Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We live in a fast changing world of technology. Information and communications technology (ICT) is a force that has brought new challenges in many aspects of the way we live. One of such challenges is the growing use of ICT in language teaching and learning. Language as a functional tool used in communication is also dynamic. The importance of language teaching and learning has long been recognized and acknowledged globally. Given this fact, therefore, the learner and teacher of any language should be adequately and properly equipped for maximum competence in the given language. The aim of this paper is therefore to examine the various roles of ICT in language teaching and learning that will help make headway in the global communication needs and also meet up with challenges of the digital world. The paper highlighted the tremendous roles which ICT now plays in language teaching and learning. The paper recommended increased awareness in ICT application, ICT training, staff motivation and adequate funding of language teaching and learning centers.

Oxford Companion of English Language describes Language as “a human system of physical signs”. (p. 523). The perception of language varies with individuals. Some perceive language as a cognitive or mental phenomenon which relates to behavior that is controlled by maturation which manifests certain peculiarities at different stages of an individual’s intellectual development. It can also be perceived as a social phenomenon – a kind of social behavior determined by the status, functions and varieties of the language (McArthur, 1996); Unoh,(1975);1982. Basically language is man’s most important feature, the vehicle for communication and a good instrument for thought and creativity.
Language provides such a fascinating object of study because of its role in capturing the breath of human thought and endeavour. When we look around us, we are awed by the variety of several thousands of languages expressing a multiplicity of world views, literatures and ways of life. If we look back at the thoughts of our predecessors, we can find and see only as far as language lets us see. Then when we look forward in time, we can find and plan only through language. Further more, when we look outward in space and in the modern 21st century dominated by electronic devices and other manifestations of modern technology, we also see that the need of language becomes even more imperative. Thus it can be seen that language has necessarily maintained and fulfilled a fundamental objective, namely that of a universal means of human communication. It still remains at the very heart of man’s existence. Language is also critical for the overall socio-economic and political development of any nation. (Emenanjo, 1999).
Teaching is a process of guiding someone to acquire knowledge or follow specific instructions. Successfully teaching however, depends largely upon effective learning. In other words, the proof of teaching is in the learning (Cook 1996:3). The implication here is that for learning to take place, a lot depends on the teacher who facilitates the process of learning. Learners themselves must satisfy certain conditions to learn adequately and effectively. It is against this background that this paper discusses the role of ICT in enhancing language teaching and learning.

ICT is an acronym that stands for Information and Communications Technology. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) defines ICT as “the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer based information systems. It deals with the use of electronic computer and computer software to convert, store, protect, process, transmit and securely retrieve information. Popular opinions however have it that ICT has no universally accepted definition because the concept, methods and applications involved in ICT are constantly evolving. This follows that it is difficult to keep up with the changes that are happening in ICT so fast.
ICT can be considered as the uses of digital technology that already exists to help individuals, businesses and organizations access information. It covers any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit or receive information electronically in a digital form. For example, personal computers, digital television, e-mail, robots, etc. More importantly it is also concerned with the way these different uses can work with each other.
In business, ICT is categorized into two broad types of product:
1. The traditional computer based technologies (things you can typically do on a personal computer or using computers at home or at workplace); and
2. The more recent, and fastest growing range of digital communication technologies (which allows people and organizations to communicate and share information)

Generally the kinds of products and ideas that are covered by ICT include the following:
Application Use:
Standard Office Applications - Main Examples
Word processing
E.g. Microsoft Word: Write letters, reports, etc.
Spreadsheets E.g. Microsoft Excel; Analyze financial information; calculations; create forecasting models, etc.
Database software E.g. Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Access; Managing data in many forms, from basic lists (e.g. customer contacts through to complex material (e.g. catalogue)
Presentation software E.g. Microsoft PowerPoint; make presentations, either directly using a computer screen or data projector. Publish in digital format via email or over the Internet.
Desktop publishing E.g. Adobe Indesign, Quark Express, Microsoft Publisher; produce newsletters, magazines and other complex documents.
Graphics software E.g. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; Macromedia Freehand and Fireworks; create and edit images such as logos, drawings or pictures for use in DTP, web sites or other publications
Specialist Applications - Examples (there are many!)
Accounting package E.g. Sage, Oracle; Manage an organization’s accounts including revenues/sales, purchases, bank accounts, etc. A wide range of systems is available ranging from basic packages suitable for small businesses through to sophisticated ones aimed at multinational companies.
Computer Aided Design Computer Aided Design (CAD) is the use of computers to assist the design process. Specialized CAD programs exist for many types of designs: architectural, engineering, electronics, roadways
Customer Relations Management (CRM) Software that allows businesses to better understand their customers by collecting and analyzing data on them such as their product preferences, buying habits, etc. Often linked to software applications that run call centers and loyalty cards for example.

Internal networks Usually referred to as a local area network (LAN), this involves linking a number of hardware items (input and output devices plus computer processing) together within an office or building.
External networks Often you need to communicate with someone outside your internal network; in this case you will need to be part of a Wide Area Network (WAN). The Internet is the ultimate WAN - it is a vast network of networks.

Some of the early technologies came in 1960s notably in the use of cassettes, headphones and microphones in the language laboratory. With the introduction of ICT thus came a new approach to language teaching and learning using computer assisted learning (CAL) micro computers. Quality CAL softwares provided yet another medium for learning language “At present, there are a variety of computer applications available including vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation checkers, electronic workbooks, programs . . “ (Singhal 1997 . .2). Many of the CAL softwares came with various authoring packages to allow language teachers to create their own exercises to supplement existing language courses. In English language teaching for example, varieties of CAL programs have been developed for students to practice. These are in the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Available also are programmes in grammar, language function and vocabulary. These can be downloaded from the following sites on the internet.

Grammar exercise: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/clef.htm
Listening and pronunciation
i. Listen, repeat and compare
ii. Automatic speech recognition e.g. Aura log’s Tell Me More CD-ROM

i. Hot potatoes. This has become a popular multi-purpose web-based authoring tool, developed at the University of Victoria, Canada.

ii. Wida software’s multipurpose package. Authoring suite
Computer Aided Assessment
Computer aided Assessment (CAA) is playing and increasingly important role in English Language Teaching (ELT). The following web sites cover the subject in detail.
i. http://www.well.ac.uk
ii. http://www.well.ac.uk/language_excercise

CD-ROMs and the web provide language learners with source of information for language learning tasks and activities. Examples are:
i. Online dictionaries e.g. Cambridge Dictionaries Online. http://www.dictionary.combridge.org
ii. Link everything online. http://dict.leo.org
A good number of tools exist to help language teachers and learners work on their writing / publishing collaboratively. Language teachers’ colleagues can use ICT to help them publish their work in some of the following ways:
a. Word-processor and Desk Top Publishing (DTP) software.
b. Audio recording and editing tools to record interviews, discussions, etc.
c. PowerPoint as an aid to handling large classes and for public presentations.
Language teachers and learners can use ICT to help them communicate with one another. This can be achieved in the following ways.
Emails: Allows language learners to communicate with ‘web pals’ in other countries and towns. Some examples are:
i. European School net. http://www.eun.org2/eun/en/index.htm
ii. Windows on the world. http://www.wotw.org.uk
iii. The ands on Europe Project. http://www.pioneer.cwc.net/home.htm

ICT and the internet in particular provide language learners with the opportunity to use the language being learnt in meaningful ways in authentic contexts. The internet provides an easy and fast access to the use of current and authentic materials in the language, which is motivating for the language learner. Such authentic materials include, for instance, online newspapers, webcasts, podcasts, newsroom video clips and sharing websites such as you-tube. Language teachers who earlier searched and carried authentic materials like maps and train timetables to classrooms, can now ask learners to access such information online, thus helping the learner with current and real time materials.
Another important benefit derived from the use of ICT in a language classroom is based on the opportunities it affords for collaboration with one’s peers. Language teachers can introduce ICT – enhanced language learning projects, including simulations, between their students and groups in other places or countries, thus widening the language learning perspective into that of learning about the cultural context of the language being used. Previously students would write letters or even e-mails to each other. Today, using ICT they can ‘Skype’ or chat online, where they can not only write to each other in real-time, but also see each other and speak to each other online. Students are thus able to write, read, speak, listen and react to a conversation using ICT as part of the language learning process.
Another motivating language learning opportunity using ICT is provided by chat rooms and virtual environments such as “second life” where a language learner can practice not only the written use of language, but also practice speaking and pronunciation of a language without the fear of making mistakes.
Another major benefit of the use of ICT in classroom language learning is the opportunity that ICT based tools gives to language teachers. ICT-based tools give language teachers the opportunity to teach their learners more efficiently. With the help of ICT-based tools they are able to give individual and personalized guidance to the learner. The use of media-audio, video, authentic context help language learners with different learning styles to assimilate the content according to their needs in a learning environment that uses ICT tools. It is easier for the language teacher to use different approaches with students and accommodate different learning styles and the different needs of fast, slow or handicapped language learners.
Furthermore ICT can be used in some of the following ways in language teaching and learning.
Some institutions can offer language courses as online course or by using different technologies (e.g. TV, radio) that are supplemented by online activities. One of such offering is the ‘redaktion –D’ German language course of the Goethe-institut (http://www.redaktion-d.de/lang_english/0_0_start.shtml) which is available as a face-to-face course supplement, a radio course, a television course, a blended learning course, and a distance education course. German language learners can thus select the type of course that suits their needs, learning preferences, technical skills, infrastructure, and geographical area.

Existing on-campus language courses can be supplemented with course websites and online interactions.

Language courses can be offered completely online with no classroom-based component (online courses).

Mobile learning options can be included in the language curriculum (Kukulska H and Tranxler, 2005).

Virtual learning environments (e.g. second life) can be used for foreign language learning purposes.

As we have seen, language teaching and learning are essential to the fabric of a developing nation. Rapid advances in the development of ICT have simultaneously been seen to offer new opportunities for enhancing the quality and effectiveness of language teaching and learning.
Although technology is increasingly prevalent in everyday life, a number of educational institutions in Nigeria and in other parts of the world have been perceived as either lagging behind in fully recognizing these opportunities or are still struggling with the challenges of implementing them. Examples abound in many Nigerian schools, universities and adult education institutions where they are yet to integrate ICT into their language teaching and learning activities. As well some language teachers in foreign language learning are yet to enhance their current use of ICT. Reports show that the kind of change expected as a result of the ICT implementation in Nigeria’s educational institutions and other parts of the world had not taken place. Studies indicate that the teachers’ use of ICT had increased over years; this use seemed to be mostly related to administrative issues and not in pedagogical innovations. In fact, in their use of ICT in teaching, some teachers still tend to apply traditional methodologies.
Reports confirm that whether ICT use will deliver its potential depends to a large extent on how teachers use ICT within the language teaching and learning process. Many ICT impact report indicates that the majority of teachers have not yet embraced new pedagogical practices in their use of ICT and that some teachers do not feel sufficiently confident in exploiting ICT to support new approaches in their language teaching practices.
Even when teachers are willing to adopt ICT practices, many institutions in Nigeria and in other parts of the world do not invest enough funds in ICT infrastructures. The result of this is that training needs for language teachers for adopting totally ICT approaches to materials and class preparation is not there. Other digital technologies that are now available and that can engage and motivate learners are not provided. Again ICT awareness of administrative staff at educational institutions are often ignored and not provided. Lack of funds also militates against the effectiveness of some online educations and e-learning centers. Whereas for online learning to achieve outcomes that are equivalent to outcomes achieved in other delivery modes, educational institutions should invest enough funds to improve quality of learning in such e-learning centers.
Low technical skills are cited as a major obstacle to ICT enhanced teaching and learning. Besides investing enough funds in infrastructure for ICT, determining the existing in educational institutions helps to show the gap in teacher’s knowledge institutions to craft ICT programmes for language teachers. The technical skills and ICT awareness of administrative staff at educational institutions should also be considered. ICT can be tremendously useful for administrative personnel involved in reaching out to learners in distant education and e-learning institutions.
The absence of face-to-face interaction is another challenge for language teachers who are used to high level of interaction with learners in the language classroom environment. Some of the teachers might not be comfortable asking students to use online resources because of the reading level or the credibility of the websites. Other teachers could be convinced of the benefits of online technologies for teaching and practicing writing skills but might doubt whether students can learn to speak a language when using only online technologies to learn a language. Yet others could find it difficult to moderate in an online discussion forum and would prefer that beginners will not be exposed to inaccurate or in appropriate use of language online.

This paper has tried to consider the use of ICT in language teaching and learning, and has come out with a clear stand that integrating ICT into language teaching and learning will contribute significantly to effective teaching and learning. In view of this stand the paper proposes the following:
In the teaching and learning of languages, many computer assisted softwares have been of tremendous help. With the introduction of ICT varieties of computer assisted programs have been developed for the fur major language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
When teaching or using ICT in language courses, teachers spend a lot of additional time researching online materials, drafting e-mails, participating in chat of instant message sessions or reading and responding to online discussion posting. Therefore, academic institutions are recommended to consider additional ways to appreciate and or reward the times spent on such activities. Besides incentives for the development of online course materials and formats, continuing support for language teachers in their use of e-learning should not just include technical support, but also instructional support, workshops and seminars as well as collaborative relationships are different ways of encouraging teachers to share methods of using online technologies. Sharing the best practice and feedback can help teachers tremendously because they not only model their use of technology but also discuss, question and criticize ICT use for language learning. Moreover, collaboration and sharing between teachers of the same language or different languages can decrease feelings of isolation faced by teachers as they begin experimenting with ICT.
Experience has shown that training projects that involve and lead to networking among language teachers no matter whether that networking takes place within their own institution, locally, nationally or internationally, are beneficial for development and promoting the use of ICT in language teaching and learning. Therefore language teachers need to be encouraged and supported in their efforts to interact with other colleagues and share their experience.
Institutions should identify the need for digital facilities for language learning purposes of such institutions
On-line technical training in using ICT can be provided to language learners who are using ICT for the first time or are not confident using ICT.

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