Category Archives: Teacher’s Experience/anecdotes

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

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

Pegrum, Mark, et al.(2018). DIGITAL LITERACIES REVISITED. The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL, 7(2) p. 3

Siddike, A.K. (2010). Exploring digital literacy competences among the library and information professionals of Bangladesh: Problem and recommendation. ILA National Conference on Library and Information Science in the Digital Era.

Williams, R (2012). Digital immigrant teacher perceptions of social media as it influences the affective and cognitive development of students: A Phenomenological Study (Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 575) https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/doctoral/575

Young, R. (2008). Using technology tools in the public school classroom. Menomonie, WI: Universityof Wisconsin-Stout.

Zhang, H. & Zhu, C. (2016). A study of digital media literacy of the 5th and 6th grade primary students in Beijing. Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 25(4), 579-592. doi 10.1007/s40299-016-0285-2

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.

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/]

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/]

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.

Reflections on my teaching journey: Laxman Gnawali

Laxman Gnawali, PhD

I started my teaching career not by choice but by necessity. Hailing from a lower middle-class subsistence farmer’s family, I saw very few options to get the resources I needed to pursue higher education. With six younger siblings waiting for me back in my home village in the western hill district of Gulmi, my parents had it hard enough without me adding to their burden. In this context, I had managed to get my school-level education from a free Sanskrit school, in Ridi, Gulmi.

Back then, higher education was seen as a waste of time and money; families of that generation believed a better alternative was to go to India to find ‘good’ jobs there. However, the zeal was in me, and after finishing my schooling in Ridi, I landed in Butwal to attend Intermediate of Education (I Ed) at Butwal Multiple Campus. The fact that I had done my schooling in Sanskrit did not prevent me from dreaming to major in English.

You could say that I was naïve, not realizing that I belonged to a class that could not afford higher education. It sounds crazy now. But as they say, “Man proposes and God disposes,” so I got a scholarship from the Campus, enabling me to take the next steps on my path.

When I was in my second year I Ed, I ran out of money. I badly needed a job. I heard from one of my classmates that an education officer from Palpa district was looking for an English teacher for a school in a village called Masyam. The offer looked good to me, so I went to Masyam, Palpa.

Due to financial limitations of the school and my qualifications, I was given a primary teacher’s position but I had to teach students of grades eight to ten. To teach English in the secondary level with just an incomplete intermediate level of education was a real challenge, to say the least. But I did not give up.

In the beginning I simply did not know how to teach! To start with, I lacked even basic English skills. I couldn’t even speak the language. I could only read from the book and translate it to the students. I regularly came across words which were difficult for which I did not know the meanings. I remember, one day I was planning to teach a conversation that included a phrase mind your head. I knew what the word mind meant and what head meant but mind your head did not make any sense to me. I asked around but did not get any definite answer so I travelled to Palpa district headquarters, seeking an answer but I only met people just like me, so I came back without the meaning. The dictionary did not help either. It only gave the meaning of mind and head separately. It didn’t address British idioms. It was only after several years that I was able to find out what mind your head meant – it means “pay attention, don’t hit your head!”.

I confronted other stumbling blocks in my teaching career. In several instances, I did not always have the right answers to the questions given in the book. However, I learnt that being a teacher wasn’t just about being knowledgeable. I later found out that my students in Masyam School had reported to senior teachers that I was a ‘great’ teacher, because I was humble, always trying to help and trying to be friendly. This kind of motivated me to teach.

While my work at Masyam School greatly encouraged me in seriously thinking about a teaching career, I also knew that I was not going to teach there forever. I had firm plans for further education. Indeed, after a year of teaching at Masyam and attending college just to participate in the exams, I completed my Intermediate in Education.

Immediately after the results were published, I learnt that the very same Butwal Campus was launching a new Bachelor of Arts program. The program offered English major along with History and other subjects. I quickly enrolled myself in the program without thinking. However, financial problems reared its ugly head again. I didn’t have a current income source or adequate savings.

I asked Hari Mainali, one of my classmates and the then Principal of Butwal Elite English School, if his school needed an English teacher. And, because I was always regular, did my homework, interacted with the teachers, tried my best to learn, he was already impressed with me! At once I was appointed as an English teacher in his private school.

Butwal Elite English School was an interesting environment; everybody spoke English, teachers and students alike. While I had not developed that level of spoken proficiency, I had to try because that was the rule. I did try, worked hard, soon enough, I was an insider among the teaching staff. As a beginning teacher, the school had given me classes only in nursery, kindergarten and Grade one. However, I took this as a very good opportunity for me to start learning from the beginning.

Looking back now, I realize that I’d made numerous mistakes, not just with language but in the very way I taught. For example, I would get students to shout the names of fruits, vegetables etc. that I was teaching. It was the method I used to make them memorize words. I also made them copy everything from the books. I remember one instance of my pedagogy, which was after I was entrusted with grades two and three as well. I asked Grade three students to write an essay. To ensure that everyone wrote an essay on the given topic, I provided them with a model essay and every student was expected to reproduce the same essay! Most students did. I did this every time I taught them to write essays. Simply put, this was not teaching at all, but that was all I knew then.

And so time passed as I gradually got into the groove. And, the mistakes I made didn’t stop me from making a good impression among my seniors. And so, it came to be that the following year, I was promoted! Actually, the management asked me to start teaching in the higher classes.

This upward growth helped me iron out my shortcomings and learn new things as well. For example, I found out that independent reading was an exercise that immensely helped students. So, I had them read short stories and poems. And those who read more had better writing. It was then that I knew the value of extensive, independent reading.

The years passed and I continued teaching. Even then, not as a career but as a job in which I was just barely proficient. Whenever I moved from one place to another for my next level of studies, I taught in nearby schools. It was a convenient and always available option. However, when I was doing my MA in English Literature Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, the classes were run in the day time, so I could not study and work simultaneously. I decided to work outside of Kathmandu, in a public school and maintain my study without attending classes – I had to survive first.

I got a position in Dedithumka High School in Kavre district to teach English from grades six to 10. Lucky me, my students were curious and supportive. I experimented whatever I knew; I organized short skits, conversations, sometimes creative writing tasks etc. I taught grammar to the best of my knowledge in contextual ways. Students were happy but I was the one who was happier here. Finally, I was slowly learning the tricks of teaching.

After my Masters, I returned to my own village in Gulmi to teach English to Grade 11 students. Again this upward mobility gave me opportunities to try out new approaches. I could confidently practise what I had learnt with my new students. As with all things, it worked with some, didn’t work with others but overall, the feedback from my students showed that my lessons were well received.

My teaching life underwent a rapid change when I was appointed as a lecturer at Kathmandu University (KU) a year later, in 1993. I had moved to the capital for better opportunities. Newly married, and full of aspirations, I was looking for a proper university position to teach. I learnt through an acquaintance that KU, in its nascent stage then, was looking for an English teacher for its School of Science. I applied and was called to give a trial class. Prof. Abhi Subedi, my former teacher in my MA, observed my test lesson and decided to have faith in me. I was in.

Once in, I went through many experiments, some with pleasure, and more with frustrations. After all, I was somebody who had attended a Sanskrit school for his high school education, someone who had never, as a learner, been exposed to a proper English-speaking environment and well delivered lessons. And now I was trying to teach English to science students who had come from private English medium schools. Their English, particularly spoken, was far better than mine. At times I thought of quitting, I actually tried quitting, but somehow, I held on.

One incident particularly illustrates how much I yet had to learn: I was teaching Romeo and Juliet, a play by Shakespeare. We could have practised the conversations in the play, we could have even presented the drama itself. But instead, I tried to teach the play simply by explaining every line of the play, page after page! Only now I can imagine how traumatic my lessons must have been for my students. There were signs that they were not paying attention, and sometimes I could see clearly that they did not enjoy the lesson. I even took it as a discipline issue. It took a long time for me to understand that the problem was not in them but in me, my teaching process, my teaching, my methodology. I was attempting to teach a drama by explaining line by line, for the whole 60 minute class, every class, three days a week. Had I been the students, I would have quit, but fortunately, my students stayed in class.

Time did remain the same. I moved on, and I seemed to change my pedagogy as illustrated by the forthcoming example. After a couple of years, I had to teach The Day of the Triffids, a sci-fi piece, and Siddhartha, a spiritual novel. This time, while I still used the explanation technique, I made it more interactive. We would discuss the events, linking the elements in the stories to our own lives. Instead of reading and explaining every line, the class became an interaction session between me and the students. Perhaps, this change was responsible for a pleasant surprise I got later in the year. In the students’ magazine, I was voted the best teacher! Although I knew I was not the best teacher, it helped me realize that I was improving.

Later in 2002, after my second Masters from the UK with a scholarship from the A. S. Hornby Educational Trust , I was transferred to School of Education from School of Science because my UK degree specialized in Teacher Training for ELT. As we started the new semester, I felt at home, I clearly didn’t know why. Upon reflection now, I understand I had undergone two things. One, I had been exposed to an excellent teaching methodology at Marjon, Plymouth, with great faculties Tony Wright and Rod Bolitho. I had practised speaking English with native and non-native speakers during my stay there. I had returned with an improved know-how of English and pedagogy. Second, I was teaching postgraduate students how to teach English, something I had specialized in.

With my background and the teaching situation, I was in a good place. I had to demonstrate model lessons so I had to prepare at my best. I worked hard and I enjoyed. My lessons were well-received. I was established.

But the question remains ‘what exactly made my lessons better?’ By this time, I was on the other side of the continuum of teaching. I had stopped giving long lectures. When I had to explain something, I presented lecturettes, not lectures. My students read, shared, worked in groups, gave presentations, argued against each other, critiqued, and reviewed.

I knew that in higher education, particularly at the university level, we have adult students who will not enjoy listening to long lectures. They bring with them a lot of experiences, insights, and ideas. They will also want to participate in the discussions. I knew this so I helped them realize their potential. I feel that my haphazard teaching in early years, and successful experiments with PG diploma, Masters and M Phil level established me as a seasoned teacher. I have tried to exemplify what life has taught me — that a participatory way of teaching is the best way. My success inside the University has helped me to be invited to deliver sessions outside. Conference presentations at the NELTA and other forums in Nepal, as well as in several other countries in the world have become part and parcel of my life.

Like everyone, I too have my regrets and mistakes. I know I cannot travel back in time and undo them. From time to time, I remember the scenes of my lessons in Palpa, in Butwal, in my early years, my mistakes at the University.

However, it may have been that I had to make those mistakes to arrive where I am now.

About the author:

Dr. Laxman Gnawali is Professor of English Education at Kathmandu University School of Education, and Senior Vice President of NELTA.  He can be reached at lgnawali@gmail.com

Language course and methodology: An Innovation or a prescription?

Binod Singh Dhami

Introduction

I have been teaching ESL/EFL in different schools, colleges, and universities for about ten years. In this period, I mostly taught according to what was provided by schools; such as textbook, curriculum, and methodology mentioned in the syllabus. Particularly, schools prescribed the textbooks for my class, and I had to teach and was asked to get an excellent output from students. I did as per the school’s and college requirements, but I was not satisfied with my teaching. I felt like someone was choosing food for me. I wanted to quit teaching and do something different. At one point in time, I hated teaching the most, though teaching English was my dream job in my life. Later, I received teacher training courses and my identity shifted from teacher to teacher trainer. I got opportunities to facilitate training to English teachers from home and abroad. I designed training manuals, reviewed courses and made contextual changes, wrote and adapted materials to better deliver training. The responsibility of a course designer and course facilitator gave me immense pleasure in teaching and training. Recently, I am working as a teaching assistant and teaching English for Academic Purpose (EAP) courses at the University. When I look at my journey of ELT, an effective language teaching and effectiveness of my instruction resulted after I started to design ELT courses and implemented myself in the class. Autonomy is crucial for English teachers in selecting textbooks, methodology, and designing a course of study for their students. In this write-up, I walk through how autonomous Nepali English teachers are.

Prescription on course and methodology

Honestly speaking, teachers have been slaves as they are operated by someone else. The teachers never get a chance to discuss what they need in the classroom. The schools themselves in private schools and the government in government-aided schools prescribe books, and the teachers have to follow what they are asked to do. A few teachers get the expected outputs, but most of them fail. Somebody at the top level (i. e., expert) designs a course/textbook/curriculum for all the students in the nation, and the teachers are sent to classrooms with the course. The course/textbook designers neither consult concerned teachers nor do they go and study what the students need. They design the same course for all the locations from east to west and north to south without having proper knowledge of classroom contexts. Then, the problem comes when teachers use textbooks/courses in the class–the course books are prepared based on pedagogical philosophies or teaching methods. The teacher’s potentiality is spoiled through the activities mentioned in the books because teaching and learning are conducted according to the textbooks. In this respect, English teachers have been methodologically and organizationally slaves. Methodologically slaves in the sense that they teach English with the method that someone has developed for them, which may not be suitable for their classes. A technique/method that best works for one part of the world/classroom may not work or does not work at all for another part of the world/classroom. Therefore, it is the teacher who makes necessary changes in an established method and makes suitable for class, not the one out of the class (expert). Here, I am not questioning experts and established ELT methods, instead advocating for teacher autonomy. Similarly, teachers have been organizationally slaves because schools, colleges, and even the universities never discuss so that teachers know what they need. The organizations choose the textbooks and teachers are thrown in the classes. The question is, how do school administrations know what sort of books/courses a particular group of students need without consulting teachers and students.

Effective teaching and learning

English teachers should be given full autonomy to design, develop and disseminate ELT courses and materials for their classes. They are not only the implementers of what someone has designed but also course and method developers. Of course, all of the teachers cannot design the course for their students since they lack proper training and practice, but they must be trained in such a way that they can develop English language courses themselves or adapt textbooks and methodologies. Moreover, it is necessary to be satisfied with what is done in the classroom. How can teachers be happy and satisfied, if they cannot choose what they need in the classroom? Our students learn English from the early years of their schooling. At the end of the day, they cannot produce English. This is because the materials that they are exposed to are not appropriate to their level or/and interest. We have been teaching in the same way for years and years, and we say we are the experienced teachers. We never reflect on our teaching, for instance; how was my class? Did the textbook/materials, planning, and classroom management work today? Teachers find teaching boring because they are not given the responsibility to hand over all teaching and learning systems. Teachers should be trained to adapt to the materials/ textbooks. Textbook and method adaptation is a process in which the teachers evaluate textbooks and methods and do necessary changes according to what they need, and use in the classroom. All of the teachers must be trained so that they can adapt to the textbook, language course, and methods. Most importantly, teachers and students should be consulted while designing the curriculum, textbooks, and teaching methods. Similarly, teachers should also reflect on their teaching (content selection, content delivery, appropriacy of instructional activities) to contextualize teaching in the current classroom setting.

Conclusion

Unless teachers remain free from methodological and organizational slavery and they are given training, not only on how to teach but also on how to adapt teaching and teaching methods, it is difficult to see remarkable changes in students. Therefore, from an organization’s part, they should organize training for teachers on material contextualization, and teachers have to take a lead and produce teaching materials on their own without depending on the textbooks/language and methodology mentioned in them. Autonomy creates a win-win situation for teachers, students, and schools. So, let the teachers be their boss, don’t put them down.

Binod Singh Dhami is a teaching assistant at Minnesota State University, Mankato, USA. As a TESOL trainer, he served at TEFL International. He also produces YouTube videos on different aspects of teaching and learning that can be accessed on the YouTube Channel called ‘Global Online School.’ L2 writing, World Englishes, methodology and curriculum designing are his research interests.                           

Speakers’ club for enhancing public speaking skills and English language

Gyanendra Yadav

Abstract

These days, public speaking seems to be an essential soft skill for an individual which needs to be focused in school. Speakers’ club can be an effective way to develop such skill in students in addition to enhancing language proficiency. Based on a case study, in this paper, I attempt at sharing my experience of being an active participant in a speakers’ club and conducting it in the school for a couple of years. In the first section of the paper, first I introduce readers with the notion of speakers’ club; then, I briefly talk about how I collected data for the study. Next, I discuss the importance of speakers’ club in public speaking in general and language learning in particular as well as the challenges we faced to conduct it regularly. And finally, I present possible ways to minimize such challenges before moving to the conclusion at last.

Key words: public speaking, speakers’ club, language development, social skill

Background

When I was doing my Masters, I attended a  Speakers’ Club in 2013, which was organized by senior English language teaching scholars at Kathmandu University. The speakers delivered wonderful speeches; in fact, they were so inspiring and motivating for me.  The programme encouraged to take part as a speaker in the next Speakers’ club. In the following programme, I was one of the featured speakers speaking on The person who shaped my life. It appeared to be an easy and interesting for me as I had written an essay on the same topic. I prepared as much as I could but I felt nervous to speak in front of mass. Actually, that was the first time I had ever participated in any speech competition. I shared how a teacher transformed me from an average student to a teacher. The participants were found to have touched by my story and some of them praised my speech at the end. I do not recall exactly who got the prize on that particular day but I cannot forget the way the toastmaster and other judges analysed and gave their feedback on my speech. This proved to be bedrock for my passion I developed in public speaking. Then onwards, I became one of the regular speakers of speaker’s club. It has been more than five years, but I still love to be part of it.

After years of practice, I realized that I have significantly improved my public speaking skill which has been an asset for me as a teacher. As a regular participant, it worked as a platform for me where I got familiar with the ingredients successful speeches and practised them in my own speeches. I was able to grab best speaker awards a number of times. I was so influenced that I introduced this concept in my school as well. Some students were found interested and they successfully conducted it throughout academic year. After one year, they became so confident that one of the students from my school took part in KU Speakers’ Club and was able to raise the best speaker award from the hand of ELT scholars doing masters and M. Phil. Similarly, the other students also followed him and gave influencing speeches and were successful getting award several times. Despite the fact that we could not run it regularly every year; many students were found to be benefited from this club and have developed themselves as powerful speakers.

Reflecting upon my experience as a participant in KU and coordinator of Speakers’ Club in my school, I realized that Speakers Club can be used as an effective means of developing public speaking and language proficiency. Thus, in this article I attempt at exploring the use of Speakers’ Club in the EFL context of Nepal.

Notion of speakers’ club

Speakers’ Club can be simply defined as a platform for language learners to develop their public speaking skills. Like an international toastmaster, it is a club one delivers and observes each other’s speeches. Participating in such club gives students an opportunity  for practising their public speaking skills and their language skills. First time, speakers’ club was introduced by a group of ELT scholars of KUSOED and it became so famous that many of us implemented it in our respective schools and college. I was one of them to take this program in school level.

The notion of speakers’ club was guided by the International Toastmaster which aims at developing public-speaking and oral communication (Sun, 2008, as cited in Hsu, 2012). While implementing this at my school, we modified some of the rules to make it suitable for school children. First, we became little flexible about the time in the beginning as students often ran out of ideas in the middle and could not speak for four minutes. Likewise, we paid little attention to grammatical errors  so that they would speak freely without stress . Moreover, we created a post: highlighter, whose job was to give compliment  on only positive aspects of the speech. This was found to be encouraging for students to take part in the club.

Besides these changes, the main notion of feature and impromptu speakers remained the same like in toastmaster. Thus like in toastmaster club, we also have two kinds of speakers in a session: four feature speakers and four impromptu speakers (see agenda sheet in Appendix 1). The feature speakers are given a topic of speech and they are supposed to speak for four minutes, not less than three and more than four. But the impromptu speakers, as the word suggests, are provided the topics for their speech on the spot and they have to speak for at least two minutes. This is found to be challenging for speakers as they are only informed about theme but the topics are unknown to them. Besides speakers, we have  toastmaster,  grammar checker,  fidget counter,  highlighter, and  timekeeper. The toastmaster  selects topic and theme of the speech and conducts  session effectively. Sometimes, guest speakers are called to deliver mock speech and their experience of public speaking and  sometimes we watch famous speech by professional speakers. Speakers’ club can also be significant for language learners in enhancing their speaking skills. In relation to speaking skill, Ur (1991) emphasized the importance of small talk that advanced or academic students need to develop ability to speak at length which can be developed through short lecture or talk. Likewise, Harmer (2007) takes student’s presentation as an activity for developing speaking skill by giving talk on a particular topic. It seems that when learners take part in speakers’ club, they get ample opportunity to deliver and hear many speeches and harness their skills by collaborating and learning from each other.

The case study

This program was introduced in our schools’ academic calendar and was conducted twice a month. Basically students from grade eight and nine participated in the program. In the beginning, the students were hesitant; I had to guide them in selecting title, themes and word for the day for speech. Sometimes, I had to play the role of grammarian and check their grammatical errors as they could do on their own. But slowly and gradually, they not only improved their speech but also learned to organize the event themselves with little support from teachers. Now, they seem to have become independent; they can organize the program on their own. After successful implication of Speakers’ Club for two years, last year the school introduced Nepali Speakers’ Club as well.

The respondents for the present study were M. Phil graduates and my students who had been actively taking part in Speakers Club. They were selected purposefully so that I can get the required information for the study. I used interview and FGD as data collection strategies and my own reflective notes. The participants were given pseudo-names to maintain confidentiality in the study. First, I interviewed three respondents using interview guideline (see Appendix 2), however, it was used just as a guideline to cover the emergent issues. It mainly covered three aspects: participants’ experience, challenges in conducting speakers’ club, and their learning as speakers and language learners. Similarly, I also conducted an FGD with my students focusing on the same aspects. Their interviewed were transcribed and finally I developed different theme for analysis and interpretation. These themes have been presented and discussed in detail in the following section.

Importance of Speakers’ Club

All the respondents expressed that Speakers’ Club has been beneficial for them in enhancing public speaking as well as other skills. Regarding importance, Bimala argued, “I have not found anyone who express speakers’ club is not beneficial or uninteresting”. All the respondents agree that they have benefited from speakers’ club in many different ways which was also reported by Yu-Chih (2008). Their responses can be presented and discussed under three major sub-themes: Building confidence, enhancing public speaking skills and developing language.         

Building Confidence in speakers  

Most participants expressed that they developed confidence as a result of participating in speakers’ club. Building confidence appears to be a common phrase in almost every respondent’s   answer when they were asked to express the benefits of speakers’ club. In the process of sharing her experience as a speaker, Bimala mentioned that earlier she had habit of looking at ground while giving speech and she would become nervous when she looked at her audience. In her own words, she put “I learned to be normal” by thinking audience as nobody and herself to be superior to them. Similarly, Rajan emphasized that hesitation or fear of speaking is one of the main problems which he overcame by giving speech in speakers’ club. He believed that through practice one can decreases their hesitation and can become better speaker. This seems to be supported by students in the FGD and by other study (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Most students agree that after long practice, they felt confident while giving speech in mass.

Improving public speaking skills

Enhancing public speaking was found to be the main expectation of each respondent. However the way they express their development as speakers vary from one to another. First, Sunil opined that he adored being part of speakers’ club. According to him, speakers’ club is “a platform for learners where they can practice and develop their skills to deliver effective speech in the mass”. Furthermore, he shared that he learned to use quotation and personal stories in his speech which made him winner twice. But he believed that winning is not final goal; rather speaking is an opportunity to explore their ability and a process to collect required information on particular topic which can be used to influence our audience. So, he seems to have connected speaking skills to personal and professional development as well. This seems to be in line with Yu-Chih (2008) who states that through such club students improve their proficiency in public speaking and other various skills.

Next, the respondents of FGD view public speaking a way to develop research skills. They expressed that speakers club gave them opportunity to research on different new topics. As a result they developed habit of collecting information from different sources to prepare and give speech. Their understanding was found to be in line with Iberri-Shea (2009) who states that “public speaking tasks require students to conduct research and develop support for their arguments” (p.23). Likewise, Rajan articulated that he became conscious about his errors yet it did not decrease his fluency. He expressed to have learned to maintain both accuracy and fluency even after being aware of his error.

Above all, the participants were able to learn to present themselves as speaker, use anecdote and quotation, research on different topics and developed as speakers. By the same token, Al-Tamimi (2014) argues that “public speaking such as speakers club has been proved as a suitable pedagogical activity for ESL/EFL students to develop their speaking competence” (p.66). They can better relate their stories with the context, make inferences from observation and experience, and derive conclusion effectively. These skills can be important in real life situation besides learning language and public speaking. In this line Thornbury (2005) states that for language learners, the experience of presenting ourselves in front of class and giving talk can be an effective way of preparing for real life speaking.

Opportunity to practice target language

In response to my question regarding language development, they believed to have developed their speaking skill and improve their grammar. First, a respondent in FGD put that learning English or any other language is not limited to book; it can be learnt better by speaking. He belied that the more one speaks the more they develop speaking skill. In the same line, Sunil also echoed this respondent when he stated that speaking, as a productive skill, needs practice; so the more we speak the more we develop speaking proficiency. He also added that such practice can have positive impact on writing as well since speech can be turned writing.

Next, Rajan and Bimala expressed that speakers could improve their grammar by focusing on the comments given by grammarian in the speakers club. They believed that speakers club can be used as platform to reflect on our error in order to minimize them and become better speaker. In this line, Ur (1991) states that developing leaners’ ability to express through speech is an important factor in language course.

Thus, delivering speech in speakers club seems to provide EFL learners immense opportunity of using language to influence people. They learn to use their communicative competence – “knowing when and how to say what to who” (Hymes, 1971, as cited in Larseen Freeman, 2000) in their speech to influence people. Thus, such meaningful discourse can help EFL learners acquire language subconsciously just like in natural setting (Krashen, 1982).

Challenges in conducting speakers’ club

From the interview and FGD, I found three main challenges in conducting speakers’ club successfully. First, they expressed that most students were hesitant to participate in speakers’ club. Bimala and Sunil mentioned that some appeared to be unaware of the benefits that speakers club can offer and therefore they were not interested in being part of it. Similarly, Rajan added that some participants were even found to have fear of speaking in public as it might reveal their mistakes. Rajan was in line with Ur (2005) who mentions being worried about committing mistake and fearful of criticism or losing face as common problems in speaking activities.

Next, it appears to be challenging to run this program smoothly. Time management because of busy schedule was expressed to be a major cause for irregularity in speakers’ club both in KU and in my school. In addition, toastmasters’ inability of selecting suitable topic and conducting program was also viewed as one of the reasons for discontinuity in the program. Third and most importantly, most participants argue that voting system had negative impact provided that some speakers could get more vote because of their popularity. They mentioned particular session in which the deserving candidates did not win even after giving better speech; instead a popular friend was selected as winner.

Ways forward

Having shared the above challenges, I present some possible solutions offered by the respondents in order to overcome them. First, managing suitable schedule and time can minimize a number of issues mentioned above. As suggested by Bimala, it would be better to manage routine in a way so that maximum students can participate. Next, Rajan suggested that guest speakers can be called to deliver speech, especially inspirational speeches. This might make demotivated participants realize the benefit of public speaking and motivate them to take part in the club. And they can be the in charge of their leaning (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Finally, voting system can be modified giving fifty percent right to the judges and fifty percent to the participants. This can minimize the biasness so that deserving candidate will have better possibility to be winner.

Conclusion

Speakers’ club is proved to be an effective platform for me and my students. This seems to be beneficial in EFL context as it builds confidence in speakers, enhances their public speaking skills, and develops language proficiency. Running this program smoothly for long period of time appears to be challenging if the participants are not enthusiastic and hesitate to participate. This can be minimized by planning, preparing and conducting the program properly. Effective time management and inspiring speeches by guest speakers can lead to better participation.

References

Al-Tamimi, N. O. M. (2014). Public speaking instruction: Abridge to improve English speaking competence and reducing communication apprehension. International Journal2(4), 45-68.

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Hsu, T. C. (2012). Enhancing college students’ global awareness through

campus Toastmasters clubs. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 1(1), 21-34.

Iberri-Shea, G. (2009). Using Public Speaking Tasks in English Language Teaching. In English Teaching Forum, 47(2), p. 18-23.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and principles in language teaching (2nd edition.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krashen, S. D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Pergamon Press.

Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. London: Pearson Longman.

Ur, P. (2005). A course in language teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yu-Chih, S. (2008). The Toastmasters approach: An innovative way to teach public speaking to EFL learners in Taiwan. RELC Journal39(1), 113-130.

 

Contributor

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav is a research scholar at Kathmandu University and teaches English language at different colleges in Lalitpur. He is pursuing his M. Phil. in English Language Education from Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published several journal articles and presented papers in NELTA conferences. His areas of interest include teaching English through literature, teachers’ professional development, and critical pedagogy.

Appendixes

Appendix 1

Speakers’ Club-KU (Season 7, Session 1)

4th Floor, Building C, KUSOED Hattiban

10 September 2017

Topic for Featured Speakers: Introduction

Theme for the Impromptu Speakers: Teaching profession

 

 

Word For the day: Passion

  • Toastmaster: Gyanendra Yadav
  • Grammarian: CB Khatri
  • Highlighter: Raju Shrestha
  • Time Keeper: Anupama Manadhar
  • Ah counter: Sharmila Parajuli
  • Fidget counter: Kausalya Khadka
  • Tech-support: Manuka Adhikari
  • Prize Sponsor: Regent school

 

Featured Speakers Impromptu Speakers
  1. Damodar Poudel
  1. Sudip Neupane
  1. Ishwar Koirala
  1. Keshab Prasai
  1. Jhaggu Gahatraj
  1. Deepak Regmi
  1. Yogendra Ruwali
  1. Birat Chaulagain

 

Best featured Speaker Best Impromptu Speaker
 

 

Appendix 2

Guideline for interview (speakers’ club)

Experience sharing

  1. Have you taken part in speakers club?
  2. Would you like to share you experience of being part of speakers’ club?

Importance of speakers’ club

  1. Do you find any benefits in participating in Speaker’s club?
  2. Can you share any concrete changes that you notice after participating?
    1. In Public speaking
    2. In Language development /as EFL learners

Challenges and ways to overcome them

  1. It is found difficult to continue the program for long. What is your view regarding it?
  2. What other challenges do you find?
  3. What can be done to overcome such challenges?

Three techniques of teaching writing to college students: my experience

Sagar Poudel

Introduction

Perhaps, it was the month of December 2018. One of our classes in B.Ed. first year grouped into another section as the students were high in number in the former section. Then, I was asked to take class in the new section. The next day, I went to the classroom taking my laptop and few materials. I had few short videos and slides related to the subject matter that I was going to introduce in the classroom. In the very beginning, I asked few things to the students regarding their previous classes and the topics that they studied in earlier section. At the same time one of the students said, “Sir, we need notes”. Then I asked, “What notes?” Then again another student said that I need to write note of each and every topic on the board. Then I said, “If I have to give you notes, then what do you do from your side?” There was silence for few seconds. Then the students admitted that they cannot write themselves as they are very weak in writing. I leaned on the lecture desk, spoke nothing and thought for a while.

It was my first lesson for them. A question came into my mind continuously, why the students demanded written note in my first class before I started the lesson. Again I began to wonder how they were taught in their previous lessons. How did they practice writing in the past? Then I asked them to attend my classes at least for a month and assured them that if they were not satisfied with my strategies for teaching writing, the campus would address their problem immediately. After that, I started my lesson through PowerPoint presentation where I played few videos related to the topic to be introduced that day. I could notice that few of my students were enjoying the videos and my delivery but few of them were not happy as they were not given written note on the board. I asked my students to have patience and assured them that they would become independent writers if they followed my instructions well.

As I came out from the classroom, their words ‘we need written notes…’ were buzzing in my mind. It was obvious that they got the habit of copying notes from the board which must be the reason why the students had no interest in trying to write themselves. Although copying and memorizing notes for examination must be easy for them but that would certainly not help students develop their creativity and become independent writers. I always learned from my teaching experience that the learners require ample opportunities to explore by exercising to write themselves and it is teacher’s responsibility to give an appropriate environment. I always remember one Nepali proverb “Machha khana matrai hoina, machha marna pani sikaunu parchha.” which means we should teach a man how to fish instead of just teaching him to eat fish. Keeping this proverb in my mind, I started dealing with these students differently. That evening, I planned something different for that classroom.

My techniques of teaching writing

First technique: come near to me

It was my second day in that class; however, it was the first day of my intervention of a new technique. That day, I used brainstorming technique to encourage my students to come up with some ideas and write a short story. As I asked them some questions to stimulate ideas for writing many of them were too shy to respond. Then, I wrote few sentences on the board which was the starting of a story. Meantime some of them were ready to copy out from the board but I requested them not to copy but write similar expression changing the major words i.e. content words of my writing. I had also given few content words in a box and asked them to replace content words of my writing. Most of them did but again few of them were still confused. I told the students who already completed their task to help other students too. On that very day, I asked the students come near to me but did not let them stand on my foot i.e. copying my exact sentences. My students practiced writing in this way for five days and I also gave them few tasks as their home assignment to be done regularly. I was not very strict about their assignment; rather I encouraged them to write whatever came in their mind related to the topic. In this way in the beginning, I brought them near to me/my writing.

Second technique: hold my hand

During the third week of my intervention, I tried out another technique to deal with the writing of my students. I asked them to recall the story they all had read in my previous lesson. I then wrote some points that represented important events of the story that but did not write the whole story or the summary. Then I asked my students to write just two paragraphs including the given points in them and adding few ideas from the text. Few of them hesitated to start writing and few of them said that it was difficult to write two paragraphs themselves. I asked them to write what they know and how much they can without worrying about the correctness of the sentences. As I went through their writing, I found that some of my students did not write anything at all while some of them created good pieces adding very good points and joining the given sentences in the sequences. Thus, I did similar activities for a week and I could notice changes in their writing. Many of my students improved and developed confidence in writing. I felt that, I was somehow able to make them walk holding my hand in the journey of writing.

Third technique: walk now

‘Walk Now’ is another technique that I used in my writing lesson. It was the last week of my intervention period. Now, I wanted to make my students walk themselves or in other words I wanted to make my students to write freely and independently. To make this happen, I read aloud an interesting piece of writing, e.g. a story and asked my students to jot down striking and important ideas or points they find in the text. I read the text twice or even thrice giving emphasis on the important points with specific sentence structure or events and guided them to elaborate those points and write at least one page. The one page writing could be a summary of the text or they were free to modify the text and rewrite it or if the text was a story, they could give it a different ending.

The next day almost all the students who were present in the previous day wrote one page and even those students who struggled a lot in writing were improving rapidly. They began to talk about their assignments and write summary of the previous lesson. It was encouraging to see my students making progress in writing.

After a month of intervention, I gathered students’ response about my writing lessons. Most of them admitted that copying notes and memorizing could probably help them pass the examination but that did not help them build confidence in writing.  One of my students said, “Sir, now at least we started writing ourselves and if we go on following these writing strategies, we can write easily on any topic. You made us to write rather than expect and wait for your notes”. I realized that my students at least started to walk themselves, although they were not ready to run in their journey of writing.

From that very day I continued teaching same class and the students were happy with me. However, I used to give note if I felt that the concept were somehow new and challenging. In other cases, my students of that very class started writing and exploring their ideas themselves rather than depending on the teachers even for the simple topic, issue or concept.

Conclusion

Writing is one of the most desirable skills of language. We need to make our students write something themselves rather than letting them to copy our note. If we give ready-made notes, they just copy out and read. But if the situation became slightly different than our note, students explore nothing because they have just ready-made answers for particular questions. My experience of one month teaching writing with my own techniques i.e. ‘Come Near to Me’, ‘Hold my Hand’ and ‘Now Walk’ became somehow successful in my writing lessons. So, to make our students walk themselves and make them able for fishing, i.e. to make them write themselves, I think we teachers need to create the environment to writ. We should avoid giving ready-made notes which, in my opinion, kills the learners’ creativity.

The author: Sagar Poudel is an MPhil in English language education from Kathmandu University. His areas of interest are Second Language Acquisition, Socio-linguistics, Academic Writing and ELT pedagogy and materials. He is currently working as lecturer and the head of English department at Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, Damauli Tanahun.