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Information & Communication Technology

by Darron Board - part 2

Teacher’s Role

In a learning environment where resources from the WWW are used in the classroom, the role of the teacher changes considerably and becomes of vital importance. The new role of the EFL teacher is to promote and develop autonomous learning in the classroom by facilitating, helping, counselling, co-ordinating, proposing ideas, guiding, and fostering communication. Depending on the activity, and the final goal, the teacher will need to be a leader or will provide particular attention to those students who need it most.

With the introduction of the computer in the EFL classroom, the teacher is not the only channel of input. She will still be co-ordinating the subject delivery, planning the lessons, and helping students to interact with the computer. The use of CALL resources can free teachers from an isolated materials production role, which makes huge demands on time. Thus teachers can use materials produced by others or may offer their own materials to others by means of the WWW. Another result of using multimedia in the ELT classroom is that the work in the classroom maybe simplified; as a counterpart, the teacher may have to spend more time on preparation. Furthermore, the nature of the resources that the teacher selects will be inextricably related to the way the teacher views language learning and teaching, and to the particular place CALL has in the curriculum. In my present teaching circumstance, this therefore means all teachers have to “adapt or expire” since there is no choice about the integration of ICT in the lessons. It also requires teachers in my context to learn more about ICT and to prepare appropriate materials.

The role of the teacher therefore can be split into three dimensions, as the following table shows:

Role
Description
Researcher

- the resources on the WWW should not be given unadulterated to learners, hoping that this will help them to “learn”

- what is required from teachers is the selection of materials and resources according to the students’ needs

- the first step of any application in the classroom is to assess the students’ real level of language and their abilities, in order to more effectively focus their learning

- the teacher therefore must research the resource in question, evaluating it and selecting the potentially useful areas, so that they can be accessed when needed in class

Framer

- in storing and categorising the resources the teacher is designing a learning environment which is eclectic enough in the variety of its learning materials and opportunities to cater for the heterogeneous needs of her students

- in this way the teacher establishes a “frame” though which the students can start using the material

Facilitator - ICT expands teaching with computers to include internet forums, chat, etc. In this scenario, the teacher can take on a subordinate, support role, providing information on the discursive language forms, which are appropriate within each of those communicative contexts and feedback on failed communication if necessary. Here the teacher is playing a largely facilitated role.

The social dimension

Learning with the Internet with all its applications can become a friendly environment for learning. Berge (1996) points out the social dimension of learning thorough the network and refers to the teacher as a cohesive element of a community. According to Rohfel and Hiemstra (1995), teachers should seek to develop human relations in the classroom by developing the group’s cohesion, trying to maintain group unity and helping group members to work collaboratively on tasks.

Students’ Roles

The use of the net provides students with opportunities to become involved in active, collaborative and constructive learning experiences.

Active learning

Students should not become “consumers” of learning materials; rather, they should be able to take responsibility for their own learning, something that used to be the teacher’s responsibility. Active learning then involves mindful processing of information and responsibility on the learner’s par for the results of that learning. The language learners should be encouraged to take decisions, plan her own studies and assess herself. In other words, the learner should monitor her own performance, contrasting her output with what has been learning and consider the impact on the interlocutor. Ruschoff (1992:9) says,

The language learner’s role as an experimenter and researcher in the classroom should not be underestimated: actively and often consciously exploring language and communication should constitute and important activity in the language classroom.

The extent to which a leaner will acquire the above skills depends on her ability to manage time, cope with stress and other negative factors that may interfere with learning. Finally, learners also need to be self-motivated and self disciplined. In my particular context for this experimental lesson, the learners are self-motivated pre-intermediate learners although the capacity to focus on work of some learners is variable and they are not always very disciplined in their approach, something I will have to take into account.

Constructive learning

Constructive learning allows an accommodation of new ideas into prior knowledge. Feedback from a computer, a teacher or from the learner’s self-corrective faculty will also contribute to reflecting about what has been learnt and what still needs to be learnt. Bosch (1996), when talking about “self-learning” says that it is the learner who plans and controls her won learning process when interacting with multimedia, by choosing where to start, which way to go and what she wants to achieve; sometimes the learner, may ask for advice or counselling from the teacher. Basically it is the learner who decides when to read a text, when to carry out a listening activity, when to reinforce vocabulary or grammar, when to practice what she is learning, and at what pace she wants to do all these activities. Bosch also mentions that by becoming aware of their own difficulties, students can focus their learning in a more efficient and reflective way.

Therefore if I am to include an autonomous dimension in EFL learning, then “ideal” software should allow me to:

- make decisions about objectives, tasks and learning styles

- choose the sort of help I would like my learners to have available (e.g. grammar, vocabulary, etc), the sources of help (myself, other learners, the computer) and the moment of help (how often, at which stages of the process).

- self-assessment of the process and the results, in relation to the objectives and the type of tasks.

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