’t know how my students perceive me. I would literally do anything to make my students learn language. I can recall times, where I had set myself off the limits, pushed myself too hard to design lessons to make my students learn in an easy way. For instance, once I went as far as transcribing a student’s spoken discourse in order to find out what kind of errors the student produced so that the errors could be diagnosed. However, sometimes when I would try too hard, I felt that the students didn’t care very much. Sometimes, when my students wouldn’t get the expected results, I would think them of not paying heed to my hard work, which would eventually make me sad.

Sometimes, we are tuned to listening to only our praises from students that we have a hard time thinking of our teaching methods in critical way. We may want to get periodical feedback from our students, but we ask the feedback in an authoritative way that they’re compelled to give some pleasing feedback because they fear to tell their real feelings. Therefore, it’s hard to elicit the true feelings and feedback from them. Hence, I wanted to try out collecting feedback in a logbook (a simple writing copy). For this, I made a commitment that I would step out from my comfort zone and be ready to get any feedback, both positive and negative. However, my students would often consider giving feedback as an assignment and wouldn’t show much interest in it. So, I formulated one or two short questions and asked them to keep their answers short.

At that time, I was teaching Nepali language to an American and a Danish student separately three days a week. So, I separated the first section of the logbook for American student and other section for the Danish to write their feeling and feedback with date at the top to track the progress. I tried out this strategy for a month to the American student and for two months to the Danish. After that, they took a break due to their other priorities.

I started with simple questions for both. Sometimes, I changed a bit depending upon the lessons. The questions were like ‘How was today?’ ‘What did you learn today?’ ‘How well do you remember the last lesson?’ In this way, there would be a question each day and the students could write their responses as short as they wished. Sometimes, they would elaborate and some other time, they would just write one-word answer. For instance, to the question, ‘How was today?’ the Danish wrote Very good. And the next day, she wrote her reflection as, Good. Helpful to chat over the new words. Also good to try to explain the movie. A good challenge. Also some words stick to my brain others not. When lot of new words other words go somewhere behind so good to practice use of your words.

These comments were a way good feedback for me as I could know what they thought of my teaching. It also provided a way for the students to express their achievement and frustrations regarding language learning. This gave me a lot of insight about my teaching. I came to know that, in second language learning, we talk about exposure a lot. We say that if we give students a lot of exposure in the target language, he/she will learn better. But Danish student’s comment tells that there shouldn’t be a lot of exposure at once because too many words made her forget the former words. She emphasized the need of more practice with the new Nepali words.

Other day, responding to the question ‘How was today?’, the Danish wrote, Very good. I think we are doing so many different things know that I know I will lose something though. Love all the things we do but we could dwell more with the things. For my brain’s sake. Her English may not be highly comprehensible, but we can clearly understand what she is trying to say. Her feedback made me realise many things about my teaching methods. On that day, I had planned my lesson in this way:

  • Conversation for 30 minutes: she would explain a Danish cartoon in Nepali. The new words she learnt would be recorded and taught for the next 15 minutes,
  • Chat again for 30 minutes or so,
  • Read the passage and do comprehension questions for 45 minutes: read the passage I had designed in Nepali and attempt comprehension questions.

When I reflected on the lesson plan, I found that I had tried to incorporate a lot of contents in the lesson of that day. My intention to plan this way was to give a variety to her, so that she would not feel bored. However, after reading the comment I realized that though I spent a lot of time on lesson planning and designing activities, the student wasn’t benefited because the contents were overloaded.

Likewise, the feelings and the feedback from American student were also equally useful for me. One day, having asked, ‘how was today?’, he wrote, it was okay. I was tired so it made focusing difficult. This comment took out a lot of burden from me. I had tried to make him understand some Nepali words and he was simply not able to grab them. In this comment, he clearly wrote he was tired, so he couldn’t focus and that had nothing to do with my teaching strategy. And I was relieved to some extent.

From some of the excerpts from my feedback logbook and my reflection above, you must have already thought how such practice can help us to find out what’s working and what’s not in our classroom. This exploration can help us to plan, re-plan and review our teaching activities and strategies. Maintaining logbook worked well for me and I’m planning to develop this strategy in my classes in future too.

I think that feedback logbook can be used cautiously in large classes too. Firstly, we should encourage students to limit their writing from one phrase to few sentences. Or in place of writing in the logbook, sometimes we can simply ask them to write in a paper anonymously, fold and give that to us. This will build their confident to write freely and truly. Secondly, we can reduce the frequency in the large classes. Instead of doing daily, we can go for fortnightly, monthly or even bi-monthly. Moreover, it shouldn’t be assigned to them as a homework, they should be given chance to write voluntarily in the classroom.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The Author: Somy Paudyal is an M.Ed. student of Central Department of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu.

[To cite this: Paudyal, S. (2020, January 25). Collecting students’ feedback for enhancing my teaching skills [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/collecting-students-feedback-for-enhancing-my-teaching-skills/]

Place of English in the integrated curriculum for early grades (1-3) in Nepal

Ramesh Prasad Ghimire

Scene setting

 Schools, around the world, are gradually moving towards an integrated curriculum from a traditional subject-centered curriculum. Advocates of an integrated curriculum argue that it promotes holistic and meaningful learning that is linked to real life. In Nepal, an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) has been developed and being piloted in grade 1 in selected schools in this academic session. Though the idea of an integrated curriculum is not new, its systematic practice in Nepal is new and therefore the stakeholders of education need to be clear about its concept. Integrated curriculum is a relative concept and curriculum integration is always a matter of degree. This article tries to provide a brief picture of an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) in Nepal focusing mainly on the English subject area. It begins with brief background information about integrated curriculum. Next, it provides its theoretical concepts. After that there is a short synopsis of an English subject of an integrated curriculum. The article ends by providing a glimpse of the materials that have been developed based on integrated curriculum.

Key words: Integrated, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, themes, soft skills

 Background

In Nepal an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) has been developed and the curriculum of grade 1 is under piloting in 103 public schools in this academic year. The curriculum for grade 1 will be fully implemented in all the school of Nepal in the academic year 2077 (2020 AD) after the revision based on the feedback obtained from piloting. The integrated curriculum was developed as a refinement of traditional subject-centered curriculum. It is expected that the integrated curriculum counters the limitations of the subject-centered curriculum and makes learning holistic and meaningful. National Curriculum Framework (NCF, 2075) has made a provision for an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3). The NCF has made a provision for six major learning areas for grade 1-3 as shown in the table below:

Curriculum structure of basic education (grade 1-3)

S. N. Subject-related activities Credit hour Annual working hour
1 Activities related to literacy skills  (Nepali) 5 160
2 Activities related to literacy skills  (English) 4 128
3 Activities related to numeracy skills 4 128
4 Activities related to science, health and physical education 4 128
5 Activities related to social studies, character development and creative arts 4 128
6 Activities related to mother tongue/local contents 5 160
Total 26 832

Source: Basic level (grade 1-3) curriculum, 2075, p. 5

 Concept of an integrated curriculum

In a general sense, integrated curriculum is defined as a curriculum that interlinks learning of more than one domain or learning area. It can also be defined as a curriculum that promotes holistic learning by helping the children to make connections. This type of curriculum makes learning relevant to learner’s life and develops problem solving skills in the students by providing them “minds-on” and “hands-on” learning processes. Humphreys (1981 as cited in Lake 1994, pp. 1-2 ) states, “An integrated study is one in which children broadly explore knowledge in various subjects related to certain aspects of their environment”. The term interdisciplinary is often used to refer to an integrated curriculum.  Jacobs (1989 as cited in Lake 1994 pp. 1-2) defines interdisciplinary as “a knowledge view and curricular approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience”. These definitions support the view that integrated curriculum is an educational approach that prepares children for lifelong learning.

The rational for an integrated curriculum

It is commonly accepted that we need integrated curriculum:

  • To promote collaborative learning.
  • To reflect the real world in the learning process.
  • To connect school with society.
  • To motivate the learners for learning.
  • To check in the fragmentation of learning and to make learning more integrated and holistic.
  • To give learners an opportunity to learn in their own place.
  • To make learning relevant for life by integrating soft skills in the learning process.

 Approaches to curriculum integration

There are various approaches to curriculum integration. Susan Drake (2018) discusses the three framework for planning the integrated curriculum.

Multidisciplinary: In this model, the same topic or theme is addressed by each of the separate disciplines. It retains the integrity of each discipline. Multidisciplinary approaches focus primarily on the disciplines. Teachers who use this approach organize standards from the disciplines around a theme. The standards of the disciplines organised around a theme is the organising center in this model.

Interdisciplinary: In this model, specific skills, processes or ideas which are common to all disciplines are identified and they are addressed through the disciplines. Learning to learn is the organising factor in this model. In this model, teachers organize the curriculum around common learning across disciplines. They chunk together the common learning embedded in the disciplines to emphasize interdisciplinary skills and concepts.

 Trans-disciplinary: In this model, the focus of curriculum planning is ‘life-centered approach’. Knowledge is examined as it exists in the real world. The content to be learned is determined by the theme and the expressed interests and need of the students, rather than predetermined by some curriculum framework or set of curriculum objectives. In this model, teachers organize curriculum around student questions and concerns. Real-life context and student questions are the organising center of this model.

Continuum of curriculum integration

Integrated curriculum is not an absolute concept rather it is a relative concept and a matter of degree. Scholars have proposed various designs of integrated curriculum ranging from loosely integrated to highly integrated. The following figure represents the continuum of integrated curriculum.

As shown in the figure above, disciplinary curriculum is loosely integrated in nature. The existing school curriculum of Nepal is an example of it. At the opposite end of the continuum, there is a trans-disciplinary curriculum which is deeply integrated in nature. This sort of curriculum is rarely practised in the world. Only a few European schools have practised this sort of curriculum. In this type of curriculum, there exist no subjects. Students are involved in projects and problem-solving tasks.

 

Designed curriculum as integrated curriculum in Nepal

The present integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) in Nepal is based on multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary design. It is important to note here that there were six different subjects in the Primary Education Curriculum 2063 as mentioned below:

  • Nepali
  • English
  • Maths
  • Social studies and creative arts
  • Science, health and physical education and
  • Local subject/mother tongue

 

In the new integrated curriculum (2075) there are only three learning domains: language, maths and our surroundings. The language domain includes three languages Nepali, English and mother tongue. Maths remains as a separate discipline. The learning domain ‘our surroundings’ consists of the following subjects of the old curriculum:

  • Social studies and creative arts,
  • Science, health and physical education

Thus, the current interdisciplinary design of the integrated curriculum can be shown below in the figure.

It is clear from the above figure that the learning domain ‘Our surroundings’ incorporates three subjects, i.e. ‘Social studies and creative arts, Science and environment and Health.

As already mentioned the present integrated curriculum for basic grades consists of three main disciplines language, maths and our surroundings. It means that these three learning areas remain as separate disciplines and thus form a multidisciplinary design. This can be presented in the following figure.

The overall design of the Grade 1-3 curriculum

The overall design of the grade 1-3 curriculum can be best presented with the help of the following figure.

It is clear from the above figure that the present integrated curriculum for grades 1-3 consists of three disciplines maths, language, and our surroundings. These learning areas have been linked by the common themes and various soft skills have been incorporated across the disciplines.

Themes as the linking forces in the integrated curriculum

It should be noted that the present integrated curriculum for grades 1-3 is a theme-based curriculum developed following multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary design. Various themes such as Me and My Family, My School, Our Culture, Birds and Animals and Fruits and Vegetables have been proposed in order to establish a link among the disciplines. There are two types of themes in the curriculum: common themes and subject-specific themes. Some themes are common to all the four subject areas, i.e. Nepali, English, Maths and Our Surroundings, and rest of others are specific to the subject.

Soft skills that have been integrated into the curriculum

The integration of various soft skills is one of the key features of the present integrated curriculum. The major soft skills that have been integrated across the subject areas have been mentioned below.

  • Thinking skills
  • Intrapersonal skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Information Communication and Multi-literacy skills

Key features of the English domain of an integrated curriculum

The English subject area of the integrated curriculum is based on the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching (CLT) as a theory of language teaching and learning. So far as curriculum design is concerned, it is based on a multi-strand model because it incorporates various models and approaches to curriculum development. It consists of language skills, language functions and also themes. Thus, its aim is to develop comprehensive communicative competence in the learners. There are six level-wise competencies and various learning outcomes in the curriculum. One new learning area has been added to conventional four language skills, i.e. viewing and presenting. It is integrated in nature. It is competency-based and various soft-skills have been integrated in it. There are altogether 11 themes: Six multidisciplinary (common) themes and five subject-specific themes. Themes are the tools to integrate learning. It demands team planning and teaching to integrate learning across disciplines.

Materials developed apart from the curriculum

In addition to the curriculum, two types of learning materials have been developed: curriculum implementation guideline and student’s workbook.

Curriculum implementation guideline: The curriculum implementation guide-line is designed to assist the teachers in planning their units and lessons. It is basically a pedagogical guideline for the teachers. Curriculum basically articulates why to teach and what to teach. It says a broader pedagogical approach in a general sense but cannot provide a detail pedagogical support to the teacher. In order to address this aspect, a curriculum implementation guideline has been developed. It consists of a wide variety of suggested activities for the teachers.

Students’ workbook: Student’s workbook is the key learning material developed for the students. It is different from the traditional textbook. Traditional textbook basically focused on the contents and it did not consist of sufficient activities for students to practice language skills. On the contrary, the present workbook consists of several activities for the students. It is, in fact, a blended form of textbook and workbook because it includes both content and activities for self and guided practice for the students.

Conclusion

The initial feedback obtained from the teachers and the students shows that an integrated curriculum is effective in encouraging learners for active and engaged learning. It encourages collaboration and communication among both the teachers and the students. Since it demands team planning and grade teaching, there is an increased level of teacher preparation before teaching. When we implement the curriculum throughout the country teacher preparation becomes an important and challenging task. In any curricular innovation teacher resistance is a possible risk, and there is no guarantee that we do not face this risk in this case. Until and unless the teacher, a real hero in the classroom, is clear, convinced and enthusiastic to implement a new curriculum and curricular materials, no matter how effective the curriculum is, it does not work. Therefore, careful and effective teacher preparation is necessary before we launch it in a large scale. In the same way, the curriculum and materials based on its need to be timely revised and made available incorporating the feedbacks obtained from its piloting.

References

Curriculum Development Center (2006). Primary education curriculum (grade 1-3). Sanothimi Bhaktapur; Curriculum Development Center.

Curriculum Development Center (2008). Primary education curriculum (grade 4-5). Sanothimi Bhaktapur; Curriculum Development Center.

Curriculum Development Center (2019). Basic level (grade 1-3) curriculum. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur; Curriculum Development Center.

Curriculum Development Center (2019). Curriculum implementation guideline, English. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur. Curriculum Development Center.

Drake, S.M. & Reid L. J. (2018). Integrated Curriculum as an Effective Way to Teach 21st Century Capabilities. Asia Pacific Journal of Educational Research. Vol. 1(1) 31-50.

Lake, K. (1994). Integrated Curriculum. Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education.

The author

Ramesh Prasad Ghimire is currently an Officer at Education Training Center, Dhulikhel. He was the coordinator of an English subject area of an integrated curriculum while he was working in the Curriculum Development Center. His areas of interest include English language teaching (ELT) material development, teacher training and instructional leadership.

Continue reading Place of English in the integrated curriculum for early grades (1-3) in Nepal

Enhancing project-works in EFL class

Samira Idelcadi

Scene setting

Project work offers the possibility to enhance not only students’ language skills but also students’ life skills. In spite of its importance, it is often seen as an “extra- curricular” activity in EFL class and Most of the time, it is not monitored and rarely assessed. Project work however can help students acquire project management skills as well as language skills. This article offers a practical way of integrating project work in the EFL class. It discusses the importance of project work, ideas to help students in their projects and assessment of project works.

What is project work?

Project work is a dynamic way of motivating students to use the target language while working on topics of their interests. Project work allows for both language and content integration. It is student- centered, experiential and usually connected to real-life (Stoller, 2002). Moreover, working on projects strengthens students’ collaboration skills to carry out their projects and presentation skills, while presenting the work. Additionally, project work offers opportunity for “authentic integration” of the four skills studied. Moreover, conducting projects offers opportunities to hone students’ creativity, communication, and critical thinking. These are important life skills for students in this era.

Why is it important to integrate project work in class?

Project work can affect students’ learning in different ways:

  • Motivation: Project work increases students’ motivation to learn and willingness to participate in class activities.
  • Collaboration: Students learn how to collaborate together and work in teams. When projects are collaborative, students have ample time to learn from each other.
  • Project design, implementation and evaluation: Students learn how to plan, implement and evaluate projects; these skills will help them prepare for their academic life and future careers
  • Conflict –resolution: While working on class projects conflicts might arise. A group project is then the best opportunity to learn how to tolerate different viewpoints.
  • Voice and Autonomy: projects provide opportunities for students’ voice, choice and autonomous learning.
  • Creative / Critical thinking: Working on projects can help students acquire creative and critical thinking skills. Creativity can be enhanced as students tap on their talents and use their artistic skills to bring a beautiful touch to their final product.
  • Skill integration: Project-work is an opportunity for integrating of the four skills taught as well as boosting students’ life skills.

How to integrate projects in EFL class?

Project work could be easily integrated in the EFL class if projects are considered as part of learning process. Projects are not only an ‘extra activity’ or ‘filler’ at the end of a module or unit but it’s a process for honing both language skills and life skills. Projects could be planned at the beginning of a unit/module of work inviting students to work on a project at the end of unit, which culminates all the learning from the unit. For example, students may be told they will be making a poster about their favourite city, giving a presentation or making a video on the theme of the unit. In this way, students might pay more attention to the unit contents knowing that they will be required to work on a project at the end. They might start researching the topic of the unit. This will increase their motivation to learn because they will expect that they will be required to use what they learnt for their end of the unit project. Moreover, projects can be adapted to all levels and students are free to choose the presentation of their work. Lower level students can work on projects such as: make a short poster about my family tree, for intermediate or advanced they can work on projects such as: make a presentation on oil spill in the ocean.

How/when to plan project in EFL class?

Using different simplified project planning templates might help students plan their projects better. A template might include: (a) title of the project, (b) a short summary of the project (c) objectives (d) end product (e) presentation style (f) evaluation procedures. Project planning templates can vary depending on level, type of project (individual or collaborative) and familiarity of project work to students and time frame. Preparing a short presentation might necessitate less time than making a poster or a video and vice versa. If the time isn’t relevant and a frame is not set for the project, students might lose interest in the project. For instance, scheduling the project presentations during examinations isn’t a good idea as the students will be more preoccupied by their exams. So it should be avoided. Meanwhile, the project portfolios can also be considered as an alternative form of assessment.

Fried-Booth (1986), in their work ‘Project Work’ states three stages while planning projects:

  • Classroom planning
  • Conducting projects
  • Monitoring and Evaluating projects

On the other hand, Alan and Stoller (2005) provide a ten step procedure for project planning:

Step 1- The teacher and students decide on a project theme or idea.

Step 2- The teacher and students decide on the final product / outcomes of the project

Step 3- The students starts planning their project with the help of the teacher, they decide on different tasks and assign roles

Steps 4 – Students gather information, collect data, analyze, select and compile their work. They meet, discuss, negotiate and decide on a final work to be presented. They choose presenters and rehearse their presentations.

Step 5 – Students present their work

Step 6 – Students get feedback from their peers and self-assess their own work (using a simple grid). The teacher can also design a grid to evaluate students’ work.

Based on the work of Fried- Booth (1986), Alan and Stoller (2005) and also Ribe and Vidal (1993), students projects can be planned as follows:

Stages Activities
1. Classroom planning The teacher and students decide on the theme of their projects, which are related to their units/lessons. Or students might also choose their own themes. The teacher decides on language needs, life skills targeted and helps students develop them, while they plan their projects and decide on roles, responsibilities and divide tasks.
2. Conducting projects         Students carry out their projects, conduct research with clear role/task division. For instance, while a student is a ‘time-manager’ others may be ‘project-leader’ and can agree when to meet to discuss the project. Tasks can vary depending on students’ abilities. Some might be responsible for compiling the work and finalise the design. Others might think of possible ways to present their work. Meanwhile, some  can be assigned roles to document the process (taking pictures for e.g of the group work)
3. Project presentation The agreed final product dictates the possible forms of presentation. If it’s a video or presentation, each group can present their work and then get feedback from their peers/teacher. If it’s a poster, their projects can be displayed on the walls of the classroom and each group stands close to their poster and can talk about it. Or students can walk around and evaluate the posters.
4. Evaluating projects A-    Monitoring the work

To monitor students work, teacher can ask group representative or project leaders to update class on their projects, challenges being faced and any support required.

B-    Evaluation the project

Project evaluation can be done first through peer –evaluation (see template) and then through self- reflection, where students are invited to reflect on the whole process and share the learning. The teacher can also evaluate the group work and assign grades if it’s considered as a form of assessment

How to evaluate project works?

Rubrics are an easy way to evaluate projects, these can be either designed by the teacher and students on their own or adapt through rubistar.org. Project evaluation is as important as planning and presentation stage. Students will learn how to assess their work by self and peers. They will also learn how to reflect on their own work and learn from each other. The teacher will gain insights on students learning. Another important point about evaluation is that students can learn to set their own learning goals and then assess by self how far they have achieved them. For lower levels, a way of assessing learning can be as simple as asking students to draw a smiley face (J L ) to illustrate their project work experience. For higher levels, the teacher can use either a rubric or simply invite students to reflect on the learning process through reflection questions.

Sample self-reflection questions:

  1. What did you learn while working on this project?
  2. What did you learn while working in group?
  3. What difficulties have you encountered?
  4. If you want to make your project better? What would you change?

 

APPENDIXES

APPENDIX: A- Sample project planning template

Project title: 

Expected outcome/ product :  

Name of the group:

Students name :

Project date completion: 

Summary of our project
 

Steps / process / roles

Steps
Tasks: What will our group do?
Who is responsible? (name of student(s)
Date of completion
Step 1
     
Step 2
     
Step 3
     
Step 4
     
Step ….
     

Resources needed

 

 Mode of presentation

 

 APPENDIX: B Sample project evaluation rubrics

Sample rubric for project (peer) evaluation (group presentations)

C =  NEED MORE WORK B = Good A= Excellent
  C B A
Content The information is not clear at all.

There aren’t  enough  details about the topic

The information is not always clear

There  is only some details about the topic

The information is clear, concise

There are enough details about the topic.

Organization The audience can’t  follow

There is no introduction, and a conclusion

Poor  time management

The audience can follow most of the parts.

There is an introduction, and a conclusion

Good  time management

The audience can easily follow

There is an introduction, and a conclusion

Excellent time management

Presentation The presenter(s) do not keep eye contact; they only stick to notes/slides.

Use too many gestures/ move a lot

Do not speak clearly

Don’t look confident enough

The presenter(s) keep eye contact most of the time

Use natural gestures / sometimes move a lot.

Speak less clearly

Look  less confident

 

The presenter(s) keep eye contact

Use natural gestures

Speak clearly

Look confident

 

Team Work Very few group members participate / have a role

Group do not seem to get along well

Team members were not able to answer the questions of the audience

Few of  the group members participate / have a role

Group seem to get along well

Team members  are able to answer some questions of the audience

All the group members participate / have a role

Group seem to get along well

Team members are able to answer all audience questions

APPENDIX: C- Sample Rubric for Oral presentation (individual):

Student name: ……………………………………………………………

Category 4 3 2 1
Content Shows full understanding of the topic Shows a good understanding of the topic Shows a good understanding of parts of the topic Doesn’t  seem to understand the topic very well
Preparedness Student is completely prepared and has rehearsed Student seems pretty prepared but might have needed more rehearsals The student is somewhat prepared but it is clear that rehearsal was lacking Student does not seem prepared at all to present
Posture and eye contact Stands up straight, looks relaxed and confident, establishes eye contact with everyone in the room during presentation Stands up straight and establishes eye contact with everyone in the room during presentation Sometimes stands up straight and establishes eye contact Slouches and/ or does not look at people during the presentation
Speaks Clearly Speaks clearly and distinctly all (100-95%) the time, and mispronounce no words Speaks clearly and distinctly all (100-95%) the time, but mispronounces one word Speaks clearly and distinctly most (94-85%) of the time. Mispronounce no more than one word Often mumbles or cannot be understood or mispronounces more than one word
Stays on Topic Stays on topic all (100%) of the time Stays on topic most (99-90%) of the time Stays on topic some (89%-75%) of the time It was hard to tell what the topic was

Made through:  http://rubistar.4teachers.org

References:

Alan, B & Stoller, F. (2005). Maximising the benefits of project work in foreign language classrooms. Teaching English forum, 43(4). 10-21.

Fried-Booth, D. (1986). Project work. New York: Oxford University Press

Ribé, R., Vidal, N., & Macmillan Publishing Company. (1997). Project work: (Step by Step) Oxford: Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching

Stoller, F. (2002). Project Work : A means to promote language  and content. In J. Richards & W. Renandya (Eds), Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice (Approaches and methods in language teaching, pp.107-120). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About the author: Samira Idelcadi is an ELT  supervisor in Tiznit Directorate (Morocco). She holds a Msc in Public services Policy and Management from Kings College London (2011). Her main interests are teacher professional learning, teacher leadership, educational change and educational policy.

The market study: An integrated approach

Prakriti Khanal

Scene setting:

Integrated curriculum or approach in teaching learning has been a buzz word and more and more schools are opting this approach. This article is an attempt of such applied method on the basis of my direct observation while working as a teacher in Rato Bangala School Lalitpur, Nepal. Therefore, it is an account of how teaching learning activities are organized in chronological order as integrated curriculum approach is applied in the classroom.

An integrated approach: What and why

Curriculum is mostly presented in a very direct and isolated form in most of the textbooks in schools. But many themes in those course books are interrelated and over lapping. When the contents are treated in isolation, the application becomes complex for the young minds. Further, it makes students memorize what is learnt only as the chapters of the textbook. Learning does not take place in a holistic mode. Most of the times, the children are not able to relate how their learning applies in the real world. In response, the integrated curriculum model is an approach which is sensitive to the students’ needs. This model places an emphasis on advance content knowledge, which relies on higher order thinking skills, and focuses learning on major issues that cross several disciplines (Van Tassel-Baska, 1987). This approach adds the practical way of ensuring their learning which becomes more meaningful through participation applying many strategies and levels of application.

The market study can be taken as a long-term project, a socioeconomic activity, which is closely related to the daily activities of our lives. This can be the pivotal around which many other themes and objectives of curriculum across the subjects can be integrated. Researches show that students in integrated programmes achieve better (or equal to) academic result than students in discipline-based programmes (Drake and Reid, 2010). Likewise, an integrated project such as market study creates a platform for students to learn English as a foreign language by using it meaningfully in various contexts. In this connection, Gibbons (2002) states that “integrated program takes a functional approach to language and places its teaching focus on language as the medium of learning, rather than on language as something separate from content” (pp. 119)

How does market study foster learning across disciplines?

To begin with, children are encouraged to answer a simple question like; how does food come on our plate? A thinking process begins in the mind of children to create a hypothesis around the question that is put up. Their thinking will be validated only with a research; valid ideas and areas that need to reform. This is mainly around the social studies theme but in other subjects what would be the areas to work and what can be introduced in the periphery of making it a holistic learning. Day-to-day things are happening simultaneously in different subject areas and themes that work for their learning.

Children in Mathematics class start with gamification (hands-on-activity, learning in playful environment). The students are given only a kind of block to build houses. They get to work in groups and design a house. Soon they realise that they need other blocks to construct and they find their solution in exchanging what they have with what they need. Therefore, students are introduced to the initial stages of a barter system and the beginning of trade in ancient times and gradually they are introduced to the system of using money for the trade. Children are given fake currencies to play and they practice selling and buying in the classroom to be more acquainted with the process of setting up a real market. This allows them to practice the conversation style during the market set up and be familiar with the terms used during buying and selling. At the next level, the concept of loan, buying and selling, added surplus and the profit is given.

Children are introduced to informal and formal letter writing. For the formal letter writing students write to the school administration for a loan. As Market setting is the main epitome of all the activities, a three day market is set for students to run and take firsthand experience of buying and selling and earning profit. The loan is sanctioned by the school principal, then the activities begin. To plan out, what should be in the market the students’ are brainstormed about the fruits and vegetables that should be kept. But to study what is in demand and customers are willing to buy, students go in other classrooms and ask what is preferred with the help of tally marks they are able to see and visualize directly on what to buy in large numbers.

Next, the students are taken for farm a trip (e.g. Thimi farm in Bhaktapur Nepal) at the nearest locality from the school. They observe two essential things following the hypothesis of (a) how food comes to our plate and (b) potential seller of the market set up. They interview farmers and gain more knowledge about farming, sowing, planting harvesting and getting the products to the market. Students get to observe the plants; some as sapling, some while flowering and some ripe or ripening before prepared for the market. They get familiar with the tools used in the farm, the manure and fertilizer used and they observe the hard work it takes for the food to be produced before it is bought from the market and prepared at home.

During the trip, students are taken to a wholesale market, e.g. Kalimati fruit and vegetable wholesale market in Kathmandu. They get to learn that the fruit and vegetables items are priced and sold. They observe that vegetables are weighed in different ways, sometimes in digital weighing machine and sometimes in the taraju (a traditional tool for weighing) and they learn the usage of different weights from 200 gm to 5 kilogram. Then their next trip would be at the retail market and to the supermarket. They inquire about the vegetables and fruit available there. They come to conclude that vegetables are not only brought in from the wholesale market but from other districts surrounding the valley (e.g. Kavre, Dhadhing, Nuwakot, and so on); and in supermarket few fruits are brought in from other countries as well. They make their observations on the packaging and the difference of prices between the wholesale market, retail market and supermarket. By now, students know that they buy at the wholesale and sell at a school set up at the retail prices.

In language arts lesson, the students write a creative article on a farmer’s life. They write slogans and make posters for the advertisement for their market. Students practise writing invitations to their market and give it across the other students from different classes in the school as they are customers. Posters are made with the label names of the fruit and vegetables, and their cost. Students get started with the making of paper bags of different sizes to pack their goods like potatoes and peanuts of different weights. For this they recycle the old newspapers and make the bags. They sit through the weighing in turns and each child is busy with this hands-on-activity. Customers are encouraged to come with cloth bags and the whole event is to be environment friendly.

In Nepali language, students enrich their vocabulary related to farming and farming tools used in Nepali context and surrounding. Whereas stories on farmers and farming can make all inclusive approach while students write their story on farmer in English Language.

It all starts with a prompt that leads many areas and solutions regarding different activities that come along the planning with real life implications. This method of involving the students helps them in the divergent thinking. During the three main days of the market, they carry out a number of tasks from becoming bagger, messenger, seller, record keeper and so on. All these tasks are assigned in rotation, and therefore, these responsibilities automatically become the work learning station and enhances their personal learning.

Challenges and benefits

The pros and cons of using integrated learning should be given a thought before any teacher decides to apply it in the classroom: (a) it can be quite overwhelming as it becomes a fair with almost every day some hands-on-activity throughout the term, (b) other subjects can be overshadowed, (c) there is not enough time to teach thoroughly in isolation, (d) some teachers are reluctant to change their timings and implement something that does not make a big unit in their subject matter and (e) scheduling and agreeing on array of ideas can be a challenging task.

However, the benefits of teaching with the integrated curriculum model allows teachers to focus on the basic skills needed to be taught along with the subject matter/content. It allows a deeper understanding of the content to be absorbed into the students’ experiences. It encourages teachers to make connections among various curricular disciplines and address a variety of learning styles and uses of combined abilities.

This method intrinsically motivates students to succeed in real life skills. It creates instances for the students to build their skills and strengthen it. The experience in a real life scenario allows them to inculcate the hands-on-activities to one main theme and enjoy the success. For instance, the everyday cashiers take the earning to the class and add it all up for all three days. They calculate their total amount and subtract the loan and return it to the school administration. From the rest of the profit they celebrate a snacks party and buy books for a community library. The earning of the profit gives them a boost of confidence.

They make bar graphs from the sale of vegetables, are taught the use of calculations, reflect back on their activities for the last few days and write different articles. The write-ups enable the teachers to grasp what was the impact of the activities. Students share their experiences showing to what extent the actual learning was taking place. Here are some good examples of reflective pieces that our students wrote as extracted from the school magazine named ‘Cornice’ published in different times.

 Some unplanned observation made by the students

  1. “ We decided to distribute jobs for all of us in the market to run market smoothly: labeler, advertiser, messenger, supervisors, hawkers and cleaners…To make sure that everybody got to do most of the jobs. We did the rotation in each shift (Cornice 11-12)
  2. “We saw the weirdest vegetable plant and it was an onion flowering plant. It looked like a dandelion plant…the farmers work very hard to earn money. The farmers plough the fields first, then sow the seeds, water the plants and take good care of it… how a plate of food comes to our dining table.” Cornice 15-16
  3. “We asked the price of cucumber, and we found out that they try to take so much profit from us.” Cornice 14-15
  4. “Well, on the last day (of market) we had bumper sale. The prices were decreased on that day…then we counted the money. It was Rs.91, 115/-. We returned the loan we had taken from our principal madam. We now had Rs.31115/-left…” Cornice 14-15

Conclusion

To conclude, at the end of market study, students will be able to reflect on what they have done in each level through their active participation with the hands-on material. They will have rich experience of activities. Many researches now support that the process and activities take to deeper processing of the information and analysing rather than reproducing the information as in most of our schools. This approach allows students to be active in constructive conversation as a part of the process. It further enables them to enliven the event and develop their communication skills. At many levels, this helps to make it a holistic approach.

References:

Drake, S. M. & Reid, J. (2010). Integrated curriculum: Increasing relevance while

maintaining accountability. What Works? Research into practice. Toronto: Ontario

Ministry of Education.

Gibbons, P. (2002). Learning language, learning through language, and learning about language: developing an integrated curriculum. Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, Ch. 7, pp. 118-139

Vantassel-Baska J. (2015) The Integrated Curriculum Model. In: Vidergor H.E., Harris C.R. (eds) Applied practice for educators of gifted and able Learners. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam,169-197.

The author:

Prakriti Khanal completed Bahelor of Arts from Sophia Girls College, Ajmer, Rajasthan in 1999. She worked as an English and Social Studies teacher at Rato Bangala School from 2009 to 2017. Her area of contribution focuses on running reading corner for the primary level students. She has conducted workshops with ECED.

Experiential learning experience of a preschool

Midesh Maharjan

We learned from our past experience that teaching language in isolation as a subject does not actually help learners understand meaning in context. This learning motivated us, while working in team of a pre-school in Kathmandu to design and implement integrated curriculum aiming to address the need of 3-6 years old children for their language as well as social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development. This article presents some examples of our successful lessons.

I’ve been working as a director of a preschool located in Kathmandu since 2017. During my work in the school, I always encourage the school family to apply integrated approach to teaching preschoolers. Similarly, I encourage them to let preschoolers learn through their own experience. While doing so, we focus more on students’ language development, both Nepali and English. Our experiential integrated learning environment provides students with wider opportunities to use the language freely and in context. Here are some sample lessons practiced in my preschool:

Sample Thematic Unit 1

In the month of June, we start with our thematic unit- Plants. Students learn about the paddy plant from sowing to harvesting throughout this unit. We follow the following steps in the whole process:

  1. Growing seedlings: The school team work in the field and get the seedlings ready beforehand. Seedlings are prepared in a separate nursery area and children are told that the seedlings grow around two months before they are transplanted in another wet field. Children observe the adults working in the field and keep a journal about this step in their separate journal book. Then they draw and colour pictures based on their observation.
  2. Preparation of beds: Tilling is done and the field is ready before preschoolers go there to work. In this step students, under adult supervision, use tools to smooth the wet beds. During the whole process, conversation takes place a lot (among students and between students and teachers) about the tools, e.g. names of the tools and how to use them and also about the process of bed preparation. Back in the classroom students write their journal “Ropai” explaining about the tools, measurement they’ve made, amount of seeds used, etc. and their experiences as well as feelings.
  3. Transplantation: Transplantation is the process of transferring seedlings from seedbeds to the wet field. All the teachers and students together transplant the seedlings in the field on the Paddy Plantation Day which falls on 15th of Ashad (tentatively last of June) according to Nepali calendar. They sing the traditional folk songs while planting. These songs are practiced in the classroom before the plantation day.
  4. Field Maintenance: Students observe school staff maintaining the field that generally includes managing water and nutrients that the plants require and separating the weeds from the plants to help them grow better.
  5. Harvesting: School team including the students together collect the mature rice crops from the field. Harvesting activity generally includes cutting the mature crops, stacking, threshing, cleaning and hauling. Children learn how carefully rice is protected from getting damaged so that the quantity of good quality rice is maximized.

In each step, students keep their journal and teachers discuss on the process on a regular basis. After the whole process, they will have beaten rice prepared from the plants they sowed and celebrate their success eating the beaten rice with curry together as snacks.

Sample Thematic Unit 2

Community Study: we take our students to visit different places around the school. This includes visiting local vegetable market, visiting a temple and interviewing of senior people about the history of the place. Every time they have a trip, children draw a map that tells them how one reach from the school to the visiting destination; this helps them learn drawing and mapping skills. They make tally marks on the way to the destination, they count vehicles and back in the school they prepare the pictograph of the vehicles they see. This helps them understand mathematical concept of chart and graphs. They draw the picture of the temple they visit and back in the preschool they make the model of temple in group. This helps them develop fine motor skills, spatial skills, ratio and proportion, and creative arts. During the interview with senior people of the communities, students make notes (write words or short sentence or draw relevant pictures). This helps them develop the listening skill, communicating skills and moreover they learn about the history of the place they live in. In addition to this, as students have better knowledge of the places in their surrounding, they develop stronger feeling about their community. On top of it, communication is the central during the whole process, as there is always a pre-trip as well as post trip discussions and also students talk among themselves during the trip itself.

Sample Thematic Unit 3

Students are taken on a day trip to the zoo under the of ‘Animals’. They have a pre-trip discussion about the animals they love, wild and domestic animals and about the animals that can fly, crawl, walk, run, etc. On the trip, they draw the picture of the animals they see and make short notes. Back in the school, they have a month long activities based on what they observe during the trip. The activities includes counting the animals, adding them, subtracting them, animal  model making, colouring their model, writing about the animals, uses of animals, categorizing them, etc. and all these activities are very interactive in nature.

We teach our students important life skills such as communication, problem solving, critical thinking and decision making through various interactive activities as mentioned above. Also we use appropriate stories and songs that are related to our theme. For instance children watch the video of children song ‘Let’s go to the zoo’ and practice singing themselves while we are dealing with animal theme. Similarly, we read aloud to them ‘The Little Island’ or ‘The Ant Cities’ while we are dealing with the theme of community. Thus, providing the preschoolers with wider opportunities to get exposure to English and Nepali language inside and outside the classroom. And this the crux of our integrated curriculum.

Conclusion

Integrated lessons in our preschool are designed in a way that facilitates learning both languages- English and Nepali by using them meaningfully in various contexts. The lessons we have developed are more process oriented, where children learn language by experiencing it while being engaged in various tasks related to different subject areas. Although English is used as a medium of instruction to teach senior preschoolers, children’s mother tongue is always preferred a language of transaction when we need to explain concepts of various disciplines.

About the Author:

Midesh Maharjan has been working as a teacher educator in Rato Bangala Foundation for 15 years. At present he is also a director at Innovative Preschool, Kritipur. He is a graduate of Primary Teachers Training Programme (PTTP) from Rato Bangala Foundation and Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) from Kathmadnu University in 2005.