The Effect Of Information And Communication Technologies Education Essay

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This innovation assignment aims at examining the effect of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on the new way of learning and teaching vocabulary. Basing on the hypothesis that ICTs will have a positive influence on learning and teaching vocabulary, the innovation was implemented in 8 weeks from 15 Feb to 17 April with 32 second-year students at Vietnam National University, College of Technology, Faculty of Telecommunication and Technology. After a brief review of literature related to the issue, the paper reports on the design, materials and results of the experiment through the two tests (pre-test and post test) and questionnaires for the students done by the researcher.

This bottom-up innovation was a combination of the social interaction model (White, R. V, 1988, p. 65) and problem solving model (White, R. V, 1988, p. 63) and considered as an immanent change. After identifying students' problem in learning vocabulary, the researcher became to be adopter, implementer and change agent of the innovation and used Hot Potatoes as a treatment to solve the problem; 32 students were treated as clients, adopters and resisters.

Chapter I: Introduction

Learning vocabulary plays a significant role in language learning and this has been pointed out by several linguists such as Wilkins (1972) and River (1983). August (2005) emphasized the role of vocabulary by defining that the more words you know, the more easily you can read and write, and express your own idea. However, English has thousands of words to learn and learning vocabulary turns out to be a suffering process to English learners. This is not an exception for the second students at Vietnam National University, College of Technology, Faculty of Telecommunication, especially when they study English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Vocabulary is mentioned as one of main problems connected with learning and teaching ESP. "… ESP learning and teaching implies learning and teaching the vocabulary of a special text. However, there are no easy points as far as living human languages" (Makeeva, 2006). Having no concern with familiar words in daily life, these students now encounter a great deal of new terms they hardly meet before taking the course. In addition, the students are passive in the class; therefore, learning vocabulary turns out to be a big problem.

I have been teaching English for Electronics and Telecommunications (EET) for the second students at my university since the very beginning of this semester. This ESP course lasts in 15 weeks with two sessions per week. The number of periods for each week is 7, of which 6 is face-to-face periods and 1 self-study. The material for the course, named English for Electronics & Telecommunications Volume 3 was designed by a group of teachers at VNU. The course book is divided into three chapters: Advanced Technology, The Internet, and Wireless Services. Each chapter is further divided into three modules. Each module has a main text followed by exercises on reading comprehension, speaking, writing, listening, and translation. The main texts are devote to such essential topics as Analog and Digital; Bandwidth, Compression, and Multiplexing; LANS, MANS, WANS; World Wide Web; E-commerce; Security on the world wide web; 3G, 4G, W-CDMA; Mobile Internet Access; Satellite. From the beginning of the semester, I got a great amount of complaints about their vocabulary learning: "… English for specific purpose is much more difficult than the basic one as it contains a great amount of weird words…"; "… the average of approximately 40 words per unit is too much for me…"; "… It is extremely hard for me to remember all the words covered in each unit…"; "… we just learn words by heart and then forget them…"; "… I tried to write and re-write the words, remember them, but day after day, they disappear in my mind…".

All these above complaints reflected a truth that students at VNU, CT were failed to be motivated in learning vocabulary since they were used to the traditional method of learning. Hence, we tried to change the way of learning vocabulary of EET by encouraging the students to use Hot Potatoes in self-study. Researcher used Hot Potatoes, a mean of software with six applications, to design creative exercises basing on the content of the lessons and then asked students to do at home as a vocabulary review method with the hope that this would improve their vocabulary learning.

Research Question

The study aims at investigating the effect of Hot Potatoes in students' vocabulary learning in self-study. Specifically, its purpose is to answer the following question:

Can applying Hot Potatoes in self-study help students at Vietnam National University, College of Technology improve their vocabulary of English for Electronics and Telecommunications?

Chapter II: Literature Review

1. Innovation and its features

a. Definition of innovation

Different researchers have different definitions about innovation (Roger 1983, Fullan 1982), among these, Nicholls (1983) defined an innovation as 'an idea, object or practice perceived as new by an individual or individuals, which is intended to bring about improvement in relation to deliberate' (cited in White, R. V, 1998). According to Shukla (2009), 'innovation may be defined as exploiting new ideas leading to the creation of a new product, or process'. From my point of view, innovation is an intentional effort using an intervention or a new idea to solve the current problem and get better results.

b. Characteristics of innovations

Markee (1997, p. 93) has pointed out that there are five core characteristics of innovations: (1) relative advantage, (2) compatibility, (3) complexity, (4) trainability, and (5) observability; each of them is really important since 'they influence all users' decisions to adopt or reject any kind of innovation' (Markee, 1997, p. 94). People will not adopt any innovation if they will gain no advantage from it, or it is too complex and difficult to observe. Therefore, change agents must take these core characteristics into consideration when they are about to adopt an innovation.

c. Models of innovation

This bottom-up innovation is a combination of the problem-solving model and the social interaction model (White, 1988).

The social interaction model 'highlights the influence and importance of social relation in the transmission and adoption of innovation' (White, 1998, p.65) and it is different from the other models because it 'explains what motivates clients' actual adoption behaviors, not how to manage change per se… the social interaction model has no strategy of change or leadership style associated with it' (White, 1998, p. 96). Thanks for this model, many ideas have been shared across country and worldwide; and among them are using Hot Potatoes in vocabulary learning and teaching. The researcher did hope that this new idea would be popular due to the social interaction model.

Along with the social interaction model is the problem-solving model. According to White (1998, p. 63), 'a problem solving approach is at the basis of action research, whose aim is to make use of research in modifying and improving curriculum practice, thus having a direct relationship to innovation and reform'. He added 'the focus of action research is on the identification of problems by teachers themselves rather than on those defined by an outside consultant or change agent'. In this circumstance, the researcher, an inside change agent, used action research to identify the problem with her class and implemented an intervention using Hot Potatoes as a treatment to make the change.

d. Types of social change

Without any help from the outside, this innovation is considered as an immanent change since the user herself identified the problem with vocabulary learning of her students and proposed applying Hot Potatoes in vocabulary learning as a solution to the problem.

e. Cultures and innovation

Innovation is affected by many factors, and among these are cultures of classroom and cultures of learning. Talking about this point, Tudor (2001, p. 130) stated: 'students' culture of learning plays a powerful role in guiding their behaviors in the classrooms as well as their evaluation of the actions and behaviors of other participants… participants may not be explicitly aware of the principles on which they are operating. Their culture of learning may thus constitute a powerful but potentially hidden agenda, one which underpins their actions, but which they may not have analyzed explicitly'. This suggests that the researcher, during the implementation, should take the differences between students in terms of beliefs, attitudes and expectations into account. This also suggests that researcher should learn about classroom as 'learning about classroom is an essential aspect of finding how to teach' (Holliday, 1994, p.107).

2. Lexicology and Cognitivism

As said above, vocabulary plays a definitely significant role in teaching and learning language. The role of vocabulary was defined by August (2005) when he stated that in language learning, vocabulary plays a core role since it helps learners be able to understand well what they hear and read; and express what they want to speak and write. Sharing the same point of view, Kwary (2007) argued that 'the acquisition of an adequate vocabulary is essential for successful second language use because, without an extensive vocabulary, we will be unable to use the structures and functions we may have learned for comprehensible communication'. Thus, despite the traditional neglect, there is now a great awareness to teaching and learning vocabulary. Along with four language skills, lexis has been involved in lessons by most of English teachers and the lexical approach has been among of interest recently. Focusing on developing students' proficiency with words and words combinations, the lexical approach is a approach based on the idea that a significant part of language learning is the ability to understand and produce lexical phrases as unanalyzed wholes, or 'chunks' (cited in Moudraia, (2001).

A question to be raised here is how second language learners acquire vocabulary? In order to answer this question, Hedge (2000) suggested learners to use 'a range of strategies', some of which can be called cognitive - 'they are direct mental operations which are concerned with working on new words in order to understand, categorize, and store them in the mental lexicon' (Hedge, 2000, p. 117). Concentrating on the inner mental activities, and mainly being concerned with thinking, memory, knowing, and problem solving, cognitivism is considered to be valuable and necessary in teaching and learning language. How teachers teach, how students learn, and what strategies students use to learn should be taken into consideration.

3. ICTs, Self -Study, and Distance Learning

In fact, Information and Communication Technologies have big effects on all aspects of modern life, especially in education. With huge information available to everyone at every moment, ICTs has leaded changes in teaching and learning in traditional classrooms. Despite the traditional learning, self-study now, with assistance of a computer, not of teachers, becomes more and more popular in many countries. In addition to self-study, distance learning has received interest from learners worldwide and 'will soon become the hottest education fad in decades' (González, 1997). In this learning process, computer plays as the main tool assisting learners with their study, and teachers do not assist students. However, this does not mean that teachers' roles could be dispensable since they are the agents who choose the techniques and design materials to use. Another important element is the students who decide to learn; who decide how to learn and which learning strategies to be used.

In short, it is obvious that ICTs has a significant role in distant learning and self-study of students, but whether ICTs has positive influence on students' learning vocabulary of English for Electronics and Telecommunications or not? The question will be answered after analyzing the results of the intervention.

Chapter III: Methodology

As said above, the purpose of this study is to find out the solution to the problem that students at VNU, CT, Faculty of Telecommunication were facing up with when they studied English for Electronics and Telecommunications (English for specific purposes). During the academic year, these second year students were unable to store the terms related to their domain due to the lack of time and the great number of words. In order to improve the situation, Hot Potatoes, used by teacher to design different kinds of exercises basing on the content of each lesson in the course book, was used as a treatment to make a change. The teacher did hope that, by using this mean of ICTs in self-study, these IT students would be able to acquire a maximum lexicon in the relatively shortest time.

Participants

Participants in the study (n=32) were the second year students at Faculty of Telecommunication, College of Technology, Vietnam National University, Hanoi in the second semester of this academic year (2009-2010). These students whose major was not English were studying English for Electronics and Telecommunications (English for specific purposes) which related to their future domain. Out of 32, one was female and the rest male having the same core (6) in the Classification Test on General English. This is to ensure that all the participants were at the same level of English.

2. Design and Materials

a. Hot Potatoes

Nowadays, there are many tools to create internet-based exercises, but among of them, Hot Potatoes is considered as a great one. Being a bright product of Half-Baked Software Inc, Hot Potatoes is now free for all users to create different kinds of exercise without any difficulties in using. 'The user needs no previous knowledge of webpage design. We only have to enter the information (texts, questions, and answers) and Hot Potatoes will create a html file that can be uploaded directly to any web page' ( An introduction to Hot Potatoes at http://web.uvic.ca/hrd/halfbaked/mactutor/intro.htm). This software can be downloaded from http://hotpot.uvic.ca/

As can be seen from the picture, Hot Potatoes has six basic applications: JCloze, JQuiz, JMatch, JCross, JMix, and The Master. Each application allows us to design different kind of exercises.

JCloze: This application enables teacher to create 'gap-filling' exercises. Clues are provided for each question so that students can choose the correct answer.

JQuiz: This allows designers to create questions-based exercises including short answers and multiple choice questions.

+ Short answers: Students type the answers in the box and press 'check' button. Their answers will be connected to the correct answers and the feedback will come out. Hints are also provided to students.

+ Multiple choice questions: Students have multiple options to choose the answers. Whenever they choose incorrect answers, an 'X' will appear with the feedback. If their answers are correct, feedback will come out with a 'J'.

JMatch: Matching and ordering alternatives will be created by this application.

JCross: Designers can use JCross to create crossword puzzles as games. The clues that help students do the puzzles are provided.

JMix: This application is used to create jumbled sentences exercises

The Master: this tool enables designers to create a whole unit with several exercises.

For all of these advantages, Hot Potatoes is considered as a great tool to create interactive exercises.

The designed exercises were copied on CDs so that students could do it at anytime and anywhere with assistance of a computer.

Some samples of each type of exercises are given below:

Type 1 - JClose: The exercises about VODSL; Bandwidth, Multiplexing, and Complexity; E-commerce were designed with this tool.

Type 2 - JQuiz: This tool was used to design exercises about Mobile Internet Access; Analog and Digital, World Wide Web; LANs; MANS, and WANS.

Type 3 - JMatch was used to design the exercises about Security on the World Wide Web; 3G, 4G, W-CDMA.

The reason why the change agent selected and designed exercises was based on the fact that when studying ESP, it is complicated for students to acquire a great amount of words as the time is limited. This turned out to be a restriction for students' vocabulary acquisition. In order to activate students in learning vocabulary, contextualized exercises need to be designed.

b. Electronics and Telecommunications - related word list

This word list was made of more than one hundred words related to Electronics and Telecommunications. These words were chosen according to the following criteria:

They are the key words related to Electronics and Telecommunications

They are terms that are frequently found in reading texts in the course book.

They are difficult for students to understand and acquire.

They will be useful for students' domain in the future.

Procedures

The study included three stages. At the first stage, a checklist was given to the learners at the very beginning of the course. Students filled in to self-check their knowledge regarding ET terms. This is so-called 'pre-test' (see Appendix A) which provided really important information as it let us know the real position from which the learners started.

The second stage was to let students do designed exercises in self-study. This system consists of 40 exercises, covering content of 8 units in the course book. Every week, after each 6 face-to face periods, students were asked to finish the designed exercises basing on the lesson of the week.

After 8 weeks, students once again were asked to fill in the same checklist to the one above to self-evaluate their achievement. This is so-called 'post-test' (see Appendix B) which is also very important since it provides an 'accurate measure of the change in learning' (Newton, 1999).

The final phase of the study was to get feedback from students by asking them to fill in a questionnaire (see Appendix C) to get both quantitative and qualitative data. The change agent chose questionnaire for the final step because questionnaire is considered as a useful tool to gather information and is used widely in educational researches. The quantitative information of the study related to student's opinion, attitude towards the interactive exercises and the use of Hot Potatoes in vocabulary learning. Meanwhile, the qualitative information related to the open questions which were used to give students opportunity to express their own opinions freely.

All the input mentioned above were used to determine the results of our intervention in students' vocabulary learning.

Chapter IV: Results and discussion

The information which was provided by all students yielded the result of the study. The analysis of the results was divided into two parts: quantitative data and qualitative data. First of all, let have a look at the differences between the pre-test and the post-test in term of result or quantitative data.

1. Quantitative data or the differences between the pre-test and the post-test result

Result of the pre-test was shown at Table 1:

I know this word

It rings a bell

Never heard of it

1

17

4

11

2

20

6

6

3

18

6

8

4

21

2

9

5

15

9

8

6

18

5

9

7

23

6

3

8

13

7

12

9

24

4

4

10

10

11

11

11

11

8

13

12

11

7

14

13

21

6

5

14

23

3

6

15

21

5

6

16

21

4

7

17

13

9

10

18

17

4

11

19

14

5

13

Table 1. The Pre-test results

The number in the first column indicated the number of words given to the students to answer. Then, the number of words students knew before the intervention was shown in the second column anonymously. Being shown in the third column was the number of words that students were not sure about, and the last one indicated the words that students had never heard about.

Carrying out a simple calculation, we can see that, a total of words for 32 students were 608 words, of which 331 were known by the students, made up of 55 %; 111 ones students were not sure about (18%), and 166 words students did not know (27%). The following chart showed the summary of all:

Results of the Post-test were indicated in the following table:

I know this word

I do not know this word

1

26

6

2

27

5

3

25

7

4

27

5

5

22

10

6

28

4

7

28

4

8

28

4

9

29

3

10

23

9

11

20

12

12

24

8

13

26

6

14

28

4

15

30

2

16

27

5

17

25

7

18

30

2

19

21

11

Table 2. The Post-test results

As can be seen from the table, at the end of the intervention, students stated the number of words they knew in the second column and ones they did not know in the third column. The first column in the table indicated the numbers of words given to the students to answer.

Once again, the summary of all data was found in the following chart:

Table 3 presents the comparison between the pre-test and the post-test.

I know this word

Difference

Pre-test

Post-test

1

17

26

9

2

20

27

7

3

18

25

7

4

21

27

6

5

15

22

7

6

18

28

10

7

23

28

5

8

13

28

15

9

24

29

5

10

10

23

13

11

11

20

9

12

11

24

13

13

21

26

5

14

23

28

5

15

21

30

9

16

21

27

6

17

13

25

12

18

17

30

13

19

14

21

7

Total

331

494

163

Table 3. The differences between the pre-test and the post-test

In this table, the first column presents the number of words given to the students; the second and third column indicates the number of words students knew in the pre-test and the post-test; and the last column shows the differences between them.

As can be seen from the last column of table 3, the total of words that 32 students have acquired after the intervention was 163, making an average of 5,1 words per student.

From the analysis of the data, one can see that, although students were not satisfied with their vocabulary learning, they showed a quite good command of the terms before the intervention. Despite the good pre-test results, students performed much better in the post-test. Students' vocabulary acquisition was improved after having assistance of Hot Potatoes proved that this tool has positive effects on students' vocabulary learning.

2. Qualitative date

The qualitative data of the study was drawn from the questionnaire filled in by the students. Results can be seen in the following table:

1

2

3

4

5

I had prior knowledge of the terms that I have tried

2

5

10

14

1

The exercise have helped me to improve my knowledge

0

0

0

20

12

I will be able to use the words in real contexts

0

0

17

15

0

I think this system can be positive vocabulary learning

0

0

4

17

11

I generally got good marks in the exercises

3

6

12

9

2

I only can learn vocabulary with the help of this program

3

6

9

12

2

I appreciate the system

0

0

5

12

15

My English is not allowed me to do the exercise properly

10

7

9

3

3

I have computer skills

0

0

6

12

14

The use of the interactive program is quite easy

0

0

3

10

19

The time execution is necessary

0

0

7

14

11

I need assistance of a tutor

4

12

13

3

0

Questions

Student's answers

1. What exercise has been most helpful to you?

The first/ All of them/ Join each term with its definition; the last exercise/ Gap-filling exercise.

2. What has been less helpful to you?

None of them/ All of them are useful.

3. What exercise(s) do not you understand

None of them/ I understand all/ All were well understood/ None/ All were clearly defined.

4. Other comments

I think this is a good tool to learn vocabulary/ I have enjoyed doing exercises and I think I'm going to use it for my vocabulary learning/ It's simple to use and the exercises are well understood/ I thinks, it is, sometimes, hard to understand the exercises because the clues are not enough, so the clues for some exercises should be provided more/ I like everything/ More gap-filing exercises should be designed because I find it useful and it is familiar to our test.

The data from the first table was considered to be quite positive and several conclusions could be drawn from it.

Out of 32 students, 14 students scored more than 4 proved that most students had previous knowledge about the terms.

None of the students denied the role of designed exercises; all of them stated that the designed exercises were definitely useful and their vocabulary acquisitions were improved a lot. (20 students scored 4 and 12 students scored 5)

Nearly half of the students think that the learned terms can be used in real contexts (15 students scored 4).

Most students defined the important role of the program in vocabulary learning (17 students scored 4 and 11 students scored 5)

A third of the students regularly got good marks (11 students scored more than 4)

Half of the students thought that the knowledge was quite good to do the exercises (17 students scored less than 2)

Most students had good computer skills to do the exercises (26 students scored more than 4)

Half of the students stated that it is necessary to have a tutor help (16 students scored less than 2).

The data in the second table also presented the positive effect of the intervention in vocabulary learning. Despite of several negative thoughts, most students had opposite ones to the experiment.

In conclusion, from the analysis of the above information, one can see the positive role of ICTs in helping students in learning vocabulary and from that, several implications for teaching will be discussed in the following chapter.

Chapter V: Conclusion and implications for teaching

The study indicated obviously that the applying of ICTs - Hot Potatoes has positive influence in students' vocabulary learning. The findings of this study confirmed that without the assistance of computer and the designed interactive exercises, students still have good knowledge of the terms related to English for Electronics and Telecommunications. However, students can even acquire a higher amount of words if there is interference of computers and interactive exercises designed basing on Hot Potatoes.

From the findings, several implications for teaching language, especially for teaching vocabulary were drawn, including:

The software needs to be based on relevant pedagogical and design principles for them to be effective.

Learners' factors such as gender, age, and level of language needs taking into considerations when designing the exercises so that they would work.

More researches needs to be conducted in the less explored skills areas such as speaking, listening.

In order to improve teaching and learning language, especially learning vocabulary, all of the above suggestions should be taken into consideration.

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