We live in an age of 'technological immersion. Technological inventions have greatly transformed our lives. Human communication has been shaped by new technologies that permeate into every structure of our society. Today, communication is no longer an involuntary act but an essential trait for survival in competitive situations. It is not merely an ability but a skill that is required to be successful in life. In order to acquire the skills essential for communication, technology assisted learning through innovative techniques could be employed in ELT pedagogies.
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We live in a world of High Tech. The technological inventions and innovations have greatly changed social, political, economical and cultural structures of our society. Man is inseparable from the messianic gadgets and their fascinating comforts. They have liberated us from physical discomforts, administrative inabilities, intellectual inadequacies, communication gaps, economical restraints, cultural barriers, moral limitations etc. The machines have determined the way we think, feel and act. Be it the computer and internet technologies, or medical or space technologies, our homes, offices and schools are filled with digital devices and electronic gadgets. Indeed, our modern life is shaped by new technologies.
Human communication has undergone great transformation from Stone Age to Industrial revolution. With the advent of new technologies, it has hinged on from modernization to network communication. Today, communication is no longer an involuntary act but an essential trait for survival in competitive situations. It is not merely an ability but a skill that is required to be successful in life. An excellent communication skill is the need of the moment. It is true that a person with a competitive linguistic skill is preferred rather than the one with merely technical skill in any organization. A candidate with good vocabulary, phrases and expression is looked upon. A command over the language, especially English, fetches promotions in career. Owing to globalization, corporates have ventured into outsourcing and international trading for which they require employees with excellent professional presentation skills. The job market requires candidates with remarkable outputs in terms of communications skills, which include listening, speaking, reading and writing competencies and non-verbal communicative factors. English Language Learning needs to focus on preparing the learners for 'performance', which requires a considerable employment or dependency on the outcome-based teaching and learning. Technology does intervene at this juncture to accelerate a significant development of communicative skills with its magical and overpowering assistance.
Technology and English language have an interdependent relationship as they contribute significantly to a successful use of each other in the modern world. English language promotes the spread of technology in all recess of our lives, as it is the topmost lingua franca of the world. Globalization has speeded up the spread of the language across the globe. Technology in the educational scenario is a conglomerate term that refers to the use of systems that depend on computer chips, digital applications, and e-networks. In other words, it encompasses desktop and laptop computers, electronic gadgets like DVD players, TV boxes, interactive whiteboards, LCD projectors, Mobile devices that use computer chips like cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants [PDAs] and MP3 players.
Technology has to be incorporated into teaching methodologies so that it would facilitate the learners not only to acquire a second language effectively but also to develop electronic literacy skills. The 'traditional' methods of ELT are less preferred to computer and technology assisted methods in effective ELL classes. Thus, "Teaching our students language in its traditional media is no longer enough. Traditional literacies, such as reading and writing, are now only a subset of the skills a learner is required to develop in order to function efficiently. Increasingly, in everyday and professional life, people need the skills of electronic literacy, such as accessing, evaluating, and utilizing information (Warschauer, Shetzer, & Meloni, 2000).
Computer -mediated Communication (COM) has resulted in the process of globalization considerably impacting on the English curriculum and pedagogy. Warschauer and Healey state that: "It is the rise of computer-mediated communication and the Internet, more than anything else, which has reshaped the uses of computers for language learning at the end of the 20th century. With the advent of the Internet, the computer-both in society and in the classroom-has been transformed from a tool for information processing and display to a tool for information processing and communication. For the first time, learners of a language can now communicate inexpensively and quickly with other learners of speakers of the target language all over the world" (63). Most of the content in internet is in English language. And most of the people who use it are non-native speakers. And so it can be aptly said that English has become the language of technology, which pervades into the structures of our societies.
Technology is known for speed. Its powers are overwhelming. It is precise in diagnosing what is there and what is not, and what is right and what is wrong. It offers readymade solutions and quick fixes. It is cheap and available everywhere. It is easy to handle and difficult to neglect. Perhaps, these elements of its inexorable entity in our daily life could be an advantage to the EFL teachers to employ technology for an effective language teaching inside the class and the learners for an extended learning outside the class. A methodology that employs use of technologies in ELT is knows as CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning).
The CALL although emerged in 1950s after the invention of computer, only past two decades the significance and relevance of its usage is phenomenal in ELT. CALL helps the learners to sharpen their interactive and communicative skills with ready-made solutions and demos. Chapelle on discussing the process of 'interaction' in social context demonstrates how a computer can help a language learner in some relevant way to acquire interactive skills (56). Further, Egbert, Hanson-Smith, and Chao opine that "the hypothetical theory of CALL sounds not much different from an integrated theory of language acquisition; in fact, it is the same" (1). Also, Levy and Stockwell reiterate such notion saying that "with rare exceptions, CALL designers and language teachers are predominantly in the role of consumers as far as theory is concerned. For those in this group who see value in theory (and it must be said not all do), they review, select, and apply theories of language learning produced by others" (139). Also, CALL can push forward development of communication skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking), as well as language proficiency by providing learners with ample chances to practise these skills (Lightbown & Spada, n.pag).
There is a certain amount of apprehensions about digital devices and other 'information handling tools' of misleading or distracting the learners from acquiring the language in all its full essence or surrogating the teacher in the classroom. Technology can provide learners with different learning techniques and styles, additional demonstrations, multimedia CDs illustrating the concepts taught in the class, digital tutorials and the Web with innumerable images, audios, videos and animations, thus, creating a conducive ambience with meaningful contexts.
A thoughtfully worked out CALL exercise could create a stimulating environment for the learners to expedite their language acquisition as well as linguistic competency. Computer will not replace the teacher and neither will the ICT supersede one when the teacher knows when and where and how to use technologies in his/her teaching methodology. The fearful notions could be brushed away since a skillful teacher knows how to exploit the given tools to maximize the benefits to the learners and supervise the learners' use of technologies desirably.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have greatly contributed to the acquisition of linguistic abilities and communication skills. ICT refers to information-handling tools like computers, satellite and wireless technology and the Internet. These tools have not only transformed the means we communicate but also the manners with which we communicate. ICT plays an indispensable and significant role in the process of language teaching and learning. Especially, technologies have brought an outstanding change in the field of English Language Teaching and Learning with regard to the way we teach and the content we deliver. Our schools and colleges have adapted CALL in the curriculum and effective pedagogies our woven around them.
Many educational institutions have started employing modern technologies in class and labs, in curriculum and syllabuses, in pedagogies and methodologies. A lecture is devised to be performed with the help of audio-video (AV) aids. There are AV halls, interactive whiteboards and smart classrooms. There are language labs with printers, projectors and internet connections networking all the computer systems through LAN. ICT is used in preparing handouts, to browse for tasks and activities online, connecting with learners outside the class through teleconference etc. Such practices are advocated by Chapelle and Hegelheimer stating "the resources offered by today's technologies for language learners and teachers provide valuable opportunity to rethink and perhaps reinvent what constitutes the knowledge base for L2 teachers â€¦" (314).
The teachers have the freedom to integrate technologies in their methodology and to choose activities and tasks from internet that are required for their students based on the need and the level of language proficiency. Competency of the teachers in handling technologies will greatly facilitate the learning process. And certainly teachers do need some training and practice in the use of technology, as Kessler points out "teachers need to become more proficient in their understanding of CALL methodology, practices, history, and possibility" (35).
The following activities can be implemented in the classroom:
1. Ask the students to list out the vocabulary they have learned from mobile phones like: drafts, outbox, call register, message counter, confirm sim service action, call divert, screening etc.
(a) Let them categorize those words according to parts of speech.
(b) Let them find out the other parts of speech for the words they have listed
2. Ask the students to carefully go through the smiley's in their mobile phones and identify an attitude and an emotion expressed by them. (Sentence framing can also be done.)
3. Let the students browse through the profiles on any social networking websites, and scan through them for information as well as headings.
Let the students get into pairs. Set-up the computers so that each pair has a common (facilitator's) profile on their screen. Have a student read the profile aloud. Then, go through some of the vocabulary. Practice predicting where the interesting information would be and scanning the profile for it. Have a list of questions for them to answer on the handout. Next, let the pairs go off and scan a different profile on any social networking websites, and scan through them for information as well as headings. When everyone has finished, let them come back and share the interesting things about the person that they have read about.
The questions on handouts could be like the following:
Write definitions for the new vocabulary words.
Read the person's profile and answer the following questions.
1. How does the person look like? (Use 3 adjectives)
2. What is his or her favourite food?
3. What is the person's hobby?
4. Does the person have a job? Where?
5. What was the last comment?
6. How many friends do they have online?
7. List two other things you learned about the person.
These activities can be used for learning speaking and writing skills, starting from learning words into parts of speech and ending in writing paragraphs like profile writing.
Thus, the article explains the importance of technology assisted learning to overcome the challenges in ELT and expedite language acquisition effectively.
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