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Information & Communication Technology - implications in the classroom

by Darron Board

Introduction

The teaching centre where I am currently working is investing heavily in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). As a result we as teachers are being asked not only to use computers as “extra” activities, but also to actively integrate ICT into our classes. This is difficult for any teacher, as exactly how this can be done is debatable. The fact that CALL or IT is now referred to as ICT highlights the fact that not only computers and CD Roms can help the teacher in the day to day teaching of languages, but also the new communication technologies that the Internet provides, such as the world wide web, email, chat, etc. I decided to take advantage of this part of the DELTA coursework to look into the impact and implications of using ICT in the EFL classroom and some practical implications when using in particular the Internet. My aim is to have a sufficient basis on which to design and execute a class that uses the World Wide Web as a teaching resource.

The main points to remember about the use of ICT are the implied change in teacher and learner behaviours and attitudes. It has made teachers look at their teaching styles and the way in which their students learn with different eyes. Hence I looked into what has been written about the changing roles of teacher and learner.

Learner Autonomy

Learning is not a passive activity, since learners do not learn much by just sitting in class listening to the teacher or memorising rules for exam questions. Rather, learning is an active process that very much involves the individual learner. Learner autonomy has been an issue since the advent of CLT, and the concept of autonomous thinking in education was introduced by Dickinson (1987). The concept has been developed in the field of foreign language learning by the European Council and by the work of Holec (1980) and Oskarsson (1988). Wenden (1987) recognised learner autonomy as an important “pedagogical goal”.

Holec (1988), in his prologue to a publication from the Council of Europe, Autonomy and self-directed learning. Present fields of application, distinguished three interpretations for the concept of “autonomy”:

1. The autonomous learner is “independent” from the teacher, and works with a series of materials that are used as support material. The implications of this view is that the learner cannot decide on the objectives, contents or methodology of the course and the teacher ahs been substituted by the materials

2. The learner is “responsible for his own learning” individually or together with other learners (or with the teacher). In this case, the learning process is organised according to the learners’ needs and interests, as the course content is negotiated with the teacher first.

3. The learner shows her “capacity to learn”, i.e. she shows her abilities and inner skills. This interpretation does not refer to a style of leaning but to a characteristic of the learner.

Studies carried out in this area have focused on how individual differences affect and condition the way a person learns and how information is processed. For example, some people are more analytic, others are more visual or oral, etc. Autonomous learning, then, tries to foster the learning conditions to accommodate diversity, and to encourage the learner to be conscious of her learning characteristics so as to improve these and thus improve the overall efficiency of her learning.

The relationship between teachers and students changes when using ICT resources in the ELT classroom. As with self-study resources, the responsibility for many of the learning decision made is passed over to the learner, such as decisions about what to study, when to study, how to study and how long to study for. The extent to which the learner will acquire the above skills depends on the learner’s and the teacher’s views of their relationship and respective roles.

Fernandes et al (1990:101) expresses this clearly,

In their everyday lives adults are required to make choices and decisions regarding their lives, accept responsibility, and learn to do things for themselves. However, language learners in the classroom often tend to revert to the traditional role of pupil, who expects to be told what to do. As a result, some learners have become teacher dependent and often feel that it is the teacher alone who is responsible for any learning and progress that takes place.

A key issue here is the balance between learner autonomy and teacher control in the learning process. It is the teacher’s job to know when and how much to intervene. Thus the control and management of the learning process continues to be part of the teacher’s responsibility, but little by little, the learner will become more conscious of her own learning and desirably, more independent form the teacher and more prepared to collaborate with the teacher and classmates.

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