Integration of ict in foreign language instruction: things to bear in mind – part 1

Thứ năm - 31/07/2014 04:09
1. Introduction
Information and communication technology (ICT) plays a very important role in education. ICT has proved particularly effective and beneficial to the teaching and learning of foreign languages. ICT equips foreign language teachers and their learners with amazing tools that greatly promote teaching and learning. However, some Vietnamese teachers of foreign languages, particularly those f-rom rural and mountainous areas, are often unwilling, reluctant and find it hard to implement ICT in their teaching. This article will discuss some issues that Vietnamese teachers of foreign languages may want to take into account when they incorporate ICT into their instruction.
2. Things to consider
In order to increase their chances of success when implementing ICT in their instruction, teachers may want to take account of the following issues.
Technology means change
Dr. Thom Thibeault of US Samford University, an expert in ICT integration, once said: “When it comes to technology, things are always changing and they always will.” (Thibeault, 2013). This statement clearly describes the typical feature of technology: change. When dealing with technology in general and ICT in particular, we need to prepare to deal with new things and changes. However, ICT is not all the time welcomed and willingly adopted in instructional settings in Vietnam. In some cases, ICT faces a strong resistance f-rom Vietnamese teachers of foreign languages. There are various factors that may account for this. Some of them are described in the following section.
A number of recent studies (Goktas et al, 2009; Umar and Hussin, 2013) discuss a barrier to the application of ICT in the teaching of foreign languages: technophobia. Some teachers may feel overwhelmed and encounter a certain kind of anxiety when they experience ICT. In many cases, this kind of anxiety is cre-ated by teachers themselves. By nature, everybody seems to be reluctant experiencing new things. Therefore, to some extent, it would be reasonable that some teachers are afraid of changes and thus resist the innovations brought about by ICT. These teachers often struggle to work with modern ICT devices such as computers, tablets or smartphones. However, if they are willing to take the initiative and try out the devices, they would gradually overcome the fear of technology. Some may become fascinated by and even addicted to ICT, always waiting to up-date themselves with new products. It is very encouraging when some Vietnamese teachers of English, though already possessing an Apple’s Iphone 5, were seen queuing in long lines to get their hands on an Iphone 5s. Clearly, to overcome the anxiety, it is essential for teachers to have confidence and willingness to experience new things.
Lack of teacher motivation
Another obstacle to the integration of ICT in teaching is the lack of motivation f-rom teachers (Goktas et al., 2009; Umar and Hussin, 2013). Some teachers may ask a question: Why do I have to change when everything is ok? These teachers are used to doing things the way they have always done them every day and thus do not have the desire to change. However, it is worth noticing that many innovations in education are inspired and brought about by ICT. With regard to the importance of ICT to language teachers, Ray Clifford, a US language educator once said, “Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace those who do not. It is clear that ICT plays a very important role in promoting education and it would be of great advantage for teachers who know and can implement ICT in their instruction.
Autonomous learning
According to Thibeault (2013), in order to effectively employ ICT in their teaching, foreign language teachers should increase their autonomous learning and learn to figure out how to do things on their own. In this digital age with almost everything available on the Internet, what teachers want for their instruction is always somewhe-re out there and the thing is whether they can find and get it themselves. Therefore, it is essential for teachers to develop strong self-learning skills. In addition, things are always changing in this information age, so teachers should be willing and prepared to engage in continuous learning to keep themselves up to date. To a certain extent, it would be a failure for teachers if they know nothing or little about ICT when their students master it. In this regard, it is also worth noticing here that most of our young students are digital natives who were born into the digital world and can easily master the digital language of ICT, whe-reas many of their teachers are digital immigrants who have to learn about ICT and often struggle to deal with it. In response, teachers need to keep learning and use ICT on a regular basis. Otherwise, they would soon become outdated and could be replaced. Anchored in this argument, the willingness to get involved in continuous learning can be considered “a must” for many foreign language teachers of today.
Goktas et al. (2009, p. 194) holds that some teachers show a lack of knowledge and skills for ICT and ICT integration. In line with this, some Vietnamese teachers do not trust their tech skills enough to incorporate ICT into their instruction. In Vietnamese settings, this is possibly because very little time is spent on the development of ICT skills in teacher training courses. Rather, the courses mostly place focus on the foreign language and teaching skills the students will use in their future instruction. Additionally, foreign language teachers do not have access to ICT courses on a regular basis. Given the situation, the extent of success in the incorporation of ICT in foreign language instruction is very dependent on teachers themselves and their self-learning skills.
Thinking out of the box
One more essential requirement for success in the integration of ICT in foreign language instruction is pedagogical creativity. Thibeault (2013) stresses that without teachers’ creativity, “all the technology in the world is not going to serve teachers and their students”, and that teachers should not “use new technology with old paradigms”. In his view, knowledge and skills about ICT are important, but insufficient. Here, the creativity in classroom settings plays the key role. Teachers with ICT knowledge and skills need to think out of the box to find innovative ways of integrating ICT into their own instruction. If they can do this, teachers can cre-ate an amazing learning environment and can design unique lessons that would greatly promote learning.
Developing information-mining skills
As mentioned above, in this age of information technology, almost everything teachers need for their teaching is always available somewhe-re out there on the Internet, so teachers need to figure out ways to find and get it. Here, information-mining skills are the key to success. Fortunately, one of the strengths of foreign language teachers is that they know foreign languages, especially English, so they need to bring this advantage into full play. To mine information effectively, teachers can use two very useful search tools Google and YouTube. Teachers need to think up key words that describe exactly what they want and the search tools will do their part and come up with millions of results. What teachers need to do next is to read the description of the listed results to decide on which one best matches their needs. Clearly, to increase success in ICT integration, foreign language teachers should develop their information-mining skills.
Benson, P. (2011). Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning. 2nd Edition. Hallow: Longman/Pearson Education.
Goktas, Y., Yildirim, S. & Yildirim, Z. (2009). Main barriers and possible enablers of ICTs integration into pre-service teacher education programs. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (1), 193 – 204.
Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy in Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon.
Ismail, N. & Yusof, M. A. M. (2012). Using language learning contracts as a strategy to promote learner autonomy among ESL learners. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 66 (2012) 472 – 480.
Thibeault, T. (2013, December). Introduction to ICT/CALL. ICT Courses for Vietnamese Teachers of English. Lecture conducted in Danang College of Foreign Languages, Danang, Vietnam.
Thibeault, T. (2013, December). Issues when implementing ICT/CALL. ICT Courses for Vietnamese Teachers of English. Lecture conducted in Danang College of Foreign Languages, Danang, Vietnam.
Umar, I. N. & Hussin, F. K. (2013). ICT coordinators’ perceptions on ICT practices, barriers and its future in Malaysian secondary schools: Correlation analysis. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116 (2014) 2469 – 2473.

Tác giả bài viết: Doan Quang Trung, Hanoi University

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