Some Aspects of ICT Uses in the Teaching of EFL at the Tertiary Level in Yemen


Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2017
278 Pages

Excerpt

Table of Contents

Abstract (English version)

Abstract (Arabic version)

Declaration iv

Acknowledgements v

Table of Contents vii

List of Tables viii

List of Figures xiv

Abbreviations xv

Chapter I: Introduction
1.0 Background
1.1 The Context of the Study
1.2 English Situation in Yemen
1.2.1 Formal Settings
1.2.2 Informal Settings
1.2.3 Rationale
1.3 Problem Statement
1.4 Purpose Statement
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Assumptions
1.7 Scope of the Study
1.8 Significance of the Study
1.9 Key Terms
1.10 Organization of the Study
1.11 Summary

Chapter II: Review of the literature
2.0 Overview
2.1 The Current Situation of English
2.1.1 English Language Teaching (ELT)
2.1.2 English Language and ICT
2.2 A Sketched Picture of ICT in ELT
2.2.1 Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL)
2.2.2 From CALL to TELL
2.2.3 Internet-Assisted Language Learning (IALL)
2.2.4 Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL)
2.2.5 ICT-Based Language Learning
2.3 Approaches to Language Learning with ICT
2.3.1 Behaviorist CALL
2.3.2 Communicative CALL
2.3.3 Integrative CALL
2.3.4 Intelligent CALL
2.4 Major Aspects of ICT Use in Language Instruction
2.4.1 Pedagogical aspects
- Electronic learning
- Blended learning
- Formal vs. informal learning
- Incidental learning
- Autonomous learning
- Mobile learning
- Problems with informal learning
2.4.2 Linguistic Aspects
- Increasing exposure to English
- Language input or language intake?
- Language output and languaging
- Interaction and feedback
- Acculturation
- English proficiency and competence
- English proficiency and ICT
- Previous studies in the local context
2.5 Challenges of Integrating ICT in L2 Learning
2.5.1 Pedagogical Challenges
- Lack of ICT proficiency
- Lack of training
- Change resistance
- Selection difficulties
2.5.2 Logistic limitations
- Digital gap
- Financial limitation
- Academia-related issues
2.5.3 Linguistic Concerns
- Standard vs. nonstandard English
- Internetese
- Undesired linguistic habits
2.6 Current Issues in CALL Research
2.7 This Study
2.8 Summary of the Chapter

Chapter III: Methodology
3.0 Preview
3.1 Research Paradigm
3.2 Design of the Study
3.3 Sampling
3.3.1 Universities
3.3.2 EFL Learners
3.3.3 Classroom Teachers (EFL Teachers)
3.3.4 Policymakers (Head Teachers)
3.4 Data Collection and Instrumentation
Phase 1: Surveys
3.4.1 ICT Checklist
3.4.2 Questionnaire
3.4.3 EFL Teachers’Structured Interview
3.4.4 Policymakers’ Structured Interview
3.4.5 Validity, Reliability & Data Reduction
Phase 2: Evaluation Instruments
3.4.6 Proficiency Test
3.4.6.1 Test Scoring & Administration
3.4.6.2 Validity & Reliability of the Test
3.4.7 Academic Record Analysis (ARA)
Phase 3: Observational Instruments
3.4.8 Classroom Observation
3.4.9 Participant Observation
3.4.9.1 Validity & Reliability
3.4.9.2 Limitations
3.5 Ethical Issues
3.6 Data Analysis
3.6.1 Preparing Data for Analysis
3.6.2 Techniques of Data Analysis
3.7 Summary

Chapter IV: Results & Discussions
4.0 Overview
4.1 Results Display
4.2 Results of the Research Question #
4.2.1 Frequencies of Using of Electronic Devices (Hardware)
4.2.2 ICT Tools/Applications (Software)
4.2.3 Time Spent on Using ICT
4.2.4 Purposes of ICT Utilization
4.2.5 Mediums of Operations
4.2.6 Calculating the Magnitude of Usage
4.3 Results of the Research Question #
4.3.1 The Informants’ Perceptions
- The EFL learners’ perceptions
- The EFL teachers’ perceptions
- The Policymakers’ perceptions
4.3.2 Statistical Significance
- ICT and L2 learners’proficiency
- ICT and learners’ academic achievements
4.3.3 Observational Data
4.4 Results of the Research Question #
4.4.1 The Formal Uses
4.4.2 The Informal Uses
- Common ICT tools/Apps
- ICT-based informal activities
- Language skills/aspects
- Paralinguistic features
- The informal vs. formal uses of ICT
4.5 Results of the Research Question #
4.5.1 The EFL Learners’ Perceptions
4.5.2 The EFL Teachers’ Perceptions
4.5.3 The Policymakers’ Perceptions
4.6 Summary of the Findings
4.7 The Research Assumptions
4.8 Chapter Summary

Chapter V: Conclusion, implications and recommendations
5.0 Overview
5.1 Outline of the Study
5.2.Concluding statement
5.3 Implications
5.3.1 Pedagogical Implications
5.3.2 Implications for teachers
5.3.3 Methodological Implications
5.3.4 Linguistic Implications
5.4 Recommendations
5.5. Limitations of the Study
5.5.1 Research Ecology & Scope
5.5.2 Methodology
5.6 Suggestions for Further Research

References

Appendix A. ICT Checklist

Appendix B. Questionnaire

Appendix C. Structured Interview with Instructors of English

Appendix D. Structured Interview with policymakers

Appendix E. Proficiency Test

Appendix F. Academic Transcript

Appendix G.1. Classroom Observation Protocol

Appendix G.2. Participant Observation Guide

Appendix H. Supervisor’ letter

Appendix I. Research Tools Validation Committee

Abstract

This dissertation Intended to (a) elucidate, through a mixed-method research design, how the university EFL learners and teachers utilize available ICT tools/applications and (b) measure the impacts of this usage on the learners’ proficiency and academic achievements. Data were collected in three phases: surveys, tests and observations. The sample consisted of 428 senior students, 40 EFL teachers, and 10 head teachers, recruited from five public universities in Yemen. Of this initial cohort, 131 students were singled out for performance analysis. Again, within this subsample, 20 informants were kept under observation. Two types of data (quantitative and qualitative) were collected. The quantitative data were analyzed by applying appropriate descriptive and inferential statistics by using SPSS. Qualitative data were analyzed subjectively, establishing patterns and categories. Results indicated that most of the ICTs were used on an ad hoc basis. While there were no statistically significant impacts of using ICT on the learners’ performance, the respondents hold the view that such appliances offer some opportunities for engagement, interactivity and motivation to learn English formally and informally. The findings brought to the foreground some pedagogic and linguistic implications and useful points for further research.

Keywords: ICT, ICT-integration, ICT-based learning, CALL, EFL learners, tertiary level

Declaration

This work has not been submitted in substance for any other degree or award at this or any other university or place of learning, nor is being submitted concurrently in candidature for any degree or other awards. It is the result of my own independent work/investigation, except where otherwise stated. Other sources are acknowledged by explicit references. A list of references is appended.

Acknowledgements

It would not have been possible to complete this dissertation without the help of a number of people who supported me in getting it off the ground, steering it along and bringing it to fruition. At the topmost of these people is my supervisor, Prof. Taher Labassi whose guidance and comments on developing, conducting and finally writing the paper steered its direction. I am also obliged to the erudite jury members whose remarks and evaluation make my work creditable and thus make me more confident in this endeavor.

Similarly, I am indebted to all my professors who taught me at the ISLT in Tunisia, not only for helping me along the path of developing my research skills but also for their continued academic support. Their suggestions clarified many points that guided me toward the standards and requirements of the degree of PhD.

I should also acknowledge the role of Dr. Abdul Malik Mansour who was nominated by my home university to mentor my fieldwork. His valuable assistance and academic advice helped me to go on well with the obstacles I faced during the phase of data collection.

Furthermore, I would like to give recognition to some professors and teachers at the Faculty of Education in Taiz and the Faculty of Arts in Ibb, namely, Dr. Taha, Dr. Mohdish, Dr. Abdullah Almikhlafi, Dr. Musa Al-Silwi, Dr. Faisal Alsabari, Dr. Yahya Al-Sohbani and Dr. Marwan Almiklafi. They validated my research instruments and enlightened some brilliant ideas that helped me to manage my fieldwork effectively.

I am also indebted to those who supported me in data collection, namely the chairman of English Dept. at the Faculty of Education in Taiz (Dr. Taha). He never hesitated to help me throughout the entire process of my research work. His inspiring words encouraged me to deal with setbacks that a researcher might encounter. I am also thankful to all the faculty members for their assistance while piloting the instruments and collecting the data. I am especially grateful to Mr. Najeeb Alantari and Ms. Hana Samaha who helped me to administer and collect the students’ questionnaires. Likewise, I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Abdo Saeed who helped me to use the SPSS program in the phase of data analysis.

Similarly, I would like to pay tribute to the chairpersons of the English departments, deans and vice deans of the colleges in the target universities (Sana’a, Taiz, Aden, Ibb, Hodeida) for allowing me to conduct the surveys, administer the language test, and analyze the academic records of the sample, which made this project possible. Without this access, such data would have been nonexistent. The students, teachers and administrators in those departments and colleges who took part in this study deserve my thanks, too. A note of thanks goes to those participants who responded to the questionnaire in the first phase, continued to sit for the language test in the second phase, and finally were accessible for observations.

Moreover, I would like to acknowledge my debt to all the publications and the Internet sources I have referred to, the websites, books, and television series I have raided, adapted and combined for their useful information which relates to my study. Alike, I cannot forget to render thanks to the librarians and officers at the ISLT for their help and support throughout my higher studies in Tunisia.

I also owe a great deal to my family for their understanding and patience throughout the entire process of my study abroad. Without their painstaking efforts during this endeavor, this dissertation would never have come to fruition. I gratefully appreciate their time, encouragement, support, and believing in me.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the authorities in my affiliated university in Yemen (Ibb University) for the financial sponsorship that allowed me to pursue my higher education abroad. Likewise, I would like to thank all my colleagues at the Language and Translation Center and Higher Studies Deanship for forwarding the needful official papers regarding this scholarship.

List of Tables

Table 1. The Study Matrix

Table 2. Student Development Opportunities: Web 2.0 vs. Text-dominated

Table 3. Background of the Sample (EFL Learners)

Table 4. Background of the Sample of Teachers

Table 5. Description of the Students’ Questionnaire

Table 6. Description of the EFL Teachers’ Structured Interview

Table 7. Description of the Policymakers’ Structured Interview

Table 8. Description of the Proficiency Test

Table 9. Categories of ICT Users according to Time Variable

Table 10. Purposes of ICT Uses

Table 11. Linguistic Benefits of ICT-Integration (Learners’ Perception)

Table 12. Pedagogical Benefits of ICT-Integration (Learners’ Perceptions)

Table 13. Teachers’ Perceptions of ICT-Integration

Table 14. ICT Benefits for Learners (Teachers’ Perceptions)

Table 15. Effects of ICT on EFL Learners (Policymakers’ Perceptions)

Table 16 One Way ANOVA Results of Proficiency Test Related to ICT Use Variable

Table 17 One Way ANOVA Results of Academic Achievement Scores

Table 18. The Faculty Uses of ICT

Table 19. Results of Classroom Observations

Table 20. English Activities through Using ICT

Table 21. Learners’ Perceived Pitfalls of ICT-integrated Learning

Table 22. Factors Adversely Affect ICT-Integration in EFL Learning

Table 23. Restraints of ICT-Based Instruction (Teachers’ Perceptions)

List of Figures

Figure 1. Evolution of the WWW

Figure 2. ICT-Based Language Learning

Figure 3. The Relationship Between Online Learning, E-learning and Distance Learning

Figure 4. Formal and Informal Channels of Modern Learning

Figure 5. The Relationship Between MAL, CALL & ML

Figure 6. L2 Learning Process Through ICT

Figure 7. Design of the Study

Figure 8. Research Instruments

Figure 9. FB Account of Dept, of English, Faculty of Education, Taiz

Figure 10. Framework of Data Analysis

Figure 11. ICT Devices inUse

Figure 12. The Frequently-used ICT Tools/Apps ICT by EFL Learners

Figure 13. The Sample’s Interactions on Facebook

Figure 14 An Illustration of Teacher-Learner Interactions on FB

Figure 15. An Illustration of Using Feedback for Notice Posting

Figure 16. An Illustration of Giving Feedback on FB

Figure 17. Illustrations of Student-student Interaction on FB

Figure 18. Language of Operation

Figure 19. Categories of EFL Learners According to Their ICT Uses

Figure 20. Linguistic Benefits from Informal ICT Uses

Figure 21. Word Clouds of the Participants’ Internetese

Figure 22. Obstacles of ICT-Integration (Policymakers’ Voices

Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Chapter One Introduction

1.0 Background

The information and communication technology (ICT) has become a leitmotif of the current century. There is little doubt that the force of ICTs has reshaped and streamlined many aspects of human life, and this force has gone largely unchallenged. It has engendered many ways of communication on a daily basis, creating avenues for information to go viral. Technologies such as Smartphones, laptops, emails, SMS, Web.2 applications (e.g. Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp) are the norms of communication and information sharing today (Chun, Kern & Smith, 2016). These digital ICTs, among others, have been used as platforms to convey messages, receive and retrieve information in various formats: texts, photos, and audio/video files, etc. Facilitated by such technologies, the contents can be transmitted from one device to another in seconds. It is a common practice now that ICT users depend on an array of wired and wireless devices to interface online more than face-to-face interactions. They may use Facebook- for instance- to publish their views on everyday activities, interests, and experiences: music they hear, books they read, places they visit, and so on.

This proliferation has become a fascination of today’s generation - the generation that Prensky (2001) dubbed “the digital natives” or “technology savvy” who has grown up with the technologies that they perceive “radically differently from earlier student cohorts” (Kvavik & Caruso, 2005, p.9). The power of modern ICTs has penetrated into the veins of this young generation, stimulating a new mindset. Learners nowadays can lay hands on a mine of information and resources that were unattainable in their predecessors’ times. Adept at using various ICTs, these technology gurus have several activities on the go. Quite apart from knowledge consumption, this technology-oriented generation has spaces to contribute to knowledge construction (Guth, 2009; Rüschoff, 2009).

In fact, the growing waves of technological innovations have tempted language researchers and pundits to promote second and foreign language learning/teaching, particularly in contexts which lack exposure to authentic materials and resources. MacLean and Elwood (2009) postulated that contemporary ICTs have emerged as powerful platforms for language learning and teaching. Second language (L2) learning is guided now towards electronic directions that appeal to the digital natives’ needs. ICT accounts for aspects such as modern learning management systems (Chang & Hsu 2011; Paulsen, 2003), autonomous, self-paced, collaborative learning (Dang, 2012; Gai, 2015; Kukulska-Hulme & Shield, 2007; Warschauer, 1997) and socio-constructivist acquisition of the target language (Bahrani, 2012; Chapelle, 2005, 2009; Rüschoff, 2009). The common ground of these aspects is the central premise of the communicative language teaching: learning by doing rather than dictating (ACTFL, 2012; Garrett, 2009).

Actually, using ICT in language learning and teaching is no novelty and has not started from scratch now. It has been an object of research over the past century. There have been several attempts to frame copious research on technology fusion in L2 learning and teaching. Many issues today are discussed within the capacious Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). Other associated terms have been coined and used widely: Internet- Assisted Language Learning (IALL), Technology-Enhanced Language Learning (TELL), and, more recently, Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL). In a similar vein, conferences devoted to CALL research are organized every now and then. To mention a few, the International Conference "ICTfor Language Learning” in Italy, the World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications in Toronto, the 11th International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning in Finland, and the Tunisian TESOL 2nd International Conference on Emerging Technologies and Evolving Pedagogies in ELT. Apart from conference proceedings, the influx of ICT in the realm of English learning/teaching is the robust themes of numerous high profile journals, such as Language Learning and Technology and Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning.

Many studies published in those dedicated journals and conference books extolled the virtues of language learning with, around, and through technology. Chapelle (2009), Chun, Kern and Smith (2016), and Garrett (2009) argued that ICT has generally affected language pedagogically and linguistically. Plonsky and Ziegler (2016) pointed out that CALL research has “turned from examining questions about whether CALL is effective for language learning to how the affordances of technology might best be exploited to provide learners with optimal language learning opportunities” (p. 17). Some other authors asserted that ICT offers spaces to facilitate active, collaborative, creative, integrative, and evaluative learning as an advantage over the traditional methods of language learning (Alassaf, 2014; Egbert, 2005; Hughes & Tulimirovic, 2015; Lin, 2014; Moqbel & Rao, 2013; Timucin, 2006). Along the same lines, Clough et al. (2009), Cook et al. (2008), Gmaeil (2013), Islam and Fouji (2010) and Sharples, Arnedillo-Sanchez, Milrad, and Vavoula (2009) sustained that using ICT boosts L2 (English) learning and teaching in formal settings and spawns new opportunities for informal English input[1]. Therefore, it has become more persuasive that this technological hegemony has caused a change not only in the way today’s people communicate but also, equally importantly, in the way they learn/acquire other languages.

1.1 The Context of the Study

It has been long believed that human learning is mediated through interaction with parents, peers, and teachers (Vygotsky, 1978). Today, emerging technologies have furthered Vygotsky’s proclaim by providing novel platforms of interaction between human and computer (Chapelle, 2003; Herring, 1996). This aroused a shift “from learner’s interaction with computers to interaction with other humans via the computer” (Kern & Warschauer, 2000, as cited in Guth, 2009, p. 452). People communicate now not only via computers but also through many other associated devices. It is, according to Dudeney and Hockly (2012), a shift from the paper-based to a text-based communication, which is the norm of today’s social interaction. While it was hard to keep in touch electronically with other interlocutors a few decades ago, ICT- primarily the Internet- is fast becoming the linchpin of today’s communication. This in Blake’s (2008) words “will continue to seep into all facets of our society” (p. 144). The electronic communication is believed to amplify students’ learning and linguistic abilities (Banani, 2015; Garrett, 2009; Kassim, Hashim & Radzuan, 2006).

Historically, the influx of technology in language education witnessed a gradual shift from the slate to the paper, pencil, slides, CD, etc. Today language teachers and learners are familiar with a long list of technologies such as language lab, interactive whiteboard (IWB), videos, blogs, wikis, and there are many in the pipeline. This area of research was given more impetus in the late1970s and early 1980s; this is the period of the real inception of CALL. It advanced to another station in the 1990s - the period of a flood of Internet applications (Chapelle, 2005; Warschauer, 1996). Turning into the twenty-first century, the cell phone with its features of mobility and the space-restricted touch screen has taken the scene even further. Whereas the early technologies were basically employed to convey and store data, the modern ICTs have widened the spectrum of innovations by including emails, synchronous (real time) chat, asynchronous (deferred time) discussion groups, the many types of web-based tools; and the wonders of ICTs mushroom every year.

With this in mind, the study at hand advances the topic of CALL; it approaches it from two angles. The first one undertakes English ICT-based learning in formal settings. This strand was stimulated by salient recommendations of prior research studies (e.g. Ben Youssef & Dahmani, 2008; Gmaeil, 2013). These authors, among others, endorsed the idea of establishing differences in the performance of L2 learners who use technology vs. those who tend not to use it. However, in an era where the majority has recourse to various ICTs, it is hard to imagine that there are learners who are unacquainted with ICTs today. Rather, it is reasonable to assume that some individuals are more digitally literate (tech-savvy) than some others. Whatever the case, it is generally accepted that English bounds to evolve and flourish wherever ICT is used, and this presupposes progress in English learning (Garrett, 2009). Despite enormous uptake of digital devices in public, there is still insufficient data for showing how ICT resources are systematically exploited in the language classroom (McDougald, 2009; Rajahi, 2012; Sutherland et al., 2004), which is worthy of investigation.

The other dimension of the study relates to informal language learning through ICT. It draws on key findings of previously published studies (e.g. Boulton, Chateau, Pereiro, & Hannachi, 2008; Garrett, 2009; Guth, 2000). These studies found that using ICT during lessons incentivizes students to continue learning beyond the teaching time and venues. Even more important, Chun, Kern, and Smith (2016) argued that today’s learners “engage with digital technologies in ways that are often more varied and more sophisticated than those they encounter at school” (p.76). Likewise, Gonzalez and Louis (2013) provided an impulse to demonstrate how activities that learners perform after school contribute to their academic achievements. Alike, Warschauer (1997) asserted that informal interaction with ICT, inspired by communicative learning, lays heavy emphasis on autonomous and collaborative learning.

In view of the two dimensions, the current study juxtaposes the formal and informal uptake of ICT in an attempt to analyze its overall impacts on EFL learning. The two dimensions the study endures are inseparable in modern learning approaches; the focal issue in both is the utilization of ICTs. Today students have hands on wearable technologies which are obviously creeping into campuses and classrooms. More and more students increasingly come to university with smart technologies, making a daily access to a long list of digital ICTs: mobile phones, tablets, iPod, etc. In addition to bringing these gadgets into class, students tend to carry them wherever they go on campus and, in this way, the campus becomes what seems to be a networked classroom; nonetheless, Levy (2009) surmised that this “does not necessarily ensure that each of these technologies is used efficiently or to the best effect” (p.778). Therefore, it is tempting to take a closer look at the content of this electronic engagement and examine its relevance to English learning. Before launching the research problem, it would be useful to bring to the foreground an outline of the situation of English in Yemen: the context of this study.

1.2 English Situation in Yemen

English is the second important language in the country with limited exposure to it in the formal settings[2]. Nevertheless, in the globalization era now, English is widely used to operate various ICT tools and applications (hereafter Apps). This, assumingly, multiplies English exposure opportunities, and it is better discussed with a reference to its status in the formal and informal settings. In the formal context, learners have little chance of receiving English input - chiefly in the classroom and by rather artificial means. Besides other sources of informal exposure, informal English input is believed to take place while consuming ICTs, which is a daily exercise. Thus, the situation of English in the country is discussed- in a bird's eye view- in its formal and informal contexts. Both contexts are interrelated; the discussion of one without the other would be incomplete and short-sighted.

1.2.1 Formal Settings

Teaching English in Yemen extends from the primary school to the higher education levels. In the mainstream education[3], English is integrated into the school curriculum as a mandatory school subject from grade VII onwards. However, in private schooling, which accounts for about 7% in the country[4], it is taught at an earlier stage. Both public and private schools strive to improve English learning and teaching by updating their ELT programs. Despite formal planning, purposive curriculum, and teacher training, the overall English situation at school is not promising (Alnaqeeb, 2012; Al-Sohbani, 2013).

At the university level, English is taught as a Major in three institutions: faculties of arts, colleges of education, and centers of languages and translation[5]. ELT undergoes similar circumstances in these institutions, providing more or less the same formal instruction. For instance, the EFL program stretches over four academic years. Besides, the EFL teachers can take courses in any of the three faculties within the universities they belong to. Noticeably, English in public universities is taught in more than one faculty/college. For instance, Sana’a University alone teaches English in three faculties: Arts, Education, and Languages and Translation. At the same time, in the target universities[6] the capacity percentage in the departments of English ranges from 120 to 150 EFL students annually (Supreme Council for Educational Planning, 2013).

Aside from being a major at the university level, English serves some other purposes. It is the medium of instruction in the faculties of medicine and natural sciences, where texts and materials are available in English. Similarly, in the faculties of humanities and social sciences, English is not only required for admission examinations but necessary to meet discipline-related needs in these faculties (ESP courses)[7]. It is particularly important for students who are trained in the fields of tourism, business, science, and technology. Some other institutions outside the tertiary education also teach English, including the business sectors, the armed forces, and airlines. Private lessons are provided in private language institutes, too (Al-kadi, 2013; Rixon, 2013).

In fact, when it comes to a country where English serves limited purposes (Yemen a case in point), TEFL becomes a bumpy ride; the efforts made to the cause of English education beyond the formal settings are vague; the most obvious/formal ELT programs can be studied at the tertiary level as it is taught with patently documented and official plans. The existing situation of ELT in the country can be encapsulated in the following points:

- Albeit official recognition, English is not used in administrations, except in a few cases.
- ELT has undergone the sway of the traditional approaches. English materials are mostly text-based with a focus on grammar, vocabulary, reading, and rote learning methods more than listening, speaking, writing, and cultural skills/aspects (Sahu, 2008).
- There is a common belief in rote memorization as a means of good learning, and this helps learners to meet the requirements of the exam-oriented educational system in the country.
- English is taught in large classrooms (average 70-120 students in each class ) with a shortage of resources and extra-curricular activities (low-tech environment), and the staff­student ratios are not favorable (-150 students/teacher).

All these barriers, among others, put in jeopardy the chances of necessary exposure to English at the formal level. That is, the exposure accruing from the current formal learning environment is generally limited. Teachers are regarded as ‘knowledge dispensers’, and students are obedient receivers of this transmitted knowledge - with minimum control of their own learning. That is to say, the public institutions have little to offer for the provision of English. This is reflected in the poor performance of alumni whose linguistic competence, at least in the case of the majority, is unsatisfactory (Al-Sohbani, 2013; Banani, 2015). Hence, there should be some alternative channels of exposure to authentic English.

1.2.2 Informal Settings

As discussed above, English is insufficiently versed in the formal settings where it is taught as a Major and ESP. It is also observed that English is not lively in day-to-day[8] interaction; it is neither necessary within family environment nor required in ordinary communication; it is devoid of societal prestige. Nevertheless, the staggering advances in ICT have provided cyberspace for English to evolve beyond the formal instruction. By using ICTs beyond classrooms, students can find themselves immersed in different types of English learning that universities generally fail to supply; the emergence of English as a global contact language[9] has underlain the omnipresence of English learning, making it boundless to classroom teaching. Garrett (2009) stated that ICT enables learners to “communicate with each other outside of class, and this then makes possible a variety of foreign-language using activities” (p.703). For instance, it allows them to chat freely, twit on twitters, post on Facebook, and communicate on Skype, Vibre, WahtsApp, etc. They can also share interests/hobbies and increase time-on-task by listening to, for instance, podcasts, songs, etc.

These ICT-oriented activities are sources of informal language exposure. They can be performed on a daily basis while walking, driving, eating, and so on; this informal exposure is inseparable of the overall English performance. As English is commonly used to operate various ICT devices, the exposure to English through using ICT tools and applications likely outweighs the exposure to it in social interaction and classroom teaching. It is anticipated that the majority of interpersonal communication will be computer-mediated more than face-to- face (Lin, 2014). Although ICT resources are believed to play fundamental roles in second language acquisition (Blake, 2008), they (ICTs) in reality are unsystematically handled and their roles is foggy. As such, L2 digital literacy barely exists in the intentional (formal) instruction provided to the local EFL learners. Alternatively, there are online resources, tutorials, and learning materials (available in English). These electronic resources may compensate for the shortage of formal opportunities for adequate language learning.

Acknowledging the recurring challenges of TEFL in the formal settings, the local pedagogues, researchers and ELT practitioners have been looking for ways to improve ELT nationwide. As recently as this study is carried out, there are insightful ideas and positive attitudes towards adopting and adapting ICTs to satisfy this aspiration. It is a common practice nowadays that EFL learners in Yemen, like in many other countries, tend to use English individually while working with ICTs to multitask - access, process, consume, produce, edit, and publish digital materials. It is also possible that they communicate with one another through the social media, mobile phones, SMS, etc. In doing so, they can access authentic materials and contact with native speakers of the target language. They assumingly come to the classroom with some experiences that they might gain beyond the classroom teaching. In fact, computer-mediated communication with other English users has profound implications for EFL learning provided L2 learners use English, not L1, to do so. These informal opportunities of ICT-supported English intake have provided an inducement for unpacking what the learners are actually engaged in, and examining how this electronic involvement contributes to their English.

1.2.3 Rationale

This study primarily intended to look into laudable impacts of utilizing a range of ICTs in so far as English learning in the formal context in concerned. However, the shortage of ICT in formal settings intensified the need for including ICT-enabled activities that take place beyond the classroom which is earmarked as a complementary element of the subject of scrutiny. Even if some ICTs exist in schools and universities, the access to resourceful ICTs remains questionable. Public educational institutions with limited ICT infrastructure have been viewed as low-tech learning ecology, and learners find such institutions “irrelevant to their skills and interests” (Sharples et al., 2009, p. 247). Compared to the ICT employed outside a school, Ilomäki (2008) argued that “the technology used in school is boring and ineffective ... and it does not provide the competence needed for using advanced technology in learning” (p.4). Todays’ learners have passable access to even more sophisticated devices that they perceive as powerful tools for social networking and language learning (Sharples et al., 2009). In a similar vein, Blake (2008) asserted that Today’s FL curriculum encompasses not only the time spent in class. . . but also the effort spent outside the classroom working in groups (with or without contact with the target speech community at large), as well as all those moments of the night and day spent alone, quietly studying the target language. (p.131)

Such learners are prone to explore several websites to accomplish several tasks, such as obtaining information for term papers. Accordingly, it is inevitable that ICT-integration is to be examined within the formal and informal contexts. In fact, it is difficult to disentangle one context from the other. This combination is believed to enable an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon. The topic of ICT-integration cannot be fully understood without including elements of free and spontaneous informed ICT uses, which frequently takes place beyond the formal classroom teaching (Sockett, 2014). To the best of my knowledge, this is the largest study that juxtaposes the formal and informal technology-enhanced English learning in the EFL context that this study endures.

1.3 Problem Statement

A considerable amount of literature has been published on different aspects of technology integration in ESL and EFL contexts. Numerous researchers have looked at the issue from a pedagogical perspective (e.g. Islam & Fouji, 2010; Moqbel & Rao, 2013; Sharples et al., 2009). The results of these studies showed a big deal of positive pedagogic benefits: personalized learning, time-cost consumption, motivation, etc. In the literature, there is also some evidence to suggest that ICT encourages learning L2 collaboratively (Kukulska- Hulme & Shield, 2008; Tsou, Wang, & Li, 2002). In the same line of research, Shetzer and

Warschauer (2000) contended that L2 students, by using ICT, display an enhanced sense of achievement; they promote self-directed learning with an ability to communicate, conduct research, and present ideas effectively. Moreover, Wang and Heffernan (2009) and Yedla (2013) postulated that ICT affords students individualized possibilities to learn at their own pace, ‘anywhere’ and at ‘anytime’. ICT is available at times when teachers are not. Other researchers (e.g. Blake, 2016; Chun, Kern & Smith, 2016) looked into L2 skill practices through the use of multiple ICT resources and materials. The English exposure ensued from using ICTs accounts for not only improving students’ proficiency (Bahrani & Sim, 2012; Ben Youssef & Dahmani, 2008) but also increasing awareness of intercultural communication (IBÁÑEZ, 2013; Chen & Yang, 2014).

Whilst these are fundamental aspects of language learning that the prior research has undertaken, other areas of research are still challenging and require rigorous exploration. For instance, informal learning today is heralded as part of the overall learning process; learning L2 through spontaneous ICT uses is an area that warrants more consideration. Furthermore, while literature pertaining to formal ICT uses in ELT is available in bulk, very little has been published on ICT-based informal language learning/acquisition (Blake, 2008; Chen, 2013; 2012; Chen & Bryer, 2012; Sockett, 2014; Storz, Maillet, Brienne, Chotel & Dang). In other words, ICT in formal L2 contexts has been well-researched but the potentials of ICT-based informal learning were insufficiently explored. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent informal uses of ICTs boost English learning in ESL/EFL contexts. In light of insufficient data for fully researched areas in the trenches, Levy (2009), an eminent CALL researcher, accentuated the “need to continue to reflect on pedagogy in technology-mediated language learning environments and assess the extended use and value of older technologies, as well as those that are state of the art, which can remain highly relevant for language learning” (p.779). Similarly, Motteram (2013) posited that ICT is “more than simply providing a medium through which teachers can meet the immediate needs of their learners in terms of language development” (p. 177). Therefore, it is pivotal to ascertain whether students have ICT-enabled opportunities to learn language informally in order to compensate the perceived weaknesses of learning in the formal settings which lack authentic and frequent English uses.

Although the majority of the reviewed studies acknowledge the potentials of ICT for English education, there is a dearth of research on the versatile uses of ICT from a linguistic viewpoint; a much-debated question is whether or not linguistic gains are generated by ICT utilization (Plonsky & Ziegler, 2016). Topics such as (a) ICT-oriented exposure to L2 and (b) ICT-based English discourse merit further investigation. Actually, research on English input/intake that L2 learners get while using ICTs in institutional and non-institutional settings is a pressing linguistic issue. As the quality and quantity of exposure are essential concepts of language acquisition (Blake, 2016; Chun, 2016; Petitto, 2010), it is important to consider the contributions of ICT for greater exposure to English. This subject area and the way of measuring ICT-supported input are ongoing debatable issues. Drawing on the results of previous studies, there is still a flawed understanding of many other relevant aspects of the phenomenon. There is even a lot that ICT can offer for L2 learning/teaching.

Nonetheless, ICT-integration has been inadequately addressed in the Yemeni EFL context. There is only scanty research on some aspects of ICT diffusion in the local context. A few researchers scratched the surface of the subject at the formal level. For instance, Sayaad (2007), Mohammed (2008), and Rajahi (2012) shed light on technology integration at the university level showing positive effects on language skills. These studies, descriptive in nature, were restricted to descriptions of the roles of a few technologies, such as an overhead projector (OHP) and multimedia; such technologies have been gradually replaced by even more sophisticated tools and applications. Furthermore, none of those studies touched on English learning through informal usage of ICTs, which is an area that has remained quite detached from L2 research considerations in Yemen. Therefore, to put the study in its proper context, and fill in this gap in the literature, there would seem to be a definite need for an in­depth investigation; it is worthy to examine how and to what extent ICTs contribute to English learning/acquisition and whether ICT-based English exposure is gained from formal or informal ICT utilization, or from both.

1.4 Purpose Statement

The intent of this study is investigating, through a mixed-methods approach, how a suite of digital devices, tools, and apps was employed in English instruction. With students nowadays having access to vibrant ICT resources, including web-based tutorials and online interlocutors (e.g. Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp), it is useful to identify the magnitude of this electronic uptake and examine its ‘added value’ on the performance of EFL undergraduates. Because students generally utilize ICTs formally and informally, the study aimed to (a) identify the formal ICTs that they access frequently, (b) assess the degree of English informal exposure to English via informal ICT uses, and (c) ascertain the extent this informal utilization of ICTs influences the formal English learning.

With this end in view, the study intended to report on (a) the availability of ICT resources and (b) the synergy of this accessibility in the formal and informal settings. It delved into some aspects of technology integration with a dogged focus on whether or not using technology in reality aid L2 teaching and learning. To better tackle the research problem, the study combined the perceptions of the participants with their actual uses of accessible ICTs, juxtaposing perceptions and facts about ICT tools and apps in this small corner of the globalized world. More specifically, the study was divided into four parts with an objective advocated for each part. The first part intended to (a) analyze the ICTs that the participants commonly used, and (b) measure the magnitude of accessibility. The second part sought to illuminate the impacts (effects) of this electronic usage on undergraduates’ proficiency and academic achievements. The third part was set out to elucidate- in the light of scanty of formal ICT uses- whether informal consumption of ICT enhances the formal learning. The fourth part aimed to identify (a) the major limitations that cut down on investments in ICT in the local EFL context and (b) the linguistic challenges that grow out of ICT-assisted English exposure.

1.5 Research Questions

The study addressed the following four questions:

1. What are the EFL undergraduates’ experiences of learning English through formal and informal uses of ICT in Yemen?

2. Do the uses of ICT have impacts on the learners’ outcomes:

- English Proficiency?

- Academic achievement?

3. To what extent does the informal ICT usage promote formal English learning?

4. What factors do the participants perceive have impeded ICT-integration in English learning/teaching in the local context?

1.6 Assumptions

The investigation was based on three assumptions. The first one is that formal and informal uses of ICT maximize the exposure to English. It suggests that students, by using ICT, are exposed to bountiful linguistic sources of language input (Blake, 2016; Chun, 2016) and this, in return, contributes to resourceful English learning. Having being exposed to different varieties of English through a whole gamut of ICTs, the learners supposedly become more cognizant of different linguistic, communicative and cultural aspects. The second assumption is that EFL students manipulate different types of ICTs independently of classroom teaching which, in turn, fosters formal English learning. In other words, the informal exposure to English that the EFL learners get while using ICTs beyond the classroom plausibly reinforces their formal/structured English learning. Building on these two assumptions, a third assumption was formulated; it is hypothesized that there are statistically significant differences in (a) the means scores of the learners’ performance on a proficiency test and (b) the scores of their academic achievements. In statistical terms, the greater the magnitude of ICT usage, the more the exposure to English: The magnitude increases, and so do English proficiency and academic achievements.

1.7 Scope of the Study

Generally, the overall theme of this study is complex to investigate, due to its dynamic nature. There are several factors that influence it, and many aspects are attached to it. Hence, the scope of investigation had to be delineated. The primary context of the study was the formal uses of accessible ICTs. However, including informal contexts is inescapable so as to have a broader overview of the topic the study undertakes. The investigation was centered on a specific set of ICTs the university EFL students and their teachers accessed regularly. Specifically, the inquiry covered a list of twelve applications and five devices, all of which were reported in the literature as effective L2 learning tools (e.g. Garrett, 2009; Levy, 2009; Stockwell, 2013). Those ICTs were computer-based (see Appendices A, B & C). Non-computer-based technologies were excluded. The ICTs in focus were discussed within the scope of (formal vs. informal) technology-enhanced English learning.

Within the timeframe of this research project, the investigation was limited to the perceptions of 428 senior EFL learners and 50 teachers (40 classroom teachers +10 head teachers). The perceptions were triangulated with data gleaned from other sources, viz. a proficiency test, academic records, and observations. The results thus are limited to the responses of this body of informants, drawn from five public universities during the academic year 2014- 2015. Any other subjects or conditions not specified in the dissertation fall beyond the scope of this study.

1.8 Significance of the Study

The significance of the study is discussed in view of the worldwide clamor for ELT re-orientation. In a bid to prepare students for a knowledge-based digital society, it is important to come up to the age of modern ICT and, hence, capitalize on ICT-integration in learning and teaching (Chun, Kern & Smith, 2016; Kvavik & Caruso, 2005; MacLean & Elwood, 2009; Prensky, 2001; Warschauer, 2012). Driven by the substantial changes in most spheres of contemporary life, universities in advanced countries have taken practical procedures to match such transformations - the traditional materials of language learning, e.g. books, dictionaries, charts, posters, etc. have been supplemented with ICTs such as social media, language laboratories, the Internet, etc. More recently, the textbooks, in some contexts, have been replaced by tablet PCs; the South Korean, Indonesian, and Turkish contexts are working examples. An incentive of this leapfrogging is enhancing chances of success; today’s learners need to be familiar with ICT innovations - the forces that drive many facets of modern life.

The significance of this study lies in advancing the existing body of research on ICT-integration by examining the extent the local universities prepare students for digital language learning. A testimony of technology in ELT in the Yemeni higher education dovetails with the international trends of language learning in networked societies. These trends require a change in how L2 is taught and learned, gearing ELT towards authentic, communicative, and acculturated English (Rüschoff, 2009). Hopefully, the findings of the study would (a) expand knowledge about informed uses of ICT, and (b) provide ideas for linking formal and informal language learning. Even more important, the study- by suggesting new channels of English input- demonstrates how informal uses of ICT maximize this exposure. It enhances, to a certain extent, formal English instruction and ultimately boosts English proficiency altogether (Chen, 2013; Chen & Bryer, 2012; Jmaiel, 2013; Vivian, 2011).

The study is also significant for a number of stakeholders: EFL learners, researchers, educators, parents, and policymakers. Understanding how L2 (English) learners and teachers apply ICTs may not only downsize the current murky usage of these gadgets but also provide implications for these vested interests to adopt or adapt new models/techniques of technology-enhanced language learning (TELL). It is hopeful that the findings contribute to developing new courseware directed effectively towards ICT-based language learning, given that the Yemeni universities will soon shift to the new paradigms of language instruction: CALL, IALL, and MALL. It is also expected that the findings would provide insightful ideas for decision-makers to rectify the current situation of ICT-integration at the formal level. Similarly, the study drops a hint about how to direct accessible ICTs towards English learning beyond the traditional classroom confinements which may enrich the formal English instruction (Blake, 2008; Sockett, 2014; Spada, 1985). Last but not least, the study gives parents a gauge of what their children do with ICTs. They may make informed decisions and better choices on the basis of the findings/results reported in this study.

1.9 Key Terms

ICT, CALL, IALL, and MALL are common terms representing technology uses in language learning and teaching. This section clarifies how they were all used throughout the manuscript. The definitions of some other relevant terms are also provided.

- IT/ICT

IT, standing for information technology, is a previously dominant generic term for interactive electronic media. It is now increasingly being replaced by the phrase Information and Communication Technology, abbreviated as ICT (Chauhan, Ying & Zhenfang, 2013). Generally, the acronym ICT embodies a multitude of concepts. In this study, it solely represents the utilization of digital technologies (tools, platforms, applications, and devices),

used for language learning/teaching purposes. This involves the integration of CALL programs, Internet resources, software applications and mobile handsets (e.g. cell phones, tablets, iPods); the ICTs under consideration of this study were based on Levy’s (2009) technologies in L2 learning[10]. They were used in relation to English skills: grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, speaking, and cultural aspects. The term ICT and its plural form ICTs are sometimes substituted by the word technology throughout this study.

- CALL

CALL stands for Computer-Assisted Language Learning. It refers to the area of technology and language learning. Like the definition of ICT, revisions of the term CALL is proposed now and then. Levy (1997) saw it as “search for and study of applications of the computer in language teaching and learning” (p.1). This study adopted specifically the definition of Davies (2015) who narrowly perceived CALL as “an approach to language teaching and learning in which computer technology is used as an aid to the presentation, reinforcement, and assessment of materials to be learned, usually including a substantial interactive element” (Para. 1).

- IALL

IALL stands for Internet-Assisted Language Learning (IALL). It refers to the process of language learning with the help of the Internet and its allied applications. The context of this study involves (electronic) synchronous/asynchronous communication, the WWW, and other Internet-based tools and applications (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) in teaching/learning English as an FL.

- MALL

MALL stands for Mobile-Assisted Language Learning. Unfortunately, it is a poorly defined term. In the literature, there is no consensus on its definition. Sharples et al. (2007) defined it as “the process of coming to know through conversations across multiple contexts among people and personal interactive technologies” (p.225). However, it is used throughout this paper to refer narrowly to English language learning via utilization of hand-held devices, such as mobile phones, iPod/iPad, tablets, etc. with their inbuilt sophisticated apps. In this way, it is synonymous with CALL and IALL in some ways - exceptions may include the size and type of devices.

- ICT-Integration/Use

Generally, ICT Integration is defined as the use of any of the digital and Internet technologies in language instruction. For the purpose of this research study, the term ICT- integration refers to blending electronic language learning with EFL classroom teaching. In the literature, the term is sometimes distinguished from ‘ICT use’; while integration implies the remarkable and predetermined presence of ICTs, the term ICT use indicates utilizing ICTs without obvious/pre-set plans. In essence, the terms have a slight difference in meanings; they both involve applications of technology; hence, they were used interchangeably throughout this study. The concept of using or integrating technology in EFL learning and teaching was based on the review of relevant studies, defining it in terms of frequency of reiteration of ICT uses.

- ICT users

Although differences of opinion still exist, there is an agreement that an ‘ICT user’ is someone who is inclined to ICT tools, applications, and platforms. An ICT user can be somebody who uses a language lab, spends time on the Internet, and/or works with hand-held devices such as mobile phones, iPad, tablets, etc. Specifically, ICT users in this paper refer to undergraduate EFL learners who deal with technology in its various forms and applications (as described above).

- Formal learning

In its simplest definition, formal learning is equated with intentional, organized and structured learning with expected outcomes/objectives. For Eaton (2011), formal learning is guided by a curriculum or other types of formal programs, including credit courses. Following Eaton’s definition, the formal learning, wherever used in this study, refers to the process of EFL instructor-led learning at the university level.

- Informal learning

On the contrary of formal learning, the informal learning is loosely described as a mode of disorganized learning. It is experiential learning; it is not guided by a rigid curriculum. It usually takes place beyond the classroom teaching. Seen in another light, it is spontaneous learning lacking intention/objectives from the learners’ standpoint (Eaton, 2011). Other terms are used interchangeably with it, such as non-formal learning (Colardyn & Bjornavold, 2004), incidental and random learning (Kerka, 2000). Throughout this study, nonetheless, it is applied to non-institutional situations where EFL students learn on their own and are responsible for choosing their language activities. It can be any kind of English learning through technology outside the formal EFL settings. It corresponds to everyday life activities, pastimes/leisure activities such as playing games, chatting, online discussion, internet surfing, and so on (Chen & Bryer, 2012; Eaton, 2010).

- ICT-based learning

For the purpose of this study, formal ICT-assisted learning can be defined as a situation wherein EFL teachers prepare teacher-oriented classes that include activities deliberately designed and assigned to EFL learners in organized and scheduled classes. This might include classroom lecturing, group work, classroom discussion, seminars, language lab sessions, etc. in which using ICT is evident. It also includes those learning moments during which L2 learners use technology on their own to learn English.

- Proficiency

Proficiency is commonly used in L2 learning, and yet it is a concept difficult to define precisely. ACTFL (2012) defined it as “the ability to do, to function”. In this study, though, the term language proficiency was used solely when referring to individuals’ abilities to speak or perform in English across a wide range of topics and settings.

- L2 student/learner

In the field of language teaching, the definition of L2 (English) learner/student generally refer to any adult non-native English user who is enrolled in ESL/EFL programs in a higher learning institution (McDougald, 2009; Spada, 1985). In this particular context, the L2 learners are those undergraduates who study English (as a major) at the University level in Yemen. They are senior learners, namely, the 4th year students who were enrolled in the faculties/centers of education, arts, and languages and translation in five public universities.

- Tertiary level

Tertiary, also called post-secondary education (or third level), is generally understood to mean the educational level following the completion of school. The term tertiary education includes universities as well as institutions that teach specific capacities of higher learning such as colleges, technical training institutes, community colleges, etc. In this dissertation, the term tertiary level refers specifically to the undergraduate level that extends for four academic years in Yemen. On completion of 4-year EFL program, the candidates obtain a bachelor’s degree (University certificate): Faculties of education grant BA degrees in English studies, faculties of Arts grant License in English language and literature, and faculties of languages and translation grant BA degrees in English language and translation.

1.10 Organization of the Study

This dissertation follows the guidelines of APA style (6th edition) format. It comes in five chapters. Following this introductory chapter, the target issue is grounded in the second chapter, which mapped the terrain and fine-tuned this particular research angle. It is a review of the existent literature that motivated and generated the research questions and provided the background for developing the research tools. It considers, from a variety of perspectives, how digital technology reconsidered English instruction in both theory and practice. Similar research studies inspired the move of this study and provided a guide to narrow down the topic, arriving at more focused workable research questions. This review nurtured theoretical cogent framework underlying the selected topic of the applications of technology in ESL/EFL contexts. It also furnished empirical findings, reflecting some linguistic and pedagogical aspects of English learning with, through and around technology.

Chapter III depicts the methodological approach that fitted the study. A triangulation method was adopted so as to enrich data from different perspectives. This eclecticism was governed by nature of the research project it undertakes. The justification for this approach was provided. The research instruments, participants, procedures, and analysis were stated and justified as well. That is to say, Chapter III is a description of how data were collected to serve two purposes: (a) diagnosing and (b) evaluating the uses of ICT in the formal and informal contexts.

Chapter IV is dedicated to results and discussion. It includes detailed accounts and interpretations of the findings. Data obtained via the questionnaire, interviews, proficiency test, AR analysis, and observations were analyzed and reported. The analysis was arranged according to the research questions. Both the quantitative and qualitative data were organized and discussed with a flashback on the literature (in relation to the previous research findings). The research assumptions/hypotheses were testified in this chapter, too.

Chapter V is a concluding chapter. It outlines the key findings of the study. It also set out the implications, recommendations, and limitations of the study, suggesting new areas for future research. The organization of the study is displayed in the study matrix below.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1. The Study Matrix

1.11 Summary

This introductory chapter provides an account of what is the dissertation all about. At the foremost, it developed the context of enquiry. It introduced the topic under investigation, touching briefly upon the situation of English in Yemen. The research problem, purpose statement, questions, assumptions, and significance of the study were displayed in this chapter as well. The chapter ends with definitions of the key terms and a sketch of the organization of the study.

Chapter Two Review of the Literature

2.0 Overview

This chapter situates the study in its appropriate context. As there is a plethora of prior research studies on language learning through technology, the primary principle of selection was a focus on studies with similar methodological underpinnings and exploratory/empirical outlooks. The chapter is divided into three parts, and each part is further divided into subsections. The first part sketches out the development of ICT in language learning and teaching with a special reference to ESL and EFL contexts. It commences with an account of the status of English worldwide. The second part discusses major pedagogical and linguistic aspects of ICT-based language education. The third part discloses conspicuous limitations and challenges of ICT integration in contexts where English is a second, foreign, or additional language.

2.1 The Current Situation of English

English, which emerged from broken tribal dialects, rose to such an unimaginable status of the global language. It came up as a worldwide medium of expression and “relished unquestionably a global rank with a significant position that is acknowledged throughout the world” (Chauhan, Ying & Zhenfang, 2013, p. 21). It is profusely accepted that English today is the language of no one but everyone. Crystal (2006) pointed out that No one nation can any longer be said to “own English”, and no one nation’s anxieties over local norms of usage will make much impact in a world where diverse regional standards are the norm, and where the Internet provides these varieties with new levels of public display (p. 412).

Similarly, Labassi (2008) argues that “today the status of English as an international language has reached levels never attained by Latin or Arabic...and English is threatening the very existence of other languages” (p. 409). As it is the language of science and technology today, English has been accepted as the mother-tongue of the computer, the Internet, and many other appliances. The world at large strives to acquire it now so as to remain connected with a faster pace of profession and progress. It has become a professional necessity to withstand in the global job market.

Today the non-native speakers of English outnumbers those who use it as their first language (Crystal, 2003, 2004; Chauhan, Ying & Zhenfang, 2013) and most interaction in English takes place in the absence of native speakers (Graddol, 1997, 1999, 2006). The number of English speakers and readers has increased immensely and “this is a fact that seems to be irreversible” (Labassi, 2008, p. 409). For the next generation and perhaps more, McCrum, Cran and MacNeil (1992) argued that “English seems to establish itself well as the economic and cultural interest of the United States expressed through international English­speaking institutions like UNESCO, NATO, UNICEF etc. ensured that the English language would survive with stead and strength” (p. 23).

Crystal (2013) in a video interview stated that the future of English is unpredictable at the moment. Even so, he envisaged two scenarios to happen to it; first, American English will predictably dominate all other varieties. Second, the “World Englishes” will flourish even further and every nation will have their own culturally-based variety. Crystal maintained that English in every country in the world is either their first, second or foreign language adopted either from British English or American English or may be both, and these countries have added something to the multi-pot of English. Speakers of different first languages have a shared English (the lingua franca), which is a common means of communication; it is not culturally identifiable with any particular place. To such people, it might be the third, fourth, or fifth language (Thornbury, 2006). Therefore, in countries where English is not the first

(L1) or second (L2) language, it is used as a foreign language, including the context of the study at hand.

There is no one English today but “world Englishes” or “the world’s lingua franca” (Crystal, 2012; Mesthrie & Bhatt, 2008). McCrum et al. (1992) stated:

The emergence of English as a global phenomenon, as either first or foreign language has recently inspired the idea .. .that we should talk not of English, but of many Englishes, especially in Third World countries where the use of English is no longer part of the colonial legacy, but the result of decisions made since independence. (p.11)

Recently, the term English as an international language (EIL) has been given a prominence. Identifying its characteristics, EIL is a “host of different varieties of English such as German English, Indian English, Arabic English, etc.” (Thornbury, 2006, p.74). The EIL users, in non-Anglophones countries use English to “make their point of views heeded across the globe” (Chauhan, Ying, & Zhenfang, 2013, p. 20); they use it for emancipation, correction and academic purposes (Labassi, 2008). In a word, English is widely used as a global language today between people who do not have English as an L1 in different countries so as to remain connected with the rest of the world.

2.1.1 English Language Teaching (ELT)

New categorizations. English has been taught in none-native contexts as ESL and EFL for decades. However, the categorization of ELT in Non-Anglophone Counties as ESL and EFL has become fairly obsolete now. This terminology is not precise because the linguistic map has changed under the influence of several forces, and new terms have been consequently adopted (Labassi, 2008; Thornbury, 2006). The distinction between ESL and EFL - in practice- is not clear at present. Earlier, teaching English as an EFL referred to teaching English to learners whose first language is not English, and it usually occurred in the student’s own country where the exposure to English was limited. According to Mesthrie and Bhatt (2008), ESL countries such as Nigeria and India produced literature in English (and other languages) while “EFL countries typically do not use English in creative writing” (p.5). The authors argued that the trend towards globalization in economics, communication and culture has made EFL prominent in China, Europe, Brazil, to mention just a few.

Although the dichotomy of ELT as an ESL and EFL is still working in some contexts, the modern impulses to learn English, the need, significance and prevalence of English have been re-modified. An important factor that drove this re-modification is the influence of globalization under which English has gained a general context where it functions as a worldwide contact language. A good example is the context of an international conference where hundreds of non-natives of English contact by means of one language: English. Thus, in the worldwide context, English is discussed as a lingua franca of the world (ELF). A remarkable difference in English as an FL and ELF is that the former aims at meeting the native speakers’ norms; it gives prominence to the native speaker’ cultural aspects, while the latter refers to the globalization of English which is a novel phenomenon both functionally and geographically (Crystal, 2003; Graddol, 2006). The context of ELF is the globalization context which is broader than its predecessors ESL and EFL.

Whereas the earlier categorization of English as EFL/ESL had a colonial history, the new terminologies of English are governed by the power of science and technology. The profuse flow of information and communication technology (ICT) has fueled this change. Actually, ICT has broadened the spectrum of ELT which by itself is in constant change. Some researchers like Caffesse and Guasch (2010) enthusiastically reported that a healthy utilization of ICT in language learning provides a learning platform where EFL becomes ESL in terms of exposure to the target language (TL). According to the authors- English under the influence of ICT in many countries- has become a second language rather than a foreign language.

In fact, the incorporation of technology into ELT changed English, to some extent, in form and pedagogy. Before the era of ICT, English was thought of as an ESL or EFL where the exposure in the former context is more than in the latter. That is, English in the ESL context enjoys an official status whereas the exposure to it in the EFL is limited to the classroom teaching and/or traveling to countries where it is recognized as an L1, i.e. limited resources were available for L2 beyond the classroom teaching. However, English has become now the language of ICT, and today’s learners of English have opportunities for exposure to English through ICT more than that their forebears had. Put differently, people, under the auspices of globalization and technology, have more opportunities to contact online on a daily basis. This electronic communication is likely to happen where English is the medium of interaction. This swift social communication gave rise to a culture and a language that the Internet and other ICTs have made global. It seems that this is good for the provision of high quality of English input; ICT, basically the Internet, allows users from different countries to contact each other, and thus, facilitating language acquisition as a second/foreign language. It also allows isolated communities to come out of their isolation.

New teaching/learning trends. Given the change in the new linguistic map of English, the vivid change of approaches to L2 instruction with new styles of learning/ teaching, needs and strategies is justified. As ICT reinforced the position of English as the lingua franca of the World (as discussed above), a gale of changes has blown in ELT since the 1980s. A change in language instructional methods with the help of ICT and international communication has become a necessity. The guiding principle is this: Language instructors and learners can use an abundance of ICT tools and applications to enrich instruction, access authentic materials, stimulate communication, carry out projects, share opinions/ideas, and work collaboratively. In language instruction today, a precursor of modern ICT is publicized not as an add-on but significant means for promoting L2 acquisition (Plonsky & Ziegler, 2016), authenticity and learner autonomy (Guth, 2009; Motteram & Brown, 2009).

Within this global awareness, English learners in non-native contexts have opportunities to practice English. For instance, learners can improve their communicative skills, maximize learning opportunities, and foster acculturation, among others (Gumbo & Mawire, 2013; Mbah, 2010; Storz, Maillet, Brienne, Chotel & Dang, 2012). Learning activities from this perspective comes from the students’ concerns and interests, and occurs in reflection and interaction between learners and various ICT devices. That is, the utilization of ICTs propels students to deal with knowledge in active, self-directed, and constructive ways (Rüschoff, 2009). In Guth’s (2009) words, Indeed by using these tools, students can communicate their thoughts and opinions with other users (blogs), share and co-create knowledge (wikis), and create and share multimedia content (image, audio and video sharing) not only with their peers, but with a potential global community of users as well. (p.455)

This way, language learners have opportunities to have a wider audience for interaction; various ICT tools, applications, and platforms afford students the possibility of reaching the public, i.e. they interact within the ecology of classroom or campus as well as the worldwide community.

This corresponds to Chapelle’s argument that learners should have “an audience for the linguistic output they produce so that they attempt to use the language to construct meanings for communication rather than solely for practice” (Chapelle, 1998, as cited in Guth, 2009, p. 455). Teachers, too, can get instant access to enormous teaching ideas and resources to produce learning materials which are more authentic and better suited to their students’ needs and learning styles. That is, ICT has created new alternative native-(like) contexts where learners can interact with global communities easily. This was unattainable in the past, except for a relatively small number of affluent students who could afford extended stays in countries where the target language is used (Warschauer, 2006).

Remarkably, the worldwide change in the status of English itself and the grown-up informal electronic channels of learning have “changed the goals and methods of teaching accordingly” (Thornbury, 2006, p.74). With more emphasis on communicative teaching in the last few decades of the twentieth century, a host of new terms in ELT were introduced such as “learner autonomy”, “collaborative learning”, “blended learning”, “electronic learning”, “online learning” and the like (see 2.4.1). Needless to say, ICT accelerated the pace of these trends. The focal element in all these modes of learning is the formal and informal uses of technology.

2.1.2 English Language and ICT

Basically, ICT is employed to store and share information. A digital ICT is not a single device but a combination of hardware and software. Today’s ICTs encompass a range of rapidly evolving technologies such as portable computers, the WWW, tutorials, digital libraries, computer-mediated conferencing, and the list goes on. English has been accepted as the mother-tongue of these technologies. Both English and ICT are recognized today as a means to ‘read the world’. They (English & ICT) have become the sine qua non of international communication and discourse, at least for ESL and EFL users (Chauhan, Ying & Zhenfang, 2013). It is also a common sense that English and information literacy skills would maximize the opportunity to interact with the tech-savvy world and eventually bring about economic wealth and geo-political leadership of countries (Warschauer, 2002). If they are to reach the global pool of knowledge and technology in this era, undergraduates are encouraged to be English language competent and computer literate. Dudeney and Hockly (2012) asserts that modern ICTs coupled with English “provide wider communication and learning opportunities and a greater access to a world of knowledge” (p. 539).

At the outbreak of technology revolution, people had to learn English in order to deal with technology proficiently. That is, using technology in English language teaching was less about using computers as tools to teach English and more about teaching English to help people use computers effectively (Warschauer, 2002, 2004). However, in the midst of ICT era today, it is the other way around: utilizing ICT in order to promote English learning. This has obvious impacts on language curricula, teaching methodology, and learning process (Graddol, 1997; Tao & Reinking, 1996).

Motteram (2013) argued, “The language learning field is enhanced, but is also being changed, by the ways that technology is used by creative language teachers in the many different classrooms throughout the world” (p. 188). This is, according to Brett (1996, 2001), because the ability to interact with language learning and communication elements via ICT enables language learners to explore, discover, ponder, search, question, answer, and receive feedback. “Because of the nature of the Internet, the web and other tools like mobile phones, we find text everywhere and we produce considerably more than we were producing when most text was handwritten,” argued Motteram (2013, p.184). Motteram argued that ICTs can expose learners to the real world with its complexity and bring it to the language learning either to classroom through audio-visual aids or online platforms.

Relying on evidence from prior research, English, under the auspices of ICT, has changed. The Internet, for instance, has changed it partly because the Internet users can drive the language in certain directions (Crystal, 2006). “English moved in new stylistic directions...towards written varieties based on linguistic abbreviations, in the form of SMS,” argued Crystal (2008, pp.401-402). Linguistically speaking, the advances in technology, basically the Internet, have made a revolution in Applied Linguistics. Within this development of learning platforms, a major linguistic phenomenon came out; a new branch of linguistics has been created: the Internet Linguistics, or as some linguists call Netlinguistics; it has turned into a tempting area of research. Though much of this “electronic language” is non-standard, playful, highly deviant in bending the usual rules of language, tolerant of typographic and spelling errors, and full of new and weird words, Crystal exulted at its variety and innovation. Crystal (2005) holds the view that this change under the influence of the Internet is “allowing us to once more explore the power of the written language in a creative way” (p. 2). To Crystal (2008), texting, the emergent form of daily language, suits “the demands of diverse settings” (p. 82).

Crystal (2001) argued, “Language being such a sensitive index of social change, it would be surprising indeed if such a radically innovative phenomenon did not have a corresponding impact on the way we communicate” (p.237). According to Crystal (2013) technology has not adversely affected English but added an extra dimension to it, which has not been there before the arrival of the Internet. Crystal sees that ICT neither brought about new grammatical rules nor altered pronunciations of the vast majority of English; what has happened, according to Crystal, is that ICT affected a tiny fraction of English in terms of using abbreviations and newly coined vocabulary which by itself has not replaced the old varieties but is something that makes the language bigger and richer.

2.2 A Sketched Picture of Technology in ELT

As far as the English language is concerned, using ICT in English teaching has been “evident at every stage in ELT...from the arrivals of pen and ink onwards” (Crystal, 2008, p. 401). Currently, English instruction is associated with computers, mobile devices, the Internet, etc., and researching the effects of these technologies on English learning is continuing. Exploring and measuring the effectiveness of ICTs in ELT have been an enduring fascination for decades; it resulted in plenty of food for thought in several disciplines. It has provided research directions within the broad areas of sociolinguistics, education, and psycholinguistics. A number of claims were made in favor of technology-enhanced language learning (hereafter TELL). Those assertions maintain that ICT tools and applications support different learning styles, provide a wealth of learning/teaching resources, and promote independent learning. Besides, ICT with its numerous electronic powerful tools transform the present teacher-centered and text-bound classrooms into rich, student-centered, interactive knowledge environments, e.g. googling, emailing, twittering (Kern, 2006; Mbah, 2010).

In fact, using technology in language learning and teaching has been constantly changing, chiefly due to two main reasons. The first one is the constant evolution of technology itself and its ubiquity in everyday life, and the other one is related to the change of views of language learning: from the behaviorist to communicative and integrative learning perspectives (Warschauer & Healey, 1998). Guided by this change, ELT experts, teachers, and practitioners opted for different ICTs that assist them to achieve better results.

Actually, the history of technology in language learning and teaching was not arbitrary. A gradual and robust evolution of ICT in L2 contexts, extending from CALL to MALL, corresponded to the development of language learning approaches. Throughout the history of ELT, language researchers and teachers have been trying to find prima-facie ways to make language teaching more effective and motivating for students. They developed different activities, games, and interesting stories for many years so as to attain this goal, and they still do. Every teaching method/approach has a specific list of technologies to support it. For instance, teachers who followed the grammar-translation method relied on the blackboard as a perfect media for the one-way transmission of information. Later on, the blackboard was replaced by the overhead projector (OHP), which is another medium for teacher-dominated classroom, and later by early software programs of “drill-and-practice” grammatical exercises. Afterward, the audio records were viewed as perfect tools for the audio-lingual method (which favored learning through oral repetition).

This shifting paradigm in pedagogy did not happen overnight. It underwent several stages during which different ICTs were employed. Despite the contemporary incredible ICT innovations, it is viewed now as in its earliest phase (Crystal, 2008). Based on what we can see around us and the development which is already underway, researchers predict that it will become even more so in the future. The Web, for instance, is a creation from as recently as 1991 while the arrival of Facebook was not before 2004. Crystal (2008) expected “further innovative developments especially of an interactive kind, which will push human languages in unexpected directions” (p. 406). For the sake of simplicity, it is better to discuss the history of ICT in language instruction within three major phases: CALL, IALL, and MALL.

2.2.1 Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL)

The term ‘CALL’ is as old as the computer. It is the most popular term that is widely used in the literature; it indicates the overall application of technology in language teaching and learning (Alrumaih, 2004). It was first adopted in the TESOL Conference in Canada in 1982, referring to the applications of computers in ESL/EFL education (Chapelle, 2001). Levy (1997), one of the most renowned CALL researchers, succinctly termed it as “the search for and study of applications of the computer in language teaching and learning” (p.l). Levy’s definition embraced a wide range of ICT applications and approaches to teaching and learning foreign languages. In a similar vein, Egbert (2005) defined CALL as “learners learning language in any context with, through and around computer technologies” (p. 4). As the term suggests, CALL contains computer function as a delivery medium for CALL applications. However, Hubbard (2009) argued that “CALL does not include simply the “canonical” desktop and laptop devices we label computers” (p.1). In its broader definition today, CALL includes a raft of technological innovations: PCs, mobile phones, electronic whiteboards, etc.; these ICTs have a computer of different sorts embedded in them (see Levy, 2009).

Throughout its history, CALL was given some alternative terms such as TELL, IALL and MALL, but the term CALL is the most widely used so far. It first emerged when the cognitive and psycholinguistic theories of SLA were dominating the field of language learning in the 1960s and 1970s. The initial principles of CALL were programing, drill and practice, targeting grammar and vocabulary (Davies, Otto, & Rüschoff, 2013). Language classes in those days incorporated sessions in audio labs where students performed repetition exercises. By the end of the 1970s, the audio-lingual method lost popularity, at least in part due to inadequate results achieved from expensive language facilities. Both in the laboratory and classroom, repetitive drills which focused on language form and ignored communicative meaning achieved poor results. In fact, the real breakthrough of technology in ELT was launched in this period, when “there was a growth of generic applications such as word- processors... and communication software” (Davies, Otto & Rüschoff, 2013, p. 28).

Actually, CALL is a broad and diversifying field. It has been shaped by trends in language pedagogy (Watson, 2001), SLA theories (Plonsky & Ziegler, 2016), and the state of computer technology (Blake, 2008; Davies, Otto & Rüschoff, 2013). Levy (1997) stated that CALL is multidisciplinary, drawing upon research in various fields, including SLA, sociology, psychology, cultural studies, applied linguistics, and computer science. It is derived from the more general term Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI). Historically, CAI and CALL took mechanistic approaches to training individuals to improve language learning.

CALL studies took place since the beginning of using computer in language instruction. Early research consistently showed the value of CALL, especially when deployed appropriately. Crystal (1987) argued that the computers that were used as word processors complemented the audio facilities, enabling the interactive teaching of the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Supporting his argument, Crystal explained a variety of ELT exercises that could be computationally controlled using texts displayed on screen, such as sentence restructuring, checking of spelling, automatic translations, cloze tests, etc.

The current research indicates that CALL can enhance students’ engagement (Chen, Lambert & Guidry, 2010). By encouraging engagement with CALL, students can develop connections with peers, establish a virtual community of learners and ultimately increase their overall learning (Liu, Liu, Chen, Lin & Chen, 2011). Some other recent studies demonstrated the effects of CALL on other areas such as (a) students’ motivation and attitude (Ali & Elfessi, 2004; Jung, 2006; Liu, 2014; Passey, Rogers, Machell & McHugh 2004; Zhao, 2005); (b) students’ abilities in using grammar, vocabulary, listening, pronunciation, reading and writing (Mohammed, 2008; Sayad, 2007); (c) facilitating student participation (Warschauer, 1996); (d) providing opportunities for linguistic practice, review, and feedback (Zhao, 2005); (e) personalizing learning with its ability to address different learning styles and learning needs (Hussain & Safdar, 2008), and (f) interactive, flexible and innovative learning and teaching (Qin & Shuo, 2011).

2.2.2 From CALL to TELL

In its early days, CALL was centered on ‘personal PC’, but it comprised some other associative technological gadgets later on. Yet CALL remains the dominant term. This is perhaps due to two reasons: First, most modern ICTs include mini-computer within their sophisticated systems. For instance, a Smartphone is basically a combination of mobile phone and computer. The other reason is that computer was as early as CALL in the 1970s, and other ICTs came later on. For instance, the launch of WWW was in 1991, emails in mid- 1990s, Google in 1999, text messaging not earlier than 2000, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006 (Crystal, 2013). These ICT applications basically depend on computers whatever their sizes and types. Herein lies the reason that CALL can stand for the other associated terms, too.

Tracing the evolution of CALL, Kern in 2006 raised a question: Should CALL still be called CALL? Heeding such concern, Kern argued that while this may had been fine in the early days of CALL- when computers were used to perform structural drills- it is no longer appropriate as online audio/video conferencing has become a normal and de facto part of today’s life. Accordingly, CALL researchers now prefer the term information and communication technology (ICT) which is broader than CALL, and specifically attached to computers of different types/size (Egbert, 2005; Kern, 2006). This is an advancement of CALL over its earlier stages where learners used to go to a language laboratory guided by a teacher.

In fact, there were some pitfalls of early CALL programs, perhaps due to limitations of technological facets and accessories coexisted with CALL at the time of Web 1.0. The failure of CD-ROMs (now defunct) is claimed to be related to the challenges of updating the content in the CD-ROMs. The promoters of the new paradigm argue that information changes so fast and needs frequent updates. Hence, language labs lost popularity by the end of the twentieth century. The omnipresence of ICT in the twenty-first century has made a dramatic change in the way people get information, do research, and communicate with one another. Within this worldwide progress, the educational technology developed from CALL to Technology-enhanced language learning (TELL) (Jarvis & Krashen, 2014). TELL embraces some other terms such as Internet-based language learning (IBLL), and mobile-based language leaning (MBLL). Put differently, due to the growing possibilities offered by the communicational technology in L2 learning/acquisition, CALL moved beyond the use of computer software programs and encompassed the use of internet-based applications. Consequently, the term TELL emerged and dominated the scene (Bush & Terry, 1997; Dudeney & Hockly, 2007).

A raft of language pundits endorsed this new usage of technology; they encouraged ESL and EFL communities to expand interest in the multimedia approach as it reflected the actual existing use of digital technology. For instance, Rende (2004) suggested that the use of the acronym TELL was more accurate as it represented a broader concept of technology use. Levy (1997) argued that “the move from ‘computer’ to ‘technology’ shows a broadening of the field and a feeling that a computer is just part of the many technologies that are being used in language learning today” (p. 81). This CALL development gave prominence to electronic learning, which is a common teaching and learning mode (see 2.4.1, p. 55).

[...]


[1] ‘Input’ is discussed in contrast with ‘output’ in Chapter II, Sec.2.4.2. Also, see Krashen, S. (1985).

[2] The formal settings here refer to schools and universities where English is taught as an FL.

[3], Mainstream education here refers to public schooling (9 years basic edu. + 3 years secondary school).

[4]

Educational Indicators of the Republic of Yemen (2010-2013), Ministry of Higher Education.

[5] In Sana’a and Aden, those centers are now being transformed into faculties of languages and translation.

[6] See Chapter III, Section 3.3.1

[7] In Yemen, the term ‘ESP’ is not commonly used; instead, ESP courses are referred to as requirements.

[8] Educational Indicators of the Republic of Yemen (2013), Ministry of Higher Education.

[9] See Chapter 2, Section. 2.1.1

[10] See Levy, M. (2009), technologies in use for second language learning.

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Title
Some Aspects of ICT Uses in the Teaching of EFL at the Tertiary Level in Yemen
College
University of Carthage  (ISLT)
Course
English studies
Author
Year
2017
Pages
278
Catalog Number
V375353
ISBN (eBook)
9783668550698
ISBN (Book)
9783668550704
File size
3759 KB
Language
English
Tags
some, aspects, uses, teaching, tertiary, level, yemen
Quote paper
Abdu Al-Kadi (Author), 2017, Some Aspects of ICT Uses in the Teaching of EFL at the Tertiary Level in Yemen, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/375353

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